Monday, April 30, 2012

Paris In Love: I Can Understand Why

Published: April 3rd, 2012
Paris In Love: A Memoir
By: Eloisa James
Random House Publishing Group
ISBN-13: 9781400069569

In 2009, New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James took a leap that many people dream about: she sold her house, took a sabbatical from her job as a Shakespeare professor, and moved her family to Paris. Paris in Love: A Memoir chronicles her joyful year in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

With no classes to teach, no committee meetings to attend, no lawn to mow or cars to park, Eloisa revels in the ordinary pleasures of life—discovering corner museums that tourists overlook, chronicling Frenchwomen’s sartorial triumphs, walking from one end of Paris to another. She copes with her Italian husband’s notions of quality time; her two hilarious children, ages eleven and fifteen, as they navigate schools—not to mention puberty—in a foreign language; and her mother-in-law Marina’s raised eyebrow in the kitchen (even as Marina overfeeds Milo, the family dog).

Paris in Love invites the reader into the life of a most enchanting family, framed by la ville de l’amour.


   Romance author Eloisa James and her husband decided to go live in Paris for a year with their children, after her Mother died of cancer and Eloisa herself was diagnosed (early enough for curative treatment).  So in 2009 she went on sabbatical, they sold the house and moved to Paris, intending to relocate to NYC upon returning.  This book follows the adventures of Eloisa, her husband Alessandro and their children Luca (14) and Anna (10).  This memoir has everything a reader could want - heart, true family interactions/situations, hilarious misadventures (both children and parents) and LOTS of food descriptions, with a couple recipes thrown in.  I think what got me so interested in this book was the personable tone of it's revelations.  Eloisa admits that a lot of it was compiled from Facebook and Twitter posts during that year.  It's not a stretch, considering it does feel choppy in the way that it moves from event to even sometimes.  I have always loved her romance novels and her memoir was a great read, well worth the time.  Especially to find someone who loves fairy tales, chocolate and her family as much as Eloisa.  Some of my favorite parts were when she was reading a book written by an ancestor who also lived in Paris (and was a bit of a pompous ass).  Her comments made me laugh out loud.  I always felt sorry for the poor, morbidly obese chihauha Milo stuck in Italy with Eloisa's mother-in-law Marina, who insisted that there was nothing wrong with him.  Anna's nemesis and later best friend Domitilla and their respective antics also provided much amusment to me as reader.  Here are a couple of my favorite passages:

'French chickens come with heads and feet still butcher cradles the bird like a baby, then waggles its head toward Anna, Turning the bird into a clucking version of Jaws.'

"The Hall of Mirrors at Versailles is gracious, elegant, and jaw-droppingly beautiful. I drifted down the center dreaming that I was a member of the nobless ancienne, my imaginary skirts extending three feet to each side. We all had audio tours; over the elegant sound of a British man informing me about architectural details, I heard Anna talking to her cousin Zoe: 'I dare you to pick your nose in front of that mirror...Go on, I dare you!"

I highly recommend this book even for the most reluctant of memoir or non-fiction readers.  You will be happy you spent your time with this book.  It will make you laugh, want to cry, sympathize and feel warm inside.  Eloisa James is a wonder!

VERDICT:  5/5  Stars

*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book was published April 3rd, 2012.*

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Immortal Without Any Fun

Published: April 24th, 2012
The Immortal Rules
ISBN-13: 9780373210510
In a future world, Vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity.

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.

Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them. The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked—and given the ultimate choice. Die… or become one of the monsters.

Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.

Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend—a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.

But it isn't easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what—and who—is worth dying for.

