Category Archives: review
by D. Melhoff
A remote summer camp becomes a lurid crime scene when the bodies of two teenagers are found in a bloody, real-life rendering of a classic Grimm’s fairy tale. Trapped in the wilderness, the remaining counselors must follow a trail of dark children’s fables in order to outwit a psychopath and save the dwindling survivors before falling prey to their own gruesome endings.
Drawing on the grisly, uncensored details of history’s most famous fairy tales, Grimm Woods is a heart-pounding thriller about a deranged killer who uses traditional children’s stories as tropes in elaborate murders. Set against the backdrop of modern-day Michigan, it’s a journey through the mind of a dangerous zealot and a shocking glimpse into the bedtime stories you thought you knew.
MY THOUGHTS: 3 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
I will admit that my initial instinct about this book, after reading the first 10 chapters or so, was to put it down and give it a DNF. For some reason I continued though, and although I can’t say I’m exactly super thrilled I did, the book was worth the time it took to read.
It seems the author was trying to create a Friday the 13th, slasher flick atmosphere; in some ways he succeeded, in some ways not. This is a horror book for sure though; very gory and not for the faint of heart.
Scott Mamer and a dozen other college aged students are counselors at a fairy tale themed camp for kids in the middle of the woods. Before the kids even arrive, the counselors are being picked off one by one, their bodies displayed in gruesome ways. When the murders continue after the children get there, Scott takes it upon himself to see who is really behind the killing and try to stop it.
Don’t get twisted–Scott is no hero, though. He’s not even really likeable as a character. No one in this novel truly is. It’s soon discovered all of the counselors have been handpicked for a reason and they will pay for the sins of their past. The victims and the ways they are killed are all, in some cases very tentatively, connected to old school, violent fairy tales. In some instances I could see the connection, but in others it was a stretch.
I had a TON of questions as I was reading this book and seeing as this was a mystery, decided to keep reading and see if they would be answered. For the most part, they were, but some things still don’t make sense to me. It’s difficult to explain myself more without giving away the plot.
I feel that in some ways the author was trying too hard. He uses big, uncommon words when simpler ones would have fit better. There are mentions of torture devices and methods of killing that are kind of shoehorned in, as if the author was just trying to say, “Look, I know this.”
Though in many ways I was dissatisfied, Grimm Woods was a quick, thrilling read for me and I was totally escaping into the world when I was reading. The author does do a great job with descriptions, whether it’s the setting, or the bloody details of how someone is killed. It’s very vibrant and you can really see it in your mind’s eye.
In my opinion the basis for the story was a creative one and it took me for a ride, but the author just has some writing issues he needs to work on. I would revisit his work in the future.
About the Author
D. Melhoff was born in a prairie ghost town that few people have heard of and even fewer have visited. While most of his stories are for adults, he also enjoys terrifying younger audiences from time to time, as seen in his series of twisted picture books for children. He credits King, Poe, Hitchcock, Harris, Stoker, and his second grade school teacher, Mrs. Lake, for turning him to horror. For more information, visit grimmwoods.com.
If I Fall, If I Die
by Michael Christie
Will has never been to the outside, at least not since he can remember. And he has certainly never gotten to know anyone other than his mother, a fiercely loving yet wildly eccentric agoraphobe who drowns in panic at the thought of opening the front door. Their little world comprises only the rooms in their home, each named for various exotic locales and filled with Will’s art projects.
Soon the confines of his world close in on Will. Despite his mother’s protestations, Will ventures outside clad in a protective helmet and braces himself for danger. He eventually meets and befriends Jonah, a quiet boy who introduces Will to skateboarding. Will welcomes his new world with enthusiasm, his fears fading and his body hardening with each new bump, scrape, and fall. But life quickly gets complicated. When a local boy goes missing, Will and Jonah want to uncover what happened. They embark on an extraordinary adventure that pulls Will far from the confines of his closed-off world and into the throes of early adulthood and the dangers that everyday life offers.
