2017 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge · Book Reviews

Highland Healer (Highland Healer #1) by Florence Love Karsner

Highland Healer B.C.

I got the impression this may have been the author’s first book. I can’t say it was written poorly or that the story line needed developed, but it was a little choppy in places and areas were a little hard to follow. This story follows two women. The description and such explain it as just following one woman, Caitlin, but early on it begins a parallel story line with Millie. For a while I wasn’t sure if Millie’s story line was a history of something that needed to be known for something in Caitlin’s story to be understood, but the two women meet each other about half-way through the book and the story continues on with them together.

The story begins with Caitlin settling in to a new home she finds after fleeing an angry Captain who thinks she is a witch who killed his son. As she is a healer, she has work in the nearby village and a quiet life. She is interrupted one night by the MacKinnon brothers, whose youngest has suffered a terrible injury and must have his leg amputated. While they wait for their brother to recover enough to be moved, the eldest brothers, Jack and Alex, begin to know the healer. Alex in particular becomes attached to the healer and after hearing her plight about the Captain (and also an enraged Lord who she overheard talking treason) is determined to help her. After they leave, the Captain finds Caitlin and she takes off for the northern MacKinnon lands in search of help.

That all seems pretty simple, but the author weaves a second story line into the  book. Millie is the wife of the Lord Caitlin angered. The story encounters Millie as she is devising a way to flee her abusive life and return to her family’s land in Scotland. She makes her escape while heavily pregnant and encounters Caitlin in her flight.

Also, Caitlin’s uncle Wabi is a wizard and has been trying to teach Caitlin about the powers she holds within herself. He pops in and out of the story, being quite skillfully depicted and lively. When Caitlin’s powers do finally emerge, the shock of them leaves her reeling and seeking guidance.

This book is part fantasy, part classic romance, and part woman power. Each chapter you are following and different character, which is confusing at first, particularly when they start introducing Millie’s story line. However, after the two story lines combine it gets easier. For the most part you are following six different characters and each usually gets their own chapter or part of a chapter in a cycle. The characters are extremely well developed. You have a definite feel for each character and what they are going to do. She even makes the people who aren’t there real through memories or stories of the other characters. The story could have used a little more down time and a little less conflict. I think she could have cut out one less enemy and still been fine. The accent of the brothers is heavy Scottish brogue, so if you’ve never read or heard it before that can be confusing as well.

Overall, not a bad book. It was good, just really complex. Anyone who is sensitive toward domestic abuse probably shouldn’t read it. If you like fantasy books that aren’t too out there, this is a great book. If you like reading fiction that takes place in Scotland, it is also a great book. I can’t say I’d recommend this for anyone getting into the genre because it can be confusing and it’s not quite built up well on the magical end (Wabi explains his abilities and powers well, but when it comes to Caitlin it’s very confusing). Overall, a decent read.

My rating:

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.29.30 PM

2016 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge · Book Reviews

Born in Shame (Irish Born #3) by Nora Roberts

Since I loved Born in Ice so much I decided to continue with the next book in the series. The story begins with Shannon Bodine, the mysterious half sister the Concannon girls were looking for, learning about her real father right before her mother dies. Not too soon after that, the private detective tracks her down and presents Shannon with the invitation to visit Ireland and meet her sisters. Shannon initially resents this and fights against this new knowledge. Eventually she gives in and take a leave of absence to go to Ireland to figure out what she wants to do with her life – not to meet or get to know her sisters.

When she arrives, she begins to fall in love with the country. Murphy immediately begins to fall in love with her. Through the book, Murphy and Shannon develop a strong relationship even as Shannon fights it. The majority of the book is Shannon dealing with and learning to accept that she is a part of this country and has a father that would have loved her if he had been able to. This is complicated by the feelings she has about betraying her father, the one that raised her, and her mother while coming to love her biological father and the sisters she has. The relationship between Shannon and Maggie is extremely rocky as Maggie doesn’t believe Shannon will accept the changes in her life or the people she has now. While she is in the country, Shannon takes the time to explore her painting talent. Everyone is blown away by her skill and work and even Sweeney, Maggie’s husband, convinces her to put her work in the local gallery.

This story was very complex and well written, I myself just didn’t particularly like the visions aspect that was wound into it. As soon as Shannon arrives, she begins to have dreams that  seemed to be memories of a long time ago and a man that reminds her a lot of Murphy. When she brings them up, Murphy has had the same dreams and is convinced that is how he knows Shannon is going to be the woman he is supposed to marry. She fights that as well.

