Gina’s Review: Wild (movie review)

directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
premiered December 19, 2014

find the movie here: (affiliate links) IMDBBarnes & Noble (Blu-Ray link), Amazon (prime movie link), Amazon (Blu-Ray/DVD link)

Did I enjoy this movie adaption: I have to say I really enjoyed the movie. I had heard nothing but wonderful things about both the movie itself and Reese Witherspoon’s portrayal of Cheryl, and people had every right to say those wonderful things. Witherspoon does a wonderful job showing the emotions Cheryl wrote. I think it must be hard to portray a real person, but this is a believable performance. I’d also like to give an honorary mention to Laura Dern for her amazing performance as Cheryl’s mother. Seriously, she is exactly as I pictured and I CRIED. That woman truly knows what she’s doing.

The only real thing I missed in the film that was in the book was some of the relationships Cheryl formed while on the trail with the male hikers. She became friends with these men in the book and they became a part of her journey. I know the director probably wanted this to be focused on Cheryl, but I just thought that some of the scenes with the male hikers fell flat.

I did appreciate seeing the Bob Marley shirt, however. It was such a meaningful piece of clothing in the book, but again I was disappointed that we didn’t get to meet the man who gave it to her. However, having read the book I’m glad that we at least get to see Cheryl wearing it.

Overall, I loved this film. My husband, whom I didn’t even have to beg to watch it, even liked it. He’s done some backpacking in his time and related a lot to the backpacking and hiking part of the film. I don’t think this is a good date movie, though. I think you’d have to be genuinely interested in the content to enjoy this film, and although I loved it, I think the book is better.



Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

written by Cheryl Strayed
published by Knopf, 2012

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Book Depository, Goodreads

You can read Gina’s 4-star review here.


At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and she would do it alone.

Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.



Gina’s Review: The After House by Michael Phillip Cash

The After House

The After House 
written by Michael Phillip Cash
published by Chelshire Publishing, 2014

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, AmazonGoodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
I did enjoy this novel. I thought it was going to be more like Amityville Horror, but instead I got a cross between Casper and Touched by an Angel. It was a pleasant surprise. I liked the fact that the ghost that haunts the house is friendly and has flaws. I mean, the ghost was a human before it became a spirit. I’m also a huge fan of Remy. She’s relatable and her daughter is smart and funny. I liked this book for its simplicity and its heart.



“Gasper the friendly ghost.”


Would I recommend it: I think it’s a perfect read for someone who doesn’t want scary but wants a little ghost story.



About the book – from Goodreads: Remy Galway and her daughter Olivia are rebuilding their life after a failed marriage in a 300 year old cottage in historic Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island. Little do they know, another occupant is lurking in the haven of their own home. Will the After House be their shelter or their tomb?



Gina’s Review: The Maze Runner (movie review)


The Maze Runner MovieThe Maze Runner
directed by Wes Ball
premiered September 2014

find the movie here: (affiliate links) IMDBBarnes & Noble, Barnes & Noble (Blu-Ray/DVD link), Amazon (prime movie link), Amazon (Blu-Ray/DVD link)

Did I enjoy this movie adaption: I wasn’t a huge fan of The Maze Runner by James Dashner. The second novel in the trilogy, The Scorch Trials, is a stronger story, and I have yet to read the third book. The fact is I really wanted the characters in the book to come alive in the film. Wes Ball is the director of The Maze Runner film, and although I am not familiar with him, I think he did a good job. The movie is entertaining but definitely not perfect.

The film rushes the story line, which in some ways is good but in other ways not so much. I wish they would have taken time to explain the situation a bit better and allow for some more character development. Thomas didn’t have enough time to show us why he is one of the main characters, and we definitely didn’t see enough of Teresa to even care that she was there. In the books, she and Thomas are special and stand out; while in the film, they are awkward and don’t have much of a connection at all.

I also didn’t like the way Ball changed some of the personalities of the characters. The book portrays Alby as a guy who is hard to get to know; he’s cautious and untrusting at first, but he’s the opposite in the film, which was just simply okay. On the flip side, I’m just glad Ball didn’t change Gally’s personality. Will Poulter’s performance stands out in the film. He plays Gally well,  and I actually wanted to punch him in the face a few times (which I think is the perfect compliment for someone playing an unlikeable character).


The movie gets three out of five stars, and I am sorry to say that the book wins out.

Would I recommend it: The film wasn’t an overall failure for me. I had friends that were disappointed and hated the film. I think if you read the book first you have to keep an open mind. I definitely think I would recommend this movie to people who liked The Hunger Games and Divergent.



The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)

 The Maze Runner
written by James Dashner
published by Delacorte Press, 2009

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

See Gina’s 3.5-star review here

About the book – from Goodreads: 

If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.

Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Everything is going to change.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

Remember. Survive. Run.



Chrissy’s Review: The Aubrey Rules by Aven Ellis

The Aubrey RulesThe Aubrey Rules (Chicago On Ice #1)
written by Aven Ellis
published by Soulmate Publishing, 2015

find it here: (affiliate links) Amazon, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
YES!!! I LOVED IT!!!! I could end the review right here, but I won’t. I will warn you: this is a gushing review. It was that good.

Seriously, I love this book. I was supposed to read another book for a tour before I read this one, but I really needed an Aven Ellis fix. And, boy, did I get my fix! I may have read this while eating meals. I may have read this while walking from the parking lot to parent orientation at my kids’ school. I may have read it while waiting in line for something at said orientation. I may have read it while walking back to my car. And while I may have been doing this reading, I was smiling, giggling, and stifling a few SQUEEEEEs. I’m sure I received a few “looks,” but I was too busy reading to notice. 😉 I love Ms. Ellis’s books. Love them.

The Aubrey Rules was fantastic. I haven’t laughed, squee’d, or been downright giddy over a book as much as I did with this one. It was a fun story. The characters were great. Aubrey made me laugh. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. I loved how she spoke her mind at the end. Beckett was a sweetheart. He was a great leading guy. And I’d call him Captain Smart (or Sexy) Ass as well. These two had phenomenal chemistry. I can’t wait for the next Chicago On Ice book. Hell, I can’t wait for the next Aven Ellis book!!

Would I recommend it: Read it. Now. Go.


About the book – from Goodreads: 
Some of the Aubrey Rules to Live By:

*If I’m going to indulge in French fries, I must add extra time to the treadmill the next day.
*Always keep your work and private life separate.
*Being open to new experiences will never involve eating kale.
*Never, ever date a professional athlete.

For Chicago social media professional Aubrey Paige, the rules are everything. So much so that Aubrey has painstakingly written her rules for living into a polka-dot Kate Spade notebook that she carries with her at all times. It’s her personal guidebook to living her life. These rules are the Holy Grail—ones never to be broken. They guide her actions for everything, from dealing with workplace drama to finding a great guy to date. After all, these are her own rules, built from her life experiences and observations. So they have to be perfect, right?

Or are they?

Because when Aubrey meets a cute Canadian, she suddenly finds her rules being tested and challenged in ways she never dreamed possible. Beckett Riley is the shy, quiet, determined captain of the Chicago Buffaloes, a hockey team on the verge of turning the corner to becoming a winning organization. He’s Aubrey’s opposite, with so many qualities that Aubrey had listed as ones she’d never want in a man.

Yet Aubrey finds herself drawn to Beckett in ways she’s never known. And when she unexpectedly finds herself working with Beckett, she wonders if rules are meant to be broken after all . . .



Melissa’s Review: The Empyrean Key by J.L. Tomlinson

The Empyrean Key (Ardentia, #1)

The Empyrean Key
written by J. L. Tomlinson
published by Side Eye Publishing, 2014

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Smashwords, Book Depository, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: If it weren’t for the plethora of grammatical errors, I’d give this book five stars.

The story is AWESOME, and I’m excited to read the next installment. The characters are well developed and memorable, and though I wish Tomlinson had split the two storylines a little more evenly, her world building is spot-on. We’ve all read this plot before, but it’s a good one. I’m especially pleased with Jahna’s side kicks . . . I need a friend like Lilac! I’m tempted to compare The Empyrean Key to the Mistborn  series, but again, without proper revision it just falls short.



“I’m invisible and holding hands with a six fingered man. I’m not sure how I feel right now.”



Would I recommend it: Yes. Do your best to ignore the editing errors—this story is worth it.

UPDATE 8/1/15: The author hired a new editor, re-edited the book, and sent updated copies to all reviewers since I wrote my original review. I don’t have time to re-read the book, but I applaud Tomlinson’s efforts, and I’m going to upgrade my rating to 4 stars. Well done, J. L.  



About the book – from Goodreads: 
The first book in a new epic fantasy series…

Jahna Mornglow is a thief, a liar and an unassuming misfit, a half-breed of the loathed and ostracized Narcean race, born with the abilities of prophecy and telepathy.

The dull monotony of her beachside home is eased by nights in the outer villages, scamming unsuspecting fishermen out of their hard earned coin. It is the most fun and profit Jahna and her friends, a brawling barmaid and a bullied bookworm, can expect from their lower class lives.

The land of Ardentia is vast and magical, carved by the Celestial gods and ruled by their mortal descendants. With a once great king now mysteriously ill, a hundred years war raging in the east and whispers of the return of an ancient evil, Ardentia’s fate balances on the tip of a blade.