If I Fall, if I Die is a remarkable debut full of dazzling prose, unforgettable characters, and a poignant and heartfelt depiction of coming of age.
If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie
It’s hard to become a normal teenage boy when you’re sequestered in your own home because of your mother’s extreme agoraphobia. Will knows something isn’t right with the way he lives, but it takes venturing outside for him to realize just what he’s missing–and that the world is so much more complicated than he could have imagined.
I am not sure if I would describe this as a coming of age story, per se, though Will does go through an enormous amount of growth. Part of it is due to puberty, and part of it is due to finally being able to explore the town around him and meet other people besides his mother. Will is sublimely innocent in many ways, and it’s heartbreaking to watch him fall and get disappointed, but you also know it has to happen in order for him not to end up like his mother.
The agoraphobia/boy venturing out storyline would have been plenty enough for me, but around the 60 percent mark there are other elements and characters that come into play that I really could have done without. Yes, some history and background on main characters is important, but in my opinion the author often went off on tangents exploring events that didn’t really matter in the end.
Once I committed myself to reading I got through it quickly, but ultimately I was left unsatisfied by the ending. A lot of questions were left unanswered, and not in a way that the reader can divine the answer for themselves. I liked Will and enjoyed seeing him blossom, but the rest of the story dragged me down.
About the Author
MICHAEL CHRISTIE’s debut book of fiction, The Beggar’s Garden, was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, a finalist for the Writers’ Trust Prize for Fiction, and won the Vancouver Book Award. Prior to earning an MFA from the University of British Columbia, he was a sponsored skateboarder and travelled throughout the world skateboarding and writing for skateboard magazines. Born in Thunder Bay, he now lives on Galiano Island with his wife and two sons. If I Fall, If I Die is his first novel.
Publisher: Quad City Press; First edition (August 18, 2015)
Category: Children’s Books, Cats, Christmas Books
Tour Date: Oct & Nov, 2015
Available in: Print & ebook, 36 Pages
The Christmas Cats Fear for the Deer is a Seuss-ical tale for young children (4th in the series) which builds upon the morals of the first three Christmas Cats books (The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats, The Christmas Cats Chase Christmas Rats and The Christmas Cats Encounter Bats).
This year, the Christmas Cats in Silly Hats, who go about helping animals in distress, are trying to help save the lives of the deer who live in Scott County Park. Hunters are routinely sent to shoot the deer, and the cats want to warn the deer away, so that they will not fall victim to the town’s plans to “thin the herd.”
The Cop Cat, Cy, thinks up a particularly ingenious plan to save all the deer in Scott County Park by introducing them to a jolly old guy in a red suit who lives at the North Pole. Perhaps the deer can also help Santa on Christmas Eve, if they are outfitted with prosthetic (fake) antlers?
Illustrated with delightful drawings and written in rhyme, there are also interactive coloring book pages and mazes from the book’s website, which the author encourages children aged 3 to 10 to fill out and mail in for display. (www.TheXmasCats.com).
MY THOUGHTS: 4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
The Christmas Cats are a fun idea, and this is the second book in this series that my son and I have read. He’s in first grade now and a budding reader. The rhyme scheme made it easy for him to predict what words were coming up. The reading was not too bad for him, though there were a couple of challenging words I had to help with.
This time the cats are saving some cute little deer from hunters. I do live in the south and hunting is the norm, but I found this topic and the way it was presented kind of dark for a children’s book. Especially if you’re reading it as a bedtime story to maybe a younger child–it wouldn’t be out of the question for the child to be scared after hearing a tale with guns and hunters wanting to kill deer.
In any event, the Christmas Cats spring into action and save the deer, even working out a way for them to have a more permanent home where they can be of service! The ending was pretty creative and my child thought the imagery was funny. He also always cracked up when he saw those cats wearing such silly hats.
I’d recommend this book only if you’re certain your child will not be sensitive to the guns/hunting theme, and to those who are just starting to read. It’s a fun tale for you and your child to share and talk about.
