Wagging Through The Snow (Melanie Travis 21) By Laurien Berenson [Book Review]

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Book Review: Wagging Through The Snow (Melanie Travis 21) by Laurien Berenson | Cozy Mystery | Fiction | Holiday Reading | Book Blogger | Blogging | RachelPoli.com

I got it as a Christmas gift.

Summary:

Melanie Travis needs a little peace from her busy life this Christmas. But the usual holiday hubbub is a joy compared to the killer surprise she finds tucked underneath the tree . . .

With a demanding teaching job at Connecticut’s elite Howard Academy and five poodles scampering around the house, Melanie barely has energy for the upcoming Christmas rush. But she unwraps an unexpected challenge when her brother and ex-husband, elated by the recent success of their country cafe, make a spontaneous bid on a dilapidated pine tree farm. Although the ten-acre lot had been a popular seasonal destination while the original owner was still alive, it’ll take some sprucing up–and a small miracle or two–before the neglected place is in shape for December.

Unfortunately, the impromptu business venture goes cold when the group discovers a purebred Maltese whimpering in the snow-covered grove–right beside a dead body. Pete, a squatter who camped out on the land, apparently met his end after a fallen fir tree branch knocked him on the head. But as Melanie and Aunt Peg investigate Pete’s history and the terrible habit that cost him everything, it’s clear his death was no accident. Now, Melanie must run through a flurry of likely suspects and muzzle a dogged murderer in time–or she’ll be next on someone’s deadly list.

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.comThe cover is adorable with a Maltese dog stealing the show wearing a Santa hat. While the dog isn’t a huge part of the story, it’s still a piece of it and it matches the title pretty well.

First Thoughts | RachelPoli.comI got this book as a Christmas gift. This is book number 21 in the Melanie Travis series, but it’s book number one for me. Thankfully, the books don’t have to be read in order, but I’m sure the characters are well established by now.

Plot | RachelPoli.comMelanie’s brother and ex-husband own and run a country cafe together and, when her simple-minded brother decides to go to an auction, he ends up with a Christmas tree farm. With Christmas around the corner, they decided to put the new business to the test – only to find a dead body in the woods behind the house.

Overall, this plot was one typical of a cozy mystery. Something good happens to the protagonist, they stumble upon a dead body, and then they investigate. The majority of this book was Melanie running around and talking to people to figure out who this man was, why he was out there, and how/why he died. Once it was revealed, there was a quick, tense scene at the end. That was all. So, this book was “cozy” at its finest.

Characters | RachelPoli.comI enjoyed all the characters. I felt they meshed well together and there was a good amount of personality. I certainly loved Melanie’s Aunt – she stole the scenes for me while reading. She had a fun, boisterous personality. I also loved Melanie’s brother – I love a good risk-taker.

Melanie’s ex-husband and husband were just kind of okay to me. Her husband especially didn’t seem to be in the book as much. I loved the pack of Poodles they own though. That was definitely a nice touch.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

This book is just shy of 200 pages. It’s a quick read and the words flow from one page to another. The pace was even throughout and while I would have liked to see more action, it was a relaxing read. The investigation was easy to follow, though I didn’t know who it was until the ending when it was revealed.

Overall | RachelPoli.comWagging Through the Snow was a pretty good read. I don’t think I know the characters as well enough as I should, but I think I’ll look into getting the first book sometime.

Wagging Through the Snow (Melanie Travis 21) by Laurien Berenson gets…
Book Review Rating System | 3 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com3 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“Life changes everyone. Some people learn to roll with the punches. Others fall down.” -Laurien Berenson, Wagging Through The Snow

Buy the book:

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Be sure to take a look at the other Book Reviews I’ve done!

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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Even Salt Looks Like Sugar By Yecheilyah Ysrayl [Book Review]

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Book Review: Even Salt Looks Like Sugar by Yecheilyah Ysrayl | Novella | Fiction | ARC | Book Blog | RachelPoli.com

I received an ARC from the author.

Summary:

Wanda wants nothing more than to escape the oppressive upbringing of life with her abusive foster mother. Miss Cassaundra manipulates the system by bringing lost children into her home turned whorehouse and collecting the money. Wanda knows what it’s like to be abandoned and has no doubt that Abby is Cassaundra’s next case. When an opportunity arises that could save them both, Wanda must find a way to get the paperwork that will secure their freedom. But Cassaundra’s got eyes everywhere and no one can be trusted when even salt looks like sugar.

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.comI love the cover to this one. The title is the main focus and the color choices work well together.

First Thoughts | RachelPoli.comI’ve read a lot from this author so I was eager to give this one a read when it came out.

Plot | RachelPoli.com

This novella faces some tough dilemmas. Wanda is in a foster home with Miss Cassaundra as her foster mother. Miss Cassaundra is only in it for the money taking more and more children in. Wanda takes a young girl, Abby, under her wing and devises a plan to free them both.

A lot happens in these short 60 pages but there is a clear beginning, middle, and end of the plot. It was well done and the plot was engaging and interesting.

Characters | RachelPoli.comAll the characters are well done. I loved the dynamic between Wanda and everyone else in her life – Abby, her best friend Rose, and even Miss Cassaundra. While I’d like to know more about them, I think there was a good amount of information about them for the story. Still, I definitely want to know more about Miss Cassaundra’s story.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

This was certainly a quick read at 60 pages. Despite the length, it was easy to read this in one sitting. I sometimes get tripped up by the voices used for the characters, but it’s authentic and diverse so it’s certainly not a complaint.

