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The Sweetest Ruin by Amy George

Source: publisher
Kindle, 150 pgs.
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The Sweetest Ruin by Amy George is a modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen set in Sin City — Las Vegas, Nevada.  Yes, that sin city! William Darcy is a workaholic and his family is deeply concerned about his health. After his doctor orders him on bed rest, Darcy finds himself smothered by love and concern, and too much attention to his work habits. The walls are closing in on him, and he takes off for America.

There’s an old saying about Vegas: “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!”

Unfortunately, how Darcy meets Elizabeth is not at all what readers will expect and what happens in Vegas will likely not stay in Vegas if he has anything to say about it. He’s fallen head over heels and he has to break it to his over-protective sister, Georgiana.

“There was no sound coming from England. No breathing, no thudding telephone. It was the quietest his sister had ever been.”

Darcy and Lizzy not only have to come to terms with their quick romance, but also how different their lives are from one another. Will secrets he’s keeping wear their thin connection away or will their love conquer all? Even his condescending and rude sister?

George’s novella shows a delightfully carefree Lizzy living in Nevada, and even though she’s lost much, she’s created her own family from the friends she encounters. Her support system is strong and fiercely protective, like Darcy’s sister. Despite a few editorial misses in the copy I had, the story was fast-paced and full of romance and humor. I particularly loved Thad and Damien and, of course, Lizzy and Darcy. There were a few things that were wrapped up rather quickly, probably because it is a novella, but I wish there had been a few hints dropped earlier about how Georgiana would come around to liking Lizzy.

The Sweetest Ruin by Amy George is delightful in its demonstration of how a workaholic can find the balance he needs with the woman he loves by his side.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Amy George is a middle-aged woman who got rid of her old lady/grown up and has since purchased an unreasonably small car. She refuses to listen to its radio at a reasonable volume, especially when the Beastie Boys or the Violent Femmes are playing. She lives in a small town in the Midwest where the bookstore and yarn shop are neighbors and most food is fried. Her household consists of a dog, a man, a hermit, and stubborn soap scum. She has been writing since she was a child and ran the Hyacinth Gardens, a popular but defunct JAFF site.

Fun fact: My birthday is January 30th so this is like a big birthday party.

Find her on Facebook, GoodReads, Meryton Press, and Twitter.

Giveaway:

8 eBooks of The Sweetest Ruin are being given away by Meryton Press and the giveaway is open to international readers.

Terms and conditions:

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once each day and by commenting daily on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached to this tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented.

Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international. Each entrant is eligible to win one eBook.

ENTER HERE

GOOD LUCK, EVERYONE!

Owl Diaries: The Wildwood Bakery (Book 7) by Rebecca Elliott

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 80 pgs.
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Owl Diaries: The Wildwood Bakery by Rebecca Elliott is the seventh book in this series with Eva Wingdale and her elementary school friends. In this book, Eva and her pals are going to help raise money for their friend Mia’s sister, who needs a special chair to help her fly. Not only does this book help children realize that people who are disabled are just like us with the same interests, but it also inspires them to creatively find ways to help their friend.

However, as kids are eagerly crafting ideas to help Mia’s sister, they soon make their plans competitive, eager to see which team will raise the most money and win. Losing sight of the purpose, Eva and her friends must find a way to work together to achieve their goals. Elliott’s characters mirror their human child counterparts — male and female — and they act as elementary kids would.  They are full of ideas and creativity, but they are also eager to show their teacher and others who is the best.

Owl Diaries: The Wildwood Bakery by Rebecca Elliott is another wonderful book in the series that makes learning fun. The questions in the back are an added touch that teachers and parents can use to discuss the reading and get kids to think more broadly about their own school experiences.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

A school project from when Rebecca was 6 reads, ‘when I grow up I want to be an artist and a writer’. After a brief detour from this career plan involving a degree in philosophy and a dull office job she fulfilled her plan in 2001 when she became a full time children’s book illustrator and has since written and illustrated hundreds of picture books published worldwide including the award-winning Just Because, Zoo Girl, Naked Trevor, Mr Super Poopy Pants, Missing Jack and the very popular Owl Diaries series.

She lives in Suffolk in the United Kingdom with her husband, a history teacher and children, all professional monkeys.

