Monday, December 3, 2012

Do Not Read Unless You Love Reading Amazing YA Fantasy--Nightingale, by David Farland


YA Fantasy
320 pages


Bron Jones feels alone, angry, and did I say angry? This is not uncommon for a foster child who has spent his entire life in the system. After being tossed out of his last foster home, Bron has no idea where he will go. After all, people don't readily take in teenagers who have been labeled troublesome. Like many foster children, he feels unlike anyone else, separate, unable to love anyone. The difference here is that though Bron doesn't know it, he is indeed unlike anyone--he is even a different species!

Olivia, a beautiful, young teacher, has been asking social services about taking Bron in. When she sees him, she is convinced he is what her people call a nightingale, a child put into the foster system on purpose. She knows bringing the teen into her life could save Bron, but would immediately put them both--and her husband, Mike, who doesn't know a thing about what she is or the powers she possesses--in perpetual danger. Yet, her tender heart won't allow her to abandon a hurting boy, even if it means saving herself. A far-reaching network of deadly enemies with practically unlimited resources will stop at nothing to find her or a treasure like Bron. 

In fact, they have been searching for Bron his whole life. 

***

I have been in a reading funk lately. Time after time, I'll pick up a book and find it doesn't interest me much. I have been waiting for something that grips me and won't let me put it down, something like I'd find from the likes of Suzanne Collins, James Dashner, Dan Wells, or Brandon Sanderson. I don't have time for mediocre reads anymore. Anyone who knows me will be shocked by what I'm about to admit: I have been so unimpressed and disillusioned by what I've read lately that I took piles of books back to the library without even cracking their covers. That, my friends, is a very bad sign. I needed a book to heal my literarily depressed spirits. (Yes, literarily is now a word.)

Finally, I decided I'd better get to reading Nightingale, since I had agreed to review it.

Oh, my goodness! 

This book should come with a warning: "Readers may experience lack of oxygen and a reduction in the amount of sleep obtained." I had to keep reminding myself to breathe, and all I could think about when I wasn't reading was what would happen in the story. I was sucked in so hard that I was plastered against the pages, unable to do anything except be taken on the thrill ride that is David Farland's imagination. Ah, thrill ride isn't the right term. It's more like surfboarding down an erupting volcano while enjoying the scenery.

David Farland is an amazing storyteller. From the start to the finish, I was enthralled. The story never slowed. Even though the main character is a teen with deep-rooted anger, his character was so well developed that everything made sense. Farland wove in backstory and included tidbits of things that left me wanting more and more. In many books, the sections between the action drags. Not so in this story. Farland masterfully explored his characters and added a richness to them I have not seen in many books, and all this in only 320 pages. 

This book has also been tightly edited, which I highly appreciated. I only found a few typos. I do have one piece of advice regarding a single use of the term "neck" which means in modern language, "make out." I didn't know what this term meant when I was a teen, and neither did my friends (and we are all in our thirties now, so that was around twenty years ago). So, overall it was very insignificant, but something that should be kept in mind when writing for today's teens. Though I'm guessing "making out" is still the term, someone should check--who knows what they call it now! 

There were two things I wondered about. One was a scene in the field with Bron and Mike, involving something they discovered. Because of the attention paid to it, I expected the situation to be resolved somewhere in the rest of the story, and it wasn't. There is a good chance I was reading more into the scene than I should have, however, my husband had the same thoughts about it that I did. The second thing was at the end (which is amazing, and I nearly passed out from forgetting to breathe). Without giving anything away, there is a spot where something happens suddenly, and I felt like it was too sudden. I was left saying, "What the heck?" and tried to reconcile the way it happened from what I had learned about the character from the rest of the book. I do think the information was there, but I probably wasn't supposed to know any more than I did at that time. Any great book starting a series has unanswered questions, so I hope the reasoning for the abruptness will be explained in the following book. Even with those questions, this is still one of the most interesting and fascinating books I have ever read, and I highly recommend it.

