Two Reviews: The Crescent Stone (The Sunlit Lands #1) by Matt Mikalatos & Shift Your Thinking for Success: 77 Ways to Win at Work and in Life by Dean Del Sesto

The Crescent Stone (The Sunlit Lands #1) by Matt Mikalatos

Publication Date: August 7th, 2018

Rating: 3 ½ Stars

My comfort zone typically resides FAR outside of the fantasy realm, however the gripping cover design and terminally ill character within The Crescent Stone caused me to pick this one up, and I am so glad that I did. As the first book of The Sunlit Lands series we are introduced to a teenager, Madeline, as she battles the final months of lung disease. Madeline, and her comically relieving side kick Jason, exchange a year of service in the Sunlit Lands for her health and the promise of a pudding cup every morning. The encounters, battles, friendships and lesson gained from the Elenil society hit critical elements humans can certainly stand to be reminded of.

Author, Matt Mikalatos, delivers an exceptional young adult fantasy that pairs humor and death in this provocative read. Madeline and Jason provide us a unique education on many key lessons in how we treat one another, the lengths we’ll take to save ourselves and the importance of not judging a book by its cover. All lessons our parents likely tried to teach us, framed in a more exciting way by Mikalatos. A strong series opener, promising an exciting, young, fantastical storyline while instilling important takeaways.

*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Shift Your Thinking for Success: 77 Ways to Win at Work and in Life by Dean Del Sesto

Publication Date: July 17th, 2018

Rating: 2 ¼ Stars

Business minded, non-fiction books are often quickly passed over by readers as they can be perceived as dull, un-engaging or lacking in actionable substance. However, as a young professional that LOVES to read I am continually pushing myself to diversify my choices to include a mix of fiction and non-fiction. Given my role in the business environment, I try to pepper my mix with business and self-improvement focused books. For this reason, I was excited to have the opportunity to read Shift Your Thinking for Success.

Author, Dean Del Sesto, is a successful brand and marketing guru. He is described as a “brander of 800 plus companies” and certainly seems to boast a successful business career. I was hoping his successes, failures and experiences would be well articulated and sprinkled among the topics discussed within, but was disappointed to see this was infrequently the case. In fact, not ONE study with actionable data was cited in this book. This may be a first for me, a business minded book lacking scattered personal experiences and analytical data, I was disappointed to say the least. I am often careful to recommend self-improvement books to readers for fear of turning them off to this genre permanently and while I’ve come across several five-star business reads, this is certainly NOT one of them.

*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Revell, in exchange for an honest review.


Actress to Author: Any Man by Amber Tamblyn

Publication Date: June 26th, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

I recently had the opportunity to see Amber Tamblyn read from her debut novel Any Man. While this was an incredible experience, even more amazing was the dialogue and questions it sparked amongst those in attendance. The topic covered by this book, male sexual assault victims, is rarely discussed. In Tamblyn’s recent interview with NPR she quotes “[This book] aims to degender the conversation around sexual assault and sexual violence. While also, I think, re-sensitizing us as a culture to what…rape culture actually is and what is means and how it manifests.” Although, beyond this, the light this novel shines on the media is raw, real and necessary. Tweets like “Katy Perry debuts new colorful haircut at concert benefiting trans victims of sexual assault” portrayed in the book, may not have occurred in real life but are certainly not unbelievable.

To back up a bit, author Amber Tamblyn may not be an unfamiliar name. Famous for her acting career in both television and film, in roles such as Martha M. Masters in House and Tibby in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Tamblyn has also written works of poetry, Dark Sparkler and Bang Ditto. Recently, she co-wrote and directed Paint It Black now on Netflix and is even credited as one of the founders of the Time’s Up movement.

Any Man is not a long book by any means, at less than 275 pages it is frankly one of the shorter books I’ve read in quite some time, in fact it took me mere hours to read. I mention this because while it may be short in length, it packs a heavy subject, one that sparks an important conversation and forces us to take a hard look at the media, bullying and how numb we’ve become as Americans. Maude is a female. Maude is a serial rapist. Maude targets men. And, as unfortunate as it may seem, the experiences the men in this book face are common place for many women. That is what is so powerful and so painful, Any Man starts a new discussion, a discussion for EVERYONE, it provides a realm of empathy for men to understand the female experience that has unfortunately rocked too many. While not EVERY female has experienced sexual assault first hand, many can name at least one close friend that has, or even detail an experience where they’ve been utterly terrified both walking home alone at night or at a party full of people.

On a lighter subject, this book incorporates the proven talent of Tamblyn’s writing, in parts written in prose as it flips between the men subjected to Maude’s horrific acts. From the tweets, newscasts and internal dialogue inserted into the pages of this timely read, Tamblyn nails it on all fronts!

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Publication Date: September 4th, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Just WOW! Embedded in this book is a young woman, Sadie, who suffers from a speech impediment. As if this doesn’t provide enough frustration on a daily basis, Sadie is also responsible for raising her younger sister Mattie in their junkie mother’s absence. When Mattie is found murdered, Sadie disappears. This book alternates between Sadie’s experience and a podcast program covering Sadie’s story.

