Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cobble Cavern by Erik Olsen

Saturday I got guilt tripped in to moving an author’s book to the top of my to read list. By the author no less! So for those of you out there who have been patiently waiting for a new blog post, you can thank author Erik Olsen.

I first met Erik Olsen earlier this year at my local bookstore’s BookaPalooza. You may have seen my posting about it in April. Erik Olsen was the author sharing a table with James Dashner and actually signed a bookmark when I gave away as part of a, well, a giveaway. That month I gave away a signed copy of Maze Runner by James Dashner along with a signed copy of Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George.

So that is the backstory.

Today I went to another bookapalooza, only this time it was specifically for young adult novels. I was pleasantly surprised to see several authors I have had the chance to meet in the past, mainly Erik Olsen and Natalie Whipple. It is always nice to know that my method of asking for autographs is memorable. They may not remember me, but they remember my paint chip autograph cards.

Erik Olsen asked me if I had read his first book yet, Cobble Cavern. Sadly I hadn’t, my to reads list is never ending and Cobble Cavern just hadn’t quite made it to the top of the list yet. Erik Olsen signed another bookmark to giveaway after hearing that I had given away the first. He also kept trying to give me fantastic glow in the dark bracelets that say “Flin’s Destiny Series! Beware of Snazzards!!!” I left the event with three bracelets, two of which I am willing to give away again. If Erik Olsen had had his way I think I might have left with seven or eight!

So because of the guilt I am now feeling for not having read and reviewed this book, I am taking a very short break from homework to read this book. Keep in mind it is a simple review because I have about fifty other things I should be doing at this point in time.

On to the review!

Cobble Cavern is the first book in the Flin’s Destiny series by Erik Olsen. I would say it is a good book for 9 to 13 year olds of either gender. While the main character is male, it would appeal to anyone who has a love of adventure, male or female.

Cobble Cavern starts out on Flin’s thirteenth birthday. In his family the thirteenth birthday is the ultimate birthday, the day you get to choose your ring of destiny. This is a major family tradition and with each coming of age, each child within the family chooses their ring. Or in Flin’s case, the ring chooses him. Much of this first part of the story seems to be about setting the stage for Flin’s peculiar family and really letting the reader know exactly what kind of childhood Flin has had. The picture painted is of a family who is pretty much dirt poor. Instead of seat belts, the family car has rope to tie around the waist of the passenger.

The day after Flin’s birthday he heads to Ireland as part of his school’s debate team. The story skips over the actual debate tournament and continues on the last day of their trip in Ireland. On the final day they finally get the chance to go sightseeing and much to everyone’s amusement and dismay they are traveling on a very run down bus.

While on the road to the sea the bus is subjected to a series of earthquakes that results in the bus getting stuck in a tunnel. The bus slides farther and farther down in to the earth, finally settling several miles underground with no visible escape route.

The rest of the book is about Flin and his fellow classmates escape from underground. It is a fantastical journey to the end and includes several rather creepy creatures. I would say the snazzards are the worst, an evolutionary throw back combining snakes and lizards!

I would rate this book a 3.5 out of 5. I rated it a bit lower because of the confusing beginning bits, but keep in mind it is an easier read for a younger age set. It has some outlandish and unfeasible characters and actions in the book, but over all I liked it. I will probably be reading the sequel somewhere down the line.

Recommended Reading:
Garden of the Lost Soul’s by Erik Olsen – This is the second book in the Flin’s Destiny series and looks rather interesting.

Raggleroot by Erik Olsen – This is the third book in the Flin’s Destiny series.

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne – This book has the original plot for lost ecosystems hiding below the surface of the Earth. I highly recommend this book for everyone, it’s a classic!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Holy Crap! I'm Back!

So, after a lovely long break, I am back in the saddle.
I am one revised paper away from completing my Composition 2 class and it has been a long effort for me.
If you can't tell, I didn't learn a whole lot. According to my instructor I misuse and abuse commas frequently. Also, run on sentences are the bane of my existence.

I am going to start back slow, maybe a book a week starting next week. But in the mean time, enjoy this paper I wrote on librarians vs publishers. My lovely sister-in-law helped revise it so I got an awesome grade thanks to her.

The assignment was a pretend letter to the editor which is why it isn't quite my usual format.