Overall | RachelPoli.comThis was another great read from this author. I’ll be looking forward to her next one.

Even Salt Looks Like Sugar by Yecheilyah Ysrayl gets…
Book Review Rating System | 4 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com4 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“You may not have a mama. But you smart. You can do anything you want.” -Yecheilyah Ysrayl, Even Salt Looks Like Sugar

Buy the book:

Amazon

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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The One And Only Ivan By Katherine Applegate [Book Review]

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Book Review: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate | Middle grade | Fiction | Reading | Blogging | Book Blogger | RachelPoli.com

My mom borrowed it from her work’s library.

Summary:

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.comThe cover is cute. I like the art style and the spotlight on Ivan and Ruby is sort of a metaphor in a way.

First Thoughts | RachelPoli.comThis is a book I’ve thought about reading so many times, but I’ve never picked it up. After reading Wishtree, my mom and I were talking about this book. So, she brought Wishtree back to the library and picked up this one.

Plot | RachelPoli.comIvan is somewhat happy in his “domain” at the circus. He draws a lot which sells at the gift shop. He has his friends Stella the elephant and Bob the stray dog. They’re as happy as they can be living within closed walls at the circus.

Ruby, a baby elephant comes along. Mack, the circus owner, buys her for the show in an attempt to get more visitors. Ruby is afraid and sad. She misses her life in the wild with her family. She makes Ivan remember what happened to his own family. Then they plan the escape.

Told through Ivan’s eyes, this is a heartwarming story and really opens your eyes to animals in the circus and even at the zoo. It’s true to life with poaching involved and will make you shed a couple of tears. This was a good plot with a nice message though.

Characters | RachelPoli.comAll the characters were well done. This book doesn’t have a big cast. There’s Ivan, Stella, Bob, and Ruby. Mack owns the circus, George is the janitor, and Julia is George’s daughter who hangs around the circus. She draws and often gives Ivan paper and crayons to color with.

All the characters are great and serve their own purpose. Mack is the “bad guy” of this story, though I sympathize with him. He wasn’t necessarily a bad man, but didn’t go about certain things the right way.

Overall, I loved all the characters.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

This book was very simple to read. It wasn’t written in blocks of text but blog-style. I think it was simple because it was coming from the voice of a naive gorilla who only knew the circus and his domain. This book is 300-pages long, but I got through it within a day. It was that quick and that good.

Overall | RachelPoli.comOverall, this was another great read. After reading two books from Katherine Applegate now, I’m looking forward to reading more by her.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate gets…
Book Review Rating System | 5 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com5 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“Memories are precious… they help tell us who we are.” -Katherine Applegate, The One and Only Ivan

Buy the book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Abe Books

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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Cracked Open By Megan O’Keeffe [Book Review]

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Book Review: Cracked Open by Megan O'Keeffe | Poetry | Blogging | Book Blogger | Reading | Poetry Collection | RachelPoli.com

I received a free digital copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

A collection of love poems.

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.comI think the book cover is very pretty. I like the colors and it certainly looks like exactly what the title suggests – something is cracked open.

First Thoughts | RachelPoli.comI’ve read my fair share of poetry collections so I was more than happy to give this one a try.

Plot | RachelPoli.comCracked Open is about the narrator getting over her lover. And… that’s pretty much it. There is a happy ending but it took a while to get there. This collection tells a story through its poetry from start to finish yet I didn’t feel as though there was a beginning, middle, and end.

Characters | RachelPoli.comI don’t have much to say about the characters. There are no names and not many gender pronouns used either. I could relate with the narrator since I’ve been through a break up before. I have to say, that part was captured nicely and accurately despite each of us going through it in our own way.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

The poems in this collection were just okay for me. They were free verse – most of them not really having much rhyme or rhythm. With that said, the poems didn’t seem to flow well for me. I felt as though I was reading a letter written by the narrator to her ex instead of poetry. The words felt a little flat rather than poetic and while the emotion was well captured, it felt as though the narrator was just complaining to her ex rather than fully letting go of her emotions in a rhythmic poem.

Overall | RachelPoli.comCracked Open wasn’t a bad read. It’s short and sweet. I couldn’t connect with the poems that much though I did sympathize with the main character, whoever she may be. With that said, this was just an okay read for me.

Cracked Open by Megan O’Keeffe gets…
Book Review Rating System | 3 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com3 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“We are not a love story
and we are not a lesson.
We were just two people wasting time
Comfortable in the in-between
hiding from our truths.”
-Megan O’Keeffe, Cracked Open

Buy the book:

Amazon

About Megan O’Keeffe

Megan O'Keeffe | Author | Cracked Open | Poet | Poetry Books | Book Blogger | Blogging | RachelPoli.comUp and coming Poet, Megan OKeeffe has been writing poetry for the last decade and has made the leap to publish her first collection. The love and support Meg received from her blog Debatably Dateable encouraged her to make this next step in her writing career. When she’s not writing, Meg is binging Brooklyn 99 or walking her dog Maverick. You may spot her touring the newest spot on Long Island, NY with her sisters and boyfriends.

Be sure to check out other Poetry books I’ve reviewed!

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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Murder Go Round (Witch City Mystery 4) By Carol J. Perry [Book Review]

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Book Review: Murder Go Round (Witch City Mystery 4) by Carol J. Perry | Cozy Mystery | Paranormal | Fiction | Reading | RachelPoli.com

I received a free paperback copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

A killer takes a spin through Salem . . .

