Bethanny's Books
Young Author, Big Dreamer

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The Way Back to You: Michelle Andreani and Mindi Scott

Posted by Bethanny Lawson on May 17, 2018 at 6:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Six months ago, Ashlyn Montiel died in a bike accident. Her best friend, Cloudy, is keeping it together, at least on the outside. Cloudy’s insides are a different story: tangled, confused, heartbroken.

Kyle is falling apart, and everyone can tell. Ashlyn was his girlfriend, and when she died, a part of him went with her. Maybe the only part he cares about anymore.

As the two people who loved Ashlyn best, Cloudy and Kyle should be able to lean on each other. But after a terrible mistake last year, they’re barely speaking. So when Cloudy discovers that Ashlyn’s organs were donated after her death and the Montiel family has been in touch with three of the recipients, she does something a little bit crazy and a lot out of character: she steals the letters and convinces Kyle to go on a winter break road trip with her, from Oregon to California to Arizona to Nevada. Maybe if they see the recipients—the people whose lives were saved by Ashlyn’s death—the world will open up again.

Or maybe it will be a huge mistake.

Short Summary: The Way Back to You is a masterpiece that addresses grief realistically, with ties to all the other difficult parts about being a highschooler.

Full Review:  I found The Way Back to You in the clearance rack at a local book store. When I read the description on the cover, I knew I had to read it

As someone who has faced a lot of her own losses recently, I have been reading tons of books about grief whether they're good or not. THIS book, however, was very good.

The authors of The Way Back to You were not afraid to get their hands dirty. They dove into the topic of grief unafraid and as such wrote a story that was not only captivating, but was healing.


People looking for a story they can relate to or to help them learn to cope after losing loved ones will find The Way Back to You to fit the bill. Those who cannot relate but just want a good story will also enjoy the book. It grabs the reader's attention from the beginning and holds it, and by switching between the perspectives of two different characters throughout the story, it is sure to appeal to readers of any gender or personality.

Though this book was written as a YA novel, I doubt there is anyone who would not agree it is a touching story with a lot of heart. It's adventurous, heartfelt, authentic, and surprising. The plot twists are not cliche, the characters are realistic, and the resolution satisfying.

All in all, this was a profound book that will leave a lasting impact on readers.

Overall Rating: 5

Always Looking Up, by Madison Clark

Posted by Bethanny Lawson on July 1, 2016 at 6:40 PM Comments comments (0)

     "Madison Clark is a mountain of a woman in a little person's body who never lets her short stature stand in the way of her giant spirit. Though uniquely created, she has learned to tackle physical and emotional challenges, fight for her beliefs, and show others that she can do anything they can do-just in a different way. Clark shares an inspiring story about what life is like for a woman who cannot reach a drinking fountain, needs help selecting items higher than the second shelf in a store, and is towered over by a typical fourth grader. While shining a spotlight on the good, bad, and ugly aspects of living with dwarfism, Clark reveals how she has persevered through it all with a never-give-up attitude and a refusal to be excluded that ultimately transforms ignorance into acceptance. In this moving and informative memoir, an ordinary girl living an almost ordinary life embraces her uniqueness and demonstrates that no matter what our challenges, it is up to each of us to determine our own happiness."

Short Summary: In a world that is often brutal and hard to navigate, people are in dire need of positive role models. Madi is an amazing person with an amazing story that everyone needs to hear.

Full Review: I loved reading Madi's memoir! The story of her life is so inspiring. It kept me up late every night because I simply couldn't put it down.
     Madi is a shining example of how to face life's problems and never let them defeat you. She retains her optimism through even the toughest of circumstances. Though she doesn't deny how hard things can get sometimes, she seems to always be able to turn it around for good.
     Reading Madi's life story is like talking with a good friend. I couldn't help but love her and her personality from the very first page.
     Madi encourages and equips people of all different walks of life to make it through whatever this world throws at them. She's shown us that she can do it, and that we can do it, and that anybody can do it. She also educates her readers on dwarfism, how it effects people who have it and the people around them, the different forms it comes in, and so much more. She brings to light how cruel people can be at times, often without any real cause. But while she leaves readers without excuse to change their own character and behaviour, she is ever kind and teaches out of a loving heart.
     In summary, even though it's not likely I'll ever get to meet Madi in person, getting to know her through her book was an honor and a joy. She has impacted my life for the better, and I think everyone could benefit greatly from reading her book.

