Thursday, October 30, 2014

Everything I Never Told You

Ng, C. (2014). Everything I Never Told You. NY: Penguin Press.  Also by Blackstone Audio, narrated by Cassandra Campbell.

Adult / Realistic Fiction / Mystery that's not the focus

I gave this book 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Oh the secrets, the denial, the longing for love and acceptance that spans generations in this book.

The writing is eloquent and flowed with beautiful descriptions and figurative language. To Ng's credit, her style was such that it kept me interested, and when I did have to put it aside, I was anxiously awaiting the next chance to read/listen to it again.

The premise of the story is unclear if you don't read the jacket. The opening line tells us that Lydia Lee is dead, but no one yet knows it. A mystery? Yes, but by the end of the book, knowing the details of how Lydia died are really secondary to the back stories -- and the way back stories - of the characters. The story leaps from decade to decade, which sometimes caused confusion for me, as did the telling of the story from multiple perspectives. (though admittedly, I liked knowing exactly what the characters were thinking and feeling). For some, this might be too much information, as the reader really doesn't have to interpret much; however, there is much to ponder: what it means to be different, how parents shape their children's lives, sexism, racism. . .

Though I liked the ambitions and dreams of the young Marilyn and James, our main characters, I really didn't like the adults they became. I had little respect for Marilyn, whose selfishness and projections really hurt and mentally affected the other people in her life. Of course, I sympathized with her situations, but I could not dismiss that it was her own choices that put her in those situations. James disappointed me because by sharing his own life experiences, he could have helped his children overcome the same obstacles. Also disappointing was in how James found solace after Lydia's death; it didn't really fit what we knew of his personality. The discrimination and isolation both Marilyn and James experienced was painful, but it was not an excuse for the emotional (sometimes physical) agony which their children endured -- agony that could have been assuaged by the gentle touch, kindness, or encouragement two parents never gave to their children.

And those poor children -- Ng really tugs at the readers' heartstrings with the rawness, anger, and hopelessness these kids feel, when they desperately love their parents and want nothing more than acceptance and security, neither of which is given. Possibly Ng's best written character is the youngest child, Hannah, who is so perceptive and exceptional and patient, but completely ignored.

There was an additional subplot thrown in towards the end that really could have enriched the story; however, readers were given too little information, too fast, and the writing was too vague for it to boost the plot. The ending was satisfactory, but be prepared to be left with some questions and without some clarifications that would have taken it to the next level.

Thank you to Penguin for providing me a free eBook and also to Ford Audio Book Club for a free audio copy in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give. It was nice to have both formats so I didn't have to break from the book much - spoiled rotten!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Lost In Translation

Sanders, Ella F. (2014), Lost In Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.

All Ages / Non-Fiction / Language

I gave this book 4 out of 5 Stars.

I must start off by clarifying that I would have given this book SIX STARS (yes, more than possible) because I love the idea and the selection of words that Ella Frances Sanders found and shared -- and the book's colors and illustrations are beautiful and fun. I love language, pure and simple. Why not six stars then? I will get to that, but first I must gush. 
"The road-like reflection of the moon in the water." There's a word for that!
Here is a beautiful picture I took on the beach in Galveston, TX in the summer of 2013. I love how the moon reflects down on the water, like it's a path put in front of me, begging me to follow it. (Then I remind myself about the sharkie-sharks that live out there and the moment is gone.) The Swedish have a word for this whole scenario - mangata. Mangata!  I love seeing mangata and mangata loves me! Sanders connected me to this word that I will now use every occasion I am fortunate enough to witness it. 

Another favorite word from the book is 'akihi, which is an affliction I have and sadly, all of the males in my house have it as well.  'Akihi is listening to directions and then immediately forgetting them. It's really an international crisis, so why shouldn't we use the name it was rightfully given?  As an aside, I'm not surprised that the Hawaiian's have this word; I have visited Hawaii many times and asked for directions many more, and suffered 'ahiki pert near every time.

