Monday, August 29, 2011

The Docks

The Docks
By: V.H. Folland
ASIN: B0051BU0B2
Published May 14, 2011 by Ragged Angel Ltd
Available Format: ebook

My Rating: ★★★★☆

The Docks is a short crime novella about Harry, a recently released convict who is struggling to stay on the straight and narrow. When Harry agrees to a small act of arson, he quickly learns there’s more to the plan than he was told. When he takes drastic measures to rescue innocent lives, taking one not-so-innocent life in the process, he finds himself neck deep in trouble. He has to confess to burglary and acting in self-defense but is trying to avoid murder and terrorism charges. Harry quickly must learn who is on his side and who might still be out to get him before he finds himself behind bars once again.

I really enjoyed this quick read. Despite his sordid past, Harry is a truly likable character. He obviously has some heart, saving the ship’s crew like he did and putting himself at risk of returning to prison. So he has to skirt the truth a bit to maintain his freedom and start rebuilding his good name—can you really blame him?

Folland’s writing style is easy to follow, and I completely felt I was part of the action throughout the whole story. You know I’ve said it before, this sort of crime drama is not really my thing, but I’m finding I enjoy it just fine every now and then, especially when it is written as well as this. For such a short book, it is really fleshed out like a full novel, which obviously takes some writing skill!

I definitely recommend The Docks for a fast, entertaining read! How else can you get a glimpse into a life of crime without ever having to pay a lawyer or wear an orange jumpsuit?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

End of Mae


End of Mae
By: Angela Yuriko Smith
ASIN:  B0053CPO1U
Published May 29, 2011
Available Format: Paperback, ebook

My Rating: ★★★★☆

Mae is a small-town journalist on the cusp of an exciting story when something suddenly attacks her.  She wakes in a dark room and is confronted with what she can only describe as an angel.  On the brink of death, Mae is whisked away to a strange mansion full of bizarre people.  The most thrilling story might be her very own, and she is dying to tell it.

I’m certainly glad I took a couple hours of my life to devour this fantastic little read!  I love the mystery of Heylel—how we never really know exactly what he is until the end.  I may be weird (okay, I am), but I always love it when the ‘evil’ characters are more humanized and given more realistic feelings and emotions.

Mae was hilarious!  Every time she turned around something was happening to her, and usually, in some sick twisted way, it was funny.  She is exactly the kind of girl I could imagine I’d be in her situation—falling down stairs, choking on wine, having a knockdown, drag out with the evil old maid. 

This story is full of mystery, suspense, a little horror, and some warped characters.  I was on the edge of my seat the whole time and full of conflicting emotions about the characters and what was happening to dear Mae. 

Sure we could have known more about the characters, but I didn’t really feel like that distracted me.  I was so engrossed in what was going on with Mae, and I appreciated the bit of mystery surrounding her.  I do wish there was more to the story, in a good way.  I want to have a full length novel with lots of explanation and more about what happens after the ending of this novella!!  (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, Angela! ;-))

I really love it when I read a book by an author I know.  It’s almost like getting another look into their lives, and I am able to pick up little glimpses of their personalities in the story—kinda like when you recognize the parents in their children.  Angela is a great lady and obviously a great author too! 

Please grab yourself a copy of End of Mae and enjoy!

Fergyville: Episode 1, The New Plan


Fergyville:  Episode 1, The New Plan
By:  Katina Ferguson
ISBN:  2940012490889
Published May 3, 2011
Available Format:  ebook

My Rating:  ★★★★☆

Frank and Catherine are the proud parents of three small children and are trying to reorganize their lives so things run a bit more efficiently.  After a tough day, Frank arrives home late with a feeling that things aren’t quite as they should be.  Could some malicious people from his past be involved or is it just his imagination running wild?

A couple pretty stressed out parents and three young children—I definitely relate!  I love that this is so ‘real-life’ with a pinch of mystery.  Katina is a fantastic story teller, entertaining and easy to follow.  I was immediately drawn into Frank and Catherine’s life, while my own was bustling around me. 

This short novella reads a lot like a prime-time sitcom and definitely leaves you wanting more.  There’s no doubt I have to check out Episode 2, and I’m absolutely going to be following this series through the end!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Leon Chameleon P.I and the Case of the Missing Canary Eggs


Leon Chameleon P.I. and the Case of the Missing Canary Eggs
By:  Jan Hurst-Nicholson
Illustrated by: Barbara McGuire
ISBN: 9780958377331
Published 1993 by Gekco Books
Available format: Paperback, ebook

My Rating:  ★★★★★

I became a huge Leon Chameleon fan as I read Leon Chameleon P.I. and the Case of the Kidnapped Mouse, so Jan sent along the Case of the Missing Canary Eggs for me to try.  My six-year-old and I read this one together a chapter at a time, which is always a fun thing for us to do (I LOVE reading with my kiddos!).  Every day he would remind me we had to read our next chapter of Leon!

