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Friday, June 28, 2013

Audio Review: House Rules by Jodi Picoult

Title: House Rules
Author: Jodi Picoult
Narrators: Mark Turetsky, Nicole Poole, Andy Paris, Christopher Evan Welch, Rich Orlow
Publisher: Recorded Books
Format: Unabridged Audio
Length: 19 hrs: 55 mins
Publication: March 2, 2010
Source: Purchased
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Rating: 5 of 5

Synopsis: They tell me I'm lucky to have a son who's so verbal, who is blisteringly intelligent, who can take apart the broken microwave and have it working again an hour later. They think there is no greater hell than having a son who is locked in his own world, unaware that there's a wider one to explore. But try having a son who is locked in his own world, and still wants to make a connection. A son who tries to be like everyone else, but truly doesn't know how.

Jacob Hunt is a teenage boy with Asperger's syndrome. He's hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, and like many kids with AS, Jacob has a special focus on one subject -- in his case, forensic analysis. He's always showing up at crime scenes, thanks to the police scanner he keeps in his room, and telling the cops what they need to do...and he's usually right. But then his town is rocked by a terrible murder and, for a change, the police come to Jacob with questions. All of the hallmark behaviors of Asperger's - not looking someone in the eye, stimulatory tics and twitches, flat affect - can look a lot like guilt to law enforcement personnel. Suddenly, Jacob and his family, who only want to fit in, feel the spotlight shining directly on them. For his mother, Emma, it's a brutal reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding that always threaten her family. For his brother, Theo, it's another indication of why nothing is normal because of Jacob. And over this small family the soul-searing question looms: Did Jacob commit murder?

Emotionally powerful from beginning to end, House Rules looks at what it means to be different in our society, how autism affects a family, and how our legal system works well for people who communicate a certain way - and fails those who don't.

My Thoughts: This is a powerful and moving story about a family's love for one another. Emma Hunt will do anything to protect her family including not asking her son if he committed the crime he is accused of. All Emma knows is that he can not survive prison and she must protect him. Even if it means using an insanity defense. 

I really enjoyed this story getting to experience the story from each of the main characters point of view. I found it amazing how each individual can see the same thing and experience it in a completely different way. I kept going back and forth as to Jacob's guilt or innocence. I didn't want him to be guilty but all the evidence pointed to him and then there was the motive. I know that i never want to be on a jury evidence can be made to look however each side wants it to look. This is one of those stories that on the surface it appears easy to understand but the further you go into it the cloudier it becomes. 

This is an unabridged multi-voiced audio. The original work is appropriate for audio adaption. Each narrator did a great job with the narration. It was clear as to the voice the particular chapter was in due to the change in the narrator and each character within each narrators narration was easy to identify and differentiate form the next. Pacing was well maintained throughout the production and the plot flows without interruption. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday #2

Cricket's Pick
Expected Release: August 2013
When seventeen-year-old Katherine McCall awakened one morning to find her beloved sister, Sara, brutally murdered, her whole life changed in the blink of an eye. Kat was named the prime suspect and, on a string of circumstantial evidence, charged and tried. While the jury found her innocent, not everyone else agreed, and her only choice was to go into hiding. But she carried a dark secret with her, one that made her worry she might actually have had something to do with Sara’s death . . .

Now, years later, Kat is still haunted by her sister’s unsolved murder and continues to receive chilling anonymous letters, but she has tried to move on with her life. Until, on the tenth anniversary of Sara’s death, she receives a letter that makes the past impossible to ignore: "What about justice for Sara?" What about justice for Sara? And for herself? Kat realizes that going back to Liberty, Louisiana, might be the only way to move forward and find some peace. And there’s a killer out there who was never caught.

But the town she’s come back to is hardly different from the one she left. The secrets and suspicions still run deep. Kat has an ally in Detective Luke Tanner, son of the former Liberty police chief, but he may be her only one. With plenty of enemies, no one to trust and a killer determined to keep a dark secret buried, Kat must decide if justice is worth fighting—and dying—for.

Vyse's Pick
Expected Release: July 2013
The smash-hit ongoing epic continues! Thanks to her star-crossed parents Marko and Alana, newborn baby Hazel has already survived lethal assassins, rampaging armies, and alien monstrosities, but in the cold vastness of outer space, the little girl encounters something truly frightening: her grandparents!