“The Christmas Cats in such a fun read I love the rhyming tale of being non judgemental, and the importance of helping others, and the reminder that when the work is done it’s time to play! This book is sure to become a favorite with youngsters, the colorful illustrations are sure to capture their eye as well as their imagination. Perfect for gift giving, a great little book that teaches a few valuable life lessons while using simple enough language that will allow them to read along. A recommended Christmas read that put a smile on my face.”-Brenda C., VW Stitcher
“This is a very cute and entertaining Children’s story and far different than I am used to reading from Constance.I read this to my four year old son who was mesmerized by the beautiful illustration and entertained by the story of the Cats and Rats.I liked the fact it was a fun way to teach children not to judge others.A great addition to any child’s library and a fun adult read as well.”- Heather Belden, Saving for Six
“Author Constance Corcoran Wilson has created a fun story with THE CHRISTMAS CATS CHASE CHRISTMAS RATS that helps to not just entertain the reader but teach important lessons as well.
Just in time for the holidays we are able to see how a group of Christmas Rats are just misunderstood and judged prematurely, when they are really a big help to those who appreciate it.
The story also allows us to see that when it comes to where we can find friends and some of our greatest allies, the answer may not be too far away from us.
Witty and engaging, this book in the series is a guaranteed winner for readers of all ages.”- Cyrus Webb,TOP 500 Amazon Reviewer
Praise for The Christmas Cats Encounter Bats by Constance Corcoran Wilson:
“Wilson continues the theme of teaching a lesson with rhyming prose in her third book in the series, THE CHRISTMAS CATS ENCOUNTER BATS. Wilson has written these books with the help of her young granddaughters. Each of her stories model kindness and good behavior. They teach children the importance of helping others through the telling of a silly story. This time the Christmas Cats are called to the mall to investigate a funny sound. When they find the sound is coming from a group of bats, everyone at the mall is scared and wants them taken care of. The Christmas Cats teach them all a lesson that each one of us is a part of God’s creation and we all have a purpose here on Earth. The end of the book also includes a couple activity pages. This book is targeted towards the preschool – lower elementary age group. This series of books would make a great addition to your Christmas library of books.”- Stacie Gorkow, Sincerely Stacie
“I thought it was a very good book. It was also very funny, and teaches you to leave God’s creatures alone because they help the earth and ecosystem.
A great book for Young children to help learn morals, the Ecosystem, and our beautiful Earth. An excellent book for educators and librarians alike, as well, as parents, and grandparents. A great book! Vivid pictures that your little ones will enjoy!”-My Book Addiction and More
“Well, what can I say? Cats, rats, bats? Where does the fun stop?!
Seriously, this is a delightful book that any child will enjoy having read to them or reading themselves. The rhymes are constant and sharp. It’s the sort of book where children will love to shout out loud the words as they search along with the Christmas Cats for the bats.
The illustrations, once again, are brilliant. They are colourful and engaging and capture the pure zany fun this book offers.
I can highly recommend this one for the Christmas stocking. Your children will love it.”- Susan Day, Author/Illustrator Astro’s Adventures)
Connie has published many works representing a variety of genres. Wilson’s first book (1989), published by Performance Learning Systems, Inc. of Emerson, New Jersey, Training the Teacher As A Champion, put forth the teaching techniques and principles taught by the nation’s largest teacher training firm. Written by Wilson in collaboration with PLS founder Joseph Hasenstaab, the book gives an insight into the effective teaching practices of successful teachers, those techniques included in that organization’s Project T.E.A.C.H. (Teacher Effectiveness and Classroom Handling). Connie taught at the elementary level for 20 years, taught writing at 6 IA/IL colleges, and founded the second Sylvan Learning Center in the state of Iowa in 1986.
Since then, Connie has published 30 titles in a variety of genres, with the Christmas Cats series written with and for her now-six-year-old granddaughters, Ava and Elise. (Illustrations by Gary McCluskey) now entering its fourth installment. The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats began the four-book series and the cats help other animals in distress while wearing a delightful series of silly hats. The second book in the series, The Christmas Cats Chase Christmas Rats, was a plea for all to remain unprejudiced (“Do not judge others without knowing, or prejudice you will be showing”) and the third book, The Christmas Cats Encounter Bats, stressed the need to honor all life as sacred. This year’s book , The Christmas Cats Fear for the Deer, encourages helping others and also strikes a blow for individuals who some might consider handicapped, but who can succeed and excel if simple accommodations are made for them.
