Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Month: September 2014

I Stand Corrected by Eden Collinsworth

I stand corrected

Eden Collinsworth has spent more time traveling and being away from home than most people you know. She is intimately familiar with China, having spent a lot of time there as a business consultant. This story is about the year she spent writing a manual for the Chinese on Western manners. Her tone is light and breezy, and she gives you the feeling that nothing fazes her.

Each chapter is titled with a subject relevant to manners, such as proper grooming, how to greet people, and how to behave at a dinner party. She shares personal anecdotes, then goes on to explain how these anecdotes relate to the writing of her book. More often than not, the chapter ends with a statement that leaves you hanging, and you eagerly go to the next chapter expecting the same thread to be picked up.

It’s not.

Her writing style is easy to read, but the subjects are many. She will lead off talking about turtles, then go into an explanation of Chinese cuisine, then end with some story seemingly irrelevant to the topics above. By the time I got to the middle of the book, I was expecting all her tales to end abruptly, and a new subject to be broached with the thinnest of segues. This is the only complaint I have about the book. Eventually a later chapter will return to the turtle, or a co worker, or the reason she was talking about her dinner party.

Collinsworth is a woman clearly used to dealing with men in a man’s world, and for that I admire her. She seems to be very lucky in her business dealings, and many opportunities landed in her lap simply as a result of being in the right place at the right time.

Some personal details, such as her then-husband, referred to as “W”, and her son’s growing up and maturing, figure prominently in the book. It’s a combination of a memoir, explanation of how her book on manners came to be written, and a Chinese history lesson.

My feelings about this book are mixed. To me, it was more about the author’s life, travels, and relationship with her family, with some background material related to Eastern vs Western manners. I came away knowing a little bit more about the Chinese mindset, but what stuck with me was how Collinsworth spent her life almost as a transient, always seeking the new experience over comfort and similarity. Perhaps the best way to review this book would be: akin to Chinese food–made up of many ingredients but not very filling over the long run. Read it for yourself and let me know what you think.

You can pick up a copy here.

I received this book from in exchange for an honest review.

Interview with Tara Ellis–author of Bloodline and Heritage

Tara Ellis is the author of the Forgotten Origins trilogy, consisting of [easyazon_link asin=”1492169676″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]Bloodline[/easyazon_link], [easyazon_link asin=”1494390701″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]Heritage[/easyazon_link], and [easyazon_link asin=”1502757214″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]Descent[/easyazon_link]. Books 1 and 2 are out already; #3, Descent, will be published September 30th. You can follow her on Twitter @taraellisblood.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms Ellis the other day;  she was kind enough to take time from her busy day to answer a few of my questions. Enjoy!


Where did you get the idea for your trilogy?

You know, I’ve been asked this question several times now after someone finishes the story, and I still haven’t come up with a good way to answer it. I think that it’s been brewing and tumbling around in my head for a very long time.

When I finally had the time to commit to writing a full-length novel, I had recently finished the Hunger Games. Until then, I really hadn’t given much thought to writing in the first-person POV, but I was intrigued by it. So that was the first step.

I’ve always been a huge Sci-fi/invasion/plague fan, so that was a natural plot concept. My daughter was fourteen when I started so it was important for me to produce something that she and her friends could read which is why it’s such a clean read. That’s hard to find any more in the YA genre.

I LOVE a good conspiracy theory, and I even wrote ATS (Above Top Secret), a real conspiracy message board website, into the book. I used them as a resource for some of my research…and there was a lot of research. I spent hours upon hours looking things up and trying to come up with ways to tie them all together. It becomes more apparent in the second and third book, but I weave quite a large web of plot lines and it took a whole lot of planning.

The story itself…it just happened, as I tied all of my plot ideas together and then imagined my character, Alex, and how she would handle it. I daydreamed, dreamed, outlined, and thought about it for a couple of months. It evolved and grew as I wrote it and at one point, it seemed to take over and I was just along for the ride.


There is a theme of faith, Christian faith, throughout the books. Tell me about it.

Yes. I took a chance with this. It’s always risky to introduce any sort of religious undertone, because some readers can be put off by it.

One of my major goals with Bloodline was to make believable, relatable characters. While Chris is deeply involved in his local church, preparing for a mission trip, Alex is alienated from it. She questions faith and God. I think that a lot of us, especially teens, are in that boat.