We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor

Source: Audible
Audio; 9+ hours
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We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor, narrated by Ray Porter, which was our January book club selection, is a science fiction novel with humor.  I’m not even going to attempt to recap the plot of this hot mess. Think Star Trek with a bunch of star date logs that jump from one Bob to another version of Bob, who has had to rename himself to reduce confusion. This confusion comes not from the fact that Bob replicates himself to complete this inane mission, but from the constant back and forth in time and between characters.

There were moments of humor, but most of it was forced with the narrator believing his jokes were funny and trying to convince the reader that the jokes are funny. The most interesting parts of the novel that raised moral and ethical questions were quick to pass and more time was spent on stupid missions or arguing between Bobs and other characters or even between themselves.

The beginning in which Bob originally finds his brain had been sold to a company 100+ years before and then was used to turn him into an AI was intriguing.  He had to learn to navigate his new environment, its restrictions, its politics, and the fact that his past would be that — in the past. Once launched into space, the only other part of the novel worth exploring is when a planet with inhabitants is reached and the AI must decide whether to play god or allow a species to certainly perish.

We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor was too disjointed and lacked a purpose — with the only plot line carrying the story being the search for a new planet for a human race that may be no more. In all honestly, I had 2 hours left of the audio and I just couldn’t bring myself to finish it.

RATING: Epitaph

GoodReads Synopsis:

Bob Johansson has just sold his software company and is looking forward to a life of leisure. There are places to go, books to read, and movies to watch. So it’s a little unfair when he gets himself killed crossing the street.

Bob wakes up a century later to find that corpsicles have been declared to be without rights, and he is now the property of the state. He has been uploaded into computer hardware and is slated to be the controlling AI in an interstellar probe looking for habitable planets. The stakes are high: no less than the first claim to entire worlds. If he declines the honor, he’ll be switched off, and they’ll try again with someone else. If he accepts, he becomes a prime target. There are at least three other countries trying to get their own probes launched first, and they play dirty.

The safest place for Bob is in space, heading away from Earth at top speed. Or so he thinks. Because the universe is full of nasties, and trespassers make them mad – very mad

About the Author:

Dennis Taylor is a computer programmer by day, a writer by night, and a snowboarder when in season. He’s read science fiction for many years, and has written his own.

***Book club seemed to enjoy this***

Owl Diaries: Baxter Is Missing (Book 6) by Rebecca Elliott

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 72 pgs.
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Owl Diaries: Baxter is Missing (Book 6) by Rebecca Elliott has Eva looking for her missing pet bat, Baxter. Eva is a very busy and social owl, but Baxter is her best friend and when he goes missing, Eva can’t help but blame herself, blame squirrels, and more. Her anxiety about not finding Baxter is fresh and keeps young kids concerned throughout the whole book.

Kids will learn how to deal with anxiety constructively in this book, as Eva gathers her friends and classmates around to search for Baxter. Even though no one has seen Baxter, they’re eager to help.

Owl Diaries: Baxter is Missing (Book 6) by Rebecca Elliott is another delightful installment that helps kids navigate overwhelming feelings and loss without too much drama. Eva is an owl who looks to solve her own problems the best she can, but can accept help when she needs it. This is an important lesson for growing kids.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

A school project from when Rebecca was 6 reads, ‘when I grow up I want to be an artist and a writer’. After a brief detour from this career plan involving a degree in philosophy and a dull office job she fulfilled her plan in 2001 when she became a full time children’s book illustrator and has since written and illustrated hundreds of picture books published worldwide including the award-winning Just Because, Zoo Girl, Naked Trevor, Mr Super Poopy Pants, Missing Jack and the very popular Owl Diaries series.

She lives in Suffolk in the United Kingdom with her husband, a history teacher and children, all professional monkeys.

Said Not Said by Fred Marchant

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 78 pgs.
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Said Not Said by Fred Marchant differs from his previous collections that focused heavily on the Vietnam War and the effects of war on soldiers and those nations caught in war. His poems here tow the line between direct speech to the reader and remaining deafeningly silent, requiring the reader to parse out the meaning of his lines and over-arching themes. In this collection there are poems about the Vietnam War, the Benghazi issues, and the deterioration of his sister.