Lee Barrett has agreed to attend a storage auction with Aunt Ibby–even though she suspects the forgotten rooms will yield more junk than treasure. Her skepticism vanishes once the two win a bid on an overlooked locker and uncover a trove of beautiful curiosities, including a stunning wooden carousel horse with gentle eyes and fading paint. But just before Lee leaves the fairground relic at a local repair shop, the sight of a silver samovar awakens her psychic abilities and conjures visions of murder.

Lee prays the intrusive ESP episode was just a glimpse into the past–until her policeman boyfriend reports a dead man outside the repair shop. Apparently, the unknown victim had been hot on Lee’s trail since the auction. And with the horse found dismantled, it looks like he was up to no good. What’s the story behind the antique equine, and could a strange bubblegum-chewing woman with fiery hair have something to do with the crime? Guided by her gift and O’Ryan, her wise tabby cat, Lee’s set on catching the murderer . . . before she’s sent on the darkest ride of her life.

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.com

The cover is keeping with similar colors like the previous books. It really matches the series and the plot of the book well.

First Thoughts | RachelPoli.com

This is a great series and I’m really enjoying it so far. I’m happy I’ve had the opportunity to read through it all.

Plot | RachelPoli.com

Lee and her aunt Ibby find themselves in the middle of yet another murder once they buy a storage locker filled with antique goodies at an auction. A key piece is a carnival-like horse.

This is what I love about the plot of this book and the ones before it – they’re all unique and fun. The evidence isn’t exactly what it would seem and you don’t necessarily know what any of it has to do with the rest until more people talk. It’s a great story and mystery to figure out.

Characters | RachelPoli.com

As always, Lee, Aunt Ibby, Pete, and River are wonderful. I still think they’re a great cast of characters. There are always characters who you’re not sure about either which is always a thrill.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

The author’s writing is as beautiful as ever. The dialogue is spot-on, each character having their own unique voice, the description of the people, places, and actions are all well done too. This book is almost at 400 pages but it’s a quick read. You can’t put it down.

Overall | RachelPoli.com

This is yet another great mystery for the Witch City series. I’m looking forward to reading book five.

Murder Go Round (Witch City Mystery 4) by Carol J. Perry gets…
Book Review Rating System | 5 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com5 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“Strangely enough, it makes me think of a carousel, going around and around, with none of the horses ever catching up with the one ahead of him.” -Carol J. Perry, Murder Go Round

Buy the book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Abe Books

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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Look Both Ways (Book 3) By Carol J. Perry [Book Review]

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Book Review: Look Both Ways (Witch City Mystery 3) by Carol J. Perry | Cozy Mystery | Paranormal | Fiction | Reading | RachelPoli.com

I received a free paperback copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

In Salem, Massachusetts, there are secret everywhere–even in the furniture. . .

When Lee Barrett spots the same style oak bureau she once had as a child on the WICH-TV show, Shopping Salem, she rushes to the antiques shop and buys the piece. Just like the beloved bureau she lost in a fire, this one has secret compartments. It also comes with an intriguing history–it was purchased in an estate sale from a home where a famous local murder took place.

The day after the bureau is delivered, Lee returns to the antiques shop and finds the owner dead. The police suspect the shop owner’s unscrupulous business partner, but Lee wonders if the murder is connected to her new furniture. At least part of the answer may be revealed through a mirror in the bureau, tarnished and blackened, allowing Lee to tap into her psychic visions. Using this bureau of investigation, Lee may be able to furnish her policeman beau with the evidence needed to catch the killer–before the next one to be shut up is her. . .

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.com

As usual, I think the book cover is great. The colors are well done as is the font for the title. It really conveys what the story entails.

First Thoughts | RachelPoli.com

I read and enjoyed the first two books in the series and was excited to read on.

Plot | RachelPoli.com

The plot around this one revolves around an old murder sort of due to a piece of furniture Lee buys. I think that’s a pretty unique thing to fixate on. There were a lot of questions asked straight from the beginning and is slowly revealed throughout the story, which is great.

Characters | RachelPoli.com

It’s always fun to revisit Lee, Aunt Ibby, Pete, and River North. They’re one of my favorite group of characters to follow. Even the side characters, suspects and culprits were some of my favorite characters in the series so far. They were all so interesting.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

This is written in 3rd-person limited with Lee as the POV character. What I love most about reading the story through her is that she doesn’t actively investigate. She’s curious but she doesn’t go looking for trouble and it all plays out naturally.

The dialogue is great and I absolutely love the description, especially for the setting. This is certainly an easy book to read and hard to put down.

Overall | RachelPoli.com

Book three of this series did not disappoint. I think this was my favorite one out of them… so far. If you’re in paranormal cozy mysteries, please do give this one a try.

Look Both Ways (Witch City Mystery 3) by Carol J. Perry gets…
Book Review Rating System | 5 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com5 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“That annoying ‘It’s A Small World’ song from Walt Disney World started playing in my head.” -Carol J. Perry, Look Both Ways (Witch City Mystery 3)

Buy the book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Abe Books

Liked this review? You can read my reviews for Caught Dead Handed and Tails, You Lose by Carol J. Perry. Or you can check out all the Book Reviews on the site.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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Sigil By Aidan J. Reid [Book Review]

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Book Review: Sigil by Aidan J. Reid | Mystery | Suspense | Reading | Book Blogger | RachelPoli.com

I received a free digital copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

– EVERY VILLAGE HAS ITS SECRETS –

The sleepy Irish village of Ballygorm is shocked one bright summer morning by the tragic news that one of their own, a successful young builder and devoted family man has been found dead, hanging in an apparent suicide.

