Amanda reviews: One Past Midnight (IT WAS SO GOOD!)

By Jessica Shirvington
Published on July 22, 2014
Published by Bloomsbury
Source: Netgalley
Name of overseas edition of Between The Lives.
Above all else, though I try not to think about it, I know which life I prefer. And every night when I Cinderella myself from one life to the next a very small, but definite, piece of me dies. The hardest part is that nothing about my situation has ever changed. There is no loophole.

Until now, that is...

For as long as she can remember, Sabine has lived two lives. Every 24 hours she Shifts to her ′other′ life - a life where she is exactly the same, but absolutely everything else is different: different family, different friends, different social expectations. In one life she has a sister, in the other she does not. In one life she′s a straight-A student with the perfect boyfriend, in the other she′s considered a reckless delinquent. Nothing about her situation has ever changed, until the day when she discovers a glitch: the arm she breaks in one life is perfectly fine in the other.

With this new knowledge, Sabine begins a series of increasingly risky experiments which bring her dangerously close to the life she′s always wanted... But just what - and who - is she really risking?
I am pretty sure that Jessica Shirvington could write a book on how to groom raccoons and I would be enthralled by it.  The way she writes is so gripping, and incredibly entertaining.

Sabine (can't say I am a huge fan of this name, but maybe it is a more popular name in Australia?) is an interesting character.  She is desperate, a teensy bit crazy, and needing someone in her life who understands her.  Enter Ethan.  I can't tell you how they end up getting together- that would give away some big plot points in the book.  I found their plot line a little obvious.  I knew where this book was going right away, but I still enjoyed it immensely.

This author knows how to write feelings - and drama.  She is able to amke me feel so much for her characters.  I honestly don't know how she does it- every book she has written has been so full of feelings and drama.  None of it seems overdone either- it doesn't FEEL like she is trying to make the reader emotional.  The emotion feels organic to the story.

There are many twists and turns in this book- I really enjoyed it and it made me want to read her Violet Eden Chronicles all over again.  I also hear she has a new book out in Australia- the start to a new series.  I can't wait to see which publisher picks it up here!

Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption ~Review by Jaime

By Katie J. Davis, Beth Clark
Published on October 4, 2011
Published by Howard Books
Source: The Wonderful Library System
What would cause an eighteen-year-old old senior class president and homecoming queen from Nashville, Tennessee, to disobey and disappoint her parents by forgoing college, break her little brother’s heart, lose all but a handful of her friends (because the rest of them think she has gone off the deep end), and break up with the love of her life, all so she could move to Uganda, where she knew only one person but didn’t know any of the language? A passion to make a difference. Katie Davis left over Christmas break her senior year for a short mission trip to Uganda and her life was turned completely inside out. She found herself so moved, so broken by the people and the children of Uganda that she knew her calling was to return and care for them. Her story is like Mother Teresa’s in that she has given up everything—at such a young age—to care for the less fortunate of this world. Katie, a charismatic and articulate young woman, has gone on to adopt 14 children during her time in Uganda, and she completely trusts God for daily provision for her and her family, which includes children with special needs. 

To further her reach into the needs of Ugandans, Katie established Amazima Ministries. The ministry matches orphaned children with sponors worldwide. Each sponsor's $300/year provides schooling, school supplies, three hot meals a day, minor medical care, and spiritual encouragement. Katie expected to have forty children in the program; she had signed up 150 by January 2008; today it sponsors over 400. Another aspect of the ministry is a feeding program created for the displaced Karamojong people—Uganda's poorest citizens. The program feeds lunch to over 1200 children Monday-Friday and sends them home with a plate for food; it also offers basic medical care, Bible study, and general health training.

Katie Davis, now 21, is more than fascinating, she's inspiring, as she has wholeheartedly answered the call to serve
 First of all, I normally do not read any type of non-fiction books. When I read, I read as a means of escape, for fun, for romance, for laughter. Non-Fiction doesn't normally satisfy those things for me. But, when my amazing 18 year old niece sent me a text from the beach asking me to please read this book, I had to do it. For her, there isn't much I wouldn't do! Nephew, too! (I'm not forgetting about you, Roo!) I thank Jesus that He impressed upon her heart that I needed to read this book, because it changed me.  I don't usually go into a story looking for life lessons, or anything of the sort. I didn't with this book either, to be honest. But from the Foreword, reading the story of the very sick little girl who sat in silence while having jiggers cut out of her feet, I knew something would change within me during the course of the story.

