Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Review of White As Snow by Salla Simukka

Book 2 in the Snow White Trilogy
By Salla Simukka
Translated by Owen Witesman

Star Rating: 
Date/Time Started: 6/15/2015 11:43 pm
Date/Time Finished: 6/16/2015 8:39 am

Genre: Young Adult
Number of Pages: 224

Synopsis:(From Amazon)
The heat of the summer sun bakes the streets of Prague, but Lumikki's heart is frozen solid.

Looking to escape the notoriety caused by the part she played in taking down Polar Bear's crime ring, seventeen-year-old Lumikki Andersson escapes to Prague, where she hopes to find a few weeks of peace among the hordes of tourists.  But not long after arriving, she's cornered by a skittish and strange young woman who claims to be her long-lost sister.  The woman, Lenka, is obviously terrified, and even though Lumikki doesnt believe her story--although parts of it ring true--she can't just walk away.

Lumikki quickly gets caught up in Lenka's sad and mysterious world, uncovering pieces of a mystery that take her from the belly of a poisonous cult to the highest echelons of corporate power.  On the run for her life again, Lumikki must use all her wits to survive, but in the end, she may just discover she can't do it all alone.

I was planning to buy this book as soon as it came out after reading the first book in this trilogy, Red as Blood, and I was not disappointed by either book.  Given the link of fairy tales between Red as Blood and the title, White as Snow, I had expected to get a lot of connections with fairy tales but this time, White As Snow was used interchangeably to connect Lumikki to Lenka who claims to be her sister, but also to introduce a new story line, new characters, and another way to look at life.

While Red As Blood was originally suggested to be the young adult equivalent of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo I do have to agree, yet argue that it seems even better.  This book is gripping in a "I never want to put this down" type of way, and while I loved the Millennium Trilogy, it's not at all the same.  This book is also less graphic/violent than the Millennium Trilogy, which makes it much more pleasant to read.

This is an absolute MUST read, though I will warn that it did seem to go very fast, and be a lot shorter than I would have liked.

Author Information: (From Amazon)
Winner of the 2013 Topelius prize, Salla Simukka is an author of young adult fiction and a screenwriter.  She has written several novels and one collection of short stories for young readers, and has translated adult fiction, children's books, and plays.  She writes book reviews for several Finnish newspapers and she also writes for TV.  Simukka lives in Tampere, Finland.

To learn more about Simukka and her books, visit her website.

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Review of Damaged and the Beast by Bijou Hunter

Damaged and the Beast
By Bijou Hunter

Star Rating: 
Date/Time Started: 6/9/2015
Date/Time Finished: 6/14/2015

Genre: Romance?
Number of Pages: 232

Synopsis (From Amazon):
New Adult Biker Romance

Heir to the localmotorcycle club and crime syndicate, Cooper Johansson is accustomed to taking what he wants.  His newest conquest is college freshman Farah Smith.

When the tattooed bad boy reminds her of a rough childhood she desperately wishes to forget, Farah keeps him at arm's length.  Yet, Cooper refuses to give up.  He pushes her buttons, tears through her walls, and forces her to admit her feelings for him.  What begins as lust soon builds into something more powerful than either expects.

Can a beast like Cooper heal the damage inside the girl of his dreams?

***Warning: This novel contains scenes of a sexual nature, violent themes, and coarse language.  It is intended for mature readers.

Notice how I didn't link the book at the top of the page?  This book is available on Amazon for free, yet I am not going to link it.

