Salt & Storm by Kendal Kulper

Salt & StormSalt & Storm by Kendall Kulper

A sweeping historical romance about a witch who foresees her own murder–and the one boy who can help change her future.

Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island’s whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she’s to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.

Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane–a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever find the perfect book at the perfect time? This was that book for me. I began reading this book during a holiday to the Western US Coast and it was absolutely perfect for the trip. The scenery described in it was so wonderfully written that I looked around at some points and felt like I was walking through the pages of the book.

The main character is very well written. It was easy for me to identify with her feelings and for me to like her. This story is written full of magic and surprises. If you are into magic realism and enjoy tales that feature family heritage and passed down secrets, this will surely keep enticing you until the very last page.

I loved this book. The love story was sweet and important to the decisions the main character made, but never felt contrived or overly forced. I enjoyed the secondary characters and thought the author did an excellent job of making them memorable.

The setting was great and the time period seemed appropriate to the feel of the story. I am very happy to recommend this book to other readers. If you are looking for something that will make you feel as if you have left the world you see every day and experience something new, this would be a great book to choose.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

The Great American Slow Cooker Book: 500 Easy Recipes for Every Day and Every Size Machine

The Great American Slow Cooker Book: 500 Easy Recipes for Every Day and Every Size MachineThe Great American Slow Cooker Book: 500 Easy Recipes for Every Day and Every Size Machine by Bruce Weinstein

The ultimate in slow-cooker books–with 500 recipes, each adapted for three sizes of appliance. From breakfast to soups, mains to grains, vegetables to desserts, this guide is the only book you’ll ever need to master your slow cooker or crockpot.

Millions of people are turning to slow cookers for their weeknight meals yet often can’t find recipes that match their exact machine. Adapting recipes meant for a different-size cooker doesn’t work–getting the right level of spice in your Vietnamese soup or keeping pulled pork tender requires having ingredients in the right proportion. But now, Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough have decoded slow cookers, and each of their recipes includes ingredient proportions for 2-3 quart, 4-5 quart, and 6-8 quart machines, guaranteeing a perfect fit no matter what machine you own. Each recipe is labeled for its level of difficulty and nutritional value, and they cover every kind of dish imaginable: delicious breakfast oatmeals, slow-braised meats, succulent vegetables, sweet jams and savory sauces, decadent desserts. This is the slow cooker book to end them all.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is really good for the cook who doesn’t have a tremendous amount of time to prepare meals big enough for an entire family. I liked that there were measurements for various sized slow cookers, so you don’t have to guess how much of something you will need to make an adjustment.

There are a lot of recipes in this book (500 to be exact) and many of them do not require special ingredients that most people won’t have on hand. The recipes are not time consuming and are easy enough that even the kids can help.

There are recipes here for every meal and even for drinks and desserts, so it will cover all the basics. The recipes can be easily adjusted to suit your personal tastes and become family favourites.

I enjoyed the way this book is set up, with variations on basic recipes. There are a lot of things I never would have thought of doing with a slow cooker that I discovered in these pages.

This would make a nice gift or just a good go-to book for anyone’s kitchen.

Recommended.

Mirror Interview # 5 Luccia Gray

*Today our guest is the lovely and talented Luccia Gray. Please welcome her and take a moment to say hello and check out her work! If you would like to do your own mirror interview–it’s a lot of fun talking to yourself–go to the contact me page and send me an email :) CIMG4315

Why do you use a pen name?

There is a long literary tradition of writers using pen names. 19th century authors were keen users; Currer, Acton and Ellis Bell (the Brontes), George Elliot, (Mary Anne Evans), George Sand, Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain. There are many contemporary examples, too: Anne Perry, Anne Rice, and Toni Morrison, among others. No doubt their reasons are/were varied. There is no one reason why a writer decides to write with a pen name.

I started using a pen name because I wanted my ‘writing persona’ to be distinct to my ‘ordinary persona’. I don’t consider it a pseudonym because I don’t keep it a secret. I consider it my ‘artistic name’. I’m trying to keep both ‘personas’ apart professionally, although they sometimes overlap.

Why Luccia Gray?