Ashna's Pick
Expected Release: August 2013
It's been more than two years since Jon Evans and his family left Pennsylvania, hoping to find a safe place to live, yet Jon remains haunted by the deaths of those he loved. His prowess on a soccer field has guaranteed him a home in a well-protected enclave. But Jon is painfully aware that a missed goal, a careless word, even falling in love, can put his life and the lives of his mother, his sister Miranda, and her husband, Alex, in jeopardy. Can Jon risk doing what is right in a world gone so terribly wrong?

Page Turner's Pick
Expected Release: November 2013
He is a Legend.
She is a Prodigy.
Who will be Champion? 

June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps Elect while Day has been assigned a high level military position. But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them once again. Just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything he has. With heart-pounding action and suspense, Marie Lu’s bestselling trilogy draws to a stunning conclusion.

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Review, Excerpt & Giveaway: Family Magic by Patti Larsen

Title: Family Magic (Hayle Coven #1)
Author: Patti Larsen
Publication: October 17, 2011
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing
Source: Publisher/Author
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Audience: 14 and up

Synopsis: Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of being ordinary. That my mom baked cookies instead of brewing spells. That my dad lived with us, not on the demon plane. All I ever wanted was to be like everyone else.

I know what you're thinking. You'd die to live in my world. How cool would it be if magic was real and you could do anything? 

You have no idea. Here I am in another new town, but it's the same old thing. Cheerleader bullies? How original. Friendless again? Who's surprised? I suck at fitting in. Especially when I'm in the middle of saving my family from total destruction.

My name is Sydlynn Hayle, and that's my life.

Trade you.

My Thoughts: I wasn't quite sure how i was going to like this story but Patti Larsen's pronominal writing and character building is one of a kind. It took me a whole 2 seconds to fall in love with Syd. She is a strong character and yet she is such a normal teen. Syd is so overwhelmed with fighting her magic that she is not able to see the forest for the trees and realize and embrace her true nature and self. I was not expecting suspense and a hit of adventure in this story. This is a great read for all young adult and fantasy lovers. I am adding this series to my TBR list and moving it to the top. 