In the Case of the Missing Canary Eggs, the reader gets to see where it all began.   Mr. and Mrs. Canary’s eggs have mysteriously disappeared, and, in their haste, the Pigeon Valley Police is after the wrong suspects.  Leon Chameleon steps in and offers his services, finding significant clues that were previously overlooked.   Leon must lead a daring plan to rescue the eggs and trap the real culprits before it is too late.

While I think more ofLeon’s personality showed in the Kidnapped Mouse, he is definitely still a truly likeable chameleon!   He starts out more on the sidelines, using his unique abilities to observe the action and step in at precisely the correct moment.  Of course, his Uncle Leonardo is an ever-present inspiration, and ultimately it is his influence that leads Leon to the conclusion of the case.

Again, I love the diversity of the different characters.  The illustrations are beautiful and really helped my son make more sense of the story.  I also still appreciate that the writing is not over-simplified, so it helps to expand my son’s vocabulary and is still appropriately entertaining for adults.    

I think my favorite part of this story was when Leon goes in to lure one of the suspects away from the eggs.  I can’t describe the scene without spoiling the story, so you’ll definitely have to check it out to find out for yourself!

Pariah (Issue 2)

Pariah (Issue 2)
By: Aron Warner & Philip Gelatt
Art by: Brett Weldele
Production by:  Art Monkeys
ISBN:  9357372563
Published August 2011 by Sea Lion Books

My Rating: ★★★★☆

In the first issue of Aron Warner’s Pariah, we got to know a bit about Brent and what he is—a genetically enhanced teen suddenly being tracked down by the government for nothing more than his Vitro status.  In this second issue, the focus is on Lila Ellerman, a sixteen-year-old Vitro who was working in the Marinus Labs at the time a deadly virus was released.  While hiding out in the forest with more of her team and her crush, Brandon, Lila discovers that someone is framing her for the development and release of the virus.  Will Lila be able to protect her friends and clear her name?

We’re still not one hundred percent sure how the Vitros came about.  We know they were cured of some genetic disease and this resulted in enhanced intelligence.  My theory is they were given some sort of vaccine that altered their genetic makeup and then they were “forced” to work in places such as Marinus Labs developing all sorts of super smart technology, weapons, etc. 

Since this is a graphic novel, the illustrations tell the majority of the story.  Pariah 1 was full of subdued blues and greys, and it really depicted Brent’s sad, isolated life.  Pariah 2 is still subdued, but it brings in more reds and oranges and I think this helps accentuate that we’re getting more to heart of the action.  The virus has been released and this young girl is being blamed.  We don’t know exactly who is behind the plan or why they are using the Vitros, but we’re getting a better sense of what the story is all about. 

I’m glad that we’re seeing more of the Vitros and more interactions between them.  They seem somewhat more authentic in this issue.  They’re still sitting in the middle of a forest brilliantly figuring out how to bounce internet signals off satellites so they can’t be traced, but at the same time they are doubting one another and even falling in…well…’like’ at least.  They really are just ordinary teenagers faced with extraordinary circumstances.

I am absolutely in love with this series!  I can’t wait to see the new issues rolling in and learn everything there is to know about the Vitros and how Brent is going to hopefully come back into play in the future. 

Check it out!!  Just do it… :-)




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Priest

Priest
Directed by: Scott Charles Stewart
Written by: Cory Goodman & Min-Woo Hyung
Distributed by: ScreenGems
Released in theaters May 13, 2011
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, disturbing images and brief strong language.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

Priest, loosely based on a Korean graphic novel, is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi with both a dark dystopian and old western feel. Priest (Paul Bettany) is a legendary Warrior from the last Vampire War. He is drawn from the city and breaks his vows to the Church when his niece (Lily Collins) is abducted by a pack of vampires. Her boyfriend (Cam Gigandet), a rather immature, trigger-happy sheriff, joins Priest in his quest to save Lucy before her abductors change her into a one of them. These aren’t your emotionally torn, sparkly vampires; think more along the lines of Alien with nasty fangs and blinding speed! They live in hives and serve one nasty queen—a queen who was smart enough to learn how to create a stronger, hybrid creature. Priest must learn where his faith truly belongs before it is too late for Lucy and the rest of the world.


I really liked Bettany‘s character in Legion, and he doesn’t disappoint in this film either. I adore his dark, subtle sense of humor, and Cam Gigandet offered a perfect contrast. It was great to see several familiar and well-liked faces (Bettany, Gigandet, Karl Urban, Stephen Moyer, Brad Dourif, Christopher Plummer, Maggie Q). The cast was well chosen and there was splendid on-screen chemistry.

