Reviews

The Ugly Teapot by Fred Holmes

Title: The Ugly Teapot: Hannah

Author: Fred Holmes

Series: The Ugly Teapot, Book 1

Genre: YA Fantasy Adventure

Era: contemporary

Setting: United States and the Middle East

Publisher: Fred Holmes

Source: from the author (in exchange for an honest review)

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

The Ugly Teapot by Fred Holmes

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Fourteen-year-old Hannah Bradbury loved her father so much that she worried about him constantly. After all, he was a photographer who traveled to the most dangerous places in the world.

To allay her fears, each time he came home he brought her silly gifts, each one with supposed magical powers: the Seal of Solomon, the Ring of Gyges, even Aladdin’s Lamp. It was that lamp Hannah found the most unbelievable, for it looked like an ugly teapot. Nevertheless, her father assured her it was real, and made her promise to save her three wishes for something very special.

Then . . . six months later . . . the unthinkable happened. Her father was killed while on assignment to Baghdad. And so on the day of his funeral Hannah did something she never thought she would ever do.

She took out that teapot and gave it a rub . . .

The Ugly Teapot by Fred Holmes is a timeless tale, filled with magic and adventure. More importantly, it will make you believe in the overwhelming power of love.

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I honestly don’t know how to rate and review this book. I thought I’d wait a while after reading it to see if my thoughts organized themselves, but they haven’t, and so I guess I’ll just do my best to give my honest opinion.

Honestly, it’s an emotional journey, and emotions boggle me a little. I laughed and cried and was both disturbed and happy.

Plot: 3/5

The plot was really one of the cleverest I’ve read in a while. If you’ve read the blurb (^), you probably have a pretty fair idea as to what goes on, but it still surprised me. I think the only thing I didn’t appreciate was pausing the adventure to return to V’s life every once and a while, though when the ending came I understood why it was necessary.

The ending was a bit disturbing. I didn’t quite know what to think about it at first … and was a little disappointed, too. However, after I thought about it for a while, I decided it was really a cool twist … and totally unexpected! Still, it was disturbing and, in my opinion, sudden.

Characters: 4/5

There were several characters who held prominent parts besides Hannah, but I always had them kept straight in my mind. A few things did confuse me (for instance, it wasn’t explained until the very end of the book why Griff has the ability to communicate with Hannah telepathically; we were just expected to accept it like all dogs communicate with their masters like that), but overall, I found them all well-developed and interesting.

Hannah was a sweet little girl (well, “little” is a broad term …) looking for her father. Stories with grieving people in them always get me even though I’ve never lost anyone really important to me.

Griff, Hannah’s dog, was a fun character. He can communicate telepathically with Hannah for much of the book, and he has a fun sense of humor.

Hannah’s father … well, something seemed wrong with him from the beginning, and so I was pleased with Hannah’s realization towards the end. Sure, he was a fun dad … but a good one? Eh. Not so much.

Vivian (V), Hannah’s mother, was a great character. I loved her growth and the growth of her and Hannah’s relationship. It was also cool how she’s this steady person who is always there, even if Hannah didn’t think her decisions were always the best.

Gus was my favorite. He was just so hilarious! Every word out of his mouth had me in stitches, and that whole thing with the treasure chest … and his relationship with Hannah’s father was the best. 😛

Ahmed … wow. Insta-crush, huh, Hannah? *glares at Hannah* Okay, okay, I know, you’re fourteen and he’s this awesome exotic gentleman … but still.

Ahmed’s parents I actually liked … until the end. At which point I kinda got frustrated with them. I still don’t know about that little lie to Hannah’s father. What was that about?

The Magician, we all hated. Well, at least I did. He was so cruel and evil and wicked and awful … and other words that are near-synonyms to each other. I hate him! And yet he’s a “good” villain as villains go (as in he is good at being evil).

Setting: 5/5

The description and setting were both very good. I always had a good idea as to where we were. I especially loved the descriptions of the treasure chamber and the Sheik’s house.

As far as settings, we started in a small town in the United States in Hannah’s bedroom and went halfway around the world to Baghdad and then some mountains (I’ve forgotten which) and back to Hannah’s house. All vividly described without too many words.

Writing: 4/5

Excellent! I especially enjoyed the punchy dialogue and, of course, description. The best thing about the writing was the humor. I laughed aloud several times.

