Friday, September 29, 2017

Best Books of September

Since it's the last Friday of the month, it's time to tell you all about the great books I read this month.

I fell in love with this first book the second I saw the red glitter on the cover. Actual red glitter on a book cover. I love this!!! Plus, Dee Romito is an amazing person and extremely talented writer. I couldn't wait to dig into this one.

No Place Like Home tells the story of Kenzie, a 12-year-old girl who lives a glamorous life. After her mom's death, Kenzie's father swore he'd no longer let his business trips keep them apart. This has led to a life of hotel rooms and tourist attractions. When Kenzie's dad gets a short-term gig in Vegas, she gets to try out life as a middle school student for six weeks. But instead of telling all her new friends she's only there temporarily, she gets caught up in the courage being a short-termer gives her, trying out for the school play and running for class VP. I loved the father-daughter relationship in this one, as well as the lesson that kids can learn from Kenzie's bravery.

Next up is this fun chapter book from Debbie Dadey. I love this Mermaid Tales series and I know you will, too!

Ready, Set, Goal! takes us under the sea for another exciting adventure in the Mermaid Tales series. Shelly and her school's athletic team are going to the "Shell Wars Championships," but first they take a tour of Atlantis. When Shelly looks at something she shouldn't, she's sure she's cursed, thanks to a story her friend tells her. The friends must work together to reverse the curse in time to win the championship. The important lessons about friendship and teamwork are important for young readers, but most importantly, the story is just all kinds of fun!

Jenny Lundquist is another writer whose books I always love. Her latest story is a middle grade sequel to a book I reviewed last year, The Charming Life of Izzy Malone.

The star of The Wondrous World of Violet Barnaby is Violet, a sixth grader who is celebrating her second Christmas without her mother. Weeks before the holiday, she finds a letter her mom wrote before she died, which included a list of tasks Violet should complete during the holiday season. But Violet's father has remarried and she's dealing with the challenges of integrating into a stepfamily, as well as her first crush on a boy her friend used to like. You'll fall in love with Violet and love every minute of living in her wondrous world!

Jessica Therrien is a new bloggy friend of mine, so I was excited to download and read her latest book. She's a best-selling author, so I knew I'd be in for a treat!

Carry Me Home is a full journey, following three women as they endure years of hardships. We meet Lucy, Ruth, and their mom as they're escaping the clutches of an abusive man--Lucy's and Ruth's father. They move into their grandmother's trailer in San Jose, but Lucy goes through some heavy-duty struggles that once again put them on the run. The heart-wrenching journey of these three souls is only more powerful because of the love they have for each other. By the end, you'll be rooting for them while wiping away tears.

Barbara Dee is getting loads of attention in the kidlit world...attention that is very deserved. Her latest book continues that trend, with accolades rolling in months before it released. And now you can see what all the buzz is about!

Halfway Normal follows Norah as she returns to school following a two-year cancer battle. As she tries to force everything back to normal, though, she quickly learns that it isn't as easy as she thought. The dynamics of Norah's friendships (as well as a new crush!) show just how complex a serious illness can be. Plus, the overall lesson about how we should embrace our past rather than run from it is something we can all relate to.

Who can resist a new twist on an old myth? Brenda Drake's latest young adult novel, Thunderstruck, is just that. Plus, it has a cover that makes you just want to read what's inside!

Thunderstruck is an intense YA fantasy that combines mythology with a contemporary love story. Stevie is a high schooler with a heart issue. Blake is the son of the Norse god Thor. Blake has feelings for Stevie and those feelings are returned...until Stevie learns Grace has feelings for her, too. Grace is not the most likable person, but Stevie feels an obligation toward her and, because of that, she pushes Blake toward Grace. The love triangle is compelling, but even more compelling is Blake's race to complete his mission...and the danger it puts Stevie in. If you love fantasies based on mythology, you have to read this book!

What are you reading this month?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Do You Read Banned Books?

There are many simple pleasures in life. A warm cup of coffee while watching the sunrise.

Feeling the sand between your toes as the ocean breeze blows through your hair.

And staying in bed with a good book on a rainy day.

No book should be off limits if you want to read it. Unfortunately, throughout history, there have been books that have been kept out of the hands of readers. Each year, the ALA lists the top ten challenged books of the year. In 2016, that list included this one:

And this one:

This week is Banned Books Week, which celebrates the freedom to read. We're spreading the word on social media with the hashtag #BannedBooksWeek. Feel free to join in and say why YOU celebrate our freedom to read.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

How to Write with Kids: A Guest Post by Jessica Therrien

September has been an exciting month for book birthdays, and today we have another great one. To celebrate the launch of her latest book, Carry Me HomeJessica Therrien is telling us how she writes with young kids in the house. I'm sure a few of you would love tips on that! Scroll down after the blog post to read all about Jessica's new book.

by Jessica Therrien

How do you find time to write with young kids in the house…

Simple. I don’t sleep. Ever.

Ha! If only that were true. Unfortunately I’m 100% mortal human, so sleep is required, but I do push my limits. My work hours are usually from 10pm to midnight. I try to get as much done in those two hours as possible. But two hours a night isn’t much, so here is what I’ve done to be more productive while playing Mommy to my 2-year-old and 4-year-old, who are home all day with me.

