Sunday, September 15, 2019

"The Garden of Small Beginnings" Book Review

The Garden of Small BeginningsThe Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is just ridiculously delightful in every way. As soon as I finished "The Bookish Life of Nina Hill," I requested everything else by Abbi Waxman from the library. I read this one first and was not at all disappointed. As a general rule, I don't read romance, nor am I romantic in my own life. But Waxman's love stories encompass so much for the characters than just the boy/girl relationship.

"Garden of Small Beginnings" is focused on recovery from loss and extreme grief (like at a level that puts you into a mental institution) for the main character, Lillian, four years after her husband is killed in a car accident. While the plot is well done and moves along at a lovely pace, my favorite part is her sense of humor, which is reflected in the sass of all of her characters, including the precocious children. Waxman makes me snort, chuckle, and outright laugh out loud (much to the dismay of my trying-to-sleep husband).

A story about moving on after the loss of a spouse could be heavy and deep, but Waxman lifts Lillian's journey to find the love and humor of realizing that life goes on, whether you want it to or not. And Lillian is surrounded by a full cast of varied characters going through their own journeys who you can also root for. Of course, it is a romance, so you can count on the happily ever after, but it's more about Lillian being happy with her life and herself than finding a guy. I love that more than anything.


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Thursday, September 12, 2019

Happy Birthday, Miss Fatty Cat and Slinky!

We're not sure on the exact birthday or the adoption date, but we've selected September 12th as Miss Fatty Cat and Slinky's birthday. Happy 14th birthday, ladies! Yes, 14 years old. Whew.


Miss Fatty Cat (aka Samantha) in her younger days.

Slinky (aka Tabitha) enjoying apartment life.

Slinky stepped out with our older daughter several years ago, and she now shares a home with three dogs (plus one foster dog at the moment) and two rabbits. The upstairs, apparently, is her quiet space, and she has a lot more to say than "eep" if someone bugs her.

It is also the Book Birthday for Miss Fatty Cat's Revenge (published in 2014). You know Miss Fatty Cat would think a perfect celebration of her birthday would be to read a chapter or share it with a friend! Amazon even has the hardcover on sale right now for $7.48. Crazy!




Now that she's 14, Miss Fatty Cat isn't really so fat anymore. It happens. But she's happy and still gets the zoomies at least once a day, during which she yowls for the world to hear.

Miss Fatty Cat, during a brief adventure of her own
when she lived on campus at the U of A with her mama.
That's all for now! We hope you have a wonderful day as we also prepare to celebrate our younger daughter's 21st birthday this weekend. Oh dear!










Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Problim Children: Carnival Catastrophe Book Review

Carnival Catastrophe (The Problim Children, #2)Carnival Catastrophe by Natalie Lloyd
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Delightful once again, Natalie! This is the second book in what will clearly be a longer series about the Problim family. Kirkus Reviews equates her style to Roald Dahl, and it certainly holds true for this series. You have to be ready for serious levels of ridiculousness, as well as hundreds of toddler farts that can be identified by name and purpose via Toot Problim. As an adult reader, I'm sure my head comes at some of the family's antics with a bit more annoyance. They are really quite a terror to the city! I was definitely becoming concerned that some of their tricks were downright bullying, but that is all part of the story and the lessons that Mona especially has to learn. Revelations about friendship and loyalty, piles of silliness, circus spiders, a robot squirrel, the celebration of the unique wonderfulness of each individual, and some gasp-worthy twists at the end put this book on my highly recommended list for young readers.


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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

"The Line Tender" Book Review

The Line TenderThe Line Tender by Kate    Allen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The story follows young teenager Lucy Everhart through a few rough weeks of her summer vacation at home on the coast of Massachusetts. Unlike most middle grade books, adults and older teens play a huge role in her experience. And sharks. There's lots and lots about sharks. Great white sharks, to be specific. Lucy's deceased mother was a shark researcher, and when a great white is captured not far off the coast, Lucy finds herself wrapped up in memories of her mother's life and work.

This was an interesting book, dealing with love and loss. If there were such a category, I'd put it in middle grade literary fiction. You don't have a big climactic event, and there are no bullies or really any other teens much at all. It's as much a character study of Lucy and her changes over a summer as Lucy also makes a study of great white sharks and what's inside of them, what makes them tick.