My Review

   Allison Sekemoto has been scrounging for herself on the streets ever since her Mother died years ago.  She refuses to be registered to the vampires as a portable bloodbank in exchange for food and quasi-protected status.  So instead she is Unregistered, roaming the streets with a gang of misfits trying to avoid the attention of any vampires altogether and not starve to death while she's at it.  But then one night Allison and her friends are caught in a dangerous situation with rabid vampires and she is almost killed by them.  A mysterious vampire named Kanin comes to her rescue, giving her the choice to turn - she  chooses to become a vampire, the very thing she hates the most.  Allison must learn to reconcile herself to survival, even if it means doing anything that's necessary.  Then an unexpected problem leaves her alone, causing her to end up joining a band of wanderers who are searching for Eden, a mythical city of technology and most importantly, no vampires AT ALL.  Along the way she begins to have feelings for Zeke, a kind human boy.  But he's been indoctrinated to hate all vampires and she knows she will lose him sooner or later.  Can Allison and the others survive and will they find Eden after all?  And will Zeke be more complicated than Allison expected?  I was excited for this book because it sounded different from most of the other vampire books that I've read.  Considering how burnt out the vampire craze of the past few years has left me, it takes a book that seems really special to perk my interest.   I did end up liking Allison and her sense of inherent loyalty to her friends, her belief system and herself.  She didn't let being a vampire make her an inhumane monster like most of them were.  However, the whole star-crossed love situation was not played out in a way that garnered my sympathy.  I liked Zeke and I liked Allie - just not together.  Ruth (one of the wanderers) was just too unlikable to be realistic at all.  Being on the run like that doesn't lend any realism to being that much of a petty little bitch.  You'd think she'd have outgrown it by then.  I loved the dystopian aspects of the book.  But the description got a little purple-prose for my taste, with the fight scenes leaving me skimming ahead rather than being transfixed.  I liked the book, but it was not the book for  me and while that disappointed me I understand why.  I should have realized it after reading Kagawa's Iron Fey series with a mediocre reaction.  This is only recommended for hardcore vampire fans or fans of Kagawa's previous works.  

VERDICT:  2.25/5  Stars

*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book was published April 24th, 2012.*

Monday, April 23, 2012

I'm Awake and Alive

Expected Publication: May 8th, 2012
By: Cat Patrick
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN-13: 9780316094627

As a little girl, Daisy Appleby was killed in a school bus crash. Moments after the accident, she was brought back to life.

A secret government agency has developed a drug called Revive that can bring people back from the dead, and Daisy Appleby, a test subject, has been Revived five times in fifteen years. Daisy takes extraordinary risks, knowing that she can beat death, but each new death also means a new name, a new city, and a new life. When she meets Matt McKean, Daisy begins to question the moral implications of Revive, and as she discovers the agency's true goals, she realizes she's at the center of something much larger — and more sinister — than she ever imagined.


   Daisy Appleby has been dead more than once.  The first time she died was in a horrific bus accident, but it allowed testing of an experimental drug called 'Revive' which brought her and almost everyone on the bus back from the dead.  Now, she has been stung by bees (to which she is highly allergic) when she was without her eppy pen.  Daisy was brought back by her guardian, Mason, but it is getting harder each time to revive her.  Now Daisy must start over in a new town, at a new school, with a new name.  But the upside is that this time she begins to feel like a normal teenager - like she belongs.  Will she risk everything to tell her secret to her new friend Matt (who may be more than a friend...)?  And has she been followed by someone?  Is the project in danger of corruption by the founder - the God of Revive?  And if it was Daisy might have to kiss more than her new friends goodbye...  After her latest death, Daisy moves to a new town, Omaha.  She quickly makes a friend of Audrey, a really pretty girl who for no apparent reason appears to be an outcast.  Also, Daisy finds herself falling for Audrey's brother Matt.  But Daisy isn't living a normal life - instead of parents she has handlers named Mason and Cassie.  They're scientists who work for Project Revive, whose job is to monitor her life and the effects the drug has had on her over the years.  But Daisy stumbles onto evidence that God (the man who created Revive) might be corrupt and using the project for his own ends.  When the morality and plausability of the thing keeping you breathing is called into question, where can you turn?  I really liked this book for the depth and wonderful personalities of the characters.  Cat Patrick really knows how to make your heart alternately bleed and then pound for joy.  I expected more from the plot, especially after her debut novel Forgotten had such an effortless way of weaving the plot twists around the character development.  I liked how she dealt with the morality issues, but felt like there was too much plot and not enough character.  That said, I honestly enjoyed the ending and the whole book, never experiencing boredom at all while reading it.  This book is highly recommended, just expect more personal journey than sci-fi thriller.

