tHe crooKed WorD

As of April 30, 2014 we will no longer be posting reviews on tHe crooKed WorD. Reading is like breathing for us - and discovering new books and authors has been a wonderful adventure - but the time has come for us to move on. Thank you for your support, for allowing us into your lives, and for letting us influence in some small way the contents of your bookshelves.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

On World Building, with guest blogger Helena Sorenson

Today, we're very excited to welcome Helena Sorenson as a guest blogger. Ms. Sorenson is the author of Shiloh (you can read my review here), a YA fantasy set in an amazing world, and she's been gracious enough to share with us her thoughts on world building.

Helena Sorensen has studied music, taught English, and dabbled in poetry and songwriting. She spends her evenings weeping outside the homes of authors like Urusula K. LeGuin, Megan Whalen Turner, and Robin McKinley. She lives in Nashville with her husband and two children. This is her first novel To learn more about Ms. Sorenson, visit her website:

Helena Sorensen

I love John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. I mean, I really love him. I’ve read so much of his work and his thoughts on writing, and I’ve tried to suck every juicy detail about the lives of Frodo and Sam and Merry and Pippin and Eowyn and Aragorn and Arwen from Tolkien’s supplementary works. Of course, I love Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea Cycle. It has this wonderful, windswept quality to it, and Earthsea is alive with ancient magic. And J.K. Rowling blows me away. How can she tie up at least 72,458 loose ends into the world’s most elaborate and perfect bow?

Imagine my terror when I sat down to write a fantasy novel. Have you read The Silmarillion? Have you seen the dizzyingly detailed map of Earthsea? Do you have any concept of how Rowling navigated the whole wand conundrum in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? Sigh. I had a story in my head, niggling at the corners of my brain. But the prospect of creating a fantasy world was overwhelming. I could spend years on such a venture. For pity’s sake, Tolkien spent his life on such a venture!

It was not until I read Stephen King’s The Eyes of the Dragon that a spark of hope was kindled within me. If you’ve never read this little gem of a novel, I highly recommend it. It’s one of King’s only novels that I can read without contacting a therapist, and, also, it’s delightful. King’s world is rich. There are kings and princes, dragons and wizards, towers and magic. And there are no accompanying historical textbooks or character genealogies. It’s just one little story about rival brothers and an ambitious wizard. In two or three scenes, I understood the novel’s main characters. A few paragraphs here and there told me all I needed to know about their kingdom’s history and landscape. It was so clean, so simple. I wondered if, perhaps, I could do it, too.

My first draft of Shiloh was bare bones, maybe 45k words. When I went back to flesh out the story, I took heart, remembering The Eyes of the Dragon. I drew on something I know relatively well how to do: write poems and songs. Just a few of these could tell so much about the world of Shiloh, about what the people valued and feared, about the heroes they idolized and the things they most desired. The concept was so simple, but, in the end, I think additions like “The Tale of Grosvenor” and “Far, Far Away” progressed my world building and enriched my story immeasurably.

Granted, I’m no Tolkien, no LeGuin, no Rowling. (hello, dazzling understatement) But I’m so relieved to know that a great fantasy tale can be told without several thousand years worth of family trees or charts listing the shoe size of every minor character.  If I’m wrong, and everyone loathes this book, I’m blaming it all on Stephen King.  ;)


“Far, Far Away”  (A Children’s Song)
Far, far away
In the crystal teardrops
Hangin’ from the branches o’ the Silent Trees
Gone, gone away
Ta the Hall o’ Shadows
Peerin’ through the mist with eyes that cannot see

Shine, shine away
Keep the lights a-burnin’
Never let the embers o’ the flame go out
Run, run away
Fer the Shadow Weavers
Come ta take a trophy ta their Master’s house

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Emergence Blog Tour

We're very excited today to be part of the Emergence Blog Tour. 
Emergence is the final book of the Eden's Root Trilogy written by the highly creative Rachel Fisher.