However, I did find some sentences to be a little complicated or overthought.

Theme: 3/5

I felt like the theme could have been worked a little better. The ending and resolution were somewhat sudden, as I mentioned before, and the main character was kind of in denial before that point. V’s point of view helped decrease that shield Hannah put up a little … but not much, especially as V had no idea what was going on until the end.

Content: 3/5

Language: “oh my god” several times and then stronger euphemism such as “crap,” etc. 10+.

Violence: lots of this, I’m afraid. Many, many people were killed during Hannah’s adventure. There was lots of blood and death and scary situations. It never got extremely gory, but it was mildly gory in several places. 13+ at least.

Sexual: n/a (although Hannah develops a crush on a boy she’s traveling with)

Other: the world is assumed millions of years old. Hannah is suffering from severe depression, anxiety, and delusions. The ending is kinda of disturbing. 10+

I’d say 13+ at least for violence, disturbing themes, and mild language (taking the Lord’s name in vain). Parental guidance suggested for more the more sensitive.

Overall: 3.5/5

A fairly decent young adult novel with a great beginning and middle. The end was a little sudden, but for those who are good at sorting details out, it won’t make any difference. I really enjoyed the humor and the adventure (though it could be a little gory or disturbing at times), and the character were well-developed and interesting.

A great story for any upper middle grade or young adult reader who loves a character-based adventure with magic elements.

~Kellyn Roth

Mini Review Day, Reviews

January 2017 Mini Review Day

Hi guys! Today we’re gonna do something a little different … mini reviews! I’ve decided to do this monthly (as you can see by the title. This one is for January 2017, in case you didn’t notice). These will mainly be books I chose to read, not review books.

So let’s get started!

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Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland

Whoa! That was fantastic!

Okay, so, I have written (to completion: I’ve started maybe fifty other books) three full-length books now. The first two had to be intensively rewritten. In fact, very little of the original drafts remain. Why was this? Well, after assuming myself to be a “pantser” (because I was too lazy to outline), I refused to outline …

And that got me nowhere.

I decided to try some extensive outlining with my third book (currently titled At Her Fingertips) this last November (for NaNoWriMo). I wrote 65,000+ words in 30 days (beating my previous record of 42,000) and they’re not all trash. Yes, it’s first drafty … but I have a feeling that this is a winner! I don’t expect rewriting, and I think my revising will be lighter.

I don’t know if K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel is completely responsible for this. I was super excited about my story this last NaNo, and that’s part of the reason. But … well, K.M. Weiland’s methods and ideas and tips are all great, and they are at least 75% responsible for me actually having an enjoyable writing experience!

Grab a copy! It’s a wonder what a little outlining can do, even if you don’t think you’re a ‘plotter.’

5/5 stars

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Where Two Hearts Meet by Carrie Turansky

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Two very sweet novellas. I loved Turansky’s Edwardian Brides series, so I was a little nervous/excited/worrying that they wouldn’t be as good, but these novellas were really great!

Tea For Two:
This was my favorite of the two novellas. It was sweet (and clean) and I really liked the characters … and Sweet Something, too, of course. I want to own a place like that … or at least visit it!

Content: clean. No language/violence. A couple kisses, none very detailed. A mention of adultery (treated as wrong), I believe?

5/5 stars

Wherever Love Takes Us:
I didn’t enjoy this one as much … probably because I’m not married and had trouble getting into the characters, understanding them, etc. This would probably be better-enjoyed by someone who’s married and a little older than me. 🙂 I did tack on half a star because OREGON MY OREGON! 😛

Content: fairly clean. No language/violence. Kisses (never detailed), and a mention of s*x (although it was pretty hard to catch and between a married couple … but still). Matt kinda seems to be considering adultery at one point.

4/5 stars

Overall, this is a worthwhile read for a summer afternoon (or, for me, a Christmas-break-afternoon). 🙂

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Forsaking All Others by Allison Pittman

Wow. That was … all over the place. And the ending made no sense and wasn’t really happy or satisfactory. The main character annoyed me by continually going, “Oh! I’ve got it now!” and then doing stupid things. Again.

It wasn’t an awful book, but it wasn’t a good book either. I didn’t really care for it. I found it depressing, dark, and meaningless (probably one of those books where I’m not smart enough to get the theme … ;P).

