Monday, December 30, 2013

Chloe Doe

This is the harrowing story of a seventeen year old girl who has been rescued from a life of prostitution. Instead of being grateful and looking forward to the future Chloe can only look at the past, she can't begin to imagine a future. One of the doctors in the Madeline Parker Institute for Girls finally starts to get Chloe to open up about her troubled past and let go of her feelings. The story is told through a series of flashbacks and life in the home. We are introduced to her troubled childhood and the other girls in the home that are struggling with equally bad and sometimes worse problems. It's chilling and heartbreaking.

Why Read Moby Dick?

I listened to the audio-book version and it started out promising but I was quickly bored. I never really had any desire to read Moby Dick and reading this almost, almost, made me mildly interested in picking up the classic. Author, Nathaniel Philbrick, brings together history, Melville's personal letters, and the original work itself to make a convincing argument on why it's worth reading this imposing classic American tome... close buddy, close. I was really intrigued by the historical aspects, but as the two discs droned on... I lost the will to read Moby Dick. It was worth a shot though!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Magicians

If you combined Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia AND Neverwhere together you still wouldn't be able to properly explain this book. It's the most complex literary fantasy I've read since Lord of the Rings.

Take a super smart teenager, tell him he's a magician, send him to magic college, and then then have him and his magic buddies discover a magical object that will transport them to another world, a world they thought only existed in their favorite children's books, then maybe, just maybe, you will have a small idea of what in the hell this book is really about.

It's a great read (although I kept comparing it to Harry Potter) although a bit too long for me. It was a real battle of the wills to read this all in one sitting (took me around six hours to plow through it). Definitely, a must read for fantasy nuts.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Dream More

Prior to reading this little inspirational memoir by Dolly, all I really knew about her was her botoxed body and the quote, "It takes a lot of money to look this fake." This inspirational guide filled me in on a lot more on who the hell Dolly really is.

First off, I should clarify that I listened to the audiobook version which is narrated by Dolly herself. Second off, this isn't really an inspirational guide as it is a memoir of achievements, so it's really mainly for Dolly fans and not the average listener. She talks a lot about the importance of reading and dreaming but mainly does that so she can talk about her foundations and the work that she's done. Which to be clear, isn't a bad thing or anything. It's just not a guide to achieving your dreams or breaking any barriers.

It wasn't a bad listen (there's lots of songs as well) but thankfully it was only an hour and a half.


Sorta Like a Rockstar

If I had a dollar for every time I teared up or started crying in this book I could have just bought the damn thing instead of borrowing it from the library. That being said, this was a fabulous read. As such author, Matthew Quick, is now in my all time favorite authors category.

This story opens up with Amber Appleton, an extraordinary girl who never thinks of herself first. Her four best friends are the high school rejects, the autistic kid, the only black kid in the county, the kid in the wheel chair and the kid with the stutter. Together they are Frank's Freak Force Federation (in honor of their favorite teacher). Amber's sunny optimism also gives her a unique group of friends outside of school. She volunteers as an English teacher to a bunch of Korean immigrants and helped them form Korean Diva's for Christ (Amber teaches the language through old soul music), she spends time with the old folks and debates with Joan of Old for laughs, and she writes haikus with a lonely Vietnam vet. She does all these things for the benefit of her community and she does all of this even though she's homeless and living in a school bus with her mom.

Despite all of her optimism something horrible happens, something life shattering, and it's up to the community to make Amber see that she's still important and that she's needed. Bad things happen to good people all the time and she needs to turn her sunny optimism back on herself. She has made such an impact on everyone and no one wants her to forget all the good she's accomplished.


Thursday, December 26, 2013


I didn't even read the description, I saw it was written by Mathew Quick and I started reading. Two hours later I was crying in a bathtub and screaming at my cat. This book is intense. I was quite literally hooked from the very first sentence. I started reading it at dinner and I couldn't put it down, so naturally I took it in the tub with me to continue. An hour later I was crying in freezing cold water and yelling at the kitten to shut up and stop headbutting the door. It was so good I couldn't even stop for a moment to get out of the tub.

This book almost defies description. It's about basketball, growing up in the hood, mental health, family, relationships, integrity, the final frontier, and soo much else. Finley was one of the only white boys in the slummy town he grew up in, but that didn't stop him from playing basketball. His earliest memory is playing basketball in the backyard with the neighbor girl, Erin, and working hard to please his dad and his pops. His whole life has been spent trying to move forward and get out of Belmont, away from the Irish mob and the drugs. But Coach has just asked Finley for a favor. Boy21, has just moved to the neighborhood and Coach thinks that Finley is just the man to help break him out of his shell and play basketball. But will Boy21 stop Finley's momentum or maybe, just maybe, help him realize that looking back at the past doesn't have to be paralyzing. I can barely describe this book without giving anything away. So just read the damn book and message me about it so we can talk and cry together. It's well worth the read!

The Colorado Kid

I was looking for a short mystery read and this definitely fit the bill. That being said, I threw the book across the room. Be warned.

Stephen King, as always, does a masterful job of storytelling. He sets the scene and then hooks you and reels you in until you can only helplessly turn the pages. This tiny mystery novella (less than 200 pages) is narrated by two old journalists who tell the beautiful young intern the most tantalizing and unsolved crime they know. The reader, like the intern, gets hopelessly sucked in as they recount the strange incident of the Colorado Kid. A dead body, thousands of miles from home, no answers, ruled as an accidental death? The questions keep coming until *SPOILER* you get to the end and discover (turn back now if you want to read this!) that it's still unsolved!! This story ends with no conclusion!!! Ahhh!!!! That being said it was still a mighty fine read. All hail the ever talented Stephen King.

Looking for Alaska

STUPID FEELINGS! Why John Green why?!? Why do you lure me in with your beautifully flawed characters, witty dialogue, and the wonder of searching for the great perhaps only to stomp on my feeble little heart?!?!?! Why?!?