VERDICT:  3.75/5  Stars

*I got this ARC by chance and luck of the draw (and a truly awesome librarian friend!). No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is expected to be published May 8th, 2012.*

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Your Black Magic Is Off Target

Published: February 14th, 2012
By: Alex Flinn
ISBN-13: 9780062024145

Kendra Hilferty, the witch who curses Kyle Kingsbury in Beastly, tells about her immortal existence-how she discovered she was a witch and the various ways she has used her powers to help people throughout the centuries. (Unfortunately her attempts have often backfired.) As it turns out, Kendra has actually had a hand in "Hansel and Gretel," "The Princess and the Pea," and "The Little Mermaid"-but these are not the fairy tales you think you know! Kendra's reminiscences are wrapped around a real-time version of "Cinderella," except the "ugly" stepsister is the good guy. With dark twists, hilarious turns, and unexpected endings, Bewitching is a contemporary read for fairy-tale lovers, fantasy fans, and anyone looking for more Alex Flinn.


   Kendra Hilferty has been around for a long time - so long that she lost her family to the Plague.  But she never died because she's a wtich, destined to live forever unless she's killed.  Kendra has been involved in many mishaps over the years, including some pretty famous ones.  She had a hand in the real events behind the stories of 'Hansel and Gretel', 'The Little Mermaid', 'The Princess and the Pea' and of course, 'Beauty and the Beast.'  But nothing ever works out right and people only end up angry with Kendra.  So she's taking special care with her next project, the true Cinderella story of two stepsisters Lisette and Emma (but the 'ugly' stepsister is actually the good one).  Will she help or hurt Emma's chances of a happy ending?  And can Kendra find a happy ending for herself finally?  I was excited about this book because I really wanted to know more about Kendra.  I really love Alex Flinn's other books, so I thought this was a sure bet.  But I didn't like it as much as I thought I would.  Probably because the majority of the book is focused on Lisette and Emma's story.  Even though Kendra's involved, I felt like I was shortchanged.  This book could have been way more about Kendra and her previous fairy tale adventures.  Instead I got a story that I didn't sign up for and that was honestly pretty boring.  The parts set in Kendra's past had me laughing and interested.  But I felt like I was cheated.  I only recommend this one if you're a hardcore Alex Flinn fan and you don't go in expecting lots of time spent on Kendra.

VERDICT:  2/5  Stars

*No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores and online.* 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bittersweet Symphony, That's Life...

Published: January 23rd, 2012
By: Sarah Ockler
Simon Pulse
ISBN-13: 9781442430358

Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life, and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances... a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.

So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life... and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.

It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last...


   Hudson Avery had it all - a great family, a figure skating career leadint to the top and an awesome best friend.  Then she found out her Dad was having an affair, blew her team's shot at the championships, lost her best friend and her parents got divorced.  Now three years later instead of skating, Hudson is the cupcake Queen at Hurley's, the struggling diner her Mom owns in Watonka, the small town where they live.  She has a new best friend, Dani, who is loud and colorfully awesome.  But Hudson feels suffocated at home, spending all her free time at Hurley's or taking care of her adorable little brother Bug.  Her Mother just doesn't understand that she wants more from life than the family business.  Then the captain of the school's hockey team, popular boy Will, asks for her help whipping the team into shape.  Hudson also has a complicated relationship with Josh, another boy on the team that she has feelings for.  But before she can decide what she wants romantically, Hudson has to come to terms with her skating past and the possibilities for her future.  The was a really good book.  I loved how Hudson's family issues were handled.  No one was demonized, not even her Father who cheated and left them behind.   Hudson's sense of humor kept me laughing out loud and the cupcakes that she concocted made me drool with longing.  I swear I gained weight just reading this book!  I loved the slow build of the romance, even when Hudson was trying to make it work with the wrong guy.  Bug was awesome.  He was so smart but so innocent, you can't help but love him as much as Hudson does.  The ending left me aching, but I did get frustrated with Hudson's inability to recognize how great she had it until almost the end of the book.  Highly recommended to fans of Sarah Dessen and also of Sarah Ockler's other books.