There is a lot of conflict and emotional turmoil in the book. I didn’t like it as much as Born in Ice because I don’t think I could relate to Shannon as well as I did to Brianna or Maggie. It is however a good book and ends the trilogy rather well. There are a lot of conclusions and endings to issues that were around in the first two books and it was satisfying to have them worked out.

My rating:

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.29.16 PM

2015 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge · 2015 Pop Sugar Book Challenge · Book Reviews

The Hobbit: Graphic Novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, Adapted by Charles Dixon with Sean Deming, Illustrated by David Wenzel

This was the first graphic novel I’ve ever read so I’d like to talk about that first. I was very impressed with the artwork. I was glad to have bought an actual copy  of the novel instead of the Kindle version because the artwork was so good. The characters were neat to see and the different clothes and colors were fun. I had a little trouble with the text bubbles, non-spoken text I mean, which changed color depending on the colors of the artwork. I liked the font as well since it was easy to read. What I had issues with was I either followed the pictures or the words. I would find myself reading and then having to go back and look at the pictures because I had ignored them when I focused on the text. Also, I felt there were sections of the book missing. Not parts that mattered to the main story line, but the details you get of the background and feelings and extra happenings that you get from reading a book. Overall I didn’t mind the graphic novel at all, but I don’t think I’ll read a lot of them unless I am looking for a different way to read a familiar story or some really interesting or good artwork.

Now for the story. Like I mentioned, because I read it as a graphic novel, I feel there were details and other things I missed. However, the overall story was pretty interesting. I’ve tried to read The Hobbit several time, but I always seem to get bored. This method of reading it allowed me to get through the whole book and not be bored. It has actually produced some interest in me to read the actual book. The story line was interesting in that you got to see what a homebody was like on his first adventure – his fears, hopes, homesickness, and why he was helping everyone. You cheered for the dwarves as they tried to reclaim their land. You worried about the dragon and got to see the battle that helps when greed rules lives. The story moved along well and there was plenty of action to be had. I can see how it would draw a lot of people, especially men, to the story line. Bilbo is a very relateable character and the other characters were sketched out well.

I think this is a great book and that graphic novels, for others I suspect, is a fabulous and interesting way to read a book and appreciate art. The story was appropriate for all ages that can follow it, probably about 10 and up I’d say on the lower end. If you have someone that young, I would definitely start with this graphic novel as a way to get them involved in the book and interested in reading the full book. If you want to try out a graphic novel, this is a great one to start with as it follows a familiar story and has great art work.

My rating:

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.29.30 PM

2015 Pop Sugar Book Challenge · Book Reviews

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I have a friend who absolutely LOVES Alice in Wonderland. I’ve never seen the animated movie and I’ve watched snippets of the Sy-Fy Channel’s Alice movie. So when I saw the audiobook on sale in the iTunes store, I thought “Why not?”.

Let me begin by saying the audiobook I downloaded was actually done extremely well. It was made by an acting group – the Wizard Academy Press , so each character had a different voice actor. I loved the narrator and the woman who played Alice. There was music and sound effects as well. For an audiobook, it was very engaging.

I knew it was going to be a little strange going in, but I was quite surprised by how strange. Science Fiction is usually not my thing, not that this is exactly science fiction, but neither is it fantasy. I usually like fantasy, but this book was just not my cup of tea. I do give the author credit for creating a very vivid and crazy world that created a comprehensive story line though. It was well written and to most people probably quite interesting. It did grow on me some the longer I read it, especially once Alice got out of the hallway and to the White Rabbit’s house.

The story follows Alice after she falls down a rabbit hole. She goes through many adventures and meets numerous characters. She initially meets the White Rabbit, following him down the rabbit hole. Then she meets a few animals as she is swimming in the Pool of Tears. There is also the Hatter, the March Hare, the Dormouse, and the members of the pack of cards, with the King and Queen of Hearts as their leaders. Throughout it all, Alice is constantly growing and shrinking to fit the needs of the different environments and situations she ends up in.

If I were to listen or read it again, I would probably go with the written book just to make sure. However, I’m not sure I’m likely to read it again. Like I said, it wasn’t really my version of an interesting book, just strange. Also, the majority of the time I spent criticizing Alice for being idiotic in my opinion. So like I said, not my thing, but I’m sure others really enjoy this book. I don’t think I’d really let children under probably 12 or 13 read it because there are drug references, violence, and some more advanced topics, such as a philosophical discussion on time, that are scattered throughout the book.

My rating:

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.29.41 PM

Book Reviews

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter #6) by J. K. Rowling

When I sat and thought about it, I realized there wasn’t really a whole lot of things that actually happened in this book. There are a few hugely important events, but all in all, the majority of the story is background information and series of suspicions and small occurrences that lead to the important events. That being said, I actually really liked this book. It felt like things were happening all the time even though it was only thoughts or history being presented.