Connie’s adult fare can be seen on Amazon or on her dedicated author site, www.ConnieCWilson.com.
The Christmas Cats Encounter Bats was one of 7 books singled out by the CWA (Chicago Writers’ Association) as one of the Best Books of the Year by a Chicago author in 2014 at its annual award ceremony. Connie’s adult fare has won “Shelf Unbound” Page-Turner of the Year awards, NABE (National Association of Book Entrepreneurs) Pinnacle Awards, E-lit awards, LuckyCinda awards, Silver Feather Awards as Writer of the Year from the IWPA (Illinois Women’s Press Association) in 2012 and 2014 and, Midwest Writing Center’s Writer of the Year Award in 2010 as well as a Writer’s Digest awards (screenplay). She was also named the Yahoo Content Producer of the Year for Politics in 2008 after following the presidential election of 2008.
Connie maintains two short story series and a novel series as Connie Corcoran Wilson, but uses her full legal name, Constance Corcoran Wilson, on her children’s series, which she writes for and with her 6-year-old granddaughters.
Connie on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Connie_C_Wilson
Connie on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Connie-Corcoran-Wilson-275020829241869/
Connie on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/conniecwilson/
Buy The Christmas Cats Fear for the Deer by Constance Corcoran Wilson:
Follow The Christmas Cats Fear For the Deer Tour:
Teddy Rose Reviews Plus Oct 23 Review & Giveaway
Life in a House of Testosterone Oct 27 Review
Mommy Makes Time Oct 28 Review
Sincerely Stacie Oct 30 Review
Words on Words Nov 2 Review
The Crypto-Capers Review Nov 3 Review
booknerd Nov 4 Review
Lisa-Queen of Random Nov 6 Review & Interview
The Mommies Reviews Nov 9 Review, Interview
Cassandra M’s Place Nov 10 Review & Giveaway
VW Stitcher Nov 11 Review
Gramma Knows Best Nov 13 Review & Giveaway
Lisa’s Writopia Nov 16 Review
Deal Sharing Aunt Nov 17 Review
Pen and Muse Book Reviews Nov 18 Review & Giveaway
Pratr Nov 19 Review
Rockin’ Book Reviews Nov 20 Review
Bound 4 Escape Nov 23 Review
Krazy Kat Freebies Nov 24 Review & Giveaway
JBronder Book Reviews Nov 25 Review & Interview
Infinite House of Books Nov 27 Interview
Sweet Southern Home Nov 30 Review
DISCLAIMER: This is a sponsored post with Mums the Word Network and Amwell. All opinions are my own.
If you’re a mom, you know the holidays can be hectic! Shopping, cooking, wrapping, visiting…and then one of the little ones gets a sniffle. That sniffle turns into a cough, your kid coughs all night, no one gets any sleep. AND, this always seems to happen on a holiday or weekend!
What if I told you there was a way you could visit with a doctor–anytime–from the comfort of your own home? Well there is!
Amwell is the newest way to get your child or yourself seen by a doctor. It’s all done online–via an app on your device or a visit to the website on the computer! You can choose from numerous doctors in practices such as psychology, nutrition, dermatology, and of course pediatrics. These are all REAL, US trained, board certified doctors, so you can be sure you’re getting the best of care!
Once you go through the simple two step registration process, you can then choose the physician you want to consult with.
My child is fortunately feeling well, so I decided to meet with a dietary provider to speak about some issues I had been having during my third trimester of pregnancy.
Once you choose the type of doctor you need, you can then look through profiles and find the best fit for you.
I chose a dietician who was also a lactation consultant! Breastfeeding moms, how cool is it to know you can contact someone to help you with those latching questions in the middle of the night?
After answering a few questions about medical history and medications, I was connected with my provider in less than 10 minutes. That’s definitely less than I would spend in a traditional waiting room!
The video was clear and flowed smoothly, and I never had any connection problems. You get a 25 minute visit that can be extended is necessary. I’m happy to say my chosen provider was courteous and knowledgeable. I felt like I was talking to a friend! I got quick and precise answers to my questions and she was very professional.
I would definitely not hesitate to use Amwell again in the future! Did I mention you can even get prescribed medications during your visit, and the prescription is sent to the pharmacy for you?! Amwell does accept some insurances, but if you are uninsured, a visit is around $49 or less. You can even get your first visit FREE by using code CARENOW19 on the payment screen.
Next time your child is sick in the middle of the night, don’t wait till morning–use Amwell and get instant peace of mind.
Crow Made a Friend
by Margaret Peot
Try, try again is the lesson Crow teaches beginning readers in this picture book reader. Crow was all alone. But like all crows, he was very clever. Using autumn leaves for wings, sticks for the body and a crab apple for the head, Crow made a friend! But winter winds blew in, destroying his creation. Undaunted, Crow fashioned another bird friend out of snow but could not prevent it from melting in the warm spring sun. Alone again, Crow heard the caw, caw, caw of a real, live bird. Together they built a nest and by summer, Crow had a family. This warm, satisfying story, celebrates perseverance and ingenuity.
MY THOUGHTS: 4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
My first grader and I read this book together! It’s the perfect length for a bedtime story, not too wordy and with only a sentence or two on each page.
This book is about a crow who’s lonely, and tries to make himself friends. The crow fails a couple of times, but he never quits. I like that the lesson of perseverance is taught in the book in a way that’s not super blatant or detracts from the story.
The reason I took away one star is that I felt the ending was a little rushed and not something kids could understand–crow meets another crow and then suddenly there is a family? As an adult, I got it I suppose, but my seven year old was like, “Mom, where did the family come from?”
My child’s favorite part was definitely the gorgeous illustrations. He loved pointing out the crows’ beautiful and shiny feathers, especially on the last page when they were all together.
Crow Made a Friend is a super book for beginning readers and one your child will be happy to share with you.
About the Author
Margaret is an artist, writer and costume painter. Margaret has two new books out in 2015, Stencil Craft (F&W) and an early reader picture book, Crow Made a Friend (Holiday House). Margaret’s book Inkblot: Drip, Splat and Squish Your Way to Creativity (Boyds Mills 2011) was awarded a Eureka! Silver Medal for non-fiction children’s books. She is also the author of The Successful Artist’s Career Guide (F&W 2012), Alternative Art Journals (F&W 2012), and Make Your Mark (Chronicle Books, 2004), voted one of Library Journal’s best how-to books of 2004.
An avid believer that art making can be for everyone, Margaret has presented art workshops with cancer survivors, elders, children, parent and teen groups, writers, nurses and caregivers, at The Creative Center at University Settlement’s Creative Aging conferences, and their Artist-in-Residence Training program, with EngAGE Utah, at Gilda’s Club, The Huntsman Cancer Institute, Operation Exodus in NYC, and at Miami University’s Scripps center with Dr. Like Lokon, and Opening Minds Through Art.
Connect with Margaret
PURCHASE THE BOOK:
One reader will receive a copy of Crow Made a Friend!
Let me know which animal is your child’s favorite in a comment below!
Everything She Forgot
by Lisa Ballantyne
They’re calling it the worst pile-up in London history. Driving home, Margaret Holloway has her mind elsewhere—on a troubled student, her daughter’s acting class, the next day’s meeting—when she’s rear-ended and trapped in the wreckage. Just as she begins to panic, a disfigured stranger pulls her from the car just seconds before it’s engulfed in flames. Then he simply disappears.
Though she escapes with minor injuries, Margaret feels that something’s wrong. She’s having trouble concentrating. Her emotions are running wild. More than that, flashbacks to the crash are also dredging up lost associations from her childhood, fragments of events that were wiped from her memory. Whatever happened, she didn’t merely forget—she chose to forget. And somehow, Margaret knows deep down that it’s got something to do with the man who saved her life.
As Margaret uncovers a mystery with chilling implications for her family and her very identity, Everything She Forgot winds through a riveting dual narrative and asks the question: How far would you go to hide the truth—from yourself…?
MY THOUGHTS: 3.5 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
I suppose this book was marketed as a mystery/thriller, but I saw the plot coming from pretty early on. The best thing about this novel is the rich character development. The author gives you a background on almost all the major players, and it really offers a lot of insight into why these people might act the way they do.
Yes, the plot does involve a kidnapping of sorts–but in how many novels do you actually feel sorry for the kidnapper, and even see him as a kind of hero? The author crafts her characters in such a way that you can’t help but connect to (almost) all of them.
I finished the book quite quickly once I got into it, but it did take me a while to get into it because of all the time, point of view, and location switches. Once the story starts rolling nicely though, it really takes off. Sometimes, when you’re caught up in what was going on with Margaret and George in 1985, it’s a bit annoying to be thrown back into Margaret’s story in 2013.
I truly did love the way the entire novel unfolded. I don’t think there could have been a better ending. I wish I could have seen one particular character get his comeuppance, but in my opinion it was implied that shortly after the events of the book, his life begins to fall apart. My rating of 3.5 is because although I liked the book, some of it was very predictable, and also, I didn’t like being thrown back and forth between time in the way I was. It works for some novels but I found it disjointed in this one.
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves to root for the underdog, and loves an unconventional family story.
About the Author
Lisa Ballantyne is the author of the Edgar Award-nominated The Guilty One. She spent most of her twenties working and living in China, before returning to the UK in 2002. She lives in Glasgow, Scotland.
Animals Have Feelings, Too!: Exploring Emotions From A to Z
by Karen Lee Stevens
Filled with humor and whimsical illustrations, this enchanting and educational A to Z guide takes young readers on a journey through the alphabet with a lovable Labrador retriever named Sandy, who shows kids that animals and people share many of the same feelings. From A is for Affectionate to Z is for Zonked, Animals Have Feelings, Too! helps children to understand and express their feelings and to treat animals with kindness and respect.
MY THOUGHTS: 4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
I read this book along with my first grader. We have a dog and much of our family has pets too, so I believe the lessons in this book are important and will stick.
The book is laid out in an A to Z way that is very simple to understand and fun to read. My child is a beginning reader, and he could read a good part of the sentences by himself but sometimes needed help with other parts.
We loved the colorful illustrations and meeting the animals within. My son was so interested when I told him Sandy was a real dog! Sometimes I thought the story got a bit repetitive, but I believe it was OK for him.
I think every child who is ever around animals should read this book. Learning about how we can affect others’ feelings is so important!
About the Author
Karen Lee Stevens is the founder and president of All for Animals, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a compassionate world for animals and children through humane education and literacy programs that nurture the human-animal bond.
Karen is also an author and a Certified Humane Educator who, for the past 14 years, has given presentations to thousands of elementary school children and has helped them learn how to treat animals with love and respect.
In February, 2013, Karen launched ARF! (Animals + Reading = Fun!), a unique literacy program that gives children from all walks of life an opportunity to improve their reading skills and inspire them to become life-long readers by reading aloud to specially trained therapy dogs.
Her latest children’s picture book is Animals Have Feelings, Too!: Exploring Emotions From A to Z.
For More Information
- Animals Have Feelings, Too!: Exploring Emotions From A to Z is available at Amazon.
Now that the kids are getting back to their school routines, wouldn’t it be nice to take a little time for Mom? As mom to a first grader and another baby on the way, I know that I treasure every second I can get to myself–and sometimes I like to enjoy special treats while I can!
That’s why Gourmet Gifter is such a revelation! You can create your own personalized gift basket, with lots of amazing choices. Whether your tastes run salty or sweet, chocolatey or more healthy, you are sure to find a gourmet goody that will delight.
