Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Caretaker's Guide to Fablehaven

Caretakers Guide to FablehavenThe Caretaker's Guide to Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

This guidebook to the Fablehaven magical preserve is filled with everything a new Caretaker might need to know in order to survive. There are entries detailing important information about artifacts large and small, a complete bestiary of creatures (from fairies to trolls to satyrs), a guide to identifying demons, dragons, and wizards as well as valuable insights into the other magical preserves.
Immerse yourself into the secret knowledge that has been handed down through the generations by reading the updates and notes written in the margins by the former Caretakers of Fablehaven, including Grandpa Sorenson, Kendra, and Seth. Fully-illustrated, this unique encyclopedia has gathered the world of Fablehaven into one volume.

My Review: 

A fun, visual guide for fans of the Fablehaven series. Brandon Mull delivers a detailed guide to the awesome artifacts, creatures, and more that readers may remember from the series. Brandon Dorman’s sketches, along with some colorful notations from some familiar characters, really bring this guide to life. The comments from the satyrs are particularly delightful. While the guide offers much of the same information woven through the previous books, it is handy to have all that information given in one location. There’s also greater details about things that were only briefly mentioned in the series that helps bring greater depth. The visual depictions offer readers a chance to see many of the creatures and artifacts they could only imagine before. Young readers and adults who loved this world of magical havens will enjoy reentering this place of both wonder and danger.


Content: Clean
Purchase Links: Amazon or
Source: digital book for review

For an added treat here is an excerpt from the Guide's introduction. So fun!

If you are in possession of this book you are assumed to be the caretaker or an apprentice caretaker of Fablehaven. By now you’ve been introduced to the world of mythical and magical creatures. However, there is still much to learn. Previous caretakers of Fablehaven thought it would be helpful to create aCaretaker’s Guide specifically for those tasked with the job of nurturing, protecting, and surviving this preserve and its inhabitants. Do not be fooled. Fablehaven is an unpredictable and dangerous place. However, the collective knowledge gathered within the pages of this bestiary will give you the knowledge and wisdom needed to not only survive but to thrive. The creatures of Fablehaven are either light or dark, not necessarily good or evil. In order to be good, one must recognize the difference between right and wrong and strive to choose the right. To be truly evil one must do the contrary. Being good or evil is a choice. This is not so with the creatures of Fablehaven. What they are largely governs how they act. Some are inherently builders, some are nurturers, some are playful. Some are inherently destroyers, some are deceivers, some crave power. Some love light, some love darkness. But change their nature, and without much resistance, their identities follow. Like a fairy becoming an imp, or an imp regaining her fairyhood. Much counsel and advice has been passed down through generations and given to the new caretakers of this preserve. Perhaps the most invaluable piece of advice that has ever been given is this: Those who are careful to cause no mischief, work no magic, and inflict no harm are protected by the foundational treaty of Fablehaven. This truth alone may be your strongest ally and your only defense. One final note. The signs leading up to the front gate were not always there. In the late eighteenth century, before the guest register that controls access to Fablehaven was created, two poachers entered the property in search of big game. Needless to say, they found it. Or it found them. Many days later, the resident caretaker found them as well. Or at least he found their bodies of petrified stone. And thus the first signs outside the gates of Fablehaven were posted. As caretaker you have accepted a most noble assignment. Keep your eyes open. Obey with exactness. Take risks only as the last resort and you will have a better chance at seeing another sunrise. Welcome to Fablehaven.

BrandonAuthor Brandon Mull

Brandon Mull is the author of the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling Beyonders and Fablehaven series. Brandon resides in a happy little valley near the mouth of a canyon with his wife and four children. He spent two years living in the Atacama Desert of Northern Chile where he learned Spanish and juggling. He once won a pudding eating contest in the park behind his grandma’s house, earning a gold medal.

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Fires of Invention

Trenton Colman is a creative thirteen-year-old boy with a knack for all things mechanical. But his talents are viewed with suspicion in Cove, a steam-powered city built inside a mountain. In Cove, creativity is a crime and “invention” is a curse word.