This novel contains an honest (but somewhat scorching) portrayal of the Mormons of that era. Probably not a book for LDS readers for that reason.

Content: no language. A lot of violence, wars, people wanting to baptize “by blood if not by water,” fingers getting frostbitten and having to be cut off, sometimes somewhat detailed. Mentions of and portrayals of pregnancy. Lots of mentions of husbands and wives becoming one, sleeping together, etc. and the husband’s other wives (*shivers*) knowing that this is happening. One scene where a married couple presumably … you know. They cut it off before they actually do anything, but … yeah. Then later another woman and her proceed to discuss this. A little too much for me. Removed a star.

1.5 stars

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With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin

It’s getting a little old for me to be rating Sarah Sundin books 5 stars and crooning over them, so this is gonna be a short review.

All of the books that I’ve read by Sarah Sundin have been five-star marvels … but wow. This may be the best one yet! An amazing plot, an amazing message, amazing characters … I just don’t have words for it!

I think my favorite thing about this novel was its originality. It’s a romance, but the two main characters don’t even meet for months and months into their relationship! And Tom … wow! He was totally committed before he even met her in person! AAAAH!!!

The minor characters were neat, too. I especially liked the other nurses. Oddly enough (because I don’t know if I was supposed to), I’ve taken a liking to Kay. Should I be shot? I’m sorry … I just feel like there’s something there, you know, underneath all the … ick. I feel sorry for her.

And Rose. I like Rose. And Georgie. I liked Georgie.

Hooooold it a minute! This was gonna be a short review! And so it stops here.

5/5 stars

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The Curiosity Keeper by Sarah E. Ladd

This was a pretty good novel. It wasn’t my favorite of all the Regency romances I’ve read, but it was enjoyable, the characters were realistic, and the setting was charming, and it was pretty original. At times, I was wrapped up in it (my status updates mostly involved screaming … sorry, Goodreads friends!).

I found the ending to be a little unsettling. Why? Well, I can’t tell you that! It was the ending! THE ENDING! It’d be spoiled for you.

Oh, you’ve read the novel? Okay, here’s why. (HIGHLIGHT TO READ SPOILERS) This sounds stupid, and lots of people have mentioned liking this in their reviews (because it’s original, right?), but I love the idea of inheriting a mansion, it remaining in the family, and all that, and I wanted Jonathan to live at Kettering Hall! I wanted it to remain in the family, and I wanted it to be passed on to their children and their children’s children! So … my weirdness is revealed … (END OF SPOILERS)

Other than that, there wasn’t much I didn’t enjoy about this book. It’s more a matter of personal preference than anything (as to why it’s not rated 5 stars).

4/5 stars

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A Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears

Ah, that was cute! I admit it was somewhat cliché, but not much, and I really enjoyed it (because some clichés are just too awesome). The character were believable and the plot was well-paced. I was a little frustrated at the main characters for their back-and-forth-ness sometimes.

Anyway, this is an enjoyable, sweet romance that was only sometimes frustrating and therefore worth it. Besides, I argue that if a couple characters can make me frustrated, even in a bad way, the author has great potential. 😉

Content: no language. Sicknesses and injuries. Lots of mentions of (and a couple brief descriptions of) childbirth. Mentions of pregnancies, miscarriages, stillbirths, and the like. Julia is terrified of childbirth (mostly of losing a baby). Several mentions of ‘becoming one’ and that sort of thing. Julia and Everett sleep in separate beds after they’re married, etc. Julia was ‘taken advantage of’ before she left Boston (no details, handled well, barely mentioned). Nothing that made me terribly uncomfortable.

4/5 stars

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Have you read any of these books? Did you enjoy them? Are any of these books getting added to your to-read list? Or taken off?

~Kellyn Roth

 

Reviews

The Show by John A. Heldt

Title: The Show

Author: John A. Heldt

Series: Northwest Passage, #3

Genre: Science Fiction Romance (time travel)

Age-Range: 14+ (young adult/adult)

Era: 1940s (WW2), contemporary, and 1918 (post-WW1)

Setting: London, England

Publisher: John A. Heldt

Source: author (in exchange for an honest review)

Rating: 3/5 stars

Content: 3/5. Some language (just a few times, though). Little/no violence (though mention of wars, etc.). Kisses (somewhat detailed), mentions of pregnancy. There’s a scene on Joel and Grace’s wedding night which I skipped and therefore couldn’t tell you about. So … no idea what went on there. *coughs* And then … Grace kinda gives her mother ‘the talk.’ I skimmed this as well, but I didn’t see anything explicit.