My pen name is part of me, so it’s an anagram of my birth name: Lucy Garcia. I changed the letters around to produce Luccia Gray. I feel comfortable using it. I consider it a tribute to myself, because I’m finally accomplishing my life-long dream to publish my work and become an author.

How does Lucy feel about Luccia?

Luccia is very special and fragile. She’s insecure, sensitive, and very creative. Lucy is assertive, strong-minded, and very practical. Lucy is very proud of Luccia, and Luccia is glad Lucy found the time, and peace of mind, to give birth to her. I know it sounds weird, but we both feel very pleased with this arrangement!

Why should I read your novel?

All Hallows at Eyre Hall, is a great read. It’s an intriguing and exciting neo Victorian, gothic novel, set in an imposing mansion, frequented by villains, heroes, lovers, and ghosts. I challenge you to read chapter one, and you won’t be able to put it down!

Which are your favourite lines in the novel?

All Hallows is a powerful novel. The characters who breathe life into the narrative are all unique and impressive, that is why so many have been given a voice and a point of view.

There are some beautiful and intriguing letters in the novel. The following extract is from a letter written by one of my favourite characters:

‘My hand trembles as I write this letter. I humbly entreat you to consider it a token of my eternal loyalty and adoration. I can no longer wait in silence while I watch you suffer unjustly. You are not alone. The place I most cherish is by your side, or better still, in your shadow. I offer myself to you in humble and loyal service for the rest of my days. For you alone, I live, I hope, and pray. I will do anything to alleviate your distress and contribute to your contentment. You alone shall be my mistress. My only wish is to remain as close to you as I should be allowed.’

What are you working on now?

I published All Hallows at Eyre Hall as an ebook in May, and it will also be available in print, soon. It is book one of The Eyre Hall Trilogy. I’m currently writing book two, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, which should be out at Christmas 2014. Book three, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, is due next summer, 2015.

Why did you decide to self-publish?

It seemed to be a daunting task to find an agent and/or a publisher, and I didn’t want to wait around for replies to query letters, so I just got on with it! I wrote my first novel, found wonderful beta readers, to test my novel and get quality feedback, a proof-reader, and a cover artist. I finally formatted for Amazon and CreateSpace on my own. Now I’m busy writing and promoting my book, myself.

Quite honestly, it has been a fascinating journey, and I’ve met so many wonderful people along the way, in the last eight months, that I’m really glad I decided to do it by myself. On the other hand, I would be delighted to find an agent and a publisher, to help me with practical matters, so that I could get on with my writing…

More Information and to contact Luccia Gray:

Visit Luccia Gray’s Blog at http://www.lucciagray.com

Read the first chapter of All Hallows at Eyre Hall: http://www.amazon.com/All-Hallows-Eyre-Hall-Breathtaking-ebook/dp/B00K2G4SXW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1405987048&sr=8-1&keywords=luccia+gray#reader_B00K2G4SXW

If you are interested in reviewing this novel, please contact me at luccia.gray@gmail.com

Follow Luccia on Twitter: @LucciaGray

Visit Luccia on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8186541.Luccia_Gray

Like Luccia’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LucciaGray?ref=hl

Salvation by W.A. Heisler

SalvationSalvation by W.A. Heisler

Salvation is a fast-paced book of horror garunteed to raise the hairs on the back of the neck. It’s style has been compared to the works of Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Salvation begins with a frantic phone call to Father Brian Halloway from Eric Parkins, a parishioner in his church, who is desperate to find answers to his wife’s strange behavior following the death of her mother. It seems to Halloway that the woman is simply having difficulty coping with her grief, and nothing seems out of the ordinary. Until he is told about the “thing” in the basement. And how Sylvia changes after nightfall. It is then, the priest begins to worry. After witnessing Sylvia’s disturbing and violent behavior for himself, Halloway comes to the conclusion that something has gone horribly wrong at 1312 Lafayette Drive. Fearing for the safety of the couple, Halloway enlists the help of his longtime friend and fellow priest Father Michael Constantine, a priest chosen to fight the deadliest of wars, and the keeper of New York Dioceses’ darkest secret. It is then the dark war begins. Constantine, joined by Father James Connelly, a young priest eager to prove himself to his mentor, along with Halloway, Sylvia’s husband, and her brother, Mark Barnett, a doctor who is hiding his own dangerous secret set out to engage the invading entity. The men quickly come face to face with a savage, brutal being that snakes its way into the darkest depths of their psyches in its unyielding and vicious attempts to destroy them and all who participate in its “game.” The book climaxes with the entrance of Arandavius, a dark, tragic figure, fallen with Lucifer after The Great War. A fallen angel who walks the earth and claims hismission is to send the demon back to its “Realm.” A being Constantine knows has held one title since his expulsion. Arandavius: The Overlord of Legion. Constantine finds himself trying to save a woman who is now caught in the middle of a vicious game of cat-and-mouse between two demons-one, a brutal, sadistic being who holds the life and soul of its victim in its clutches-the other, the most savage and merciless of Legion’s warriors. A game both beings are willing to play out to its explosive and bloody end. Welcome to darkness. Welcome.to the game.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked this book!