This review is turning into a book in itself, but I can't end it without saying how in awe I am of Farland's abilities and attention to detail. He adds little touches that make you wonder if he has experienced all of these things himself. I love when an author brings the senses into a scene, and Farland does this expertly--a bit here and there, never too much or too little. My favorite descriptions in the whole book are set in a swamp. If I didn't know any better, I'd think the author grew up there. The richness and texture of his descriptions in those scenes are reason alone to read this book.

I can't wait to read the next book in the series. As a result of this review, my husband has also been hooked on David Farland's books, and knowing the sheer volume of how many are out there (he also writes science fiction under the name Dave Wolverton), I may never see James again!

Nightingale is the first novel I have ever read by David Farland, and it will definitely not be my last. I have been receiving David's writing tips newsletter for over a year now, and I am so surprised and happy to see that not only does he practice what he preaches, but he is extremely good at it! If this book is any indication, I believe the next great YA author has been launched onto the scene, and with more books of this caliber,I expect to see his fame with YA fans explode over the next few years. 

Buy Nightingale here: Kindle Amazon 
                                   Nook Barnes and Noble 
                                   hardcover Amazon   
                                   enhanced version for iPad (looks way cool) iTunes

Book website, including links to purchase books and music: http://www.nightingalenovel.com/

Visit David Farland's website: http://www.davidfarland.com/

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Why I am Not a Fan of Daytime Baths for Children

Today I learned my two-year-old is really growing up. After he ate six pancakes for breakfast (one chocolate, chip, one blackberry, and four--yes, four blueberry), I was impressed.

Then within the next hour, Professor (who will be twelve next month) told me he was teaching Bean to read the words dog and cat. I knew they'd been working on 'a' sounds, and Bean already knows his alphabet and can count to twenty-nine, so I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised. Still, he's growing up too fast. 

An hour ago, we dropped Professor off at the library for his black light science program for the teen reading program. Then we did an errand, and came home. I called my mom, and began wandering around like I do when I'm chatting with her. 

Right after I went into the hall, I tried to open the bathroom door.

It was locked.

Hmm, I thought. It was unusual for the door to be shut when any of the kids were in there. (They forget and leave it open no matter how many times I remind them. I think they treat it like a secret spy mission--Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go to the bathroom without getting caught. I hope they grow out of it.)

Anyway, I had just left Lion in the living room, so I stepped two more feet down the hall, hoping to see Bean in his room with Princess. 

No such luck. Princess sat on the floor, happily playing in peace. 

I kept talking away on the phone as a trickle of dread ran down into my stomach. I unlocked the bathroom door, swung it open . . .and saw my youngest standing there, plunger in hand, with the weirdly curved-inward-so-it-holds-water operating end fully immersed in the toilet. 

Before I could stop my mouth from doing anything, I exclaimed, "BEAN!" If you're wondering why I should have not said anything, then you probably aren't around young kids much. If not, you might be snickering by now. 

As soon as I said his name, I had that sinking knowledge that I was indeed, too late, and what was in the process of happening was entirely my fault. Once that fated word was out of my mouth, Bean jerked the plunger out of the toilet, spraying water everywhere. As the droplets flew, I ran to my ickily-spattered child, and filled my mother in as I rescued the plunger. Bits of toilet paper swirling in the bowl only added to the imagery as to what my child--and my feet--were surely marinating in.

My mother's near hysterical laughter did not help much, so I said goodbye and filled the bathtub. (This is where my title comes into play, by the way. Daytime baths are usually a positive ending to some kind of messy/disgusting episode.)

I helped my precocious child take off his germy clothes, and I was in no mood for his usual screaming theatrics at getting his hair and face washed. I bent down to his level, and was deadly calm. All the seriousness I could muster was focused through my eyes to his, like laser beams of Mommy Means It. "Bean," I said, "I am going to wash your hair and your face. That means no screaming." He solemnly nodded, and I even repeated myself a couple of times just to make sure he knew. 

