Become Bookishly Brilliant! Subscribe Now!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Top 5 Wednesday: Fandoms I Am No Longer Into


Greetings Fellow Book Dragons!

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme within the book community that was created by Lainey of GingerReadsLainey, but is now hosted by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes.  If you're interested in participating, find out more on the Goodreads group.

This week's topic is Fandoms I Am No Longer Into!  All of us have those fandoms that we used to be super invested in and now we just aren't into them anymore.  This doesn't mean that I don't like these books anymore, I'm just not actively seeking bookish gear for them, recommending them as much, or buying new books in the series as they are published. 

I don't have much to say about any of these books other then I think a lot of my interest has waned just due to the passing of time.  

In no particular order, here are my selections:


The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games (Hunger Games Trilogy, Book 1) by [Collins, Suzanne]



Divergent




Heartsick



V.C. Andrews



Kay Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell



So those are my picks for fandoms I am no longer into.  Are there any that you are no longer interested in?  Let me know in the comments!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Book Review and Giveaway: Witch Cake Murders by Zoe Arden (Cozy Mystery)

Greetings Friends!

Today I am participating in a blog tour stop for the cozy mystery Witch Cake Murders by Zoe Arden.  


Rating:


Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Release Date: April 2017


Synopsis:


Witches and humans have always existed peacefully in Sweetland Cove... until now.

Someone is killing humans and drawing unwanted attention to the supernatural residents of Sweetland Cove.

Ava Rose just turned twenty-one and with her birthday came a few surprises.

One: she's a witch.
Two: she's part owner of a magical bakery she never knew existed.
Three: Someone wants her dead.

The day Ava arrives in Sweetland Cove, murders begin occurring…
Witches and wizards are quick to blame her, but Ava's aunts won't let the town they love turn against her.

But murders follow Ava everywhere.

Soon, she finds herself on the receiving end of the killer's mad spree. With a crazy wizarding sheriff who wants to lock her up, and an even crazier wizarding detective who wants to lock her whole family up, Ava must solve this case alone.

But as the days pass and the only clues point to her, Ava starts to wonder if maybe the sheriff is right.

Maybe she really is the killer.

The only thing Ava knows for sure is that the witches of Sweetland are not happy with her. Especially those witches who have something to hide.

And they all have something to hide.

Can Ava stop the killer before they strike again... even if that killer is her?

Witch Cake Murders is available at Amazon.


About the Author:


It was from reading Agatha Christie’s mystery books that inspired Zoe to write cozy mystery novels. Zoe liked the fact that cozy mysteries are able to offer readers a form of escapism that typical detective stories can’t.

Like what Marilyn Stasio, who has been the Crime columnist for The New York Times Book Review since the late 1980s, recently wrote: “The abiding appeal of the cozy mystery owes a lot to our collective memory, true or false, of simpler, sweeter times.” It is Zoe’s desire that her writings will evoke that nostalgic memory in all of us; those memories of the good old days.

What sets Zoe apart in her writings is her fusing of Mystery with Paranormal elements, a combination which will bring about fantasies that are intriguing and engaging. Her stories contain unexpected twists and sometimes light-hearted moments that will make one smile at Zoe’s quirkiness, fun, and wittiness in her writings.

You can connect with Zoe on Facebook.


Review:


I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest and thoughtful review.

This was a fun and cute cozy read.  I really enjoyed the paranormal elements that made this such a a unique cozy mystery.  Not only were there witches, but goblins, wizards, fairies, and talking animals were all interacting with one another.  While the main hostilities seemed to be between the witches and the humans, there were also darker forces within the supernatural trying to make their presence known as well and it was interesting to see this play out too.

Ava has no idea that she is a witch nor about how powerful she truly is, so I enjoyed seeing her development as she discovers who and what she is.  Because she has no clue about being a witch, she is constantly making a mess of things.  Everyone seems content on keeping so many secrets, so it wasn't hard for her to find trouble as needless drama continues to ensue because so much information is withheld!  Additionally, at 21, Ava is extremely naive and immature, so while endearing in the beginning, it does gradually become annoying.  Many of these personality quirks would have been much more understandable had she been younger.

Aside from those few minor shortcomings, this was definitely an engaging read with no dull moments, so there isn't a shortage of reasons to believe that anyone could be a potential suspect!  I will definitely be checking out the other books in the series.  Amusing and entertaining, this book is a great way to escape from the real world for a little while!  Just make sure you have some treats nearby because your sweet tooth will be activated reading about all the baked goods!  Unfortunately, no recipes included though.