Overall Rating: 5

*I recieved this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

The Struggle: Mom and the Summertime Blues

Posted by Bethanny Lawson on June 26, 2016 at 6:20 PM Comments comments (0)

     "The story of four sisters-Diamond, Shelia, Crystal, and Felicity who dread their summer break because of their mom. A timely and hilarious read told through the eyes and voice of adolescent authors about their perspective of Mom's summertime "fun".


     Young readers will empathize with the youthful perspective of parents and “their ways”. Parents will enjoy reading about the feelings of the four girls in the story, nodding in agreement from the beginning to the end. The entire family will enjoy this book. Instead of those great summer trips and long lazy days of summer, the four sisters complain about having to eat healthy and exercise, do homework and chores, and more. Throughout the book the girls tell of important life lessons taught by their parents. These lessons are told in a comical way."

Short Summary: This is a fun, lighthearted read, written by a family that people will relate to.

Full Review: This is a book written mostly from the perspective of four kids, all different ages, and their differing viewpoints and thoughts make for a unique reading experience. As someone who comes from a family of six kids, it was fun to see and relate to how another family a lot like mine operates.
     Each individual child's personality shines through, as does how their placement in the family (oldest child, middle child, youngest child) effected them. It was especially fun to see how, even though this family doesn't deny that they have faults and disagreements, they do truly love each other. It was realistic.
     The human brain naturally focuses more on the negative than the positive. I would say this book redeemed any negativity in it by how the siblings made a point to point out their love for each other and find good as well as bad and through the conclusion by the mother. However, there were a few times when I felt as though there was a bit too much complaining or focus on problems that didn't seem logical. But then again, isn't that how life is? This book could be used as a mirror through which families can see themselves more clearly. The best writing usually does just that.
     If it wasn't for the last chapter written from the perspective of the mom, I probably wouldn't have liked the book as much, but as it is, it shows how perspective is everything. Look at the same thing through two different pairs of eyes and it will be like looking at two entirely different things. Having so many different voices in this book helped make that clear.
     Overall, this was a really good book for kids and families. There were a few errors and places where the writing style could have been more clear, but I think kids who read this book will enjoy it a lot and think to themselves over and over again "I feel the same way!"

Overall Rating: 4

*I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

Guest Post by Andrew Joyce

Posted by Bethanny Lawson on June 26, 2016 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)

     My name is Andrew Joyce and I write books for a living. Bethanny has been kind enough to allow me a little space on her blog to promote my new novel RESOLUTION: Huck Finn's Greatest Adventure. I think it's a good book, but what do I know? Anyway, I'm kinda shy about tooting my own horn. So I think I'll turn things over to my dog Danny--Danny the Dog. So without further ado, here's Danny.

     Andrew took me away from some very important business--sniffing a tantalizing scent--to help him out here. For a person that works with words for a living, he has very little to say in real life. He wants me to tout his book for him, but I don't think I will. Instead, I think I'll tell you about some thoughts that have been rolling around in my head recently.

     I'm Danny the Dog, Esq., and for those of you who have not yet had the pleasure of making my acquaintance, I am Andrew Joyce's roommate and he is my human.

     I've just been reading a little Billy Shakespeare and listening to Kris Kristofferson. Genius will tell out. What got to me this day was how they both spoke to having nothing. Billy said: "Having nothing, nothing can he lose." And Kris wrote: "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose."

      In dog years I'm an old man, or an old dog if you will. And with age comes experience and with experience comes wisdom. And with wisdom comes the realization that we need nothing to BE, nothing to exist. We accumulate so much crap and it never makes us happy. Here in America, we have a storage facility on every corner. We have so much stuff that we have to pay someone to hold it for us!

     Over one hundred and fifty years ago, Henry David Thoreau told his neighbors that they saved things--put them in their attics and there the stuff stayed until they died. Then their heirs sold the stuff and other people bought it and put it in their attics until they died. Etcetera...etcetera...etcetera.

