Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Review: The Nine Lives of Christmas

The Nine Lives of Christmas

The Nine Lives of Christmas is a holiday story of a man, a woman, and a cat who all need a little help at Christmas. Ambrose the cat is in trouble- and willing to make a deal with his maker to save his ninth (and last) life- when Zach, a firefighter in the town of Angel Falls, comes to the rescue. Ambrose has nowhere to go, no home to return to- and with the holidays approaching and nowhere else to take him, Zach grudgingly takes the cat back to his place. Ambrose immediately makes himself at home- but realizes that part of the deal is he helps Zach with something- but what does Zach need?

Zach is a nice guy and very much single- happily so. Bad experiences in the past have jaded him and he prefers to keep his relationships casual- no strings attached. He only intends to keep Ambrose for a while, until he can find a home for the cat- but when Zach meets Merilee in the pet food aisle, he finds that maybe he's not as happy as he thought he was.

Merilee is also single, and shy around guys- having had a weight problem when she was younger, she's in her mid twenties now and fit- but still nervous as all get out when she crosses paths with Zach. There's an immediate attraction- so why does he hold himself back? Little does she know that Zach has a girlfriend- and when they meet the sparks fly. That along with Zach's family issues keep him from taking the next step with Merilee- he feels he's all wrong for her, for reasons that become clear later. The girlfriedn of course is a piece of work- and she hates his new cat for one thing- and as time goes by, Zach realizes he has no intention of givin gup the cat. Ambrose, for his part, realizes that Zach and Merilee want to be together- and that his "deal" involves making that happen anyway he can.

This is a fun and heartwarming holiday tale and I enjoyed it a lot. A good read for a cold night with a blanket and a warm drink. Comfort reading I suppose, and chick lit all the way. So why did I read it? Well, the cover drew me in, and I like a good Christmas read. Zach and Merilee are both likable, and Ambrose's perspective was probably my favorite part of the story. He is full of fun observations and wry insights into human (and cat) behavior. There's a hilarious scene where Ambrose brings Zach a "gift" from outside and leaves it where Zach and his...um, sleepover guest wil lfind it. There are a few slapstick moments like this but by and large this is a relationship story. The ending is entirely predictable, but so what? The journey there is fun.

Apparently this is an upcoming Hallmark channel movie. I'm not exactly a regular watcher of that network, but I did see a blurb for it and not sure the casting works for me after reading the book. I would watch it if it was on, given how fun the story was. A good, light holiday read.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Teaser Tuesday #35

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. To participate you grab your current read, open to a random page and share (2) teaser sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INLUDE SPOILERS (Make sure what you share doesn't give too much away. You don't want to ruin the book for others). Share the title and author.

" Murder? I don't see how it could have been. Who would want to murder Rupert?"
"I imagine Detective Inspector Jones would give a great deal to know just that."
"Well, this has all been fascinating," she said lightly, touching her glossy red hair, "but I'm afraid I must go to my room and dress for dinner." 
"Of course."  

Murder at the Brightwell

Murder at the Brightwell

I decided to do another selection from my current read this week - this book is good. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sunday Post #67

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

The last weekend of October is on us, and this month has flown by. I've enjoyed the fall activities and the turning leaves- October is one of my favorite months and I'll be sorry to see it go. We have lots of cold weather to look forward to- not crazy about that, but winter in the upper Midwest has it's own special beauty too. And thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner...  

A few leaves are still falling as I write this, and the trees in the back are all golden and yellow. We have some raking to do, and some piles of leaves to jump in! I didn't so much reading this week but I did finish a holiday read- my thoughts on it should be up this week. Last week I posted a few older reviews- feel free to check them out if you're interested. They're all good fall reads in their own way, I think. 


Review: The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester - a nice MG read about four friends and a mysterious something that falls off a train 
Review: The Cats of Tanglewood Forest - a girl, lots of cats, and an enchanted wood
Review: The Paladin Prophecy - a great YA about kids with powers and an exclusive academy
Teaser Tuesday: Murder at the Brightwell
Sunday Post


Teaser Tuesday #35 
TUESDAY: Review: The nine Lives of Christmas- a girl, a guy and a cat who all need a little help at Christmas. A great holiday read.
SATURDAY: Movie Review: Forbidden Planet (for Sci Fi Month)


Murder at the Brightwell


The Twelve Clues of Christmas (Her Royal Spyness Mysteries, #6) The Nine Lives of Christmas

Trust Me, I'm Lying


Tales Between The Pages has a nice review of Summer of the Woods, and a guest post by the author. 