Dear Editor,
How would you feel if one day you went to your public library and you weren’t able to get any popular bestselling books? What if you were told you wouldn’t be able to get these books through any library because the six largest publishers would no longer sell books to libraries? Unfortunately, you don’t have to try to image this horrible event – it is actually happening. In recent years reading has evolved from just paper format in to a new format, the ebook (digital book). With this evolution has come a host of problems, the main one being accessibility. I recently discovered that three of the largest publishers refuse to sell ebooks to libraries. Of the three other top publishers only one publisher sells ebooks to libraries without harsh restrictions. This has led to publish outcry from libraries that face criticism from their patrons when they can’t offer popular books such as The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins or Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. It may not seem like a big deal, but the ebook industry is on the rise and many people look to the library for their ebooks.
            As a child I was taught that libraries are places of wonder, a magical world where I could get any book imaginable and that librarians are some of the smartest people in existence. As I grew older I branched out where I obtained books. But I still believed that a libraries only goal is to encourage people to read and to spread the gift of books to others. If this is the case then why can’t libraries buy the newest books in digital format? Publishers certainly have no problem with libraries buying new releases in paper format, why then this ban on digital?
            Several publishers have stated that they do not sell ebooks to libraries out of concern for authors. They worry that the convenience of borrowing an ebook format from a library will hurt the sales of ebooks and in turn will be detrimental to authors. Their solution is to limit ebook availability for libraries. Some publishers, such as Simon & Schuster and Scholastic Corporation,  have taken this a step farther and refuse to sell ebooks to libraries at all. This has created a problem with many libraries that are struggling to keep up with advancements in technology. 
There are solutions to this feud. One possibility is to limit the number of checkouts per title and to require the library to repurchase the title after it has reached its set limit. In my mind this is the best solution. However, I believe research needs to be done before this solution is put in to effect. The research would be fairly simple, a study done to determine how many times a paper book can be borrowed, read, and returned before it is worn out to the point that it needs replacing. With the data collected from this study it will be easier to determine an appropriate number of checkouts for ebooks that is fair and favorable to both the library and publishers.
Another option is to increase the cost of the original ebook copy in exchange for unlimited checkouts of the title. This is the route that Random House has gone and so far they are receiving a favorable response from libraries. While it is unknown how the prices for the libraries are in comparison to what the public pays for the same title, it does seem to be a step in the right direction. The only problem with this is who decides what is a fair price? If it is an unlimited use ebook, is it fair to charge the library ten times what the average consumer pays for the same ebook? If current trends in ebook consumption continue to grow as they are projected to, I feel that there will need to be some form of regulation to prevent price gouging by the publishers and ebook misuse by consumers and libraries alike.
In the meantime, there are several things that the average consumer can do to help publishers that this ebook ban is not right. I recommend a two-part plan. First, boycott publishers such as Simon & Schuster, Scholastic Corporation and Macmillan. If they aren’t willing to sell to institutes such as library, why should be willing to buy from them? Second, write to these publishers. Let them know your feelings on the matter. In this letter, include why you are choosing to no longer buy their ebooks. If we are able to hurt their profit margins, maybe they will reconsider their stance on selling ebooks to libraries.
                In our society there has always been a struggle between sellers and consumers. Supply and demand is the basis of our economy. As a whole we have struggled with this balance for centuries and will continue to do so for many centuries to come. Despite this, we have to settle on a reasonable compromise that will allow future generations to have access to literature in all forms and formats that will encourage learning and reading as a whole. We can’t let this feud prevent us from providing future generations with all the resources we can possibly give them. Publishers vs. Libraries isn’t a case we are likely to see in a court of law any time soon. But it is something we should all be aware of. It is our duty to encourage negotiations between these two entities in hopes of a plan for the future of books in all formats.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

I will be taking a short hiatus.

It won't be long, I promise.

I recently started a writing class in school and unfortunately if I want to be able to write my papers and sound like an adult who is capable of writing I have to stay away from blog style writing for a bit.

For my first paper I have to write a summary and response to an article and since I just tried to rate the article like I would a book I think I need a break from blogging.