That being said. I loved the shit out of this book. It was perfect. I loved every single character. They were perfect, and by perfect, I mean faithful representations of flawed human teenagers, invincible, convincing, and full of wonderment.

Miles Halter (aka Pudge) leaves behind his parents and exciting friendless life, to go to a boarding school in hopes of finding the great perhaps. He immediately becomes best friends with his roommate, the Colonel, and is introduced to an exciting group of kids, Lara (the exotic foreigner), Takumi, and Alaska, the most intoxicating girl he's ever met. Together they make the school year more exciting, pulling pranks, smoking cigarettes, reading, drinking, and questioning their lives. It's a wonderful coming of age story. John Green understands teenagers better that I did when I was one. His narration and dialogue is spot on.

An absolute must read. You'll laugh and cry (although not as badly as in "The Fault in Our Stars") and want to go read every single word ever written by John Green. Also, he mentions Kurt Vonnegut several times in the story, a fitting tribute to a fellow Hoosier author.

Fresh Off the Boat

Not very often am I hooked from the first line, but Eddie Huang did just that. This was definitely the most exciting, enticing, and hilarious memoir I've read this year. Eddie recounts his childhood as an American born Chinese and all the cultural differences between him and "normal" Americans. In this country it can be tough to be different; Eddie recounts the experiences bringing "stinky" Chinese food to school, getting in fights, relating to hip hop, and having to deal with stereotypes. Times were tough in high school and college, but he was an exceptional student so even though he got into a lot of trouble, teachers saw potential in him and helped him as much as they could. Although he finished law school he still wasn't happy; not until he opened up his own restaurant in New York did Eddie feel he made it and felt like a true American, living the dream.

Listening to the audiobook was a real treat, as it was narrated by the author himself. Eddie has a hilarious and yet serious narration of his memoir, plus has the ability to start yelling in Chinese when he's describing his mother (hilarious). This is a great book for everyone. There is stuff for foodies, hip hop aficionados, American minorities, sports fans, memoir junkies and more. Truly a great read!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Why Diets Don't Work

I was intrigued by the cover and summary of the book but I felt it fell a little short of my expectations. Joyce Tilney attempts to provide a manual for losing weight the "Christian way," but fails to really include a lot of instruction. The book opens up with "The devil wants you fat!" and talks a lot about the battle with Satan and the temptations we face, but fails to really outline a plan to get healthy except to advocate praying and fasting. Tilney condemns comfort food or eating for pleasure. She states time and again that food is for fuel only, not enjoyment (which leads to fat). While I know logically that food is fuel and we shouldn't overeat, is it really so criminal to enjoy something tasty? Why would God make such delicious treats only to have us not enjoy them?

Another thing I had a beef with (get it? food pun!) ,was the author's many miraculous tales. For example she prayed to Jesus and a cancerous lump instantly disappeared or this story on how the Holy Spirit helped her stop craving sweets (page 19):

"One day I wanted a piece of coconut cream pie. I had visions of the pie dancing through my thoughts. I was remembering just how good it tasted when I suddenly heard, "The Lord is your shepherd and you shall not want" (Psalm 23:1). Instantly the craving was gone."

That being said this book wasn't all moot. There was a few shreds of good dieting/lifestyle changing advice. You just have to search through all the bunk to find it.

Disclosure of Material: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review program, which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Captive Trail

The continuation of "Texas Trails: A Morgan Family Series," follows Billie Morgan, aka Taabe Waipu, as she escapes from her Comanche captors twelves years after being abducted. She has been an Indian for so long that she no longer remembers the english language or customs of the white people. But all is well, as she is taken in by four loving nuns who do their best to restore her faith, body, and mind.

As she adapting to the new lifestyle she starts to like Ned, the stage coach man that drives by weekly. He helps her as much as he can to recall her childhood, the time before she was captured by the Indians. As memories start to come back to her Taabe wonders if she'll ever find her real family or if they'll even love her. Soon though she pushes aside those worries because her Comanche betrothed has come looking for his runaway bride. Will she ever meet her real family? Will she outrun the Comanche? Will she ever get to be with Ted? Read to find out more!

Even though the second book in the series was written by a different author, I still thought it flowed well and connected with the original story. Well written and engaging.

I received this book for free from Moody Publishing in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.


I probably haven't read this book since second grade, but my initial reaction to this book is still spot on. It's fabulous. Even as an adult I still laughed out loud. The scene where the cat, Chester, is trying to get rid of the vampire rabbit, Bunnicula, by "staking" him with a thawing steak is hilarious. I can just imagine that orange tabby covering the bunny with the steak and then hitting it repeatedly. Too funny. They don't make kid's classics like this anymore.

For those of you unfortunate few who have never read this timeless tale... you're missing out. The story follows Harold and Chester, the pets of the Monroe family as they encounter a third pet to their household, a bunny named Bunnicula. The cat Chester is convinced that Bunnicula is a vampire because he sleeps all day, can't stand garlic, has fangs, and turns vegetable white by draining them. Harold the dog doesn't really care one way or another, but Chester is convinced they have to act... before it's too late.

It's a funny and classic story. I will have to re-read the rest of these in the series.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Lone Star Trail

Sometimes inspirational romance can be a little heavy handed or "over the top" (i.e. the spirit of the Lord told me to forgive my rapist and offer him supper, etc.), but this managed to be inspirational without scaring away the non or mildly religious crowd.

This historical romance follows a family of German immigrants as they settle in Texas, the newest state in the Union. Things begin badly when one of the children, Ulla, dies upon arrival. As they try to move inland their wagon breaks and they have to rely upon the kindness of a strange family. Even though it is Christmas, the Morgan family takes in the Fleischer family until they can find a house to live in. Jud, the oldest son (and head of the Morgan Ranch since his father's death) resents the immigrants coming to Texas and snatching up all the land. His view begins to change though, when he notices how pretty the eldest German daughter is. It just goes to show that offering Christian charity and hospitality can open many doors. An uplifting and romantic read.

I received this book for free in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Rosie Project

This book was really hyped up for me. And while it was good, it wasn't that good. It was fast paced, funny, and inventive, but... I wasn't sold on all the characters. Particularly Rosie.

Th story is centered on Don Tillman. A brilliant, yet... intense genetics professor(imagine Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory) . Things have to be orderly, schedules have to be adhered to, and standards have to be met. Don decides that the time is right to find a wife, but in order to find the perfect mate he needs to set rules. Thus begins "The Wife Project." He makes a questionnaire to easily weed out the women who smoke, drink, aren't good at math, have bad BMI's, aren't on time, etc. The only problem is, will Don ever find someone who meets all the criteria?

Along comes Rosie, an attractive, smart, and funny girl. The only problem is, she doesn't fulfill all of his requirements, she failed three questions. Why is Don enjoying himself around her when she has proven to be an unsuitable candidate? Hilarity ensues.

A fast, fun read.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Politically Correct Holiday Stories

I was looking for a quick funny holiday book and sadly this did not deliver. It was inventive and unique, for sure, but... not what I wanted to read at all. Thankfully it was only 99 pages or I never would have finished it!

This tiny book is a collection of short re-imagined holiday tales that have been politically corrected. The reindeer lobby for better rights, Clara won't go off with the nutcracker because "such a journey is symbolic of the violent abduction that occurs in the wedding night [she then mentions that Dorothy and Alice have never been the same]," Frosty melts due to global warming, etc.

Clever but I just wasn't having it.

Sex and the Single Christian Girl

The past few years has seen a flurry of Christian self help books on sexuality for women. Marian Jordan Ellis attempts to take everything that's already out there, expand upon it, and wrap it up in a neat little bow. She did a decent job, although I found it went in circles and was a little repetitive. Many passages, prayers, and stories were repeated time and again. That being said, I still thought the author did a good job getting her message across.

Ellis lists reasons why fighting for purity is essential and then backs it up with scripture and testimonials. She then lists many lies we deceive ourselves with such as; it's ok because we love each other, he won't love me if we don't do it, once you've lost you're virginity it doesn't matter anymore, we're eventually going to get married, etc. She then refutes each lies and teaches the reader ways to resist temptation and fight for your purity.

This guide isn't just for 15 year old Christian virgins. It's for all girls whether they are still pure or not. It's about getting back on track and staying there.

It's a fast read and I especially enjoyed the cute little romantic movie quotes that opened up each chapter. 

I received this book for free from Library Thing in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What Once Was Lost

Despite the normal grumblings I have about historical Christian fiction (women belong in the house, men know best, etc.) this was actually a pretty good book. Kim Vogel Sawyer actually had the audacity to counter some of my least favorite aspects of Christian romance (finally!).

This historical romance is set in rural Kansas during the mid to late nineteenth century. Christina Willems runs a well loved poor house on the outskirts of town but when a fire ruins the only home she's ever known she has to find accommodations for her and all the residents. Finding someone to take in Tommy, an eleven year old blind boy turns out to be difficult. Desperate and with no where else to go she entrusts him to a faithless bachelor, Levi Johnson. While Miss Willems busies herself trying to secure funds to rebuild the house and look after her wards sparks begin to fly between her and Levi. The more frustrated she becomes with her the more the attraction grows. The turmoil in her heart isn't the only ache Miss Willems has to face however, someone is trying to sully her good name in town and she has no idea why. Will the townspeople stand by her? Will Levi? Read to find out!!!

As stated, for a Christian historical romance I was pleasantly surprised. Yes there were many instances of women aren't as worthy or capable as men (it's in the bible!) stuff, but the author addresses and counters it. Another redeeming factor was Cora, a young pregnant and unwed girl who, shockingly, isn't stoned or ridiculed (not by everyone in the town anyways, there are good Christians!). Overall, a good quick and uplifting read.

I was given this book for free from Waterbrook Press in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Almond Tree

I wasn't initially excited to read this book; the cover art was boring, it would probably be depressing, blah, blah, blah. Stupid excuses, all of them! This was a fantastic read. I'm so glad I got the opportunity to read it.

This book did more for my understanding of Israeli/ Palestinian problems than any thing else I've read. I'm not a political connoisseur by any means so this really opened my eyes.

The story is a bout young Palestinian boy who despite all odds keeps his chin up and eventually escapes from extreme poverty. His toddler sister is blown up by a land mine when he was a child, another one was gassed to death, his father is wrongly imprisoned for fourteen years, their house gets blown up, they live in a tent for years, it's tragic. Horribly tragic. However, for young Ichmad there is an out, his brain. Ichmad is amazingly talented at math and science and those will eventually become the keys to his success. He succeeds in leaving he country but his brother never forgive him for, "siding with the enemy."

A truly great novel that explores the problems in the Middle East, illustrates the need for peace, and the need for universal education. Education is key to uplifting people out of poverty and despair.

I received this book for free from Goodreads in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Sisterchicks on the Loose

I adored this book. It made me want to hop on a plane and have some life changing adventure. Oh wait, I've done that, but this made me want to do it with my best friend. Robin lovingly recounts her spur of the moment trip with her best friend Penny. When they were young mother's they promised each other they would go to Finland to find the last of Penny's blood relatives, well, that time has come.

This fictional memoir recounts their first adventure together in 1993 and how it changed their lives. It brought them closer to each other, their families, and God. Who knew what an 11 day trip could do for the soul. In that time they "bared all" in a sauna with 2 ladies in their 70's, lost luggage, got puked on, found long lost family, and much much more. It's a light fun read that will have you laughing and sympathizing. A great quick read, I most definitely want to read more in the series.