Why not a SIX STAR REVIEW, you ask?  This isn't the answer, but I have to share this because anyone who knows me and my grammar police freakishness will understand. I opened the book to the introduction, and the (tiny little printed) title read, "How you do introduce the untranslatable?" "How YOU DO introduce the untranslatable?" Whaaahuuuhh?? A goof in the very first (tiny little printed) sentence of the book? I was dangerously close to closing the cover right then. Thankfully, I got over that issue, and the only real problem I found with the book is in the choice for the color/font/size combination that was used to define each word -- the combo was okay when it had a completely white background (okay), but with colors and textures behind it, I had to spend too much time figuring out what was being said.  Here's an example from the book, defining the Arabic word ya 'aburnee, which incidentally, is the deal I have with my husband, whether he likes it or not.
Maybe it's just my old eyes -- certainly, that doesn't help -- but this was just tough to read, and it's a fabulously useful word for me. 

How I wish there had been a pronunciation guide to go along with the words, but that would have made the book way too serious for most people. Most people, I do understand, are not like me with language.  And truly, what Sanders provides is enough to delight any reader. Happily, I have Swedish, Hawaiian, and Arabic connections to help me with my three favorites, but finding native speakers of Tulu, Tagalog, and Urdu might prove more challenging!

Thank you to Blogging For Books for providing me a hardcover copy (to have and hold forever!) in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Bright Side of Life: A Charlie Brightman Story

Freeman, A.L. (2014). The Bright Side of Life: A Charlie Brightman Story. Annette Freeman.

Adult / Humor / Realistic Fiction

I gave this book 4 of 5 stars on Goodreads

“Charlie believes he can take London theatre by storm . . . despite bad luck and bad parts.” What an understatement!  In A.L. Freeman’s The Bright Side of Life, we meet Charlie Brightman: an uber-optimistic young actor who arrives in London with an acting scholarship, a fabulous wardrobe, and the theatre world at his feet.   Well, he would have the theatre world at his feet if he didn’t have the most ridiculously bad luck of any human that ever lived.  It seems that whatever Charlie gets is immediately taken away from him, often in a somewhat humiliating manner.  A lesser man would let it get him down, but not Charlie Brightman!  Disasters of finance, acting, women, and even fashion don’t discourage Charlie; he perseveres, ever the confident fellow.   When all seems lost, and Charlie’s circumstances are about as low as low can go, opportunity comes knocking from a casting agent with a major offer.  Is this the big break that Charlie’s been waiting for or just one more nail in his acting coffin?

Oh, the pain – and hilarity – of watching Charlie Brightman try to make his way in London, in theatre, and in life.   As I read The Bright Side of Life, the lyrics to Chumbawumba’s 90s hit kept running through my mind: “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You're never gonna keep me down.”  And, where Chumbawumba’s escapist drinks of choice were whiskey, vodka, lager, and cider, all good ol’ Charlie needs to keep standing -- or to fall into a drunken sleep -- is a good gin.  A good gin, which along with food and cash, he most frequently has to beg, steal, or borrow.  Remember Wimpy, from the old Popeye cartoons?  “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” This is Charlie. 

 A.L. Freeman’s writing is outstanding and in both the writing and characterization, it truly catches the nuances of the British world that Australian Charlie has entered.  Readers will find themselves shaking their heads at Charlie’s poor decisions and their consequences, and even more so with Charlie’s unwavering, almost supernatural optimism.   The first half of the story drags a bit, but there are laugh-out-loud moments as Charlie finds himself in a variety of situations which always are the worst possible outcomes.  The story tied-up a bit too neatly for my liking, and it was a bit of a stretch to believe the particulars in how the ending played out, but all in all, it worked, and readers will turn the last page feeling like their time was well spent. 

This book was reviewed for Readers' Favorite, who provided me a free eBook in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Psycho Thrill: Suffer, My Sweet

Thurner, M. (2014). Suffer, My Sweet. Bastei Entertainment.

Adult / New Adult / Horror

I gave this book 5 of 5 Stars on Goodreads

Suffer, My Sweet, by Michael Marcus Thurner, opens at a twenty year high school reunion, where the formerly perceived as awkward, dumb-as-dirt, weirdo Evelyn has blossomed into a wildly sexy, rich, and powerful woman. Marco, who now barely ekes out a living, detested Evelyn in their school days.  Despite relentlessly teasing and mocking Evelyn all those years ago, Marco finds himself drawn to Evi and easily succumbs when she seduces him, which starts a lusty affair. Marco, blinded by mind-blowing sex, ignores his unease at Evi's peculiarities and doesn't remember them -- or the cruelties she endured from his friends and him. But Evi hasn't forgotten, and Marco soon finds out that Evi's childhood hobbies have evolved into something more horrifying than he could ever imagine. Suffer, My Sweet is one in a series of horror novellas in the Psycho Thrill series, now published in English.