List of discrepancies/issues within the novel:
- Repetitive/redundant: my parents are the absolute best!
- Horrible language for no reason: bitch seems to make the page at least twice in the first 2/3 of the book.
- Pushy creepy dude asks incredibly invasive questions, which Farah just answers.
- Overtly sexual, meanwhile the guy says she's different, yet continues to cuss at her, mentioning sex all the time
- Way too close family.  An 18 year old girl continuously sitting on her brothers' laps, and mention of how they all know how the others look naked, not to mention she knows everything of her brothers' sex lives.
- Derogatory name calling that is supposed to be cute/endearing.
- Random unnecessary question marks/bad punctuation
- Explaining everything in dialogue all the time.  Every time Farah and Cooper have an issue or disagreement, they talk it out.  While that is a great practice in real life, it makes for a very boring read.
- Farah's signature line: "You're scaring me."  If he scares you so much, why are you still with him?
- Everyone talks about sex so openly, and like it's nothing.
- Farah states several times throughout the novel that her sense of worth comes from Cooper, his desire for her and him liking her.  Later, for one whole paragraph, it's stated that she would only have worth if she became a teacher like she wanted to in her lifelong dream, yet you've already heard for 2/3 of the book how she's only worth anything if Cooper wants her, and how she could "get better" and couldn't stand for him to dump her.
- Unrealistic college, written as if it was a high school.  Generally colleges do not have an "exam week" the first month of school where there is an exam in every class, nor do students that fail every single exam have to go to the administration building to talk to a guidance counselor.  Usually colleges consist of having an advisor, but even then, it is more to make sure you are picking the right classes for your major, not to check up and make sure you are doing alright in every general education class you take.
- The major conflict of the entire novel doesn't take place until 95% in to the novel, according to the marker on my kindle.  And this is all within a two week period of time.
- Most people do not get a tattoo of a girlfriend's name within a two week period.  They also don't end up cohabiting, nor getting a house after knowing each other for a month or less.
- General time is used poorly.  Time keeps passing, and there are brief mentions of it, yet it keeps going back to mention two weeks, which leads the reader to believe that almost the entire novel takes place in that time frame.
- Giant time shift from two weeks into their relationship to having a child.
- Despite having a few moments mentioning how she needed to graduate school and become a teacher, at the end of the book she states that her self worth is now determined by having had a daughter, and that she's comfortable being herself because of that.  I cannot conceive how someone who was adamant that they would accomplish their dream would simply give in to a significant other to have children because he wanted to right away, forgoing whatever they had planned for their own future.

It was suggested that perhaps I should offer ways in which this novel could have been made better.  I am not sure that is possible.  I have racked my brain trying to think of the issues in this novel, and if it would have seemed better with anything slightly tweaked.  It would have been better for Farah to have actually had experience with men before simply giving in and settling with the first guy who showed her any genuine attention, but even if she was an established adult, I don't see how the timeline of their relationship would have been any better.  Perhaps if more time had been allotted to being realistic instead of pushing the over dramatized issues both she and Cooper faced, the book could have been a smidgen better.

Author information:
I'm a romance author of Contemporary, New Adult, and Suspense.  Living in Indiana with my three sweet sons, three wacky cats, one super mom (and her ugly dog), I love writing, Denny's, 1970's rock, Beanie Boos, and sitcoms cancelled before their time.

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Monday, June 8, 2015

Review of The Master Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

The Paper Magician: Book III
By Charlie N. Holmberg

Star Rating: 
Date/Time Started: 6/6/2015 4:52 pm
Date/Time Finished: 6/8/2015 1:15 am

Genre: Fantasy
Number of Pages: 224

Synopsis:(From Amazon)
Throughout her studies, Ceony Twill has harbored a secret, one she's kept from even her mentor, Emery Thane.  She's discovered how to practice forms of magic other than her own--an ability long thought impossible.

When all seems set of Ceony to complete her apprenticeship and pass her upcoming final magician's exam, life quickly becomes complicated.  To avoid favoritism, Emery sends her to another paper magician for testing, a Folder who despises Emery and cares even less for his apprentice.  To make matters worse, a murderous criminal from Ceony's past escapes imprisonment.  Now she must track the power-hungry convict across England before he can take his revenge.  With her life and loved ones hanging in the balance, Ceony must face a criminal who wields the one magic that she does not, and it may prove more powerful than all of her skills combined.

Like all of the books in this series, this was hard to set down.  Ceony seems to have a nice depth of character in this book, showcasing that she has fears that she isn't willing to sit back and let happen.  While most will argue that Ceony needs to plan better instead of running forward and jumping into sticky situations without a plan, most can empathize with wanting to keep their family safe.  Besides running into danger, Ceony showcases her impatience and temper on more than one occasion.  I, for one, find it refreshing to find a protagonist who isn't perfect, and who sometimes has to collect herself and apologize for being brash, as I have had to in the past as well.

WARNING: Ending spoiler ahead.

I have to say, I'm a bit disappointed with the ending.  After seeing Ceony and Emery go through so much together, we are shown their proposal, and are left with the assumption that what she saw in the fortuity box will come to pass.  I would have loved some sort of epilogue, showcasing what Ceony decided to do with her career.

Author Information:
Charlie N. Holmberg has a BA in English with a minor in editing.  She likes Star Trek and hopes to someday own a dog.  She is married and has a child.  The Paper Magician was her ninth book, but first to get published.

For more information on Charlie N. Holmberg, see her author page or go to her website.

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Review of The Dream Keeper by Mikey Brooks

The Dream Keeper Chronicles: Book I
By Mikey Brooks

Star Rating: 
Date/Time Started: May
Date/Time Finished: June

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Young People Fantasy
Number of Pages: 302

Synopsis:(From Amazon)
Dreams: Dorothy called it Oz, Alice called it Wonderland, but Nightmares call it HOME.

