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March 17, 2017

Review ~ Miraculous: Origins by Cheryl Black & Nicole D'Andria

by MK French

October 2016: Action Lab; 978-1632292049;
ebook & print (144 page); manga; young adult
a free ARC was provided for this review
Marinette is a high school girl often pushed around by her peers, especially when the handsome new student Adrien enters. Mysterious gems are released, and Marinette obtains one. So does Adrien. The gems give them superpowers and costumes, transforming them from ordinary teenagers into Lady Bug and Cat Noir, There are other gems out in the world, and anyone that obtains all of the gems would have absolute power.

Hawk Moth's gem allows him to transfer a bit of his power into devoted followers, so he decides to imbue followers to become super villains to draw out heroes. Once he captures them, Hawk Moth intends to collect the gems and keep them for himself.

Based on the ZAG Entertainment TV show, the manga tells the story of how Lady Bug and Cat Noir first became superheroes. Much like the show, the manga focuses on the heroics of Marinette and Adrien in their alter ego form, as well as the high school drama. They learn important lessons about being courageous and fair and learning to understand how others think and feel.

Much of the artwork is drawn from stills of the show, which will delight fans. As a very graphics-intensive early pdf copy, however, pages loaded very slowly on my computer. Still, it was worth the wait and was a great way to recap the series and early episodes (which I had missed).

Buy Miraculous: Origins at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: http://eepurl.com/mHTVL. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

March 16, 2017

Review: Like a Closed Fist by E.H. Nolan

by Donna Huber

December 2016; 978-1539093275; ebook & print
(396 pages); women's fiction
a free ARC was provided for this review
I have to start this review with a disclaimer - Like a Closed Fist was not my kind of book at all. I struggled to finish it, often feeling like I was treading water as the story stalled. I have been surprised with an excellent ending before, so I pushed on in hopes that the story would turn around and be something I enjoyed. Unfortunately, the ending felt like we'd been looped back to the beginning of the story. And it is sort of a cliffhanger ending as we don't know what happened to Justin, possibly the most promising of Pheobe's suitors.

I could not connect with the main character Pheobe. She is a stereotypical whiny millennial. Nolan tried to garner sympathy for the character with having her raped at a party (before the story begins) and still grieving the death of her mother. Unfortunately, the continuing victim mindset just made me dislike Pheobe more. And don't get me started on her dad who I think has some kind of co-dependency with her. But what really irked me about the characters was their two-dimensional portrayal. I didn't feel like any of them grew in the story and let me tell I was screaming at Pheobe to GROW UP. She showed signs of maturity towards the end fo the story, after her dad sat her down and made her get a job (something I thought he should have done earlier, but him doing everything for her except the actual interview still lends towards my theory of a co-dependent relationship). However, the ending pretty much, for me at least, canceled it out.

I can't judge the other characters too harshly since the story is told in first person by Pheobe who is an extremely unreliable narrator.

Usually, when I don't like a book I can find some redeeming quality or at the least see who might like the story. I tried really hard to find something positive about the story, but I'm not sure who the story would appeal to.

Like a Closed Fist is about a 24-year-old depressed woman who is enabled by her father who provides room, board, and a monthly allowance while not encouraging her to find work or her own friends. Instead, he lets her hang out with his recreational baseball friends and then is surprised when she flirts (and falls in love) with the 50-something married coach. Is he just safe since he is unavailable or does she really think a potential affair is a good idea?

I was hoping for the former, but the ending makes me think the latter is more true. The note at the end mentions a sequel, but it won't be one I'm anxiously awaiting.

Have you read Like a Closed Fist? I would love to know what you thought of it.

Buy Like a Closed Fist at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: http://eepurl.com/mHTVL. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

March 15, 2017

Review: From the Grave by Cynthia Reeg

October 2016; Jolly Fish Press; 978-1631630941;
ebook & print (216 pages). children; horror
a free book was provided for this review
by MK French

If I had finished this book a little sooner, it would have been a perfect Halloween read for middle-grade readers. The first book in a series, From the Grave follows the misfit Frankenstein Gordon and his friends. They're misfits because they're not as frightening as adult monsters feel they should be: Frank has blue skin instead of green and loves being clean, his friend Oliver is a mummy that won't stay wrapped, Georgina is a dragon that breathes water instead of fire. They're in the remedial class at school, but if they don't improve fast enough, they will be exiled to a distant island because they're not monster enough. Frank is often bullied by Malcolm, the principal's pet, but there are secrets that Frank uncovers in his quest to prove that he and his fellow misfits are truly monster enough.


There are lots of fun touches that readers would appreciate, as ordinary terms are given a monster twist. It also brings up how children can deal with being bullied by older children or if they aren't heard by adults in their lives. Frank is also grieving the loss of his grandmother, who he had been very close to. There are conflicts between him and his friends as they try to come up with plans to prove their abilities, which is a very human characteristic that children can relate to. Chapters alternate between Frank and Malcolm, giving alternate viewpoints as the story progresses. We also see into the bully's psyche and are able to see that the bluster can cover up insecurity and doubt. This is a great start to a series that will undoubtedly help children deal with issues, and give them a convenient way to discuss them with the adults in their lives.

Buy From the Grave at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: http://eepurl.com/mHTVL. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

March 14, 2017

Review of Two North Carolina Novels

by Susan Roberts

I read a lot of southern fiction but was very surprised to read two NC books in a row by authors unknown to me. They are totally different books - one takes place in the mountains in the early 1900s and the second is a current day mystery set in the eastern part of the state. Even though they are so different, they still do a fantastic job of describing my beautiful adopted state.

February 2017; 978-0984701049; ebook & print
(248 pages); historical fiction
a free ARC was provided for this review
Tin Moon by Blakely Chorpenning

Nora Cravis, a quirky and curious young woman, experiences life in Granville County, North Carolina, with her family. Unable to conform to the expectations of an early twentieth-century woman, Nora struggles to maintain a meaningful relationship with her parents after her younger sister, Shailene, disappears. While trying to reconcile the devastation of her loss and care for an ailing husband, clues soon emerge, leading Nora down a murky path of family secrets to a lover's betrayal.

Had you asked me before I married Rathe, before she left us, what the world was like, I would have said God shaped the moon in the likeness of Shailene's full cheeks. I would have been careless not to mention the delicate touch of her fingers on the material she so often sewed with Momma in the glorious light of the front window. How her giggle pulled a shadow of a smile from our daddy when I said something terrible under my breath.

Shailene and I spent our nights counting stars, wishing on the ones we thought went most overlooked. And when the world flipped inside out, it stole Shailene and all the stars, leaving me in a frightful darkness. I became a different person without a moon for balance.

I became a different person when the truth found me.

Tin Moon started in 1917 in the mountains of NC.  As the main character states in the epilogue:

"My name is Nora Cravis and I never left Granville County more than one day in my whole life." 

Nora is a mountain woman who lives her life without a lot of material goods but has dreams and family and love.  This novel is beautifully written with wonderful descriptions of life in the mountains in this time period.

When she was a teenager, Nora tended to be a dreamer instead of working on the farm like her older brothers but once she got married (at 17) to the love of her life, they worked long and hard to have a better life than she grew up with.  As she grows up she creates a very unconditional family but it works for her and her loved ones.

This is a wonderful coming of age story of a feisty main character and her life.  It's a story of love, extreme friendship and family set in beautiful surroundings,

Buy Tin Moon at Amazon 


March 2017; Ranecoat Press; 9780895876850
ebook & print (235 pages); suspense
a free ARC was provided for this review
Justice by Another Name by E.C. Hanes

Set against the backdrop of North Carolina’s powerful hog-producing industry, Justice by Another Name tells the story of Paul Reavis’s suspicious workplace death followed a year later by a senseless death of his young son Paulie. Lana Reavis, who believes her husband was murdered and her son the victim of deliberate negligence, enlists the aid of her long-ago boyfriend, Will Moser, who is currently chief deputy of Hogg County and the heir apparent to the local sheriff.

As Will’s investigation unfolds, suspicious activities and cover-ups begin to emerge. All evidence points to Oris Martin, the powerful owner of Martin Farms, a huge hog-production enterprise and Hogg County’s largest employer, as the mastermind. Despite political pressure and physical threats to look the other way, Will continues his search for what really happened. Meanwhile, Lana, convinced that Oris will be beyond the reach of justice, devises a plan to avenge her family and destroy everything precious to Oris Martin.

Justice By Another Name takes place in the Eastern part of NC where there are a lot of hog farms and the running of these farms is one of the central parts of the plot. Unlike the beautiful vistas of the NC mountains in the first book, the scenery in this novel is dry and pretty desolate. It's small town life at its worst.

The main character is Will Moser, chief deputy of Hogg County, who has the goal of becoming sheriff of the county.  He is questioning some suspicious deaths in the county that had been treated as accidents but just didn't seem like accidents to him due to the links between the deaths and the local main hog supplier in the county.

It's a fast moving mystery with lots of twists and turns and kept me turning pages to find out who the murderer was among a whole lot of nasty guys. Will is definitely the good guy in this book and I hope that the author brings him back in future novels.

Buy Justice by Another Name at Amazon 

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling.  She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their grandson.  Susan reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook.


Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: http://eepurl.com/mHTVL. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

March 13, 2017

Spotlight on Michelle Lowery Combs and Solomon's Bell #MondayBlogs

author-pic-michelle-lowery-combs


Michelle Lowery Combs is an award-winning writer and blogger who studied business and English at Jacksonville State University. She lives in Alabama with her husband and their army of children. When not in the presence of throngs of toddlers, tweens, and teens, Michelle can be found among the rows of her family's farm, neglecting her roots and dreaming up the next bestseller. She is a member of the Alabama Writers' Conclave and the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). Check Michelle out at her website MichelleLoweryCombs.comAuthor Twitter, Publisher Twitter, Publisher Facebook.
cover-solomons-bell

To save her family, Ginn uses her newfound genie powers to transport herself and her friends to 16th century Prague. Only one thing there remains the same as at home: she can't let anyone know what she really is.

The Emperor of Prague and those closest to him are obsessed with magic. In pursuit of it, they’ve waged war on the citizens of their city. In the citizens' defense, someone has brought to life a golem, a dangerous being with connections to an artifact capable of summoning and commanding an entire army of genies. Can Ginn escape the notice of the Emperor as she attempts to discover a way to defeat Prague’s golem in time to save her family from a similar creature? Solomon's Bell is the sequel to Heir to the Lamp and the second book of the Genie Chronicles series.

Haley Hardy blinks up at me, her big blue eyes made larger with surprise. Haley’s the newbie: a tiny ten-year-old my family has been fostering for the last few months. Mom and Dad want to adopt Haley, but she hasn’t decided on Charles and Molly Lawson and their chaotic brood of six children yet.

“What’s up, Haley?” I ask, trying to sound as though I don’t know she’s seen me appear from out of nowhere. I turn my back to her, retrieve the lamp from the ground, and stuff it into my pack.

“Sixty-four percent of people believe the Loch Ness monster really exists,” Haley says in her high voice. “Of course, you’d have to use a point zero one significance level to test that claim; the survey I saw was online.”

Half the time I have no idea what Haley is talking about. She’s insanely smart—a genius even. I can practically feel my IQ plummet whenever I try to have a conversation with her.

“Um, really?” I ask, trying to imagine where this is going. Haley half turns toward the open door of the small barn as if she’s about to leave. I sigh with relief, but Haley seems to think better of it and turns to face me again.