The Show by John A. Heldt

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Seattle, 1941.

Grace Vandenberg, 21, is having a bad day. Minutes after Pearl Harbor is attacked, she learns that her boyfriend is a time traveler from 2000 who has abandoned her for a future he insists they cannot share. Determined to save their love, she follows him into the new century. But just when happiness is within her grasp, she accidentally enters a second time portal and exits in 1918.

Distraught and heartbroken, Grace starts a new life in the age of Woodrow Wilson, silent movies, and the Spanish flu.

She meets her parents as young, single adults and befriends a handsome, wounded Army captain just back from the war. In THE SHOW, the sequel to THE MINE, Grace finds love and friendship in the ashes of tragedy as she endures the trial of her life.

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This was a somewhat disappointing novel, mostly because of Grace’s actions in 1918. I was especially confused by her actions towards the end regarding her parents. I didn’t get how that could be possible until the way time travel works in these books was explained in The Mirror. Now that I understand that, however, I’m able to understand this novel much better.

I must say, I loved Grace’s parents as teens. They were amusing, especially her mother. I had no idea ‘Mrs. Vandenburg’ was such a kick as a kid!

I also found it difficult to believe that Grace got over Joel that quickly. Joel was her everything. Sure, she needed to move on … but she was married to him regardless of differences in time and space. Moving on doesn’t necessarily have to involve another man, okay?

I found the whole idea of the theater interesting. Very cool concept. One of the best things about this story other than seeing Grace and Joel again, hearing Grace’s side of the story, etc.

I’m not going to go on more (because I had rating less than four stars … even though three stars is honestly a decent rating …). I’ll just say that this is a good story, but not quite as good as some of Heldt’s others.

~Kellyn Roth

Reviews

Class of ’59 by John A. Heldt

Title: Class of ’59

Author: John A. Heldt

Series: American Journey, #4 (can be a stand-alone, too)

Genre: Time Travel Adventure/Romance

Age-Range: 14+ (young adult/adult)

Era: contemporary and 1959

Setting: California

Publisher: John A. Heldt

Source: from author (in exchange for honest review)

Rating: 4/5 stars (.5 removed for content)

Content: 3/5. A few cuss words, d**m a few times and I think maybe h**l once. Some violence (someone is shot with a gun, mentions of blood, nothing graphic at all). As far as sexual content … let’s just say we stayed out the bedroom, but there was some, er, extra-marital activities that weren’t described (past kisses and stuff). Fade-to-black, but we still know it happened and … yep. That’s why I don’t recommend it to anyone under 14. And then … there’s also a mention, when Mark is looking at the 2017 world, of couples of the same gender kissing … so yep. There’s that. Never mentioned again, though.

Class of ’59 by John A. Heldt

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When Mary Beth McIntire settles into a vacation house on June 2, 2017, she anticipates a quiet morning with coffee. Then she hears a noise, peers out a window, and spots a man in 1950s attire standing in the backyard. She panics when the trespasser sees her and enters the house though a door to the basement. She questions her sanity when she cannot find him.

In the same house on March 21, 1959, Mark Ryan finds a letter. Written by the mansion’s original owner in 1900, the letter describes a basement chamber, mysterious crystals, and a formula for time travel. Driven by curiosity, Mark tests the formula twice. On his second trip to 2017, he encounters a beautiful stranger. He meets the woman in the window.

Within hours, Mary Beth and Mark share their secret with her sister and his brother and begin a journey that takes them from the present day to the age of sock hops, drive-ins, and jukeboxes. In CLASS OF ’59, the fourth book in the American Journey series, four young adults find love, danger, and adventure as they navigate the corridors of time and experience Southern California in its storied prime.

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Well, that was great! I was a little worried that I wouldn’t like it because I always feel bad after giving a bad review … even if my last review of one of Mr. Heldt’s books wasn’t exactly bad, I had some bad things to say about the book. But I really enjoyed Class of ’59 (as you know if you’re my mother and scolded me in the morning for being up at two …).