I thoroughly enjoyed "The Line Tender" and recommend it to readers young and old.


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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill Review

The Bookish Life of Nina HillThe Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is fantabulous!! I borrowed this copy from the library, but by page 100 I had ordered my own copy so I would have it forever and ever. I know my daughter will love it too. Nina is a delightful heroine full of doubts and anxiety and charming banter. The unabashed "Pride and Prejudice" theme works wonderfully (a favorite book about which I have actually taught classes), along with the message about what makes for true family in our weird world. And I love the REAL romance dramas that Nina finds herself embroiled in. Even meet-cutes can go wrong! I look forward to reading this book again and displaying it proudly on my shelves. Nina would like that, I think. Now I have to go out and get Waxman's other books too. (We won't even talk about how excited I am that she followed me back on Instagram!) Get "The Bookish Life of Nina Hill" now!!


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Monday, July 15, 2019

Hardcover Book Sale

Just a quick note to let you know that Amazon is offering some amazing discounted prices on a few of my hardcover titles. I have no control over this, so grab them while you can! Here's some links:

Bianca: The Brave Frail and Delicate Princess $5.25 (regularly $24.99)

Why Kimba Saved The World for $5.03 (regularly $23.99)

Max's Wild Night for $4.75 (regularly $22.99)

Not quite as amazing but still great deals . . .

Miss Fatty Cat's Revenge $8.29 (regularly $24.99)

Slinky Steps Out $8.49 (regularly $24.99)   

Grab them. Share this!! Enjoy.


Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Blog Tour & Review: Heart of the Curiosity



The secret lies with the Heart.

Born with a magical knack for manipulating emotions, Leodora's only dream is to ensure her talented little sister dances on the biggest, brightest stage in the Republic: The Curiosity, a grand old theater of tradition and innovation. After escaping a cruel carnival, Leo secures her sister a place in the Curiosity’s chorus line, and herself a job as a professional audience member, swaying the crowd's mood with her magic. The girls have a home for the first time in their lives.

Then a tragic accident darkens the theater. A greedy businessman begins blackmailing Leo, and financial woes threaten to close the show forever. The Curiosity's sole hope lies in a mythical power source hidden beneath the maze-like passages and trapdoors of the theater—the Heart. And Leo’s only friend Paxton, nephew of the theater's stagemistress, is the key to finding it.

While Leo and Paxton hunt for the Heart, the blackmailer’s threats loom larger. Mysterious figures, cryptic clues, and deadly traps hinder the search at every turn. If the friends cannot recover the Heart in time, Leo and her sister will be cast out of the only home they’ve ever known, and the final curtain will fall on The Curiosity.

Enter a world reminiscent of The Greatest Showman, with a puzzle worthy of Sherlock Holmes and National Treasure, in this new Steampunk Fantasy from H. L. Burke.

Join in the launch party today on Facebook!! 


Heart of the CuriosityHeart of the Curiosity by H.L. Burke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another delightful story from H.L. Burke! I loved the idea of everyone in that world having a "knack" and being able to do something magical and unique to each of them. If only! I would definitely take Muse's knack. I have dreams like that. This book is "steampunk" instead of fantasy, like many of Burke's other novels, and she does a wonderful job of weaving fun inventiony stuff into Leo's world. You will wish you could take in just one show at The Curiosity. A wonderful summer read for the YA audience, but I enjoyed it as well (and am definitely not YA!). Great lessons on what friendship and family really mean.


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Born in a small town in north central Oregon, H. L. Burke spent most of her childhood around trees and farm animals and was always accompanied by a book. Growing up with epic heroes from Middle Earth and Narnia keeping her company, she also became an incurable romantic.

An addictive personality, she jumped from one fandom to another, being at times completely obsessed with various books, movies, or television series (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Star Trek all took their turns), but she has grown to be what she considers a well-rounded connoisseur of geek culture.

Married to her high school crush who is now a US Marine, she has moved multiple times in her adult life but believes that home is wherever her husband, two daughters, and pets are.

Interview with H. L. Burke


How did you get started writing?
I dictated a short story to my mom when I was five or six. I only remember that it was about rabbits and included the bit of dialogue, “Why is it always snowing at your house?” “Because I'm a snow rabbit.”