Book Excerpt:

"Let me ask you something," Brendan said. "You're a witch. Why do witches like human men?" He was looking at me so earnestly I felt compelled to answer him. I just didn't know what to say.
"Um..." I stammered. "I don't know. I grew up around humans, so I guess I'm just drawn to them." I looked back through the glass patio door at Damon, who was dancing with Megan again. Brendan followed my gaze, looking miserable.
"Love sucks," he said, then shoved the purple stem he'd been twirling into his pocket and skulked off. I turned back to the stars and sighed.
An earth-shattering scream rose into the night, making me jump.
Through the patio door, I could see a crowd gathering around the perimeter of the room. A woman was screaming. I hurried inside. The crowd had opened up, leaving two people in its center.
Felicity stood there, her mouth hanging open. Campbell was dancing around her, his hands flying unnaturally through the air. His head was tilted at an odd angle and his tongue lolled out the side of his mouth, like a thirsty dog. He was making strange grunting noises that almost resembled words.
"He's drunk!" someone yelled.
Campbell swung his hips around and bumped into Felicity, who stumbled away from him.
"All right, all right, break it up," Felicity's boyfriend Lincoln said.
Lincoln was the sheriff of Mistmoor Point, and the crowded parted for him as he came through.  Even if he hadn't been a sheriff, I suspected the crowd would still have parted for him. At six feet tall with bronze hair and blue eyes, he made quite a figure in the middle of a crowd.
"Okay, Campbell. Time to go home," Lincoln said, clamping one hand down on his shoulder.
Campbell yanked Lincoln hard, sending him flying across the room. Everyone gasped. Campbell stopped, looked around, then let out a strange gurgling sound. He fell to the floor. His face was bright blue.
Felicity hunkered down next to him. She gave him one hard shake then looked up at the rest of the room, her mouth gaping.
"He's dead," she cried. "Campbell's dead!"
Who would be next?






Zoe Arden is giving away 7 cozy mystery paperbacks by Amanda M. Lee, Agatha Frost, H. Y. Hanna, Joanne Fluke, Leighann Dobbs, Gina Lamanna and Lilian Jackson Brown.
BONUS: All entries will receive a free copy of Cozy Mystery: Cake Spell Disaster by Zoe Arden.

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive a 7-pack paperback collection of cozy mysteries by bestselling authors. All entries will receive a free copy of Zoe Arden’s CAKE SPELL DISASTER.

This giveaway ends midnight May 31.
Winner will be contacted via email on June 1.
Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Many thanks to Zoe Arden and Pump Up Your Book.  It was a pleasure providing a review!

I hope you enjoyed this feature and be sure to check out other blog stops on the tour here.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ivy Kids Educational Subscription Box

Greetings Friends!

When I initially started the blog, I came across the Virtual Book Club for Kids and posted weekly wrap ups about our learning experiences and objectives. However, since becoming pregnant with Baby Z #3, I just couldn't find the energy to keep up with the program the way I had been. We still read the books and did many activities unrelated to the themes, but it didn't seem necessary to document that in posts.

For that reason, I wanted to take some time to showcase an educational subscription box that Maddox received as a Christmas gift in 2015 from his grandparents. We received a six-month subscription and we still make use of the activities in them even now!

"Ivy Kids is a monthly educational subscription box for children ages 3-8. Our goal is to make every moment with your child 'quality time.' Have the tools at your fingertips to ensure your child has a solid foundation in math, literacy, and science. Help your child build confidence and be well-rounded in all disciplines to ensure future academic success.  The activities in the Ivy Kits have been created by certified early childhood teachers with children of their own."

These kits are fantastic! They have really been a lifesaver for me when I want to include an educational activity in our day, but just don't have the time to spend planning or gathering supplies. One of my favorite reasons to consider investing in a subscription is that all the materials needed for the activities are included in the box, even things like scissors and glue! For anyone with very little space for storage or following a minimalist lifestyle, this is incredible! Use what you need and then get rid of it. No need to hang on to anything but the finished products because the next box will include everything you need for those activities!

Delivered to your child each month will be an Ivy Kids kit containing:
  • A highly-rated children’s book (surprisingly, given the size of the boys' personal library, we never received a book that we already owned)
  • Over 10 activities, projects, and games inspired by the book of the month such as:
    • Bookmark reading guide
    • Materials to retell the story
    • Science fact boards and experiments
    • Art projects
    • Math Manipulatives
    • Board games
    • Fine motor exercises
    • Literacy activities
  • Detailed instructions to scaffold learning
  • A personalized item for the child
Our first box featured Penguin and Pinecone.

Ivy Kids Kit - Penguin and Pinecone

Awww!  Maddox was 2.5!