Just because Bettany is a Priest, don’t expect to be bogged down with religion. Sure, the Monsignors have quite a system going on that might be a little reminiscent of the Vatican, but they really are no different than your selfish, power hungry government. It doesn’t butcher religion/Christianity either. I was actually quite impressed when the Warrior Priestess tells Priest that his power doesn’t come from the Church but rather from God.


I loved the darkness and dinginess of the cities contrasted with the sun-scorched wasteland settlements. The hives were gloomy and drafty, and this feeling was successfully brought to the surface in the reservation where the willing offered themselves up to the vampires as familiars.

There’s a couple interesting twists in the plot, which I enjoyed. I like how there is romance, but it isn’t the focus of the film—just a bonus. I get the feeling there is so much more depth to the characters, but a lot of the backstory is left to the viewers’ imagination.


This film boasts quite a bit of action and special effects. There are no monotonous exorcisms here. Priest is a cross-throwing badass vampire slayer, and there’s even a guy-worthy explosion! Expect some decent combat scenes and a fair share of blood and guts. I have to admit, though, the cheesy motorcycle goggles made me giggle.

This movie is a little creepy at times, and it did give me bad dreams—but I think it had more to do with watching it right before bed than anything. You should definitely rent a copy and check it out for yourself!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Descended by Blood (Vampire Born #1)

I don't really have a feature going on this week, but I did get the opportunity to read and review a brand spankin' new novel:  Descended by Blood by Angeline Kace...  This book was released TODAY by Accendo Press.  You MUST get yourself a copy!!!  I insist! :-)


By:  Angeline Kace
ISBN: 9780983803713
Published August 26, 2011 by Accendo Press
Available format:  Paperbook, ebook

My Rating:  ★★★★★

Brooke Keller has spent her life starting over moving from town to town.  When she finally settles in one place long enough to really build a life, she is suddenly attacked by both a mountain lion and a fanged man!  Brooke soon learns her mother has kept a very important secret from her, and she embarks on a journey to find the one responsible for her attacks.  Quickly exploring a side of herself she never even knew existed, Brooke is required to risk her life as well as those she loves the most. 

First of all, I love this cover!  I love the subtle colors and the dark, edgy hair and the enigmatic feel of it all.  It is a perfect introduction to what is held within the book.  Kace develops each character and the overall story at a perfect pace.  There is plenty of mystery and action so that it isn’t all girly, love-triangle, teenage angst like a lot of the YA vampire books out there.  Don’t be alarmed about the love-triangle, it is very much in the background of the main flow of things.  There’s a little romance, but it really is all about Brooke finding out who she really is and setting out to learn more about herself and what is after her.

I think Mirko and Lijepa are my favorite characters.  I just wish we had more explanation about how Mirko was made, and I wish there was more of Lijepa, period.  Mirko definitely wins over Jaren for me.  He obviously has the normal guy “primal” side, but he also has a sensitive, understanding side.  And, well, he can kick some booty too.

Brooke is no weak heroine either, thank goodness!  She has spunk and fire and strength, and I am loving that more and more these days.  She is scared and confused, but she knows how to stand up for herself, even in the face of strong, angry vampires.  She sets a wonderful example with her determination and self-sufficiency, something that has been rather hard to find in a lot of YA novels. 

Gosh, I don’t know what else to say about this great read!  I just can’t believe she left us hanging like that!  I definitely can’t wait for the next installment of the series…





Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Peanut Buttor Tweatment


The Peanut Buttor Tweatment
By: M. Allman
ISBN:  978055796874
Published July 28, 2011 by BurtonHead Books
Format:  Paperback

My Rating:  ★★★★★

Have you ever had bubble gum stuck in your hair?  Did your mom use vegetable oil or, even worse, scissors to remove it?  Can you imagine if your entire body was covered in hair and you popped a big ‘ol bubble gum bubble on your face?  The Peanut Buttor Tweatment tells the tale of mischievous little Bub who loves his grammy’s homemade bubble gum and finds himself in quite a sticky situation.  Peanut Butter to the rescue!

I have really been on a children’s book kick recently.  It is so fun to share all these neat, new books with my children and see their love for reading grow!  The Peanut Buttor Tweatment is a super cute little read that teaches kids all about following directions and facing consequences. 

The Harringtons, the characters of the story, are adorable little fuzz balls with big personalities.  Mom is kind yet firm.  Grammy is exactly what you want your grandmother to be, and she brings awesome gifts when she comes for a visit!  Bub is fun and a little naughty.  A family isn’t quite complete without the adorable, sometimes annoying, baby sister.

