Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Review: Rip Van Winkle and the Pumpkin Lantern by Seth Adam Smith

Rip Van Winkle and the Pumpkin Lantern by Seth Adam Smith

Book Description:

Chased by a vengeful witch, hunted by an undead corpse, and guided by a secretive preacher, a boy must protect a magical lantern that can either save Boston . . . or destroy it.

In October of 1730, young Rip Van Winkle sneaks into a graveyard and comes face-to-face with the ghost of William Blaxton, the first settler of Boston. Warning Rip that the city is in danger, Blaxton gives him a mysterious gift: a pumpkin lantern with power over life and death. Before fading into midnight, the ghost tells Rip to take the lantern to Feathertop, a mythical pumpkin-headed scarecrow.

Pursued by Mistress Hibbins, a witch of terrifying power, and hunted by the nightmarish Midnight Minister, young Rip must rely on the aid of Jonathan Edwards, a stern and secretive preacher, and Nathaniel, a talkative, know-it-all raven. Guided by the magical light of the lantern, Rip races across New England to find Feathertop, save Boston, and become a most unlikely hero!

From the bestselling, award-winning author Seth Adam Smith comes The Pumpkin Lantern--a fantasy novel influenced by the writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Lloyd Alexander, and C. S. Lewis. Loaded with humor, action, suspense, and fascinating American history, The Pumpkin Lantern is also a poignant fable about faith, family, and the power of life over death.

Andrea's Review:

This story was enjoyable in many ways. I was initially drawn in by the goodness of the Van Winkles and how they became foster parents. My husband and I became licensed for foster care this year, and although we haven't been needed yet, the touching accounts in the beginning of this book about the different children the Van Winkles took in helped to reignite the desire to help children in need.

I was very sad for Rip at the loss that took place, but that was really the beginning of his journey in this book. I loved the symbolism and the hope that was demonstrated throughout Rip's story. We all struggle with chains in our lives, but I love the hope that comes from knowing we are important and loved. That even in the toughest times our Savior is here to help us through. We need to do things that help our lights become brighter and help those that need a bit of our light to help them through.

This was a great story to read just before Halloween, although its message would definitely be appropriate at any time of year. I'll be passing this on to my thirteen-year-old to read.

Rorie's Review:

I didn't really know much about the Rip Van Winkle story - only that he fell asleep for a really long time - so I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. But even if I thought I knew Rip's story really well, that wouldn't have mattered with this story. It takes the fairy tale and turns it on its head. This is not my typical genre to read, but I was not disappointed. I found the story very entertaining and loved all of the recognizable characters and places (thrown in the story with a twist from how we've all typically heard their stories.)

I really liked Stormalong, as well as Rip's parents and what good people they were. Feathertop just gave me warm fuzzies. I really liked the underlying theme of looking towards the light.

I think this is a book that my two older children will enjoy as much as I have. I hope that book #2 comes out soon!

About the Author:

Seth Adam Smith is a best-selling, award-winning author and blogger whose writings have been translated into over thirty languages and featured on the Huffington Post, Good Morning America, Fox News, CNN, the Today show, Forbes, and many other news outlets around the world. In 2015, his book "Your Life Isn’t for You" was awarded a gold medal for inspirational memoir.

A survivor of a suicide attempt in 2006, Seth is an advocate for resources and understanding concerning depression and suicide prevention, and he regularly writes about these topics in his books and on his blog. He and his wife, Kim, currently live in Arizona but have “belonging places” throughout the United States. He recently published "Rip Van Winkle and the Pumpkin Lantern," and is currently working on a series of historical novels set in Colonial America.