When an evil shifter takes over the gateway to the realm of Dreams, it falls to 14-year-olds Parker and Kaelyn to stop him.  Their only hope lies in Gladamyr, the Dream Keeper, but can they trust a nightmare to save their world?

The Amazon synopsis misses so very much of what makes this book so amazing!  Since I'm not 100% behind the amazon part, I'm going to give a bit of my own synopsis before going on to the review.

My synposis:
Kaelyn is the new girl in town.  It's pretty rough, but she loves her zany aunt who took her in.  The kids in school won't even give her a chance because they assume she's a loser, because her aunt is so weird.  Parker Bennett is popular, and considered one of the best gamers in his grade.  His mom doesn't understand, and thinks he should spend more time on his studies and less on video games.

Meanwhile, in another world, parallel to our own, the creatures of our Dreams are waging a war.  We may have created them, but some are not happy with how balanced things are in Dreams.  The Nightmares want to take over, and only Dream Keepers can keep everything from shifting.  But what will happen when the only Nightmare who became a Dream Keeper is the only one left?

This book is an example of a perfect modern fantasy book.  Not only are there issues in Dreams, but Kaelyn and Parker face obstacles in the world of a teenager.  Parker has to learn how to balance his time so he gets to have both his homework done and an opportunity for gaming.  Kaelyn learns that while you can say you don't care about how mean people are, that doesn't mean you should let people be cruel to you.

In the world of Dreams both Kaelyn and Parker have the opportunity of seeing how their interests and hobbies can potentially help them in the real world and in potentially dangerous situations.  While the book doesn't outright advocate playing video games, it shows that doing so can help with your critical thinking skills.  The book also shows that you can get power from reading, and that if you retain the knowledge, you can get far.

Another major problem that The Dream Keeper faces is that of divorcee parents.  Parker finds himself almost always left alone, to his own devices, or sent to a psychiatrist.  While Parker's mom is trying to do what she thinks is best for him, it's made very clear that both his parents are off in a faraway world of business, leaving little time and attention for him in their lives.  Upon reflection, one could realize that living with people that are glued to technology and electronics such as their cell phones and laptops, it is only logical that Parker would find solace in electronic stimulation in the form of video games, while Kaelyn, whose aunt lives simply, seems to adore reading.

The only questionable thing, in my opinion, is where the last name Bennett comes from.  I know it's a Pride and Prejudice reference, but I do not feel it is completely necessary or warranted.  Does it resonate with young people and young adults today, that may not yet have been exposed to the novel?  What makes the Bennett reference confusing, is that Parker's last name is Bennett, and he at one point explains that his mother kept her last name, Bennett-- but there are also a few references, including in Dreams, of her being Lizzy Gonzalez.  This may be on purpose, to draw the reader in.  I hope to learn more about this from reading the rest of the series.  Kudos to Mikey Brooks for actually using the proper spelling from the book of Elizabeth's nickname, "Lizzy", and not the current commonly used "Lizzie" (As seen in the YouTube Sensations The Lizzie Bennett Diaries- a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice that is AMAZING).

Author Information:
Mikey Brooks is a small child masquerading as an adult.  On occasion you'll catch him dancing the funky chicken, singing like a banshee, and pretending to have never grown up.  He is an award winning author of the middle grade fantasy adventure series The Dream Keeper Chronicles.  His other middle-grade books include: The Gates of Atlantis: Battle for Acropolis and The Stone of Valhalla.  His picture books include the best selling ABC Adventures: Magical Creatures, Trouble with Bernie, and Bean's Dragons.

Mikey has a BS degree in English from Utah State University and works full time as a freelance illustrator, cover designer, and author.  His art can be seen in many forms from picture books to full room murlas.  He loves to daydream with his three daughters and explore the worlds that only the imagination of children can create.  As a member of the Emblazoners, he is one of many authors devoted to 'writing stories on the hearts of children' (  You can find more about him and his books at

If you like this review, and the writing style of this quirky reviewer, please consider visiting and liking my Facebook author page: Lizzy March.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Review of My Story by Elizabeth Smart

By Elizabeth Smart
With Chris Stewart

Star Rating: 
Date/Time Started: 5/29/2015
Date/Time Finished: 6/3/2015

Genre: Autobiography/True Crime
Number of Pages: 336

Synopsis:(From Amazon)
For the first time, ten years after her abduction from her Salt Lake City bedroom, Elizabeth Smart reveals how she survived and the secret to forging a new life in the wake of a brutal crime.

On June 5, 2002, fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart, the daughter of a close-knit Mormon family, was taken from her home in the middle of the night by religious fanatic, Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee.  She was kept chained, dressed in disguise, repeatedly raped, and otld she and her family would be killed if she tried to escape.  After her rescue on March 12, 2003, she rejoined her family and worked to pick up the pieces of her life.