     I reckon what I'm trying to say is that all we need--we dogs, humans, and anyones else--is love. There is only love. There is fear of course, the fear of not having enough, the fear of not being loved enough. But love always triumphs over fear. So to my non-dog friends, I say choose love. I'm only a dog and I love my human unconditionally. Love those around you. Never, ever trade your love. Never ask for something. Never ask for something in return for your love because then it is not love.

     That's about it for now. I've gotta get back to that scent before it dissipates.

     Oh yeah, I almost forgot--check out Andrew's new book on Amazon and make the old guy's day.

     This is Andrew again. On behalf of Danny and myself, I would like to thank Bethanny for having us over. It's been a real pleasure.

      It's been so much fun working with Andrew (and Danny) and I'm so grateful for their post on my blog! If you want to see more of Andrew's work, you can check out his book by following the amazon link below. Thanks so much for reading! And thank you to Andrew and Danny!


Invisible Me, by Debbi Mack

Posted by Bethanny Lawson on June 7, 2016 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)

     "Military brat and albino, 13-year old Portia Maddox, has bounced from school to school, always an outsider. So when Denise Laughton, the most popular girl in the seventh grade, asks for her help in exchange for an invite to Denise’s big birthday party, Portia jumps at the chance to go. However, Portia must spy on Randy, Denise’s boyfriend, to find out whether he’s cheating on her.


     Portia’s spying unearths a tangled web of duplicity, hidden agendas and family secrets. And when Portia’s budding friendship with social outcast Judy and her feelings for Randy interfere with her plans to endear herself to Denise, Portia must decide who her real friends are."

Short Summary: Invisible Me broaches some of the toughest topics kids face. Moving, making friends, dealing with bullying, divorce, romance, what is right and wrong, etc. However, it has a few flaws that makes it a book to be cautious with.

Full Review: Portia, the 13 year old main character of this story, is the narrator. Because of her dad's job, her family has to move a lot, which is tough enough as it is. To make things worse, Portia is an albino, so kids tend to mock her or be afraid of befriending her.

     Portia is cold and hardened towards people. That's certainly understandable, and many kids feel and act the same way she does when put in similar situations. However, she can be difficult to relate to, and I wouldn't call her a role model. She's the kind of character a reader sometimes has sympathy towards, but other times just want to shake until they come to their senses.

     I believe the themes in this book would be good for discussion groups. There are plenty of questions to be asked and real issues that people can benefit from talking about. However, it also seems to be a rather mature book, and I wouldn't recommend it to just anyone, especially not those already struggling with the same types of problems Portia is. I feel like it would only drag them further down, because it is inconclusive and the main character is self-absorbed. If someone is already feeling down, this book won't help them get any better. It would, however, be good for people to learn how to understand people who feel like Portia.

     It's also hard to tell what audience this book is intended for. It's written in such a way that it may seem cheesy to too juvenile for older readers, but at the same time it's innappropriate for a younger audience. Maybe it would be best for older, mature teens who struggle with reading more difficult books. It is a fairly thin book, and isn't difficult to understand or read. I zipped right through it.

     The one thing that bothered me the most about this book was the constant use of strong language. This is one point I stand most firmly on, especially in children's books. The f-bomb is dropped a dozen times along with other strong words that I would never allow my younger sisters to read, let alone recommend to other kids.

     My job as a book reviewer is two fold. I am to help the authors, and I am to protect the readers.

     To the author I would say this: You have writing talent that just needs a bit of polishing. That's okay, writing is a craft that we never stop perfecting. Keep working on it, because you will have a bright future and career if you keep it up. I appreciate that you aren't afraid of touching on real-life issues. However, I would appreciate it if you were a little more cautious in the future since you're dealing with young people here, and they are a delicate group that should be handles wisely.

     To readers and parents of readers: Use caution when reading this book or giving it to children to read. Once things are in a person's head, they never leave. If you do allow your children to read this, be available to talk to them about it, and encourage discussion. If you are a kid who wants to read this book, use discretion and understand that the way Portia acts and feels is her own decision, and you have the option to make better choices than she does.