Kallista Babbage is a repair technician and daughter of the notorious Leo Babbage, whose father died in an explosion—an event the leaders of Cove point to as an example of the danger of creativity.

Working together, Trenton and Kallista learn that Leo Babbage was developing a secret project before he perished. Following clues he left behind, they begin to assemble a strange machine that is unlike anything they’ve ever seen before. They soon discover that what they are building may threaten every truth their city is founded on—and quite possibly their very lives.

My Review:

Five out of five stars

Popular young adult author J. Scott Savage delivers another thrilling adventure sure to excite young readers. His latest young adult series, Mysteries of Cove, starts with a bang. Cool inventions, dangerous secrets, and a wild ride that excites the imagination in readers of all ages with a hint of fantasy.

Wow! I loved, loved this book. I was sold from the moment I saw the cover.  A mechanical dragon? Yes, please! I’m a sucker for all things dragons. Then he threw in a city built into a mountain, a society that outlawed creativity and inventions, and a dangerous secret. Who can resist that? I loved seeing how a society that outlawed any form of improvement could function. The Chancellor was a huge annoyance and I enjoyed how he was dealt with in the end. Trenton and Kallista’s friendship, with its rocky start, warmed my heart at how they worked together to save their city. Trenton's character had great growth as he went from fearful follower to someone who believed in their own abilities.


Content: Clean
Purchase Links: Amazon or Deseretbook

Source: Paperback from publisher

Friday, September 18, 2015

Secrets of Neverak

Henry Vestin always believed that, despite being a carpenter with no training in swordplay or survival, he could lead Isabelle and his friends to safety. He thought he could defy an emperor and protect Isabelle from harm. He was certain that love and friendship would help them survive.
He was wrong.
The second volume in the Tale of Light and Shadow series follows Henry and his friends after the disastrous battle at the Iron Pass. Horrors await the band of travelers in strange new lands. Crippled and broken, Henry must rely on his friends more than ever. New allies and foes find them at every turn, but which are friendly and which are deadly? Isabelle, now a slave in Neverak, finds herself surrounded by enemies, uncertain about the fate of her friends, and relying on only herself to survive. The Emperor moves forward with his plans of conquest, spurred on by the Seer’s dark prophecy, but he has not forgotten those who defied him.
Return to the world of Atolas, where swords and daggers extend life or end it, where feuds and friendships influence kingdoms and courtships, and where magic is feared by all but a few.

My Review:

Five out of five stars

The second book in Jacob Gowans high-fantasy series delivers even more heart-pounding adventures and life altering revelations than the first book. A Tale of Light and Shadow series presents a world where the price of magic is high, and the quest for justice and love is fraught with dangers.
Secrets of Neverak picks up right after the stunning ending of A Tale of Light and Shadow. Henry Vestin and his friends are left broken after their defeat and the loss of Isabelle, Henry’s fiancĂ©. Now with a useless arm and a broken spirit, Henry wonders how he can ever be trusted to save the woman he loves from becoming the Emperor’s latest concubine. Meanwhile, wars and rebellions are brewing throughout the world of Atolas. The friends must face their inner demons and stand united if they are to succeed in their quest to save their friends. Loyalties are fragile when love turns bitter, and insecurities and vices win.

I loved this book. The first one, like many fantasy series, started out a bit slow but when it picked up, I was hooked. The world’s politics, magic system, and cultures were woven together seamlessly to create something I was able to easily lose myself in. While the first book may have dragged at the beginning, this one certainly didn’t. It opened with Henry recovering from the wounds he received in the battle at the end of the last book, and the friends entering the Iron Pass—a forest where strange voices whispered your darkest secrets and drove you mad. Such an intense moment! I loved the crazy and dangerous situations the characters faced and often held my breath wondering how they would survive yet again.