The story is easy and fun for a young child to read, but not too babyish for older children.  My kids and I really enjoyed the colorful illustrations on each page.  I definitely recommend this book for any age, but especially children in the 6–8 year range.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The World Among Us (Prince of Darkness #1)


The World Among Us (Prince of Darkness #1)
By: Beth Ann Masarik
ISBN:  9781936593163
Published August 19, 2011 by Otherworld Publications, L.L.C.
Available Format:  Hardcover, Paperback, ebook

My Rating:  ★★★★☆

Well, whataya know, Hades wants to take over the world.  He’ll even go so far as to manipulate his own son, Damien, to help carry out his dastardly plan.  Damien is left with no choice but to murder Selene, the goddess of the moon—his forbidden soul mate.  Selene, however, is to be reincarnated and Damien makes it his mission to protect her and make sure his father doesn’t harm her ever again.  Both god and demon alike are banded together to safeguard Selene, but war is still brewing.  Can the shadows of evil be defeated, and who will survive to find out?

Overall, I really enjoyed this story.  I love anything to do with mythology, and I always love when an author gives a clever, modern twist to anything ancient!  That’s exactly what we have here.  Not only is there the obvious mythology influence, but even a little Romeo and Juliet is woven into the story.  There’s the good guys and the bad guys, and in the middle is the boy and girl in love.  Of course, it isn’t that simple; it never really is. 

There were times that I felt a little bogged down. There are a ton of characters involved in the story, and occasionally I found myself a bit overwhelmed and confused. I also think there were a couple minor errors regarding timeline and such. Since the author had to jump ahead a couple times in Selene’s life, I was left with a few questions. For instance, when she moves ahead fourteen years, we’ve just left Nike and Anteros discussing Selene’s protection with Ares.  It appeared when she was just a baby they were to go to her and watch over her, but then fourteen years later they suddenly show up.  Who watched out for her all those years in between? 

Those things are really minor issues in the larger story (and it is entirely possible that it is a reader error, since I did a lot of late night reading!).  It truly is a creative and interesting take on the world of gods and demons!  The main characters all have great chemistry together, and even unruly DuVessa is a joy to read. I’m definitely a fan, and I’m looking forward to Beth Ann’s future work.  I absolutely encourage everyone to grab a copy of The World Among Us and enjoy your trip to hell and back!

Beth Ann Masarik will be the guest author on JournalStone’s Blog Talk Radio show, JournalJabber, cohosted by yours truly, this Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 8PM CST.  Please drop by http://www.blogtalkradio.com/journaljabber and join in the fun!

Find more info about The World Among Us:

Friday, August 19, 2011

FEATURE: Angel's Requiem by Kate Kindle


Today, Kate Kindle, author of Angel’s Requiem is our special guest.  I was so flummoxed about actually being relatively caught up for a change, I posted my review for Angel’s Requiem a full week ahead of schedule!  You may go HERE to check that out…

Kate is offering a free ebook copy of Angel’s Requiem, so be sure to leave a comment for your chance to win!

Kate was kind enough to do a little Q&A with me, so without further ado, let’s get started!

Author Interview

Angel’s Requiem
By:  Kate Kindle

KK:  Cassie, your site is very inviting to look at; there’s a lot to read and ideas to pursue. You are most hospitable to ask me to ‘drop by’ from http://kindlecloudnine.blogspot.com.  Thanks for visiting with me today.

GL:  Kate, please tell us more about yourself, your work, and Angel’s Requiem.

KK:  My new print book is entitled Angel’s Requiem, and I am an Indie publisher through Create Space.  It’s a New York City Murder Mystery based on a Venetian legend. Last week, you reviewed it, Cassie, and thanks for the kind words.

I think the thing I liked best about it was that my husband gave me a book about Venice and we sat up late talking about how it had possibilities for a story.  It sat on my brain for a month or so, and then a story began to develop. In doing this novel, I have to admit I flew by the seat of my pants. No matter how I assembled a plot plan, or outlined characters, they seemed to evolve into a new plot with additional characters. Finally, halfway through the manuscript, I assigned an end to the book, and my writing began to have structure. Was I relieved! It’s a lot of work to write spontaneously, because I have to rewrite constantly. During the final rewrite, I had to ‘kill off’ twenty-three very minor characters whose names I removed without actually removing the people, who, in a movie, would have been anonymous walk-ons. That’s to say I like to add a lot of human interest to my work and the characters keep popping into my head.