But Parish Priest, Father Tom Regan is sceptical. Inspired by his TV detective hero, Fr Regan uses his twin role as confessional confidante and the village’s religious figurehead to investigate the mysterious death and he suspects foul play.

Piecing the clues together, he finds that his outwardly pious and tight-knit community has been harbouring a murderer in a village where everyone is a suspect.

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.com

I do like the cover. I think the colors are pretty, despite the dark aura. It looks mysterious which is what this book is all about.

First Thoughts | RachelPoli.com

I’ve read a few things from Aidan before and enjoy his books. Mystery is my favorite as well so I was eager to jump on this.

Plot | RachelPoli.com

I found the plot unique in the sense that a priest is solving the murder – well, he’s taken it upon himself to follow the clues while everyone else brushes the murder off as a suicide.

This was certainly an interesting way to do things, however it wasn’t as believable as I thought it would be. The victim was hung with his hands tied behind his back, which should have been a red flag to everyone in town. Still, it was interesting all the same to watch Father Regan piece it together.

Characters | RachelPoli.com

I enjoyed following Father Regan around though I didn’t feel as though I could get close to him or anyone else in the story. All the characters were well written and had unique personalities, which was great. Though the book is told in third person omniscient, which it’s my favorite POV to read. It was hard to guess what people were feeling when it was told to me through the narrative or Father Regan “assuming” how they felt.

With that said, the characters were good, but I was able to see right through them.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

The book is well written. The POV is not a personal preference of mine so it was harder for me to read, but it was still done well. Some chapters were told seeing other characters – such as the culprits – which was interesting. One chapter in particular was strictly dialogue. It wasn’t long, but I enjoyed that bit.

The story was easy to follow along – for the most part. There are a lot of twists, but that’s a good thing and it was done well.

Overall | RachelPoli.com

This was a good read. I think I would have enjoyed it more if it was written in a different POV, though that’s just my personal preference. Definitely give this a read if it sounds enticing to you and if you enjoy a good murder mystery.

Sigil by Aidan J. Reid gets…
Book Review Rating System | 3 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com3 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“He was used to people changing their behavior when he entered the room. They seemed to quickly become the best possible version of themselves.” -Aidan J. Reid, Sigil

Buy the book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Be sure to check out other books I’ve read and reviewed by Aidan J. Reid such as his ROT series!

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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Halfway Normal By Barbara Dee [Book Review]

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Book Review: Halfway Normal by Barbara Dee | Middle Grade | Realistic Fiction | Reading | RachelPoli.com

I bought the book at Barnes & Noble.

Summary:

A cancer survivor must readjust to “normal” middle school life in this hopeful novel from the author of Star-Crossed and Truth or Dare.

Norah Levy has just completed two years of treatment for leukemia and is ready to go back to the “real world” of middle school. The hospital social worker warns her the transition back may be tricky, but Norah isn’t worried. Compared with battling cancer, how tricky can seventh grade be?

Very. Everyone is either treating Norah like she will break at any second, or acting weird about all the attention she’s getting. Her best friend, Harper, does her best to be there for Norah, but she doesn’t get it, really—and is hanging out with a new group of girls, leaving Norah feeling a little unsteady. Norah’s other good friend, Silas, is avoiding her. What’s that about, anyway?

When Norah is placed with the eighth graders for math and science she meets Griffin, a cute boy who encourages her love of drawing and Greek mythology. And Norah decides not to tell him her secret—that she was “that girl” who had cancer. But when something happens to make secret-keeping impossible, Norah must figure out a way to share her cancer story. But how do you explain something to others that you can’t explain to yourself? And then, once you find the words, how do you move forward with a whole new ‘normal’?

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.com

I enjoyed the book cover. It’s simple and even though it doesn’t seem like it at first glance, it shows a lot about the book and the main character.

First Thoughts | RachelPoli.com

My sister found this book and bought it. I thought it sounded interesting so I decided to read it.

Plot | RachelPoli.com

To be honest, I forgot what exactly this book was about. I bought it awhile ago and didn’t read the summary again before diving in. Reading a book about a younger cancer survivor trying to fit in again and be “normal” is a great idea. Norah is in middle school as well, of all things, which makes life more difficult for her.

I believe this is fiction inspired from a few real life people, but the plot was mainstream, heartfelt, and an important message.

Characters | RachelPoli.com

I liked all the characters in this book, even the “mean” ones because they were exactly like how some middle school kids act. I wasn’t sure about Norah, the protagonist, a first, but after realizing she was 11 I understood her more.

Griffin, a new friend of Norah’s, was awesome too. He had little parts but they were important and made a difference to the story and to Norah herself.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

The story flowed well and went at a nice pace. It was easy to read and quick at 243 pages. Though, I’ll admit, I wouldn’t have minded reading more.

The author used italics a lot – for thoughts and emphasizing words – which is fine, but the characters emphasized words a lot. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.

Overall | RachelPoli.com

I really enjoyed this book and it touched my heart even if it is fiction. I think the author did a great job portraying the characters and their woes. I’m looking forward to reading more from her.

Halfway Normal by Barbara Dee gets…
5 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“I couldn’t tell myself that only good things will be in my future, because how could you be sure of that, anyhow?” –Barbara Dee, Halfway Normal

Buy the book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Abe Books

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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The White Giraffe By Lauren St. John [Book Review]

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Book Review: The White Giraffe by Lauren St. John | Middle Grade | Reading | Mystery | Fiction | RachelPoli.com

I bought it at Barnes & Noble.