The horror genre can go either way for me. Sometimes I really like the idea, but the execution seems off, or the book is too bloody and gory. It is hard to find a horror novel that keeps up an intense pace without coming off as silly or losing speed as it goes along. This book never slows down and is interesting right to the very end.

If you have ever read a book and wished that you could keep one of the characters as a friend or ally once the book is finished, then you will know what I mean when I say that I was sorry to see fallen angel Arandavius go. He was the type of character that you can’t help but love. He should get his own series.

The author did a fantastic job of coming up with an original idea about what happens with fallen angels and creating a scenario that made me stop and think. I was very impressed with the possession scenes as they stayed consistent throughout the story and didn’t waver. I didn’t want to go to sleep with the light off.

This book takes what happened in the exorcist and makes it look like a mild case of PMS. I appreciated that the author was able to make this possession not only span the entire book, but involve multiple characters. I was pleasantly surprised by the way the story unfolded. I expected most of the cast to be wiped out before the end of the book, and that did not happen. I love it when you can’t predict an ending.

The only thing that left me a little disappointed in this novel was that Eric and Sylvia didn’t get more of the stage for their last act. For a story that was built surrounding them from the beginning, I thought thy should have been followed up a bit more before the close of the book.

This is an excellent book, and even for those who aren’t a particular fan of horror, I think this could still be appealing.

Recommended.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

The Art Restorer by Julian Sanchez

The Art RestorerThe Art Restorer by Julián Sánchez

Enrique Alonso travels from his new home in Manhattan to San Sebastián, Spain, to attend the reopening of the San Telmo museum, where his ex-wife, Bety, works in public relations. There he meets American Craig Bruckner, a retired art restorer studying the museum’s collection of works by Sert—a contemporary of Picasso and Dalí who worked for the most famous billionaires of his time and whose mural American Progress graces the walls of Rockefeller Center. When Bruckner is found drowned in La Concha bay, Bety suspects foul play and Enrique agrees to help her look into the man’s death. Their investigation reveals a mystery connected with Sert’s checkered past, which provides fertile ground for the new thriller Enrique is writing, and the plot develops in parallel to his research.

Enrique and Bety’s reconstruction of the artist’s clandestine activities during World War II leads them to Paris, Barcelona, and New York, and in the process forces them to face their own past. But they are not the only ones interested in Sert’s work, and it appears there is more to his paintings than meets the eye.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The Art Restorer” Is a very relaxing, well written book with a lot of careful mystery.

This is my first work by Julian Sanchez, as I did not read the first book in this series. I don’t think that it is necessary to do so in order to understand this book. There are frequent references to things that happened previously, and I felt like I had enough of an overall picture of the main character’s life to navigate this book just fine.

Whilst I greatly enjoyed this book, there are a few strange passages, where the sentence construction seems off, but that is likely due to translation. For the most part I found this to be a well-paced, interesting journey.

The setting is beautifully described and from the very beginning, the idea that the main character is such a real, down to earth type of person permeates the story. I felt close to him from the beginning, and as a result felt close to the characters he cared about.

Knowing that he is battling his own inner demons and trying to make decisions about his life was a good aside to the rest of the story he is a complex character with a big heart and a conscience that wills him to do the right thing in all situations. Most of the events that happened were believable and there is quite a lot of excitement after the first third of the story, where most of the setup happens.

