Thursday, March 23, 2017

Book Review: The Castle in the Mist by Amy Ephron

I received a free copy of this book from Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.

Title: The Castle in the Mist
Author: Amy Ephron
Publisher: Philomel Books
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Length: 192 pages
Format: Hardcover
Source: publisher

Tess and Max travel behind the walls of a magical castle where wishes really do come true--if the hawthorne trees don't get you first. 

Tess and Max are sent to the English countryside for the summer and long for some excitement. So when Tess, out for a walk alone, happens upon an ornately carved gate and an old brass key, she decides to see what's inside. To her amazement, she discovers the grounds of a castle filled with swans, bullfrogs, a hedge maze, an old-fashioned carnival, and a boy, William, just her age. William invites Tess back, and she can't wait to return, this time with her brother. 

But strange things happen at William's castle. Carnival games are paid for in wishes, dreams seem to come alive, and then there's Williams warning: Beware the hawthorne trees. A warning that chills Tess to the bone. 

In the end it's up to Tess to save her family and her friends from being trapped forever in the world beyond the hawthorns--but will one wish be enough?

My Thoughts: 
Tess and Max are spending the summer in the English countryside with their Aunt Evie while their father is away in Afghanistan. While exploring, Tess comes across an old rusted gate and finds a key in the dirt that fits it perfectly. Inside, she finds the perfectly manicured gardens of a grand castle and a boy her age that invites her in to play. But he has a warning; beware the hawthorns. The next time she goes to visit, she takes her little brother and together, the trio begin a friendship that can only be found 'once in a blue moon'. 

The Castle in the Mist is a mysterious story of a summer friendship between three young children. The mystery being how anyone can live in the castle that has surely been empty for decades. And wouldn't Aunt Evie have known if she had a young boy as a neighbor? And why does William insist that she always have the key with her so she can come back to play? 

I really love the preface of this story. A hidden castle that can only be accessed with a special key. A dire warning about... trees? Yeah, that sounds like something I'd definitely want to read. It even had a bit of a 'The Secret Garden' vibe to it at first. 

I didn't love it. I was expecting more. The whole story is wrapped in this mystery but we don't get much of anything substantial until the end and then it was just a little confusing. We spend more time on the castle grounds than in the castle. There are little bits of what I suppose are magic but are more likely just bits of Tess's imagination. I honestly just wish it was a little longer and had more exploring or backstory of the castle itself.

But I think I am being too critical because I am not the intending audience for this book. I think young readers would really enjoy the story and not look for all of the answers and accept it for what it is; something fantastically mysterious that happened to two young children. 

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday #5 - The Freemason's Daughter by Shelley Sackier

Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Tressa @ Wishful Endings and spotlights the books we are excited about and have yet to read. This meme is based on Waiting on Wednesday which is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine.

I can't wait for... The Freemason's Daughter by Shelley Sackier

Expected Publication: April 11, 2017
by Harper Teen

Goodreads Synopsis: 
Saying good-bye to Scotland is the hardest thing that Jenna MacDuff has had to do--until she meets Lord Pembroke. Jenna's small clan has risked their lives traveling the countryside as masons secretly drumming up support and arms for the exiled King James Stuart to retake the British throne. But their next job brings them into enemy territory: England. 

Jenna's father repeatedly warns her to trust no one, but when the Duke of Keswick hires the clan to build a garrison on his estate, it seems she cannot hid her capable mind from the duke's inquisitive son, Lord Alex Pembroke--nor mask her growing attraction to him. But there's a covert plan behind the building of the garrison, and soon Jenna must struggle not only to keep her newfound friendship with Alex from her father, but also to keep her father's treason from Alex. 

Will Jenna decide to keep her family's mutinous secrets and assist her clan's cause, or protect the life of the young noble she's falling for?