The story opens with Dumbledore escorting Harry to the Weasleys’ house. They take a detour on the way and end up visiting Professor Slughorn, a man Dumbledore is attempting to get to teach at Hogwarts that year. Through Harry’s efforts, Professor Slughorn agrees to come to the school. Harry is rather baffled why Dumbledore seems to express such importance on Slughorn going to Hogwarts, but this is later discovered by Harry. At the Weasleys’ you learn of Bill and Fleur’s engagement and upcoming wedding and the gang prepares for another year at school. When they visit Diagon Alley for supplies, they are saddened by the number of closed shops and the scared feeling from the crowd because of Voldemort’s return and current mayhem. They also visit Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, the joke shop run by Fred and George. When they return to school, Harry begins to take lessons with Dumbledore on the history of Voldemort in order to better understand his enemy. They start back at the very beginning with Voldemort’s parents and later with him in the orphanage before he comes to Hogwarts. Later, Harry discovers that Slughorn was plays a key role in an important aspect of Voldemort’s rise of power – a memory that Harry has to persuade off the new potions teacher. The leads to the discovery and belief that Voldemort created Horcruxes, objects that hold a piece of his soul that allows him to remain alive even if his body is dead. Throughout this whole time, Harry is also balancing his lessons with being the Quidditch captain, a budding relationship with Ginny, and chasing Draco Malfoy around. Harry believes Malfoy to be a Deatheater and up to something at the school. He employs Dobby and another house elf to follow Draco and figure out what he is up to. Harry believes he is behind the two near death experiences of two students, but cannot prove it. All he knows is that Draco disappears into the Room of Requirement for long periods of time. What he is truly doing is discovered at the end of the book, proving Harry right. Furthermore, Harry is accidentally given a book in potions class that has been written in and modified by someone who identifies themselves as the Half-Blood Prince. Throughout the book, Harry uses this modified potions book to excel in his potions class and get close to Slughorn. The modified book as provides new spells written in the margins that have varying effects. Hermione is convinced the book is written by a dark wizard, but Harry insists on continuing to read it and learn the new jinxes. The end result of this study is a brutal surprise that leaves Harry reeling from what he has done.

The book covers a lot of information.The majority of the time, Harry is in high emotional states, usually angry or frustrated that no one will believe him about Malfoy. There is a lot of stress from being the Quidditch captain and his growing relationship with Ginny is interesting to see. There is a funny sort of way the author describes Harry’s coming to realize his feelings for Ginny that I found rather amusing. The growing relationship between Hermione and Ron is also fraught with emotional turmoil as Ron dates Lavender. The struggle between the boys and Hermione about the Half-Blood Prince’s book gets somewhat old, but at least the boys come up with different reasons why Harry should keep reading it each time the subject is brought up. Most interesting was probably the history on Voldemort. You learn a lot about him that you didn’t know before and can see how everyone noticed something was wrong but didn’t stop him before he left Hogwarts. Also, the Horcruxes were an interesting item that helps explain a lot about Voldemort and provides for a more complex story line in the future.

Overall, I think the book was great and showed a fairly good depth of character that was missing in the earliest books. You get to see more emotion from all the characters and the result is just a deeper feeling book that pulls you in. The book didn’t feel like it dragged along in places, but kept the pace going continually through the book. Again, this is not the best book for young children, but probably middle school age or higher is my suggestion.

My rating:

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.29.16 PM

Book Reviews

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter #5) by J. K. Rowling


I can’t say this book was a disappointment, but it definitely was not my favorite. When I finished, I thought to myself that this is an exemplary example of a transition book. It felt designed to segue between to points, before Voldemort and after Voldemort returns. There was a lot of anger, strife, and cruelty in this book, particularly related to Dolores Umbridge. The storyline did progress quite far, however when I was reading it seemed to never end. I don’t know why it seemed to last an obscenely long time, but it just felt like it.