I will see you soon!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Shadow on the Hill: The True Story of a 1925 Kansas Murder by Diana Staresinic-Deane

Shadow on the Hill: The True Story of a 1925 Kansas Murder by Diana Staresinic-Deane is a true crime novel that was written by a friend of a friend. My friend Michelle had been telling me about this novel off and on for months since I started this blog. Since Michelle has been my main support for my blog from the beginning I jumped at the chance to read and review this book when I was offered a reviewers copy. Its not my typical genre but I am always willing to read a well written free book!

In 1925 a housewife by the name of Florence Knoblock was murdered.
In 2007 a library assistant by the name of Diana Staresinic-Deane found a green folder containing 22 newspaper clippings.

Shadow on the Hill: The True Story of a 1925 Kansas Murder is the culmination of a 5 year hunt for the truth.

On Saturday May 30th, 1925 John Knoblock came home to a quiet house. While bringing in the groceries he stumbles on a gruesome scene - his beautiful wife Florence is lying on the kitchen floor dead. (I won't go in to details, it is truly gruesome.) Using the party line, he first called his father in law and then called the sheriff.

What happens next isn't too far from a circus side show. According to the new's articles, over one hundred friends and neighbors appear at the Knoblock house to find out what has happened. From the beginning the law enforcement investigation is more than a bit farcical. Men were arrested and questioned for no real reason other than rumors and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. One man was held for weeks because the sheriff was afraid the man would be lynched if he were released.
I won't lie, when I was reading about the 1925 investigation I wanted to bang my head against the wall because of how poorly it was conducted.

Shadow on the Hill: The True Story of a 1925 Kansas Murder covers the 1925 investigation and murder trial of John Knoblock. John Knoblock was charged three times and stood trial twice. To this day the real identity of the murderer remains unknown though there are many theories.

I don't normally read True Crime, but I thought this book was amazingly well researched and written.
4.5 out of 5! The missing .5 is because I still want to know who committed the murder.

Interview With The Diana Staresinic-Deane:

In the introduction to Shadow on the Hill it says they you found a folder with newspaper clippings while chasing children playing hide and seek. What made you want to take that collection of clippings and turn it in to a true crime novel?
DS-D: I had no idea how much those newspaper clippings would change my life when I picked them up. I still remember reading them at the reference desk and sharing bits and pieces with my colleagues that day. There were articles about the murder and investigation and a few about the trial in Emporia (these were printouts from the Lyon County newspapers), and then the obituary for John Knoblock when he died many years later. I remember thinking, BUT HOW DID THE TRIAL END?! because that article, the one that announced his acquittal, wasn't in the bunch. The research began that afternoon when I sat in front of the microfilm reader just to get the ending of the trial. It was just curiosity. But the more I read, the more curious I became, especially after I discovered there was nothing--and I mean NOTHING--out on the internet. I couldn't understand how such a major story had escaped documentation on the web.

When I finally found Florence and John mentioned on a genealogy website, I got the wild idea to contact the family and ask if they would be interested in copies of the newspaper articles. That descendant mentioned hearing a story about a possible witness, and I remembered getting goosebumps. That was when I began to seriously think about the need to tell the story.

When this endeavor started all you had was a stack of 80 year old newspaper articles. How did you get started with your research, what was your first step?
DS-D: This was a challenging story to research! In my favor was the fact that two brilliant newspaper men - John Redmond of the Daily Republican and William L. White of the Emporia Gazette - were documenting the events day by day. They were smart, observant reporters who really conveyed not only the details of the crime, investigation, and trials, but also the mood of the community. they wrote hundreds of pages of newspaper stories, giving me lots and lots of names to research and avenues to explore.

The biggest downside was that the case was so old. So many of the people who were old enough to remember the story had long since passed on. The trial transcripts were gone. The evidence was gone. Even the courthouses that held the trials were gone.
However, descendants of many of the key people involved in the story were still alive and generously agreed to talk with me about what they heard growing up, and every time I thought I hit a dead end, I would serendipitously come across someone or a clue that would give me a new direction to explore.

What was the most rewarding/frustrating aspect of researching and writing Shadow on the Hill?
DS-D: The most rewarding thing is feeling like I've pulled the story together in such a way that it is accessible and preserved for future generations. I hope that I conveyed the fact that this wasn't just a murder, but a community of real people who were really hurting.

