Book Review: I’m a Dirty Dinosaur

I'm a Dirty Dinosaur

This musical, rhythmic dinosaur book is a delight for small children getting ready for bath time.

Meet this cute little dinosaur in his dirty swamp. The unique and engaging illustrations are literally painted with mud. The multi-colored sketched dinosaur romps through the mess with abandon, detailing all of his dirty parts. Start with his snout, his face and his “tum.” Then move on to feet and tail, slithering and sliding and stamping in the mud wherever he goes. Readers can singsong the words into a rhythmic melody, making “I’m a dirty dinosaur with a dirty snout,” a fun interactive dancing experience for your toddler. Kids will love to “Sniff sniff, snuff snuff, sniff and snuff about,” in time to the story.

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Book Review: SoulPrint

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SOULPRINT is a fantastic modern thriller by Megan Miranda. Miranda has previously published three novels, including FRACTURE, HYSTERIA and VENGEANCE.

Alina Chase has been kept a prisoner on an island since she was a small child, and she’s told that this is for her own protection. After all, in a previous life her soul belonged to June Calahan, the infamous teen who ruined hundreds of lives through blackmail and subterfuge. Calahan was a mastermind behind the hack into the soul database, a place where record is kept of souls as they hop one generation to the next. That means that all of a soul’s misdeeds don’t die with them—they live on forever. Calahan allegedly blackmailed people with the terrible truth of their past lives.

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Book Review: DAUGHTERS UNTO DEVILS

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Amanda Verner has seen the Devil, and she knows he lives inside her. At least, she’s thought so since that horrible last winter when her Mama was sick and they all survived for months in a snowy prison on the mountain. When her Mama delivers a deaf and blind baby, their family is pushed to the brink – as is Amanda’s troubled mind. She’s been secretly meeting with a sweet boy who distracts her from the sadness of home, and accidentally becomes pregnant. When she tells him, it turns out he isn’t so sweet.

So when her family decides to move off the mountain and into the prairie, she hopes it’s a chance for a fresh start. But she’s heard the ghost stories of blood and mutilation down there, and she’s nervous she might revisit her time with the devil. As her family begins to settle in to a new life, Amanda is tortured by some unseen being creeping around her and the new cabin. Is it the Devil again, come to take her soul? Demons of the old ghost stories? Or her own horrible decisions come back to haunt her?

Review: This book is absolutely terrifying! If you love scary ghost stories, this is for you. I have NEVER been scared while reading a book…until now. Author Cat Winters likens the book to Stephen King writing Little House on the Prairie, and she’s absolutely right. Lukavics is an enormously talented writer who is a master of pace and tension. We are so drawn in to poor Amanda Verner’s world, and so sympathetic to her plight. i wanted to run out to the prairie and warn her family, “hey! Get the heck out of that cabin! IT’S HAUNTED! HAUNTED, I TELL YOU!”

This book has some pretty adult themes, so it’s a better fit for older or more mature teens and adults. Pitch-perfect scariness aside, this book is expertly written. Not a line is wasted, and you’ll be so drawn in to this horrible wagon-wreck you won’t be able to look away until the bloody conclusion. No happy endings here. At least, not for most of them :-)

Absolutely, highly recommended for those with strong constitutions!

Go forth and read, and be terrified. You’re welcome.

RIP Alan Rickman

Rest in peace, Alan.

Rest in peace, Alan.

Today we learn of a loss that really resonates with me: Alan Rickman has died of cancer. I feel like I should write about it, because no less than five people have already contacted me to see how I feel. Apparently, I’m known for being a bit of a Rickman fan.

Okay. I’m a huge Rickman fan. My old coworkers and I even had Alan Rickman fridays where we talked like Alan Rickman all day (even in meetings). We shared Alan Rickman pictures on Twitter. We quoted him all the time, and can’t call eachother without asking about the turtle joke from the party. Okay, the last one wasn’t really Alan Rickman, but it was a darn good impression (thanks Family Guy).

No one on Earth could have brought Severus Snape to life like Rickman. His performance through eight movies was absolutely brilliant.

SnapeIt’s a happy coincidence that Rickman is my favorite actor, playing one of my favorite characters from literature. Or is it? I’m not sure with this whole chicken-and-the-egg thing. Did my Rickman fascination start with Snape? Not sure.

Either way, the world has suffered a huge loss. I think it’s a shame we can’t barter with God to get Alan back. I’d happily trade a few celebrities for just one Rickman. Possibly up to five Kardashians.

Are there five Kardashians? I don’t even know. I’ll throw in Kanye for good measure.