And amazingly? When I washed his face, I told him we'd rinse three times. He didn't scream. I washed his hair. He didn't scream.

So, yes. My little baby is definitely growing up. He eats mountains of pancakes. He is learning letter sounds. He didn't scream in the bathtub. He didn't scream in the bathtub! And someday, I'm sure he'll be a wonderful man--

The type of man who always dutifully plunges his own toilet.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Book Review: Million Dollar Diva


When Tristi Pinkston contacted me to review this book, I was very much looking forward to it. Tristi is an excellent writer, and after having read her co-authors' book Safe Money Millionaire, I wondered what kind of product and advice would come of the mash-up of talents.

A good one, apparently! Far from dry and boring, the approach to this book drew me in right away and I read, fascinated as the pages flew.

The thing I liked most about this book is the conversational style. Tristi has a way of writing that makes me feel comfortable, as if I'm leaning back in a comfy chair chatting with a close friend--or, in this instance, watching a friend chat with financial gurus who answered all of her questions with ease.

Having been drawn into Tristi's story, I felt the emotions she was conveying to Brett and Ethan. This is why, when they gave Tristi options on how to get out of debt and grow money (spoiler alert--it doesn't actually grow on trees), I felt almost a palpable relief. It was so nice to see real ideas you can put into play when you don't have any extra income. Usually financial wizards recommend not eating out, stopping going to movies, buying less clothing--but they never addressed what you do if you almost never do any of those things to begin with. There were ideas I never would have thought of, but make perfect sense as lifelines to help you get out of debt and prepare for your future.

The only thing I might have added, and this is only because I'm a big reader of fiction--which this is not--is that I wanted to picture the room they were sitting in while they were all talking. I'm used to having a mental image to ground a conversation in, and lacking that distracted me because I'd picture them in various places including a boardroom, then a living room with Brett in an overstuffed, light chair with green stripes and flowers on it. (You're welcome, Brett.) But that's just me. The usual, normal public will be just fine.

The bits of comic relief sprinkled throughout was welcome and perfectly timed, especially after a technical bit that most people will understand, but makes my eyes glaze over. It was nice not to feel like an idiot because Tristi made a little comment after that segment that made me really smile and realize that not only was I not alone, but so thankful that there are people out there who can help me make sense of all this.

To sum it up: finally, a book which has some great advice on how to help you if you're a real family in debt, who cooks all their meals at home, and doesn't have a $5 per day Starbucks habit to drop and pay bills with.

Sounds interesting? Well, for now until June 15th, you can get a copy of this book for free! You only have to pay $5.95 for shipping and handling. Go to the website Million Dollar Diva , and click on the side link where it says, "Get your free author copy here."

If you are reading this past June 15th, you can purchase the book here: Amazon Link


The authors: Brett Kitchen, Tristi Pinkston, and Ethan Kapp

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Book Review About Grandmotherly Detectives and Cabana Boys




Okay. Not all of the grandmotherly detectives like cabana boys, and Tansy and Ida Mae are both a little surprised that straitlaced Arlette does--after all, at home, she's the one who keeps people whipped into shape.

However, this is not home. It's Mexico, where the three friends have come to bring Ida Mae's nephew, Ren, home from his mission. They go a few days early to have a dream vacation before meeting Ren, who is doing his best to end his mission quietly (except for his movie quotes) and with honor. Little does he know what lies in store. When Aunt Ida Mae is around, things are never ordinary.

Sun, sand, surf, jewel thieves, who needs anything more, right? You're probably thinking, "Wait, jewel thieves?" Yep. Trouble finds the silver-haired sleuths running straight into the clutches of not one, but two international jewel/artifact thieves. Or is it really one legitimate thief and one not-so-legitimate thief? Who knows? What we do know is that one way or another, Ida Mae and her friends will find a way to solve the mystery, or else they might not come back from their tropical vacation.