Here's a friendly Middle Earth safety video for your enjoyment. 

Ana at Read Me Awayhas a new feature called Rec Time- where she talks book recommendations. This week is Historical Fiction. Check it out! 

Finley Jayne talks Halloween candy! What is your favorite? Mine are the Krackles- I'll just eat those til they're gone. 

My Shelf Confessions has a nice Halloween story

The Avengers trailer is out- and it looks pretty intense. 

I'll leave you with this scene from The Birds... one of my favorite scary movies and a good way to wind down October. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Review: The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester

The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester

 This is a repost of an earlier review. The original post was on June 15, 2013. 

The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester by Barbara O’Connor is the story of Owen, a young boy whose family has to move in with his grandfather after his father loses his job. Their next door neighbor is Viola, a know-it-all girl who Owen can’t stand. Owen has a frog he just caught- “the biggest, greenest, slimiest, most beautiful bullfrog ever to be seen in Carter, Georgia”. Owen names him Tooley Graham and is very proud of him- and he doesn’t appreciate it when Viola tells him in no uncertain terms that Tooley would be better off free.  

One night Owen is in bed listening to the train go by. He hears a crashing sound and realizes something has fallen off the train. What could it be? He resolves to find out, and recruits his friends Travis and Stumpy to help. They find more than they bargained for however. It seems that a small submarine has fallen off the train, and the boys decide to use it in the local pond! Of course they want to keep this a secret from Viola, who naturally turns up at the most inopportune times.

Finding a submarine is one thing, but getting it to the pond and figuring out how to work it is something else. And that’s where Viola comes in. Viola is smarter than the three boys or at least better read, and she loves to irritate them by pointing out things they have not thought of. Viola wants to be part of the group but they don’t want anything to do with her. Until Owen realizes he needs her help…

Throughout the story Owen wrestles with not only finding the mysterious something, but also with whether or not he should free Tooley. His frog increasingly seems despondent and he starts to realize that Viola may have been right about the frog… 

The dialogue between the kids is funny and authentic, I felt like I was listening to real kids talking. The relationship between the three boys seemed natural, but the best parts of the book are when Viola shows up. I felt a little sorry for her at first, the boys aren’t very nice to her, but she comes through for them at the end. There’s a moment towards the end where Owen and Viola share a moment of triumph that was touching. 

This book is a great kids story, a nice summertime adventure. The idea of somethingmysterious falling off a train in a remote Southern town seemed to me like something that would happen in a Spielberg movie. That’s the vibe I got anyway, and is what initially drew me to the book. The book itself reads quickly, the chapters are short and breezy and thus perfect for kids or even reluctant readers. It’s fairly short at 168 pages and has a Q&A with the author at the end.

The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester is a charming book and was a pleasure to read.

The Youtube trailer is here.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review: The Cats of Tanglewood Forest

The Cats of Tanglewood Forest

The Cats of Tanglewood Forest tells the story of Lillian, an orphan girl who lives with her aunt on the edge of the sprawling forest. She spends her time after chores roaming the woods and looking for fairies. But try as she might, she never sees them although she can sense they're there. She's a generous soul and loves the animals, leaving saucers of milk for all the stray cats and even taking biscuits to the old apple tree every day, for the Apple Tree Man that she imagines lives there.  

One day however after venturing deep into the woods Lillian has a terrible accident... and the cats come. Saving her as only they can, Lillian is transformed into a cat. Thus begins a quest to return her to her proper form- but along the way she will meet some unforgettable characters (the fox known as T.H. Lawrence steals every scene he's in) and learn some valuable lessons about love, loyalty and the consequences of decisions. 

I loved this book. It has a fairy- tale quality to it, an ageless feel. Lillian is a classic free spirit, eschewing shoes and girly things and wanting nothing more than to wander free in the woods and race the deer. She's feisty and loyal and brave, but learns that the forest can be a dangerous place as well as enchanting. Will she find a way to set things right and return to her true form? And will she ever see the fairies? 

The Cats of Tanglewood Forest is written by Charles De Lint and illustrated by Charles Vess. Both are World Fantasy Award winners. I've never read De Lint before but I've been a fan of Charles Vess' work for years. He has collaborated with Neil Gaiman on Stardust and other projects. I've seen his work in various comics and he is the perfect artist for a story like this. He has a lush style, so evocative and dreamy. This is not my favorite example of his art, I've seen a lot of his stuff over the years, but it's still so good. I just love the cover.