I don’t know about you, but I plan on having a Rickman marathon. Let’s start with Sense and Sensibility (swoon) and end with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II. We’ll rejoice when he gets the girl (Sensibility), laugh when he says “Forbes” (Die Hard) and weep when he loses Lily (HP).

Rest in Peace, Mr. Rickman. You’ll be missed.

 

 

The Elfstones of Shannara

fpoIt’s finally here! Today is the day that the Shannara Chronicles debuts on MTV, and I can hardly wait to see it tonight. So, in celebration, I have read and reviewed the book it is based on, The Elfstones of Shannara (book 2 in the Shannara Chronicles).

FIrst, yes you can start with the second book and be fine. I’m planning on going back to read the first, but the second book stands on its own very well. If you’re a fan of Tolkien or CS Lewis, or any kind of fantasy that involves questing and heroes and monsters, this is for you.

The Ellcrys tree is dying. The magnificent tree isn’t just sacred to the elves, though. It protects the entire world from the demons who rage and fight just on the other side of the dimension for freedom. If the tree dies, the seal between the two worlds will be broken, and they will destroy the Earth. So when all of the guardians of the Ellcrys are killed by a few rebel escaped demons, all hope for the world seems lost.

That is, until it is realized on of the Chosen still lives. Amberle lives in shame far away from the tree and her life as a Chosen. When Wil comes to take her back so that she can help save the dying tree, she denies him. She left the tree, and her duties as a Chosen, for a reason. But the salvation of Earth and all of its races is too much to ignore, and she sets off on a dangerous quest to revive the tree.

Filled with daring escapes, lots of battles and more than a few pretty heroes and heroines, Shannara is a classic example of the fantasy genre. I highly recommend it! Thanks, Dad, for getting me started on it! It’s like a clean version of Game of Thrones, which means you can share it with most ages and most of your friends.

So go out and get a copy today. And tune in tonight! I will be :)

 

Book Review: Modern Faerie Tales (Tithe, Valiant and Ironside)

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Welcome to Holly Black’s world of modern Fae, set amidst grungy New York and the burbs. Kaye is a misfit teen who follows her musician mother from gig to gig. She hasn’t been in highschool for a long time, and hasn’t lived in one place for more than a few months since she was a kid. So when she returns to her grandmother’s home, she’s surprised to find that all of her old fantasies have sprung back to life. Her imaginary friends are no longer imaginary, and she’s in touch with the alluring, dark world of the local Fae. She meets Roiben, a silver-haired Faerie knight, who enchants her. Thus begins her adventure into the dark and unseemly world of the sometimes cruel Fae, and eventually leads to the truth of her own beginnings.

Valiant, a companion novel, features Val, a teen whose mother is dysfunctional with a capital “D.” When she runs away after a fight, she finds herself deep into the underbelly of New York City, where exiled Fae still roam.

Finally, in Ironside, we see the culmination of Roiben and Kaye’s fight against the tortuously beautiful and dangerous Bright Court Faerie Queen. Will their love survive the war?

REVIEW:

I absolutely loved this series. It’s very dark, the Faeries are sometimes cruel and bloody, and the human characters are flawed and believable. This is not your Disney fairytale fantasy, folks. There’s definitely some language, some drug abuse (faerie drugs, but still) and some more questionable parent-child relationships. BUT I think any teen, especially an older teen, will not be shocked or surprised at what they find, nor offended. Adults will find the series a perfect fit.

The juxtaposition of grimy and murderous dark faeries against what we normally view faeries as (sweet, buttercup TinkerBells) is refreshing and really more true to folklore. The writing is fantastic, and Black sweeps us into this dark world easily and with great deft. She’s a fabulous writer (see my review of THE DARKEST PART OF THE FOREST). I really appreciate that she doesn’t pull any punches. This is as real and as gritty as you can get. I absolutely loved it! Thanks Maggie for recommending it!

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – Buy it for yourself for exciting holiday reading! And, lucky you, they are already out so you don’t have to wait, and can devour them in several glorious days.

The Monsterland Blog Tour is Here!

Monsterland Blog Tour Header ImageThe time for the Monsterland Blog tour has arrived! Today I’m joined by Michael Phillip Cash, author of Monsterland and a host of other books. Be sure to check out the giveaway at the end of the post for your chance to win a free prize pack, including a book, mug and more!