Summary:

When Martine’s home in England burns down, killing her parents, she must go to South Africa to live on a wildlife game preserve, called Sawubona, with the grandmother she didn’t know she had. Almost as soon as she arrives, Martine hears stories about a white giraffe living in the preserve. But her grandmother and others working at Sawubona insist that the giraffe is just a myth. Martine is not so sure, until one stormy night when she looks out her window and locks eyes with Jemmy, a young silvery-white giraffe. Why is everyone keeping Jemmy’s existence a secret? Does it have anything to do with the rash of poaching going on at Sawubona? Martine needs all of the courage and smarts she has, not to mention a little African magic, to find out. First-time children’s author Lauren St. John brings us deep into the African world, where myths become reality and a young girl with a healing gift has the power to save her home and her one true friend.

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.com

I love the cover. There’s something mysterious about it and I think the white giraffe and the night blue background contrast nicely.

First Thoughts | RachelPoli.com

Fun fact: my favorite animal is the giraffe. I’m pretty sure my mom bought this book for me a few years ago simply because it was about a giraffe. Of course, this is the first time I’m reading it now.

Plot | RachelPoli.com

Martine’s life gets thrown upside down when both her parents die in a fire that started in their house. She even lost the house. At only 11-years-old, she’s shipped to go live with her grandmother in Africa. That’s where she learns a lot about her family, herself, and the legend of the White Giraffe.

This plot had a lot of potential but, in my opinion, it wasn’t executed well. A lot of things happen that’s not really explained. There was a lot of build up but when the White Giraffe was in trouble, it just didn’t seem as intense as I think it was meant to be.

Characters | RachelPoli.com

I felt as though I couldn’t get close to any of the characters. Martine’s grandmother had an awfully fast change of heart, Martine sometimes acted her age and then other times acted as though she was a lot older. Until her age was mentioned almost halfway through the book, I had trouble pinning her age down.

I really enjoyed Tendai though. He worked with Gywn, Martine’s grandmother, and he was kind to Martine and helped her along the way. I felt as though I learned more from him than anyone else.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

This is a middle-grade book so the writing is fairly simple and easy to read. Aside from Martine not really acting her age at times, this was well done.

However, my biggest problem was the description. Everything looks, feels, sounds, and smells “African.” I have no idea what that means and as someone who’s never been to Africa, I feel as though this was a missed learning opportunity for me – especially since the author states in her bio that she grew up there.

Other than that, the writing itself wasn’t bad. The pace was a bit too fast at times, but the plot was laid out and was there.

Overall | RachelPoli.com

This was just an okay read for me. There was a lot of potential and missed teaching moments culturally from the author, but it was still pretty well written and the idea of the plot was interesting. I don’t think I’ll be reading the rest of the series, though there may be some younger kids out there who would enjoy this.

The White Giraffe by Lauren St. John gets…
Book Review Rating System | 3 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com3 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“No, little one, animals might scratch you, or bite you, or even rip you apart in hunger or fear, but only a man can crush you inside, in your heart, for no reason other than the color of your skin.” –Lauren St. John, The White Giraffe

Buy the book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Abe Books

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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Psych: A Fatal Frame Of Mind By William Rabkin [Book Review]

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Book Review: Psych A Fatal Frame of Mind by Willaim Rabkin | Fiction | Mystery | Humor | Reading | RachelPoli.com

I bought the book on my Kindle.

Summary:

When the Santa Barbara art museum unveils its newest acquisition, the long-lost masterpiece by Dante Gabriel Rossetti isn’t the only surprise behind the red curtain-so is the museum’s curator. Dead. The case has everything Shawn likes: it’s bizarre, it’s baffling, and there’s a snack bar at the crime scene. But the investigation gets a lot less fun as he and Gus begin to realize that the clues are leading them towards a centuries-old cabal desperate to hide a terrible secret-and more than willing to kill the two detectives who are trying to reveal it.

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.com

The cover hasn’t changed from 3 previous books or the season covers from the TV show. They’re all similar with Shawn and Gus posing. It works but doesn’t really convey what the book may be about.

First Thoughts | RachelPoli.com

I loved the TV show and when I discovered the books, I had to give them a try. It’s been a while since I’ve read the first 3 books, but it’s easy to pick up where I left off.Plot | RachelPoli.com

Shawn and Gus find themselves in their usual pickle when they take on a case bigger than they think. This plot is filled with a lot of twists and turns with the characters – and yourself – changing your mind about who did it and who didn’t.

The plot itself wasn’t bad and it was well executed. The wrap up felt abrupt, but that’s mostly because of the POV choice, which I’ll get to in a moment.

Characters | RachelPoli.com

When a book is based off a TV series, it’s hard not to compare the book to the show. So, that’s what I’m doing. The characters all stayed true to themselves as they are in the show. I could hear all their voices in my head down to the correct tone.

My biggest problem was that three of the six main characters were barely in the book. Detective O’Hara, Chief Vick, and Henry, Shawn’s dad, barely had any parts. Even Lassie didn’t have many though a few chapters were in his POV. I missed them and wished I could have seen more of the whole team.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

The book flowed well and the plot was executed at a nice pace. Nothing was too fast or slow and everything was easy to read and clear to follow. I just didn’t care for the POV.

The POV followed Gus’s thoughts, which is actually fine by me. I don’t mind seeing it through his eyes, but Shawn is the psychic. Shawn is the main one who solves the mysteries based on his hyper-observant skills. Being in Gus’s mind, there wasn’t much “psychic” going on that I saw because I wasn’t inside Shawn’s head. That’s the major premise of Psych so it was a little disappointing to miss out on that.

