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Giveaway: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

[ 3 ] April 24, 2015

invention of wings book coverI have a copy of The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd to give away!

Open to US residents only

About the book

Sue Monk Kidd’s #1 New York Times bestseller The Invention of Wings, now available in paperback, is a magnificent novel about two unforgettable American women. Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world.

Hetty “Handful” Grimké, an urban slave in early nineteenth-century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimké household. The Grimké’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday in 1803, when she is given ownership of ten-year-old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty-five years, as both strive for lives of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimké, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.

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Review: The Damned by Andrew Pyper

[ 2 ] April 24, 2015

the damned book coverReviewed by Sarah Lelonek

The Damned by Andrew Pyper is everything I love about horror, suspense, and fiction all wrapped up in one, well-written, self-contained package. I have been interested in near death experiences (NDEs) for many years, and have actually reviewed a non-fiction book on the subject for this web site. Pyper’s tale of an NDE gone wrong not only took the stereotypical light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel experience to a whole new level, but he managed to make the story seem so real that I felt like I was reading a something based on a true story rather than all-out fiction.

Danny Orchard died on his 16th birthday while trying to save his twin sister Ashleigh, only Danny managed to come back from the other side, except he didn’t come back alone. When Danny died, he did have a pleasant experience, and he managed to capitalize off of this experience in the form of a novel. However, his life since his first brush with death has been lonely, but he hasn’t exactly been alone. Ash has been a part of Danny’s life since he returned from beyond the land of the living. She’s a ghost who will go to extreme measures to make sure Danny remembers that she is alone on the bad part of the other side.

When I started reading this novel, I thought it would be like any other horror book–decent with a hint of the mundane. I was very mistaken. Pyper’s writing style is to reveal just enough about each character to keep you hooked until the next big reveal. The setting, Detroit and parts of New England, played a great contrast off each other to show the horrors of Danny’s past mixed with the small pleasures of his present. Every chapter and scene played off of each other to weave together a brilliantly written story filled with an eerie quality that leaves you feeling unsettled after each reading session.

Due to the nature of this story, I would not recommend this book to younger readers, as it can be graphic and intense as the story progresses. However, I have no problem recommending The Damned to any adult reader who has any interest in contemporary horror and the supernatural. Be warned: Pyper’s writing style may leave you unsettled enough that when you are finished reading, you regret turning off the light.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Sarah Emily Lelonek has a BA in English Literature from Kent State University. She is currently enrolled at Tiffin University in their Master’s of Education program. She enjoys traveling and gaming while on breaks from working on her novel.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Win Friends and Customers by Lawrence J. Bookbinder, Ph.D

[ 1 ] April 23, 2015

win friends and customers book coverReviewed by Sarah McCubbin

Have you ever noticed that some people are just naturally good at making friends, can sell just about anything and are liked by nearly everyone? Then there are those who are just plain awkward and for whom a basic conversation seems like a victory. Years ago, when I found myself in the awkward camp, I remember thinking that the art of conversation was a bit of a mystery.  Eventually, I realized that listening to other people and asking questions about them was so much easier than contrived topics or defaulting to the weather.

Due to my own struggle, my interest was piqued when I came across the book, Win Friends and Customers: Relationship and Business Success from Empathic Acknowledging by Lawrence J. Bookbinder, Ph.D. As a clinical psychologist for over 30 years and an expert on the topic of empathetic acknowledging, he seeks to help people improve their conversation skills and relationships by becoming more intentional about the way they listen and respond to other people.