Why I Can't Wait: 
This is being marketed as Outlander for teens. I only recently read Outlander and loved it but I had this on my radar before then because I love historical fiction. I've been on a historical fiction kick lately, mostly with movies and tv shows and I'm dying to fit a few books into my busy TBR. Thanks to Outlander, I'm doubly interested in historical fiction set in Scotland so this just sounds perfect! 

What books are you looking forward to?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Book Blast & Giveaway - Make It Happen Blueprint by Michelle McCullough

The Make It Happen Blueprint
Despite living in a world of abundance, many people still feel unhappy, over scheduled, tired, and unsuccessful. Yet there seems to be an group of people who “get it.” They catch all the breaks, accomplish more in a day, make more money in their business ventures, bounce back from trials faster, and always have their lives in order. Are they just lucky, or is there some sort of secret most of us are missing? Michelle McCullough has spent thousands of hours studying, listening to, and learning from success experts including Stephen Covey, Jack Canfield, Brendon Burchard, Jim Rohn, Brian Tracy, Ken Blanchard, Darren Hardy, and more. Applying key principles (and learning a few things on her own) she’s built three successful businesses and while still maintaining a meaningful personal life. Everyone has the ability to be a high performer. All it takes is the right mindset, the right tools, and a willingness to work. As she shares eighteen practices for high performance, you too can learn how to take your business and personal life to the next level. Success is possible, happiness is achievable, so stop dreaming about it and get out and MAKE IT HAPPEN!  
   Excerpts - From The Make It Happen Blueprint 
-Success is not a destination, it’s a practice. The actions we take every day, week, and month to make our dreams a reality are what determine our success and happiness. -The most paralyzing thought keeping you from your goals is, “I don’t deserve it.” - “Plan” is the four- letter word for success. Peak performers know this, and they find power in a plan and thrive on the execution and ultimate success of seeing it through to completion. -Trying to do two things at once is a recipe for failure. The time has come for you to give up your “Multitasker of the Year” award. -High performers don’t just understand the value of a person—they understand the value of every person. - If you’re going for a gold medal in raising high performers (and I hope you are), daily ask kids this powerful question, “What did you do to make someone else happy today?” This helps them become more aware of others.  
Praise for the Book
“I do love this book. McCullough is real and relate-able. I was only in the first chapter when I felt hopeful and empowered. While some of her golden advice is aimed mostly to those working in the field of Business (which I am not), there is more than enough real-life help that a Homemaker can use too. She doesn't create, yet another, list of things "I should be doing", but attainable solutions to MAKE TIME for the other things I really DO need to do. These recommendations are easy to do. I am so thankful for McCullough's inspiration and passion to share this knowledge; my life was immediately changed and improved for the goals her book motivated.” - Kristin Call; London, ENGLAND 
 "Michelle McCullough has one of those minds you love to be around! She shares fresh ideas, content, and strategies for creating a life and a business that you love. Reading this book will elevate your life!” - Tiffany Peterson, Professional Speaker,; Utah, USA 
 “The beauty of Michelle's book & writing is that it is a lucid, unadorned reminder that we periodically need. It reinforces powerful practices which we often brush past and only remember when we fail to "make it happen". I love her earnest voice and really personal examples.” - Vilasi Venkatachalam; INDIA 
 "As entrepreneurs we often feel alone. McCullough's book Make It Happen reminds us that we are all in this together. She manages to rekindle your purpose as well as provide pertinent ideas and strategies to help you preform at your best. I love the way she provides a section at the end of each chapter to help you implement the things you read and learn in Make It Happen. Every purposeful entrepreneur should have this book on their nightstand!" - Nicole Carpenter, CEO of and bestselling author of 52 Weeks to Fortify Your Family: 5-minute messages; Utah USA 
   Author Michelle McCullough
Michelle McCullough started her first business when she was 19 and currently runs 3 companies including consulting other businesses all over the world. A seasoned speaker, Michelle teaches success principles and leadership insights that help boost employee engagement and higher performance. In addition to running her own consulting businesses, Michelle is the managing director for Startup Princess, listed by Forbes as “One of the top 10 resources for Women Entrepreneurs”. She’s worked with top brands like Visa Small Business, UPS Store, AWeber and more. She’s spoken for the Air Force Reserve, Goldman Sachs and, among others. She’s been featured in, in the 40 under 40, Fox TV and has been interviewed for television and radio over 100 times, including Good Morning America and The Today Show. She was recently named in the Top 100 Small Business Influencers with Inc Magazine, Michael Gerber and Grant Cardone. Her own radio show “Make It Happen” has over 1 million downloads.