GL:  Twenty-three additional characters?  I’m not sure I would have been able to keep them all straight if I were you! :-)

KK:  Angel’s Requiem is my first book and the first in the Aidan Bonner series. I will have an Aidan Bonner prequel out in the near future.  Any reader can come on over to my blog, and read the first three chapters of Angel’s Requiem. On SONY READER STORE, it’s listed under Historical Mysteries.

A second book about a romance at a hotel should be along shortly.

I also have written four short stories this past year, and they appear in various romance anthologies that are on my site from Victory Tales Press.

My background includes teaching, print and online journalism, and a host of part-time jobs during the years I was raising my three sons and a daughter. Those were years I treasured at the time, despite the mountains of wash and cooking three meals for six people every day. I look back on that time and I’m happy to say that I knew motherhood was the most important job in my life, and it didn’t matter to me that society was telling me ‘no’.

GL:  This is most certainly something I can relate to!

KK:  Home is northern New Jersey, an area that is alive and vibrant , not thirty minutes from New York City, where my hero, Rico Nasi, is murdered in Central Park. My picture here was taken at the Irish Famine Memorial on the NYC waterfront. There is always something interesting to do in the City, although I don’t get in there as often as I used to.

GL: Angel’s Requiem includes a ton of information about the world of fine art. Are you an art aficionado or did you do heaps of research?

KK: I do enjoy great art. However, this book called for research. I did keep the cover as my desktop icon during this past year, because it is such a nice photo; and it kept me going trying to make this as good a book as possible. Yes, I like art.

GL: Is Aidan Bonner based on anyone from real life?

KK: He’s a cop who knows how to get things done in a world that isn’t fair. I have known some cops who were SWAT Team members, others who were detectives.  Men in my own family feel deeply about the beauty of the American way of life; they want to defend  it. There is that in Aidan, too. That insatiable need to see justice done. It’s the American way.

GL:  Was there any particular character or scene that you had a difficult time working with?

KK:  Characters, initially, are a mystery to me. My best bet is to go with what I’ve conceived and start writing. Because dialogue is a pleasure for me to do, there’s a natural flow that begins that reveals to me the character’s nature as they speak. So, that resolves it.

GL:  Do you enjoy watching murder mystery type television shows and movies?  Are they a good source of information for you or are they more of a distraction?

KK:  I don’t think mysteries or thrillers have ever been better! There are great technology and film techniques that make it possible to keep the viewer in suspense. Yes, I watch them. Yes, they did help me stay focused on writing my book. Ideas from them? Most likely, although I can’t think of one now.

GL:  Have you ever traveled to Italy? England? Russia?

KK:  No, I haven’t. I did go to Ireland, Nova Scotia, Quebec and many places around New York State over the years. I certainly like to travel.

GL:  When your children were growing up, did you often read to them?  What were some of their favorite books?

KK:  We stopped at the library twice a week. A beautiful Andrew Carnegie-funded Georgian model like they used to build. They liked all the traditional ones–fairy tales, Golden Books about animals etc. Their favorite was a book called Lentil by Robert McCloskey, done with pencil drawings. Still in print. They liked Dr. Seuss, too, and the book Where the Sidewalk Ends.

GL:  What is your favorite holiday and why?

KK:  Christmas! Because of the beauty, lights, and pageantry that surrounds it. Because of the goodwill we all express with gifts and parties. Spiritually, it renews my (our) faith in God…..and man.

GL:  Can you share an inspirational, touching, or funny quote from your favorite book?
Gone With The Wind 
Scarlett: [Rhett has heard Scarlett's and Ashley's fight] and Sir you should have made your presence known
Rhett Butler: In the middle of that beautiful love scene. Now that wouldn't have been very tactful would it?
Scarlett: Oh! You sir are no gentlemen.
Rhett Butler: And you Miss are no lady.
[She is shocked and hurt]
Rhett Butler: Don't think I hold that against you. Ladies have never held any appeal for me.
KK:  Ooooooo…….hh!!  That Clark Gable! (Sigh)

GL:  I must concur!  Gone with the Wind is one of my absolute favorites, and I am a southern gal after all.  I think it is a requirement to love Clark!

KK:  Thanks for stopping by, everyone. Happy reading.

GL:  Thank you so much, Kate!  It was a pleasure having you visit…

Leave a comment below for your chance to win Angel’s Requiem in the ebook form of your choice. Good Luck!


Thursday, August 18, 2011

~*~UPDATE~*~

Hey y'all!  I just want to touch base with everyone really quickly...



  • This week's feature is Angel's Requiem by Kate Kindle.  Since my genius showed so brightly last week, I had already posted my review last Thursday.  You can go HERE if you want to catch up.  Tomorrow morning, Kate will be stopping in for an interview.  Please be sure to drop back by for that!

