Hope everyone has a wonderful new year!!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Review: The Black Ice by Michael Connelly

Title: The Black Ice
Author: Michael Connelly
Series: Harry Bosch
Publisher: Vision
Publication Date: December 2, 2003
Reviewer: Annie

Summary (as quoted from Amazon): Narcotics officer Cal Moore's orders were to look into the city's latest drug killing. Instead, he ends up in a motel room with a fatal bullet wound to the head and a suicide note stuffed in his back pocket. Working the case, LAPD detective Harry Bosch is reminded of the primal police rule he learned long ago: Don't look for the facts, but the glue that holds them together. Soon Harry's making some very dangerous connections, starting with a dead cop and leading to a bloody string of murders that wind from Hollywood Boulevard to the back alleys south of the border. Now this battle-scarred veteran will find himself in the center of a complex and deadly game-one in which he may be the next and likeliest victim.

I got this book at the amazing free book exchange (oh how I miss you!).  I listened to his book The Scarecrow about a year ago and enjoyed it for a thriller type of book.  So Connelly was an author I was keeping my eye out for when I want a good thriller.  This book is about a police officer who is found dead and it is assumed to be a suicide.  However one of the other members of the police force is having a hard time believing that.  He takes on some of the cases that were left from his fallen co worker and starts uncovering things to help his suspicion that it wasn't a suicide.  The story takes places in LA as well as just over the border in Mexico as he is trying to find all the answers.

I don't think I enjoyed this book as much as the last one I read by him.  The first half I kept wondering where things were going and the book seemed to move slowly.  The last half all the way to the end got pretty interesting, but there were still some down moments where I felt like the story slowed or even came to a stop.  You also aren't sure for most of the book who is a good guy and who is a bad guy which is nice for some mystery but I felt like there was a little too much of that and after a while it just got annoying.  Before I recommend this book I would first recommend reading The Scarecrow (or possibly one of his other books).  And if you have read that, and liked it, I would say you might like this one, too.  I'm also not sure if because I listened to The Scarecrow
I liked it more, so maybe try out this book on audio if you can find it.  If this were the first book I read by him I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, but since I know he can do better I say give one of his other books a chance first.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Review: Bleed For Me by Michael Robotham

Title: Bleed for Me
Michael Robotham
Publication Date: 
 February 27, 2012

Reviewer: Ethan

Summary (as quoted from Amazon): She's standing at the front door. Covered in blood. Is she the victim of a crime? Or the perpetrator?
A teenage girl--Sienna, a troubled frend of his daughter--comes to Joe O'Loughlin's door one night. She is terrorized, incoherent-and covered in blood.
The police find Sienna's father, a celebrated former cop, murdered in the home he shared with Sienna. Tests confirm that it's his blood on Sienna. She says she remembers nothing.
Joe O'Loughlin is a psychologist with troubles of his own. His marriage is coming to an end and his daughter will barely speak to him. He tries to help Sienna, hoping that if he succeeds it will win back his daughter's affection. But Sienna is unreachable, unable to mourn her father's death or to explain it.
Investigators take aim at Sienna. O'Loughlin senses something different is happening, something subterranean and terrifying to Sienna. It may be something in her mind. Or it may be something real. Someone real. Someone capable of the most grim and gruesome murder, and willing to kill again if anyone gets too close.
His newest thriller is further evidence that Michael Robotham is, as David Baldacci has said, "the real deal--we only hope he will write faster."

Review: Joseph O'Loughlin is facing some tough times. His fourteen year old daughter, Charlie, recently suffered a traumatic kidnapping and hasn't been the same since. He has separated from his wife of over twenty years, Julianne, and a divorce seems imminent. On top of all his family issues, Joe has been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, and the involuntary ticks are slowly taking over his body. A seasoned psychologist, Joe lectures at the local university, assists in court cases, and attempts to keep the last strands of his personal life from unraveling.
Despite their strained relationship, Joe picks up his daughter and her best friend, Sienna, from school. He intends to take them back to the family home, but Sienna insists that he drop her off to meet with her boyfriend. Joe knows the "boy" is really closer to a man, but after a confirmation phone call to Sienna's mother, he agrees to drop her off. That evening, Joe receives a startling phone call from Julianne. Sienna has shown up at their home, catatonic and covered in blood. After sending the girl to the hospital, they learn that Sienna's father has been murdered at his home.
Immediately, Sienna is committed to a hospital for psychological analysis, and becomes the only suspect in the murder case. She is unable to remember any of the previous evening's events, and has no reasoning to explain her father's death or why she was covered in blood. Joe sets out to reach Sienna, discover who killed her father, and hopefully regain a relationship with his daughter.
 In the tradition of other "literary" detective authors such as Dennis Lehane and Tana French, Michael Robotham has written a grim and moving novel while never sacrificing the suspense. Each character has a unique sense of reality in them that Robotham is able to relay to the reader, without getting bogged down with descriptions. As each layer of this mystery unfolded, I felt more and more connected to the characters and to the situations they were presented. My heart ached for the troubled Sienna and the flawed O'Loughlin family. This is one of the best novels I have read this year, and readers should definitely take notice.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Free Kindle Books!!!

Hey guys, we wanted to alert you to some cool free Kindle books that are out! First up is The House of Women, by Anne Brear. Here's a little about the book:

As the Victorian Age draws to a close, lonely and brokenhearted, Grace Woodruff fights for her sisters' rights to happiness while sacrificing any chance for her own.
The eldest of seven daughters, Grace is the core of strength around which the unhappy members of the Woodruff family revolve. As her disenchanted mother withdraws to her rooms, Grace must act as a buffer between her violent, ambitious father and the sisters who depend upon her.
Rejected by her first love and facing a spinster's future, she struggles to hold the broken family together through her father's infidelity, one sister's alcoholism, and another's out-of-wedlock pregnancy by an unsuitable match.
Caring for an illegitimate half-brother affords Grace an escape, though short-lived. Forced home by illness and burdened with dwindling finances, Grace faces fresh anguish –and murder– when her first love returns to wreck havoc in her life.
All is not lost, however. In the midst of tragedy, the fires of her heart are rekindled by another. Will the possibility of true love lead Grace to relinquish her responsibilities in the house of women and embrace her own right to happiness?