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Press in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Chanel Bonfire

Mommy dearest had nothing on the evil manipulating mother in this memoir. My childhood seems like a cake walk in comparison. Wendy Lawless recounts her childhood and teenage years trying to come to terms with her mother; a woman who threatened to kill her two daughters, who told her she should have had abortions instead of having kids, who tried to sleep with Wendy's boyfriend, who threw out all their toys, who told her kids their father hated them and never wanted to see them again, and many more terrible evil things.

Despite being horribly depressing, this memoir is moving and intriguing and the optimism that Wendy managed to hold onto is moving. It's a short memoir that will make you want to hold your kids and tell them how much you love them and really sincerely mean it.

Romulus Buckle & the Engines of War

This is officially the first steampunk novel I have ever read and it wasn't too bad! I really didn't think I would enjoy it, but after awhile it grew on me. The main character Romulus Buckle, swashbuckeling captain of the "Pneumatic Zeppelin" is your typical James Bond, cocky, womanizing, brave, type. You just have to like him (although his attraction to two of his step sisters is a little odd for me).

This is the second in a series and it picks up immediately where the last one left off and ends in such a cliffhanger that you're stuck waiting for the next installment. I'm not sure how many are in the series but this book sets it up for a major war against the founders. The whole point of this book is uniting all the warring clans together to fight a common enemy, the Founders.

It's super fast paced. I'm fairly positive that Buckle did not sleep once during the entire book. The characters are pretty well developed and leave you with enough curiosity that you'll want to see how they develop later on in the series.

This book is all steam punk with some fantasy elements thrown in (flying krakens, sabertooths, martians, etc.) so if you're into that kind of thing you will most definitely love this book.

I received this book free from Goodreads in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Night Guest

I don't remember who recommended this book to me but I was not a fan. This was one of those books I started reading without knowing anything about the plot or storyline. Bad idea.

The story follows this elderly lady, Ruth, as she slowly loses her mind to old age. She starts hearing noises at night and is convinced there is a tiger lurking in the hallway. Soon after, a bossy woman named Frida, invites herself into the house and tells Ruth the government has sent her as part of a program for the elderly. Things go downhill from there. Frida uses Ruth's frail state to take advantage of her. While it's clear that Frida develops a soft spot for Ruth and admires her, it's obvious that she plans on milking this poor old lady for all she's worth by exploiting her aging mind.

While it was beautifully written, I didn't feel that this story did anything for me. I just felt bad for the old lady. Read at your own risk.

Love in the Time of Cholera

Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. Love in the Time of Cholera. 13 CDs. unabridged. 15.5 hrs. Blackstone Audio. 2013. ISBN 978148293971. 

Nobel Prize winning author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude) spins a tale of romance and heartbreak that spans decades. Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall hopelessly in love in their youth, but when Fermina forsakes Florentino's love to marry a wealthy doctor, he is anything but dissuaded. He spends a lifetime waiting for her; no woman could ever replace her spot in his heart. Romance is the only thing that he can live for and as long as Fermina lives, even with another man, his heart will keep beating in the hope that he can win her back. This story of unrequited love is unsurpassed in it's eloquence, tragedy, and redemption. Beautifully told by the talented voice actor Armando Duranwhose strong voice carries the story along . Although translated from it's original Spanish, Duran keeps the Spanish roots present with his accent and masterful pronunciation. A wonderful classic for fans of narrative and historical literature. Erin Cataldi, Johnson County Public Library, Franklin, IN

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making?

Before I review this title I feel I need to warn you, I am not married. So this book doesn't relate to me... yet. That being said I thought this was a WONDERFUL manual for the married Christian woman! I had expected this to be a dry tome of "please your husband," "missionary style only," or "only have sex once a month," etc. But what I found shocked me... in a good way!

Authors Linda Dillow and Dr. Juli Slatterly put together this wonderful ten week manual to help transform the emotional and physical passion of married Christian couples and save marriages in the process. Each week is a different theme focusing on a passage from the Bible and the book is full of written exercises, talking points to share with your husband, prayers, and personal testimonials from other Christian women.

This book is meant to be completed solo or with a group of other women. The authors realize that sex and passion are topics not often focused on in Church or are hard to bring up with a priest which is why they completed this handy guide. This is useful for any stage of marriage, the beginning or when you are in your eighties, it is full of helpful hints and ideas on how to get your romance back on track.

I received this book for free from Moody Publishing in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Secret Keeper: The Delicate Power of Modesty

This is the second book I've read by Dannah Gresh and it just confirmed my belief that she is the most talented and inspired female christian non-fiction author.

This book explores what modesty really is compared to today's standards. With soo many conflicting images in the media it can be hard for Christian girls to know what is morally acceptable to wear. Dannah breaks down what the bible says and what it means for christian girls who want to be morally and spiritually pure for God and their future husbands. You can flaunt your allure but it most be done to God's standards, not todays fashion trends.

It's a short little guide with written exercises, tips for being fashionable yet modest, pictures, personal testimonies. This is a perfect guide for young christian girls.  

I was given this book for free from Moody Publishers in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

Dirty Girls Come Clean

For the few of you that follow my reviews I feel the need to say, I am not addicted to pornography! But if I was I would definitely have found this book very useful!

Call me naive but when I thought of pornography addiction I generally only thought of it as a male problem. But as the author, Crystal Renaud, pointed, that's a big part of the problem. The women that do have an addiction feel they have no where to go and think that they have to face their problem alone. Thankfully now, there are resources for them. Crystal not only wrote this book, but founded "Dirty Girl Ministries," an organization aimed at helping women who are suffering from pornography addiction.

One thing I really like about this book was that, even though it is a Christian self-help book, the author states,

"I write this book from a Christian point of view because it's my personal belief that Jesus is the reason I stand free from pornography today. But as I said, pornography addiction knows no creed. Pornography affects everyone. So it is my hope that the steps provided throughout this book will be beneficial to all women, from all walks of life."

I like that it isn't as exclusionary as other Christian self-help books can be, the author really tries to help everyone with this addiction. That being said it is very Jesus-centric but not enough to be a huge turn off for most non-Christians.

This little manual contains, personal stories, writing prompts, surveys, tests, resources, testimonies, and more. I'm sure it is a massive help for those coping with pornography addiction. I've read self help books for drug addictions (again dear readers, I'm not suffering from drug addiction either, I just read a lot!) and many of the steps listed are similar.

I received this book free from Moody Publishers in return for my honest, unbiased, opinion.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The City of Dreaming Books

I won't deny it, this book was inventive and unique, but..... not my cuppa tea. As a bibliophile I appreciated everything this book was about, it's ingenious and clever, but again, not my cuppa tea.

This story follows Optimus Yarnspinner, a dinosaur from Lindworm castle who ventures to Bookholm to find the author of a manuscript. Once there, things go horribly wrong and he ends up poisoned and in the deep dangerous depths of the catacombs that run deep beneath the city. He fends off bookhunters, booklings, and other horrifying creatures as he tries to make his way back up to the surface.

Book lovers and bibliophiles will appreciate the beautiful imagery and book lore, but it might be a bore for others. This story is full of adventure, high fantasy, and bibliophilia but it's not for everyone. Wonderfully written and crafted but I just wasn't feeling it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Book Thief

Geoffrey Rush said it was a five handkerchief film and I think the same is most definitely true for the book. It starts off innocently enough, with a word of note from death, the impartial narrator. Death tells the tale of Liesel, a young German orphan who finds a new home in Nazi Germany and forges a strong bond with her new papa. Papa slowly coaxes her out of her shell with his accordion, cigarette rolling, and reading lessons. They start off with "The Grave Digger's Handbook," a book Liesel stole at her brother's funeral, but soon progress to other novels (the majority of which Liesel has stolen). Each novel she conquers marks a new phase in her life. As the war progresses into Germany, reading is her true salvation. It also helps her bond with the Jew hidden in their basement.

This is one of those books that will stay with you. It's haunting and poetic; Death is a fantastic narrator and his insights to the future and value of human life will astound you. It's also nice to read a book from the perspective of the "protagonist," an eleven year old German girl and member of the Hitler Youth, rather than the "victims" (not that there is ANYTHING wrong with reading about the victims, it's just nice to switch it up, I've read dozens of memoirs from survivors and other literature from the side of the oppressed).

I can see why there is so much hype surrounding this book, it's outstanding and might I mention, very critically acclaimed. According to Goodreads, "First released in 2005, The Book Thief has spent a total of 375 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and still remains there eight years after it first came out. It has been translated into over 40 languages and has been adapted into a movie."

Damn, I am obviously going to have to see the movie version of this in theaters.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My Story by Elizabeth Smart

Smart, Elizabeth. My Story. 7 CDs. unabridged. 9 hrs. MacMillan Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781427233424. $29.99. 

This haunting and inspiring memoir will have readers horrified at the atrocities that then fourteen year old, Elizabeth Smart had to endure. Having been kidnapped at knife-point from her safe Mormon home and then subjected to daily rapes and humiliation from her captors, Smart's story of despair turns amazingly into hope. Her nine months of capture just steeled her resolve in her faith and her commitment to doing the right thing and showing constant gratitude. Elizabeth's story captured the nation's hearts in 2002 and will continue to do so in this heartfelt memoir. Her intimate story sheds light on her captivity and how she was able to rebuild her life after such an altering and scarring event. The audio book has an extra dimension of truth and emotion since it is beautifully narrated by the author, Elizabeth Smart. For fans of inspirational and Christian memoirs. - Erin Cataldi, Franklin College, Franklin, IN. 


I was drawn to this book because I am an introvert myself, and I wanted to see what type of "powers" I posses. This book far exceeded my expectations. Such a fabulous read! Normally I don't go for "self-help" reads (which this book wasn't, not really) but I made an exception for this because it intrigued me so much!

It was very easy to read and had lots of clever anecdotes, it gave lots of tips for how to work well with extroverts and vice versa. In fact, this book is also a great read for extroverts because it lets you into the mind of your introverted friends and co-workers! A very insightful and informative book. Well deserving of the Goodread's Choice Award for best non-fiction book last year!

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Press in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

A Kingsbury Collection

This book isn't for the "light reader," it's size is quite intimidating. I didn't finish this in one sitting, I stretched out this three book collection over about a month. True Kingsbury and Christian romance fans won't mind though, it's got great monetary and emotional value (more bang for your buck!).

The first story, "Where Yesterday Lives," is about a female Pulitzer prize winning journalist who has haunting memories of her childhood. She goes home to make peace with her past and hopefully in the process can reconcile her rocky marriage and forgotten faith.

The second story, "When Joy Came to Stay," is about one wife's deep despair and fall into depression. Her husband and child do the best they can to hold everything together and help her out of her hole. A truly inspirational story.

The final story, "On Every Side," is about a small hundred year old statue of Jesus that stands in a park. A battle rages about the separation of church and state and citizens call for it's removal. Faith is a young newscaster who follows her heart and souls she must "battle" Jordan, a lawyer who is set on removing the statue. Can love develop in such a hostile situation?

All three books are classic Kingsbury. Feel good romances that lift you up.

I was given a complimentary copy of this book by Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing for this unbiased review.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Eleanor and Park

There has been soo much good hype surrounding this story that I was more than eager to pick this bad boy up. What really drew me into this book was the realness of it. It didn't feel fake like many other of the young adult romances I've read. This book was seeped with emotion, heartfelt, sad, funny, and painful emotion.

This story is set in the eighties but it's not your typical John Highes romance. Eleanor and Park have nothing in common (or so they think) and they start off feeling nothing but embarrassment and resentment towards each other. Eleanor is a plump red headed, eccentric girl who's new in town. She has a hidden secret though. Her family life is AWFUL. Her stepfather is an abusive drunk and she has to protect her four younger siblings from his frequent outbursts. She views school as another obstacle that she has to tackle, that is until she gets to know Park.

Park is the shy yet mildly popular half Korean kid. When he first sets eyes on Eleanor he is just embarrassed for her. He only shares his bus seat with her out of pity. Soon though he starts sharing his comics, then his mix tapes, and then FINALLY they start talking and realize how perfect they are for each other... except that they're not. This is high school and nothing is perfect.

Everyone will be able to relate with some aspects of this book. It's raw, heartfelt, and gets right to the heart of what it feels like to young, confused, and in love.

Friday, November 8, 2013

How to Ruin Your Life By 30: Just Follow These 9 Easy Steps!

I think this short, little book contains some great ideas, but it still falls short of the mark. Steve Farrar offers a lot of valuable advice such as how to find your true purpose in life, how to follow the laws of cause and effect, trust God, etc. But I think his message will only truly be appreciated by the most conservative Christians. The advice is well meaning but not always attainable or well advised.

A few of the things I had problems with are as follows:

1. The author makes it clear that divorce is never ever an option. Which I agree, in most cases divorce isn't an option. People need to take their vows seriously and work through their problems. But he fails to mention abuse or other severe cases when divorce is necessary. Putting forth ultimatums is never good. In rare cases divorce is justifiable and encouraged.

2. He considers homosexuality a "sexual immorality." Now I know most Christians frown upon gays, but I thought the teaching was, that being a homosexual was not a sin, only ACTING on homosexuality was a sin (not that I agree with that, I'm just repeating). The author makes no clarification and just calls out the gays. Not cool.

3. Farrar is borderline sexist/ very traditional in regards to gender roles. He states multiple times that women need to be comfortable in their femininity, allow their husbands to provide and lead, become mothers, AND not to dress cheap. There is nothing shaming boys from ogling pretty girls but there is a whole section on what women should wear. Again, not cool.

4. Finally, dating non-Christians is not worth your time?!? Really?! I thought for sure he would at least say, "convert your significant other" or something, but instead he says, "Don't give any consideration to the possibility that you might lead them toward the Lord. God doesn't need you to do His work in their life." Harsh man, harsh.

Overall, an interesting read, but maybe I'm just to liberal in my love for the Lord and humanity.

I received this book for free from Moody Publishing in return for my honest, unbiased opinion. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Perfect Pet for Peyton

This book was adorable! I'm a grown woman and I had fun discovering what type of love language I used. The colorful pictures and fun search and finds located on the pages will keep kids entertained while they learn what their love language is. I found out that I communicate love by giving, how neat!

This picture book follows twins Peyton and Penny as they go to the Pet Pal Emporium with their three friends for their birthday. While there, each kid is matched up with a pet that matches up with their love language personality. It's a great developmental tool for kids and parents and there are even more resources in the back of the book. I will definitely be looking for more "adult" books on the five love languages. I'm soo intrigued!

A copy of this book was provided by Moody Press for free in exchange for an honest review.

Shades of Mercy

A supremely cozy read. This budding romance warms you up and gives you the happy butterflies. I'm not normally a fan of romance, let alone the super sappy Christian romance, but this book went far beyond my wildest expectations.

This coming of age tale follows young Mercy as she learns just how prejudiced God-fearing Christian people can be. It's Maine in the fifties and a local tribe of Maliseet Indians have been shunted to the dump to live in squalid conditions. Mercy's father is a good Christian and hires the Maliseets to work on his farm even though people in town look down on the tribe as less than human. Mercy and her family have a soft spot for them, especially for Mick, a good looking boy that Mercy has fallen hopelessly in love with. Mercy discovers the hard way just deep the town's and her family's prejudices can go. Will she ever be able to be with Mick publicly? Doesn't Jesus love everyone equally?

This book is a fast read and doesn't get to sappily romantic or preach hell-fire and damnation. It's inspirational, happy, and leaves you in a happy positive mood :)

A copy of this book was provided by Moody Press for free in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Baker, Jo. Longbourn. 11 CDs. unabridged. 13.5 hrs. Books on Tape, an imprint of the Random House Audio Publishing Group. 2013. ISBN 9780804149426. 

This brilliant and inventive novel will have Jane Austen and Downton Abbey fans jumping for joy. Jo Baker
brings the below-stairs to life in Pride and Prejudice and manages to create as much intrigue and romance
as the Bennet girls experienced in the original classic. Baker fleshes out the lives of the servants, footmen, and cooks to create a classic tale of love lost, perseverance, and early nineteenth century life that will please even the most critical of Janeites. The story centers on Bennet's maid, Sarah, a naive yet likable young girl. When new footman, James, joins the Longbourn staff, things are turned upside down and may never be the same again. Emma Fielding brilliantly narrates this novel with her smooth English accent and does a fantastic job bringing the characters to life using accents and inflections in all the right places. A must read for fans of historical fiction, Jane Austen, and Downton Abbey. Erin Cataldi, Franklin College, Franklin, IN

Rose Under Fire

EPIC READ! For fans of historical fiction, young adult novels, World War II dramas, or the book "Code Name Verity" this book is for you!! I hardly know where to begin. This book was amazing, it was thought provoking, intelligent, heartbreaking, and humorous. It kept your attention from page to page.

The story follows a young female American pilot who transports aircraft from site to site. Strictly speaking she had a pretty safe, civilian job, that is until she gets caught by two German pilots who escort her behind enemy lines. Once there she thrown into Ravensbruck, a female concentration camp and she experiences horrors beyond her wildest imagination. She befriends the "rabbits" a group of girls who were medically experimented on and now have deformed legs. Together they try to beat the system and stay alive. It's the story of women overcoming horrible odds and tragedies by sticking together, friendship and hope are powerful things.

Something else great about this book is all the poetry dispersed throughout it. Rose stays sane in the camp by making poems about the gruesome and grotesque things she sees on a daily basis. The characters in this book may have been made up but Ravensbruck was real and so were the Rabbits and the horrors within. "Tell the world" Rose said. Read this book and pass it on.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Glitter and Glue

A funny and heart-wrenching memoir about the bond between mothers and daughters, and how sometimes it can take a lifetime to understand. Kelly's childhood and relationship with her mother isn't typical, but then again, whose is?

When Kelly decides to travel the world for a year, she finds herself in Australia for 5 months and with a limited cash fund. Desperate she takes a job nannying for a widower and his two young children. As she helps rear the children she begins to learn things about her own mother in the absence of the childrens.

This memoir will have you laughing out loud and tearing up chapters later. What a great read.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Between Shades of Gray

I loved this!! It was haunting and beautiful read that sheds light on a disturbingly overlooked part of history, the murder of millions of citizens in the Baltic states in 1941. When people think of World War II they tend to think of the Holocaust and Pearl Harbor but many overlook the millions of people that Stalin had killed. It's chilling depictions of the horrors of the labor camps, starvation, murder, and packing people in cattle cars will stay with the reader. This isn't just a story of despair however, Lina and her family hold onto hope, no matter how hopeless their lives have become.

An absolute must read. The short chapters make this book a fast and an inspiring read.


After years of having Joe Hill on my to read list, I can finally check him off! I can't lie though, the main reason for finally reading this novel is not all the glowing recommendations my friends have given Joe Hill, but rather the upcoming movie version of this, starring my main man Harry Potter, I mean Daniel Radcliffe.

Horns is a unique horror/paranormal/thriller that nearly anyone could get into. The story centers on Ig, a young man who wakes up one morning after a hard night of drinking with a set of horns on his head. He has no idea how they got there and soon discovers that the horns do more than make him look terrifying, they allow him to hear people's innermost horrible desires. He sees the worst of people, his family, his friends. And it tears him apart... until he discovers he can use this "gift" to try and discover who murdered his girlfriend a year ago.

Inventive and exciting, this is a great read from Joe Hill. Obviously great writing runs in his family (his father is Stephen King).

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Navigating Early

This book was fantastic and I have a hard time believing it's meant for junior readers. Thematically, it's compelling and complex and interweaves stories within stories. 

Jack is uprooted from Kansas to a boarding school in Maine when his mother dies. While there he befriends another eighth grader the bewilderingly weird, Early, who convinces Jack that they need to go on a quest in the wilderness to find the great Appalachian Grizzly Bear and find Early's lost (ie dead in the war) brother. Jack and Early embark on an amazing quest that neither of them could have ever anticipated. Set during the end of World War II this book will move you. A truly fantastic journey of two young boys facing inner demons and harsh realities of a cruel world. An uplifting and inspiring read.

The Dangerous Animal's Club

I have never laughed out loud soo much, listening to an audiobook. Stephen Tobolowsky does an amazing job narrating his stories and you can't help but grinning at his off the wall and nearly unbelievable stories. There are roughly two dozen stories that illustrate Stephen's childhood, college years, acting gigs, professional life, and parenthood.

Such a great read. I looked forward getting into the car so I could listen to Stephen joke about driving naked down the interstate to escape fleas, capturing scorpions in jelly jars, and debating about whether to pay the big man to pee on his back.

A great collection and one that makes me appreciate Mr. Tobolowsky even more as an actor. What fun stories :)


This was a unique read, nothing like I thought it would be. I had seen the movie (the original with Sissy) and I assumed it would be, well, like the movie. And to an extent it was, but really not at all.

The book does an impeccable job of getting inside the character's heads and telling the story via newspaper clippings, personal accounts, science books, police reports, and more. It is not a cut and dried story with three parts (beginning, middle, and end) it only centers around one main event, Carrie White's prom. And the whole time you basically know what is going to happen, but the suspense keeps building and you keep willing the outcome to change.

Fantastic, creepy, read that really gets in your head. A great introduction to horror or Stephen King books for the non-reader.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Let the Great World Spin

It took me a long time to get into this book. A LONG time. I twas beautifully written and crafted but I didn't start caring until the last 100 pages of the book.

The story is centered around the tightrope artist that illegally walked between the Twin Towers in New York in 1974. Various character's stories weave around viewing that amazing sight. Thee hookers, the Irish brothers, the southern Black women who lost all three of her sons in the Vietnam War, the computer programmers in California, etc. All of these people have somehow been impacted even if only minimally by this brave and terrifying feat of daring.

Some of the stories lag, while others grip your heart. Well put together, but definitely not a page turner.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Husband's Secret

Man I powered through this book, it took me no time at all to finish it! It wasn't a super challenging read, but at the same time it wasn't a mindless chick romance either, this had substance.

The story all centers around a letter. A letter that has remained hidden, forgotten, and unopened for over a decade. When Cecilia stumbles upon the letter in the attic addressed to her in the event of her husband's death, she is intrigued, but she decides not to open it... at least for now.

The letter will change lives, isn't that what the truth does? If it's opened it has the power to draw many seemingly different people together. The truth changes everything.

If you're looking for a quick, exciting, page turner then this is the book for you. With plenty of plot twists and a fast paced storyline this novel will have you turning pages at breakneck speed. Very innovative and fresh. A very enjoyable read.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Two Boys Kissing

If you pick any of my reviews to read, please read this one. This is by far one of the most meaningful and inspiring books I've read in years.

Ordinarily I would never have picked up this book, I would have shied away from the title. Thank goodness I'm in book clubs that make me read outside my genre/comfort zone. This book defied all odds and is an amazing read for any gay, straight, questioning, lesbian, trangendered, bisexual teenager or adult (although I can easily see it becoming a manifesto/classic for the LGBT community like the "It Gets Better" book, it's simply too good not to).