  • I strongly encourage you all to follow Gathering Leaves on Facebook!  All of my blog posts feed through the page, so it is a great way to keep up, especially if you're like me and following about a thousand different blogs!  I also share special things on the Wall that don't make it here.  (For instance, I just shared a link about my favorite werewolf (Alcide!) possibly being cast in a new movie...)  It's just a great way to stay connected, and I LOVE to hear from my friends!!! :-)

  • Right now, I am reading Descended by Blood by Angeline Kace and Children of the Flower Power by Carroll Bryant.  I am enjoying both so far!  I know I've been a little slow with reviews lately.  We spent some time out of town last week, and school started back this week.  I have this dream that we will somehow settle into a good, productive routine.....  Ha!  

  • Lastly, I would really love to hear from you guys more!  Please let me know if you have any suggestions or questions or feel free to just drop in and say hi!  I feel like I am talking to myself (which really isn't all that uncommon)!  If there is anything you'd like to see, don't hesitate to shoot me an email: gatheringleavesreviews@gmail.com.

I hope you all have had a fantastic week and are looking forward to an even better weekend!!!



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Abe's Lucky Day

Abe’s Lucky Day
By: Jill Warren
ISBN:  9781432773052
Published July 7, 2011 by Outskirts Press
Available Format: Paperbook, ebook

My Rating: ★★★★★

Abe is a homeless man who has a genuine heart.  He is able to share what little he has to help others in need.  In the end, his kindness truly pays off, and Abe is able to reflect on just how lucky he has been.

I received a (signed) copy of Abe’s Lucky Day for review.

Before I was even able to read this book, my six-year-old son read it several times exclaiming this was a GREAT book!  Now that I’ve finally had a chance to check it out for myself (and read it to my younger two), I have to agree. 

Often, we imagine homeless people as lazy, dirty, stinky people.  A day with Abe gives us a new perspective.  Abe is actually an extremely kind and thoughtful man.  No, he doesn’t have a place to live.  No, he doesn’t have any money.  But, he is eager to share everything he does have to help someone else, and he is repaid in a big way in the end even though he wasn’t in any way looking for a reward.

I think there are a few lessons this book can teach children (and adults!).  First of all, don’t judge someone based on their appearance or station in life.  I don’t know exactly why Abe was homeless, but he doesn’t strike me as the lazy type.  Abe is a truly kind man despite his circumstances.  Also, it is important to help others in need no matter how little you have.  Even if you don’t have any money or possessions, you can still give of your time, share a kind word, even offer up a smile.  You never know when you might completely brighten up someone’s day with such a small gesture.  Finally, if you have the right heart and strive to be kind to others, you will eventually be rewarded in some way.  It might not be the way you would want, but as the saying goes, “what goes around, comes around.” 

All of my children (age 6, 3, and 2) really enjoyed this story.  The large size of this book is fantastic for young readers.  The illustrations are big and colorful and add so much to the story.  There are so many things to talk about with this book.  As my son said, it is GREAT!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Free ebook: The Hawk and His Boy

by Christopher Bunn 
The Beginning of an Epic Adventure
One night in the city of Hearne, a young thief named Jute is instructed to break into a wizard’s house and steal an old wooden box. It sounds like a straightforward job. Climb down the chimney, creep through the house, find the thing and get out fast. Unbeknownst to the boy, however, the box contains the knife that killed the Wind. Overcome with curiosity, Jute opens the box and sets off a chain of events that soon has him on the run from the wizard, his old masters in the Thieves Guild, and their client, who happens to be the Lord of Darkness himself. On his odyssey of escape, Jute is aided by an unlikely assortment of friends, including a guilt-ridden assassin, a reluctant wizard, and a hawk who just might be able to teach him how to fly. But the Darkness will do anything to find Jute, even if it means plunging the whole land into war.
The Hawk And His Boy is the first book of The Tormay Trilogy. The trilogy continues with The Shadow At The Gate, and concludes with The Wicked Day.
Click here to download from Amazon for the Kindle.
Click here to download from B&N for the Nook. ($0.99 on Nook)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Leon Chameleon P.I. and the Case of the Kidnapped Mouse


Leon Chameleon P.I. and the Case of the Kidnapped Mouse
By:  Janet Hurst-Nicholson
Illustrations by: Barbara McGuire
ISBN:  9781875011117
Published 1995 by Gecko Books
Available Format: paperback, ebook

My Rating:  ★★★★★

Leon Chameleon is a private investigator who isn’t always taken seriously, particularly when he brings up another Uncle Leonardo story.  One day, Mr. Woodland Mouse is kidnapped by a young boy, and it is up to Leon to formulate a plan for his rescue.  Constable Mole, Molerat, Lieutenant Crow, Sergeant Lorie, and the whole gang must work together to retrieve Mr. Mouse and get him safely back home to his wife and kids. 