Now, this book is only available for free until tomorrow, so make sure that if you're interested you get it soon! :D

Two other awesome books that are available for FREE on Kindle (in Amazon) are:

The Raie'Chaelia by Melissa Douthit,  (here is the summary: When Chalice sets off for Branbury in the middle of the night with her grandfather's instructions, she has no idea of the dangers that await her. The King's men have destroyed her home village of Canton and she is suddenly thrown into a Terravailian world that she does not know. Lost and alone, she is hard pressed to evade the iron grasp of the madman who rules the land. With the help of a friendly Chinuk, an old man, and a book that she discovers along the way, not only does she find true friends and true love, but she also finds her true self and what it means to be the Raie'Chaelia.)

And Pyxis(The Discovery) by K. C. Neal, (here is the summary: Corinne lives an average teenage life working at her dad’s cafe, hanging out with her best friend, and trying to forget a falling-out with her almost-boyfriend Mason. Then she discovers she and Mason are haunted by the same dreams of a dark force that consumes everything in its path. Pursued by shadowy figures and a dangerous woman with secrets from the past, Corinne must find out who her grandmother really was. In her quest to unravel her family’s history, she learns she is destined to protect this world--and the dark world of her dreams. She races to find the answers she seeks before her nightmares break free.)

Be sure to check them out, and let us know what you think!

Review: Exiled by J. R. Wagner

Title: Exiled
Author: J. R. Wagner
Series: The Never Chronicles
Publisher: Live Oak Book Company
Publication Date: June 5th, 2012
How Received: For Review

Summary (as quoted from Goodreads): James has never known an ordinary life. As long as he can remember, he and his family have been on the run—moving from place to place, never settling down, never growing roots. Now, just when he’s on the brink of manhood, the very thing his family has been trying to prevent tears him from all he has ever known and thrusts him into a place where he is powerless and alone.
Bent on finding a way back, James must brave a place reserved for the worst of his kind. He quickly learns that the land itself poses a greater threat than its inhabitants and if he is to have any chance of returning, he must work with the very people he’s been raised to fear.
James has known magic since just after he was born. As a sorcerer, his skills are exceptional yet when he wakes in The Never, his abilities are gone. Armed with nothing but determination and the will to survive, he braves a land wrought with dangers, mysteries and temptations meant to ensnare both body and mind and prevent escape forever.

I like this book, its good. I can see parts of the book as if it's a movie which means its amazing descriptions. Im never a big fan of when they go back and forth in time with everyother chapter but with this book I put up with it. Because I want to know the rest of the story. This book has the most evil clifhanger I have EVER seen. What happens next!!!!! ahhhh I wanna know, I wanna know, I wanna know!!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Review: Operation Napoleon by Arnaldur Indridason

Title: Operation Napoleon
Arnaldur Indridason
Minotaur Books
Publication Date: 
 September 27, 2011
Reviewer: Ethan

Summary (as quoted from Amazon): Prepare for sizzling action in a riveting stand alone thriller from Arnaldur Indridason, the award-winning author of the Inspector Erlunder series.
 Why is the US Army trying to secretively remove a plame from an Icelandic glacier, and why are they threatened by a young Icelandic rescue volunteer who manages to contact his sister Kristen before disappearing off the face of the earth? Kristin, who will not rest until she discovers the truth of her brother's fate, soon is in great danger herself, leading her on a long and hazardous journey in search of the key to the riddle about Operation Napoleon.
Flashback to 1945, when a German bomber flies over Iceland in a blizzard. The crew have lost their way and crash on a glacier. Puzzlingly, there are both Germand and American officers on board. One of the senior German officers claims that their best chance of survival is to try to walk to the nearest farm and sets off, a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist, only to disappear into the white vastness.
 Exceptional prose meets nonstop action in this spellbinding standalone by Arnaldur Indridason, who is critically acclaimed around the globe.  
Review: As the end of the second world war draws near, an American plane crashes into an Icelandic glacier. The U.S. Army sends a team of soldiers, lead by a captain whose brother was on the flight, to uncover the wreckage and search for survivors. Unfortunately, by the time the team arrives, the plane is buried by the ice and is invisible to those searching for it. As treaties are signed and the war officially ends, it seems that this may be one of the last tragedies of the war. 

Flash forward to the year 1999. Kristin is working in a legal office and dealing with disgruntled clients who are seemingly involved with the mob. Her brother, Elias, calls from a glacier where he is part of a team of seventy or so people involved with exploration and rescue. Kristin warns her brother to be carful and he, like any younger sibling, brushes off the warning as unnecessary. Kristen is startled when she receives a call from her brother a few days later. He tells her that he and a friend went out on snowmobiles when they spotted a plane. The call ends suddenly when mentions a group of soldiers. The events that follow, trust Kristin in the midst of a huge conspiracy that threatens the life of her, loved ones, and the future of US and Iceland national security. 

Author Arnaldur Indriðason layers his novel with interesting characters, all motivated by their own personal appetite to either destroy or reveal the secrets held in this buried plane. Action is the driving force of this novel, but Indriðason provides enough emotion in his characters to keep the story from becoming a purely plot driven book. There is also a great exploration of US/Iceland relationship on both a government and person to person level, that gives the story a striking element of realism. Without these touches of reality, the story may have seemed a bit over the top. Through his use of historical accuracy, emotional character connections, a thrilling plot, and an ending that left me reeling,  Arnaldur Indriðason has crafted an exciting story that I really enjoyed reading.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Review: All These Lives by Sarah Wylie

Title: All These Lives
Author: Sarah Wylie
Publisher: (Macmillan) Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: June 5, 2012
How Received: For Review
Rate: 5

Summary (as quoted from Amazon): Sixteen-year-old Dani is convinced she has nine lives. As a child she twice walked away from situations where she should have died. But Dani’s twin, Jena, isn’t so lucky. She has cancer and might not even be able to keep her one life. Dani’s father is in denial. Her mother is trying to hold it together and prove everything’s normal. And Jena is wasting away. To cope, Dani sets out to rid herself of all her extra lives. Maybe they’ll be released into the universe and someone who wants to live more than she does will get one. Someone like Jena. But just when Dani finds herself at the breaking point, she’s faced with a startling realization. Maybe she doesn’t have nine lives after all. Maybe she really only ever had one.