The ghosts of Jahna’s past will call upon her, revealing hidden enemies, precious secrets and a fragmented artifact that will breath new life into the myths of old.

Can Jahna keep safe a world that has shunned and discarded her?



Story Time with Sara: Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day


Good Dog, CarlGood Dog, Carl
written by Alexandra Day
published by Little Simon, 1985

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Book Depository, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
I have to admit that I was expecting not to like this book. The cover is a bit of a drab brown, and it didn’t seem like it was going to be very fun . . . but BOY was I wrong!

My three-year-old ATE THIS BOOK UP! We were at my mother’s house and “Oma” pulled out this book (given to her by her student teaching mentor Mrs. York in 1992) and told my son that this was a book he could “read” to us. My son replied sadly, “But, Oma, I don’t know how to read yet . . .” Oma promptly informed him that this was a special book that even he could read! His face lit up as though the stars were shining through his sweet little eyes! (I may have been a bit teary . . . and yes, please take your time to stop gagging on my shmaltzy-ness before you go on).

He had so much fun “reading” the story to Oma; he was so proud of himself that as soon as his Daddy came home he had to “read” it to him several times as well. I was a very proud mamma!

Now here it comes. You are probably thinking, “Wow. This chick is a hard a**. She just said this book made her son’s eyes glow like stars and even that didn’t warrant a 5-star rating.” Well. After I got over the initial awe of seeing my baby reading a book by himself, I noticed what it was about.

For the love of PETE, this lady leaves her BABY home alone with a DOG!?!?! I mean a real dog with four legs, fur, who licks his . . . erm . . . himself . . . All I can think is,”Holy Crap, someone needs to call CPS on this woman!” Seriously. I can’t get over it. I went back to the publication information and saw that it was originally published in 1985. I took a deep breath and tried to remind myself that this is fiction from 30 years ago and a children’s story. I can’t believe that this a children’s story! Wait. I think I already said that. OK, so I don’t care if my kid loves it, I can’t condone a story where a baby is left home alone. Wait. Who am I kidding? My little boy thinks he can actually read this book. OK, well at least I can dock it half a point on the review . . . that will show my anti-support! I feel much better now.


Would I recommend it: I really would! It’s a sweet little story with which children can practice their storytelling skills. While it might make my Mom Spidey senses tingle about a baby left home alone, it really is a cute little adventure story that I’m sure my son will read to me again and again!


About the book – from Goodreads: The original, bestselling Good Dog, Carl is now a board book. This classic, wordless story will find a new audience in a chunky board format which includes the complete story and the original full-color illustrations. Children follow with delight as Carl leads his infant mistress on a wild adventure–the instant after her mother has left the house. (Baby/Preschool)



Gina’s Review: Another Summer by Georgia Bockoven


Another SummerAnother Summer (The Beach House #2)
written by Georgia Bockoven
published by HarperTorch, 2001

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

Did I enjoy this book: 
This book series is like Pringles: 0nce I pop, I can’t stop. I love the characters because I would be friends with them. I’d love to sip margaritas on the beach with them. Bockoven has a way of making each storyline flow and feel real. You root for the characters and want them to find their happy ending. My favorite storyline had to do with the pair that met at their school reunion. I know it’s been done before in many books, but this one just made me smile. Summer beach reads should have that feeling. You want that balance of realism and the smell of the ocean. And since I love a good romance, it is perfection.


“If the destination was a broken heart, at least she would always have the memory of the journey.”



Would I recommend it: Absolutely. It is one of my favorite summer reads. This whole series so far has been summer reading perfection.


About the book – from Goodreads: If you’re lost and lonely…come in.The quaint little beach house perched on the Pacific’s edge is a haven for those seeking refuge from life’s tempests. This season the tenants renting the secluded cottage by the sea are different — yet each is searching for something. A young mother wracked with guilt and despair over a tragic death; a beautiful, successful lawyer denying the passion she’s never known…and always desired: a little boy with no laughter in his life; a man and a woman parted for twenty year, who never stopped loving each other, This is where they bring their pain, their broken hearts, their courage, and their dreams. And in this magical summer, this is where their dreams will come true.



Story Time with Sara: Little Green Dragon by Erin Kurt and Laara Exsnar


The Yummy Adventures of Celia and Cedric: Little Green Dragon (#3)Little Green Dragon
written by Erin Kurt and Laara Exsnar
published by Create Space, 2015

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, AmazonBook Depository, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: OK, so if you read my review of the first book in this series, The Yummy Adventures of Celia and Cedric: Amazing Apples, you realize that I really didn’t think very highly of the book. I did however, say that I would give the series another chance . . . and I did.