 Katie Davis was just out of high school when she moved to Uganda. God called, and she answered. She was scared, but from the minute she set foot in Uganda, she was home. And she has been following God since, in every little thing He asks of her. From the smallest gesture, to the biggest life commitment of adopting 13 little girls. She has created an organization, Amazima, that has grown into a huge non-profit that has made it possible for thousands of young children to go to school, to have a meal at least once a day, to have a new school outfit, a notebook and a pencil. The lives that Katie has changed are innumerable, and I sit here in South Carolina, so far away from her and the work she is doing, but she has changed me as well.

 I'm not going to tell you the many stories that are in this book, the many ways that Katie adapted to God's Will for her life, the many children she brought to her home and fed and clothed and doctored. It would take away from the power and the message of this story. This is one that, no matter how hesitant you may be of non-fiction, you should just try. If you are in need of a renewal of Faith, pick up this book. If you are searching for a way to help the many, many of God's people that need help, pick up this book. If you want to have your life changed forever, pick up this book. It is so incredibly worth it.

 I loved Kisses from Katie, beginning to end. I laughed out loud and I cried out loud. I cried tears of immense joy, anger, heartache. It isn't a make believe story, or a fairy tale. It is a true to life story of a young woman with courage, a heart of gold and a heart on fire for God. I loved every minute of it, and I hope that, if you ever get the chance to read this, you will too!

Jaime's Waiting on Wednesday #3

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that features upcoming releases that us book loving types are excited for!

By A.G. Howard
Published on January 13, 2015
Published by Amulet Books
After surviving a disastrous battle at prom, Alyssa has embraced her madness and gained perspective. She’s determined to rescue her two worlds and the people and netherlings she loves. Even if it means challenging Queen Red to a final battle of wills and wiles... and even if the only way to Wonderland, now that the rabbit hole is closed, is through the looking-glass world—a parallel dimension filled with mutated and sadistic netherling outcasts.

In the final installment of the Splintered trilogy, Alyssa and her dad journey into the heart of magic and mayhem in search of her mom and to set right all that’s gone wrong. Together with Jeb and Morpheus, they must salvage Wonderland from the decay and destruction that has ensnared it. But even if everyone succeeds and comes out alive, can they all truly have their happily ever after?

Two Reviews: Ruin and Rising

By Leigh Bardugo
Published on June 17th 2014
Published by Henry Holt and Co.
Source: Purchased
The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.
Coranne says...

Wow, what an explosive ending!  I started Ruin and Rising not remember anything that happened in the series- it has been a long time since I've read Siege and Storm.  I actually went back and read the second book again before continuing on past the first chapter of R&R.  I am so glad I did- there was a ton in the second book I forgot about. In Ruin and Rising, we pick up with Alina literally a month or two after the end of Siege and Storm.  We aren't sure if the Darkling is dead or alive and Alina is left powerless and is living underground.

I love Alina's character.  I love how strong she is and how she is able to discern the people around her.  She knows who she can trust and who she can't.  There was not a ton of romance in Ruin and Rising- just a lot of longing looks and emotions.  I have to say, though, it was a very emotional book and I didn't really miss the romance.

This book totally pulled a Harry Potter on me.  I won't reveal why that is- but there is such a HUGE twist in the story.  It caught me absolutely off guard.  I really felt like the author went for it.  She didn't hold anything back for her characters (and was a bit ruthless towards them).  There are many shocking and gasping points in this book and you will absolutely find yourself completely immersed in Ravka and under its spell.

If you for some reason haven't started this series- now is the time.  The series is complete and it is magnificent.  Go.  Read it.  You won't be sorry.

Sarah says...

So, the publisher didn't send out ARCs for this one, and, honestly, I'm glad they didn't, because then I would have spent forever with only other bloggers to squee to about this book. Instead, we got to read it with everyone else, and share our joy with all readers, so that's pretty cool.

I'd recommend at least skimming a review or summary of Siege and Storm before starting this one, since like Coranne said, this picks up in the timeline fairly shortly thereafter. There are enough reminders in the text of what happened, if you don't, but it could help. Bardugo does a great job of slipping in facts you need to know without it being heavy-handed or word-vomit-y, so it never feels like you're rehashing the old story just to get to the new one.

This book was just a fantastic way to end the trilogy. I never found it boring, and we got closer to all of the characters throughout. I was never able to guess where it was going to go -- I had suspicions, but Bardugo is so excellent at doing the unexpected that I wasn't ever really sure, which was great.  A lot of the problems I had with Mal in the second book were fixed in this one -- whether he grew as a character or we just backed off from his moping, I don't know, but I was much less eye-roll-y over it all in this one.