I sadly dont have much to say about this book. Dani's pretty twisted. I love her humor. The book or what I got from the book is growing and knowing yourself. ok that was a terrible explination but it made sense in my head. I kind of want to know what happens next. Does Jenna live? Does dani like jack? etc. I believe you should read the book for yourself. You just might like it. 5 stars

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Review: Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker

Title: Unbreak My Heart
Author: Melissa Walker
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication Date: May 22, 2012
How Received: For Review

Summary (as quoted from Amazon): Sophomore year broke Clementine Williams’ heart. She fell for her best friend’s boyfriend and long story short: he’s excused, but Clem is vilified and she heads into summer with zero social life. Enter her parents’ plan to spend the summer on their sailboat. Normally the idea of being stuck on a tiny boat with her parents and little sister would make Clem break out in hives, but floating away sounds pretty good right now. Then she meets James at one of their first stops along the river. He and his dad are sailing for the summer and he’s just the distraction Clem needs. Can he break down Clem’s walls and heal her broken heart? Told in alternating chapters that chronicle the year that broke Clem’s heart and the summer that healed it, Unbreak My Heart is a wonderful dual love story that fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Susane Colasanti will flock to.

This book was.... Wow, literally speechless. I personally didnt like Melissa Walkers first book. I gave it to my cousin hope she got something out of it but this one... I love this one so much, the characters, the realizations and the love. Oh my it was amazing. Every aspect of this book was amazing from the sailor terms to the candid images. It may have been a quick read but it was also a memorable one. This is deffinatly a must read. Everytime I start to lose faith in love I find a book that renews my faith. This is one of those books. Makes me want to know what happens next!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Review: Burn Mark by Laura Powell

Title: Burn Mark
Author: Laura Powell
Series: ---
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication Date: June 19, 2012
How Received: For Review

Summary (as quoted from Amazon): In a modern world—where witches are hunted down and burned at the stake—two live interact. Cleo is from a family of witches, and is desperate to develop the ‘Fae’ and become a witch herself. Lucas is the son of the Chief Prosecutor for the Inquisition and his privileged life is very different from the witches he is being trained to prosecute. And then one day, both Cleo and Lucas develop the Fae. In one fell stroke, their lives are inextricably bound together, whether they like it or not.

This book was ok in the end I would only personally give it about 4 stars. It was good held my attention but there was slow parts and the english was terrible! I'm only guessing it's because British and American English are so vastly different. The characters were good. More crazy characters then I expected. Great ending, I wanna hear more about Glory and everyone one else.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Review: Struck by Jennifer Bosworth

Title: Struck
Author: Jennifer Bosworth
Publisher: (Macmillan)Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: May 8, 2012
How Received: For Review

Summary (as quoted from Amazon): Mia Price is a lightning addict. She’s survived countless strikes, but her craving to connect to the energy in storms endangers her life and the lives of those around her.
Los Angeles, where lightning rarely strikes, is one of the few places Mia feels safe from her addiction. But when an earthquake devastates the city, her haven is transformed into a minefield of chaos and danger. The beaches become massive tent cities. Downtown is a crumbling wasteland, where a traveling party moves to a different empty building each night, the revelers drawn to the destruction by a force they cannot deny. Two warring cults rise to power, and both see Mia as the key to their opposing doomsday prophecies. They believe she has a connection to the freak electrical storm that caused the quake, and to the far more devastating storm that is yet to come.
Mia wants to trust the enigmatic and alluring Jeremy when he promises to protect her, but she fears he isn’t who he claims to be. In the end, the passion and power that brought them together could be their downfall. When the final disaster strikes, Mia must risk unleashing the full horror of her strength to save the people she loves, or lose everything.

This book was... I just... I have no clue what to say or how to say how much I loved this book. But I did! Sure the beginning was a tad slow but the end makes up for that and more. I would love to read more about her life and where she goes. I wish I knew what else to say about this book but it's left me so speechless you will just have to read it on your own. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Review: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

Title: The Immortal Rules
Author: Julie Kagawa
Series: Blood of Eden
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
How Received: For Review

Summary (as quoted from Amazon) :
In a future world, vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity.
Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.
Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them. The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked—and given the ultimate choice. Die…or become one of the monsters.
Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.
Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend—a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.
But it isn't easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what—and who—is worth dying for.

The beginning took a bit for me to get into. The Character Allison reminds me of my best friend Alison so I connected with her right away. As soon as I started into Part 2 I was captivated. The book really caught my full attention at that point. Although I was feeling Ill or tired I just couldnt put the book down. I loved Allison and Kadnin (no doubt I spelt that wrong). Stick was weak I had a strong dislike for him. Zeke is pretty decent. I do have a favorite quote from this book tho. It kind of sums up how I feel. I would not suffer anyone to endure the path I walk. My road must always be traveled alone. I will leave you with this last thought. The end of the book leaves me begging for more. Although I will say I prefer Julie kagawas Iron Fey over this book it is still worth read. So make sure you check it out.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Review: Dark Kiss by Michelle Rowen

Title: Dark Kiss
Author:Michelle Rowen
Series: Nightwatchers
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date:May 22, 2012
How Received: For Review
Rate: 5+

Summary (as quoted from Amazon) : Smart, über-careful, ordinary Samantha—that's me. But I just couldn't pass up a surprise kiss from my number one unattainable crush. A kiss that did something to me…something strange. Now I feel hungry all the time, but not for food. It's like part of me is missing—and I don't know if I can get it back.
Then there's Bishop. At first I thought he was just a street kid, but the secrets he's keeping are as intense as his unearthly blue eyes. If he's what I think he is, he may be the only one who can help me. But something terrifying is closing in, and the one chance Bishop and I have to stop it means losing everything I ever wanted and embracing the darkness inside me….

Angels, demons and grays, three supernatural beings I never thought I would be reading about. (Ok, I love angel and demon books.) With a girl who loves zombie movies and vampires. The demons cocky and rude, the angels hot and has amazing eyes. What's not to love? I personally believe that this can become a big series and it's only the first book! I loved everything about this book. No slow parts it holds your attention the whole time. Must read.
-Kati 5 plus stars

Friday, April 20, 2012

Review: Love Thy Neighbor by Mark Gilleo

Title: Love Thy Neighbor
Author: Mark Gilleo
Series: ---
Publisher: The Story Plant
Publication Date: March 27, 2012

How Received: For Review
Rate: 4

Summary (as quoted from Amazon): Clark Hayden is a graduate student trying to help his mother navigate through the loss of his father while she continues to live in their house near Washington DC. With his mother's diminishing mental capacity becoming the norm, Clark expects a certain amount of craziness as he heads home for the holidays. What he couldn't possibly anticipate, though, is that he would find himself catapulted into the middle of the terrorist operation. As the holiday festivities reach a crescendo, a terrorist cell - which happens to be across the street - is activated. Suddenly Clark is discovering things he never knew about deadly chemicals, secret government operations, suspiciously missing neighbors, and the intentions of a gorgeous IRS auditor. Clark's quiet suburban neighborhood is about to become one of the most deadly places on the planet, and it's up to Clark to prevent the loss of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives in the nation's capital. Fast, acerbic, wise and endlessly exciting, Love Thy Neighbor marks the unforgettable debut of a startling new voice in suspense fiction.

My thoughts:
Love Thy Neighbor was a good read.

The story is told through multiple perspectives, but mainly follows twenty-six year old Clark and his neighbor Ariana. Clark has just returned from a robotics competition in Japan, back to his mother and his hometown situated in Washington D.C. His mother, who has Alzheimer’s, is in need of constant care, and Ariana has been looking over her while Clark was away. Helpful and kind, the neighbors on Clark’s street are always there for each other, and Ariana’s act of kindness is as typical as the sun rising in the morning.

But even though Ariana acts sweet on the outside, she is actually a deadly assassin. The first time we see her dark side is when she viciously murders her abusive husband. She talks constantly to herself about some sort of secret plan - the only thing we know about it is that it will kill a lot of people- a plan that will set off events similar to 9/11.

When three people who are a part of the mission in which Ariana has been planning for accidentally knock on Clark’s mom‘s, door, they set off an investigation that could possibly lead to their downfall. For as soon as she sees the men, she calls the CIA, reporting strange people in the neighborhood that could possibly be terrorists. At the time of these events, Ariana and her crew have fled, leaving Clark puzzled and perplexed, for Ariana never leaves her house unattended.

Unfortunately, possible terrorists aren’t the only thing bothering Clark’s mom ; apparently, his recently deceased father hadn’t been filing his tax reductions on time, and now the IRS is looking into the case. When Clark ends up falling for the beautiful IRS detective who is investigating his parents, he gains access to IRS files that will allow him to do a little investigating of his own, this time on the neighbors he once thought he knew.

Because even though he knows that his mother isn’t always in her right mind, he can’t help but wonder:
What if she is really right and there were terrorists at the door? And what if Ariana was involved?
Clark, on a mission to save his mother’s sanity as well as his. Ariana, on a mission to become the ultimate martyr. Who will come out on top?

I really enjoyed the suspense and tension in this novel. There was a lot of action, murder, sacrifice, faith, and most of all, love. The sense of what is right and what is wrong becomes increasingly blurred as both Ariana and Clark are doing what they believe is right, and both of them believe that the other is wrong. Ariana is sacrificing her life and the lives of others for Faith, and Clark is risking his life to save his mother, his lover, and all the innocent people who don’t have to die. I love how easily I was able to follow most of the story line ; Gilleo’s writing style is very fluid and easy to grasp. The only thing I wasn’t too big on was all the details. Sometimes it made it difficult for me to follow a certain thought or paragraph. Other than that, though, I really enjoyed the book!

If you are searching for a new, suspenseful, thrilling novel, then you should definitely check out Love Thy Neighbor.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

IMM (In My Mailbox)

IMM (In My Mailbox) is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren, which allows us to share the new reads we receive each week with you. Here are the books we got this week:

Vanished in the Dunes by Allan Retzky, which you can find on Amazon here.

In Leah's Wake by Terri Giuliano Long, which can find on Amazon here.

That's it for this week! What books did you guys get?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Jill Muehrcke's guest post

What’s Your Story? How to Become the Hero of Your Own Life

            One of my greatest ah-ha moments came when I realized I was telling myself and others outdated stories about who I was. I wasn’t the same person I was as a child, but I hadn’t revised the messages I was giving myself. I was no longer the helpless little girl who had no choice but to quietly suffer. I was now an adult and didn’t need to see myself as a victim any more. Instead, I could be the hero of my story.
            My archaic, confining stories were, I realized, based on irrational messages I had incorporated into my deepest self. I needed to root them out and replace them with rational statements.
            It sounds simple, but when you have a lifetime of illogical messages to undo, its harder than it seems. For me, the toughest part was recognizing the ideas crowding my head as irrational in the first place. My brain was a kaleidoscope of crazy thoughts, mostly in my mother’s voice, such as “You should always do things the right way.”
            It was a big step for me to realize, first, that “should” statements weren’t rational and, second, that there was no simple “right” or “wrong,” just a plethora of different perspectives in a complex, nuanced world.
            I could see that changing my thoughts could change my emotions, which could alter my behavior. And if I changed my behavior, I could transform my world.
            But making that switch required practice. I was still working on it one day in October when, on the way home from work, it started snowing so hard I had to turn the windshield wipers and defroster on high and still could barely see.
            I felt anger and depression wash over me. A rush of furious thoughts poured through my brain.
            It shouldn’t be snowing like this so early in the season!  Why does the beautiful autumn have to end? I despise those crushingly short winter days. I can’t stand shivering in the bitter cold! I loathe the icy roads and sidewalks that make it dangerous to even go outside! I hate winter!
            By this time I was nearly crying as my thoughts spiraled downward.
            Then I reminded myself to think differently. First I told myself I shouldn’t feel so bad about the snow, that it was beautiful, and I should enjoy it. Then I realized I was using “should” statements. So, instead, I told myself, “I would feel better if I let myself see the good things about snow and winter.”
            I started listing those positive things in my mind. I pictured cozy days, snuggled in a quilt with a good book, a pot of soup simmering on the stove, while fat, feathery flakes floated by my window. I remembered mornings when the sun reflecting off the snow was so bright it lifted the heart in a way nothing else could do. I recalled ice storms that turned the world into a shimmering fairyland that made me gasp at its beauty. I reminded myself that the cold kills off the mosquitoes and other disgusting bugs, while the snow cleanses the world of filth and grime. And if I wanted to spend some quiet time reflecting, dreaming, and making plans for the future, winter was the perfect time.
            Instantly, I could feel my energy shift and become more positive.
            I was taking control of my thoughts, and that seemed like the most powerful thing I’d ever done.
            I tell this story in my new book, WAKING UP HAPPY: A HANDBOOK OF CHANGE WITH MEMOIRS OF RECOVERY AND HOPE. The book includes my own memoir along with the stories of 30 other people. All of us learned the same lesson: To change our lives, we needed to pinpoint negative, hurtful messages we received growing up and replace them with ones that affirmed and bolstered us. Here are a few examples:
            * Message from my childhood: There is only success or failure, and failure is unacceptable. What I replaced it with: The best way to prevail is by making mistakes and learning from them.
            * Message from my childhood: People grow by focusing on what they’re doing wrong. What I replaced it with: People grow by immersing themselves in what they’re great at doing.
            * Message from my childhood: Having fun is frivolous. What I replaced it with: Play as often as possible; it’s what makes life worthwhile.
            * Message from my childhood: I need to control everything and everyone around me, including myself and my emotions. What I replaced it with: A happy life is all about letting go. It’s about giving up the desire to control events and people. It’s about feeling emotions fully and then releasing them, rather than trying to maintain strict possession of them. It’s about surrendering to those things that can’t be changed.
            What messages did you receive as a child? Do they enhance your life? If not, what can you tell yourself instead? Is your life story one of empowerment or limitation?
            Write down some of the stories you’ve told about yourself recently, and explore what they say about you. Do they cast you as a victim, or do they put forward a positive message? Are they narratives of  blaming others and making excuses for your problems -- or of taking responsibility and stepping up to meet the challenges? Are they accounts of catastrophe, anger, and misery -- or of resilience, gratitude,  and empathy?
            What shifts could you make to become the hero of your narrative? Remember that you’re the one who creates your story, so you can make of it whatever you want. You can revolutionize your life by changing the tales you tell.
            WAKING UP HAPPY is filled with exercises like this. Each time one of the storytellers learns lessons in their life, I add exercises that you can do yourself to create those same changes in your own life. Give this exercise a try, and let me know if it provides new perspectives for you. Share your insights at my website, WakingUpHappyBook.com.
            I look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Review: Scary School by Derek the Ghost

Title: Scary School
Author: Derek the Ghost

Illustrator: Scott M. Fischer
Series: Scary School
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: June 21, 2011
How Received: For Review
Rate: 4.5

Summary (as quoted from Amazon) You think your school's scary?
Get a load of these teachers:
Ms. Fang, an 850-year-old vampire
Dr. Dragonbreath, who just might eat you before recess
Mr. Snakeskin—science class is so much more fun when it's taught by someone who's half zombie
Mrs. T—break the rules and spend your detention with a hungry Tyrannosaurus rex!
Gargoyles, goblins, and Frankenstein's monster on the loose
The world's most frighteningly delicious school lunch
The narrator's an eleven-year-old ghost!
Join Charles "New Kid" Nukid as he makes some very Scary friends—including Petunia, Johnny, and Peter the Wolf—and figures out that Scary School can be just as funny as it is spooky!

My thoughts:
Scary School was a very fun, interesting book.

The story is told through the eyes of Derek the Ghost, a kid who wanted to be a writer when he was alive, so when he came back to life as a ghost, he decided that he’d live his dream anyway. His first project? A very detailed account of life at Scary School, the school where Derek died, and where he still hangs out.

Scary School isn’t just any old school ; the faculty members are all different types of monsters, and the students range from werewolves to zombies to petunia ladies to humans. Now, while it is obviously super dangerous for humans to go to a school filled with all sorts of supernatural creatures, Principal Headcrusher (yes, she actually does crush peoples heads) says that kids learn better when they are afraid. Believing that, parents send their kids to Scary School so that they can receive the best education.

But this particular story isn’t about kids getting eaten and then being transformed into monsters (even though it is mentioned, more than you might think!) This story is about the time when Scary School was picked to host the annual Ghoul Games, a tournament between kids from all types of supernatural schools. Principal Headcrusher, who is mostly human, is thrilled to be the host of the Ghoul Games, for this is the first time humans will be allows to participate. But Mr. Wolfbark, the brains of the tournament, hates humans, and he isn’t happy that they are going to be allowed to fight against monsters. So he changes the rules of the tournament ; victors, if they are monsters, get to eat the humans they beat, and humans, if they are victors, get to have lollipops. Will the Scary School students win, or will Mr. Wolfbark come out on top?

I really had no answer to the above question until the end of the book. I loved all of the characters - except, of course, for Mr. Wolfbark- and all of them really cracked me up. Some of them made me laugh just by the way like they spelled their names! Like, for example, the three Rachel’s : Rachael, Raychel, and Frank (pronounced Rachel). There were so many awesome kids in this book, and the teachers were like little kids themselves with how funny and silly they were. There was no cliffhanger at the end, but I’m still dying to know what happens next. Scary School is a fun, spooky, quick read that you should definitely check out if you are looking for a good laugh.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Taste Trailer Reveal and Excerpt

Hey guys! Today we are thrilled to be a part of the trailer reveal for Taste, an awesome upcoming YA novel by Kate Evangelista! And not only do we get to reveal the trailer, we also get to reveal an excerpt from the novel. :D But first, a little bit about Taste:

At Barinkoff Academy, there's only one rule: no students on campus after curfew. Phoenix McKay soon finds out why when she is left behind at sunset. A group calling themselves night students threaten to taste her flesh until she is saved by a mysterious, alluring boy. With his pale skin, dark eyes, and mesmerizing voice, Demitri is both irresistible and impenetrable. He warns her to stay away from his dangerous world of flesh eaters. Unfortunately, the gorgeous and playful Luka has other plans.

When Phoenix is caught between her physical and her emotional attraction, she becomes the keeper of a deadly secret that will rock the foundations of an ancient civilization living beneath Barinkoff Academy. Phoenix doesn’t realize until it is too late that the closer she gets to both Demitri and Luka the more she is plunging them all into a centuries old feud.

Pretty cool, right? ;) Okay, okay, I'll stop rambling and just get to the good stuff. First up,the trailer:

And last but not least, an excerpt from the book:

Taste Excerpt

I mentally stomped on the intimidation their perfection brought into my mind and said, “Excuse me.”
The group froze, startled by my words. The girls had their brows raised and the boys stopped mid-speech, mouths agape. They stared at me with eyes the shade of onyx stones.
I smiled and gave them a little wave.
The boy a step ahead of the rest recovered first. His stunning features went from shocked surprise to intense interest. He reminded me of a hawk eyeing its prey. I gulped.
“A Day Student,” he said, his eyes insolent and excited.
Something about the way he said “Day Student” made my stomach flip. “Excuse me?”
They snickered. The boys looked at each other while the girls continued to stare, muffling their laughter by delicate hands. I seemed to be the butt of some joke.
“You broke the rule.” The boy’s grin turned predatory.
The students formed a loose semi-circle in front of me. My gaze darted from face to face. Hunger filled their eyes. The image of lions about to chase down a gazelle came to mind. I mentally shook my head. I was in the mountains not the Serengeti for crying out loud.
I took a small step back and cleared my throat. “Can any of you give me a ride back to the dorms?”
The boy wagged his forefinger like a metronome. “Ah, that’s unfortunate for you.”
One of the girls pinched the bridge of her nose. “Eli, you can’t possibly—”
“It’s forbidden, Eli,” another boy interrupted, pronouncing the word “forbidden” like a curse.
The nervous murmur at the pit of my stomach grew louder. Six against one. Not good odds. Instinct told me to cut my losses and run. Bad enough I faced expulsion, now it seemed like weird, beautiful people who’d suddenly appeared on campus wanted to beat me up. No, scratch that. Judging from the way they studied me, beating me up wouldn’t satisfy them. Something more primal prowled behind their looks.
I definitely wasn’t going down without a fight. Years of self-defense and hand-to-hand combat classes had me prepared. While other children from rich and important families got bodyguards, I got defense training. But I think my father meant for my skills to go up against potential kidnappers, not against other students who may or may not be crazy. Oh God! Maybe I stepped into a parallel universe or something when I reentered Barinkoff.
“None of the students are supposed to be on campus,” I said. Then, realizing my mistake, I added, “Okay, I know I’m not supposed to be here either. If one of you gives me a ride back to the dorms, I won’t say anything about all this. Let’s pretend this never happened. I didn’t see you, you didn’t see me.”
“We’re not ordinary students,” Eli answered. “We’re the Night Students.”
He’d said “Night Students” like the words were capitalized. I didn’t know Barinkoff held classes at night. What was going on here?
Eli smiled with just one side of his mouth and said to the group, “She’s right, no one will have to know. We’re the only ones here. And it’s been so long, don’t you agree?”
The rest of them nodded reluctantly.
“What’s been so long?” I challenged. I fisted my hands, ready to put them up if any of them so much as twitched my way.
“Since the taste of real flesh passed through my lips,” Eli said. He came forward and took a whiff of me then laughed when I cringed.
“Flesh.” Yep, parallel universe.
“Yes,” he said. “And yours smells so fresh.”
Someone grabbed my shoulders from behind and yanked me back before I could wrap my mind around the meaning behind Eli’s words. In a blink, I found myself behind someone tall. Someone really tall. And quite broad. And very male.
I realized he wore the same clothes Eli and the other boys did. Not good. He was one of them. Although… I cocked my head, raking my gaze over him. He seemed born to wear the uniform, like he was the pattern everyone else was cut from. My eyes wandered to long, layered, blue-black hair tied at the nape by a silk ribbon. Even in dim light, his hair possessed a sheen akin to mercury.
I looked down. The boy’s long fingers were wrapped around my wrist like a cuff. His fevered touch felt hotter than human standards, hot enough to make me sweat like I was standing beside a radiator but not hot enough to burn.
“I must be mistaken, Eli,” the boy who held my arm said in a monotone. “Correct me. Did I hear you say you wanted to taste the flesh of this girl?”
A hush descended on us. It had the hairs at the back of my neck rising. How was it possible for the atmosphere to switch from threatening to dangerous? Unable to help myself, I peeked around the new guy’s bulk. Eli and his friends bowed. They all had their right hands on their chests.
“Demitri, I’m sure you misheard me,” Eli said.
So the guy standing between me and the person who said he’d wanted to taste me was named Demitri. I like the sound of his name. Demitri. So strong, yet rolls off the tongue. Definite yum factor.
“So, you imply I made a mistake?” Demitri demanded.
“No!” Eli lifted his gaze. “I did no such thing. I simply wanted to show the girl the consequences of breaking curfew.”
“Hey!” I yelled. “Don’t talk about me like I’m not here!”
Demitri ignored my protest and continued to address Eli. “So, you threatened to taste her flesh.” His fingers tightened their grip around my wrist. “In the interest of investigating this matter further, I invoke the Silence.”
All six students gasped, passing surprised glances at one another.
Before I could ask about what was going on, Demitri yanked me down the hall toward the library. But why there? Oh, maybe we were getting my things. No, wait, he couldn’t have known about that. Everything was too confusing now.
Eli and the others didn’t try to stop us when we passed them. Demitri’s cold command must have carried power. Handsome and powerful, never a bad combination on a guy.
We reached the heavy double doors in seconds. He jerked one open effortlessly. I’d needed all my strength just to squeeze through that same door earlier. To him, the thick wood might as well have been cardboard. I raised an eyebrow and mentally listed the benefits of going to gym class.
“Why are we here?” I asked after my curiosity overpowered my worry. I’d almost forgotten how frightened I’d been right before Demitri showed up. I wasn’t above accepting help from strangers. Especially from gorgeous dark-haired strangers with hot hands and wide shoulders.
Demitri kept going, tugging me along, snaking his way deeper into the library. I had to take two steps for every stride his legs made. I tried to stay directly behind him, praying we didn’t slam into anything.
He stopped suddenly and I collided with him. It felt like slamming into a wall.
“Hey,” I said, momentarily stunned. “A little warning would be nice!”
He faced me, and I gasped. His eyes resembled a starless night, deep and endless. Their intensity drilled through me without pity, seeming to expose all my secrets. I felt naked and flustered beneath his gaze.
“You could have died back there,” he warned.
A lump of panic rebuilt itself in my throat.

I hope you enjoyed that! (I know I'm dying to know what happens next! :D) If you are interested in finding out more about the book and the author, here are some quick links:

Kate Evangelista's Website
Facebook Fan Page
Goodreads (Taste Page)
Crescent Moon Press Page for Taste

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Review: Dark of the Moon by John Sandford

Title: Dark of the Moon
Author: John Sandford
Series: Virgil Flowers (book one)
Publisher: Putnam Adult
Publication Date: October 2, 2007
Reviewer: Ethan

Summary (as quoted from Amazon) :Three murders in just as many weeks in the quiet rural town of Bluestream is unheard of. It?s also no coincidence. And it?s not over: Detective Virgil Flowers is about to be pulled into the middle of a killer?s violent personal vendetta.

Review: As a fan of mystery/thriller novels, I am always looking for great new series to read. Despite numerous recommendations, I have never read a novel by John Sandford. To date, he has published 21 novels in his popular "Prey" series, but I decided to begin with his more recent series, featuring Virgil Flowers.

Flowers is not your run of the mill detective. He keeps his blonde hair at a surfer length, wears "band" t-shirts, and has a kind of bad boy reputation. Despite these quirks, Virgil Flowers knows how to get the job done. Three years ago, he was hired by Lucas Davenport of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to help solve "the hard stuff". When he gets sent to the small town of Bluestem to investigate the gruesome murder of a local doctor and his wife, he is thrust into the center of the "hardest" one he has ever faced.