Overall | RachelPoli.com

Overall, this wasn’t a bad book and it was a quick read. It’s just not my favorite.

Psych: A Fatal Frame of Mind (Psych 4) by William Rabkin gets…
Book Review Rating System | 3 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com3 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“Can you say that in English?” Shawn said.
“That was English,” Gus said. “In fact, it was more than English. It was specifically a point of English grammar, so you don’t get much more English that that.” –William Rabkin, Psych: A Fatal Frame of Mind (Psych 4)

Buy the book:

Amazon

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Revolution: The Nora White Story (Book 2) By Yecheilyah Ysrayl [Book Review]

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Book Review: Revolution: The Nora White Story (Book 2) by Yecheilyah Ysrayl | Historical Fiction | Creative Writing | Books | Reading | Book Blogging | RachelPoli.com

I received a free ARC of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

When Nora White is drugged by her friend she is forced to deal with the harsh reality of life in the North. She meets Keisha and the women catch a ride to The Den, a gambling and numbers hole-in-the-wall in Jacobsville New York. Unlike the upper echelon of Harlem, Nora’s new friends are hustlers but down to Earth and feels more like family. They take her to Liberty Hall where she is introduced to Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A.).

Meanwhile, Nora has no idea her father has been arrested and back home Molly is hanging on by a thread. When the community discovers the truth of the alleged crime they devise a way to get Gideon out of jail but their actions could mean life or death for everyone involved. Will Nora come to her senses and return home in time to help the family or will her naiveté lead her astray once again?

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.com

The cover is beautiful. It’s simple and easy to look at. I find it ironic that when I look at the cover, I see peace, and that’s everything this book is not.

First Thoughts | RachelPoli.com

I read the first Nora White book and enjoyed it, so I’ve been looking forward to this one.

Plot | RachelPoli.com

Nora gets herself into an interesting situation, though she meets some fun characters and makes the best out of it, in a way. Meanwhile, her family is unraveling back home because Gideon is in jail and Nora is missing.

There’s a lot going on in this book and there’s a lot of different characters to follow. The plot flowed pretty well through it all though and it was easy to keep up with and to understand.

Characters | RachelPoli.com

There are a lot of characters and they’re all likable (except for a few here and there which I’m sure we’re not really supposed to care too much for). They all have their own agenda going on or their own conflict and everyone is intertwined with each other. It’s well done.

My favorite part about all the characters were their voices. They speak how they would if they were real and it sounds authentic adding a new level to the book.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

This is a fast paced book with fairly short chapters. There’s plenty of dialogue but there’s also a good amount of description to back it up and paint the picture. The story flowed well and there were many moments where I turned the page fast just to see what would happen next.

Overall | RachelPoli.com

This was a great read and held up to the first book’s standards. My only complaint was that I felt the ending was a bit abrupt and moved too quickly. It was a satisfying ending, but I felt as though there could have been a little more in between the last couple of chapters. Still, if you’re into historical fiction and read and enjoyed the first book, definitely pick this one up.

Revolution: The Nora White Story (Book 2) by Yecheilyah Ysrayl gets…
Book Review Rating System | 4 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com4 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“Young man. I don’t want any trouble. I am, however, willing to put my foot in someone’s ass, if need be.” –Yecheilyah Ysrayl, Revolution: The Nora White Story (Book 2)

Buy the book:

Amazon

Read my review of Renaissance: The Nora White Story (Book 1) by Yecheilyah Ysrayl!

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around! Also, check out other Book Reviews I’ve done!

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Short Story Sunday 210: Moon

Short Story: "Moon" | Flash Fiction | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

            “How far away do you think the moon is?” Judy asked. She opened her bedroom window and propped her elbows on the window sill. She held her head in her hands as she gazed out the large, bright white full moon.

Helen, her best friend, was lying down on Judy’s full-sized bed. She was going through all the DVDs that Judy had pulled out for their sleepover and she was trying to decide what they should watch first.

“How am I supposed to know? I don’t pay attention in Earth Science class.” She replied.

“Do you think it’s the same distance that Paul and I are?” Judy asked still staring lovingly up at the moon.

“What are you talking about?” Helen grunted. She looked away from the movies and stared at the back of her friend’s head. “Will you just get over here and help me pick out what to watch.”

“Paul went away to visit colleges this weekend. I told you that, right?” Judy said looking away from the moon to Helen.

“Uh-huh,”

“So, I’m wondering if he’s thinking about me the same as I’m thinking about him.” Judy smiled.

“And what does that have to do with the moon?” Helen raised an eyebrow.

“He could be staring at the moon too. We could be doing the same thing thinking about each other.” Judy stood up from her window seat and staggered over to her bed. She sat down and leaned over towards Helen. “Isn’t Paul just the best?”

Helen rolled her eyes. She picked up one of the movies and tossed it at Judy. “Romantic comedy it is, then…” she stood up and headed for the door. “I’ll go make the popcorn.”

Judy hugged the movie to her chest for a moment. Then she got up to put the movie into the DVD player. When the main menu showed up, Judy smiled at the TV. She absolutely loved this movie and it reminded her a lot of Paul.

When Helen came back into the room with a bowl full of a popcorn and a couple of sodas, Judy leaned over and gave her a hug.

“What are you doing now…?” Helen sighed.

“I wanted to thank you for setting Paul and me up together.” Judy said.

Helen smirked. “It wasn’t my idea. Tim wanted to.”