Overall Rating: 3

*I recieved this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

Author Spotlight: J.W.Webb

Posted by Bethanny Lawson on June 6, 2016 at 2:40 PM Comments comments (0)

     J.W. Webb is the author of the fantasy novel GOL (The Legends of Ansu). Gol is the first book in an epic fantasy series. The books feature illustrations by Roger Garland the Tolkien Illustrator.

     Webb's biography says that he fell "victim to a weird and random imagination, resulting in a love of epic stories and epic story telling." He continues to explain that this prompted him to "delve deep into the worlds of Tolkien, Peake, Eddison, and Moorock." He started dawing maps of imaginary places and inventing his own stories.

     When he was 27, Webb married a watercolour artist and got, as he puts it, a "sensible career" hauling trucks. This allowed his mind to ramble, and the result was more stories.

     "During one dark winter night back in 1993, whilst parked forlorn outside a dreary inn, something profound happened. I stumbled into Corin an Fol: A moody, rather difficult individual, mooching about in a deep tangled wood (my imagination). That wood grew into a world... the world became Ansu, home to all manner of mismatched mortals and grumpy gods. Late 2001 a plot appeared through the murky trees. It found Corin lost and wandering and introduced him to some other unruly types, resulting in The Shattered Crown," Webb says in his biography. However, "The Shattered Crown couldn't contain its characters."

     "These were (and still are) a very rough lot. They demanded a sequel. Instead (just to show who the boss was,) I focussed on a prequel, Fall of Gol being the result. But still the characters would not leave me alone. And so started The Legends of Ansu a forthcoming series of otherworldly tales, mostly involving Corin and his friends."

     Gol. A continent on the brink of destruction. Once a mighty kingdom, now six provinces torn apart by treacherous barons.

     In one province two young lovers strive to stay together when all else prises them apart. Lissane and Erun must survive to guide their people through the coming storm. The odds are stacked against them. Erun, dreamer and fool, is chosen for a dark path. Whilst Lissane is given away by her father the baron to wed the brutal son of a rival ruler.

     Meanwhile, at the far side of the world a sorcerer has freed the fire demon, Ashmali, setting off a chain of events that could ultimately bring about Gol's long foretold ruin. Caught between rising seas, civil war, and approaching fire the continent’s time is fast running out.

     Gol features beautiful sketches and maps by Tolkien illustrator, Roger Garland. It opens the doors on a new epic fantasy series titled Legends of Ansu. Within its content lies an sweeping tale of love, hatred, vengeance and destruction. In Gol the high courage of a few individuals is all that stands against the will of fickle gods and treachery of men.

Edith From Wessex, by Regine Sondermann

Posted by Bethanny Lawson on June 2, 2016 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)

“You’d like to love me, but you don’t really know me.”
     "With these words, Queen Edith begins to speak to us, as if she were still able to address us, though she lived over a thousand years ago. Magdeburg author Regine Sondermann draws the reader close to this woman from the early Middle Ages, about whom little was known until now. She was young and came from England. She died at the age of 36, and she was laid to rest in the Magdeburg Cathedral. The author sifted through documents and history books to discover small shards of Edith’s short life, like a ceramic bowl destroyed long ago. She has pieced them together in this story of a woman and her family, which takes the reader to an unfamiliar land that seems so close but is infinitely far away."

Short Summary: Regine clearly cares a lot about the topic she's writing about. Her research has gone a long way to creating a wonderful story ringing true to readers today while helping us relate to a woman from a past much different from our current world.