The most frustrating part about researching the story was the fact that I couldn't find all of the answers. I couldn't actually solve the murder; I could only share the information that actually exists. Someone out there may have the answer. They may not even know they have the answer. Or the people who really know what happened - Florence Knoblock and her murderer - took the answers to their graves.
On a personal note, I was not prepared for how hard it would be to immerse myself in the pain and fear every time I sat down to write. Even though there are some very funny moments, it's not a happy story, and I remember feeling wrung out after writing for a few hours. I still can't get past the scene where little Roger wipes his father's tears during the trial without getting choked up.

In the epilogue you mention that this is still an unsolved crime with several suspects but no real evidence. In your personal opinion is there one suspect who stands out from the rest?
DS-D: I really believe that the person who killed her was known to her, and I'm kind of amazed at how determined the community was to insist it was an outsider of some sort. I believe that it had to be someone who could move about the area without attracting suspicion, and strangers get noticed in a small farming community. The tough part about pointing fingers at anyone in particular is the fact that so many of the descendants of the 1925 neighborhood still live in the area today, and, not being a hard-nosed investigative reporter, I don't want to case undo harm to a family by accusing the grandfather of murder without true evidence.

Are you planning on writing more books? If so, any particular genre in mind?

DS-D: This story has opened my eyes to how many old crimes there are that are essentially unknown because they're documented on a reel of microfilm somewhere and otherwise not accessible to the public. As I learned writing Shadow on the Hill, an unsolved murder isn't just a crime, but a piece of community history. There are a few other stories from the first half of the 20th century that have caught my eye, and I'm hoping there is enough material there to develop into another book.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote - Truman Capote is credited with creating the true crime genre with his book about the 1959 murders of a family in Kansas.

The Devil's Rooming House: The Story of America's Deadliest Female Serial Killer by M. William Phelps - I found this book through Googling true crime novels set in the 1920's. This title really intrigues me.

The Shooting Salvationist: J. Frank Norris and the Murder Trial that Captivated America by David R. Stokes - Yet another 1920's true crime novel. Something about that era is super interesting.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

New Book Tuesday - That Time I Joined the Circus by J.J. Howard

I found That Time I Joined the Circus by J.J. Howard when hunting through the various lists of books released 4/2/13. It was actually released yesterday but who is counting? I finished this book in under two hours, it was easy reading and pretty interesting. After all, who doesn't imagine running away to the circus at some point in their life? If I weren't terrified of heights and a bit disturbed by clowns I would consider doing it myself!

Alexandra, Xandra to her friends or Lexi to her dad, is your average teenager living in New York City. She attends an expensive private school and is best friends with Eli and Bailey. Unfortunately, things don't stay normal or simple for long. When Alexandra's father is killed in a car accident she is sent to Florida to find her mom - who is supposed to be part of a traveling circus.

When Alexandra, now going by Lexi, reaches Florida she is greeted by an empty field and a ringleader who has no idea who her mother is or if she ever traveled with the circus. Faced with defeat Lexi does the only thing she can, she joins the circus. Lexi is soon taken in by the members of the circus to do odd jobs and whatever needs done. She meets a lot of characters and makes friends with both crew and performers.

This is a good story about setting out on your own and finding out who you are in the process. Alexandra was lucky to find the good people she did who took her in and made her part of their family. While not my usual YA genre it was a very well written story with just enough drama and fancy to keep the reader entertained. 

I rate this book a 4.5/5, a wonderful debut novel for the YA genre. 

I struggled to find recommendations for this one, mostly because its not my usual genre and I rarely read about circuses. Maybe my fabulous readers can make some suggestions.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen - Okay, Water for Elephants really isn't that much like That Time I Joined the Circus other than they both involve working for a circus. Water for Elephants is the adult version of running away to the circus.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Free Book Friday - Anathema by K.A. Tucker

After digging through the list of free teen books on I came across Anathema by K.A. Tucker. It was fairly well written for a free book and I was pleased with my find. Sorry for the late posting, I had loads of homework to get done yesterday.

The book starts in 1800's with Sophie and a few others trying to accomplish some sort of feat, it isn't clearly mentioned what exactly other than it is unsuccessful.