Targets and Ties by Tristi Pinkston is a clean, mild-mannered mystery with a little extra fun, a whole lotta spunk, and a touch of religion. One of my favorite things about this book is how Tristi has developed all her characters. Each one has a very defined personality. I'd love to be on an adventure with these gals.  The humor is clever, which I love. An easy, quick read, Targets in Ties is great for an entertaining getaway that doesn't get your heart pounding so hard you can't settle down at night, but keeps you turning pages wondering what Ida Mae and her cohorts friends are going to do next.

I am so looking forward to the next one in this series!

Tristi is celebrating the release of Targets and Ties by giving away a prize! (I'm a poet and I know it! Well . . . kind of. Maybe.)

The goods:


Leave a comment on this blog post, and go visit Tristi's blog at http://www.tristipinkston.blogspot.com and become a follower.  You will then be entered to win this fun scrapbooking pack, including paper, tags, two decals, and metal tag frames. You have until midnight Mountain time on March 3rd to enter to win.






The lovely author herself!

Buy Targets in Ties online at Amazon

Visit Tristi's website for info about all of her books. I highly recommend it. I mean them. The website and the books. 


*I was not bribed in any way for my review, though if someone offered me Cadbury caramel eggs or Reese's pb eggs, I might cave. Or eat them in a cave. With some of Tristi's books for company. Give me a fuzzy blanket and a warm fire to keep away wild animals, and I'm in 100%.*

Friday, February 3, 2012

Book Review: Family by Design




Rena Jorgensen has everything a thirty-something single woman could want: a career as an interior decorator that is growing by leaps and bounds; a steady, pleasant boyfriend; loving parents and siblings, and a best friend. 

The problem? 

While Rena is in love and has a boyfriend, the two do not go hand-in-hand. Rena finds herself trying to tamp down feelings for her longtime best friend, Tucker. Dashing and handsome, no man Rena dates comes close to measuring up to Tucker. But Rena's been friends with him long enough that she knows he'll never see her as anything but a buddy.

When Tucker's brother and sister-in-law perish as the result of an accident, he is faced with a dilemma-- in the form of his small niece and nephew. Tucker has promised his brother he'll take care of the children, but being in the military means he could be called in from the reserves at any time, and Social Services has reservations about him being a single father in that situation. 

Tucker can only come up with one plan to keep his brother's children: marriage. And he only knows one woman well enough to consider asking. The question is, as much as Rena wants love, children, and a family, will accepting a ready-made one--with the possibility of no deep, romantic love--be the best decision she'll ever make, or the worst disaster ever?

My Review

For me, the test of enjoying a book is whether it draws me. If I'm interested in a story and what happens, I keep thinking about it until I reach the end. 

Family by Design drew me in, and I couldn't wait to finish it. A couple of nights ago, after my kids and husband went to bed, I got my chance. I curled up with some butter pecan ice cream, a warm, fleece blanket, and Family by Design.

One of the things I enjoy most about Heather Justesen's writing is the attention she gives her female leads. They are strong without being obnoxious, and very smart, yet have a tender, vulnerable side to them. I am always interested in their careers. Heather obviously does her research, and that helps the characters' jobs to be entertaining, which sets her books apart in this area. I always feel like I'm learning from an insider's perspective on an industry. 

The romance in this book is very nicely done. The kisses were sweet and very romantic while staying clean. I was agonizing through much of this book, which to me is the hallmark of a good romance. I did yearn for Rena to ask Tucker point-blank what his problem was with an emotional issue. But that's another reason I kept going back to the story, because I couldn't reach in there and shake the characters, so I had to find out what happened!