Now for the first time, in her memoir, MY STORY, she tells of the constant fear she endured every hour, her courageous determination to maintain hope, and how she devised a plan to manipulate her captors and convinced them to return to Utah, where she was rescued minutes after arriving.  Smart explains how her faith helped her stay sane in the midst of a nightmare and how she found the strength to confront her captors at their trial and see that justice was served.

In the nine years after her rescue, Smart transformed from victim to advocate, traveling the country and working to educate, inspire and foster change.  She has created a foundation to help prevent crimes against children and is a frequent public speaker.  In 2012, she married Matthew Gilmour, whom she met doing mission work in Paris for her church, in a fairy tale wedding that made the cover of People magazine.

I listened to the audio book of My Story, which is Elizabeth reading aloud.  This, to me, is probably the most amazing and inspiring part of the entire novel.  The moral is quite simple: You are not your past.  You are not what others have tried to make you be.  You are you, and you have your own choices in life.

The novel begins not with the abduction, but with some information about Elizabeth, her family, and her life.  Knowing how normal Elizabeth was is even more chilling, when you consider that this could have happened to anyone.  While many likely imagined the situations Elizabeth had been in, given that she was abducted by an old man, most wouldn't have realized all of the very serious threats and turmoil Elizabeth had to face.  At 14, she was not only thrust into a life she didn't want, but she was also held captive, not capable of doing anything to help her situation- such as trying to get money for food, or losing herself in a book of her choosing.  Elizabeth had all of her power taken away from her, and it's inspiring to hear how she managed to keep herself form breaking down, how she kept from losing herself.  There are not many people who have spirits as strong as Elizabeth Smart.

In the end, Elizabeth's mother gives her the best advice, and upon taking it, Elizabeth has come so far.

To those naysayers, who argue that Elizabeth had chances to escape, to get away, remember that she was a 14 year old girl, and she was terrified.  Not many trained personnel react well in the state of fear, and a girl who was yanked from her bed had very little chance of gaining the composure of someone trained in how to deal with such circumstances.

Some have said the book was not written well, but as I was listening and not reading, I cannot attest.

Author Information:
For more information about Elizabeth, her current work and foundation, please visit her website

She is also featured on, on her own page.

If you like this review, and the writing style of this quirky reviewer, please consider visiting and liking my Facebook author page: Lizzy March.

Review of Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen by Garth Nix

Old Kingdom (Prequel to Sabriel)
By Garth Nix

Star Rating: 
Date/Time Started: 5/10/2015
Date/Time Finished: 5/11/2015

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Number of Pages: 400

Synopsis:(From Amazon)
Clariel is the daughter of one of the most notable families in the Old Kingdom, with blood relations to the Abhorsen, and most important, to the King.  She dreams of living a simple life but discovers that this is hard to achieve when a dangerous Free Magic creature is loose in the city, her parents want to marry her off to a killer, and there is a plot brewing against the old and withdrawn King Orrikan.  When Clariel is drawn into the efforts to find and capture the creature, she finds hidden sorcery within herself, yet it is magic that carries great dangers.  Can she rise above the temptation of power, escape the unwanted marriage, and save the King?

I remember, when I was younger, that Garth Nix's Abhorsen series was one of my absolute favourites.  This hasn't changed.  In fact, Clariel also is on the book shelf of my favourite novels.  While Clariel may not be quite as dramatic or empathetic as Sabriel, one cannot help but feel for the girl, who wants something simple, and who is always told no.  When someone is given a good reason for their desires being squashed, it often helps sooth the ache, but what if your only available options become things you never, ever want to become?

What romance is within the novel isn't really that of the main protagonist, but the typical old view of strengthening ties through matrimony.  Clariel won't let anyone stand in her way, especially when she has nothing to lose, though she realizes that perhaps she has more allies than she originally thought.

Author Information:
Garth Nix has worked as a bookseller, book sales representative, publicist, editor, marketing consultant, and literary agent.  He spent five years in the Australian Army Reserve.  He became a full time writer in 2001, and more than five million copies of his books have been sold around the world.  His works have been translated into 40 languages.  His books have appeared on the bestseller lists of The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, The Bookseller, The Australian, and The Sunday Times.  He lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife and two children.

To fine more of Garth Nix' books, please feel free to go to his amazon page.

It's hard to go from a book you love so very much, to anything else.  Which is why it took me until now, almost a full month later, to write this review.  And it took me until last week, to finally start something new.  While I did start another book soon after Clariel, which I will finish at some point, it is written for a slightly younger audience than I generally read for.  

If you like this review, and the writing style of this quirky reviewer, please consider visiting and liking my Facebook author page: Lizzy March.