VERDICT:  4.5/5  Stars

*No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores and online.* 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Everneath, Yet Above Expectations

Published: Jauary 24th, 2012
By: Brodi Ashton
Harper Collins / Balzer + Bray
ISBN-13: 9780062071132

Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever.

She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.

As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's...


  Becks has been away for awhile...the equivalent of a 100 years in the Underworld.  She has agreed to go back forever and lose herself in the Tunnels (basically becoming a mindless power source) in exchange for six more months with her friends, family and Jack - the guy she left behind.  But that means dealing with the destructive aftermath of her unexplained disappearance.  Becks tries to come to terms with the fact that she's going to have to leave again, all the while trying not to cause any more pain than she already has.  Plus she has Cole, the everliving who spirited her away to begin with, following her around and trying to get her to spend eternity with him as Queen of the everlivings' High Court.  Becks doesn't love him like he wants her too because she still loves Jack with all her heart.  Can she find a way to stay with her family and Jack when the Tunnels come to claim her as Forfeit?  Or will she decide to choose spending an eternity with Cole?  This book was fun, in that it retold equal parts Orpheus and Eurydice, with Persephone and Hades.  I am a love of Greek mythology and this was fresh, interesting take on a myth that honestly hasn't been overdone (quite yet anyways).  The characters were interesting and the day-by-day format after Becks is returned from the Everneath (a.k.a. the Underworld) made things go fairly fast, yet last awhile at the same time.  Jack wasn't as one-dimensional as your average 'goody-goody', normal human love interest normally is.  Cole also wasn't one-dimensionally evil and had depth to his personality.  At the same time, it was annoying that Cole continually went after Becks, even though she obviously didn't want him at all.  Overall this was worth the read and I will be looking forward to the next book in the series, especially after the cliffhanger ending! :)

VERDICT:  4/5  Stars

*No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores and online.*

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Much Needed Breath of Eyre...

Published: March 27th, 2012
A Breath of Eyre
By: Eve Marie Mont
Kengsington Publishing Corporation
ISBN-13: 9780758269485

Emma Townsend has always believed in stories—the ones she reads voraciously, and the ones she creates in her head. Perhaps it’s because she feels like an outsider at her exclusive prep school, or because her stepmother doesn’t come close to filling the void left by her mother’s death. And her only romantic prospect—apart from a crush on her English teacher—is Gray Newman, a long-time friend who just adds to Emma’s confusion. But escape soon arrives in an old leather-bound copy of Jane Eyre…

Reading of Jane’s isolation sparks a deep sense of kinship. Then fate takes things a leap further when a lightning storm catapults Emma right into Jane’s body and her nineteenth-century world. As governess at Thornfield, Emma has a sense of belonging she’s never known—and an attraction to the brooding Mr. Rochester. Now, moving between her two realities and uncovering secrets in both, Emma must decide whether her destiny lies in the pages of Jane’s story, or in the unwritten chapters of her own…