“Tim’s a great guy, too.” Judy said.

“Well, he’s mine. You have Paul now.” Helen said defensively. She tossed a piece of popcorn into her mouth.

“I just appreciate it. I know I’m annoying and I keep talking about him. But you are still my best friend and I love you.” Judy explained.

“I loved you first.” Helen replied throwing a few more pieces of popcorn into her mouth.

“I know. And Paul and Tim won’t ever forget that. We loved each other first.” Judy hit the play button on the DVD player’s remote. Then she leaned back and took some popcorn from the bowl on Helen’s lap.

Helen chuckled. “Let’s watch this movie and laugh at everything Tim and Paul fail at.”

“Okay!” Judy beamed.

The two of them spent the rest of the night watching romantic comedies cooing over the fictional boyfriends on TV. Every once in a while, Judy would glance over and look at the moon. She still couldn’t wait to see Paul when he got home in a few days.

Words: 562

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Short Story Sunday 209: Little

Short Story: "Little" | Flash Fiction | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

            Alan wasn’t sure what to do with it when he first saw it. While he was work, his wife had texted him what he would name a gray tabby cat. Alan had responded that he wouldn’t name the cat anything because it wasn’t his. He didn’t hear from his wife for the rest of the day after that.

Naturally, when Alan was on his way home from work, he a little skeptical and a little nervous about what he was going to go home to. He was hoping that he would make it home and no one else would be there except his wife and maybe some dinner on the table.

So, when he walked through the front door of his house and a small kitten lay at his feet, he had no idea what to do.

Alan craned his neck to look at the small creature. The kitten sat nicely in front of his foot, the animal was probably the same size as Alan’s shoe, if not smaller.

Then the kitten squeaked.

“What in the world was that…?” Alan muttered. Cats were supposed to meow, not squeak.

“Oh, good! You’ve met!”

Alan looked up and noticed his wife poking her head into the living room from the kitchen.

“Hailey, what is this?” Alan asked pointing to the kitten. It squeaked again and Alan looked down at it embarrassed for the poor thing.

“He’s our new addition to the family” Hailey replied. She walked away back into the kitchen.

Alan opened his mouth to reply, but he didn’t want to shout. So he stepped over the cat and as if on cue, he started following Alan. He groaned and picked up the kitten holding him in front of his face.

“If I accidentally step on you, you will get crushed and Hailey will certainly divorce me.”

The kitten squeaked one more time and Alan rolled his eyes. He made it into the kitchen with the cat into his arms. Before he could say anything, Hailey cooed at the two of them.

“Oh, you’re bonding! That’s so nice!”

“No,” Alan said putting the cat back down on the ground, “we are no bonding. Hailey, why did you get a cat? And without talking to me about it first, no less,”

“I knew you’d say no.”

Alan pinched the bridge of his nose. This was why his kids had been so difficult growing up. They took after their mother.

“Now that the kids are all grown up and out of the house and you’re working all day, the house was a little quiet and a little lonely.” Hailey continued. “I thought about getting a dog, but I knew you would make it take it back. I figured a kitten was a good starting point.”

“Starting point…?”

“Yes, once we get used to the kitten then we can get another one. Or maybe a dog. We’ll see how their personalities are.” Hailey explained.

Alan groaned. He sat down at the kitchen table shaking his head. “We can’t have a cat, Hailey…”

“Yes we can, and we do.” She said stiffly. She hadn’t once looked at him. She continued making dinner. It was almost as though she had been preparing for this moment all day. “Besides, I did tell you.”

“You asked what we should name it… That’s not exactly talking to me about whether we should get a cat or not.”

The kitten, sitting right beside Alan’s shoe, squeaked again.

“See?” Alan pointed to it. “You didn’t even get a real cat. I think it’s broken.”

“Oh, Alan,” Hailey scoffed. Now she turned around and glared at him. “Chester’s just a kitten!”

Alan leaned forward. “Chester…?”

“Well, I tried to give you the option of naming him and you wanted no part of it.”

Alan looked down at the cat. They stared into each other’s eyes for a moment before the kitten squeaked again.

“I’d name him Smokey.” He said.

“That’s a bear, dear.” Hailey replied.

Alan narrowed his eyes at his wife behind her back. He stood up and sighed. “Okay, I’ll be upstairs… “

“Dinner’s in five!” Hailey shouted after him.

Alan walked back into the living room and climbed the stairs not realizing Chester was right behind him. When he made it to the top of the stairs, Alan heard the kitten mewing and squeaking. He turned around and noticed Chester attempting to get up the first step, but he was too small.

Alan sighed. He walked back down the stairs. He scooped Chester up in his arms and walked him up the stairs.

“Just don’t let Hailey know I think you’re cute…”

Words: 773

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Short Story Sunday 208: Kickstart

Short Story: "Kickstart" | Flash Fiction | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

            Becky stared at her computer screen in anticipation. She had logged onto a brand new online computer game and was waiting for her friend to finish making his account and log on.

She had heard of this game through the grapevine known as the Internet. She read articles and updates on the project’s progress and release date. She thought that it was such a great idea that she even donated to the kick starter to get the game up and running with hopes that it would take off and be a big hit. Good indie games were hard to come by.

After another moment or two of waiting, a notification popped up on Becky’s computer screen. She leaned forward in her chair to read what it said. Howard321 wanted to be friends with her. She snorted a laugh. Howard was never able to come up with a good username for himself.

She accepted the friend request and, since he was online, a chat messaging system popped up on the right side of the screen. Becky said hello to him and Howard responded immediately. He was enthusiastic to get started on the game and so was Becky.