This is the cutest story I have read in a long time! I think what I loved the most about it was that the author does not dumb down the vocabulary for children.  It reads like a quality YA novel with subject matter suitable for a younger audience.  It is exactly the sort of book I want my children to enjoy! 

It reminded me very much of The Wind in the Willows and The Guardians of Ga’Hoole.  Willows is a childhood favorite of mine, and the Guardians series is a more recent obsession.

Beneath the amazing writing and fun illustrations, there is a great lesson to be learned.  A little boy takes Mr. Mouse away from his natural habitat.  He cages him up and tries to feed him things like dog food, which he cannot eat.  It is very important that children know that they cannot just make a wild animal a pet.  Any animal needs the right kind of care, and taking one in is not to be taken lightly.  Here we see that Mr. Mouse has a family and friends that he is taken away from, and the improper care he receives has a detrimental effect on him.

There is also the lesson of team work.  Leon is clever and witty and a wonderful main character, but he doesn’t completely steal the show.  It really is about all the animals pitching in and working toward a common goal.  House Rat decides to help the team out because there is something in it for him, but I think in his heart, he would have anyway.  There is also Judge Spotted Eagle Owl.  She would normally eat a small animal like Mr. Mouse, but she chooses to help the team because she sees there is a bigger problem at hand that affects all of the animals in the forest. 

There is even a small section in the back of the book giving information and facts about the [real] animals in the story.

I cannot say enough good things about this book!  It is absolutely one of the best children’s books I have read so far this year!  Your kids will love it, and I can guarantee you will too!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Feature: The Reluctant by C.S. Splitter - Guest Blog!

Today, let's give a warm welcome to Mr. C.S. Splitter, author of The Reluctant. He has a wonderful guest post for us, talking all about folks like me - Review Bloggers!!  This is kind of the flip side of my guest post on his blog Wednesday.  (Hint, hint...be sure to go check that out too!)


If you missed my review for The Reluctant, go HERE!


Author Guest Post


"We Need Each Other"
By: C.S. Splitter


Last year, I finally got an idea that I thought was worthy of a book, The Reluctant.  That book is turning into a series called The Crayder Chronicles.  As I start to contemplate the marketing of that book and the series, I find myself running into this new phenomenon: The Internet Book Review Blogger! 

Imagine that you are a teenager.  You have worked odd jobs all year in order to be able to afford the car of your dreams.  It has a few small dents, a couple scratches, and the interior is a bit frayed, but it’s your car.  You love it.  You are proud of it.

Now imagine being that same teenager and when your friends see your new car, they fall down laughing.  They point out every dent and scratch.  They pick at the fabric on the seats and they don’t even want to go for a spin around the block.

Such a scenario would be crushing to a teen ego.  That same feeling is what an author risks each time someone decides to review their book.  They have put time, love, sweat, and maybe a few tears into producing something for the reader, and reviewer, to enjoy.

I am not asking for you, the reviewers, to go easy on authors.  If the story is dented, scratched, and tattered, you need to tell us.  More than that, you need to tell potential readers.  Reviewers keep writers honest.

To paraphrase a line from a great movie, you make us want to be better writers.

Indie authors are a special breed.  We have decided to put our work out there without the support of a publishing house.  Chances are that, initially, we were our own proof readers and editors.  We probably designed our own covers and wrote our own description blurbs.  Now we, not our non-existent agents, are soliciting you for a review.

Still, we ask no quarter.  “Good….for an indie author,” is no compliment.

I think most of us understand that there are a lot of bad indie books out there on the market.   The great thing about sites like Amazon, Smashwords, Journal Stone, and others, is that now ANYONE can publish a book. 

The bad thing about those sites is that literally anyone can publish a book.  There is no real quality control before publishing except that which we as authors impose on ourselves.  However, for the readers, the independent Internet reviewer is their only defense against some of the…stuff....that is produced by bad indie authors.

Along the way to helping those readers, reviewers can help authors.  In the short term, your reviews can lead to sales.  In the long run, your reviews lead us to try harder to be better at what we do.

The relationship between indie authors and reviewers is symbiotic.  Famous traditionally published authors are not asking blog reviewers for their opinions and well known literary critics aren’t beating down the doors of indie authors. 

We need each other.

So when you post that review, don’t cut the author slack because they are an indie.  On the other hand, don’t start off with the thought that indie authors only produce garbage.  Some of us work hard to compete with the big boys who have a publishing house behind them.  We have to work extra hard because we do just about everything ourselves.  We just want to be held to that same standard.  It’s up to the reviewer to hold us to the same standard.