Bullies, beware! In Psycho Thrill: Suffer, My Sweet, for a victim, even twenty years isn't too long to wait to execute the perfect -- and perfectly horrifying -- revenge.  Reminiscent of an episode from Tales from the Crypt, the creepiness builds slowly and steadily.  Marco senses something is amiss and disturbing about Evi, but his lust compels him to see her again. I appreciated that though there were sex scenes, it was left mostly to the reader's imagination as to the details.  Readers will be driven to keep reading, despite the unsettling discoveries at each turn of the page. Author Michael Marcus Thurner does an excellent job of foreshadowing through subtle repetition, and Claire Brooks's translation keeps the tension and suspense growing to the story's shocking, brutal conclusion.  Thurner accomplishes a lot in a short period of time, and readers will be thinking about this story long after turning the last page.

This book was reviewed for Readers' Favorite, who provided me a free eBook in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give.


Friday, October 17, 2014

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You

Carter, A. (2006). I'd tell you I love you, but then I'd have to kill you. Brilliance Audio.

YA / Middle Grade / Romance / Adventure

I gave this audiobook 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads

The cover reminds me so much of Cher from the movie Clueless that I had a hard time overcoming that personna in ITYILYBTIHTKY (lazy me, I know) which is a fluffy, fun book.  Apparently, the Gallagher Girl Series, of which this book is the first, is being optioned for a movie.   

Unfortunately, the narrator's voice on this audiobook drove me crazy both as the main character, Cammie, but also as Cammie's boyfriend, Josh. Every time Josh spoke, I was reminded of Rudolph once he becomes an adolescent reindeer. Ugh. And the drawl used to voice Cammie's "southern friend," Bex, was ridiculous. I'm from the south, and no, that just doesn't happen.

The characters had very interesting back stories, but unfortunately, the story didn't really go there too much. And I was a bit disappointed that despite Cammie's supposed exceptional status as a genius, she made some dumb-girl-in-love mistakes. Love trumps reason?

As for the story, it definitely had some humorous parts and great one liners, plus a bit of mystery to unravel - much of which doesn't get done in this book. As I mentioned, this is the first of the Gallagher Girls series, and I might give the second a try, but only in print. I am still haunted by that narrator's voice. **shivers**

There is no profanity, and no more intimacy than hold handing, and mild violence (but there is one scene that's a little intense where Cammie thinks her friends have been tortured). Positive role models and positive messages abound. Even though the characters are sophomores in high school, I'd recommend it for tweens and middle graders.

I read Ally Carter's Heist Society a few years back, and I wasn't super sold on it, either. I think I just don't enjoy the way she writes teenaged girls, though I give her snaps for making them smart and independent. Always a fan of that.

Thank you to SYNC Audio for the free download. There were no strings attached! 

You can read more about the Gallagher Girls series, movie option, and author Ally Carter on her website

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Soulless Blog Tour & Giveaways!

Welcome to the Hall Ways stop on the tour! I am so excited to be sharing an excerpt from Crystal's fabulous book and a chance to win EIGHT SEPARATE PRIZES including an Amazon gift card, a bunch of books -- including signed copies of Moonless and Soulless from the Maiden of Time series -- and more!! Keep following the Soulless Blog Tour for more excerpts, interviews with the author, reviews, and a few surprises!


What reviewers are saying:

"5 Stars." - Invincible Love of Reading Book Blog

"I LOVED it! So good. Seriously...exceeded my expectations." -Kristin Smith, advanced reviewer

"Entirely unique and chilling." Gabby @ What’s Beyond Forks

"Unputdownable." T.C. Mckee, BookFish Books


A shadow stepped from the trees, a woman with long, auburn hair and ghostly-pale skin. She smirked wickedly at Alexia before turning her attention to Kiren. She rubbed her temples.

Kiren shuddered. The woman glared at him. He grabbed his head with one hand, toppling onto an elbow.

Alexia stepped forward. The woman’s face slackened, hands dropping.

Bellezza leapt between them, her hideous snarl turned to the attacker. “Only a coward fights from the shadows. I hate cowards.” Her chin lifted toward Alexia. “Cover your ears!”

Alexia obeyed but the girl’s shriek pierced through her fingers. Her heart clenched and ceased beating. Red lines zipped across her vision. She landed on her hip, begging for Bellezza to stop. The sting of pollen haunted her nose, like the sick perfume of soon-to-be decay.