Full Review: It took me a chapter or two to really get into this book, but once I did there was no escaping.
     I loved getting a historical account of Edith that was so full of facts woven together to create an amazing story. I could relate to Edith, though she lived in such a different time period than I do. However, that relation was not because she was just like me. She was entirely different from people living today. I saw a quote once that said an author's job is to make familiar things feel new, and make new things feel familiar. Regine did this very well in her book.
     I feel like this book brought out how humans have always been humans, throughout all of history, and just because a woman lived in a time when there were different expectations didn't mean they didn't still have opinions and feelings.
     One complaint I have is that it is a bit of a stiff book, and by that I mean it's not for entertainment purposes. I mostly review books that have a specific problem driving the plot. This was a factual account of a person's life. Edith From Wessex was obviously written to help people gain knowledge and understand a certain point in history. That's not a bad thing, but it's certainly not for everyone. Anyone who loves history would love this book, and those who don't love history as much may still be able to enjoy this particular book more than other historical literature.
     Most authors make it their goal to jump straight to the action in a book, or grab the reader's attention right away. This isn't so easily accomplished when an author wants to tell a life story from start to finish. There's only so much you can do to make the date of a person's birth interesting. However, I think Regine did a fantastic job with what she had to work with and got creative on ways to draw reader's attention from the start.
     The book left me with a lot of food for thought. There were many quotes scattered throughout it that could easily be framed and hung on a wall. Edith was portrayed as having a wise outlook on life, and while she was most certainly human, she handled circumstances thrown at her in an admirable way, and is a good example for any reader.

Overall Rating: 5

*I recieved this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

The Magicatory, by Amy Vansant

Posted by Bethanny Lawson on May 5, 2016 at 1:05 PM Comments comments (0)

     "Brian, Anna, Marc and Cecily stumble into a wizard’s spell and are swept to the Magicatory, the magical factory / laboratory where everything is made. Too bad they picked a lousy time to visit! A mysterious girl and a horde of goblins is planning an attack, one of the shape-shifting mages has been kidnapped, and a crazed dodo bird is on the loose. Now the lost siblings have to figure out how to use their new superpowers before the multiverse is destroyed and they can never return to Earth!"

Short Summary: This is an entertaining, fast paced book that is packed with humor. It's my favorite book I've read in a long time!

Full Review: The Magicatory is a middle-grade fantasy. I would be cautious giving it to children ages 9-11 because of some violence and mild rude humor, but would easily recommend it for kids ages 12 and up.

     I was laughing the entire way through this book. The action never stopped for a moment, and while there was plenty of suspense it was also hilarious. And the plot twist at the end was certainly not one I ever would have seen coming.

     The story is told to us by "Auntie," the CEO of The Magicatory. I cannot express how much I loved Auntie. She was the perfect narrator, broke up the story at the right times, and (small spoiler alert) meeting her at the end of the book was one of the most satisfying parts of the whole thing. It was like finally meeting a pen pal or being reunited with a close friend. I loved hearing her give us some backstory at the beginning, and her comments and jokes scattered throughout the story were a nice touch. She was easily my favorite character.

     It's set in a place where magic is the norm. It reminded me of something I saw on Pinterest talking about how neat normalized magic would be in modern society, like fairy-run coffee shops where you can get a latte with a shot of charisma before a big meeting, or psychics running hair salons who always know how you want your hair to look, etc. The Magicatory did that. It was a change from the traditional awe of magic to, as soon as the kids from earth got over it, something everyone seemed to have in some form or another. I thought it was rather refreshing, and added another layer to the story. Not to mention the fact that almost every creature introduced in the story was one never invented before. They certainly made things more complicated, in a good way.

     The characters were charismatic and their interactions were quite enjoyable. Even the extras, who were only around for a chapter at the most, played their parts spectacularly. (Berg was another favorite of mine.) It was the perfect mix of adult and child. I also enjoyed that the adults had just as much fun as the kids, if not more. Most kids books portray adults as boring, or the authorities as people who never understand and are so high and mighty and worried about always being right that they get in the way of the kids. These adults and children acted like best friends and equals.

     As previously mentioned, the ending contains a plot twist that is equally shocking and satisfying. It tied up loose ends very nicely, although there was room left for a second book and questions left unanswered. I will be looking forward to Amy's next book with great anticipation.

     Overall, I loved this story. It is well worth reading. It's been quite some time since I enjoyed a story this much, and it was very refreshing. Simple, and yet complex at the same time, this book was easy and enjoyable to read. The pace never slows down, so readers never get bored, and I will certainly recommend it to fellow book-lovers

Overall Rating: 5

*I recieved this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

Butterfly Blink, by Karl Beckstrand

Posted by Bethanny Lawson on April 20, 2016 at 8:25 PM Comments comments (0)

"Follow the stages of a monarch butterfly from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. With each blink the butterflies multiply (until a playful dog disperses them). Children (ages 2 – 6) cement vocabulary as they make up stories to go with colorful illustrations. Wordless book activities include finding and naming insects and characters and describing the action in this butterfly book. Includes diverse kids, special concern species, and insect habitat conservation. Blink and they multiply—blink and they’re gone!"