The children, Celia and Cedric, are MUCH more relatable in Little Green Dragon than they are in Amazing Apples. One of my biggest problems with the first book is the unrealistic dialog for the children. The children’s dialogue and activities are much more age appropriate in this book. The file I received to review wouldn’t open in the Kindle App for Ipad, but once I transferred it to an actual Kindle device I was able to see the illustrations (albeit in black and white) and the recipe at the end of the story. Both elements truly complement the story. We actually make green smoothies in my house, but we may be calling them dragon juice from now on . . . IT’S just more fun! 🙂
I enjoy that the children are pretending the little dragon is chasing them, and my son enjoyed that part too. My criticism comes only from the fact that at the end of the story the kids pretend they are drinking the green dragon in their smoothie drinks. My son asked me why the children would want to drink the dragon. I replied that he was chasing them so they wanted to make him go away. My child said, “But Mom, he was only playing, it was not nice of them to eat him . . .” My husband is vegetarian, so our family discusses how some people eat animals and some don’t, so perhaps that’s why my son brought this up . . .  but I can’t help but think he has a point. Instead of having the children drink the dragon, we imagined that the green drink was a magical potion that would turn them into little green monsters so they could play chase with the dragon.

Would I recommend it: I would recommend this fun little story with a recipe, especially if you are looking for a fun way to introduce more leafy greens into your preschooler’s diet.


About the book – from Goodreads: Celia and Cedric meet a new friend! In this new adventure, they meet the Little Green Dragon, who becomes a fun playmate and an inspiration for a yummy new recipe. Celia and Cedric enjoy the Little Green Dragon’s smoothie and you can, too! This is the third book of “The Yummy Adventures of Celia & Cedric” series. Other books in the series are: “The Yummy Adventures of Celia & Cedric: Amazing Apples!” “The Yummy Adventures of Celia & Cedric: Eat Dirt Balls!”


Melissa’s Review: From a Killer’s Mind by Jason Helford

From a Killer's Mind

From a Killer’s Mind
written by Jason Helford
published by Jason Helford, 2013

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, AmazonSmashwordsGoodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
I . . . I’ve never read anything quite like this book, and I’m honestly not sure if I enjoyed it. I had to stop reading several times (mostly right before bed) because I was afraid I’d have nightmares. You know how you sneak a peak at car accidents as you drive past, feeling guilty all the while? This book is like that. It’s awful and disgusting and gory and I couldn’t not finish it.

Helford’s got a bit of work to do with his prose, but if From a Killer’s Mind is anything like others in its genre, I’d be surprised if he can’t find a publisher after a few more rounds of editing. For starters, let’s get rid of about half the occurrences of “deep seated” whatevers and figure out a different way to say that. I’d also recommend ditching that pesky passive voice (you all know how I HATE passivity) and then just doing some general tidying up (for example: my mind is still reeling from John’s trip to the grocery store, not because of what he did, but because I’m pretty sure he never bothered to take all that frozen food out of his back seat).

As for the story, well, I’m left feeling both overwhelmingly sad and overwhelmingly disgusted. I’m pretty sure that’s what Helford was going for.


“John darkly wondered if he was yelling into an empty kitchen, screaming at nothing but himself, but he pushed that thought back down and continued.”

Would I recommend it: I’d definitely give this book a NSFW/NSFL warning, but if bloody, icky gore tossed with a giant dose of insanity is your thing you’ll love From a Killer’s Mind. 


About the book – from Goodreads: 
“Fans of Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs and Shane Stevens’ By Reason of Insanity may find a new favorite author here.”
-Kirkus Reviews

John has been a successful serial killer for his entire adult life, committed to his craft without detection or disruption. He’s spent years perfecting his process and meticulously planning out each kill, honing his abilities to horrible heights; however, when one kill doesn’t go as planned, his confidence is shattered, and his dark life starts down an even darker road, to either his salvation…or his ultimate downfall. John finds his private sanctum infiltrated by chaotic characters from the most unlikely of places, putting him through an existential crisis of the soul. As John loses control, his true crucible begins.

From a Killer’s Mind, the debut novel of writer Jason Helford, is a mind-bending, scary, and emotionally honest trip through the life of a serial killer, laying bare the killer’s soul for all readers to see. The remarkable twist at the core of this novel is something that will leave you open-mouthed, shocked, and completely hooked, until the very last page.



Books ‘n’ Bloggers Swap


This is my third Books ‘n’ Bloggers Swap, and I am so excited to take part again this year!!!

(Check out my last two reveals here and here.)


The Swap Objective


Send your partner THREE books:


A book you love
A book you haven’t read but are interested in
A book from your partner’s wish list

(And you can also throw in extra goodies, too!)


Go over to Chaotic Goddess Swaps and check it out.
Sign-ups end August 24!