Monday, December 31, 2012

Secondhand Charm by Julie Berry

In a secluded village, magic sparkles on the edges of the forest. There, a young girl named Evie possesses unusually strong powers as a healer. A gypsy's charms—no more than trinkets when worn by others—are remarkably potent when Evie ties them around her neck. Her talents, and charms, have not escaped the notice of the shy stonemason's apprentice. But Evie wants more than a quiet village and the boy next-door. When the young king's carriage arrives one day, and his footman has fallen ill, Evie might just get her chance after all . . . 

Berry's debut novel garnered glowing reviews and strong sales—and now she's done it again with a beautifully woven tale to keep all readers, young and old, absolutely charmed. 

~Published October 12th 2010 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Food to Eat While Reading: ( Coming Soon)

Secondhand Charm by Julie Berry is just the kind of book I like to lose myself in. Fantastic creatures,   magic, adventure, and some boy-next-door romance thrown in.

I was surprised by all of the directions that Evie kept going, and how the plot kept twisting and turning, kind of like her serpentine water dragon. I might have been tempted to complain that things were jumping around too much, but Berry did an excellent job reminding me of the character's motivations and showing me how Evie is growing throughout the book.

There are many unique and fun things about the book that drew me in. Gypsies, leviathons, charms, kings, princes, carnivals and acting groups. Such fun!

The romance was sweet enough to make me want Evie and Aidan to get together. And who can resist a boy named Aidan Moreau?

I rode along on the wave of the story, but the ending was what cinched the deal for me. It was the perfect mix of  "Oh no, all is lost--how will they ever accomplish their goals?" to "Ahh, they lived bittersweetly ever after.". Perfectly ended (and gave me great ideas on how to tie up my own work in progress-thanks Julie!).

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault. 

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind. 

~Published January 10th 2012 by Dutton Books

Rarely have I read a book that affects me so deeply as The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I finished the book while working out on the elliptical and instead of working out for 45 minutes, I actually went over an hour and didn't even realize it! And I was bawling the whole time.

This book is more raw and edgy than I usually like to read, or recommend. However, I do recommend this book for the author's ability to reach inside the teenage mind and touch on those notes that make up the music of a life wanting to be remembered. I wish that I could put this book in my 2013 cookbook, but I don't feel comfortable recommending a book that has strong language or implicit scenes, no matter how well placed. Just saying.

Hazel's story of trying to find her place in a temporary world and leave behind something of value is heart-wrenching and inspiring.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson
Marianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she’ll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that even the best laid plans can go awry.

From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will she be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke.

~Published March 27th 2012 by Shadow Mountain

Food to Eat While Reading: Orchard Peach Pie (recipe coming shortly)

Orchard Peach Pie
for Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

I knew when I read the dedication to Edenbrooke, by Julianne Donaldson, that I would fall in love on my journey through its pages. It reads, "To kindred spirits everywhere". Edenbrooke is Anne of Green Gables meets Pride and Prejudice, a lovely combination.

Edenbrooke is the first of a line of "Proper Romances" put out by Shadow Mountain. This means that the book is without racy scenes, but not without a good dose of wholesome sexual tension.

Marianne is a refreshing contrast to the stuffy society ladies around her.  She loves to paint and ride horses and doesn't take to stifling gentlemen who write her horrible poetry. She longs to be a free spirit in the country and I can quite relate to that.

I enjoyed Marianne's journey, and though I'm not a huge fan of regency romance, the love story is sweet and the dialogue so witty that it kept my interest. Phillip is quite the catch and I found myself routing for the couple to be together.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Partials by Dan Wells

Partials by Dan Wells

Humanity is all but extinguished after a war with partials—engineered organic beings identical to humans—has decimated the world’s population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island. The threat of the partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to the disease in over a decade. Humanity’s time is running out. 

When sixteen-year-old Kira learns of her best friend’s pregnancy, she’s determined to find a solution. Then one rash decision forces Kira to flee her community with the unlikeliest of allies. As she tries desperately to save what is left of her race, she discovers that the survival of both humans and partials rests in her attempts to answer questions of the war’s origin that she never knew to ask. 

Combining the fast-paced action of The Hunger Games with the provocative themes of Battlestar Galactica, Partials is a pulse-pounding journey into a world where the very concept of what it means to be human is in question—one where our sense of humanity is both our greatest liability, and our only hope for survival.

~Published February 28th 2012 by Balzer + Bray

Food to Eat While Reading: (coming soon)

I have mixed emotions about Partials by Dan Wells.  I've met Dan a few times and I've wanted to read some of his writing, but I've been too scared (I admit it) to read his serial killer books.  So I was excited to hear that he wrote a YA dystopian. I had a hard time getting into Partials, but I do recommend it as a good read.