Brilliant, huh?

But I have always wanted to write or been writing. I used to write short stories based on the imagined adventures of myself and my friends. I also inserted us into Star Wars fanfic so we could hang out with our heroes. Ah, good times.

Other than a few small contests, I didn't really pursue it all that seriously, though. In my late teens I sent out some queries. Looking back, I know that the stuff I was writing then wasn't that good. Then marriage and kids happened, and while I still wrote, I focused more on blogging for several years.

The turn around point for me was NaNoWriMo 2012. I had a 4-year-old and a 10-month-old, but dangit, I was going to write a novel that year … so I did. Finding that I still had the time to create, when I'd been telling myself I didn't because of the kids, flipped a switch and I just kept going.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from your books?
A sense of fun, a few laughs, and an urge to explore.

What inspired your story world?

I started out just interested in the idea of professional audience members, which led me to the idea of writing a story about show business folk, and I like contained settings, so I chose a theater. Once I knew I was going to write a story about a theater I also knew that I wanted it to be a treasure hunt and have Steampunk elements … it kind of just wrote itself from there.

Why snails?

When we moved from Florida to southern California a few years back, we became very familiar with the local snails. They’d crawl up the side of our house. They’d be in our driveway. I thought they were kind of cool (living in military housing and not taking care of our own landscaping, I didn’t have an opinion on them as garden pests or anything), but my daughter, who was five or six at the time, adored them. She started trying to keep them as pets with somewhat limited success. There were some good times (feeding them lettuce until their little bodies turned green) and some rough times (dead snails, very tragic … she once had one “run away” which must’ve been a momentous task for a snail, but she was always worried it would get eaten by birds now that she couldn’t look after it). She used to call herself the “Snail Master” and even though we had to leave them behind (because of yet another move, this one from California to Oregon) she still talks about her snail army.

What inspired the theater?
I’m not sure if there was any one inspiration. It’s kind of a mishmash of every theater I’ve been in or seen on a movie or TV. The tunnels beneath the theater with their death traps and puzzles definitely owe something to The Phantom of the Opera (the book. I’ve never actually seen the movie/play all the way through, though I know the music because it’s everywhere and from doing a school band version of some of it in high school … I’m not really a musicals person).

If you could have one of the knacks from your world, what would it be?

Creepy crawly charming. I could tell the spiders to keep their distance … or eat the mosquitoes. Or both.

Favorite writing fuel?

Pre-3pm, coffee, 3pm to 5pm tea, 5pm onward, red wine.



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More Stops on the Blog Tour

Monday, June 24 – Cathrine Bonham, World Building Feature on Magical Knacks

Wednesday, June 26 – Nicki Chapelway, Character Interview https://nickichapelwayauthor.blogspot.com/

Thursday, June 27 – RELEASE DAY, Deborah O’Carroll, Book Spotlight, Book Review https://thepagedreamer.wordpress.com/

Friday, June 28 – Christina Morley, Book Review, Behind the Scenes on Book Theme http://abooksandmore.blogspot.com/

Saturday, June 29 – Gretchen Engel, Author Interview, Book Review, Behind the Scenes on Book Theme (author’s choice)

Sunday, June 30 – Savannah Jezowski, Book Spotlight, World Building Feature https://dragonpenpress.com/

Monday, July 1 – Patricia Mather Parker, Character Interview, Behind the Scenes on Book Theme; patriciamatherparker.com

Katy Huth Jones, Book Spotlight, Book Review katyhuthjones.blogspot.com

Tuesday, July 2 – Leya, Author Interview, Book Spotlight, Excerpt www.angeleya.com

Wednesday, July 3 – Jennette Mbewe, World Building Feature http://www.jlmbewe.com/blog/

Friday, July 5 – Deborah Dunson, Book Spotlight Https://www.tumblr.com/blog/readingontheedge

Saturday, July 6 – Brian Wilkerson, Author Interview, Book Spotlight http://trickstereric.blogspot.com/

Sunday, July 7 – Mark Hansen, Book Spotlight TheHerosTale.com

Monday, July 8 – Tabitha Caplinger, Behind the Scenes on Book Theme Tabithacaplinger.com