Anyway, this book breaks the formula I was kinda starting to see in John A. Heldt books. For instance, we’re seeing the story for two couples’ perspectives … four people who are main characters instead of one. Very nice. Also, we’re seeing the time-traveling, originally, from someone living in the past’s perspective. Really neat. I liked that.

The plot was relatively well-paced and interesting. I enjoyed the setting a bit more than I thought I would (I found it really interesting, if a little … more modern than I’m used to, I suppose), and I was already thinking I’d like it a lot. Honestly, I don’t like to go much past the early ’50s in novels, so this was pushing it for me. But I really liked it. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of school in the late ’50s. And the tennis match … that was my favorite part. 🙂

For some reason I was envisioning a mixture of That Darn Cat, Grease, and my grandma’s young adulthood in my head the whole time I was reading this book. It was pleasant (and a little annoying, because THE GREASE SOUNDTRACK AAAH SHOOT ME BEFORE I HEAR GREASED LIGHTNING RUNNING THROUGH MY HEAD ONE MORE TIME!!!), and I’m glad I read it.

Now, the content was a little more than I prefer, but I managed to switch my mind to ‘Okay, I’m watching my grandma’s young adulthood Grease at the moment, and I need to try ignore the content because my grandfather Olivia Newton-John is awesome cute …’ and fast-forward during those parts. 😉

The characters were interesting and unique. I think my favorite was Mary Beth. Or Piper. Definitely Piper. Wait,  I like Ben, too. And Sally …

Which reminds me; not finding out about Sally was one of the  reasons (other than content and the fact that it made me stay up too late 😄 ) I didn’t give this novel 5 stars. How do I know how she ends up?

So, if you’re an older teen/adult (see content section) and you love time-travel romances with a generous dash of adventure, grab a copy of Class of ’59, John A. Heldt’s most recent (September, to be exact) release today!

~Kellyn Roth

Reviews

No Pizza Delivery? by Grace Marshall

Title: No Pizza Delivery?

Author: Grace Marshall

Series: Horse Haven, #1

Genre: Contemporary Christian Comedy

Age-Range: 13+ (young adult)

Era: contemporary

Setting: United States – Missouri and Wisconsin

Publisher: Grace Marshall

Source: from the author (in exchange for honest review)

Rating: 4/5 stars

Content: 2/5, rude humor, mentions of thinking a guy’s hot (not really innapropriate or anything).

No Pizza Delivery? by Grace Marshall

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Manure, southern accents, self-absorbed boys, and new faces are all a part of the maze that have become Ruth Deloach’s life.

Her world is sent spinning when she finds out she is going to be ripped from America’s Dairyland to live in the embarrassingly small tourist town of Sainte Genevieve, Missouri. The blow is slightly lessened by the news that her father wants to start a horse ranch, but how enjoyable will it really be to live where there is no pizza delivery and a revolving door to the public? A public with a different idea of how things are done and said.

To add embarrassment to her frustration she finds she knows less about horses than she presumed. Maybe the handsome ranch hand her father hires can brighten things up, then again, maybe not.

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This was a sweet, hilarious story. It had a well-paced plot and I can’t wait to read the next book – I kinda felt like it ended with a cliffhanger, even though it wasn’t exactly a cliffhanger, because I wanted to read more! I also enjoyed the characters … and, of course, my mouth started to water every time a horse entered. 😛 I need a horse, guys … need not want.

And you know what’s weird? It wasn’t cliché! There are so many books and movies out there about a city girl moving to the country (presumably a country containing horses) and messing up there and finding herself along the way … but this was not cliché. Nor was it cheesy, as most of those books and movies are.

It was fresh and funny and interesting. I liked Ruth a lot, and I really liked her brother … although, of course, I probably wouldn’t want him to be my brother …

And the turkey thing! *cracks up* I have come near to having that happen to me, so I understand the feeling, though I would have been the one ripping the turkey out. (What? Read the book to find out what I’m talking about!)

Ruth and me have something in common in thinking we’re better with horses than we are … though even Ruth is probably a better rider than I am! 😀

Overall, this was a quick, amusing read! I think it could use just a wee bit of editing (I’m sorry; I’m a bit of a perfectionist!), but a couple punctuation mistakes didn’t bother my enjoyment of it … and most people probably wouldn’t notice them, as I’m extremely meticulous.

So, go buy a copy and have a nice, light read and, above all, enjoy the horses! 🙂

~Kellyn Roth