This kit is still available for a single purchase and detailed photos are included if you want to see exactly what was included.  Check it out on their website here.

Today, we brought out the Fish Out of Water box, which is also still available for a single purchase.  

Ivy Kids kit containing math, literacy, science, and art activities based on A Fish Out of Water by Helen Palmer

Maddox had a blast with this box when we initially opened it.  There was an activity to grow sea creatures and measure their growth across several days. He looked forward to measuring them each morning when he woke up! And we still use the fish bowl game in a busy bag.  

Today, we read the book again and Maddox played the Feed the Fish Vowel Race game. 


Jackson is still way too little to enjoy the activities, so I found a fish coloring page and he went back and forth between coloring and eating the crayons!  If you have multiple children that would love to engage in the activities, for an additional $5.00 a box, they will send extra craft materials for siblings.


These boxes would be a great resource with summer quickly approaching!  As they like to say, "Meaningful play is key to your child's future success." I am in no way affiliated with the company, so I don't receive anything should you decide to purchase a box or a subscription. I have just been overwhelmingly pleased with these boxes and wanted to spread the love! 

Please let me know if you decide to purchase a box!  I'd love to know how it worked out for your family!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Book Review and Giveaway: The Ashes by Vincent Zandri (Horror, Thriller)


Greetings Friends!

Today I am participating in a blog tour stop for the Horror/Thriller book The Ashes by Vincent Zandri.


Rating:


Genre:  Horror, Thriller
Release Date:  November 2016

Synopsis:  


HORROR IN THE DARK WOODS

It’s been eight years since artist and single mom, Rebecca Underhill, was abducted and left to die in an old broken down house located in the middle of the dark woods. But even if her abductor, Joseph William Whalen, has since been killed, another, more insidious evil is once more out to get her in the form of the Skinner. The son of an abusive butcher, Skinner intends on finishing the job Whalen started, but failed at.

How is he going to get to Rebecca?

He’s going to do it through her children, by luring them into the cornfield behind the old farmhouse they live in.

HORROR IN THE DEPTHS

Now, armed with the knowledge that the Skinner has escaped incarceration at a downstate facility for the criminally insane, Rebecca must face the most horrifying challenge of her adult life: Rescuing the children not from a house in the woods, but from the abandoned tunnels that run underneath her property.

But the Skinner is watching Rebecca’s every move.

Horrifying question is, will she live long enough to save the children?


About the Author:



Winner of the 2015 PWA Shamus Award and the 2015 ITW Thriller Award for Best Original Paperback Novel, Vincent Zandri is the NEW YORK TIMES, USA TODAY, and AMAZON KINDLE No.1 bestselling author of more than 25 novels including THE REMAINS, MOONLIGHT WEEPS, EVERYTHING BURNS, and ORCHARD GROVE. He is also the author of numerous Amazon bestselling digital shorts, PATHOLOGICAL, TRUE STORIES and MOONLIGHT MAFIA among them. Harlan Coben has described THE INNOCENT (formerly As Catch Can) as "gritty, fast-paced, lyrical and haunting," while the New York Post called it "Sensational...Masterful...Brilliant!"  Zandri's list of domestic publishers include Delacorte, Dell, Down & Out Books, Thomas & Mercer and Polis Books, while his foreign publisher is Meme Publishers of Milan and Paris. 

An MFA in Writing graduate of Vermont College, Zandri's work is translated in the Dutch, Russian, French, Italian, and Japanese. Recently, Zandri was the subject of a major feature by the New York Times.  He has also made appearances on Bloomberg TV and FOX news. In December 2014, Suspense Magazine named Zandri's, THE SHROUD KEY, as one of the "Best Books of 2014." Recently, Suspense Magazine selected WHEN SHADOWS COME as one of the "Best Books of 2016."

A freelance photo-journalist and the author of the popular "lit blog," The Vincent Zandri Vox, Zandri has written for Living Ready Magazine, RT, New York Newsday, Hudson Valley Magazine, The Times Union (Albany), Game & Fish Magazine, and many more. He lives in New York and Florence, Italy.

You can connect with him on:

FACEBOOK  |  TWITTER  |  WEBSITE

Review:


I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest and thoughtful review.

While this is the second book in the Rebecca Underhill trilogy, and while I had not read the first book, reading it out of order did not affect the experience.

I went into reading this book thinking it would be more of a thriller; however, this is very much a horror story, and if you don't like blood, gore, violence, and a freaky villain who isn't quite entirely human, it will definitely be hard to read. I wasn't prepared for how dark and horrifying the story ultimately unfolded. It became one of those situations where when you think it can't get any worse, it does. While well written with great tension and pacing throughout, the creep factor of the villain was too much for me at times, and coupled with his disturbing nature, I had to take some breaks because it was definitely draining. I kept hearing things, looking around to make sure nothing was in the room with me, and quickly realized that the fear of the Bogeyman really doesn't ever go away.