The poet is both witness and subject, and Marchant has an uncanny ability to not only empathize with “the other” but to inhabit their suffering in a way that makes it his own and requires the reader to take their own ownership of that suffering.

“Twin Tulips” is particularly powerful as the narrator is running his finger down the stem of tulips painted in watercolor that falls down the page like tears she shed as she struggled to hold onto her memories and herself even as her mental faculties stripped them away. There is significant beauty in the sorrow, but there is a longing that remains with the last words — “as long as” — because we often feel the same. We want to hold on as long as we can, even though we know that time in finite for each of us.

This theme is carried through the collection and appears in “Forty Years”:

How the sound of the rust-bucket trawler named Memory followed her
wherever she went, its torn nets dragged across the floor of her being, the
silt clouds and debris fields, a stern winch sounding a lot like pain.

Said Not Said by Fred Marchant is wonderfully rendered and deeply emotional. It tracks the sorrow tied to mortality, but it also demonstrates the connection we share as a humanity. This connection needs to be cherished and never forgotten no matter how we age. It is this connection that imbues us with empathy and understanding — something we need more of in modern society.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

Couldn’t resist sharing this old gem.

About the poet:

Fred Marchant is the author of four books of poetry, including Full Moon Boat, The Looking House, and his most recent collection, Said Not Said, all from Graywolf Press. His first book, Tipping Point, won the 1993 Washington Prize from The Word Works, and was recently re-issued in a 20th Anniversary Second Edition. House on Water, House in Air, a new and selected poems was published in Ireland by Dedalus Press. He is the editor of Another World Instead, a selection of William Stafford’s early poetry, also published by Graywolf Press. With Nguy?n Bá Chung, he co-translated From a Corner of My Yard, poems by Tr?n Dang Khoa, and published in Hà N?i. Emeritus Professor of English at Suffolk University in Boston, Marchant is the founding director of that school’s creative writing program and Poetry Center. He lives in Arlington, MA.

Owl Diaries: Warm Hearts Day (Book 5) by Rebecca Elliott

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 72 pgs.
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Owl Diaries: Warm Hearts Day (Book 5) by Rebecca Elliott is a delightful addition to the series in which the owls celebrate a holiday like Valentine’s Day. But the owl’s holiday is more about getting along with everyone and learning to help one another out. Elliott helps younger readers learn empathy and how to prioritize things that happen in their lives.  While making presents for family is a nice way to celebrate, it is better to share gifts with those in need and to help those less fortunate.

This series is going fast, with my daughter asking for more than one chapter to be read per night. We’re sometimes reading two chapters at a time, and the other day, she wanted to buy owl pjs so she could be like Eva Wingdale. Ms. Elliott is missing out on merchandising here.

As always, the book is told in diary format with colorful illustrations. This format makes it easy for younger readers to follow along, and my daughter is getting to know the days of the week better than ever by sight.

Owl Diaries: Warm Hearts Day (book 5) by Rebecca Elliott is just one in a series of books to share with your children at bedtime. Eva is a delightful, caring little owl who is still learning how to see beyond her own concerns.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

A school project from when Rebecca was 6 reads, ‘when I grow up I want to be an artist and a writer’. After a brief detour from this career plan involving a degree in philosophy and a dull office job she fulfilled her plan in 2001 when she became a full time children’s book illustrator and has since written and illustrated hundreds of picture books published worldwide including the award-winning Just Because, Zoo Girl, Naked Trevor, Mr Super Poopy Pants, Missing Jack and the very popular Owl Diaries series.

She lives in Suffolk in the United Kingdom with her husband, a history teacher and children, all professional monkeys.

Finding Momo by Andrew Knapp

Source: gift
Paperback, 144 pgs.
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Finding Momo by Andrew Knapp is photography-activity book for young and old alike. If you ever had fun looking for Waldo, you’ll have fun looking for Momo. Knapp’s photos of Momo are inventive.  Whether in fields or outside homes, Momo is easily spotted with his black-and-white fur, but there are some instances where he blends right in. Knapp even includes a key in the back if you need a little bit of help.

My daughter had a good time when this book arrived.  I spent another day on my own checking out Momo and seeking his cute little face.  It’s clear this dog and his owner go on a lot of adventures together. I may just have to follow Momo on Instagram where it all began.  How about you?

