Bewitched in Oz

By Laura J Burns
Published on August 1, 2014
Published by Capstone Young Readers
Source: Publisher
When Zerie Greenapple's friend is arrested for using her magic, she knows she must do everything she can to protect her own magic...even if it means traversing the dangerous landscapes of Oz and encountering strange creatures along the way. Zerie and two friends set out to find Glinda the Good, in the hope that she can help them defeat the evil Princess Ozma. But what they experience on their journey might just tear them apart. Will magic be enough to save these three friends?

Based on how thin this book was, I had a feeling that this book was middle grade.  I was intrigued by the fact that this is from a new publisher and that it is both a take on the Oz tale and has fantasy elements.  I enjoyed Bewitched in Oz.  It absolutely skews towards a younger middle grade reader (I am thinking elementary school, not middle school.  The language in Bewitched is very simple and very juvenile.  The author makes the characters speak very plainly (including thoughts).  I could see how children would connect and relate to that and enjoy it, but as an adult reading it- it felt very cheesy.

The plot to Bewitched is simple.  Zerie and her friends all have magical talents, but they have to hide them from the people of Oz because they will get taken away by the Wizard and Princess Ozma  if they are caught with magic.  So they practice alone and at night... inevitably they are caught.  They escape and make their way down the yellow brick road (yellow road of bricks?  Was the phrase "yellow brick road" copyrighted?) to find Glinda the Good, who will help protect them against Ozma.

There are a few unexpected twists and turns, but mostly this book is adventurous fun.  If you have a middle grade reader who loves Oz or retellings- they will have fun reading this short novel set in the land of Oz.  I can't say I am clamoring for the next book, but I didn't regret reading it.

Christmas in July Giveaway

Hi friends!

If I were better at graphics, I would make a cutesy little banner for this, since I'm calling it Christmas in July and all.  Instead, have a picture I took of a baby goat, because this post feels naked without some sort of picture.

Alright, now that that's out of the way!

It's giveaway time!

I have a whole stack of books that I would love to give away! Check out all these books, full of words, for your eyes!

Before I take them off to my local Goodwill equivalent, though, I want to give you book lovers the first shot.  There will be three winners -- first place gets to pick two books from the pile, and second and third each get to pick one book. This is open to addresses in the US and Canada.  (If you're not in the US or Canada but would be willing to maybe split the cost of shipping, feel free to enter and just note that in a comment on the post so I'll know.)

Here's the Rafflecopter! Go and enter and be merry.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Alex reviews: Sous Chef

By Michael Gibney
Published on March 2014
Published by Ballantine Books
Source: Purchased
The back must slave to feed the belly. . . . In this urgent and unique book, chef Michael Gibney uses twenty-four hours to animate the intricate camaraderie and culinary choreography in an upscale New York restaurant kitchen. Here readers will find all the details, in rapid-fire succession, of what it takes to deliver an exceptional plate of food—the journey to excellence by way of exhaustion.

Told in second-person narrative, Sous Chef is an immersive, adrenaline-fueled run that offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the food service industry, allowing readers to briefly inhabit the hidden world behind the kitchen doors, in real time. This exhilarating account provides regular diners and food enthusiasts alike a detailed insider’s perspective, while offering fledgling professional cooks an honest picture of what the future holds, ultimately giving voice to the hard work and dedication around which chefs have built their careers.

In a kitchen where the highest standards are upheld and one misstep can result in disaster, Sous Chef conjures a greater appreciation for the thought, care, and focus that go into creating memorable and delicious fare. With grit, wit, and remarkable prose, Michael Gibney renders a beautiful and raw account of this demanding and sometimes overlooked profession, offering a nuanced perspective on the craft and art of food and service.

I don't usually start my reviews this way, but this book is so unique that it deserves a unique blog.  Sous Chef delivers exactly what it promises.  This is a spot on representation of the daily life of a sous chef.  If you know anyone that's worked in a restaurant, or anyone that watches the cooking reality shows (Top Chef), you know that it is a demanding career.  This book covers it all, from morning to following morning.