I had issues with the decision-making of the main character, Rebecca, given her prior experiences, and questioned much of her action or inaction. The story is driven less by the characters and their development and more by their conflicts, so in a sense, this made her come across as the stereotypical horror heroine. She doesn't listen to those gut reactions that we as the reader are screaming at her to acknowledge. Although in the beginning this effect makes the book super fast paced and gripping, it gradually made me apathetic about her overall survival. Additionally, without giving anything away, I did not like the direction that the children's story took. I felt that in the end it was a bit too gratuitous and I personally didn't want it to go as far as it did.

This was a shocking and intense look into the mind of a monster that I won't soon forget. Read with caution and leave the lights on.


Book Excerpt:



Albany Police Department
South Pearl Street Precinct

The old homicide detective sits behind his metal desk surrounded by the cold quiet of the early morning, staring forlornly into the radiant screen on his department-issued laptop. He’s been using the laptop, which is integrated with the department’s web server, for years and years now, but he still fondly recalls the days when his desktop supported only a telephone connected to an old fashioned landline and beside that, an IMB Selectric typewriter. And how could he ever forget the old two tiered Inbox/Outbox?
He glances at his inbox and the two dozen or so new emails that have come his way since he last checked it the previous evening. He scans the emails for their importance, relegating most of them to routine, until he comes to one marked, “URGENT: Serial Murderer Hanover Escapes Custody.”
The detective, whose name is Nick Miller, is a tall, wiry, white-haired man. He has been on the force for more years than a man should be. Or so he’s been told countless times by his peers inside the department. But he’s a widower who can’t seem to get over the fact that his wife is gone, even years after her untimely death on an operating table after suffering a burst aneurism. It also explains why he’s sitting behind his desk, suffering from the pangs of a whiskey hangover, on a quiet Sunday morning.
He opens the email.
“To Whom It May Concern,” reads the department wide message. “The former cellmate of New York State registered sex offender and convicted murderer, Joseph William Whalen, has escaped from the Mid-Hudson Psychiatric Center in New Hampton, New York while en route to a routine medical review at an upstate facility. Lawrence Frederick Hanover, 69, Caucasian, was convicted on several counts of murder in the first degree and is considered extremely dangerous. Both guards who were assisting with the transfer were killed during an apparent violent exchange with Hanover, aka Skinner, or The Skinner. His present whereabouts is unknown.”
 Miller exhales, sits back in his swivel chair.
The email originates not from the FBI but from the state police, most notably, the Rensselaer County Division. He recalls Whalen as the maximum security inmate who, not long after his release, attempted to abduct and kill the same woman, Rebecca Underhill, whom he’d abducted back when she was a little girl in 1977. Her twin sister, Molly, was also the target of his attacks. Although Molly has since died, Rebecca, still lives in the area with her son.
The email comes with several pictures of Hanover, including his most recent mugshots and psychiatric facility photo records. The small, bald, scraggily faced little man doesn’t seem like he could hurt a fly much less another human being. But Miller wasn’t born yesterday and he knows that even a little man can kill as efficiently and quickly as a big, monster of a man. Perhaps even more quickly and efficiently.
Sitting back up, he scans the rest of the email.
“While state police have issued state-wide APBs and launched a task force to hunt for Hanover’s whereabouts, we are asking that police cooperate in every way possible to ensure the quick, efficient, and otherwise discreet apprehension of the serial murderer. All communications should be delivered directly to this office via the email/phone number listed.”
Once more Miller sits back.
“The quick, efficient, and otherwise discreet apprehension of the serial murderer,” he whispers. “Somebody fucked up and that somebody doesn’t want the press to get ahold of this story.”  
Sitting there, alone in the quiet office, Miller feels a distinct and very unpleasant chill run up and down his backbone.
“What would a schooled Statie or FBI pathologist have to say about this rather delicate situation?” he whispers quietly to himself. “That a killer as skilled and hungry as Hanover is gonna slip up and be found sleeping in some crappy hotel somewhere? That they can then slip him back inside his rubber room at Mid-Hudson Psychiatric, like he’s some two-bit bank robber?” The detective laughs aloud. “I’ll tell you something right now. If the Skinner doesn’t want to be found, then no way in hell he’s gonna be found. Simple as that. He didn’t escape to be free. He escaped to kill, to butcher, and that’s all.”
His bloodshot eyes once more focused on the laptop screen, the old detective shifts the curser so that it clicks on the Action Taken box beside the open email. He clicks on Saved Mail.
Closing the laptop lid, he finds that his hands are shaking. He opens the bottom desk drawer, pulls out the bottle of Jack Daniels stored inside it. Pouring a generous shot into his empty ceramic coffee cup, he drinks it down.
“Skinner,” he whispers. “Who will you flay next? Whose flesh will you feast on?”     