I lay in bed for a long time, struggling with my thoughts, shying away from taking the real steps I needed to figure out what my problem was. For some reason I probably should have been aware of, I didn’t want to know. I wanted out! Why couldn’t that be enough?
As I sprawled there torturing myself, I heard my door creak and the soft pad of little feet. I watched Meira as she picked her way on tiptoe across my floor and to the end of my bed. She twisted a handful of quilt in her tiny fingers and peered up at me through her silky black bangs, eyes wide and almost completely black in the darkness.
“Are you awake?” She whispered.
“Nope,” I answered. “Come back later.”
Meira giggled. She had the cutest giggle, clean and fresh and genuine. She always made me feel way younger than I was.
I giggled back.
Meira made her way further up the bed, twirling her slender body, her pure white nightgown flaring out at her ankles as she half-danced, half-tiptoed to me. She leaned over the bed and touched my forehead with one little finger, face solemn, eyes glowing in the light from the street outside.
“You are blessed,” she whispered.
I choked on a snort and started writhing on the bed in mock agony.
“No, I can’t take it! Please, don’t make me be like you!”
She crossed her little arms over her chest and smirked at me.
“I’m not that good,” she said.
I grabbed her and dragged her onto the bed. She squealed, covering her mouth with both hands, tears brimming with mirth. I tickled her. She shook her head, lips clenched together, snorting laughter escaping.
“Nasty little ruggers,” I continued the torture, “say it!”
“No!” She tried to whisper. It came out a little louder than she intended. We both laughed, glancing at the partially open door.
“Say it!” I demanded in a whisper when no one came to shush us. “Say uncle!”
Meira giggled silently, her red-tinted face even more crimson from the effort of holding it in. She squiggled and squirmed underneath me, trying to catch her breath.
“Never,” she hissed.
I sat up and whacked her with my pillow. She squealed for real this time. She grabbed one of the decorative throw pillows Mom insisted accompany the stupid chandelier.
“Cheater!” She shrieked, smacking me with the satin monstrosity.
I popped her a good one, sending her tumbling across the bed.
“Brat!” I retorted.
Meira lunged with her pillow, but missed and ended up on the floor. We both froze at the heavy thump. I heard quick steps come to the bottom of the stairs.
“You girls better be in bed,” Mom called up to us.
We giggled.
“If I have to come up there…” The threat was an empty one. She hadn’t come up to stop us in years.
Still, we held silent, as much a part of the game as the rest of it. Finally, Mom’s footsteps retreated back to the kitchen. Meira gazed up at me from the floor and laughed.
I scooped her up and planted her on the bed beside me. She stretched out facing me. I flipped the covers over us. She snuggled into my neck.
“That was fun,” she said.
“So I can blame you if Mom decides to come check on us?”
Meira batted her lashes, Miss Innocence. “She’d never believe it was my fault.”
I didn’t mean to but with everything that happened in the last few hours, I took her words personally.
“Right. Of course. It’s always me screwing up. I forgot.”
I rolled over onto my back, focused fury settling on the stupid pink chandelier. I jumped up, stood on the bed and grabbed onto it. I pulled, but nothing happened. Meira made a noise, something sad and afraid, but I ignored her completely.  Mad, beyond frustrated, I gave it a good yank. The whole thing let go. I hunched on the bed covered in pink crystals, stars, wires and a large chunk of ceiling. I’m surprised my mom didn’t come running, but I guess it wasn’t as noisy as it looked. Dust hovered everywhere. Meira stared at me, tears pouring over her cheeks.
“Syd,” she cried. “I’m sorry! Don’t be mad anymore.”
She covered her little face in her hands and sobbed. The giant heel I turned into reached out and grabbed her. I pulled her into my lap amid the mess I made and hugged her hard.
“It’s okay, Meems, it’s okay,” I rocked her and stroked her hair until she fell quiet. She pushed tears from her cheeks. The fear I saw in her face made me cringe, even though I knew she was less afraid of me and more afraid for me.
“Why don’t you love us anymore, Syd?” Meira went limp against me, her hurt a physical thing that made me want to take everything back.
“It’s not that,” I told her, stroking her hair back from her cute little horns. “Of course I still love you. What’s not to love, huh?”
She slid her hair over her horns to hide them. “That’s not what you said before,” she whispered.
I ran back over the conversation in the basement and winced. Oops.
She sniffled and wiped her nose with her sleeve. “You hate us.”
“No I don’t.”
“You think we’re monsters.”
Oh crap. “Meira, look at me.” I forced her face up and stared her in those huge, demon eyes. “I don’t hate you, okay? Nothing you could ever do would make me hate you. And I don’t think you’re a monster.”
“I have horns,” she whispered. I flinched. How much damage had I done to my little sister? How had she gotten into the middle of my battles with our mother? For the first time I was painfully aware Meira probably suffered way more than Mom and I. She was going to carry our garbage with her for the rest of her life if I didn’t do something about it right then and there.
Finally the endless day ended. I grabbed my remaining belongings from my locker, not willing to leave anything behind. I turned into the crowd to run home and hide under my comforter. Tomorrow was going to be a sick day if I had to make myself ill.
Didn’t I do it again? Ran right smack into Brad. I almost had a heart attack. Set up! My little voice screamed as I scanned the crowd for Alison. What diabolical scheme was this? I backed away from him, feeling like I’d just dropped out of the fire into the burning pit of hell. Brad stepped forward, concern on his face, the half-smile in greeting fading fast.
“Syd?” He reached out one hand. “Are you okay?”
I risked another glance around the crowd for the bitch queen. Still no Alison. Despite her absence, I knew the kids in the hallway watched and listened with every fiber in their being.
“Yeah, thanks,” I ducked my head and tried to dodge him. He wasn’t having any. Brad stopped me by grabbing my arm, not hard.  The touch alone was enough to make me halt and look up.
“I seem to keep running into you,” he said, trying to make a joke of it. “I’m really sorry.”
I blinked, feeling like someone hit me hard. He was sorry? Brad Peters was blaming himself for my inexcusable clumsiness? Seriously? I allowed myself to soften and believe it. After a heartbeat, I toughened up.
Definitely a trap.
“Stop being nice,” I snapped, tired and upset and frustrated after my long day in a very long week, and it was only Tuesday. “I know Alison put you up to this, so you can stop. I get it, consider me punished.”
Brad shook his head, confused. Could it be true he had no idea? No one could be that out of touch. The hallway itself vibrated with tension from me and the other kids in the know.
But nope. He really was clueless. Imagine that.
“I don’t know what Alison told you, Syd,” Brad said, “but she didn’t put me up to anything. I wanted to apologize for yesterday.”