I'm a romance reader, and I kept waiting for the tension to increase, and so I was disappointed.  I would like to have seen some more angst going on with the characters. I have read reviews from others who say they like the book for that very reason, that they are tired of simpering teens caught in love triangles. me the love.

The idea of two factions needing each other to survive is very interesting.  I enjoyed learning about the medical issues and wondering how it would work out.

Written from a young woman's perspective, I wanted a lot more emotion. I'm not talking about weeping or crying. I'm talking more internal dialogue. I wanted to know what she's feeling, to feel the issues along with her. It lacked that for me and I kept thinking about how this was written by Wells, who is (obviously) male.

I like how Wells keeps putting the characters into more and more danger, taking away every opportunity that he can so that they have to go to plan B or C.  This increased the jeopardy for me and I never knew what was going to happen.

What I learned for my own writing:

Because Wells keeps throwing stones at his characters, it reminds me that I am supposed to make my characters feel pain.  That is what makes a great story.  I am all too often nice to my characters.

I am paying attention to endings of books right now as I try to find the right ending for my own work in progress.  I think Wells did a fine job with a climax, a short bit of falling action to show what happened afterward (just the right amount), and then an introduction to the new story problem that will be faced in book two.

Partials is a clean read; action packed, and original.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Awesome Giveaways! Nightingale by David Farland

I'm so excited to be participating in a giveaway to help you get a free book and lots of other great goodies from David Farland, the author of Nightingale and over 50 other books!

David is giving away an AUTOGRAPHED hardcover of Nightingale, the enhanced ebook, and 5 lucky winners will each receive an awesome T-shirt featuring Bron, the main character from Nightingale. A total of 7 prizes will be awarded. Enter by December 17th at midnight!

Just enter using the rafflecopter below. Enjoy!
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Win a T-shirt like this one!
Grand Prize Winner of the Hollywood Book Festival, placed first in all genres, all categories.

Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Best Young Adult Novel of the Year!

Finalist in the Global Ebook Awards
Some people sing at night to drive back the darkness.  Others sing to summon it. . . .

Bron Jones was abandoned at birth. Thrown into foster care, he was rejected by one family after another, until he met Olivia, a gifted and devoted high-school teacher who recognized him for what he really was--what her people call a "nightingale."

But Bron isn't ready to learn the truth. There are secrets that have been hidden from mankind for hundreds of thousands of years, secrets that should remain hidden. Some things are too dangerous to know.  Bron's secret may be the most dangerous of all.

In his remarkable young adult fantasy debut, David Farland shows why critics have called his work "compelling," "engrossing," "powerful," "profound," and "ultimately life-changing."

Purchase Nightingale in time for Christmas!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Irish dance in Hong Kong is not too different than in Glasgow

Isn't it amazing to see how a love of Irish dance hops and leaps over continents all over the world? I love hearing from Irish dancers from different cultures. Today I've got Kathryn O' Connor-Barton TCRG, ADCRG, who began the O'Connor-Barton Irish Dance school in Hong Kong, Asia.

Irish dancer in Hong Kong
Photo: courtesy Kathryn O'Connor-Barton
Christy Dorrity:  Please tell me about Irish dancing in Hong Kong. How long has the dance form been present, and how did your school begin?

Kathryn:  The school began in November 2011, after a move to Hong Kong for our family meant me leaving Scotland, and the irish dance school I had there, and opening a dance school in Hong Kong.

Christy Dorrity:  Where do your dancers compete and/or perform?

Kathryn:  My dancers will compete across Asia and the first open competition was November 24th, in Taiwan. We have another feis in Shanghai in March, and this will be the catalyst for Irish Dance competitions across Asia. It is very exciting to be part of this new chapter for Irish dancers in Asia.

Christy Dorrity:  Do you teach adult Irish dancers? 

Kathryn:  I teach to any age group!  I have had adult Irish dancers in the past, and have had requests to do so in Hong Kong, so this is something definitely on the agenda.

Irish dancers in along the Hong Kong skyline
Photo: courtesy Kathryn O'Connor-Barton
Christy Dorrity:  I've heard that Irish dancing is very popular in Asia. Are your dancers well received in Hong Kong?

Kathryn:  Irish Dancing is certainly growing in Asia, and my dancers are very well received wherever they perform. They recently performed in a public area, in Hong Kong, for a promotional film and drew in a massive crowd. They received an amazing unexpected response, so they were all delighted to get such a reaction.