They each had to make a character first.

Becky went into the character creation mode, the chat remaining on the right hand side of the screen. She was pleased that she was still able to talk to Howard through the whole gaming process instead of just certain points in the game.

She had decided to make her character a knight. She felt as though there could never be enough female knights around. Howard, on the other hand, decided to make himself a red mage. He absolutely loved fire and couldn’t wait to see what kind of magical spells a red mage would be able to have in this brand new game.

It took them a little over an hour, but both Becky and Howard had finally perfected their own characters as best as they could. They figured that it was about time they start playing the actual game.

When Becky hit the “play” button, her knight spawned in the middle of a small village in plain clothes, the clothes that she had picked out for her to wear. Becky had said that her character wanted to aspire to be a knight, but she had to work her way up to that rank. Becky would have to help the other villagers, go on small journeys here and there, and complete side quests in order for the king to recognize her.

It was the same for Howard, except his character was going to have to work on different things in order to become a mage, let alone a red mage.

Still, they were able to travel together as they worked on different things. In the end, when they both reached their ranks and worked for the king in the castle, they would be able to form a team and go on adventures together. That would be where the real fun begins.

Becky and Howard wandered around the village and explored some of the outside world together. Their characters died a lot, but in real life they had a lot of laughs and had fun with the game. They couldn’t wait to go on real adventures once they were appointed to knight and red mage.

Before Becky knew it, her mother was calling her down for dinner. She didn’t want to stop playing, but dinner meant that she and Howard had been playing the game for about seven hours.

And she still had homework to do.

Words: 599

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Short Story Sunday 207: Joke

Short Story: "Joke" | Flash Fiction | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

            “It was supposed to be funny.” Monica said dully. She shrugged her shoulders and rolled her eyes turning the other way folding her arms across her chest. It was a bit too much of an I-don’t-care gesture, in Blake’s opinion.

Blake closed his eyes and tried to think. He was exasperated and he certainly didn’t think his night would end up like this. How was he supposed to deal with a situation like this?

Maybe, just maybe, if he counted to ten, he’d open his eyes and both Monica and her sister Carmen would be gone. He’s be back home and he wouldn’t want to yell at his mother for forcing him into babysitting his cousins.

One, two, three…

“What are you doing?” Monica asked.

Blake opened his eyes. He gasped recoiling backwards as Monica’s face was directly in his as though she was leaning for a kiss.

He groaned. “I was thinking.”

“Thinking about what?”

“About what to do.”

“What to do about what?”

“About the fact that you smeared gum in your sister’s hair!”

Monica giggled.

Blake rubbed his temples. Poor little Carmen was sitting so nicely on the couch watching her older sister and cousin talk back and forth to one another. Carmen was only two so she didn’t have a lot of hair, but it was enough that Blake wasn’t able to get the gum out without damaging her mane. The chewing gum was all over her head so he wasn’t even able to give her a small haircut without anyone noticing.

Then Blake paused. He turned his attention to the four-year-old with narrowed eyes. “Monica,” he said darkly, “where did you even get the gum?”

Monica froze and she didn’t say anything.

“You went into my bag, didn’t you?”

Monica remained frozen, but this time her eyes grew wide and they shifted side to side.

Blake grunted. What a little snot.

“Okay, okay. We can fix this.” Blake sighed. He took a couple of deep breaths. Then he looked up at the clock. His aunt and uncle said they would be home around 11, but the kids had to be in bed by seven. It was now around five-thirty, which meant that Blake had an hour and hour, if not less, to figure things out. Worse came to worst, he would have the kids go to bed later. No one would know, right?

Blake ran over to his bag and fished out his cell phone.

“Now what are you doing?” Monica asked.

“I’m going to look up how to get gum out of someone’s hair on the Internet.” He replied.

Monica watched him intently. Blake typed away on his phone reading various articles and answers while occasionally looking up to make sure Carmen was still seated where she was and to make sure that Monica wasn’t getting into any more trouble.

“Peanut butter. Okay, that’s fine. They have peanut butter.” Blake muttered to himself. He put his phone in his pocket and made his way over to Carmen. He picked her up and glanced over his shoulder at Monica and said, “Come into the kitchen with us.”

Without waiting for her to respond, Blake kept walking. Once he made it into the kitchen, he put Carmen in her high chair. Monica was right behind him climbing on one of the kitchen chairs. She watched Blake in silence in awe at what he was doing.

Blake reached into one of the taller cabinets and found the jar of peanut butter. He put it on the table and unscrewed the lid. It smelled good and he loved peanut butter just as much as the next person, but he never imagined that he was going to have to stick his hands in a jar and smear it all over someone’s hair… on top of already-chewed gum, no less.

He stuck his tongue disgustedly and grabbed a handful of peanut butter. Then he proceeded to rub it all over Carmen’s head as though it were shampoo.

When Blake was finished, he took a step back with peanut butter covered hands and smiled. “Great. Now we just let it sit for a couple of minutes and the gum should slide off. Then I’ll give you a bath.”

He turned away to wash his hands in the sink when he heard Monica giggle. He looked over at her and she smiled brightly at him. She too was covered in peanut butter, but not just her hair. No, she had covered her whole body.

“Look at me!” she beamed.

Blake remained frozen with his oily hands underneath the faucet of warm running water. He stared at Monica not knowing what else he could possibly say to her. All he knew was that he was going to have to give both of them a bath now.

And he was never going to babysit the two of them ever again.

Words: 816

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