Blast Giveaway
$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 4/6/17 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. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Sunday Post #56 - Spring Book Sale!

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer
It's a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on your blog and showcase books and things you received, share news about what is coming up on your blog for the week ahead, and more.

I'm not entirely sure what's up with the weather this week. It was absolutely gorgeous out and then it dipped way down into the 30's! My summer veggies were not okay with that and neither was I, to be honest. It's Spring! I want to be outside! I know, I know; at least I don't get snow.

My town's Spring book sale happened recently and I was able to set aside a half hour or so to go on $3 bag day. The pickings were slimmer than usual but I came away with over 120 books and over 30 dvds for $21. The majority of the dvds are kids movies and likewise, the majority of the books are picture books and children's chapter books for the toddler and nieces/nephews. I've been lazy and only have one picture of the books so far so I'll have to add the rest next week. 

What You Might Have Missed
I shared the top 11 books I'm planning on reading during Spring and featured The Dragon's Legacy in last week's Can't Wait Wednesday.
I shared a review for the adorable picture book: Argyle Fox by Marie Letourneau and I finally got around to sharing my somewhat spoilery and disappointed review of A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas.

Books I Finished This Week
I'll have a love/hate review up for this soon.

Currently Reading

I just started ASOUE #5 and The Falconer yesterday but I'm still reading The Gauntlet because it's one of those terrible pdf's that won't work on anything but Adobe Digital which means I have to read it on my laptop and the book is great but how annoying is that?!

Currently Watching
We are all over the place on Netflix this week. I'm finishing up Reign and just started Medici and the new Marvel show Iron Fist (or something like that). The kiddo is still obsessed with the Jurassic Park movies but we've also been watching Pete's Dragon a lot as well. 

Currently Listening
RUFUS - Innerbloom
This is long, upbeat, and has words but I can't stop listening to it. It's my constant replay song of the week. 

I hope you all had a wonderful week and have another wonderful week ahead of you! :)

Friday, March 17, 2017

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Title: A Court of Thorns and Roses 
Author: Sarah J. Mass
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #1
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling
Length: 416 pages
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin--one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world. 

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it...or doom Tamlin--and his world--forever. 

My Thoughts:
Feyre is the only one in her family even making an effort towards making sure they don't all starve to death. So when she comes across both a doe and a wolf about to attack it, she makes a quick decision to kill them both, despite that the wolf seems unnaturally large and might just be fae. The doe will feed her family and the wolf pelt can be traded for money that will get them a few necessities. When a beast busts in their door and demands a life for a life or Feyre's life lived out in the fae territories, she chooses to go with him rather than die. The beast turns out to be the masked high-fae lord, Tamlin.

Warning. This is not a spoiler free review. Proceed with caution.

I was in a book hangover from a previous read when I started this. I'm not sure if it is that hangover or the hype that made me enjoy this less than I thought I would, or the book itself.
To be honest, I was rather bored with the first 3/4 of the story. It only got interesting right before the end. This was entirely disappointing considering that I loved the Throne of Glass series and Sarah's writing style. Plus, hearing people talk about this book for the past couple of years really set me up for a pretty big fall, especially when it came to the the character Rhysand. If you know anything about this book, you've probably seen or heard of that name. Everyone seems to obsess over him and that is why I ended up being incredibly confused when Feyre falls in love with Tamlin and Rhysand doesn't even come into the story until the end.