Vincent is giving away ten Kindle e-copies of The Ashes!

Terms & Conditions:

 By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.

 Ten winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter.

 This giveaway ends midnight May 31.

Good luck!

ENTER TO WIN!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Many thanks to Vincent Zandri and Pump Up Your Book.  It was a pleasure providing a review.

I hope you enjoyed this feature and be sure to check out other blog stops on the tour here.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Top 5 Wednesday: Summer Reads


Greetings Fellow Book Dragons!

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme within the book community that was created by Lainey of GingerReadsLainey, but is now hosted by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes.  If you're interested in participating, find out more on the Goodreads group.

This week's topic is Favorite Summer Reads!  The weather is heating up, so let's chat about the books that remind you of summer and/or are your quintessential summer reads!

So in no particular order, here are my selections:


Amy and Roger's Epic Detour


While I have some problems with this book, the road trip aspect coupled with the playlists just screamed summer! Told in traditional narrative, there are also scraps along the trip that work to enhance the story as well. This is the quintessential young adult contemporary book.

Following Amy's father's sudden death, Amy's mother has decided to relocate family from California to Connecticut and just in time for Amy's senior year. Accompanying Amy on this cross country trip is Roger, the son of an old friend of Amy's mother. She hasn't seen him in years and is less than thrilled to be driving around with him. Slowly, but surely, she develops a crush on him and begins to come to terms with her father's death. 


The Ruins


This is summer gone wrong!  And it's a great book to pick up if you want to dip your toes into the horror genre, but aren't looking to be totally freaked out. 

Trapped in the Mexican jungle, a group of friends stumble upon a creeping horror unlike anything they could ever imagine. Two young couples are on a lazy Mexican vacation–sun-drenched days, drunken nights, making friends with fellow tourists. When the brother of one of those friends disappears, they decide to venture into the jungle to look for him. What started out as a fun day-trip slowly spirals into a nightmare when they find an ancient ruins site . . . and the terrifying presence that lurks there.


The Martian


This one for me is a great summer read because of its fast paced action and adventure. I could not put this book down!  

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. 

Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. 

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?


To All the Boys I've Loved Before


Summer is a great time to read contemporary and this is such an adorable series that screams summer even though it doesn't take place during that time. This series is so adorable for not only the romance side of it, but also the family dynamics presented within the families. The final book was just recently released, so now is the perfect time for binge reading!

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?

Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control. 


The Da Vinci Code


I love this one for it's fast paced adventure. Plus all the places you get to visit while running around with Professor Langdon is reminiscent to me of summer vacations spent traveling to historic sites with family.

And given that used bookstores receive a plethora of this book every year, you're sure to find a good copy for relatively cheap!


So those are my favorite summer reads, what are some of yours? Let me know in the comments, so I can add to my summer reading TBR!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite SFF Cover Art


Greetings Fellow Book Dragons!

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme within the book community that was created by Lainey of GingerReadsLainey, but is now hosted by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes.  If you're interested in participating, find out more on the Goodreads group.

This week's topic is Favorite Science Fiction and Fantasy Cover Art!  This is a crossover topic with the BooktubeSFF Awards, and while nominees have already been selected for each category, this is simply a chance to talk about the covers of those SFF books that you just absolutely love!

I don't have a lot to say about each cover because to me the artwork speaks for itself, so in no particular order, here are my selections:


The Martian




This one just beautifully captures the atmosphere and mood of The Martian perfectly!




I love how this cover beautifully captures the magic and majesty of the story.


His Majesty's Dragon


Image result for his majesty's dragon series

Image result for his majesty's dragon series

I really like the simplicity and beauty of these covers as they span the series, including the extension of the design on the spines.



228665

Image result for The eye of the world cover

Each cover in the series reflects that epic nature of high fantasy.  I included the entire painting, which wraps around the book and would look great framed on a wall.  Every time I pick up these books, I spend almost the same amount of time looking at all the details of the art as I do reading the book!


Throne of Glass


13519397

This is the UK cover and is a huge upgrade from the original US version.  It truly captures how much of a badass Celaena comes across to be. 


There are so many more that I love as well, but these are definitely some of my top picks at the moment.  What are some of yours?  Let me know in the comments!