I particularly liked how realistically the children were depicted, with all their trials. The children were treated like the real characters (And in the case of the nephew, I do mean character!) they were, which added to the tenderness and sweetness of the story. I really enjoyed reading how Rena dealt with her hardships, and appreciated the fact that they weren't glossed over. Being an LDS-themed book, I did wonder where her church family was, especially after certain plot points, but I was so interested in the story that I soon forgot about that. Rena is a down-to-earth heroine who is easy to relate to, and I couldn't help but agonize and root for her. I'm looking forward to Heather Justesen's next book! 

Also, as a special promotion for anyone who buys a book ( Amazon Barnes and Noble )before February 5th, you can get a free ebook for her companion novella, “Shear Luck.” Once you buy a copy of her book go here Shear Luck  to get your free copy! 

As if that weren’t enough, Heather’s holding a host of giveaways! There are still prizes left, so hurry to her blog to find the rules of entering!







*I wasn't compensated in any way for this review.*

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Confession Time--There is One Thing I Miss About Those Pounds . . .

I could go on about all the emotional, physical, and mental changes that go along with tossing off the equivalent weight of a food service-sized bag of flour, but as much of an adjustment as that is, I wouldn't ever want those pounds back. I haven't let myself forget how hard it was to begin Zumba at that size. I'd been doing Dance Dance Revolution on the Wii, and thought I was ready.

I thought I was ready.

That first time, around a year and a half ago, I didn't know how I'd make it. We did the warm-up, and all that was running through my head was if this is only the warm-up, I'm going to die. And it felt like I was. I got nauseated, had to gulp water like I was at an oasis in the Sahara, and felt so frustrated with the state I'd gotten myself in. My brain knew the way my body should go, but it felt like I was in a dream running in slow motion. (At least in real life no bears were chasing me.) Not to mention that when I did get my feet in the right direction, a half second off the beat, my stomach was still swinging the other way. You know those hula hoop performers who use the momentum of their bodies to keep the hoops in play? Well, I was fighting to keep my hoops all in the air.

But I stuck with it, and even with some ups and downs in the summer, continued to lose weight. I rededicated myself to my health in the fall, and actually met two goals I set for myself to reach by Christmas and New Year's, which was AMAZING. I can't even begin to tell you how good that felt--me, who would make goals and not reach them over and over, actually made a couple of goals, and worked hard, not thinking I'd get there, but I did. Even with injuries and illness, I didn't give up (just waited until I could work out safely again), and most of the time I can actually do the jumps in class now, even though I need better--ahem--support so certain appendages won't threaten to hit me in the face.

For the first time in many years, I can actually find clothes that fit me, and I don't mind looking at them in the mirror when they're on me. As I've said to my husband, "You can drape a sack of potatoes in silk and it will still look like a sack of potatoes." Or in other words, lumpy. I still have plenty of lumps, but they're easier to work with than they used to be.

The only, and I mean only thing I've ever thought was a plus (pardon the pun) about being heavier was how well fat insulates. I'd forgotten that little tidbit until our weather plummeted to the teens overnight, and I ran out to the grocery store Thursday evening. I'm much colder this year, but I'd rather be freezing than have more insulation! Since I have the last half of the weight to lose, here's to attaining icicle status by next winter! For now I'll stick with my current warming strategies--Zumba, sweaters and socks, and swiping the soft, snuggly, fleece BYU blanket I made James for Christmas.

Sorry, honey.

The difference this time is that I want this. I thought I wanted it before, but I didn't want it enough to do what I needed to do until one day in particular, which I will post about at some time in the future.

The difference now is that I made a commitment to myself, a plan, and I made my smaller goals small enough that I could reach them and build on them with more. The more successes I have, the better I feel about myself, and the results are extremely satisfying.

The difference is not only do I know I can do this, I am doing this. I'm finding the me who has been trying to get back out for years. And not only get back out, but emerge stronger than ever before--even though I gave in and feasted on chocolate today (and Thursday too, though it's funny that I lost weight Friday morning). The old me would have thrown her hands up in the air and quit. The new me?

She keeps going. And she'll have a lot of greens tomorrow to balance out that chocolate.