But first, let’s learn about the book itself:

Welcome to Monsterland – the scariest place on Earth. All guests can interact with real vampires in Vampire Village, be chased by an actual werewolf on the River Run, and walk among the dead in Zombieville. Wyatt Baldwin, a high school student and life-long movie buff is staring bleakly at a future of flipping burgers. Due to a fortuitous circumstance, Wyatt and his friends are invited to the star-studded opening of Monsterland. In a theme park full of real vampires, werewolves and zombies, what could possibly go wrong?

Monsterland contains solid ingredients for a horror feast: stupid teens, smart teens, a little challenged romance, family dynamics, action, blood and gore. Will civilization ever be normal again? You’ll have to read it to find out. We dare you!”—The Children’s Book Review

And now for the author interview!

Hi, Michael!

Michael-Phillip-Cash

What inspired you to write Monsterland? Was it a movie, books, concept or current social movement? 

I was searching for a new idea on the classic monster-in-the-house story. My son and I were watching Jurassic Park and I wondered why there hasn’t been a movie or book about werewolves, vampires and zombies in a theme park.  I started writing that night.  A couple months later, Monsterland is a best seller on Amazon.

When writing, are you a pantster or outliner, or a mixture of both? You’re a prolific author, between books and screenplays. Tell us about your writing process and your secret to being so productive!

I am a crazy outliner.  I always write a screenplay first for several reasons.  One, screenplays allow me to beat out my story and set up a tight structure.  I have to hit certain beats by certain pages, so it creates a nice even flow when writing.  Once I have my blueprint—which is really what a screenplay is—I can then add the meat and spices to my novel.  From 9am to 4pm, my day consists of research and development.  I dive into the world of my subject and read anything I can get my hands on so I can familiarize myself with that world.  Google and Amazon … love ‘em.  Then I take a break and cook my family dinner.  Give the kids the baths, spend time with my wife, and when everyone goes to sleep (between 8pm and 8:30pm) I begin to write. I write until my eyes go, which is around midnight.

What was the most interesting or exciting part of the book for you?

I loved the first time the teens go on the werewolf river run.  I felt like a Disney imagineer!  I was able to write the ride and attraction any way I wanted.  Reading it over again, makes me want to be chased on the Werewolf River Run!

Which character do you identify with most, and why? (In this book or any other of your books or screenplays.)

That’s a great question. I identified most with Wyatt, Melvin and Howard Drucker. In a sense, they are a part of me. I wanted to reflect how I felt growing up, lost and insecure in high school. Wyatt wants to date the unattainable Jade. I, just like many movie geeks in high school, could never imagine dating a cheerleader—who was dating the football quarterback nonetheless.  Melvin was an outcast, interested in the things that are not “cool” by today’s standards.  Again, I felt the same way.  What interested me in high school was not the norm.  I played this up with Melvin and really made him into a freaky kid, with his love of werewolves and 50s horror movies.  Howard Drucker is simply uncomfortable in his own skin. He has this wonderful girl named Keisha who is clearly attracted to him, but he can’t see the cues.  I’ve been there, dozens of times.

Was there anything in this book that was based on your own life experiences?

One movie I tried emulating over and over again as a kid was The Goonies. I wanted to direct that movie.  I once invited a group of kids over to my house and made a home video of Mikey and the Goonies.  Writing Monsterland was my outtake on that movie.  It was my fantasy to go on an adventure, with my friends, and end up being the hero and saving the day (and the world).

What is the toughest criticism and best compliment you’ve received as a writer?

There was one really nasty critic on Goodreads who completely slaughtered one of my books.  I was elated they hated it so much because it gave me another direction to take with my writing.  Best compliment I ever received was from the head of a major studio production company. She said I am the new Stephen King, and my writing will be the next big thing. That was really cool to hear.

Can you tell us your favorite book or series that is not your own? What’s in your TBR pile?

My favorite book is not from the fiction aisle, but from the nonfiction section. “Save the Cat,” by Blake Snyder, was the one book that changed the way I tell stories.  Every writer should pick it up.  I actually just went to the bookstore on Saturday with my wife and kids.  I picked up “Joss Whedon – the Autobiography”, “How to Tame a Wild Elephant”, “The Shawshank Redemption: The Final Shooting Script” and a Star Wars book that my son and I are going to read together.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

The best moments in writing are the ones you can barely remember. It’s like they happened in a dream. But the only way to earn them is to write every single day.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

My wife and kids are at the center of my life—as well as my niece and nephew.  I play with them all the time. My son and I have a special love for video games and we’re currently in the middle of playing the original Legend of Zelda on Nintendo. I also love to cook.

What is your favorite writing or inspirational quote?