Your reviews help the reader a bunch and the author a little.  If you really, really want to help an indie author, send them email.  Talk to them about what you liked and didn’t like about their book in detail.  Point out spelling, grammar, and story inconsistencies so the indie author can improve their work.

I believe we are on the cusp of a revolution in the publishing world.  Large publishing houses used to control the selection of available books.  No one cared about what a no-name blogger thought about a book.  But times, they are a changing.  The selection of books on the market nowadays is great and that’s a good thing.  Mostly.

The reviewer’s mandate is to be objective.  You do no favors to the author or the reader when you “try to be nice” about flat out mistakes.  In turn, the indie author does no favors to the reader or reviewer when they publish work that is sub par. 

As reviewers, you need us to produce work that is competitive with that of well-known, traditional publishing houses.  You want to be able to recommend the good stuff that no one else had heard of.  Yet.  We need you to get the word out about the good work that is being produced by competent indie authors.   

We are in this together.

You complete us.


C.S. Splitter is the author of The Reluctant available on Amazon,SmashwordsJournal StoneBarnes and Noble, and other internet. Look for book two, The Willing to be published November 2011.  Hisblog can be found at http://splittersworld.blogspot.com






Thank you so very much for hanging out with us Splitter!!!  You're the best!

I have read and reviewed quite a bit of Indie work, and I have come across some really terrific gems!  Don't ever discount an author or a book because some big name publishing house isn't attached to it!  Vive la 'Indie" Revolution!


C.S. Splitter will be interviewed on JournalJabberJournalStone’s super fun Blog Talk Radio show, co-hosted by yours truly, September 6th.  Tune into www.blogtalkradio.com/journaljabber at 8PM CST to join in the madness!





Thursday, August 11, 2011

FEATURE: The Reluctant by C.S. Splitter

I am very excited to have C.S. Splitter, author of The Reluctant, here at Gathering Leaves this week!!!!  Splitter is a super talented and funny guy, and that is obvious in his amazing book...  


Splitter was kind enough to have me as a guest on his blog yesterday.  Surf over to Splitter's World to see my words of wisdom for Indie authors...


Splitter will be stopping by with a guest blog tomorrow, Friday, August 12th.  Be sure to drop in and check that out!





The Reluctant

By:  C.S. Splitter
ASIN:  B004VS751O
Published April 12, 2011
Available Format: ebook

My Rating: ★★★★☆

Tom Crayder is just an ordinary guy trying to provide for his family (and pay for his plane) the best way he knows how.  Sometimes that involves doing less than legal operations like transporting wanted men or questionable amounts of cash.  Crayder soon finds himself far more involved than he had planned, and he must make a monumental decision that very well could cost him his life.  Through his witty prose and a few cr…eh…forced landings, Splitter takes the reader on a genuinely entertaining ride.

I received a copy of The Reluctant from the author for review.

Since I hadn’t refreshed my memory before picking this book back up, I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I started.  Now that I’ve read it, I know it is something I normally wouldn’t have read; I’m just not quite into the crime scene so to speak.  I have to say, however, I truly enjoyed this fun, exciting read.

For one thing, I think I know more about flying now that I ever thought I wanted to!  That and maybe guns too.  This was definitely written by a man who knows about both.  I didn’t have a clue about some of the technical things he was talking about, but he never lost me either.  I don’t know…maybe I should learn to fly?  I think I’ll pass on the guns though.

Just in the first chapter, I was laughing so much, I was tearing up.  I have gotten to know the author these past few months, and I have to say that he really is that funny.  We may try to deny it, but we girls truly do love a man that can make us laugh!  So even when Tom was making some really stupid choices, I was still on his side, cheering him on. 

In all seriousness, the story was written well.  It was easy and fun to follow along with everything from Tom’s point of view.  There’s humor, action, drama, suspense…the whole kit and caboodle!  I absolutely loved the way it ended.  I don’t want to give anything away, but the setting of the ending contrasted perfectly with the rest of the story and gave us one last tiny glimpse into Tom’s life.  You’ll just have to read it yourself to see what I mean!

I am really looking forward to Splitter's next book, The Willing.  Maybe Splitter will pick me as a write-in :-D!!

C.S. Splitter will be interviewed on JournalJabber, JournalStone’s super fun Blog Talk Radio show, co-hosted by yours truly, September 6th.  Tune into www.blogtalkradio.com/journaljabber at 8PM CST to join in the madness!

C.S. Splitter is the author of The Reluctant available on Amazon, Smashwords, Journal Stone, Barnes and Noble, and other internet.  Look for book two, The Willing to be published November 2011.  His blog can be found at http://splittersworld.blogspot.com