Without giving too much away, it was necessary to introduce some scripture from the Bible, because it is a key element in explaining whom they are dealing with later on. BUT…I wasn’t exclusive to the Christian faith. I also used Sumerian script, ancient Egyptian culture, and Native American legends to tie it all together.

Bloodline, Heritage and certainly not Descent are preachy in any way. Although I believe in God, I don’t believe in trying to force one’s faith on anyone. I think it’s more important to realize that we’re all connected…perhaps more than we realize which is where I went.

I find it fascinating, that you can look through various ancient text taken from different locales and eras, and find certain similarities. THIS is what I focused on in The Forgotten Origins Trilogy. EVERY ancient story, scripture, and legend that I present in my trilogy is real. How I connected them though, was purely my imagination at work.

Later in the trilogy, while Alex continues to struggle with what it is she believes about God or a creator, it is a mild theme, but I think a believable one. Other characters also have their beliefs tested and my hope is that the reader can relate to their confusion and internal debate and come to their own conclusions.


The Egyptian heritage of Alex is not your average background for a YA heroine; was that just to make it easier to move the plot forward?

No. I didn’t actually figure out how that all tied into things, until later in my story development. My first goal when outlining Bloodline was to make it unique.

I have some pet peeves. Being a science fiction fan, it is extremely important to me, that a story NOT be predictable or generic. I wanted Alex to be a character that the reader would remember after they put the book down. Yes, she’s relatable, but I think that as a writer, to achieve that connection with the reader, she has to be different.

So while her heritage becomes a major factor in the plot, my desire originally was to have something fresh and not done before. This was my motivation.  Egyptian culture, at least to me, is still something I’m not familiar with. Because of the pyramids and all of the mystery and legend and history surrounding them, it was a natural choice for me as a writer, to be pulled in that direction.

SO…I made Alex half Egyptian and gave her the dark, mysterious features to go along with it. THEN, I started the long journey of using that as my starting point for her story.


Describe your typical writing routine; how does your day go? How long did it take for you to write each book?

I found that I write best in the morning hours. In the summer, I would settle down to write before everyone was up, and during the school year, after the kids left for school.

I normally turn on some quiet, relaxation music (without words) and light a nice smelling candle. I have to write EVERY day, or else I lose my momentum. I also have very poor short-term memory, so I’ll actually forget what I wrote and have to go back and read it, if I don’t write consistently.

Bloodline took the shortest amount of time. The outline took around two months and I wrote the book itself in just under one month. The edit process was a bit scattered though and I didn’t

complete the final edit until after it had already been published, because as a new writer…I had a lot to learn!

Heritage took another two months on the outline and closer to two months to write. It is 20,000 words longer than Bloodline and much more intricate. I learned a lot about character building, and I feel like I grew as a writer.

Descent, (release date September 30th) was a huge undertaking. I still had SO much story to tell, and it was really important to me to do it right. I’ve come to love these characters and their story.

My other pet peeve is believability. You know when you’re reading a story or watching a movie and you go…”Oh come one! They would never do that!” Yeah. I can’t stand that. If anyone has a moment like that with any of my books…please tell me!

With Descent being the last book, it was critical that I tie everything in together in a believable way and do the story justice. So I took a lot of time. At least three, maybe four months on the outline. When I say outline, I mean over fifty pages of it.

I would have done it all faster, but I was in a car accident on the freeway. I was hit from behind and got pretty severe whiplash, so I wasn’t able to sit up at my computer long enough to write. But you know what? This forced me to take even more time on the outline, which resulted in a better story. I honestly believe that.

Writing it took about three months. It’s 95,000 words and I poured myself into every one of them. I hope that you like Descent as much as I do.


What is next on your agenda? Are you working on anything right now?

I literally JUST completed the final edit on Descent…but yes, I already have another project underway!

I’ve decided to narrate and produce my own audiobooks. I’m starting with my MG story: The Mystery of Hollow Inn. This is another love of mine. I have a whole series planned out, much like the Nancy Drew Mystery Series or the Boxcar Children.

It’s a small story, so won’t take me long to record. I figure I’ll learn the ropes and work out any bugs in the production end of it, so I’ll be ready to go for the Forgotten Origins Trilogy.

I am actually very excited about it. I have been involved in drama for most of my life, but still, I was going to have someone else narrate it until I was encouraged by a couple of people that I sound just as good as the professional narrators. To be honest with you, I think there is a lot of truth in the belief that no one can tell the story better than the writer can, when it comes to how you portray the characters.