“The Coen brothers, Charlie Kaufman, Quentin Tarantino never tried to guess what Hollywood would make. They wrote their obsessions and so should you.” – Brian Koppelman

 That was an awesome interview! Thanks Michael! We really appreciate it. Now, be sure to enter below for your chance to win this exciting prize pack!
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Book Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

fpoBuy it now!

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a rip-roaring, hilarious good time wrapped in a unique package. Told through emails, letters, faxes (!), FBI reports and more, this book unfolds in a truly original way.

Follow the story of Bernadette, a secluded and anxiety-riddled mom of near-genius Bee. Bee’s getting ready to leave for Chaote, a premier boarding school, in the Fall. In the meantime, she and Bernadette must contend with the waspish “Gnat” moms of Bee’s private school. They gossip. They lie. They accuse Bernadette of running over a woman’s foot in the school pickup line with her fancy SUV. And when Bee asks for a trip to Antarctica for the whole family for Christmas, even her overscheduled Microsoftie Dad must comply. Bernadette throws herself into preparations, asking her remote personal assistant from India to handle every single detail.

But a fiasco triggers a huge life change for Bernadette – against her will – and she runs. As in, completely disappears. Can Bee unlock the mysteries of her mother’s past, and the truth of her present?

Bee is a whip-smart narrator, pulling together pages of documents and emails to pull readers on her mother’s journey toward escape. I found myself literally laughing out loud over and again as Bernadette describes bothersome Mom’s from school, Seattle traffic and her hatred for all things Canadian. Then, partway through, I got all the feels. This book is deep, taking readers on an emotional, and yes, comical, journey of what is means to not fit in, to feel like a failure, to love someone with all of your heart and yet still not be able to make it work.

I HIGHLY recommend this book. One of the best I’ve read in years.

Book Review: Twilight/Life and Death

Twilight Tenth Anniversary/Life and Death Dual EditionHi all! I was lucky enough to receive this beautiful new addition of Twilight and Life and Death (Twilight Reimagined).

First off, if you are looking for me to pan it, you can go ahead and stop reading. Seriously.

The reason why Twilight was such a huge sensation, for teens and adults alike (okay okay, mostly women) was because Twilight NAILED teenage angst. Upon re-reading the book ten years later, I found her character motivations dead on.

Look, I'm watching Twilight!

Look, I’m watching Twilight!

“But think about the children!” some of you will say. “What kind of role model are we setting are kids up with? Bella is not a feminist!”

You’d be wrong. Bella is her own person, and for her character, Edward is everything. Now let’s all think back to when we were teens. Some of you probably dreamt of traveling the world. Some of you wanted to be doctors, lawyers…and some of you were in love with love. I remember so many girls just dying to fall in love – everything else would fall into place later. Careers, if and when to have children, major life decisions all were later. NOW was all about finding the perfect person to spend the rest of your life with.

Now as for feminism, let us not forget that feminism, is at it’s heart, about choice. It’s perfectly fine for someone to go into the corporate world and kick butt, just like it’s okay for another woman to stay home and bake freakin’ chocolate chip cookies all day and wipe up drool. As long as she has the choice, we’re good. Right? You’re not putting your own beliefs and values on someone else, because that would be the antithesis of feminism. Right? Right.

Phew! Glad we got that out of the way. As someone who HAS done the corporate thing, traveling the country and world, etc., I can say it IS wonderful. We should all try it! If you want.

Anywho, back to the teen angst. It’s so perfect I felt myself melting back to highschool, when hubs and I were teenagers, and I was so crazy in love with him I literally couldn’t imagine a life without him. As an adult I now realize that’s crazy. But hey, it worked out for us in the long run 😉 But Bella is in that moment, falling head over heels in a very old-fashioned way with a vampire, and Meyer nails it so perfectly.

Life and Death is a twist on that, proving her point that the story is about a PERSON falling in love with a vampire, not a girl. Honestly, I thought the rewrite was fine. It didn’t zing with me as much as the first, and neither book is my favorite. I’m not usually a romance kind of girl, give me rough and tumble heroines or Hermione’s any day. But the rewrite is solid, actually more so than the first, and it has a cool new ending. I won’t say any more on that, but I liked it.

So if you’ve never read it, go ahead and get this beautiful deluxe edition. It may not be your favorite, but you’ll at least get a taste for what SOME (read: most) girls go through in highschool: Total, all-consuming and completely irrational love. As a mother I shudder to think of my girl giving herself over to a vampire, but hey. This is fiction. So let’s all breathe and remember we read fiction for fun. And you will have fun with this book, if you allow it.