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Andrew Knapp, born in Sudbury, Ontario and has travelled extensively with his border collie. In his first book, New York Times Bestseller Find Momo (2014), the reader is introduced to the hide-and-seek loving Momo who is cleverly camouflaged in each photo. His second book, Find Momo Coast to Coast to be released May 19th, 2015, and features photos of landmarks and odd finds on a road trip from coast to coast across the United States and Canada in a VW camper van. Andrew is also the co-founder of We Live Up Here, a multimedia project founded to connect and inspire folks in his hometown and across the world through collaborative art.

My 2017 Favorites

No preamble. Let’s get to my favorite reads in 2017:

This is also tied with his chapbook, Story Problems.

WHAT BOOKS WERE ON YOUR LIST OF FAVORITES FOR 2017?

Owl Diaries: Eva and the New Owl (Book 4) by Rebecca Elliott

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 80 pgs
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Owl Diaries: Eva and the New Owl by Rebecca Elliott is the fourth book in this illustrated series of chapter books for younger readers. My daughter is so eager to read these, it is tough to say no even when it is a school night and it’s past her bedtime.

Eva’s class learns that a new owl will be joining the class, and the whole place is aflutter with anticipation. Eva is determined to make friends with the new owl, and to make sure that the new owl is not friends with Meany McMeanerson, aka Sue.  Lucy, Eva’s best friend, also wants to be friends with the new owl, but Eva is so enthusiastic that she loses her focus and starts to neglect her best friend.

Without preaching too much, Eva’s mother offers her daughter some sound advice about friendships.  Elliott certainly understands what keeps younger kids interested in stories — colorful pictures and stories they can relate to — and this fourth book is definitely engaging.

Owl Diaries: Eva and the New Owl by Rebecca Elliott will teach kids about what it means to be a true friend and how new owls shouldn’t take the place of the old. I love that this series has comprehension questions in the back that are fun for kids, allowing them to revisit the story after they’ve finished reading it.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

A school project from when Rebecca was 6 reads, ‘when I grow up I want to be an artist and a writer’. After a brief detour from this career plan involving a degree in philosophy and a dull office job she fulfilled her plan in 2001 when she became a full time children’s book illustrator and has since written and illustrated hundreds of picture books published worldwide including the award-winning Just Because, Zoo Girl, Naked Trevor, Mr Super Poopy Pants, Missing Jack and the very popular Owl Diaries series.

She lives in Suffolk in the United Kingdom with her husband, a history teacher and children, all professional monkeys.

Owl Diaries: A Woodland Wedding (Book 3) by Rebecca Elliott

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 72 pgs.
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Owl Diaries: A Woodland Wedding by Rebecca Elliott is the third book in this series, which does not necessarily need to be read in order. I’m so glad we took a chance on this series of books. My daughter is so excited to hear about Eva and her escapades with her classmates every night. I don’t have to make reading a long, chapter book a chore. It’s a breeze with Elliott’s colorful pictures and fun adventures.

Imagine yourself as a little girl and your teacher is getting married, then take that a step further with Eva who creates an entire wedding planning club for herself and her classmates. Of course, Sue appears to be mean again in this one, but there are reasons behind her behavior. It’s a good teaching moment for kids. It enables them to see that because someone is in a bag mood doesn’t necessarily mean they are not a nice person. They might have other concerns. Kids need to learn how to empathize, and this book can provide that.

Owl Diaries: A Woodland Wedding by Rebecca Elliott is delightful, and my daughter is eager to start the next book. I’m wondering if the author plans to write a series based on Eva’s brother, Humphrey!

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

A school project from when Rebecca was 6 reads, ‘when I grow up I want to be an artist and a writer’. After a brief detour from this career plan involving a degree in philosophy and a dull office job she fulfilled her plan in 2001 when she became a full time children’s book illustrator and has since written and illustrated hundreds of picture books published worldwide including the award-winning Just Because, Zoo Girl, Naked Trevor, Mr Super Poopy Pants, Missing Jack and the very popular Owl Diaries series.

She lives in Suffolk in the UK with her husband, a history teacher and children, all professional monkeys.