So be on the lookout for the audio versions. It shouldn’t take me long to produce them. And then who knows? I might not be able to stay away from the world I created in Forgotten Origins for too long.


Bloodline by Tara Ellis


I received this book from author Tara Ellis in exchange for an honest review.

Sixteen year old Alex and her family is part of a crowd watching the Holocene meteor shower when there is an impact very close to them. Panic ensues, and everyone flees back to their houses. Inexplicably, Alex’s mom starts sneezing that night, and some of her neighbors develop the flu. Alex and her younger brother stay healthy and start noticing odd behavior from those who are ill—including their mom. 80% of the world develops this flu like illness, which is followed by strange behavior. Alex fears for her own life; since she didn’t become sick, she is now a target.

As she struggles to find the reasons for the flu and evade being discovered as still healthy, she encounters a diary left by her father, who was killed while on vacation in Egypt. He apparently knew that this meteor shower was going to have bad consequences, and left clues on how to combat the evil . She must decipher hieroglyphics, protect her brother Jake, and learn who she can trust. Not everything is as it seems.

With the help of her schoolmate Chris, Alex and Jake leave their city and hide away in their family cabin in the Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Alex must find the anti-virus and save the world. Can she do it?

This book captured my interest right away, since I’m a fan of plague and pestilence. Bloodline is not your typical zombie flu storyline, but rather a poignant story of a teenage girl still mourning her dad, still feeling connected to him through his journal. The sense of isolation and bleakness really shines through here, as author Tara Ellis accurately captures Alex’s thoughts and fears. Even though this is advertised as a YA novel, adults will enjoy this easy yet intriguing read. Portions of the book evoked The DaVinci Code, as the group follows clues and races against time. I also liked that the relationship between Chris and Alex seemed authentic, with a hint of teenage awkwardness and shyness.

Plot twists are not obvious, and I found myself eagerly racing through the book to see what was going to happen next. I just loved how Alex’s mom got sick and how her personality changed—super creepy!

The ending of [easyazon_link asin=”1492169676″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]Bloodline[/easyazon_link] answers some questions, but not all, and leaves the story open ended.  [easyazon_link asin=”1494390701″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]Heritage[/easyazon_link] is the second book of the Forgotten Origins trilogy, and the final novel, [easyazon_link asin=”1502757214″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]Descent[/easyazon_link], will be published on September 30, 2014. Click the title if you want to get your own copy…highly recommended!

Watch my blog for an EXCLUSIVE Q&A session with author Tara Ellis…coming soon!!


The Competition by Marcia Clark

the competition

Rachel Knight’s 4th outing seems to be business as usual; the familiar characters are investigating a Colombine – style shooting at the local high school. Two students come in with guns blazing during an assembly and wreak havoc, and the body count is high.  Knight, Bailey, and Graden attempt to track down the shooters, but as soon as they get a lead, things change and confuse the trail.  Our favorite gang banger, Luis Revelo, makes an obligatory appearance also. The more I read about him, the more I wish Clark would give him a bigger part in her books.

This story line was very interesting, bringing in psychology and referencing other tragedies such as Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook. I think the book could’ve been about 70 pages shorter, as Clark added twist after twist and it started to annoy me. Without spoiling things, all I can say is that the last 80 pages dragged, and then all of a sudden sped up, as if she just wrote any damn thing just to be finished. Pretty much everyone becomes a red herring, and I lost track of how many times they “solved” the case and then it twisted again. I just kept rolling my eyes and turning pages.

All that aside, The Competition is a solid book for Rachel Knight fans. Looks like I’ll be continuing to read through the series.

Want your own copy? [easyazon_link asin=”0316220973″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]You can get it here![/easyazon_link]



The ADHD Effect On Marriage by Melissa Orlov

ADHD Effect on Marriage

Subtitled “Understand and rebuild your relationship in six steps”, this book is mainly geared towards those who are experiencing trouble with their ADD/ADHD mate. Both people in the relationship will see themselves portrayed authentically, with explanations of WHY they are feeling those emotions. The first few chapters explain ADHD–what it is, how the brain is affected, how it is diagnosed, and the insidious ways it can creep into your relationship/marriage and cause trouble. Orlov quotes from, and suggests reading, The Dance of Anger by Harriet G Lerner as a supplement to this book. She also sprinkles the pages with lots of stories and examples from real life men and women working to save their relationship. It’s easy to sense the frustration these people have with ADHD serving as the third wheel in their marriage, and some of the stories are quite depressing.