Alot of the sequences in this book cross over into what I do (nearly) every day.  From starting early in the day on prep for that evening, only to be assigned specials to complete just hours before the doors open to having a cook have an emergency in the middle of dinner and having to step in for them.  The absolute controlled chaos that chefs so lovingly refer to as "service"  is explained wonderfully. Of course, no one can forget the post service activities and bonding that take place with the entire kitchen team at a local bar, where everyone can be themselves outside of the kitchen.

I'll leave you with my favorite quote from Sous Chef.  It is the narrator's thoughts on what it means to work in a professional kitchen and to put out good food.  It echoes my thoughts:  It's all about the 'guest.'

"But don't you feel like we lose sight of that?  Like, when we get all caught up trying to 'earn' it, we forget that we are simply here to feed people?  And if we forget that, then what is all this hard work for?  To impress Chef?  To satisfy ourselves?  And if that's the case, isn't professional cooking just another form of enlightened self-interest?"

Thirty Sunsets

By Christine Hurley Derisco
Published on July 8 2014
Published by Flux
To Forrest Shephard, getting away to the family's beach house with her parents and her brother, Brian, is the best part of every summer. Until this year, when her mother invites Brian's obnoxious girlfriend, Olivia, to join them. Suddenly, Forrest's relaxing vacation becomes a mission to verify the reality of Olivia's rumored eating disorder. But the truth behind Olivia's finicky eating isn't at all what Forrest expected. And over the next thirty days, Forrest's world is turned upside down as her family's darkest secrets begin to come to light.

I requested this book naively thinking it was actually about struggles with an eating disorder. . . but by Chapter 2 I had already figured out the "big plot twist." Maybe it's because I'm older than the "target audience," but I found that aspect to be incredibly predictable.

I really liked the main character, Forest, and I was glad to see her transformation from naive girl to strong and confident young woman throughout the novel. Her voice was strong, as were the voices of the other teen characters. I suppose this could be considered a "coming of age" novel with lots of plot twists and turns.

Plot and Pacing: Here's where I have mixed feelings again. Don't get me wrong; this was a well written book that I think a lot of teens would appreciate. But something just seemed . . . off. I almost never say that YA novels have "too much" going on in them. Teens face so many issues on a daily basis that it's entirely likely that a girl like Forest would live through this series of major events piling on top of each other. However, the way the events were revealed seemed rushed and overwhelming to me as a reader. The way the parents hid certain family secrets from their children until they were almost adults seemed kind of strange too. I liked Forest, but I really didn't feel much connection to her mom and dad, even though they played a major part in most of the big plot twists.

Overall, though, I liked the growth of the main character. I think Forest learned the importance of learning who she was and sticking up for herself. This book does address some serious issues, but they're not the ones you think from the description!

I Was the Cat

By Paul Tobin & Benjamin Dewey
Published on August 6th 2014
Published by Oni Press
Source: Netgalley
Allison Breaking is a talented journalist with her own blog and a lot of bills to pay. So when she receives an offer from a mysterious stranger named Burma to write his memoirs, it's an offer she can't refuse, not even with all the red flags popping up. But Burma is quite literally unlike any man Allison's ever known - because he's a cat! And this cat has stories to tell about how he (over the course of a few lifetimes) has shaped the world - and another, darker story that Allison must risk all to uncover... a story of what this particular cat has been doing with the LAST of his nine lives.
A story about a talking cat trying to take over the world? I'm in!

Actually, I was mostly drawn to this because of the art of Benjamin Dewey, who is responsible for the always awesomely weird Tragedy Series. But also: talking megalomaniacal cat.

The bulk of the story is given to Burma recounting his previous eight lives for Allison, who accepts the fact that she's working for a talking cat with much more coolness than I could ever muster. (TALKING. CAT.) As the story progresses, though, you start to get glimpses that Burma is a little more than just a cat talking about the past, as some subplots kick in showing what Burma's up to today.

I think this story somehow managed to have both too much and too little backstory.  There were times where I was definitely bored with the long sequences detailing Burma's past lives.  And yet, somehow, I wanted to know more. I was left with a lot of questions and felt like some important plot points had been glossed over in favor of more explanation for the current day events and characters (like, why does one of Burma's henchmen-type-dudes look straight out of a Sherlock Holmes movie? is he a secret hipster? is he immortal? tell me more!).  There was too much plot for the story they were trying to tell, and I think it would have been better served by either making sure this was at least a two-book run, or cutting down on some of the digressions. The ending does leave things kind of ambiguous, so there's potential for a second book that could clear up some of the gaps this one left.