Jacob Gowans did a fantastic job creating a diverse cast of travelers with great combinations of weaknesses and strengths. There are multiple narrators so I got a great understanding for all the characters and their pasts. I found I cared about each of them, though there were a couple of bad guys I wanted to know more about, like the creepy Seer. Even the Emperor has some qualities that make him more human. I’ve struggled to find book where I cared about the character and found the plot gripping. This book delivered on both accounts.

I only had one problem with the book, it ended on another cliff-hanger! When does the next book come out? The group made some difficult decisions at the end. We’ll have to see if they work out in the next book. Can’t wait!

This is a young adult fantasy so it is a little faster read than some fantasy books I’ve read. (Brandon Sanderson’s books, anyone?) The content, despite one of the character cloistered with concubines was very clean. No language or sex, and the battles were epic without gruesome details. I felt comfortable reading this to my kids, and it addressed some great ideas about believing in oneself and forgiveness.


This book is available for purchase at Amazon or Deseret Book

Source: Book from publisher in exchange for honest review

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Power of the Matchmaker

Title: Power of the Matchmaker
Author: Karey White, Rachael Anderson, Sheralyn Pratt, Jaima Fixsen, Kelly Oram, Heather B. Moore, Julie Wright, Heidi Ashworth , Taylor Dean, Michele Paige Holmes, Janette Rallison, Regina Sirois 
Series: Power of the Matchmaker
Publisher: Mirror Press
Release Date: Nov 3, 2015

Book Summary:

A prequel novella to the POWER OF THE MATCHMAKER Series
Mystical . . . Beautiful . . . Romantic . . .
12 novels by 12 bestselling authors
Released once a month in 2016
Read the matchmaker’s story to find out where it all starts . . .

Mae Li has been in love with Chen Zhu for years, and he with her. But when the matchmaker arrives at the Zhu family home, she recommends another village girl for Chen.
Heartbroken, Mae Li watches as Chen does his duty by marrying another. Mae flees her village with the clothes on her back and her only possession—a pearl embedded comb, given to her as a goodbye gift from Chen Zhu.
Upon Mae’s arrival in Shanghai, she quickly learns that she’ll starve within days unless she sells her prized comb or joins a courtesan house. She goes to the Huangpu River and promises the River God that she’ll always be selfless if he will save her from becoming a prostitute . . . Her wish is granted when Ms. Tan, the matchmaker of Shanghai, finds Mae. But Mae must completely change her future and her name if she is to become the next matchmaker.

My Review:

5 out of 5 stars-Awesome!

A great start to a series I can't wait to read. Mae Lin's own love may be tragic, but she's able to find contentment and peace with her choices in the end. The glimpse into the history and culture of China drew me in, and gave a deeper appreciation for the things woman had to face over the centuries. Her limited choices on how to provide for herself led to some pretty tense moments in the novella. I love how she grows to accept her role to help others despite the personal cost. Also, I loved learning more about the art of matchmaking and aspect of a role I had never considered. The hint of magic added a gentle mysticism that fit the atmosphere perfectly.

A clean, short read that isn't the typical romance story, but shows that true love is both selfless and powerful.


Content: Clean. (There is reference to prostitutes and the main character is nearly forced into service as a nude artist.)

Source: ebook for review

Available for preorder. Amazon

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Write from the Inside

I’ve recently started working to get back into the writing sphere after a hiatus as a new mom. Writing articles and books now take up a large amount of my free (ha ha) time. Through them all, I’ve noticed a common theme.

Write who you are!

I believe that's exactly how James Scott Bell put it in Plot & Structure, though many authors have similar advice. And when the majority believes something it must be true, right? Naturally, I then had to evaluate what inside me could make for some interesting writing. And I’ll tell you what I came up with . . . nothing.

At first. 