The second part of the book is the rebuilding part, as Orlov outlines her six steps for fixing what has gone awry. She goes out of her way to explain that it’s not the ADHD causing the person to be “broken”, but a lack of understanding how it affects the brain and how ADHD’ers see the world differently.

The six steps are: cultivating empathy, addressing obstacle emotions, getting treatment for BOTH parties (as the non ADHD’er may experience depression, anger or frustration and become resentful and/or ill), improving communication, setting boundaries, and finally, reigniting romance and having fun. As someone who truly believed that ADHD was just a convenient diagnosis for little boys with ants in their pants, I can say I was literally blown away by this book. My whole way of thinking (these people just needed to focus more, be more organized, stop daydreaming, get discipline) could not have been more wrong. ADHD’ers have heard since they were young that they were “not good enough”, they were “underachieving”, they could be “so much more if you just focused better”, and they feel unloved, abandoned, and frustrated.

I am a very organized person by nature, and dealing with a man with ADHD would be a challenge, for sure. The first step is understanding that MY way is not always the RIGHT way, and ADHD’ers need to do what works best for them. Medication is a great help, but so is communication and coping strategies. Knowing your enemy is the first step to defeating him.

Included with the book are worksheets, tools and resources that can be further utilized. Both people will come away knowing their spouse better, and themselves a little better as well.

This was the first book I read about adult ADD/ADHD, and I learned a great deal. On Goodreads, this book got mixed reviews, and most reviewers suggested reading Is It You, Me, or Adult ADD? by Gina Pera as a better source of information and assistance. I’ll be reviewing that in a future post, as I’m currently working through that now. The ADD Effect On Marriage is a good, if simple, book to read to gain understanding of adult ADHD. The advice is pretty sound, and if nothing else, you will see yourself in the anecdotes of those who have experienced a rocky road in their relationship. You will know that you are not alone in this.

[easyazon_link asin=”1886941971″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]Know someone with adult ADD? Interested in learning more, even if there is no ADD in your life? Click here to get a copy.[/easyazon_link]

Guilt By Degrees by Marcia Clark

Gulit by Degrees


In this second outing for Los Angeles DA Rachel Knight, she becomes the champion for a homeless man that is murdered in broad daylight. No one is interested in taking the case, so she steps up. The case quickly becomes a hotbed of intrigue, as Knight discovers that it shares aspects of another case–that of a murdered policeman. In between eating at every local restaurant, and drinking into the night, Rachel and trusty sidekick Bailey uncover layer after nasty layer. No one is who they appear to be, and there is a character that has potential for an appearance in another future book.

The plot is interesting. Less interesting is the constant dialogue between Rachel and Bailey about food, booze, and calories. I’m just skimming over those parts to get to the juicy stuff. Clark is a good writer, but spends too much time filling the book with descriptions of clothes and food. It’s not enough to turn me off, however, and I’ll be reading the next two books in the series.

Want to get a copy for yourself? You can pick it up here.

Nest by Esther Ehrlich


I received this advance reader’s copy from Net galley in exchange for this honest review.

Touching. Poignant. Real. Funny. Heartbreaking.
There are not enough superlatives to describe this treasure of a first novel by Esther Ehrlich, written for young readers. Don’t let the designation fool you. This story will resonate with everyone–those who have a family, those who have felt alone, those who have tried to be a “good girl”, those who have been 11 years old and forced to sit in a sweltering classroom while their heart is breaking.

Naomi “Chirp” Orenstein lives in Cape Cod, circa 1972,  with her parents and older sister. She got her nickname from her love of birdwatching; I love how the author sprinkled avian facts throughout the book. Chirp’s world is turned upside down one summer when her mother is diagnosed with MS, and the dynamics of the house abruptly change. Her dad is less than comforting; Dr Orenstein, the psychiatrist, would rather open a dialogue about feelings and why they are there rather than just give Chirp a hug. Her sister Rachel is becoming distant as she is discovering boys and spending more time with her friends, instead of playing “baby” games with Chirp. And next door neighbor Joey comes from a family that finds it easier to be demeaning than understanding.