“You shouldn’t be talking to me,” I told him, despite wanting more than anything for him to keep talking to me. Brad Peters was - talking - to - me.
“Why not?” His beautiful eyes crinkled at the corners as he frowned.
“Alison won’t like it,” I said as softly as I could, worried like in magic, names had power. But nope, no wicked witch appeared. Amazing.
“Alison doesn’t tell me who to talk to,” Brad replied. “I’ve actually been wanting to say ‘hi’ for a while.”
I stared at him in open shock, not even aware of the world around me. In that glorious moment, it was just me and him. Any fantasy I imagined on my own couldn’t compare to this.
“Really?” I hated how my voice squeaked a little. “How come?”
Brad laughed. The whole world shone like heaven when Brad laughed.
“No reason. Is that okay?” His green eyes gave me the most delicious shivers. It was almost too much for me to comprehend.
“I guess,” I said. “I just find it a little strange.”
“Why?” His turn to be confused.
“No one else seems to want to get to know me.” As soon as I spoke, I worried I sounded like a whiner. “Small town, hard to meet people, you know?”
He ran one hand through his glossy blonde hair. My insides trembled as my knees went soft.
“Yeah, I get it,” he said. “It must be tough. I grew up here, guess it’s way easier for me.”
“I guess,” I breathed, clinging to the brief instant in time that I, Syd Hayle, was talking to the most popular boy in school because he wanted to say hello. I knew I’d be replaying it over and over when I made it home.
“So maybe we can go get a pizza or something sometime,” Brad said.
And the blessed angels sang Hallelujah. If it kept up much longer, I would need him to hold me up. Which meant he would have to—sigh—touch me and I didn’t know if I would survive it.
In the heartbeat I thought the idea could even possibly come true, reality struck.
Alison finally arrived. I thought I was toast before. The expression on her face could have killed a bird in flight. I spotted her over Brad’s shoulder. I guess my flinching at the thought of what she had planned next must have alerted him something was wrong. By the time he turned around, Alison morphed herself from a she-bitch from hell to perky cheerleader.
“Brad,” Alison slipped one possessive hand through his arm, linking the other over it, a clear and powerful sign of ownership from one girl to another. “I was waiting for you at my locker but you didn’t come.” She formed her perfect bow mouth into an expert pout and gazed up at him through her fluttering eyelashes. I knew she’d been practicing that one in front of the mirror since birth.
“Alison,” Brad looked away from her, actually looked away, and back to me. “I’m talking to Syd.”
Part of me wanted to die because Brad cemented my fate. The other part wanted to die because Brad wanted to have pizza with me. I couldn’t tell which was worse.
There was a certain presence to my father, a weight, a physical feeling to being around him that always made me uncomfortable, especially when the door first opened. I hated to admit it, but I think it made me feel that way because I was afraid it could be me someday traveling between worlds.
Haralthazar took the time to look over us. His chiseled face creased in a soft smile, gentle even, welcoming. Hard to believe, but true. My dad was a nice demon. Forget the whole pit of burning despair thing. Demons simply come from another plane, a different realm of existence. There are good guys and bad guys like here on Earth. Lucky for us, when my Mom decided to go unconventional after the attack leaving her own mother crippled, she fell in love with Dad.
He raised one arm over Mom. She stiffened as the energy rippled out of her in visible strings of light, flowing over the pentagram and back into each of us. I flinched as the thread hit me, out of breath and more than a little dizzy. Dad always gave back more than he took, at least to me.
“My love, well met.” He bent and took my mother’s hand, helping her to her feet. “Miriam, rise and stand with me.”
She took her place beside him. Emotion swirled between them. Dad beamed at us.
“I am well pleased, my friends,” he said. “Our coven grows and is strong. I offer power to the bond and love and protection to you all.”
“Our thanks to you,” the crowd murmured, my voice joining slightly late.
He turned to me.
“Sydlynn Hayle,” he held out one hand, “come to your father.”
This part always made me feel like I was being dissected by all the eyes staring into my back. I despised being the center of attention. There was a definite slouch in my stance as I climbed to my feet and dragged myself unhappily to my parents.
“The first gift of our joining, welcome and my thanks for the sharing of power. With you, our light grows.”
“You bet.” My father frowned for an instant, enough to make me feel like a spoiled rotten little kid. How did he do that? I was happily cynical with my mother but Dad could reduce me to a child with one raised eyebrow. I guess he was mostly a great father and a really good guy and I hated disappointing him.
I drew a breath and tried harder.
“My light to you,” I said, louder.
He smiled secretly. I smiled back as he bent over me and touched his lips to my forehead.
“Hi, cupcake,” he whispered through the official kiss. “How’s soccer going?”
Seriously. Cupcake. “Fine, thanks,” I whispered back. “And you can stop calling me that.”
He grinned pure evil.
“Whatever you say. Cupcake.”
Ooh. Dads.
“Don’t piss off your mother,” he said.
“Doing my best.” I rolled my eyes.
Dad straightened up and addressed the group.
“This is my child, truly born, a member of this coven. Who speaks against her?”
In the silence that followed, I half-heartedly hoped someone would kick me out.
“All is well,” he said. “Our love to you, Sydlynn Hayle.”
I made a face at him for the whole stupid thing.
“Thanks,” I said. Dad dropped a small wink as I stepped back.
“Meira Hayle, come forward.”
My sister stepped up eagerly. I heard her soft giggle as our father repeated the kiss he gave me. I’d ask her later what he said to make her laugh. Not that I’d ever admit it, but we didn’t get to see our father all that often and I was a bit jealous of her time spent with him.
Dad straightened over her.
“This is my child, truly born, and a member of this coven. Who speaks against her?”
Meira must have said something cute because our dad struggled not to laugh in the silence.
“All is well,” he repeated. “Our love to you, Meira Hayle.”
Meira stepped back, her little hand slipping into mine. She grinned up at me as the ceremony continued.
I tried not to laugh when Gram, up next, planted a wet, sticky one on him. He had the good nature to hug her back and smile at her with real warmth and love. She tottered back to us, so pleased with herself she wriggled like a little girl.
I struggled with a case of the fidgets as the validation process continued but couldn’t help the impatient shift from sneaker to sneaker making its way through my defenses. Witch after witch, male and female alike, professed their undying love and loyalty to our family, etcetera, and so on, ad nausem. It took forever. And to think we had to go through this twice a year. According to Mom, with the dying of the summer at Samhain and its rebirth at Beltane, the connection between our plane and Dad’s was closest. It made the bonding easier and more powerful.
Blah, blah, blah.

