Icons by Margaret Stohl



Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

I’m giving this book 4 stars out of 5.  I really enjoyed this book, but it was kind of hard to follow along with what exactly was going on in some parts, but it was a great book other than that!

Icons was a book I was excited for, and I really wanted to like, not because the author wrote Beautiful Creatures but because the cover was very intriguing as well.

Icons takes place in a future where aliens invaded the Earth and created contraptions that give them the ability to control how long you live. Main character Dol has lived since the Day and has been living in the countryside, far away from the Sympas, the cities and the Icons. On Dol’s birthday Sympa soldiers invade the safe haven the Padre created and in the end, capture Dol and her best friend Ro. The two are taken to the Embassy. Immediately Dol and Ro are worried and have many questions like what their new lives in the Embassy entail.

While in the Embassy, Dol and Ro meet a captured girl named Tima and meet Ambassador Amare’s son, Lucas who Dol is drawn to. What brings them all together are the strange birthmarks that are on each person and the strange abilities that they all have. Dol can feel emotions and she knows that the others can do superhuman things as well. After giving up a book that might have had all the answers Dol could ever need, the group begins to wonder if they are part of something larger than themselves and if their sudden meeting is not so much of a coincidence as they believe.

Icons throws you right into action, mystery and a seriously fast pace. The first hundred-or-so pages seriously sent my mind spinning and had me hooked. The novel starts with a prologue that takes place on the Day when Dol’s entire family drops dead and the Icons show off their true power. The novel slows down as Dol and Ro celebrate Dol’s birthday. Everything seems fine and happy, it’s the future and it all seems pleasant until the Sympas show up and there’s action and murder all over the place.

The one thing that makes this bok very different than most novels I’ve read are the classified documents that come before every single chapter. They are sometimes letters between the Ambassador and other character that have transcripts of events or articles from before the Day or snippets from the book that Dol gave away. It’s really cool and makes the novel feel really authentic and real. I was worried about the authenticity of the novel at first, but after all of this, it became clear that Icons is as authentic as it gets.  The characters in Icons are ones that I think are memorable and will leave readers wanting to know what happens next to them.

I’d recommend Icons to readers that are looking for a dystopian novel with a twist, readers who are fans of alien invasions and readers who want a story about love and death.


Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall



Some of the best things in life come when you’re not planning on them.  It’s important to see them for the gift they are.


Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥


I would first like to thank this author’s publisher for sending me Susan’s book!  Now, before I give my review, look at this amazing book cover!

This story is told through the voice of 9 year old Starla.  Her southern-twang voice made me have to read some parts of the story out loud in this accent, it was to great no to!  Starla is a girl, most like any 9 year old’s who dreams of going to the carnival, building forts and trying her best to stay out of trouble, which usually doesn’t work out for her, some say it’s her red hair.  Starla lives with her grandma, her mother ran off to be a country singer and her dad works for an oil rig.  All the while, she thinks of ways she will die because of how she is being “mis-treated,” and most of all, she wants to be reunited with her mother.

There is a touch of suspense in this book, simply because the story becomes so complicated with the entrance of Eula.  While ‘running away’ to Nashville to find her mother, Starla is picked up off the road by Eula who has a little baby boy with her as well.  It is this decision that alters her life forever, shedding light on the world outside Starla’s quiet, safe home.  Despite her young age, by the time Starla reaches the end of her long and harrowing journey she has discovered and experienced more than most adults do in a lifetime.  Crandall details life in the South without holding back any of the darker, harsher realities of segregation and racial tension.  As I read and was reminded of things such as the Jim Crow laws, Martin Luther King, Jr’s march, and the struggles of the civil rights movement in the South during this time, I noticed that pieces were falling into place quite nicely.  So, I just sat back and enjoyed the ride.

I loved this book.  I think it would make a great book club book, a fantastic summer or winter read, and it carries a message with such beautiful, poignant humor that I think it will strike a chord in every reader that also falls for it’s beautiful cover!  Keep an eye out, Susan Crandall is going to be my featured author of the month in March!


The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub



Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

The Talisman is novel about a boy’s journey across the country. Of course, if you know anything about these authors, you know that the novel is not as simple as that sentence just made it sound. Sure, it is the story of a boy and he sure is heading across the country, but we’re talking King and Straub here. There is much more to the story than that.

The Talisman revolves around a world that is decidedly King’s creation. The main character Jack is a boy of 12 who is somehow the keeper of two worlds that are connected, but somehow different. Those two worlds are the world we know and one known as the Territories. He must save both worlds and his mother in both worlds from an evil man named Morgan. Morgan Sloat here, Morgan of Orris there. He must save these worlds and his mother(s) by finding the item on which all worlds, many more than these two, rely. This item is the Talisman and it is kept a country away from Jack within an evil castle that will try everything to stop Jack from getting his hands on it.

Peter Straub and Stephen King manage to weave a world that is both horrific and beautiful in the Territories. They also manage to remind us of what is horrific and what is beautiful in our world. The reader cannot help but become engrossed in Jack’s journey as we see him weave his way through both worlds, faltering at times, but always full of inner strength. Like a good fantasy novel, The Talisman has heroes of unlikely sorts and evils beyond comprehension. It is gripping, it is gruesome, it is sweet and it is charming in all of its complexity.   There is a sequel as well.   It is called The Black House.  I just grab this book, knowing that I love the way Stephen King writes and this book did not disappoint (which they have yet to do!).  I’m not sure when I will get around to reading the second one as I am trying to finish up the book I am giving away at World Book Night America as well as a book of my featured author of the month for March!  Happy reading!!