As Chirp’s mom encounters more difficulties (I can’t write any more details without avoiding spoilers) the 11 year old turns inward, sneaking away to watch her beloved birds and ponder life. Ehrlich’s prose is right on the money, capturing perfectly the emotions and fears of a girl poised on the far edge of adulthood. At times Chirp is wise beyond her years, other times she just wants her mom. The relationships between all the characters is believable and true to life, even down to the authentic banter between Joey and Chirp.

One day Chirp gets sent to the principal’s office for opening a classroom window.  Her classmates show their support on the bus ride home in a fabulous little scene that is written perfectly. Told from Chirp’s perspective:

When I sit in the bus seat next to Dawn, she says, “Want me to open the window?”, and then she pinches the locks and pushes the window down. She turns around and says to Sally, really excited, “Open your window for Chirp. Pass it on.” Sally passes it on to Tommy, who passes it on to Sean, et cetera, et cetera, and soon the whole bus is filled with the eeeeee of everyone shoving down their windows. Mr Bob, the bus driver, doesn’t say anything;  he never does. He just reaches for his blue wool cap on the dashboard and puts it on while the wind whips everyone’s hair around. 

“Heck no, we won’t go! Heck, no, we won’t go! Yay, Chirp!” Joey yells from the back of the bus. 

I know I’m in big trouble, because I got sent to the principal’s office, but I feel happy with everyone’s windows open for me. 

About 70% into the book, there is a twist that is exquisitely painful and delicate, and Ehrlich makes her writing sing like pure birdsong. There was not a page that went by that was out of place or awkward, from the first to the last. I dare anyone to read this book and not feel as if they are alongside young Chirp as she navigates through her life.

What a rare book Nest is. Read it, and come up with some superlatives of your own to describe it. It goes on sale September 9th, 2014. Buy your copy here. 


Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas

mother mother

Wow. Double wow. Anyone who knows a narcissist will cringe and nod at matriarch Josephine’s behavior, as she manipulates her way through her family’s life. Who is crazy and who isn’t? Nobody really knows.

Rose Hurst is missing. Violet and Will have been left behind to deal with the rage their mother, Josephine, has due to Rose’s disappearance. Will loves his mother so much, and so is only mildly uncomfortable at her alternate turns of dotage and anger. Violet, on the other hand, wants to get far away from her family. One night, as she is high on “seeds”, she commits a violent act against Will, causing Josephine to commit her to a mental hospital. Violet then tries to figure out what really happened that night, and tries to track her missing sister down as well.

The chapters are laid out such that the narration is done by Will and Violet, alternating chapters. Unfortunately, both narrators are unreliable and the reader gets to see different sides of the same story.

Josephine is a true narcissist, lying and stealing the spotlight away from everyone, even if it means turning family member against family member. With devoted son Will at her side, there isn’t anything that she can’t do. Even if she has to put a giant bowl of Death By Chocolate ice cream in front of Will to “help” him remember the night his sister attacked him.

“I need to make sure you can synthesize your thoughts about what happened. That woman who came by is going to make you explain it to her. If she can’t keep up with you, or you can’t explain your thoughts well, there could be big consequences,” says Josephine. Will does his best, but still becomes teary eyed, and his mother admonishes him to “stop overreacting”.

One of my friends has a narcissistic mother, and a weak father. As I read passages out loud to her, she shuddered and commented how true it all was. No one in her house was allowed to question things except her mother. Once I asked her why she never spoke up, and she told me it was just easier to let things go, so as not to upset her mother. She didn’t want to “rock the boat”, as it were.

A particularly interesting passage mirrors my friend’s thoughts: Violet is trying to tell her dad that he needs to stand up to Josephine. He tells her “You and I are very different people. I don’t see how rocking the boat is going to help matters much.”

Violet replies, “It’s not rocking the boat, Dad. It’s called communication. You’re allowed to ask questions. Other people do it all the time. Other people don’t live in fear of someone else’s reactions. They don’t relentlessly stress out about getting into trouble.”

Did I say WOW?? I loved this book, and I loved to hate Josephine. The plot goes along well, with enough mystery amongst the stress to keep you wondering where Rose is. The ending will shock you, and you will feel wrung out by all the manipulation, by everyone, to everyone. People like this really do exist, and it’s scary. Kudos to Zailckas to creating authentic characters with real problems.

Stop reading this blog post immediately and go read this. It will leave you a changed person.

Want to read more about Mother, Mother? Go to the Random House website. Want your own copy? Of course you do. You can purchase it here. 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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