Her heart thudded again. Alexia’s head snapped up.

The deadly child crouched, muscles tight, head turned—as if listening to something behind her. Their attacker was gone.

Alexia twisted.

The estate sat on the shoulders of thick blackness. At least a hundred red eyes pierced through the darkness, a blanket of ragged pitch writhing across the yard.

The Soulless.


Get your free copy of book 1, MOONLESS, October 13, 20, 27, 31 or Nov 7.

Author Bio:

Crystal Collier is a young adult author who pens dark fantasy, historical, and romance hybrids. She can be found practicing her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, four littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese. 

You can find her on her Blog, Facebook, Goodreads, or follow her on Twitter.

Blog Stops:
October 13:
C. Lee Mckenzie: Things that are Evil (Vlog post)
Stephanie Faris: How did the SOULLESS cover happen?
Media Sharif: Action Excerpt
Kristine @ Hall Ways: Stellar Review, speaking of covers...
October 14:
Mermaid with a Book: A Super Review
Elizabeth Arundel @ Unicorn Bell: The truth of being published (and some Doctor Who)
C.M. Brown: A steamy excerpt
Susan Oloier: Meet the Soulless up close
October 15:
Sarah Foster @ The Faux Fountain Pen: Meet Mae
Kristin Smith @ Swords and Stilettoes: John's Story
M. Pax: The Fall of the Leader
Krystal Jane @ The Narcissistic Rose: Author Interview
DL Hammons: Author interview
October 16:
Kristine @ Hall Ways: Greater Enemies
Kurt’s D. Springs @ Review
Barb Taub: Review
October 17:
Artista Donna: Author Reading (Chapter 1)
Bookwryming Thoughts: Meet the Cast: Women of Power
Elizabeth Seckman: Meet the Cast: Villains and Outcasts
October 20:
Wendy @ Fabulosity Reads: Review
Katharina @ Independent Bookworm: Review
T. Drecker @ Bookworm for Kids: Review
October 21:
Suzy Turner: Author Interview
Lyndsay Johnson: Temptation and Danger
October 22:
Julie Musil: Author Interview
M.J. Littlefield @ My Pet Blog: Meet Amos
Kimber Leigh Wheaton @ Once Upon a YA Book: Review
Sher A Hart @ Written Art: Character Interview
October 23:
DeAnna @ Two Mom’s Reading: Meet the Cast:
Dawn Brazil's Brilliant Babble About Books: Meet the Cast: Men of Lies
October 24:
Katherine @ Crazy Antics of my Creative Mind: Review
Heather Musk @ Reading, Writing and Everything in Between: Review
Donna K. Weaver @ Weaving a Tale or Two: Meet the Cast: Women of Power
October 27:
Suzi Retzlaff @ Literary Engineer: Author Interview
Courtney Pearson: Meet Mae
ViolaFury @ Homeless Chronicles in Tampa: Character Interview with Sarah
October 28:
D.C. Legendre: John's Story
T.C. Mckee: Review
October 29:
Christy’s Cozy Corners: Author Reading, first chapter of SOULLESS
Patricia Lynne: Meet the Cast: Villains and Outcasts
Ken @ Hogwarts Sabbatical: The Fall of the Leader
October 30:
Brooke @ The Cover Contessa: Review
Cassie @ Southeast by Midwest: Review
Marcy @ Mainewords: Author Interview
October 31:
Larissa’s World: Things that are Evil (Vlog post)
Elizabeth Seckman: Halloween Vlog 
Sarah @ Stardust and Gravel: Author Interview
November 3:
Gina @ Dawning on a New Day: The Soulless are Here
Gwen Gardner: Meet the Cast: Men with Lies
Rae @ A Writer’s Dream: A steamy excerpt AND Author Reading
November 4:
Ava Quinn @ Tongue in Cheek: Author Interview
SK Anthony: Meet the Cast: Women of Power
November 5:
Ellie Garratt: Meet the Cast: Villains and Outcasts
J. L. Campbell @ The Character Depot: Meet the Cast: Men with Lies
November 6:
           Dani Duck: Author reading
November 7:
Melissa @ Books Are Love: Review
Marcie @ Mainwords: Review
Chrys Fey @ Write with Fey: Author Interview
November 10:
          Carol Kilgore: Top Ten

Moonless Review
Soulless Cover Reveal
Soulless Review

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