This is a long post, but keep reading . . . it includes the book blurb, my review, and a bit about the author (including a great recipe!).
Then scroll to the bottom for a tour-wide giveaway!

Eden's Root Trilogy #3
Published April 30, 2013

"I promise you, Sean. We're going to stop them."

The pieces on the board are in motion and with both sides gathering strength, each move will be critical. When the Truthers make a play for checkmate, the Seeders are forced to respond. Fi and her companions will face greater challenges and higher stakes than ever before, because this time if they fail, it's for keeps.

My Review

From the time I picked up the first book in this trilogy, I was hooked. And, as much as I love the other books, I think Emergence is the crowning book of the three.

Emergence picks up right where we left off. A quick recap: So far, the world has fallen apart, a young girl (Fi) had to lead her Family to safety - becoming a formidable warrior in the process. Then she became a Seeder, trying to bring the world back to life, and to allow those things which grow in the earth to be wholesome.

I'm really not big on spoilers, so forgive me if I don't give you many details. :)  What I can say is this:

Fi and Asher have a lot to deal with. Things get bad enough that Fi allows herself to be darkened in a way she's (amazingly) avoided before now. And that almost kills Asher. (Okay, not physically, but still. He suffers.)

No one is safe in this book. Everyone suffers something, and since I love these characters as my own friends, it's hard.

We learn a whole lot more about Lawson - the leader of the Truthers. We get inside his head and understand why he's trying to destroy the people who are intent on rebuilding society. And, as any great villain is, he's sympathetic in his own way.

As expected, we get a final battle. Ms. Fisher outdid herself with this one!

The trilogy definitely goes out with a bang, and if you haven't read it yet, you need to. It leads you to consider things in the world from a different perspective, and challenges society's acceptance of things, reminding us not to blindly follow leaders, and to educate ourselves about what's going on around us.

Now go read.

5/5 stars

Rachel FisherRachel E Fisher

I am a wife and entrepreneur living and working in Florida. I am also a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, where I majored in Biology. It was always my assumption that I would end up making research my life. Though it did not work out that way in the end, my passion for Biology remains intact.
I have always loved biology-based science-fiction and the young adult genre. It is in this vein that I offer my work.

In Rachel Fisher's dystopian world, natural grown food has turned to poison or died before it can produce fruit. This idea was partly inspired by her own life and the necessity of creating vegan and gluten-free meals.

On her website, Ms. Fisher offers great recipes, and professional scientific insights into some of the studies that "prove" things about different foods ... like the one claiming that having cake for breakfast can cause you to lose weight, or the one where she explains why the study debunking the benefits of organic foods shouldn't be taken at face value.

She also gives suggestions on making food taste better without all the extra butter (seasoning, seasoning, and more seasoning!), how to cook brown rice to get the perfect texture, reviews of books she reads, and all sorts of other great things. Go explore!

And, just for a taste of what you'll find, here's a peek at one of her recipes!

Vegan, Gluten-Free Navy Bean “Alfredo Sauce”

It was with a mixture of hope and trepidation that I took on my vegan, gluten-free version of this dish.  And it turned out DELICIOUS!

Vegan, Gluten-Free Alfredo Sauce
  • 2 T Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free AP Flour (this flour is mostly made from protein rich garbanzo bean flour…very good for you!)
  • 2 T alternative to butter.  I used soy free Earth Balance.  (I plan to try it with coconut oil as well at some point)
  • 1 cup Rice Milk, unsweetened (or Oat or Soy milk)
  • 1 can organic Navy Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 container veggie broth
  • Nutritional Yeast to taste
  • Organic Worcestershire
  • Salt n black pepper to taste
I started by making my bean puree, because I planned to add that to the “Bechamel” later.  I pureed my beans in a small food processor, adding olive oil, salt, and veggie broth as needed to get it to a puree.  I think it’s better to err on the wet side rather than the beany/proteiny side because the Bechamel will be thick enough.  The good news is that you can TASTE it as you go along because it’s all vegetable, so season to taste.