Fast forward to modern day, Evangeline is one day short of her 18th birthday and just going through life trying not to stand out. Evangeline has been in the foster care system since she was twelve and her mother was killed in a hit and run accident. Evangeline is leaving the homeless shelter where she volunteers one night when she runs in to Sophie and the very expensive lamp she is carrying. When Evangeline accidentally breaks the lamp Sophie offers to have Evangeline work for her until the lamp is paid off.

Evangeline sees no choice other than to accept the offer to be Sophie's assistant even though she feels the job is too good to be true. Evangeline is soon jetting off to New York where Sophie has urgent business to take care of. When they reach New York City Evangeline is stunned by the house they are staying at, owned by Viggo and Mortimer, two of Sophie's friends. Not only is it large but it is guarded by four dogs that are so big they look as if they have been injected with steroids.

While in New York Evangeline begins having bizarre dreams in which she travels to parallel universe and meets four people, Caden, Fiona, Amelie and Bishop. Sophie tells Evangeline its not a dream, but the result of a spell she cast in the 1800's. In our world vampires can no longer turn humans without killing them immediately so Sophie cast a spell that would transport a person to a parallel world to bring over a vampire whose venom still works properly. It is now Evangeline's job to save them all.

I thought Anathema was a decently written free book, but I am a little turned off by the prevalence of teen vampire books these days. I did think that Anathema was a relatively unique idea to blend vampires, fantasy, and sci-fi together. Sci-fi only if you believe that parallel worlds are science fiction, in this case it was more fantasy since the journey between the worlds was accomplished by magic.

I rated this book a 3.5/5 only because of a rather large plot hole at the end of the book. It might be covered in the sequel but since I haven't read that yet I am unsure.


Asylum by K.A. Tucker - This is the sequel to Anathema and may or may not cover the plot hole in the earlier book.

Allegiance by K.A. Tucker - This is the third book in the Casual Enchantment series which also includes Anathema and Asylum.

Ten Tiny Breathes by K.A. Tucker - Ten Tiny Breathes is a separate series from Casual Enchantment and is set in our modern world. It deals with a variety of issues from drunk driving to running away from home.

April Giveaway - Kathy and Brendan Reichs!

For this giveaway you are entering to win one of two books: 
 Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs
Both of these books are new, never read. Deja Dead is an extra special copy, not only did Kathy Reichs sign it, but Brendan Reichs signed it as well! As I was getting Deja Dead signed, Brendan remarked that it wasn't a book for him to sign since his mother wrote it, not him. I said to go ahead and sign it anyways, I was sure my readers would love this uniquely one of a kind signed book.

I was able to go to the signing for Code by Kathy and Brendan Reich and Kathy Reichs was nice enough to also sign my copy of Deja Dead. For those who don't know Kathy Reichs is a forensic anthropologist who writes the Temperance Brennan book series and is the inspiration for the hit TV show Bones. The signing itself was amazing, Brendan and Kathy Reichs are hilarious together, I imagine their household was a fun place to grow up. After all, who wouldn't want an attic of dead things and skeletons? Brendan, Kathy's son, told a story about growing up in the Reichs household. When he was young, he had the bedroom with access to the attic where his mother kept all her skeletons and dead things. He said he would hear a noise at night and mentally prepare himself for the attack he was sure was going to happen. "Get ready Reichs, this is the night they attack."

I was super excited by the fact that I got my picture taken with the original Bones! As you can see, I was wearing my fabulous READ hoodie that is my staple for all signings.

After last months giveaway and the troubles I encountered with the giveaway method, I am changing things up this month. Rather than using comments to enter, I am using Rafflecopter, which I would have used last month if I had known about it.

This means you will be able to enter through your Facebook or Twitter, instead of having to use a Google account or one of the other sign in options that blogger requires for comments.

This time, there will be no minimum amount of entries for the drawings, it is time limited instead. At the end of the contest I will simple draw two random names for the two books.
May the odds be ever in your favor.

The Rules:
1) This giveaway is limited to the US and Canada due to shipping costs.
2)The contest will start April 1st and end April 30th.

Please remember, I do not make any money from this blog and all costs are from my pocket. So I buy the book and get it signed and then ship it. Please do not complain if you win a different book than you were hoping. Comments aren't necessary but they are greatly appreciated. Comments will also give you extra entries in the giveaway.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway