Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Last Year's Resolution by Robert Lampros

About the book:
Last Year’s Resolution is a novel about Edmund Stovender, a famous author who falls in love with Marie, a journalist who calls him for an interview just before the performance of his hit play.  Their lives accelerate through an epic adventure testing their faith, strength, and love for each other, as they discover that their story might pivotally influence the fate of the world.

You can get your copy of Last Year's Resolution via Amazon.

About the Author:
Robert Lampros is an author of Christian poetry, essays, and fiction who lives in St. Louis.  He earned a Bachelor's degree in English Literature from Washington University in St. Louis.  His books include Fits of Tranquility, Illuminating Sidewalks, Om-Bork, Afternoon, Eleven Floors, and What Is Sacred.  His latest novel, Last Year's Resolution, is currently available as an e-book and is set to be released in paperback in Summer 2016.

Follow Robert’s blog and on Twitter.

Wednesday Spotlight | Last Year's Resolution by Robert Lampros

Monday, March 20, 2017

     SEE YOU IN THE COSMOS by Jack Cheng
February 28, 2017;
Penguin Random House UK Children’s Puffin

Eleven-year old Alex Petroski, is Jack Cheng’s charming and peculiar half-Filipino narrator for his debut novel, SEE YOU IN THE COSMOS. Alex records his multitudinous thoughts and adventures –he records everything- on his golden iPod. He dreams of launching a rocket and taking his golden iPod into space, with the same intentions as his idol Carl Sagan, who launched his Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. So determined, Alex went to the Southwest High-Altitude Rocket Festival in New Mexico with only his dog Carl Sagan (named after his idol, of course) to tag along.

SHARF is not Alex’s last stop, though. From there, he will take a leap of faith to find a man who may be or may not be his father, who also may not be dead yet, as he believed, in Las Vegas. Alex will experience disappointments and confusions throughout the journey. He will also meet plenty of people. They were not perfect or idealistic, but they certainly made a beautiful family together.

Cheng brings a poignant debut novel with a surprisingly refreshing structure –an unusual form that may appear confusing, but actually worked wonderfully in fleshing out his characters and deliver a message of resilience. 

At the beginning, I was skeptical that Alex will break my heart along the way, and that I’ll have no defenses against it. I’m glad that he did not break my heart, but he definitely hooked it. I do recommend that you grab a copy of this book.

Book details:
Author:  Jack Cheng
Publication:  February 28, 2017;
                        Penguin Random House UK Children’s Puffin
Genre:  Middle Grade, Children's Fiction
Rating:  ★★★★

*Thanks to Penguin Random House and Netgalley for the DRC, in exchange for this unbiased review.

Book Review | SEE YOU IN THE COSMOS by Jack Cheng

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Last Wife of Attila the Hun by Joan Schweighardt

About the book:
Two threads are flawlessly woven together in this sweeping historical novel. In one, Gudrun, a Burgundian noblewoman, dares to enter the City of Attila to give its ruler what she hopes is a cursed sword; the second reveals the unimaginable events that have driven her to this mission.

Based in part on the true history of the times and in part on the same Nordic legends that inspired Wagner’s Ring Cycle and other great works of art, The Last Wife of Attila the Hun offers readers a thrilling story of love, betrayal, passion and revenge, all set against an ancient backdrop itself gushing with intrigue. Lovers of history and fantasy alike will find realism and legend at work in Joan Schweighardt’s latest offering.

You can get your copy of The Last Wife of Attila the Hun via Amazon, B&N or iTunes.

About the Author:
Joan Schweighardt is the author of five novels, with a sixth well on the way and notes for number seven. In addition to her own writing projects, she writes, ghostwrites, and edits for individuals and corporations. Her business website can be viewed at

Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

*Contents were sent by Booktrope Edition's Book Manager for this blog's publication.

Wednesday Spotlight | The Last Wife of Attila the Hun by Joan Schweighardt

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

       THE AWAKENING by Amanda Stevens
March 28th 2017, Mira
My name is Amelia Gray, and I'm a cemetery restorer who lives with the dead. An anonymous donor has hired me to restore Woodbine Cemetery, a place where the rich and powerful bury their secrets. Forty years ago, a child disappeared without a trace and now her ghost has awakened, demanding that I find out the truth about her death. Only I know that she was murdered. Only I can bring her killer to justice. But the clues that I follow—a haunting melody and an unnamed baby's grave—lead me to a series of disturbing suspects. 

I have been a fan of this series ever since I requested for the 1st book via Netgalley. I highly recommend that you pick a copy now, if you haven’t already. The Restorer completely hooked me and left me in agony for the next book, then the next, and then, the next.  Amelia Gray, the protagonist, was a huge curiosity for me.  I never imagined a cemetery restorer was an actual career until I met her. I’ve watched her evolve from book to book. Having her powers never excused her from being vulnerable, but her resilience is palpable and very admirable. And I have always rooted for her.

Ms. Amanda created a vivid atmosphere for this series. She captured Charleston for the readers and projected it into something we could actually breathe in and consume. Every book contains an escalating plot that would eventually boil into an eerie, yet satisfying read.