Short Summary: This wordless book is a unique approach to learning that very young children will appreciate.

Full Review: This book is different than any I have reviewed before, and is much different than most books I remember ever reading. There isn't one word in the entire book. This makes it a very quick read, something to keep children busy even before they can read while fostering an appreciation of books, and helps spark imagination as children tell the story themselves.

     The only complaint I have is that it's difficult to understand what the point is or where the plot is going unless you've read the synopsis, where the author explains the purpose and intent of his wordless book. Otherwise, you're just not going to get it. However, if you read the synopsis, there should be no trouble.

     This book should be used to encourage children's imaginations and creativity. Instead of being read to, they see the pictures and make the story up on their own. If an adult is there with them, they can help guide the children in the direction the author intended. Thinking of my four year old sister, I know she would have no trouble with any of that!

     In conclusion, there isn't a doubt that this is a children's book. Adults reading it to them: don't overthink it. Just let the kids read to you this time.

Overall Rating: 4

*I recieved this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

Escaping The Prince, by Lorrain O'Byrne

Posted by Bethanny Lawson on April 16, 2016 at 12:45 AM Comments comments (0)

"Buttercup Hickleberry is a mischievous, devil may care pixie from Brandydook Kingdom. Much to her astonishment and dismay, she is selected to be Prince Morgan's bride. In fear of losing her independence, she escapes to the land of humans where adventure and terror lurk at every turn. While Buttercup battles deadly spiders and gigantic birds, amongst other things, Brandydook and all the pixies are catapulted into terrible danger and only she holds the key to its survival. Prince Morgan must find Buttercup and return her to his homeland before it's too late."

Short Summary: This middle grade book is perfect for younger readers. The plot was enjoyable even to me, but it reads in a way that will keep kids engaged and excited to the end of the story. Anyone who reads it will be anxious for the next book in the series.

Full Review: Escaping The Prince is written in an easy to read style that fits a younger audience. The plot is fast-paced and doesn't stop to dwindle anywhere, so children with short attention spans will have a story that keeps up with their need for action. I would say it easily fits into an age range of 8-12, and may be a refreshing book for children a bit older to read if they get tired of longer, more difficult books, and parents will enjoy reading it to their kids.
     The plot doesn't lack anything in the way of action, adventure, suspense, and even a little romance. The characters are woven well and there are definitely lessons to be learned from them. I don't know if it was the author's original intention, but as readers listen in to the thoughts of pixies and animals and watch their interaction with humans, I think we can learn a lot about our own flaws. It gives a better appreciation for nature and the world around us.
     Buttercup is a relatable character with flaws that, while we don't approve of, we understand. Most of us likely would have acted the same way were we put in her place. Prince Morgan is much the same, although perhaps a bit more admirable because of how he grew and changed, and how willing he was to break out of the ordinary, accepted ways of doing things and the sacrifices he made.
     Wendy, a human child, is a walking annoyance. She is careless, rude, ungrateful, and doesn't take care of her dog, Bruno or show him the love he so desperately wants from her. Many children have the tendency to take on these traits, whether they mean to or not. This book may help make their own character flaws more clear.
     The only thing that takes away from the book is that at one point a pixie calls the prince "A royal pain in the ass." Since this book is written for children, that seemed very inappropriate. The entire time I was reading this book I had my nine year old sister in mind, and had plans to buy it for her, but I'll now have to reconsider as I know she would be shocked to read something like that. Granted, it only happens once, but these are children we're talking about, not adults or teens who have been exposed to such things before. The innocence of children is something to be protected. Standards can still be held to.
     Other than that, I cannot find fault in this book. It is written appropriately for it's audience, it's engaging and well thought out, the story is not dumbed down in any way, the characters are relatable and lovable, and the lessons it teaches are healthy. If you're looking for a book for a child that will make you feel like you're in the middle of a Disney movie, this is the book for you!

Overall Rating: 4

*I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*