   Emma is truly confused and she feels like she's alone in the world, especially when she's at her prep school (even with her cool new roommate Michelle).  Even when she's at home Emma feels like she's slowly been getting erased from the family ever since her Mom died and her Dad got remarried.  Also her feelings toward Gray, a boy she's known forever who has a bad reputation, are in turmoil ever since he started paying unexpected attention to her.  Plus there's the serious crush she's carrying around for her much older English teacher Mr.   Emma is suddenly thrust into a very different situation when she suffers a freak accident the night of a Halloween party.  Now she is living in the world of Jane Eyre, a literary character who is also very smart with some hard choices to make.  After awhile Emma is so busy living Jane's life that she begins to forget who she is.  Will she marry Mr. Rochester and live happily ever after?  Or will Emma be sent back to her own reality to pick up the pieces of the people left behind?  One thing's for sure, Emma definitely doesn't go the beaten path and there is nothing cliched about her final choice.  I truly loved this book!  Emma is an interesting main character who is whip-smart, sarcastic, shy and really into her books instead of social interactions.  Yet something inside her longs for her life to be different.  It's like she's at war with herself and that is very true to what it is to grow up (especially in the teen years).  Gray Newman is swoonworthy and fun, the quintessential teenage boy with a few extra layers.  That is a rare find, considering a lot of YA authors lately have seemed to write either sociopathic or mentally-middle aged romantic heroes.  It's a trend that needs to DIE.  I love Emma's journey of romantic and self-discovery.  There are a lot of really great points about how comlicated Bertha's psyche really is and how much more of a tragedy that makes her - and how it shows a selfish, blind and unfeeling side to Rochester (the so-called victim).  The family relationships in the novel are complex and give you something to think about.  Overall a fairly good read that is fast-paced, while being more substantial than most.  A joy in many ways and I'm super excited for the next book.

VERDICT:  4.75/5  Stars

*I got this ARC by chance and luck of the draw.  No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book was published March 27th, 2012.*

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Chopsticks Plays Eternally

Published: February 2nd, 2012
By: Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral
ISBN-13: 9781595144355

After her mother died, Glory retreated into herself and her music. Her single father raised her as a piano prodigy, with a rigid schedule and the goal of playing sold-out shows across the globe. Now, as a teenager, Glory has disappeared. As we flash back to the events leading up to her disappearance, we see a girl on the precipice of disaster. Brilliant and lonely, Glory is drawn to an artistic new boy, Frank, who moves in next door. The farther she falls, the deeper she spirals into madness. Before long, Glory is unable to play anything but the song "Chopsticks."

But nothing is what it seems, and Glory's reality is not reality at all. In this stunningly moving novel told in photographs, pictures, and words, it's up to the reader to decide what is real, what is imagined, and what has been madness all along....


   Glory is a teenager but doesn't live like one.  She lives the life of a piano prodigy, with a strict concert and practice schedule overseen by her musician Father.  Glory is lonely and finally finds a friend when a troubled boy named Frank, whose family is from Argentina, moves into the house next door.  There relationship becomes increasingly intense as Glory's Father presses her to tour in Europe and dump Frank, which only causes her to begin descending into madness.  Glory goes to Europe but finally breakdown and is only able to play 'Chopsticks', Frank's favorite song that she plays.  At the beginning of the book Glory has gone missing and the rest of the novel is scrapbook of her life.  It follows her from her parents wedding, her birth, and her Mom's death to her rising music career.  It was told through photographs, instant message conversations, YouTube videos, drawings and more personal things - it gave the reader a direct line into the character's hearts and heads.  All the while, it was hauntingly distant and beautiful.  Glory is a sympathetic character, but it was Frank that my heart really broke for.  He was forced to leave his native country, go through a difficult relationship and the pain of being far from home all at once.  I have never read a book that wasn't a graphic novel, that was told exclusively in pictures and the like.  It wouldn't be a form that worked for just anyone, but Jessica and Rodrigo pulled it off and injected enough emotion to stop a mack truck.  My only complaint is that it was too condensed of a story.  I loved it and I highly recommend it if you want something new and different, with a lot of heart.