Again, THE AWAKENING is no exception. Amelia knew from the beginning that restoring Woodbine Cemetery would mean uncovering a secret. It may be a secret far darker from anything she had encountered before. And being in proximity with John Devlin and the Conge will not make anything easier for her. Death may even be inevitable this time.
Shush… lest she awakens…
Saying good bye to this series is like saying good bye to an old friend. Of course, mine is a mixed feeling of both happiness and sadness. I am still reeling from the ending, but I couldn’t see a more fulfilling way to end it. Years from now, I would look back and be reminded that The Graveyard Queen was the series that kept me from sleeping, made me stare at my window more than I should, check my walls and ceiling, and literally duck under the covers in hunt of that elusive sleep.

Congratulations, Ms. Amanda!

Book details:
Title:  The Awakening
Author:  Amanda Stevens
Publication:  March 28th 2017 by Mira
Genre:  Fiction / Paranormal
Rating:  ★★★★★

*Graveyard Queen Series:

* Egalley was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for this honest review. 
This review contains a quote from an uncorrected copy.

Book Review | THE AWAKENING by Amanda Stevens

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Blackbeard's Daughter by Diana Strenka

About the book:
Colonial dreams have become piratical nightmares. Margaret takes one disastrous turn after the other as she confronts the perils of murder, war, and revenge. When her father decides to pursue criminal mischief aboard a pirate's vessel, Margaret joins him in an effort to save his life. Will she weather the storms ahead, or will they destroy her?

You can get your copy of Blackbeard’s Daughter via Amazon or Smashwords.

About the Author:
Diana has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology, and a Master's Degree in Education.  In addition to Blackbeard's Daughter, she has authored and self-published several short stories on Smashwords and Amazon.   One such title is Rescuing the Titanic, a fictional account of the Californian arriving before the Titanic sank. In the nonfiction realm, she has published several articles for HubPages on medieval and renaissance historical figures. She enjoys taking care of her cat, Moe, and drinking tea.

Follow her on Twitter.

*Content was sent by the author for this blog's publication.

Wednesday Spotlight | Blackbeard's Daughter by Diana Strenka

Monday, February 6, 2017

Every place I am acquainted with is buzzing with excitement because of Luca Guadagnino’s adaptation of the book. It was initially released last January 22 of this year. I have not seen the movie, though. I don’t usually watch book adaptations (with only two exceptions: the Harry Potter series and Game of Thrones series). Although, Guadagnino’s peculiarity on shooting the entire movie with a 35 mm lens alone, and his reason for doing so, are really intriguing. So, you may rest assured that this is not a movie promotional review.

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME was our TFG book for March of 2016, and it was on my best book list, too. Exploring the internet, you’ll see both accolades and rebukes for the author, same goes with the book. The most apt description I’ve read so far was “maddening”. This book has the capacity to hurl my emotions into a turbulent sea. My need to resurface for air, every now and then, was acutely palpable.
Adflictus sum et humiliatus sum nimis rugiebam a gemitu cordis mei! -Psalm 37:9 DRA

Reading Elio prompted me to look around me, asking myself if I made the right choices. Mindfully, he allowed me to view choices akin to a tub of boiling water, jumping in will not spare me from scars, but it will be absolutely liberating. I will wear those scars proudly, because they are intrinsically part of me. Elio made choices by predicting on how these choices will affect his feelings, his being, in the future. He, in every sense, provides his future adult self an emotional revelation he befittingly deserves. It astounded me (it still does, I believe) how Elio marries his present and his envisioned self without any sense of insincerity or regret.
Most of us can't help but live as though we've got two lives to live, one is the mockup, the other the finished version, and then there are all those versions in between. -Mr. Perlman

As much as people categorized this book as LGBT novel or romance, it will remain as a coming of age book for me. The greatest magic of this book is that it shows people, and I mean everyone, will transform. This space we occupy now, though necessary, is evanescent. We will, in essence, continue laboring for our envisioned future selves. In his purity, Elio created a portrait of a love fated to last lifetimes, even when that love is no longer with him. Since every human is driven by desire, we choose to love someone that will aid us to project the kind of person we want to be, into a full bodied being the world will see. Every desire, present or absent, will help ferry us into that envisioned being.
Instead, I squirreled away small things so that in the lean days ahead glimmers from the past might bring back the warmth. I began, reluctantly, to steal from the present to pay off debts I knew I’d incur in the future. -Elio

SPOILER ALERT. The best part of this book for me was the father and son reserved scene. It bespoke of a father’s unparalleled love for his son. It squeezed my heart, because, truly, in our pursuit of that envisioned self, we will need all the people who love us.
If there is pain, nurse it, and if there is a flame, don't snuff it out, don't be brutal with it. Withdrawal can be a terrible thing when it keeps us awake at night, and watching others forget us sooner than we'd want to be forgotten is no better. We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything - what a waste! -Mr. Perlman

Book details:
Author:  AndrĂ© Aciman
Publication:  January 22nd 2008 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genre:  Fiction / Coming of Age
Rating:  ★★★★★       


CALL ME BY YOUR NAME by André Aciman

Monday, January 30, 2017

My first glimpse of this book, I didn’t get a copy, because budget ruled that I was not in the bookstore to purchase it after I’ve already spent money on three books. I promised to purchase it next time, but you know what next time already means. Then, I saw the movie trailer, which reminded me to buy the book next time. That was over a year ago, sadly. Like the rest of my failings, I realized I need to amend that.