Christy Dorrity:  You recently received your ADCRG in order to be an adjudicator. How do you feel that this help your students?

Kathryn:  I think because the Irish dance competitions are just starting across Asia, the opportunity to adjudicate outwith Asia will ensure that I keep up to date with what is 'current' in terms of choreography, costumes, networking with other teachers and adjudicators, etc. It also allows me to generate exposure for our dancers in Asia, and create interest from schools outwith our region who may be willing to travel, and take part in future Asian Feisanna.

Christy Dorrity:  Is Irish dance different for your students, who live far from feiseanna, then for you growing up in Glasgow, Scotland?

Kathryn O'Connor-Barton with the
O'Connor-Barton Irish Dance school in Hong Kong
Photo: courtesy Kathryn O'Connor-Barton
Kathryn:  There is no difference in how I teach the students or the structure of the classes, this is very similar. However, most students commit to only one class per week, compared to three or four when in Glasgow. This is due to the lifestyle out here, and children having so many opportunities to try different things. The other difference is that, until now there has been no Feisanna, but I am hopeful that this will change and that once the dancers start to compete, they will commit to coming to more classes.

Christy Dorrity:  What do you feel is the future of Irish dance in Hong Kong?

Kathryn:  For my school, it is to compete, to improve standard, to work through the grades to championship level, and to welcome more opportunities to perform at events on a local level.

Christy Dorrity:  What is your favorite thing about teaching in Hong Kong?

Kathryn:  I think the diversity is amazing. A lot of the children actually don't have an Irish heritage, but the dancers and their families are so enthusiastic to learn this form of dance, and supportive of the school and the journey we are taking.

Christy Dorrity:  Thank you so much for sharing your love of Irish dance with us. Good luck to you in the future.

Shrilugh by Myndi Shafer - 5 stars

Shrilugh by Myndi Shafer
Nothing can explain to Aydan Fulbert how she survived the savage attack in the woods. Why her left eye, instead of being blinded by the injuries she’d sustained, had simply turned a shocking shade of silver. And nothing can explain the fact that she can hear the Stranger speaking in her mind - or that she can answer him back without using her mouth.

Nothing can explain it - unless he’s telling the truth. 

Nothing can explain the things the Stranger knows about her - things that she, until just a few hours ago, hadn’t known herself: that she’d healed faster from her injuries than was humanly possible. That the cruel family she’d been raised by isn’t biologically hers. That her stepfather is now hell-bent on bringing her to his own form of justice for a crime she didn’t commit. 

Nothing can explain it - unless he’s telling the truth. 

Nothing can explain why she so easily agreed to go with the Stranger. Why she didn’t find the notion of another world ludicrous and impossible. Why she didn’t cut and run the minute he explained where he wanted to take her. 

Nothing can explain it - unless she believes he’s telling the truth. 

Aydan knows she’s being intentionally naive. She knows her decision to follow the stranger is at best, reckless. At worst, deadly. ...unless he’s telling the truth.

 ~Published August 30th 2012 by Myndi Shafer at Smashwords

Food to eat while reading: (check back later, it will be something to do with water. Odd, I know, we shall see)

I love it when I find a gem of a book that is struggling to come to light. Shirlugh (Shree-lo) is one of those books that I'm thrilled to bring to your attention. With romance, adventure, danger, emotion and otherworldliness, this is just the kind of book I like to recommend. Put this one on your to read book, right now!  It's available on Smashwords and Amazon, among other places.

There is real danger here, with emotional impact. Aydan, the heroine of the story loses here eye in the first part of the book, by the hand of her sister, no less. And there are too men in her life, the loyal and cute Brig that I dare you to try not to fall in love with, and the secretive and edgy Rein, whose past binds him so tightly to Aydan that you will be routing for him before the end.

I love stories that make me feel deeply. There are plenty of dilemmas that have emotional impact in Shirlugh. I so hurt for Aydan when she left her world.

I love Rein's world, with it's glowing Shirlugh trees and unique ways. It is a blend of Victorian society and modern ways that give it a romantic, yet contemporary feel.

There were a few copy edit issues in the ebook, and passive writing scattered throughout. But I easily forgave these small imperfections as I was drawn into Ayden's world. 

Shafer has a talent for storytelling, creating a sense of place and evoking emotion. I'll definitely be watching for more from this author.

*note, the book was clean in language and sex, however, the preview for the second book had a scene in it that I cannot recommend to young readers.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Contest for Toby Gold and the Secret Fortune by Craig Everett

Enter to win a copy of Toby Gold and the Secret Fortune, by Craig Everett. All you need to do is follow me on Google friend, which you would do anyway, right? Good luck!

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