I was very impressed with this book. If you are a fan of art history, captivating backdrops and imaginative writing, I am certain you will enjoy this novel.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Spooky Word Scrambles by Carolyn Kivett and Chris McMullen

Spooky Word ScramblesSpooky Word Scrambles by Carolyn Kivett and Chris McMullen

These word scramble puzzles consist of spooky words or phrases where the letters have been scrambled. Many of the puzzles relate to Halloween in some way. Solve each puzzle by rearranging the letters to form the word or phrase. For example, rearranging the letters M O B I Z E, we can form the word Z O M B I E. Each puzzle consists of a group of related words or phrases, such as words that relate to ghosts or different kinds of Halloween costumes. Knowing that the words in each puzzle are related may help you unscramble any words or phrases that you don’t see right away. A hints section at the back of the book provides the first letter of each answer, which is handy if you just need a little help; a separate section provides the answers so that you can check your solutions.EXAMPLES P A C EG S A F ND O B O LK A T E SN O C T UT A Y B TM A P R E V IA L C A R D UANSWERS cape, fangs, blood, stake, count, batty, vampire, Dracula.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Confession: I am such a kid. Really, I had as much fun with this book as the kids I work with did. There are a lot of benefits for children in exploring word scrambles. Elementary children will no doubt find these puzzles fun and challenging, and it is a great way to reinforce proper spelling. For ESL kids, word scrambles are a fun and easy way to help them rearrange letters and learn new words, plus the act of writing them down helps with memory retention.

I was particularly happy with the way this book was arranged, not only because of the fun Halloween theme, but because there is a challenging word at the bottom of each page that is the theme for that set of puzzles. The kids loved it and kept asking to do more puzzles. For a teacher, especially with a large group of kids, this was gold.

Don’t worry parents and teachers, if you don’t have time to figure out if the student was right about each answer, there is a key in the back for us big people.

This is definitely a book that I see helping kids to learn and retain correct spelling. An excellent choice and whole lot of fun. Recommended.

*If you haven’t run into Chris McMullen during your travels around WordPress yet, please do so here

Chris McMullen’s slightly more awesome and much less lewd blog than mine:   chrismcmullen.com

Aside from writing fine educational books, he also writes very helpful articles for authors about marketing, design and other writing essentials. Plus, he is really good at physics so you can ask him annoying questions about the human mind, naturalism, the philosophy of science, Steven Hawking, or Higgs Boson and he will surely blame me. Either way he’s a great guy with a lot of valuable info on his site. Go then. Why you wasting your time here? gooooo……

And this post would not be complete without:

*@$%

The Language of Silence

The Language of SilenceThe Language of Silence by Anna Michaels

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars

This is at once a difficult book to read and an easily flowing tale that will captivate your senses and make your heart bleed for the main character.

The difficulty is not found in the writing style. The author has crafted a beautiful book full of memorable characters that capture your heart and make you really feel for them and their various plights. The main character is a strong female protagonist but does not come off as a staunch feminist. She has a layered personality including a light and silly side that makes you love her.

The difficulty comes in the subject matter. If you have read other books about abused women, such as Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen, then you know how traumatic reading such novels can be. This book is at times heart-wrenching, but beautiful just the same. Any woman who has been in an abusive relationship will no doubt find something to identify with here.

Family and friendships and unlikely bonds take centre stage in this novel and remind us that not all family has to be blood relation. The history of the circus and the demons it possesses makes for an interesting and fulfilling side story that I thought worked really well.

Where I felt this book went awry, was the ending. This was such a serious book throughout, and I expected a big finish where the bad guy got his in the end. I never felt that happened. His goodbye was perhaps creative, and most definitely original, but not altogether believable. In fact, I thought it bordered on silliness. I was left with questions about the safety of the main character and her child.

Still this was a book worthy of the time to read and I will always be happy I had the chance to do so. It is very special to me, for many reasons. I would encourage others to give it a read and form their own opinions about it.

This is the kind of book you want to share with someone you love. Life, second chances, courage and the bravery we don’t always believe we possess until we have to face a situation that draws it out of us are all prevalent themes in this book.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.