I highly recommend this book for kids and adults alike. I think kids will love it, but I also think it has a lot to offer adults. The book reads quickly, some pages are full page illustrations and the ending is awesome. I haven't had this much fun with a book in a long time. 

Charles Vess' website Green Man Press can be found here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Review: The Paladin Prophecy

The Paladin Prophecy (The Paladin Prophecy, #1)

Just another day. That’s what Will West thinks one morning as he goes running before school. Little does he know that soon he will be running for his life. After scoring off the charts on a nationwide exam Will finds himself on the run from men in black sedans and courted by an exclusive academy that no one has ever heard of. Along the way he is guided by the list of rules his father taught him to live by.

Rule #5 Trust No One

Will has always been told by his parents to lie low, not to draw attention to himself. A gifted runner, he hangs back and remains strictly average in all he does. He has no friends. Will’s life changes when, on the run and with his parents being targeted, he has no choice but to accept the academy’s offer of a full scholarship. Will arrives at the Center for Integrated Learning to find that everyone there is the best of the best- top of the line in academics, sports or whatever. Most everyone comes from wealth and privilege, and he is not sure if he’ll fit in. He meets his new roommates- Brooke, Ajay, Nick and Elise. They become fast friends, which is good because Will quickly makes enemies as well. There are those on campus who don’t want him there, and may have a connection to the men in black chasing him.

Will and his friends soon discover there is more to the Center than meets the eye- and its hard to know who to trust. Not only that, but Will realizes that he and some of his friends have special abilities- gifts that set them apart from ordinary humans. Abilities they may need if they are going to survive…

I liked The Paladin Prophecy a lot. It's fast paced and the story is sprinkled with humor. Will is engaging and realistic, and his sarcastic observations keep the perspective fresh. His roommates at the academy are well drawn for the most part. Brooke is smart, beautiful and confident and it doesn’t take long for Will to fall for her.  Ajay is endearing as a tech guru who can juryrig just about anything. Nick is a gymnast and the comic relief, always has a one liner or wry observation- I thought him kind of useless in the early going (aside from the humor), but he has a role to play later. Elise is a mystery girl with a lot of secrets, and easily the most interesting of the bunch.

The academy itself is fascinating- I loved the descriptions, the remoteness of it. I want to go there! The technology there is just a little ahead of society, and the author uses that to make the place unique. A nice touch. There are secret tunnels, strange rituals, and lots of extradimensional weirdness. The kids are the best part, they all have a role to play and they’re a lot of fun. The author seems to really hit his stride with them as the story progresses.

Throughout the story Will’s rules for life pop up at various times, usually before a pivotal scene. We really get a sense for how his parents trained him for this, to be prepared for the day when he would be on the run and have to rely on himself. Most of the rules are common sense but I chuckled at several, and they add a lot to the story.

Rule #27 There Is No Such Thing As Coincidence

As for what I didn't like- first we get a full dose of the boy goes to exclusive academy, makes friends and gets razzed, has to find his place and solve a mystery- perhaps not very original, but the sheer imagination of it makes it fun. Second, I found myself wondering why is Will wasting time getting to know people and settling in to campus life when his parents are in mortal danger? There seemed to be a lack of urgency there. I had to put that aside and go with it.   

There are a lot of cool moments that make this story a lot of fun. There’s a chilling scene where a bird that has been hanging around the house is peeking in the window, but when Will takes a closer look he finds its not your average bird. Later Will finds himself on an airplane winging across country to join the academy- but he is not alone on the plane. Nightmare creatures will do anything to stop him, including tear one of the engines apart! The action sometimes gets over the top but its fun and thrilling.

The Paladin Prophecy is a great read with a lot of great ideas. We get some closure at the end but at the same time the door is open for a sequel. I think Will and Brooke will be a great couple, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of Elise as well.

"I felt something else, too," said Will, studying her. "A couple of times with you." He held her eyes and thought:
Do you know what I'm thinking right now?
She held his eyes steadily: Of course I do, dummy. 
Will gasped. "Damn. What is up with that?"
"Don't know, but it sure beats the hell out of texting," she said, grinning slyly.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Teaser Tuesday #34

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. To participate you grab your current read, open to a random page and share (2) teaser sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INLUDE SPOILERS (Make sure what you share doesn't give too much away. You don't want to ruin the book for others). Share the title and author.

"I have no secrets from you, Milo." I turned as I reached the door and flashed his smile back at him. "If I had a lover, I would certainly inform you of it."