The only problem? It was the epitome of boring. Besides, I had homework to do. I could hardly explain to my science teacher I didn’t get my chemistry done because I was helping my coven renew its bond with my demon father. Who knew? Maybe Mr. Sinclair would give me a better mark if he thought I packed that kind of firepower.

Author Bio: 
Patti Larsen is an award-winning middle grade and young adult author with a passion for the paranormal. But that sounds so freaking formal, doesn't it? I'm a storyteller who hears teenager's voices so loud I have to write them down. I love sports even though they don't love me. I've dabbled in everything from improv theater to film making and writing TV shows, singing in an all girl band to running my own hair salon. 

But always, always, writing books calls me home.
I've had my sights set on world literary domination for a while now. Which means getting my books out there, to you, my darling readers. It's the coolest thing ever, this job of mine, being able to tell stories I love, only to see them all shiny and happy in your hands... thank you for reading.

As for the rest of it, I'm short (permanent), slightly round (changeable) and blonde (for ever and ever). I love to talk one on one about the deepest topics and can't seem to stop seeing the big picture. I happily live on Prince Edward Island, Canada, home to Anne of Green Gables and the most beautiful red beaches in the world, with my very patient husband and four massive cats.
Giveaway: This giveaway is for a Kindle Fire or Amazon Gift Card and is open internationally. This giveaway is sponsored by  I.O. Book Tours and/or Patti Larsen. Please use the rafflecopter form below to enter. 
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