100 years ago on this day…

100 years ago on this day, February 19, 1914, rather than purchasing a more costly train ticket, the parents of four-year-old May Pierstorff opt to send their daughter to visit her grandparents via the U.S. Postal Service. Little May wore fifty-three cents worth of U.S. postage stamps on her coat as she rode more than seventy miles in the train’s mail compartment from Grangeville to Lewiston, Idaho.

Here is a children’s book written about it!






The Tenth Witness by Leonard Rosen



Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

What an interesting, thought provoking book.  It’s the story of a young French engineer, Henri Poincare, who in the 1970’s has designed a dive platform for searching for a sunken ship off the coast of Germany.  While there he meets and falls in love with a German woman named Liesel Kraus who comes from a wealthy industrialist family.  Her family got it’s wealth got it’s start during WWII making steel from Hitler and the Nazis.  Henri is hired by Liesel’s brother to develop a way to extricate gold from old computers, but is troubled by the murky history of the family.  When his adopted uncle, who had survived a concentration camp, dies, Henri is compelled to find out the story of the past that his uncle was never able to talk about.  During his exhaustive research, Henri discovers connections between the Kraus family and the Nazi war effort, through 10 witnesses, who are now strangely dying off, declared that Otto Kraus, the family patriarch, had been of great help to the Jewish slaves who worked in the mills.

Along the way Henri has questions not only about the Kraus family, but about his own ethics as well.  Is the expedient thing also the right thing, or is that only something he tells himself?  How Henri deals with the truths he discovers was as fascinating as the mysteries he solved.

This book is a prequel to the author’s previous book, All Cry Chaos, in which Henri is an older man, working for Interpol and on the verge of retirement.  I hadn’t heard of this book before, but I will have to read it now that I have read this!


Featured Author of the Month…John Gaspard


I would like to introduce to you my featured author of the month, John Gaspard.  Author of  “The Ambitious Card (An Eli Marks Mystery)“, which I have reviewed here: “The Ambitious Card (An Eli Marks Mystery)“!  Check out my amazing interview with him!

John worked as a video producer for a multi-national company. He made low-budget features on the side. John’s blog, “Fast, Cheap Movie Thoughts,” has been named “One of the 50 Best Blogs for Moviemakers” and “One of the 100 Best Blogs for Film and Theater Students.” And, as it says in his official bio, he lives in Minnesota and shares his home with his lovely wife, a few dogs, several cats and a handful of pet allergies.

Sierra: When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

John: I’ve been writing screenplays since my early teens, but didn’t turn to fiction/novel writing until a few years back. I finished my first novel, tried to find a publisher, found a bad one and was able to get the book back before it was published. I set that book aside and sat down and wrote “The Ambitious Card.”

Sierra: Tell us a little bit about your first book or the first book in the series.

John: “The Ambitious Card” is a humorous mystery novel about a working magician, Eli Marks. He is recently divorced and has moved back into his apartment above his uncle’s magic shop in South Minneapolis. Eli gets pulled into the investigation of a series of murders when he publicly debunks a local psychic, who then turns up dead the next day.

Sierra: How did you choose the genre you write in?

John: I’ve always been a fan of light, comic mysteries and thought that a working magician might be a fun starting point for a series of mysteries.

Sierra: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write?

John: It’s always the part that I’m just about to write …

Sierra: Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

John: The book mixes real and fictional locations with abandon. Eli’s experiences as a magician are based on research, but the characters, relationships (and of course the murders) are all fictional.

Sierra: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

John: Several years ago my brother turned me onto the work of mystery writer Lawrence Block and I devoured his Matthew Scudder series, along with his “Burglar” series and his “Keller” series. The Eli Marks mysteries owe a great debt to the tone that Block set in his “Burglar” books.

Sierra: Do you ever experience writers block?

John: I run into speed bumps, but never anything that I’d call a block. I always know (generally) what is going to happen in each chapter before I sit down to write it, and I always know the ending before I start.

Sierra: Will you have a new book coming out soon? If so, can you tell us about it?

John: The second book in the Eli Marks series, “The Bullet Catch,” will be coming out sometime in late 2014.

Sierra: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

John: Two things. First, follow Elmore’s Leonard’s rule: “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” When I first read that, I thought he was being factitious, but it turns out that is really great advice.

Second, don’t give up. “The Ambitious Card” went through two different agents, both of them excellent. They were both well-connected and submitted the book to many, many publishers. And the book was rejected by all of them. After the first agent gave up on the book, I tried the second agent, who worked just as hard. And then she gave up on the book. But I kept looking, feeling that the book would eventually find a publisher and an audience.

I was reading a review of a book in “Mystery Scene” magazine and the tone of the book being reviewed felt like the tone of “The Ambitious Card” – a light, funny, contemporary mystery. So I tracked down the name of the publisher and submitted the book and three days later they called and said they wanted it.

So, never give up and keep trying to find a home for your book. And, if you’re writing a mystery, read “Mystery Scene” magazine. Just for luck.

Sierra: Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?

John: Keep buying and reading books from independent publishers!