Title: Rip Van Winkle and the Pumpkin Lantern
Author: Seth Adam Smith
Publisher: Seth Adam Smith
Published: September 2016
ISBN: 0997511168
Source: We received a copies in exchange for an honest review.
Purchase: Amazon | Kindle

Monday, October 24, 2016

Book Review: A Love Transformed by Traci Peterson

A Love Transformed (Sapphire Brides #3)
Book Description:

When Clara Vesper's husband, Adolph, dies suddenly, Clara is stunned--but not grief-stricken. Her marriage to Adolph had been arranged, their primary interaction revolving around the sapphire jewelry Clara designed and Adolph produced and sold. Widowed and penniless, with two small children, Clara decides to return to her aunt and uncle's ranch in Montana, the only place she has ever been happy. 

Curtis Billingham, injured in a sapphire mine collapse, is recuperating at the ranch of his friends, Paul and Madeline Sersland. But when the Serslands' niece returns from New York City, Curtis curses both his broken body and his broken past. Clara, the love of his life, has come back to him, but he is no longer worthy of her love.

Clara's brother-in-law Otto Vesper, Adolph's business partner, fears that the loss of Clara's design skills will doom the company's prospects. Following her to Montana, Otto is prepared to do whatever it takes to get Clara to return with him to New York. 

As Clara fights for love and freedom, a dangerous secret in her late husband's life comes to light, threatening everyone she loves.

Book Review: 

While this is the final book in the Sapphire Brides series, it can definitely be read as a stand alone. I had high hopes for this book. The other two in the series were entertaining and I thought the cover was beautiful (yes, I know that doesn't mean anything, but I like good looking covers). I was disappointed in this book, and the only thing I can put my finger on to figure out why was that it took me a looooong time to finish it. Even when I got to almost the end I put it down and didn't pick it up for a while.  Maybe it's because I never really got behind Clara. She was too...innocent? Naive? Whiny? I'm not sure, but she wasn't my favorite feminine lead. Unfortunately, Curtis wasn't my favorite male lead either. Lot's of angst and drudgery. I actually didn't mind the mother. Don't get me wrong, she's horrible, but at least she's supposed to be :)

All in all, it could very possibly be that I just wasn't in the mood for this book. Maybe if I would have read it at a different time my opinion would have been vastly different. So even with all my complaining I would give it 3 stars for everything else in the story. The jewels and designs, the children, the bad guys, etc.

A Love Transformed (Sapphire Brides #3) 
Title: A Love Transformed
Tracie Peterson
Bethany House
September 2016
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Blog Tour: Kept Secrets by Traci Hunter Abramson

 Book Description:

Unexpectedly reunited after six years, high school sweethearts Devin Shanahan and Grace Harrington cross paths and have a whirlwind wedding. A lot can change in six years, however, and they must figure out how to make their two independent lives mesh.

Unable to disclose his CIA job to his new wife, when Devin is assigned a top-secret mission to Hong Kong, he tells Grace part of the truth: that he is going to work abroad for six months in finance. But when the mission turns deadly and Devin doesn't know whom to trust, he must make the most difficult decision of his life in an effort to keep Grace safe. Will the seeds of deception prove destructive to their newly formed marriage? And will the love that brought them together be the very thing their enemies use to tear them apart?

Book Review:

I really enjoy how Abramson is writing outside of the LDS genre, but still keeping the story clean and entertaining.

I love the cover of this book. Super eye catching. Kudos to the designer there :)

This book is a complete whirlwind. Right from the very beginning to Graces' and Devins' relationship to the very end. It was hard to pause and catch my breath :) I will admit that there are a lot of characters, and sometimes I have a hard time keeping everyone straight.

With everything that Grace went through, she has got to be the most forgiving person in the world, which is great because we know what Devin's going through, but I'm not sure I would be that forgiving and understanding.

Not wanting to give anything away, I will say that when Grace gets sick I had a hard time with Devin's lack of understanding. I'm pretty sure my 5 yr old would understand, but not being an only child maybe that is why I had a hard time believing that part of the book.

I will definitely keep reading books by Traci Hunter Abramson. She always delivers exactly what I'm expecting in good clean literature. 