Upon his arrival, Virgil witnesses the home of Bill Judd Sr. explode into flames, killing the local business man and leaving Flowers to believe that the apparent arson, now murder, is connected to the town's other recent events. With the assistance of the young Bluestem Sheriff, Jim Stryker, who is desperately seeking the approval of the town for reelection, Flowers uncovers a decades old conspiracy of financial fraud, lustful infidelity and a possible drug operation that threatens to rock the sleepy town. Add to all of this a psychotic serial killer, and you've got one exciting novel.

John Sandford seems to have found the perfect balance of plot, character, and setting that makes his novel compulsively engaging. In Virgil Flowers, Sandford has imagined an oddball protagonist that you can't help but root for. Sandford's simple prose keeps the story moving while still providing enough description to give the reader a sense of the small town setting. I felt the ending was a bit rushed, but the clever twists and interesting characters make this novel worth reading. I look forward to encountering this character in the other four novels in this series. After reading this, I have to agree that John Sandford produces strong thrillers. Perhaps I will try to tackle the 21 volume "Prey" series in the near future.
- Ethan

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Review: Black Heart by Holly Black

Title: Black Heart
Author: Holly Black
Series: Curse Workers
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: April 3, 2012
Reviewer: Moujnir
Challenge: YA/Middle Grade Fantasy
How Received: Purchased
Rate: 5+

Summary (as quoted from Amazon):
Cassel Sharpe knows he’s been used as an assassin, but he’s trying to put all that behind him. He’s trying to be good, even though he grew up in a family of con artists and cheating comes as easily as breathing to him. He’s trying to do the right thing, even though the girl he loves is inextricably connected with crime. And he’s trying to convince himself that working for the Feds is smart, even though he’s been raised to believe the government is the enemy.
But with a mother on the lam, the girl he loves about to take her place in the Mob, and new secrets coming to light, the line between what’s right and what’s wrong becomes increasingly blurred. When the Feds ask Cassel to do the one thing he said he would never do again, he needs to sort out what’s a con and what’s truth. In a dangerous game and with his life on the line, Cassel may have to make his biggest gamble yet—this time on love.

My thoughts:
Black Heart is the most wickedly amazing, beautifully written book I’ve read in years.

The story follows seventeen year old Cassel Sharpe, who’s life is more complicated than anyone can imagine. Attempting to do the right thing, Cassel has left his con artist career behind and joined the Feds, hoping that he can help people instead of hurting them. But when the Feds ask Cassel to use his power as a transformation worker - a power that enables him to turn people into any type of object, something that he never wanted to do again- to get rid of a well known anti-curse worker politician, he realizes that maybe the line between right and wrong isn’t so clear cut. Not that he isn’t tempted to do the job; after all, the politician he is supposed to transform is the same politician who caused his mother to get in serious trouble with the law. But after all the trouble he went through to try and leave a life of conning behind, he’s being asked to do it again, and he’s not so sure that the Feds are any better than the mob.

But worrying about whether or not the Feds are con artists themselves isn’t the only problem Cassel’s got. Lila, the love of his life, is getting ready to take over her father’s seat in the Mob, which turns her into Cassel’s enemy. Not to mention that her father has kidnapped Cassel’s mother because of a very important item, called the Resurrection Diamond, that she stole from him years ago. Now, its up to Cassel to find the Resurrection Diamond and bring his mother back home.

While taking all of this in, Cassel is faced with another mystery at school ; a curse worker named Mina is claiming she’s being blackmailed by her boyfriend, and she wants Cassel to help solve the case. But the details seem sketchy, and he isn’t so sure that Mina is telling him everything. So he enlists help from his best friend, Sam, and as they learn more about the supposed blackmailer, they find that the motives and lies in their school have grown to be extraordinarily complicated and deceptive.

The thought, can Cassel really outrun the cons that surround him, or will they catch up to him before he can blink? haunted me the entire book. The way everything turned out completely shocked me. And even though we see everything through Cassel’s eyes, he still managed to surprise me with his decisions. He really grew as a character in this book, and the choices he made, while not always right or easy, were definitely courageous. Lila… Lila is just amazing. There are no words that can properly describe her awesomeness. She was even tougher in this book than she was in the last one. Full of sass, sarcastic remarks, and an I-will-kick-your-butt-if-you-disagree-with-me attitude, Lila is definitely one of my favorite heroines in any book, ever. Sam was very different! We get to see him angry and unstable, something we didn’t really get to see previously. But by the end of the novel, I think he was much more mature, and if not fully sane, definitely better than he’d ever been before. Sam’s ex-girlfriend, Daneca, was her usual emotional, loving self, though she made some choices that I wasn’t expecting her to make at all. Barron, Cassel’s brother, was super awesome. He’s a unique dude, and even though he’s a con artist through and through, he has a sweet side, a side that enables him to fall in love and take risks for his family. There were so many awesome characters in this book, I couldn’t possibly name them all ; but I can say that everyone grew a lot, and that all of the characters showed many different sides that made them complicated, vulnerable, and relatable all at the same time.

Full of twists, turns, and a plot that will keep you on your toes, Black Heart is a delectable novel that will make you wish you could turn the pages faster ; a must read!