The story opens with Harry fighting off dementors in the small London village where he lives with his aunt and uncle. The Ministry of Magic finds out about his magical defense of himself and his cousin and ends up suspending him from Hogwarts pending a formal hearing. Shortly after, Harry is collected by a few friends to be taken to a secret hideout. The hideout is Sirius’s family home and serves as the base for the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore’s group of ‘soldiers’ that help to fight Lord Voldemort. Harry is angered that he has been kept in the dark so long and unable to talk to Dumbledore. During his hearing, Dumbledore appears and helps Harry to get the charges dropped. Once at Hogwarts, the estrangement from Dumbledore continues. Furthermore, there is a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher who is an agent of the Ministry of Magic, Dolores Umbridge. Throughout the school year, the Ministry exerts more and more power over the school, leading to Dolores Umbridge reviewing and firing teachers, handling all discipline, and eventually taking full control of the school. There is a lot of anger, fear, and abuse that goes on during this school year due to Umbridge. Throughout it all, Harry and his friends try to fight against Voldemort who finds a way to use Harry and his mind to do his bidding, even unintentionally. In order to fight Voldemort, Harry and Hermione set up a secret dark arts defense group that meets and teaches the young members how to perform jinxes and counter curses to better protect themselves. Unfortunately, they end up needing the knowledge at the end of the book, right in time to prove to the world that Voldemort is back.

Like it said, a lot happens in this book but it simply feels like a transitional book. Furthermore, there was no happiness to be found in it. In the other books, there was humor and happy moments to even out the bad, but this book was depressing all through. It does give you the inevitable doom that is prevalent throughout. At the end, you feel just as lost and just as hopeless as the others. I’ve watched the movies, and the other books do not seem much happier, but I want to keep reading just to see what happens to the characters.

You get to see a little bit more of Ginny in this book which I like. I think she and Hermione are my favorite characters. I look forward to seeing more of them in the coming books. Also, I am looking forward to seeing the relationships develop as the characters grow up and fall in love with each other. The relationships between all the characters grow and change in this book. You get to see a wide variety of emotional issues and situations that arise and how the characters travel through these tough times. The story does move along in a way that does not allow for repetition, but constant change and progress. It never really becomes stagnant. It is just really, really long and depressing.

In the end, I think this book needs to be read because it fills in a lot of history and information as well as providing the basis for the coming war. This book is definitely not for younger readers. I would say no one younger than probably 12 or 13. There is abuse, cruelty, death, and terror throughout the book and it will not be suitable for everyone.

My rating:

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.29.30 PM

2015 Pop Sugar Book Challenge · Book Reviews

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter #4) by J. K. Rowling


Another winner by J. K. Rowling. This book again was very in-depth and strongly emotional. It seamlessly continues the story of Harry Potter as he ends the summer and begins his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

At the end of the summer, Harry is invited to the Weasleys’ house to attend the Quidditch World Cup being held in England for the first time in a number of years. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are impressed by the game and are eager to talk about it afterwards. However, terror reigns in the camps around the arena as Death Eaters enter and begin to torture muggles. The Dark Mark appears in the sky and everyone scatters. No one knows what to make of it and people leave the game feeling very uneasy.

At school, they announce the Triwizard Tournament will be held at Hogwarts, inviting two other schools to join them on the Hogwarts campus. The tournament is known for its deadly tasks, and there is an age limit for those who can sign up to enter. Somehow, Harry’s name is entered and selected, making him the second champion from Hogwarts which has never happened before. Throughout the school year, the champions participate in three deadly tasks to show their skills and bring glory to their school. The champions are Fleur Delacoure, Viktor Krum, Harry, and Cedric Diggory. There is a lot of division within Hogwarts about who to support – Cedric or Harry. There is also a lot of strain placed on the friendships that are present throughout the book. A journalist is constantly digging up gossip on the people at Hogwarts causing additional problems, as well as strange goings on at the Ministry of Magic. In the end, Harry finally comes face to face with Voldemort, his Death Eaters, and the truth about the past and who he is meant to be.

You can see the students growing into teenagers. There are several themes present that were there before. Lust, attraction, jealousy, poverty, and mistrust begin to develop in this book. The characters are rounding out well and you are really getting to know what they are truly like deep down. You learn who supports Voldemort and who doesn’t. You get a lot of the backstory of what happened as the reign of Voldemort ended and how it is impacting the things going on in the book. Everything is starting to get tied together. Sirius Black begins to get woven in to the story and you learn more about Severus Snape. Dumbledore as well begins to show some of his history and power. It is quite a heartwrenching book. The emotions run so strongly throughout you are constantly being pulled in different directions on who to side with. I actually would have loved to see part of this book told from Hermione’s point of view. She is becoming quite an interesting character. As a woman, I would be interested to see how she viewed everything and what she was feeling and going through at different points in this book. I understand why the book has to be told from Harry’s point of view, but it would be interesting to see.

I would not recommend this book to anyone under seventh grade. The themes, the characters, and the darkness of the story line are too advanced for someone of younger years. However, as an adult reader I felt I could much more easily relate to this book as the characters are starting to grow up and see the world through the eyes of an adult. I had trouble deciding whether to rate this book with a 4 or a 5. I went with a four only because I am hoping the next books are even better.

My rating:

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.29.16 PM