Without a background in psychology, I found myself struggling when I first started reading. Written in strong clinical terminology, it felt cumbersome despite being relatively short. I was unfamiliar with the term “empathetic acknowledging” and it was not clearly defined as the book commenced. Given that this is a book on communication, I didn’t expect to feel bogged down as I read. Nonetheless, I’m glad I read it. Eventually I figured out that empathetic acknowledging is a form of responsive listening whereby you give the reader verbal cues to indicate empathy or interest in their problems, experience or important situation. Using a wide variety of situational examples, Dr. Bookbinder presents the benefits and potential disadvantages of empathetic acknowledging. Its primary expectation is that someone will hear you and let you think out loud but not offer advice or try to direct your decision making. He suggests that this form of listening includes many benefits including emotional closeness with loved ones, successful handling of customer complaints, good relationships despite lifestyle differences and conflict resolution. With so many benefits, it is applicable to nearly everyone.

Despite its strong clinical overtones, I appreciated the insight offered by Dr. Bookbinder. Many of his tips are easy to implement and simply require more intentionality. I think the suggestions he offers would help anyone who find themselves struggling to connect in relationships or would like to improve the quality of their communication.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Sarah McCubbin is a homeschooling and foster mom in NE Ohio where she resides with her husband and 7 children. In addition to reading great books, she enjoys gardening, traveling and blogging at Living Unboxed.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Cadence Marketing Group. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: No Parking at the End Times by Bryan Bliss

[ 2 ] April 23, 2015

no parking at the end times book coverReviewed by Carrie Ardoin

If I had to sum No Parking at the End Times up with one word, that word would be BORING. I was very intrigued by the premise – books about cult religion and how it affects those within it are almost always worth a read – but this novel portrayed very little about the cult itself, and more about the family it affected. And I would have been fine reading about this family if there was anything interesting about them at all.

The voice of the story is Abigail, a teenage girl who along with her twin brother Aaron has been whisked away from her North Carolina home by her parents to worship in California at the feet of Brother John. Brother John has proclaimed that the world will be coming to an end, but of course, this does not happen. What does happen is that Abigail’s family is forced to live in their van in California, because her parents sold everything else they owned to give to the church.

Abigail, as a main character, has a distinct lack of personality. Her whole life is basically centered around Aaron, and trying to make sure he is keeping out of trouble. At least Aaron is mad, and at least he is trying to do something about their situation. All the reader really knows about Abigail is that she likes to run. Even in flashbacks to their life before moving, we don’t see anything of Abigail enjoying her life or having any friends of her own. I understand that she is an introvert, but she seems to shun getting to know anyone else besides her family.

There is actually no real conflict in the novel. Abigail and Aaron don’t yell or get into fights with their parents, and most of the time their parents kind of seem to forget they exist. Even the introduction of Aaron’s street kid friends couldn’t make events more interesting, because all the kids seem to be stereotypical, down to their sad stories and “wild” personalities. A sort of villain affects the kids very late in the story, but even this is rather glossed over and the effects of his actions are very predictable.

I just couldn’t form any sort of connection with any of these characters, and that is unfortunate because the beginning of the book offered a bit of promise. It just didn’t deliver on the potential of the synopsis.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

Carrie runs the blog Sweet Southern Home, and is a stay at home wife and mom to one little boy. When she’s not reading, she’s usually watching Netflix with her husband, playing outside with her son, or baking. Her family would describe her as sometimes annoyingly sarcastic, but mostly lovable. 

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by HarperCollins Publishers. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Diabolical Miss Hyde by Viola Carr

[ 2 ] April 22, 2015

diabolical miss hyde book coverReviewed by Amanda Farmer

The Diabolical Miss Hyde was my first book by Viola Carr–pen name for Erica Hayes. I will admit that I was drawn to this book by its cover; I found it to be gorgeous and fitting for the story. The Diabolical Miss Hyde is a wonderful blend of steampunk, mystery, Penny Dreadful (TV show), murder, magic, and romance all entwined into a fast paced story. I loved how Carr wove all of the characters in the story and left it open for a sequel, which I cannot wait for.