Then I made the Bechamel base.  Combine the flour and “butter” in the bottom of a heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk together and cook slightly so it forms a nice, buttery or toasty brown, then add the cup of milk and whisk as it bubbles together.  You may be able to turn the heat back a little below medium.  It will thicken as you whisk (don’t kill yourself, just keep a nice stir, you aren’t making meringue).  When you get the texture you’d like, add the navy bean puree.  If needed, you can add more rice milk (if you like it a little sweet) or veggie broth (if you want it all savory) to achieve the exact texture you’d like.

Add salt, nutritional yeast, black pepper, and Worcestershire to taste.

Use to top your favorite gluten-free pasta and enjoy!  It’s so tasty and comforting and so HEALTHY!  Firstly, it’s full of navy beany protein goodness!  Secondly, even though it is calorie-rich like real Alfredo, the flours used are full of protein (and no gluten), the “butter” used is healthy and minimal, and unsweetened rice milk is much healthier than dairy.  So you can have an Alfredo without all the guilt!

Find your apron and roll up your sleeves... it's time to celebrate the Eden's Root Trilogy with...

The Emergence Recipe Book Tour

12 – Launch
-          tHe crooKed WorD 
-          Mel’s Shelves 
-          Mortal Moments
19 – MySeryniti 
-          Rose & Beps Blog 
20 – Fundinmental – Eden's Root
21 – MoosubiReviews! 
24 – Markedby Books – Eden's Root
25 – LeeannaMe – Eden's Root
-          Marked by Books – Seeds of War
-          Diary of a Book Addict 
26 – LeeannaMe - Seeds of WAr
-          Marked by Books 
27 – LeeannaMe
28 – TheBookish Daydreamer Eden's Root
30 – Grand Finale

Tour-Wide Giveaway:

August 12 - September 6

2 Winners each (international):
  - eBook of Eden's Root
  - eBook of Seeds of War
  - eBook of Emergence

2 Winners (international):
  - eBook of the trilogy - Eden's Root, Seeds of War & Emergence

1 Winner (US, Canada, UK)
  - signed print copy of Emergence

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Warner Grimoire

Bad Apple (The Warner Grimoire, #1)The Warner Grimoire (The Bad Apple, #1)
by Clay Held

376 pages
Published May 1, 2013

This book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Simon Warner isn’t having a very good October. To start with, he drowned, and then the real trouble started. Next thing he knows, he's back among the living, there’s a ghostly voice rattling around in his head, and a nasty ghoul has burned down his home and kidnapped his adoptive father.

But even that is just the beginning. A mysterious stranger draws Simon deep into the hidden world of the supernatural: a dangerous place full of vicious monsters, cunning madmen, and unbelievable magic. There Simon finds not only loyal friends, but powerful enemies lurking around every corner, and a dangerous legacy that's been waiting for him. Cheating death has also revealed a terrible secret: Simon is a warlock by birth, and with powers like his, he is destined to embrace evil.

* * *

This is a fun book, filled with magic and great characters - they're easy to love, or hate, as the case may be.

We follow Simon as he's thrown from a "normal" life into a world where anything can happen, a place where agreeing to things without reading the fine print has consequences, and people aren't always what they seem.

Simon might be easy to root for, but he does some pretty dumb things. After all, he's a kid in a world he doesn't understand.

One of the best things about the book: It's the first in a series, so we get more.

One of the worst things about the book: It's the first in a series, so we don't get the whole story yet.

4/5 stars

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Penumbras Blog Tour

Today we're very excited to be part of the 
Penumbras Blog Tour

 Penumbras is the second book in the Middle School Magic Series, and if you haven't read the first book yet, you need to get on it! You can find my review of it here.

Now, onto the good stuff.

Penumbras (Middle School Magic, #2)Conner, Lexa, and Melanie are back! Just when they think life is normal again, a dangerous shadow creature begins to hunt them. The trio must develop their powers in order to conquer this new peril and protect their school. Filled with action and even more magic, this book continues the exciting adventure in the Middle School Magic series.