Owl Diaries: Eva Sees a Ghost (Book 2) by Rebecca Elliott

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 80 pgs.
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Owl Diaries: Eva Sees a Ghost by Rebecca Elliott is book two in the series and Eva’s class is told a spooky story, which sets imaginations afire.  Eva sees a ghost, but there’s a problem: no one in the class believes her.  Even her friend Lucy eventually loses faith in Eva’s ability to discern reality from imagination. Again, Elliott strives to tackle every day issues that young kids come across in school — peer pressure, being liked, being believed, and more.

Eventually, Eva and Lucy gear up for a ghost hunt, staying up until sun up to see the ghost. Will they catch the ghost on film, or will more drastic measures be needed?

Every night we read a chapter together before bed, and it was a struggle to get her to stop at just one chapter.  She loves Eva and her imagination and each book is chock full of colorful illustrations.

Owl Diaries: Eva Sees a Ghost by Rebecca Elliott is delightful as Eva is a brave young owl full of conviction, and she’s a strong role model for young kids.  This series is shaping up to be very engaging and full of wonderful advice (without being advice) for younger kids.

“I love that owl book because it is funny and the best in the whole wide world,” says my daughter.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

A school project from when Rebecca was 6 reads, ‘when I grow up I want to be an artist and a writer’. After a brief detour from this career plan involving a degree in philosophy and a dull office job she fulfilled her plan in 2001 when she became a full time children’s book illustrator and has since written and illustrated hundreds of picture books published worldwide including the award-winning Just Because, Zoo Girl, Naked Trevor, Mr Super Poopy Pants, Missing Jack and the very popular Owl Diaries series.

She lives in Suffolk in the UK with her husband, a history teacher and children, all professional monkeys.

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 61 Haiku (1,037 Syllables!) by James W. Gaynor

Source: the author
Paperback, 208 pgs.
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Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 61 Haiku (1,037 Syllables!) by James W. Gaynor is an ambitious undertaking in which the poet takes the first lines of each of Pride & Prejudice’s chapters and turns them into a haiku that reflects not only the first line, but major happenings within the chapter.

Chapter 2:

In pastoral terms,
Bingley was breakfast for the
Bennet early bird.

Gaynor provides the first line of each chapter as written by Austen and his haiku on the following page. It is a labor of love for him to incorporate her wit into his haiku and still maintain the main highlights of each chapters. I can only imagine how long it took to get each haiku to fit not only the form, but also the intention of the project. In many of these haiku he succeeds well in highlighting ironic twists within Austen’s chapters in just one line of verse. In the back, Gaynor also includes a summary of each chapter in the back of the book to highlight the what, the where, and the when that are on display in his preceding haiku.

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 61 Haiku (1,037 Syllables!) by James W. Gaynor is a fun collection of haiku for poetry and Jane Austen lovers alike. It’s size even lends itself to the stocking stuffer gift for your literary friends and relatives.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet: (#HaikuJim)

Author of Everything Becomes a Poem, James W. Gaynor is a poet, artist, editor, and writer. A graduate of Kenyon College, he lived for years in Paris, where he taught a course on Emily Dickinson at the University of Paris, studied the development of the psychological novel in 17th-century France, and worked as a translator. After returning to New York, Gaynor worked as an editor at Grosset & Dunlap, Cuisine magazine, Scriptwriter News and Forbes Publications. His articles, book reviews, poems and essays have appeared in The New York Observer, OTVmagazine.com, Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine, and The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide. As #HaikuJim, Gaynor publishes a daily haiku drawn from current newspaper headlines and is the creator of Can You Haiku? – a corporate communications workshop based on using Japanese poetry techniques to improve effective use of today’s digital platforms. He recently retired as the Global Verbal Identity Leader for Ernst & Young LLP. A silver medalist in the 1994 Gay Games (Racewalking), Gaynor’s found-object sculpture has been exhibited internationally. He is a member of the Advisory Board of New York’s The Creative Center at University Settlement, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing the creative arts to people with cancer and chronic illnesses (thecreativecenter.org) Gaynor lives in New York City with his canine companion, Emily Dickinson Gaynor, and the cat who oversees their entwined lives, Gerard Manley Hopkins Gaynor. #HaikuJim jameswgaynor.com