There are a lot of things I want to flail about, but they're all spoilers. Let's just say that Bardugo pulls absolutely no punches. There were a lot of points where I was like "she's not going to go there, is she, is she?!" and then she does.  It's never shocking just for shock value, there are always very real consequences to the things that happen. The ending felt very satisfying to me, and even the brief glimpse into the future that we get didn't make me roll my eyes. (I have a lot of issues with those flash-forward epilogues, but Ruin and Rising made me a happy lady.)

I am so glad that I let Coranne bully me into reading this series, because it is definitely one of my all-time favorites. Now that the whole series is finished, I'm looking forward to reading it all over again. You should definitely give it a chance, if you've never picked these books up before. I really doubt that you'll regret it.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

The Amazing and Super Talented Richelle Mead

From Beautiful Creatures to Icons and Unbreakable, Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia definitely take up some serious shelf-estate

There is absolutely no story that Kimberly Derting cannot kick some serious author butt on, and her characters are incredible and relatable, and some of my faves. Hence the reason every one of her books is, and will continue to be, on my shelf!

It's Stephen King! Honestly, is there need for an explanation? Between my dad and I, we have every King story ever written, and plenty of doubles! 

See that book in J.K. Rowling's magical, authory hands? Enough said!

Sarra Cannon's Peachville High Demon's series was one of the first Indie series that I read, and it cemented my love for Indie's. I have just about every one of her books, and I love them! Plus, she has cool hair!

I cannot say enough about Karina Halle! She is a great writer, who actually gets some scares out of me, she can write a seriously sexy/sweet romance, and she is gorgeous! After the UNBELIEVABLY good Experiment in Terror series, she has almost a complete shelf to herself!

Cassandra Clare has a LOT of books. A LOT! And I have two series, minus the final book in each, on my shelf, Mortal Instruments and the Infernal Devices. I really should finish both of them someday.

Penelope King is another Indie author who is one of my favorites. The Witchy, Witchy series and the Demonblood series are awesome! 

If I were making a Favorite Author list, Jessica Shirvington would, without a doubt, be on it. That is why I have every book of hers, some both physical and eBook, and I plan to have every upcoming book of hers. Plus, ain't she cute?!

The sad thing is, this isn't even half of the authors that I have the most books from. That list would be kind of ridiculous. This also is not a list of my favorite authors, although several of them would make that list, too. I hope you find some new authors to love! 

Fragile Destiny

By Suzanne Lazear
Published on August 8th 2014
Published by Flux
Source: Publisher
Noli and her true love V fear the worst if the Staff of Eris—a potent Otherworld relic—falls into the wrong hands. Broken into pieces and hidden in the mortal realm long ago, the staff bestows vast powers on whoever possesses it. Ciarán, the dark king, is trying to rebuild the staff, intending to use it to install a new queen.

In a desperate effort to keep the Otherworld from falling into darkness, Noli and V plot the daring theft of a jewel Ciarán needs to complete the staff. But Ciarán is not so easily defeated. Through his devious machinations, he has set a plan in motion for a final showdown that will decide who rules the Otherworld once and for all.
Have you read this series? If you haven't-  you really should.  The Aether Chronicles has some of the best creativity and imagination that I have found in a series.  It is literally a book that I would call "rollicking fun" (and I don't even speak like that!).  Fragile Destiny is the third (and perhaps last?) book in The Aether Chronicles series.  It is the perfect blend of steampunk and faeries.  It seems like an odd combination, but somehow- it absolutely works.

I love Noli.  I love that she isn't completely sure of herself and doesn't always make the best decisions.  I love that she has an honest and good heart and that she really cares for the people around her.  I love that she picked the "good guy" instead of the "bad boy" and that she is completely devoted to him.  Noli and V have a sweet romance (when he wasn't being a butthead in this book).  I find it to be absolutely believable and fun to read.

This book would be suitable for younger ya readers, but enjoyed by kids and adults alike.  There is a bit of whimsy in this book- it doesn't try too hard to take itself seriously, but isn't a parody.  It captures the magic of fantasy while remaining grounded with a solid storyline.  The steampunk parks of the story enhance the plot without overpowering it (like many of the steampunk books I have read).

This is not a read that will make you ponder the meaning of life, it won't make you question your beliefs and values, but it will give you a reason to escape into a wonderful adventure with lively characters and a gripping plot.  Fans of fae books should read this series- they won't  be disappointed.

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?"