Sadie is in a league of its own, never have I read such a gripping suspense that injects podcast transcripts to aid the non-linear timeline within. Sadie, despite her hardships, is a relatable character and while author, Courtney Summers, gave Sadie a heavy childhood, she also used this book as a platform to enlighten the reader on the internal struggles of those suffering from speech impediments. This may seem trivial to the naked eye, but had a significant effect on Sadie’s interactions and internal dialogue.

This book transports the reader between podcast listener to white knuckler, as the veil is slowly pulled from our eyes and Sadie’s “plan” comes to fruition. Disturbingly well done, a gripping read that will be sure to catch you, coming this September!

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Edge of Over There by Shawn Smucker

Publication Date: July 3rd, 2018

Rating: 4 ½ Stars

This book took me out of my comfort zone as I entered the fantasy worlds created within The Edge of Over There. Abra Miller may be young, but she’s been chosen to carry the sword. So, when another Tree of Life appears she must enter the gateway between her world and Over There to destroy it. But who can she trust? And will she destroy it in time?

The Edge of Over There is book two of The Day the Angels Fell series so I was worried I would be lost jumping right into the middle of the series, especially given the fantastical nature of this read, but I was pleasantly surprised by how easily I was drawn into Abra’s orbit as she balances the mysterious characters that enter her life with her responsibilities to destroy the life-giving trees.

Author, Shawn Smucker has incredible eye for detail as he creates a purgatory-type world, full of characters, conflict and separation. The world Smucker has created may be fiction, but his style of writing makes it feel so real, the landscape, magic sword and angelic characters blended seamlessly into the story making it feel like a suspenseful read in the heart of fantasy.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Two Reviews: Otherwood by Pete Hautman & Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo

Otherwood by Pete Hautman

Publication Date: September 11th, 2018

Rating: 3 ¾ Stars

I am beginning to fall in love with Pete Hautman’s writing. He so perfectly captures the imagination of young kids. I loved Slider, but Hautman has certainly kicked it up a notch in his newest novel, Otherwood.

Elly and Stuey live on different sides of the woods. They share a birthday, so naturally they become quick best friends. But, suddenly their realities split and they must come to terms with the path they’ve been set on.

A perfect mix of the popular Dark Matter, (hold the science) neatly wrapped in a young adult package. The blending of dreams, imagination and the reality young kids often lose themselves to, in this wonderfully written, fast paced novel of Elly and Stuey, as they live amongst the realities they’ve created. Worlds often change, unintended consequences occur, but Stuey and Elly are determined to hold on to one another.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher, Candlewick Press, in exchange for an honest review.

Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo

Publication Date: October 2nd, 2018

Rating: 3 Stars

From the author of the beloved classic, Because of Winn-Dixie, comes Kate DiCamillo’s newest novel, Louisiana’s Way Home.

Louisiana Elefante is used to Granny waking her up in the middle of the night, but this time as she is ripped from her bed with just the clothes on her back something feels different, it feels like they’ve been driving forever and that they won’t be returning. So, after settling into a Motel, Louisiana makes fast friends with the local Minister and mysterious boy hoping to avoid any more good-byes.

The Pinocchio themes interlaced throughout the book are extremely fitting as Louisiana is forced to quickly grow from the young child she is to an adult, tasked with caring for her ailing Granny and finding a way to pay for their motel room. Friendships, family, sadness and heartbreak grace the pages of this timeless story as DiCamillo’s talents are on full display in this newest young adult read.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher, Candlewick Press, in exchange for an honest review.

When Through Deep Waters by Rachelle Dekker

Publication Date: July 3rd, 2018

Rating: 2 ¼ Stars

Within the first chapter of this read Alicen has lost her daughter, husband and seemingly perfect life in Santa Monica. Her childhood friend, Lou, invites her to return to Red Lodge, Montana as Lou packs up her family’s past. It is here Alicen begins to hear voices and see things. Is she going crazy? Are her delusions real? Will she ever find peace after the death of her child? What unfolds within is a twisted, layered story of suspense, mental illness and grief.

I was immediately drawn to When Through Deep Waters as it seemed to put mental health at the center of its story, however I found it difficult to get into as I read. The pace is slow as the reader is led through Alicen’s relationships with her Grandma Joe, Mom and Lou. The past is infrequently dispersed throughout the present day as the author attempts to inject hereditary characteristics and Alicen’s upbringing. Lou’s mom even makes a VERY brief entrance to deliver a crucial piece of the storyline. But, despite this, the story failed to engage.

Where Dekker fell short in pace she certainly made up for in creating an incredible fantasy land within Alicen’s mind. This book serves to ignite the mental health conversation and treatment methods as it did not stray from the uncomfortable. While it may not be the quickest read you pick up this summer it definitely touches on many important, and relevant, topics in any landscape.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.