Feyre is a little frustrating at times. She knows things are bad for her but she does them anyway. Screw the repercussions. Flawed characters can be great but Feyre often just made me want to stop reading. She didn't really stand out as an unique main character to me, either. She is a mix of Celaena Sardothian and Katniss Everdeen in a way and the only thing that set her aside was that she enjoyed painting. 
Tamlin is the mysterious masked beast that I felt we didn't actually learn anything about. Other than having dinner with him, he is almost never in the picture because he is often away fighting things. 
Lucien, Tamlin's friend, was probably my favorite character. He has a personality and has more backstory and interaction with Feyre than Tamlin. 

There are quite a few things I just didn't like about this story. The mc and the strange and sudden insta-love relationship between her and Tamlin. The lack of any real plot for the majority of the book. I could probably pick it apart but I'd rather just move on. 
That being said, I did really enjoy the last part of the story. It finally picked up and we were introduced to the infamous Rhysand as well as the evil power holding reign over the fae realms. I will be continuing this series because that last bit really drew me in and I'm really curious about what will happen in ACOMAF. 

My Rating: 4 stars at best

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Picture Book Review: Argyle Fox by Marie Letourneau

I received a free temporary ecopy of this picture book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Title: Argyle Fox
Author: Marie Letourneau
Publisher: Tanglewood
Publication Date: March 14, 2017
Length: 32 pages
Format: ebook
Source: Netgalley

Argyle Fox, with his signature style, wants to play outside on a springtime day, but the wind is wreaking havoc with his fun and games. As soon as he builds a card tower, climbs into a giant spider web, or takes up his pirate sword, here comes the wind: Whoosh!

Mama Fox tells grumpy Argyle that if he thinks long enough, he will come up with something to do. Following his mother's suggestion and inspired by her knitting, he works all the pieces of his day together and creates the perfect solution.

The story of Argyle teaches that failure is often a path to success and celebrates perseverance, creative thinking, and an old-fashioned springtime activity.

My Thoughts:
Argyle Fox just wants to play outside but it's a very windy day. He refuses to listen to anybody's council and tries to build a house of cards but it blows away. He tries to play kick ball and pirates and pretend to be a spider in a web, but the tricky wind thwarts all his fun. Argyle is ready to give up but his mom encourages him to think of what else he could play on a windy day, and after a while he finally thinks of the perfect thing! 

Argyle Fox is the story of an adorably stubborn little fox who just wants to play, despite the weather. I love that Argyle uses his imagination so often and the story's little lesson about perseverance.

I especially loved the illustrations with their soft colors and fun details and textures. I adore these types of illustrations with their softly textured backgrounds. They always look so much more real than just brightly colored illustrations. There are many different types of trees, flowers, and animals with personalized and detailed clothing and homes. 

My toddler really enjoyed the animals and the wind's shenanigans. She counted out every bird and found all of the little bits of bright colors. This was a fun read perfect for little readers. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday #4 - The Dragon's Legacy by Deborah A. Wolf

Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Tressa @ Wishful Endings and spotlights the books we are excited about and have yet to read. This meme is based on Waiting on Wednesday which is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine.

I can't wait for...  The Dragon's Legacy by Deborah A. Wolf

Expected Publication: April 4, 2017
by Titan Books

Goodreads Synopsis:
The last Aturan King is dying, and as his strength fades so does his hold on sa and ka. Control of this power is a deadly lure; the Emperor stirs in his Forbidden City to the East, while deep in the Seared Lands, the whispering voices of Eth bring secret death. Eight men and women take their first steps along the paths to war, barely realizing that their world will soon face a much greater threat; at the heart of the world, the Dragon stirs in her sleep. A warrior would become Queen, a Queen would become a monster, and a young boy plays his bird-skull flute to keep the shadows of death at bay. 

Why I Can't Wait: 
This synopsis is a little cryptic but that just makes me think that this fantasy is going to have epic worldbuilding. And dragons. Dragons are everything in my book.
Look at that cover! I'm a sucker for dragon's if you can't tell. 

What books are you looking forward to?