“Did you know that there’s an ongoing project to have collected evidence validated by science and the Sasquatch officially recognized as a species?”

What? “Haley, where do you come up with this stuff?” I sink onto the wooden bench behind me, peering into the bright eyes of the strangest kid I’ve ever met.

“I like to read,” she says, looking away. Between her right thumb and first two thin fingers, Haley rolls the fat glass marble she carries with her at all times. Mom says it’s a kind of security object, like how some kids develop attachments to stuffed toys or blankets from their babyhood. Mom also says the rest of us kids shouldn’t make a huge deal about it. Haley’s been in six foster homes in five years, and Mom figures the marble could be a keepsake from her life before all that, though Haley hasn’t said as much. She’s so intense sometimes; I don’t think anyone knows what to make of her. Mom says some of the other foster families exploited Haley; she’s been on a major talk show and even won twenty-five thousand dollars for one of her foster families on some game show before they abandoned her on the steps of the Children’s Methodist Home on their way to Las Vegas. Watching her with her marble, seeing how slowly she works the ball of glass flecked with every color of the rainbow, I can tell I’ve hurt her feelings.

“Reading’s cool,” I say, hoping to reassure her. Sure, I thought about divorcing my parents when I found out we were taking in another kid, even when in the beginning the arrangement was supposed to be only temporary, but I kind of like the little brainiac. Mostly because of the way she’s able to keep Eli and Jasper in line. The Twosome are crazy about our new foster sister. Part of me is starting to wonder if Haley’s stats on Bigfoot could have anything to do with the boys’ obsession with B-grade horror movies.

“I’d be satisfied with being half as smart as you, Haley. I’m having the worst time in algebra.”

“Mr. Lawson is teaching me trigonometry,” Haley says brightening. “Algebra was a breeze.” My parents are homeschooling Haley; they say it’s for the best. She’d be at least a junior at my high school otherwise. I can imagine all four and a half feet of her struggling on tip-toe to reach a locker—that is if her statistics about the Loch Ness Monster didn’t get her stuffed into it. “I’m happy to tutor you,” she tells me.

“Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind.”

I stand and watch Haley eye the backpack on my shoulder. She looks from my face to the pack a few times. I think she’s about to say something about what she’s seen or thinks she’s seen with the lamp when Jasper bursts through the barn door.

“Hay-wee!” he exclaims. “We need wou, quick! I fink we found a chupacabwa!”

“It’s highly unlikely that a goat sucker or el chupacabra would be found this far north of Latin America, Jasper,” Haley says. She corrects my seven-year-old brother even as she allows him to tug her excitedly from the barn.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: http://eepurl.com/mHTVL. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

March 12, 2017

Review: Arena by Holly Jenkins

by MK French

April 2016; Ace; 9780425282878; ebook & print
(400 pages); sci-fi dystopian
a free book was provided for this review
Kali Ling is a professional in the Virtual Gaming League and is the first female captain of a team. She's young and determined to be the best, especially when her team lost in the opening gambit of the RAGE tournament. Despite that, there's a lot of glamor and glitz, which is easy to get lost in. It also hides a seamy underbelly to the League, and Kali has to decide what is actually important to her.

I really appreciated Kali being ethnically half Chinese and half American. It is referenced a few times throughout the book, as she figures out how much of the pushback she experiences in the League is because she's a woman or because of racism. There are few enough mixed race characters mentioned in a lot of books, let alone characters where it really isn't the most defining characteristic about them.

She's a player first, and the background means that there's a theme of balance and heritage. This is especially important as she grasps addiction, grief, loss and trying to find her sense of self. These are very serious issues, especially in a gaming context, but also because of her youth. She's very empathetic, and all of the members of the team are fleshed out and just as much fun to get to know. It really does take friends and family support to provide the strength to overcome problems.

There will be a sequel to this novel, and I'm sure it's going to be just as great as this one.

Buy Arena at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: http://eepurl.com/mHTVL. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

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