Conner Dell didn't meant to blow up the school bus.
Or the bathrooms. In fact, he only wanted to go to sleep and possibly dream about Melanie Stephens. But explosions had a funny way of happening when Conner and his friends were around.
Conner Dell wants to be good--he really does. But he is terrified that he might be turning into a Darkhand, especially when new powers start to surface. What's worse, the Stalker is following Conner, but no one else seems to be able to see him. The Magi think he might be hallucinating, the guilt of what happened in the Shadowbox keeps weighing on him, and his relationship with Melanie Stephens is complicating things. Even for a Magi, Conner knows his life is anything but normal. 

* * *

This is a great addition to the first book, The Kindling. We get to delve deeper into the characters, they have more internal struggles as well.

A big part of this book deals with Conner, and his fight with the darkness he senses within himself. However, parents don't need to worry - everything is age appropriate -- including the start of a romance.

The first book got me attached to the characters (one of the teachers in particular), and you really do care about what happens to them. There's a place near the end where -- yes, I'll admit it -- there were tears running down my face. Yes, I saw it coming, but that didn't make it any less real.

If you haven't started this series yet, you really should.

5/5 stars

Monday, August 5, 2013


by Helena Sorensen

248 pages
Published April 2013

This book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

In a world of perpetual darkness, a boy is born who wields remarkable power over fire. Amos is no more than seven when he kills a Shadow Wolf and becomes a legend in Shiloh. He would be destined for great things were it not for the stories his father tells about a world beyond the Shadow and a time before the Shadow. Only madmen hold to such tales, and in Shiloh, they have always come to bad ends.

Amos is fearless. He walks with easy confidence, certain that the Shadow cannot touch him. Even his family is in awe of him. His father marvels at his skill with the bow, his mother thanks the gods that he has all the courage she lacks, and his sister, Phebe, worships him for saving her from an attack of the Shadow Cats.

On a trip to the village of Emmerich, Amos rescues the Magistrate’s son, Simeon, from the village bullies. Simeon, fair-skinned and pale-eyed like other Dreamers in Shiloh’s history, becomes Amos’s constant companion and dearest friend. Simeon becomes a part of Amos’s family, listening to fireside stories told in a way he’s never heard them before and learning to wield a bow and arrow.

The year the boys turn twelve, they are itching to prove themselves. An impetuous plan to steal a beautiful lantern goes miserably awry, and the lantern’s owner prophecies that Amos will be devoured by the Shadow. For the first time, a seed of fear is planted in Amos’s mind, and when his father is killed by a Shadow Wolf on the last day of the Great Hunt, the fear takes hold. If so great and brave a man as his father could fall to the Shadow, what hope has he?

* * *

First things first: the setting of Shiloh is very creative and done well. One of my favorite things about the concept of this world is the way infants glow (showing their divinity) but as the children grow older, that light is dimmed, then lost.

That said, I had a hard time for the first chunk of the book. I felt like, while we were learning about these characters, and what forms them, I found that I just didn't care about them. As the book progressed, the only ones I could care about were Phebe and Simeon -- and it took a while to get there. Also, the story was full of songs and tales that it felt like the plot was merely treading water until almost 2/3 of the way through.

However, I'm quite convinced that it's because Shiloh just wasn't what I expected. I was told the book was full of "wolves and dragons, clans and legends, bows and arrows, and whatnot." Yes, all those things were there, but it was very light on dragons, extremely heavy on legends. I allowed myself to have high expectations for my assumptions, and I shouldn't have.

This isn't the kind of story that flows so fantastically you can't put it down -- it's more of a meandering exploration -- but that's not a bad thing! Just go into it knowing what to expect. I felt it wasn't so much a plot-driven story (which is mainly what I've been reading lately), but more of a setting-driven one.

3.5/5 stars