Overall, despite some plot holes, this was an entertaining read, especially once the present-day plotline kicked in.  Check it out for Dewey's art, if nothing else, especially in the latter chapters.  I don't want to tell you what to look for because of spoilers, but there are some pretty epic spreads whenever the story switches entirely to the present day.

Jaime's Waiting on Wednesday #2

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming reads we are stoked about!

By Dawn Metcalf
Published on September 30, 2014
Published by Harlequin Teen
Some things lie beneath the surface. 


With the power to change everything. 

Joy Malone wants it all—power, freedom and the boyfriend who loves her. Yet when an unstoppable assassin is hired to kill her, Joy learns that being the girl with the Sight comes with a price that might be too high to pay. Love will be tested, lives will be threatened, and everyone Joy knows and cares about will be affected by her decision to stand by Ink or to leave the Twixt forever. 

Her choice is balanced on a scalpel's edge and the consequences will be more life-altering than anyone can guess.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Since I am a happily married woman, I have a list of awesome chicks that I would want with me if I were on a deserted island! Bear Grylls, you ain't got nothing on these awesome author creations! As usual, no particular order!

Anna from Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
The scary stuff on that island would go running from ME (well, Anna), instead of me running from THEM! Unfortunate side effect: I would probably be running away WITH them. Still...

Scarlet from Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
Like most of these girls, no explanations needed! She is just AWESOME! Scarlet is the reason we would have FOOD!

Gretchen, Emma and Penelope from A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey
These 3 girls captured my heart, and I want to be an honorary cousin. They would be fun to hang out with on long, lonely nights and an added bonus? Magic, baby!

Kami Glass from Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
Comic Relief! Best friend- worthy! She would be absolute fun to hang around with on the island!

Ismae from Grave Mercy, Sybella from Dark Triumph, Annith from Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers 
Um, They are Assassins. For Death. Why wouldn't I want them by my side? I love these girls! 

Karou and Zuzanna from Daughter of Smoke and Bone Series by Laini Taylor 
Karou is one tough chick, and she is smart and loyal. Zuze is a true best friend, and so dependable. I could count on them both to get me out of a funk! And have Karou wish my hair different colors!

Sophie Mercer from Hex Hall series  by Rachel Hawkins 
Another one that just needs no explanation! She is hilarious, strong-willed and fierce. One of my fave characters!

Arabella Holmes from Boneseeker by Brynn Chapman 
Smart as a whip, like her father. Mystery solver extraordinaire! Does not take crap from any man, and can kick any man's butt, to boot!

Xandra Vardan from The Immortal Empire series  by Kate Locke
Snaaaarrky! Sarcastic! Funny! Kick-Arse! I kind of want to have her as a bestie! 

ZoĆ« Sorensson from The Dragon Diaries trilogy by Deborah Cooke
She is an awesome girl, tough and smart. Knows how to keep herself together in tough situations. Plus, she is a dragon... she could get all of our awesome butts off the deserted island and back to civilization once we had our fill!

There you have it folks! My island party awaits! Thanks for coming back for another TTT, and hope to see you again next week!

SPOTLIGHT: Winter Angel

Winter Angel
by Mia Hoddell

Genre: YA Romance
Release date: 25th June 2014
Length: Novella

She was on holiday. He was tricked into returning.
Neither of them wanted to be there, but neither could avoid it.

Amy wants to be back under the sun in Portugal. However, when her suggestion is overruled in favour of a skiing holiday, even she can't turn it down. What she couldn't have predicted is that the holiday could make her break the one, and only, rule she has: not to get into a serious relationship again.

When Amy first sees Luke, she knows something is wrong. He's struggling to cope with everything and her need to help people makes him the perfect distraction from the cold. He hasn't been to the Alps in five years and he swore to never ski again. But as his defences are broken by Amy's persistence, the winter paradise begins to reawaken his desires.