  1. Adapt – I used to only write when I felt inspired. I’d listen to music, set the mood, settle in with my coffee and snacks and try to find the zone. The idea of getting a moment of peace and quiet during the day is laughable to me now. Instead of music, my background noise has become the sound of my wild boys screaming and chasing each other around the room with loud dump trucks. But hey…if they’re busy playing, that’s time. So I’ll take it.
  2. Butt In Chair – As I mentioned, the only guaranteed time I get for writing is from 10pm to midnight, so I NEED to make those hours work. Most of the time I’m exhausted, but I force myself to do it. Once I started doing this, I realized how much time I was wasting “waiting to be inspired” or not pushing forward because I was stuck being a perfectionist. Even if what I’m writing is not my best, I force it out and move forward. I can always go back and fix things later, but getting the first draft out is essential. It’s a different strategy, but it’s worked for me.
  3. Write On Stuff – No seriously…napkins, receipts, notes in my phone. If something comes to me, I scribble it out on anything I have. My brain doesn’t have enough room to save ideas for later. It’s too busy with Mom stuff.
  4. Keep Going – Part of my honestly believes some of my writer friends are part robot. I mean…a book every few months?! I WISH I could produce quality work in that amount of time, but it’s just not a possibility for me. My two hours a night means I’m a LOT slower, but as long as I keep going, little by little, I’ll get there. One of my favorite things to remember is that if I write a page a day, I’ll have a book in a year. Not only is that doable, but really inspiring! A book a year is a GREAT goal.

So to all you writer-mamas out there, you can do it! Don’t get discouraged. Don’t give up. 😊 Sentence by sentence, page by page…one day you’ll look up and have a book.


CARRY ME HOME is a fictional novel inspired by the true story of a teenage girl’s involvement in several Mexican gangs in San Jose and Los Angeles. The members of her crew call her, Guera, Spanish for “white girl” and it doesn’t take long for her to get lost in their world of guns and drugs.

* * *

Lucy and Ruth are country girls from a broken home. When they move to the city with their mother, leaving behind their family ranch and dead-beat father, Lucy unravels.

They run to their grandparents’ place, a trailer park mobile home in the barrio of San Jose. Lucy’s barrio friends have changed since her last visit. They’ve joined a gang called VC. They teach her to fight, to shank, to beat a person unconscious and play with guns. When things get too heavy, and lives are at stake, the three girls head for LA seeking a better life.

But trouble always follows Lucy. She befriends the wrong people, members of another gang, and every bad choice she makes drags the family into her dangerous world. 

Told from three points of view, the story follows Lucy down the rabbit hole, along with her mother and sister as they sacrifice dreams and happiness, friendships and futures. Love is waiting for all of them in LA, but pursuing a life without Lucy could mean losing her forever.

Ultimately it’s their bond with each other that holds them together, in a true test of love, loss and survival.

Add Carry Me Home on Goodreads.

Buy Links:


Jessica Therrien is the author of the young adult series Children of the Gods. Book one in the series, Oppression, became a Barnes & Noble best-seller shortly after its release. Her trilogy has been translated and sold through major publishers around the world, such as Editions AdA (Canada), EditionsMilan (France), and SharpPoint Press (China).

Aside from her Children of the Gods series, Jessica is the author of a kid’s picture book called, The Loneliest Whale. Her award-winning stories can also be found in a published anthology of flash fiction.

Jessica currently lives in Irvine with her husband and two young sons. She is working on an a YA suspense thriller series and a middle grade fantasy series.


Author Links:

Monday, September 25, 2017

Mystery Monday: Zebb Quinn

It's Monday, which means it's time for another...

Although most of the stories I post here are mysteries, sometimes I like to post stories that have a resolution. On July 10, 2017, this story had an arrest. But even when someone's arrested, so many questions still remain...

Zebb Quinn was an Asheville, North Carolina teenager who disappeared after working his shift in the Walmart electronics department. Zebb was enrolled in ROTC.

Zebb left work at 9pm that Sunday evening with plans to meet coworker Robert Jason Owens to go look at a car. At 9:14, the two were captured on surveillance camera buying sodas at a convenience store.

According to Owens, the two left the gas station in separate cars and soon after, Zebb flashed his lights, indicating Owens should pull over. Zebb said he'd gotten a page and needed to return the call. Frantic, Zebb allegedly rushed to a payphone, made a call, then returned and said he had to go. In his rush, Owens said Zebb rear-ended his truck. Owens said that was the last he saw of his coworker.

Later that night, Owens arrived at the emergency room with fractured ribs and a head injury. He claimed to have gotten into another car accident that night, but no police report was filed.

Robert Jason Owens

Two days later, a male saying he was Zebb called in sick to Walmart. The employee immediately realized the voice wasn't Zebb's and traced the call back to a plant where Owens worked at the time. Two days later, Zebb's mom's coworker called her to say she'd spotted Zebb's car in a parking lot. It was found abandoned with lips drawn on the back windshield and a live puppy dog inside.

The case remained unsolved in the years that followed. As it gradually became known as an unresolvable mystery, Owens was named in another high-profile case. In 2015, he was arrested for the disappearance and murder of Food Network star Cristie Schoen, her husband J.T. Codd, and their unborn child.

Owens pled guilty to their deaths, claiming he accidentally ran over both of them with his car and tried to dispose of their bodies. His attorney said he was "impaired" on prescription drugs for a mental illness he suffered.

On July 10, 2017, a grand jury charged Owens with Zebb's murder. But the question now is why? What would have driven him to murder his friend?