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Blog Tour Schedule:

Kept Secrets 
Title: Kept Secrets
Author: Traci Hunter Abramson
Publisher: Covenant
Published: October 2016
ISBN: 9781524401092
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Book Blast: Madame President by William Hazelgrove

Madam President  
Madam President: The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson
by William Hazelgrove  

Book Description:

After President Woodrow Wilson suffered a paralyzing stroke in the fall of 1919, his wife, First Lady Edith Wilson, began to handle the day-to-day responsibilities of the Executive Office. Mrs. Wilson had had little formal education and had only been married to President Wilson for four years; yet, in the tenuous peace following the end of World War I, Mrs. Wilson dedicated herself to managing the office of the President, reading all correspondence intended for her bedridden husband. Though her Oval Office authority was acknowledged in Washington, D.C. circles at the time--one senator called her "the Presidentress who had fulfilled the dream of suffragettes by changing her title from First Lady to Acting First Man"--her legacy as "First Woman President" is now largely forgotten. William Hazelgrove's Madam President is a vivid, engaging portrait of the woman who became the acting President of the United States in 1919, months before women officially won the right to vote.
amazonbarnes and noble

William Hazelgrove's riveting style lets us into the backrooms of the White House to see how a woman who had only two years formal education was able to pull it off and do it for two years! A great read and ride! ~Robin Hutton New York Times Bestselling Author of Sgt Reckless

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Excerpt - Chapter One:

The Cover-Up

President Woodrow Wilson lay with his mouth drooping, unconscious, having suffered a thrombosis on October 2, 1919, that left him paralyzed on his left side and barely able to speak. The doctors believed the president’s best chance for survival was in the only known remedy for a stroke at the time: a rest cure consisting of total isolation from the world. His wife of four years, Edith Bolling Wilson, asked how a country could function with no chief executive. Dr. Dercum, the attending physician, leaned over and gave Edith her charge: “Madam, it is a grave situation, but I think you can solve it. Have everything come to you; weigh the importance of each matter: and see if it is possible by consultation with the respective heads of the Departments to solve them without the guidance of your husband.” From there, Edith Wilson would act as the president’s proxy and run the White House and, by extension, the country, by controlling access to the president, signing documents, pushing bills through Congress, issuing vetoes, isolating advisors, crafting State of the Union addresses, disposing of or censoring correspondence, and filling positions. She would analyze every problem and decide which ones to bring to the president’s attention and which to solve on her own through her own devices. All the while she had to keep the fact that the country was no longer being run by President Woodrow Wilson a guarded secret.  

About the Author:

hazelgroveWilliam Elliott Hazelgrove is the best-selling author of thirteen novels, Ripples, Tobacco Sticks, Mica Highways, Rocket Man, The Pitcher, Real Santa, Jackpine and The Pitcher 2. His books have received starred reviews in Publisher Weekly and Booklist, Book of the Month Selections, Junior Library Guild Selections, ALA Editors Choice Awards and optioned for the movies. He was the Ernest Hemingway Writer in Residence where he wrote in the attic of Ernest Hemingway's birthplace. He has written articles and reviews for USA Today and other publications. He has been the subject of interviews in NPR's All Things Considered along with features in The New York Times, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, Richmond Times Dispatch, USA Today, People, Channel 11, NBC, WBEZ, WGN. The Pitcher is a Junior Library Guild Selection and was chosen Book of the Year by Books and Authors. net. His next book Jackpine will be out Spring 2014 with Koehler Books. A follow up novel Real Santa will be out fall of 2014. Madam President The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson will be out Fall 2016. Storyline optioned the movie rights. Forging a President How the West Created Teddy Roosevelt will be out May 2017.

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$100 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Giveaway:

Ends 11/8/16
Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.  
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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Book Review: The Nocturnals: The Ominous Eye by Tracey Hecht 

Book Description:

When a violent jolt fractures the earth, the Nocturnal Brigade sets out to investigate its source. Along their journey, Dawn, Bismark, and Tobin meet an unfamiliar reptile—a tuatara—who reveals that a giant beast caused the destruction and will soon strike again. The tuatara, with her special insights, is the only one who can help them stop this fearsome predator… but can she be trusted? With help from an owl, the jerboas and a few kiwis, a trap is set since surrender is not an option against this relentless beast.

Rorie's Review:

Another complete winner with my 8-year-old. As soon as I showed him the book, he started reading it, and didn't stop until he finished it. (Slight exaggeration, but not by much. He did have to sleep that night after all.) After he finished the book, he immediately asked me if we could go to the library and get the third book in the series. He didn't believe me when I told him it hasn't come out yet...after all, there's a picture of it in the back of this book, so it must be out by now, right? (He missed the part above the picture where it says March 2017.) 
I love the cover of this book - it catches the eye and makes you want to pick it up to see what it's all about. I also love that the author uses unusual animals in the book, because it causes the reader to be curious enough to do some research to find out what exactly these animals are and where they come from.

Now, even though my son absolutely loved the book, he is not the best at expressing himself through writing yet. So even if his review doesn't come across as all that exciting, trust me, he is an absolute fan of this series. Here's his review, in his own words: "I liked when Polyphema opened her top eye. Lyla, Celtas, Galas were my favrite charicters. I would recomend this. I liked Tobin and Bismark because they care about others. I like this series."

Tarah's Review:

My eleven year old reads...a lot. As in, every night I have to tell her to turn off her light, put her book down, and go to bed. Secretly I love it, but my mom side wins every time :) The reason I'm writing this is because even though I feel like this is geared towards younger juvenile audience, it can still capture the attention of older children (and hey, adults too...I love me some Juvenile Fiction).

Another thing that I love about this book is the different animals that are used. I saw something the other day about a pangolin and because of this series I was like, "Oh! I know what that is!" So that was fun.

My daughter really enjoyed Bismark in this book. And surprisingly enough for me, she really liked him liking two girls. (Does this mean she is growing up? I swear it was just yesterday that she told me she didn't like romance in books and turned her head during a Disney kissing scene and told me to tell her when it was over.) She was excited when she saw that there was a third book in the series. 
Title: The Nocturnals: The Ominous Eye
Author: Tracey Hecht
Publisher: Fabled Films Press
Published: September 2016
ISBN: 1944020039
Source: We received copies in exchange for an honest review.  

Purchase: Amazon

Friday, October 14, 2016

Blog Tour: For This We Are Soliders by Carla Kelly

Book Description:

From master storyteller Carla Kelly comes this collection of frontier tales that take you behind typical army lines and into the hearts of ordinary men and women who perform extraordinary acts of bravery. From handsome hospital stewards and dashing soldiers to courageous children and wives who will pull at your heartstrings, there's something for everyone's fancy.


This is a collection of short stories about life as a soldier, or a woman working with soldiers on the frontier. The first story about a wife learning how to make do in Fort Laramie while her husband is away for several months drew me in. I marveled at her sense of humor in a tough situation. Later on in the book, the story about Mary Murphy broke my heart and had me wanting much more from that story. That's the thing with collections of short stories - there's just not enough room for much detail. Some of these stories I would have liked to delve in to more, to come to know the characters and their circumstances better.

Tour Schedule:

October 11: Writing Worm
October 12: Heidi Reads
October 13: Live to Read
October 14: Singing Librarian Books | Literary Time Out
October 15: I Am a Reader
October 16: I Love to Read and Review Books
October 17: Bookworm Nation
October 18: Emmy Mom
October 19: Robyn Echols Books
October 20: Getting Your Read On | Wishful Endings
October 21: LDS and Lovin’ It
October 22: Bookworm Lisa
October 23: Books and Benches
October 24: Blooming with Books | Julie Coulter Bellon
October 25: Bookworm2Bookworm
October 26: Katie’s Clean Book Collection
October 27: My Book a Day | Rockin’ Book Reviews
October 28: Fire and Ice,204,203,200_.jpg
Title: For This We Are Soldiers
Author: Carla Kelly
Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc.
Published: October 2016
ISBN: 1462119247
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase: Amazon Deseret Book

Monday, October 10, 2016

Blog Tour: The Governess by Kristen McKendry

Reviews * Giveaway
The Governess by Kristen McKendry

Book Description:

Independent young Kate Porter envisions a future far greater than the middle-class existence she's always lived, and her work as a governess is simply a means to an end. The glittering world of a society wife calls, and her new position as a private tutor for the children of Mr. Alonzo Colaco is a step in the right direction. She merrily imagines the grand house awaiting her—but when her new employer meets her at the train station driving a gaily-painted gypsy wagon, Kate suspects her new job as a children's tutor will not be all she dreamed.

Instead of the mansion she anticipate, Kate finds herself living in the woods in a refitted train car and teaching the charming children of Alonzo, a tinker by trade. After trying in vain to secure another job, Kate is left with little choice. She must simply bide her time until a better position presents itself. Before long, however, she finds herself abandoning her petticoats and preconceptions in favor of the joys of a simple life—and the possibility of true love. But when opportunity knocks, will Kate really be ready to walk away from all she's come to care for to pursue her high-society dreams?

Andrea's Review:

The Governess is an enjoyable story. I was pulled in from the first sentence. How could you not be interested in what was happening with this sentence?

"It is obvious to me that you cannot be trusted. "

Kate wasn't very endearing when she was focused on status and wealth, and that can ruin a story for me; however there were glimpses of a better person inside that kept me going.

Alonzo was quite likable. He was a bit mysterious but had a good, kind heart. He was an excellent father.

I really liked the lessons Alonzo and his children taught by their example. They helped each other and those around them, even though they didn't have much themselves.

I couldn't help but think about how if this were a modern day story it would be the beginning of a murder mystery. No way would a single young woman in her right mind accompany a virtual stranger to his home off the beaten path. Kate did have some misgivings, but mostly it was for propriety-not safety. How the times have changed. :)

I saw the end coming, but it was still a good, fast read.

Rorie's Review:

This was such an enjoyable book to read. It was one of those "read in one day" kind of books that I love so much. (But it's a good thing they don't come around too often, otherwise I'd never get anything done!) (Have I said that already? I feel like I have.)

Anyway, enough of the parentheses. I enjoy reading Regency-era romance novels, but the thing that always gets me about that time period is all of the crazy restrictions placed on women. How to dress, how to talk, how to act. I think I would go insane if I had to live back then. This book takes place in Canada, and seems to be a later period than Regency-era - they have trains in this book - but the poor women still have those ridiculous restrictions.

While Kate is completely shocked at her new employer's living conditions, she gradually gets used to it. This is where I can relate a whole lot more. Walking around barefoot, simple, comfortable clothes on (no bustles required to live in the woods!) I'm not sure how I would feel about living in a train car and having to use the bushes for a bathroom and the icy-cold river for a bath, but it would definitely be an adventure.

Alonzo and his children were endearing from the start. I had pretty much guessed early on the secret that Alonzo kept from Kate until near the end of the story, but it didn't negatively affect the story for me at all.

I plan on reading more of the author's books, since I enjoyed this one so much.

Tarah's Review:

This book was interesting to me because it isn't very often that you read a book (or I guess that I read a book) where the "poor" relation is snobby. Even though it took a while for me to warm up to Kate, I was intrigued enough, and liked Alonzo and his children enough to keep going. That being said, I need to state that her feelings were totally understandable. Maybe not for this day and age, but when, as a woman, all you had to look forward to were making a good match and having "connections" it isn't surprising that she had such snobby feelings.

I can see myself rereading this, and telling my book-reading friends about it. In fact, I'm already curious as to what they will think about Kate and her story.

Tour Schedule:

Tour Giveaway:

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Title: The Governess
Author: Kristen McKendry
Publisher: Covenant Communications, Inc.
Published: October 2016
ISBN: 1524400386
Source: We received copies from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase: Amazon | Kindle | Deseret Book