However, with constant flashbacks triggering his anxiety, he's torn, battling conflicting emotions as he becomes increasingly captivated by Amy. She has a rule though. She didn't go on holiday to fall for someone and the last thing she needs is to ignore her own advice. Whether or not she can move past her insecurities will depend on whether Luke can face his biggest fear.

Winter Angel is a standalone, young adult romance novella, but is the second book in the Seasons of Change series.

Download in now for FREE!
Only free 19th & 20th of July

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You can also download Summer Demons: the first, bestselling, standalone novella in the Seasons of Change series for 99c / 77p.


White. Gazing out of the small, circular window, it was the only colour he could see surrounding him. The bursts of light—which had broken through the heavy, grey clouds—were reflected back as the ground grew closer with each passing second. Not too long ago he had been blissfully unaware of the location his sister was dragging him to for a holiday. A bubble of excitement had surrounded him throughout the early morning as he got up, and stayed with him through travelling to the airport and catching the flight. However, it had burst as soon as the icy tips of the mountains appeared and the plane began its descent. Until that moment, he had hoped his guesses had been wrong.
His sister had carefully planned the trip, making sure to hide all clues as to where they were heading, and as she glanced across at him, it seemed as if she had been successful. Luke’s knuckles were white on the arm rests. He had claimed both of them, gripping them so hard they looked like they would snap under the force, or at least be moulded to the shape of his hands when he removed them.
Ellie watched as he took in a shaky breath, but she heard no exhale.
The silence that filled the space around them was icier than the Alps they had just flown over. Her brother’s gaze remained fixed on the window, watching as the ground, and his fate, drew ever closer. Deep, ragged breaths steamed up the window, which was almost touching his nose. Desperately, he tried to control the tremors shaking his body, and his pounding heart, from the fear that washed over him in waves.
“Luke, please, say something.” Worry had crept into Ellie’s tone. She had thought her idea would do him good, that forcing him to face everything would turn him back into his old self. Ellie missed the brother she had grown up with and wanted him back. However, seeing his eyes wide with fear, his jaw clenched in anger, and his arms tense with both, suddenly she wasn’t so sure about her plan.
“You promised, Ellie. You swore you wouldn’t pressure me, and I trusted you with that. You know how I feel about this.” His voice was sharp and curt as he spoke through clenched teeth, trying to keep a hold on his emotions.
The urge to flee surged within him. He wanted to go home, to get off the plane and board the next flight straight back to England, but he couldn’t. Not only was the plane still minutes from landing—trapping him in the confines of economy class, which felt even smaller as realisation forced him to understand Ellie’s plans—but he also refused to waste more money on the pointless trip Ellie had conned him into taking. If he was going to use the money he had earned from before everything changed, it would be on his own terms.
“You’ll enjoy it when you’re there,” Ellie stated, brushing off his comments like they meant nothing to her.
“That’s easy for you to say. You don’t have to live with, or through, what I have.” Luke was trying hard to control his voice. Had they been in private, he would have already been shouting. The cramped environment meant that Ellie was getting off lightly, but he swore that when they reached their chalet, he would not hold back. She had no right to interfere with his life.
“Never tell me I didn’t live through it, Luke. I was there when it happened, in the hospital, and when you got home. I was there through it all. It may not have been me, but it wasn’t like it had no effect on my life,” Ellie hissed. It was the only way she could convey her anger without disturbing other passengers.
“Why though, Ellie? Why is this such a big deal to you?” Luke’s eyes were full of sorrow as he turned to face his sister for the first time, begging to understand her reasoning for putting him through something she knew would hurt him.

About the Author

Mia Hoddell lives in the UK with her family and two cats. She spends most of her time writing or reading, loves anything paranormal and has an overactive imagination that keeps her up until the early hours of the morning.

With three poems published before the age of sixteen, Mia moved on to short stories but finding she had too much to tell with too little space, Mia progressed to novels. She started her first series (The Wanderer Trilogy) at the age of fourteen and since then hasn’t stopped writing. Elemental Killers is her second series and with an ever growing list of ideas, Mia is trying to keep up with the speed at which her imagination generates them.

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