One item I tried that became a quick favorite was Colby’s Kettle Corn in the Salty Sweet Addiction flavor. This kettle popped, hand sifted popcorn tastes just like the stuff you would get at a fair. I let my hubby and son sample it as well, and we all agreed it was great! It’s perfect for the times where you can’t decide if you want a salty or sweet snack–in this, you get both! To make it even more satisfying, is the fact that this kettle corn is non-GMO, low in calories, and gluten free!
Colby’s Kettle Corn, in several flavors, is just one of the delectable selections you will find at Gourmet Gifter! As an added bonus, Gourmet Gifter is running an August Special for new subscribers–with your first order of $30 or more, you can receive a FREE TRIO of Colby’s Kettle Corn (including Salty Sweet Addiction, Butter Salt Craving, and Cinnamon Sugar Sensation). Simply use code FIRSTORDER when you checkout.
I look forward to bringing you more information about Gourmet Gifter as they expand!
The Wonder of All Things
by Jason Mott
On an ordinary day, at an air show like that in any small town across the country, a plane crashes into a crowd of spectators. After the dust clears, a thirteen-year-old girl named Ava is found huddled beneath a pocket of rubble with her best friend, Wash. He is injured and bleeding, and when Ava places her hands over him, his wounds disappear.
Ava has an unusual gift: she can heal others of their physical ailments. Until the air show tragedy, her gift was a secret. Now the whole world knows, and suddenly people from all over the globe begin flocking to her small town, looking for healing and eager to catch a glimpse of The Miracle Child. But Ava’s unique ability comes at a great cost, and as she grows weaker with each healing, she soon finds herself having to decide just how much she’s willing to give up in order to save the ones she loves most.
MY THOUGHTS: 3.75 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
From the moment a plane crashes at an air show and 13 year old Ava saves her best friend from death, her life is changed. She doesn’t even understand the “powers” she has, but others seems to think they do–and that it is Ava’s responsibility to heal the world. Nevermind the fact that each time she heals, her own health deteriorates. It’s up to her father, Macon, stepmom Carmen, and best friend Wash to try to help her cope and to keep her safe from a world that would take everything from her, no matter what the cost.
Unfortunately, all the adults in both Ava’s and Wash’s lives make some terrible decisions. Both kids are mature beyond their years because of tragedies they have had to endure, but it’s sad when 13 year olds seems to know how to take better care of themselves than their guardians do. As soon as the world realizes what Ava did, they are in her face asking her to heal them and their loved ones. Even Ava’s own stepmother inevitably asks Ava for something. Macon, who is not only Ava’s dad but the town’s sheriff, does a bad job at keeping his daughter away from those who want to test and exploit her. Every person in this novel is more than a little bit lost, and every person seems to be looking out for themselves first.
This made me very angry for Ava, from the beginning. It’s very unclear to me why Macon did not take the offensive and tell the world that his daughter was slowly dying each time she performed her “miracles.” Would the people have cared? It’s hard to say, but it would have shown that Macon took a hard stance on protecting his child, which is sometimes questionable when you consider his actions.
In spite of all these frustrations, I got this book finished very quickly. The relationship between Ava and Wash was very special, and it’s obvious from the beginning that they need each other. Since both kids have one parent dead and one that’s on a weird path, they are the only constants in each others’ lives. Every moment the kids spend together is extremely touching and your heart just aches for them because you have this feeling that not everything will turn out the way it should.
By the end, events were moving very quickly and chaotically, and still not everyone had found their head. I won’t spoil it here, but the end is very emotional and moving. I don’t think it will make everyone happy, it may leave them angry (as it did for me), and still others may find it a bit ambiguous. But that goes along with the theme of the entire book and Ava’s mysterious abilities. After all, this is a story about a child, which can be forgotten as you read along. At its’ heart, this novel brings up numerous questions to which there are no right answers.