The Diabolical Miss Hyde is about Dr. Eliza Jekyll, daughter of the famous Dr. Henry Jekyll. She is a crime scene investigator searching for the “chopper” (a murderer who is killing young women and slicing off their limbs). She is also a doctor for the mentally ill in the insane asylum and is researching ways to cure them with alchemy. She does all this in a world driven by men who look down upon her for being a woman and for doing things differently. She risks being arrested for her ways like her father before her and being burned at the stake by the Royal Society. The other side of her is Lizzie Hyde, the daughter of the famous Mr. Hyde. She is Eliza’s wilder, darker half, who is set free by her Dr. Jekyll’s famous elixir. Throughout the story they battle one another until they realize that they need one another to survive.

Throughout the story we are introduced to a number of characters. My favorites were Hippocrates, Eliza’s faithful mechanical pet/assistant; Inspector Harley Griffin, detective for the police and friend to Eliza; Remy Lafayette, who has a dark past; Sweeney Todd (Malaghi Todd), who is as dark and twisted as ever; and her mysterious benefactor, A.R., who has a secret of his own.

Carr does a wonderful job of incorporating the Jack the Ripper London with the Fey, who are seen as lesser individuals and looked down upon by society. I loved how the story wove everything neatly from the murders to the alchemy to the steampunk London. Readers will love Eliza and Lizzie’s banter and enjoy seeing the events from both point of views.

I will definitely be on the lookout for the sequel because I have to know what happens next. I flew through this story in a matter of days. Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down. I felt like I was in an episode of Penny Dreadful, which I also love. I would definitely recommend this story to all who love steampunk and enjoy a good monster or two in their story. I will be looking for more books by Viola Carr/Erica Hayes.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Amanda loves spending time at home with her husband and their dog, Oreo. She loves reading, playing puzzle games, beading and watching movies. When she’s not reading, she’s working on her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by HarperCollins Publishers. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: How to Destroy the New Girl’s Killer Robot Army by Mick Bogerman

[ 2 ] April 22, 2015

killer robot army book coverReviewed by Jessa Larsen

Mick and Finley may have survived zombies and pirates, but can they survive the new girl in town? When Savannah Diamond moves to town, she could be the downfall of Mick’s peaceful neighborhood. Well, when mermaids aren’t trying to eat the townsfolk anyways. She ruins everything for Mick. First she steals his favorite hangout spot, then she beats him in gym class, THEN she takes away Finley’s attention! He can’t be counted on if he’s busy mooning over the new girl.

Mick comes up with a brilliant plan to get her kicked out of school and, at first, things look like they’re going to work out perfectly. But Savannah isn’t one to take an attack and leave peacefully. She likes it here in Beachwood and she plans on retaliating, without mercy. If Mick can’t swallow his pride, killer robots are on the loose and the town might be destroyed for good this time.

Mick Bogerman is back and my kids couldn’t be happier. I have two boys, ages 6 and 7 now, and they can’t get enough of the Bogerman boys. The book is written in a style that my oldest can easily read and comprehend. My youngest is in kindergarten, just learning to read, and he can grasp the majority of it. Either way, nothing stopped him from pairing up with his brother and, like Mick and Finley, having yet another crazy adventure. Who wouldn’t when killer robots are on the loose?

How to Destroy the New Girl’s Killer Robot Army is the third story in the Slug Pie collection but these books almost work better as stand alones. The characters make brief comments that may or may not reference previous adventures, but you don’t have to read them all or read them in any particular order to enjoy them. The author and main character are one and the same, bringing the readers along on the adventure in a family friendly manner. It’s clean, it’s cute, it’s a good read for young boys, but I think girls can enjoy the series just as much. Who said girls can’t kick some robot butt alongside their classmates?

I love the Slug Pie collection and can’t wait for the next installation. It’s a great way to introduce my kids to the same love of books that I have enjoyed throughout my entire life.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Jessa lives in Utah with her husband, two kids, two small chihuahuas, and a cat called Number One Boots Kitten. She balances her work as a website admin with her hobbies of watching anime and playing video games.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Slug Pie Stories, LLC. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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