This "story" is narrated by a lost generation, the generation of gay men and women that watched as nearly two hundred thousand of their friends, family members, and partners died of AIDS and suffered through waves of homophobia like this generation has never known. This voice helps weaves several tales of young gay teens together and tries to reassure this generation that things will get better. The main story is of Harry and Craig, two gay teens that try to break the record for longest kiss (32 hours). What starts out as a small personal record for the two of them turns into an international sensation as people chime in their support (and condemnation) from all over the world. The other threads of the story involve a gay son who feels he has nothing to live for, a girl in a boys body trying to find true love, a young gay boy starting to realize that revenge for the daily slurs and harassment isn't the way to go, and a young gay couple that realize how good they have it.

This story addresses so many important and pressing issues. Coming to terms with your identity. Coming out to your family. Believing in the future. Forgiveness. Hope. It's truly inspiring. The use of the omniscient narrators is also breathtaking.

Also, the words of this story have such a lyrical quality. Here are some quotable ones for you:

"What a powerful word, "future." Of all the abstractions we can articulate to ourselves, of all the concepts we have that other animals do not, how extraordinary the ability to consider a time that's never been experienced. And how tragic not to consider it. It galls us, we with such a limited future, to see someone brush it aside as meaningless, when it has an endless capacity for meaning, and an endless number of meaning that can be found within it."

"You can give words, but you can't take them, And when words are given and received, that is when they are shared."

"Ignorance is not bliss. Bliss is knowing the full meaning of what you have been given."

"We often believe the truest measure of a relationship is the ability to lay ourselves bare. But there's something to be said for parading your plumage as well, finding truth as much in the silly as the severe."

Seriously, read this book. I read it from start to finish in one day. Granted I was home sick, but the point. This is a fantastic book that makes me have a little more faith in society. Another job well done David Levithan. This book has already been nominated for a National Book Award (and it was just published last month!) and I can see it getting nominated for many many more awards (also, getting banned because of the title - stupid bigots).

In the Woods

This is one of those books. One of the ones you can't put down and you want to turn pages faster so that you can get to the end and figure out what in the hell is going on. Except when you get to the end your brain explodes. Fair warning.

Basically, a young girl is found dead on an ancient stone tablet. Detectives Rob and Cassie have to figure out if it was a pagan sacrifice, if she was raped and murdered by her father, OR if she is part of an older case, a case that goes back to when Rob was a child himself and his two best friends went missing.... IN THE VERY SAME WOODS! Oh it keeps you guessing all right.

Overall, a fantastic read, one that keeps you guessing and go well beyond the realms of mystery and into eerie thriller. Rob and Cassie are also excellent characters, I loved them. I don't want to part with them, I need more of them in my life now! They are such a witty charismatic dynamic duo.

Also, I really enjoyed it because it's set in Dublin and a lot of the places that Rob and Cassie go to, I'd been (UCD, Howth, Bray, etc.), PLUS there was a fair bit or archaeology stuff in here. Intriguing :)

Must read for sure!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Yes, Chef: A Memoir

Ok, go ahead and judge me, but I will admit I started this book not having a clue who in the hell Marcus Samuelsson was. Not one. I won this audiobook in a competition and it sounded interesting, I like watching and reading about people cooking, but I am no chef. On a good day I make mac n cheese. I'm pretty pathetic. Anyways, I'm glad I read this, it was a really inspiring story.

Hod does an Ethiopian orphan raised by Swedish parents become one of the greatest chefs in the world? Well you have to read to find out. Marcus put all of his energy and talents into becoming the greatest chef he could be, and over the years traveled to different countries chasing flavors and developing a unique spin on cooking. He hit it big in America which is where he now resides as a celebrity chef.

For those that don't care squat about cooking this book may still interest you, this memoir touches on a little bit of everything from growing up as a little black boy in a mainly all white country, to family, to the value of hardwork, forgiveness, and love.

I would also recommend listening to the audio version which is narrated by Marcus himself, his accent and annunciations help make the story.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Biology of Luck

I began this book with high hopes after discovering that Jacob M. Appel is a Kurt Vonnegut Prize winner, that's a good sign right there! Thankfully, I was not let down in my expectations. I thoroughly enjoyed this romance of sorts.

Larry Bloom is a New York City tour guide, a normal, unattractive humdrum individual, but deep at heart, he is a hopeless romantic. For years he has had the hots for Starshine, a gorgeous twenty-something that has always been precariously out of reach. Today though, Larry's luck will change. It HAS to change, he has spent years imagining this day and writing a novel for her, so everything must go right.

The narrative alternates between Larry's day and what Larry imagines/writes/believes Starshine's day is. It's a unique and exciting way that illustrates the story beautifully. It keeps you guessing as characters begin to weave seamlessly between the two narratives. What is real? What is Larry imagining?

As you can guess, Larry's day is anything but droll, and New York City has never been so full of surprises. Laugh out loud funny, and great for all fiction lovers. A great read.

I received this book for free in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

LOVED this book, after reading the amazing "Silver Lining's Playbook" I knew I would have to read everything else Matthew Quick published and damn I'm glad I did. Quick makes his debut in the young adult genre with one hell of a bang. Literally, this book is fantastic!

Leonard Peacock's birthday should be a special, instead today is the day that he will kill himself and his former best friend. Tired of being an outsider for too long and dealing with internal turmoil, Leonard sees this as the only way out. In this witty, saddening, heartbreaking, and darkly humorous novel, the reader gets amazing insight to how complicated the human psyche is and just how much it can withstand before it snaps.

Filled with unforgettable, wildly unique characters and a witty narrator, this book will have you racing to the end. Impossible to put down. A DEFINITE must read!