About the Author
JASON MOTT holds a BA in fiction and an MFA in poetry both from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and is the author of two poetry collections. His writing has appeared in numerous literary journals, and he was nominated for the 2009 Pushcart Prize. In addition to the rare achievement of receiving starred reviews from all four of the top publishing industry magazines—Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, and Kirkus Reviews—The Returned was named a “People Pick” by People magazine, and was featured in Essence, Entertainment Weekly, Washington Post, among others. Mott also appeared on numerous broadcast programs including NPR’s All Things Considered and Tell Me More, The Travis Smiley Show, the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Radio Show and many local television shows across the U.S. Mott lives in North Carolina.
Connect with Jason
One reader will win a copy of The Wonder of All Things! US/CAN only please. Ends August 14, 2015.
To enter, please leave a comment telling me if you have read any of Jason Mott’s books or if you’ve seen the show based on The Returned!
Confessions of a Queen B*
by Crista McHugh
Alexis Wyndham is the other type of Queen B—the Queen Bitch.
After years of being the subject of ridicule, she revels in her ability to make the in-crowd cower via the exposés on her blog, The Eastline Spy. Now that she’s carved out her place in the high school hierarchy, she uses her position to help the unpopular kids walking the hallways.
Saving a freshman from bullies? Check.
Swapping insults with the head cheerleader? Check.
Falling for the star quarterback? So not a part of her plan.
But when Brett offers to help her solve the mystery of who’s posting X-rated videos from the girls’ locker room, she’ll have to swallow her pride and learn to see past the high school stereotypes she’s never questioned—until now.
MY THOUGHTS: 3 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
This short tale gets three stars, but just barely. To be honest, it’s full of stereotypical characters, decisions that make no sense, and predictable moments. But at its’ heart, it had a compelling theme that kept me reading until I finished it in one sitting.
Our main character is Alexis, senior and resident gossip blogger at her high school. There apparently is enough going on at this school that Alexis has gained quite the rep: if you’re trying to hide something nefarious, she will find out, and it will be posted on her blog for the entire school to see!
It should come as no shock that Alexis doesn’t have many friends. Her besties are the outliers; a flamboyantly gay Asian kid, and a sex grazed Goth girl. Other than that, everyone else in school is pretty much scared of her. Except for one boy: quarterback and student body president Brett Pederson.
It just so happens that Brett and Alexis get paired up for a school project. Though Alexis does her bitchy best to repel him, Brett is immune and instead seems to want to get to know her better. Alexis must learn to let her guard down around him, which she never does with ANYONE.
As I said, the book is full of stereotypical characters–the gay boy that can only talk about penis (wtf, I know that’s not all he thinks about), the head cheerleader with fake boobs, the quarterback that is nothing but perfect. I saw another review that said if you can remember Freddie Prinze Jr’s character in She’s All That, then you’ve got Brett–and that is a SPOT ON observation. Even when it comes to his parents putting pressure on him about college. That is literally the only problem he has in his life. He is too good to be true, and that does not make a good YA character.
Alexis does have a bit more depth, and getting peeks into her true feelings is what kept me interested. Alexis cannot let anyone see her true self; I think she does not know how. She’s also concerned about losing her status at school, though she would never admit it. If she’s not the Queen Bitch, then what is she? Her struggles with her identity are a bit buried, but there if you are looking.
Apparently this book is the first in a series, but I’m not sure if I’ll be continuing. I might though, just to see what Alexis turns into once she breaks out of her high school mold.
About the Author
Growing up in small town Alabama, Crista relied on story-telling as a natural way for her to pass the time and keep her two younger sisters entertained.
She currently lives in the Audi-filled suburbs of Seattle with her husband and two children, maintaining her alter ego of mild-mannered physician by day while she continues to pursue writing on nights and weekends.
Just for laughs, here are some of the jobs she’s had in the past to pay the bills: barista, bartender, sommelier, stagehand, actress, morgue attendant, and autopsy assistant.
And she’s also a recovering LARPer. (She blames it on her crazy college days)
For the latest updates, deleted scenes, and answers to any burning questions you have, please check out her webpage, www.CristaMcHugh.com.