VERDICT:  4.25/5  Stars

*No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores and online.*

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

That Wise Green Man

Published: April 10th, 2012
The Green Man
By: Michael Bedard
Tundra Books
ISBN-13: 9781770492851

Teenaged O – never call her Ophelia – is about to spend the summer with her aunt Emily. Emily is a poet and the owner of an antiquarian book store, The Green Man. A proud, independent woman, Emily’s been made frail by a heart attack. O will be a help to her. Just how crucial that help will be unfolds as O first tackles Emily’s badly neglected home, then the chaotic shop. But soon she discovers that there are mysteries and long-buried dark forces that she cannot sweep away, though they threaten to awaken once more. At once an exploration of poetry, a story of family relationships, and an intriguing mystery, The Green Man is Michael Bedard at his finest.


   O (never Ophelia) is feeling kind of on the fence about staying with her Aunt Emily for the summer, while her Father researches his book about Ezra Pound in Italy.  Once she sees her Aunt's bookshop, The Green Man she feels a sense of purpose.  She also comes to feel fairly close to Emily as time goes by, sharing a love of poetry with her.  Aunt Emily hasn't written poetry or had readings at the shop since her heart attack but O wants to change that.  Emily has a dark secret that has plagued her since childhood, one that comes back around to haunt her like clockwork.  So far she's made it out alive, but this summer the magician will come back.  Can O save Emily and herself from the clutches of evil?  Is her new, mysterious friend Rimbaud involved?  And will they all make it out alive?  This was a pretty interesting book.  To be honest, I really felt like the inclusion of magic and the good vs. evil struggle was unneccesary.  Just reading about O's coming of age woes, her budding poetry and Emily's struggles with getting old was worth the time.  These characters leaped off the page and into my heart.  I felt like the magic detracted from the inherent magic of the poetry involved in the story's core.  I don't know how Bedard managed to capture the pain of being a fourteen year old girl, but he did - and it was well done.  This was a slow moving, yet beautiful book that I would recommend.

VERDICT:  4.25/5  Stars

*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book was published April 10th, 2012.*

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Forget Celia and Move On...

Published: January 10th, 2002
Feeling Sorry For Celia (Ashbury/Brookfield #1)
By: Jaclyn Moriarty
St. Martin's Press
ISBN-13: 9780312287368

Life is pretty complicated for Elizabeth Clarry. Her best friend Celia keeps disappearing, her absent father suddenly reappears, and her communication with her mother consists entirely of wacky notes left on the fridge. On top of everything else, because her English teacher wants to rekindle the "Joy of the Envelope," a Complete and Utter Stranger knows more about Elizabeth than anyone else.

But Elizabeth is on the verge of some major changes. She may lose her best friend, find a wonderful new friend, kiss the sexiest guy alive, and run in a marathon.
So much can happen in the time it takes to write a letter...

A #1 bestseller in Australia, this fabulous debut is a funny, touching, revealing story written entirely in the form of letters, messages, postcards—and bizarre missives from imaginary organizations like The Cold Hard Truth Association.

Feeling Sorry for Celia captures, with rare acuity, female friendship and the bonding and parting that occurs as we grow. Jaclyn Moriarty's hilariously candid novel shows that the roller coaster ride of being a teenager is every bit as fun as we remember—and every bit as harrowing.

   Elizabeth Clarry is always worrying about things, but mostly the whereabouts of her best friend Celia, who runs away from home a lot.  It doesn't help that her parents are divorced, her Dad is a weirdo and her Mom is never home.  Plus her English teacher wants to rekindle the "joy of the envelope" by giving each of them a pen pal from nearby Brookfield High School (where all the delinquents and criminals go to school).  Now Celia has run away again and Elizabeth and the new boy in school have gone after her, to bring her home from the circus (yes, the FREAKING CIRCUS!).  All the while Elizabeth is busy trying to figure out who she is, her growing friendship with her new pen pal Christina and her feelings for boys, her relationship with her parents - just life in all its forms!  This book was a lot of fun!  It was the first book I've read by Jaclyn Moriarty and I truly enjoyed the epistolary format.  The letters, notes and etc. to and from Elizabeth with the other characters were highly amusing.  The ones from her ad-executive Mome were fun, asking her feelings on certain random objects like purple lipstick or socks for her campaigns.  I cracked up majorly when the letters from the imaginary associations showed up, such as Cold Hard Truth Association, Association of Teenagers, and The Secret and Mysterious Association of all that is Secret and Mysterious.  I loved the whole secret admirer sub-plot and Celia's crazy antics were pretty far-fetched but enjoyable.  After reading this book I can honestly say that Jaclyn Moriarty is one of my favorite international authors and Elizabeth Clarry is who I'd want for a best friend if I was back in high school! :)