Guest post by Brian Holers

How men communicate
                I’ve been thinking about the subject of communication between men for a long time, and have fielded many queries in this arena since the release of my literary/religious novel, Doxology.  I expect to receive a fair share of grief for what I write here, given my nonexistent study in this field.  Fortunately for me, limited knowledge has never kept me from offering opinions before.
                No matter how advanced we become, men and women will never understand each other. We will try and try and try, and denigrate one another for failure to communicate again and again. Men will think they understand and have a means by which to judge women, and women will do the same for men. But the bridge will never be crossed.
            As a child, I loved the Waltons. Remember how Olivia and her friend Verdie sometimes got together for a good cry? They’d plan a date and time to get together and talk about their kids, about love, about some of life’s heartbreaks. And they’d have a good cry. As a child I found this completely baffling—they’re going to plan a time to cry? —and as an adult male, still do.
But here is a truth; men are a lot more emotional than even we often know. We simply tend to hedge our bets where difficult emotions are concerned. Even the stiffest, least expressive men are filled with feelings.  They have to be. Emotion is physical, and a necessary response to changes in circumstance. In many cases, women are more readily moved than men. Men respond to new situations metaphorically.  We look for color, depth, poetry in what to women may be unlikely places.  We crave expression and seek out beauty; we’re just more likely to find it under the hood of a car than in a vase full of flowers.
Feelings, whether for one another, for events, for the state of things, are physiological.  Everything we see, everything we do, every change we experience, has an effect on us. We judge the way we feel to determine whether it’s good or bad.  It takes us awhile to get good at it.
Humans need expression. Our experience of life must be shared to be real. However, in a man’s world, historically speaking, direct communication could be dangerous. In a dangerous world, where men fought for survival and competed for limited resources, men learned to measure risk. Like good writers, we learned to show, not to tell. This trait in men lives on. Arguably, it’s a better way to live. Anyone can say, “I love you.” Anyone can say, “I care.” Words can be hollow. Life takes place in stories. And life should be shared that way.
Men and women are different. We are wired differently. Here is a gross oversimplification.  I am no scientist. I am no evolutionist. I am no doctor. I am a writer, and I offer observations. In the old days, way back, we played different roles. Men had to go out. They hunted. They fished. They fought the elements. They risked attack. They worked to survive. The job of a man was to feed and protect his family, to ensure they stayed alive.  The ones who were appropriately wary, who never stopped paying attention to the dangers around them, whose instinct told them when to fight and when to flee, survived and passed their genes on to their children. Those who doddered, explored their feelings, contemplated the vicissitudes of a butterfly, let their guards down, didn’t. And didn’t pass on their genes.
            Women learned to be social. They spent time with children, and in communities, with other women. Self expression was okay, in these venues. Nurture the children, nurture one another.  That’s what they learned. That was their job. To make more babies, and to care for them. The ones able to care for their babies passed on the traits that made them caretakers.
            All had the same ultimate goal. To feel safe in this thing we call life, whatever it took.
            Fast forward to the 21st century. Despite what we read in the papers and see on the news, we are living in the least violent time in history.  We all have a lot less to fear than ever before. Still, we can’t change our wiring. We are naturally vigilant. We are still inclined not to speak too directly.  You just never know. In the end, it’s still “every man for himself.”  We still put an edge on our words, just to make sure. Men rag each other, shoot the bull, break balls. We can take it. We prefer it this way. Anybody we don’t know, out of the ordinary, we’re not too sure about him.  Men will never say to their friends, I’ve been thinking about you all day Bob, how’s your new job going? How do you feel about it?  Men don’t talk that way. Men shake hands to show they don’t have a weapon, slap each other on the back, pat one another on the stomach and say, hey Bob, good to see you, I see that new job hasn’t helped your looks any. But it is keeping your weight up.
            We all have emotions that need expression. We all need to seek a higher plane, to look for beauty in the things important to us, that give us our place of safety in the world.  We respond to and label the feelings that accompany changes in our environment, as best we can.  Fear and anger, we easily recognize. We respond instinctively. Other emotions, we’re not so sure what they are.  We work to figure it out. We keep ourselves clean, try to look good for the ladies, ceaselessly search for our place.  We’re unpolished, like lumps of coal, and a lot more generations will have to pass before we even begin to shine.  Those of us most expressive, most able to manage the complexities of emotion so they don’t ruin our hearts or boil our blood, but rather add to our experience of life, will thrive, and will pass our genes on to our sons.  They, like we, will seem happy.  They will shout with their friends, dig their hands into machines to let off steam, one-up each other over beers, and solve their differences with softball games and shooting contests.  It just may be awhile yet before we sit down, together, and have a good cry.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Review: When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man by Nick Dybek

Title: When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man
Author: Nick Dybek
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
Publication Date: April 12, 2012

Reviewer: Ethan

Summary (as quoted from Amazon): Every fall, the men of Loyalty Island sail from the Olympic Peninsula up to the Bering Sea to spend the winter catching king crab. Their dangerous occupation keeps food on the table but constantly threatens to leave empty seats around it.
To Cal, Alaska remains as mythical and mysterious as Treasure Island, and the stories his father returns with are as mesmerizing as those he once invented about Captain Flint before he turned pirate. But while Cal is too young to accompany his father, he is old enough to know that everything depends on the fate of those few boats thousands of miles to the north. He is also old enough to feel the tension between his parents over whether he will follow in his father's footsteps. And old enough to wonder about his mother's relationship with John Gaunt, owner of the fleet.
Then Gaunt dies suddenly, leaving the business in the hands of his son, who seems intent on selling away the fishermen's livelihood. Soon Cal stumbles on evidence that his father may have taken extreme measures to salvage their way of life. As winter comes on, his suspicions deepening and his moral compass shattered, he is forced to make a terrible choice.

To fifteen-year-old Cal, his father is like a stranger. The family resides on Loyalty Island, a costal Washington community that relies on the Alaskan king-crabbing season to provide economic stability. Each winter, Cal and his mother are left alone while Henry braves the harsh conditions of the Bering Sea. Despite Henry's well intentions, Cal feels a disconnect with his father. His mother, who moved to the island after falling in love with Henry and becoming pregnant with Cal, spends countless hours in the basement, listening to her large record collection and recalling her earlier years.

Now that he is older, Cal is noticing trouble in is parent's marriage. They argue about whether or not he should become a fisherman like is father. His mother unrelentingly insists that he will complete school and find a job away from the community's difficult lifestyle. Even more troubling than the disagreements, however, is the amount of time that his mother spends with local tycoon John Gaunt.

Gaunt owns the entire fleet of crabbing boats and the local cannery. When he suddenly dies, the entire business is left in the hands of his son Richard, who has never embraced the lifestyle of his father. As Richard threatens to disrupt the livelihood of the community, and Cal's mother, now pregnant and distraught with grief, flees to a friend's home in California, Cal is forced to remain with his father. When the winter crap season approaches, Cal discovers information that shows how far his father has gone to protect their way of life. What follows is a harrowing tale of a young man, forced to come to terms with his family, himself, and to decide what is the "right" thing to do.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this novel. This is author Nick Dybek's debut, but he writes with the confidence and simplicity of a natural storyteller. Each character is believably conflicted and their introspections, during a very unique situation, are subtle and genuine. Overall, the novel asks how far we would go to maintain a lifestyle and to protect the ones we love. The story takes a bit of time to find its legs (oddly appropriate for a novel about fisherman and choppy seas), but the characters are interesting enough to keep the plot moving. The discovery in the middle of the novel left me shocked, and the last half had me completely riveted. This is an extremely solid novel that expertly blends strong characters with a vivid setting, original plot, and a moral awareness that is rarely found in debut novels.


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