There was nothing there but the overwhelming insecurities I’ve fought my whole life. Nothing inside me was cool and unique. I was average and often overlooked by others. My life’s mission in high school was to be invisible. If one is not noticed, one cannot be hurt. And I’m awkward. Not the quirky, fun awkward, but the “make everyone else uncomfortable around me” awkward. I open my mouth and, though I carefully think about the words, gibberish comes out. These thoughts plagued me for a minute or two. Followed quickly by the usual negative comparisons. 

“No wonder I’m not published and successful like so and so.”

Blah, blah, de blah.

Well, I could have stayed here for an infinite length of time. Me and my all-too familiar dark cave. But that’s rather depressing, so I dug deeper. And I found . . . me.

Those very things I’d seen as negatives have shaped me into who I am today. For better or worse. (I choose to believe the former.) The experience of often getting lost and forgotten in the crowd has made me more mindful of those around me. I notice when people look sad or lonely. I try hard to care about the individual. I’m observant (when not lost in imaginary worlds).

The super power of awkwardness provides a freedom I’m glad I have. I know I don’t fit in, so I’ve learned to embrace the awkwardness that is me. And found some people actually enjoy it. (Pretty sure they’re nuts, but I’ll go with it.) It turns out that stumbling through life creates some pretty hilarious and memorable moments for myself and others.

Many other things, both good and bad, make me who I am. And that person changes from day to day as new experiences and opportunities shape me further.

The characters I write develop the same way. They appear one dimensional at first, but as I write complexities that spawn from both their negative and positive traits add depth to them and the plot. I’ve started round one of revisions for my current WIP and find the person I cast my character to be has grown to something bigger. While this does mean many rewrites are needed to adjust the plot and characters, I know my story will be stronger in the long run.

Just as my self rewrites continue to improve who I am.

Character is fluid. We have so much power as the authors of our lives to become so much more than the rough draft we start out with. It’s our choice whether that person will be awesome or not. We all have that seed of greatness inside. What do we choose to do with it?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Janitors: Heroes of the Dustbin Review


Janitors 5
Janitors 5: Heroes of the Dustbin by Tyler Whitesides

Spencer knew that from the moment the Founding Witches had returned, the Rebel Janitors had begun disappearing. So many schools were defenseless now, the students' minds rotting from Toxite breath while the janitors vanished without a trace. Then it became personal.

Although their enemies are powerful, their allies few, Spencer and his team of Rebels are not giving up! But what chance do a handful of kids and one rescued janitor have against the combined evil of the Founding Witches and the Sweepers? Can the Rebels close the source of all Glop and stop the Toxites once and for all-or is the world doomed to fall under the control of the sinister Bureau of Educational Maintenance? This explosive series finale is a gripping ride through conflicted loyalties and daring escapes, unexpected alliances and betrayals, and an ending you will never forget!

add to goodreads

My Review:

5 out of 5 stars

Since the cliff hanger ending of book four in the Janitors series, I've held my breath (I've the purple face to prove it.) for the next book. So worth the wait! The latest book jumps into what Spencer and the gang have had to deal with since the return of the Witches and the death of Walter. After all the setback and betrayals, Spencer would be justified in quitting, but he's determined to win this fight despite the overwhelming odds. All the allies gathered through the series must unite to stop the BEM, once and for all. 

This is a fast-paced adventure that kids will love! New magical artifacts and danger (an plenty of slime and gross humor) keep readers on a thrilling ride to the end. The growth of not only Spencer, but also his friends, over the series was great to see. Their friendship made all the difference in the final results of the battle for education. My favorite part was finally finding out the truth about the Toxites and how they came to be. Brilliant! And the ending delivers many surprises I didn't see coming. A great family read to launch a brand new school year for kids and their parents (Admit it, you totally love the goo and garbage). 


TylerAuthor Tyler Whitesides

TYLER WHITESIDES worked as a janitor at a middle school while attending college. It was there he discovered the many secrets and mysteries that can be hidden in a dusty school. Tyler graduated from Utah State University with a degree in music. He enjoys fly fishing in the mountains, cooking, and vacuuming. Tyler and his wife, Connie, live in beautiful northern Utah.

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