VERDICT:  4.5/5  Stars

*No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores and online.*

Monday, April 9, 2012

Girl Interrupted, Trying to Cope

Published: February 14th, 2012
By: Rachel Coker
ISBN-13: 9780310729730

Can love really heal all things? If Sam Carroll hadn't shown up, she might have been able to get to her mother in time. Instead, Allie Everly finds herself at a funeral, mourning the loss of her beloved mother. She is dealt another blow when, a few hours later, she is sent from Tennessee to Maine to become the daughter of Miss Beatrice Lovell, a prim woman with a faith Allie cannot accept. Poetry and letters written to her mother become the only things keeping Allie's heart from hardening completely. But then Sam arrives for the summer, and with him comes many confusing emotions, both toward him and the people around her. As World War II looms, Allie will be forced to decide whether hanging on to the past is worth losing her chance to be loved.


   Allie has had a hard life so far, but she is happy living with her Mother.  Things change suddenly though when her Mother becomes sick with a brain tumor, becoming progressively worse until she dies leaving Allie alone.  She thinks she can make it one her own, but Allie is forced to become foster daughter to a woman who seems to want to replace her Mother.  Determined to not forget her Mother and the opposition she had to religion, Allie distances herself from everyone in her new life, just biding time until she can leave.  Then a boy from her past shows up and throws her life into a tailspin, forcing her to reconsider her bitter and lonely approach to life.  Can she let go of past disappointments and allow herself to love again, even when it seems like war on the horizon might endanger everything Allie has left in her life?  This book was like looking in a mirror at times.  When I was younger, I was a lot like Allie - bitter, depressed, mad at the world and unwilling to recieve love from anyone with actual BELIEF in it being real.  That could have made this a hard book to read, but instead it made it hard to put down because Rachel Coker drew a portrait for a character that I could fully relate to.  My heart broke for Allie when she lost her Mother, the only person she'd ever really had in her life.  I understood her reluctance to 'replace' her Mother with a new family, even if a times Beatrice does break through her tough exterior.  This was a love story between Allie and her childhood friend Sam, with the anguishing backdrop of WWII but it's mostly a story of allowing oneself to find redemption and love wherever you can, letting it into your soul.  Also, although it's marketed as Christian fiction it didn't get overly preachy but managed to showcase what real Christian love looks like.  Rachel Coker is a talented author who managed to touch my spirit and the only complaint that I have really is the unrealisticness of Allie not recognizing Sam when they meet up after only four years apart.  Seriously?  This book is highly recommended for the beauty of its spirit.

VERDICT:  4.5/5  Stars

*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book was published February 14th, 2012.*

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Beast Is Kissing Me

Published: March 15th, 2012
Hickey of the Beast
By: Isabel Kunkle
Candlemark & Gleam
ISBN-13: 9781936460229

Connie thought freshman year might suck. She never thought it'd be literal.

Bad dreams? No big deal. After all, Connie Perez is starting her first year in the prep school her mom runs. Anyone would be a little stressed, right? When she starts dreaming about strange creatures and places that don't make sense, she doesn't think much about it: there's other stuff on her mind. Then she starts noticing that the people she dreams about get sick right afterwards.

Then everything gets weird.

There's something bad on the campus of Springden Academy. Something that feeds on students and warps their minds. And, as Connie and her friends try to figure out what's going on, it starts to look like she's the only one who can stop it.