On a NYT article, Backman revealed that his book was rejected several times before he finally had Forum to print him. And by October 2016, A MAN CALLED OVE has sold 2.8 million copies.

Ove is that grouchy neighbor, who makes sure that everyone walks in line all the time in his neighborhood. He’s the one you can rely on to point a finger at whoever parks in the wrong place and argue hotly about the parking fee.  He is mighty suspicious of everyone and everything. His social incompetence is oftentimes cringe-worthy and hilarious. And his greatest achievement is failing at suicide, time and again.
Men are what they are because of what they do. Not what they say.

However, a man like Ove is tested by time with ridicule, deceit, and pain. Underneath his façade, is a man with a huge heart (figuratively and literally), who allotted a space even for a stray cat. He is a man without preconception of race, appearance, or gender. Except, of course, if you're not driving a Saab. Ove’s story is a delightful exploration of one cranky neighbor’s significant impact on others. He’s an unlikely hero with an exceptional story.
People had always said that Ove was "bitter." But he wasn't bloody bitter. He just didn't go around grinning the whole time. Did that mean one had to be treated like a criminal?

I am so impressed with Ove’s story I intend to read more of Mr. Backman’s stories soon. And, I absolutely recommend this to everyone who wants an uplifting read.

Book copy details:
Author:  Fredrik Backman
Publication:  July 15, 2014, Atria
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating:  ★★★★★

A MAN CALLED OVE by Fredrik Backman

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Buy a copy from Poster Gully       
Photo courtesy of

Every now and then, I get book-related questions, through email or through the blog’s contact form, from different sorts of visitors – authors, fellow reader, students with paperwork, surveyor, and trolls. I’m not sure how many of them are actually my blog followers, but I do appreciate their effort in bothering to contact me (trolls included). I admit to having varied ways of neglecting them; oftentimes, it took me weeks before I can sort the interesting from the insignificant. Most interesting at times, it’s the trolls who have the more significant questions, if you can believe that.

I was asked a few months back if I was ever declined by a publisher in Netgalley. I assumed that the question came from a fellow site user, who is pretty new at it, and have been recently declined. However, since my querier did not leave any contact information, I decided to answer this question here. And hopefully, this will help others, out there, who experienced the same.

The truth.

The answer is a resounding YES, I have. I was declined 56 times, the last one, in fact, was last January 14 of this year. Now, that was almost as many times I was approved. The general reason I got for being declined was that the publisher already hit their egalley limit.  It probably meant that I sent my request too close to the publishing date, or a number of requests already came through before mine. However, there were three incidents wherein publishers declined me because they were dissatisfied with my profile information. They cited several reasons as to why. Some of these rejections even came from publishers who approved my previous requests. Some were even sequels to books I have reviewed for them before.

Keep at it.

Was I disappointed? Yes. Was I discouraged? No.  I just keep on requesting for other books I like. I continue updating my profile, because, of course, changes happen. And I keep reading and blogging.  And, then I get pre-approval from publishers. Not just for one particular book, but for all their new releases. To show them my appreciation, I request and review books from their racks every month. I can be a grateful bitch, if I want to. 

There were times, too, when the author or a publicist will directly email their egalley, or send download links, which is generous, of course. 

I am not trying to boast here. I am simply telling you, guys, that good things also happen to hardworking and honest reviewers/bloggers.

Not just a reader.

Every time I get declined, I’d tell myself that it was not my loss; it was theirs, because mine was another recommendation they will never have. What some publishers failed to see was that not all reviewers from Netgalley are just professional readers. Most of us are “book lovers”, we are born to read books. Readers like me will not just submit a feedback for the egalley, we will actually buy a printed copy if we liked it, take pictures of them, and put them on display or post them on social media. 
There are two motives for reading a book;
one, that you enjoy it;
the other, that you can boast about it.― Bertrand Russell

Crazy as this may sound, but I even buy the audiobook when it becomes available. I became a completist of authors, because of some great galley proofs I’ve read.

My advice to my fellow Netgalley users, keep going to the site, keep requesting for books that appeals to you, and keep recommending; because you are there not for the rating, not for the pride of badges, but FOR THE LOVE OF BOOKS. For a more cohesive advice, you may want to read Savy's post.


And this last bit is for the publicists who use “Review Opportunity” on their email heading:  Whose opportunity are you referring? May I suggest Barb Drozdowich’s Book Blogger Survey for references before emailing book reviewers?

Good day, everyone. Thanks for keeping with my ramblings.