Freshman year was hard enough without having to fight evil after class.

Hickey of the Beast is a hilarious look at coming of age in a school where there are no secrets, but plenty of mysteries, and where supernatural studies take on a whole new meaning. It's a story about all the things that make growing up hell: boys, history class, annoying little brothers, and saving the world from evil. When the supernatural comes to school, it's no field day - and that's before you factor in homework.


   Connie has been looking forward to her freshman year and dreading it at the same time.  After all, having her Mom as the principal of the prep school she'll be attending automatically singles her out as a faculty brat, not trustworthy.  Then Connie starts having what seem to be psychic dreams.  She sees girls getting sick and then next thing you know, in real life they're having breakdowns and leaving school.  Connie doesn't take it seriously at first, but then she realizes that she might be the only one who can stop whatever is sucking the energy from her classmates.  She goes on a quest to discover what it going on and her friends support her all the way.  But the answer just might be closer to home than she thinks.  Will she be able to triumph over evil or will Connie just be the latest victim?  This was an interesting book.  The whole thing is a gigantic letter to one of Connie's friends from summer camp about this unbelievable thing that she wants to share with her.  It was an original take on the draining of energy by 'psychic vampires.'  I really liked Connie, she was an interesting heroine and she kept me laughing and wondering what she would do next.  The book held up really well for having originally been in serialized format.  I am glad I got the chance to read it and although the ending wasn't completely unpredictable, it wasn't what I thought it would be either.  I would look forward to reading more about Connie in the future and I will be keeping an eye out for Isable Kunkle's future writings.  Recommended for a fun, different-than-your-average-bear story.

VERDICT:  4/5  Stars

*I received an Advanced Reading Copy from the publisher, via LibraryThing. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book was published March 15th, 2012.*

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Time Gangsters Are After Me...

Published: February 14th, 2012
Time Gangsters
By: Berin L. Stephens
Sweetwater Books
ISBN-13: 9781599559667

When Billy discovers a hidden cache of ancient coins, it isn't long before a gang of thugs from the 1920s swipes them right from under him. Plotting to use the magical properties of the coins to seize power in the past, these power-hungry gangsters will do anything to reach their goal. Their future threatened, Billy and Danny must race through time to steal back the coins before history is changed forever.


   Billy and his cousin Danny have never gotten along, even though they live next door to each other and their parents are best friends.  They decide to call a truce though when 1920s gangsters break into both of their bedrooms within a two day period, looking for ancient coins with magic powers.  They decide to find the coins before the gansters and spend the next few days chasing the gangsters through time, trying to save the future from being destroyed.  But when Danny (Danielle) is kidnapped by the gangsters and taken to their boss in the 1920s, it's up to Billy to save both her and the coins.  The future of the United States depends on it.  This book was more middle grade then YA, but the storyline was one of the most refreshing that I've read in quite awhile.  Stephens manages to use time travel as a sidekick to magic Egyptian medallions and deals with alternate timelines in a graceful anf fun manner, giving us a look at the world if gangsters would have gotten in charge of the U.S.  I honestly don't care for Billy or Danny individually, but together they make a great team (when they're not at each other's throats).  I liked the side characters well enough, but like in most middle-grade books they were just there mainly to move the plot forward.  I would recommend this book to kids between 9 and 14 years old mainly, epsecially to kids who are not necessarily great readers.  The fun aspects of this book will easily engage them.  For older people, this isn't really advised unless you can look past the young qualities of the plot, characters and resolution.  It made me feel like a kid again (in a good way) because I just forgot everything else and had a good time.

VERDICT:  3.75/5  Stars

*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book was published February 14th, 2012.*

Midnight In The Past

Published: January 31st, 2012
Midnight In Austenland
By: Shannon Hale
Bloomsbury USA
ISBN-13: 9781608196258

When Charlotte Kinder treats herself to a two-week vacation at Austenland, she happily leaves behind her ex-husband and his delightful new wife, her ever-grateful children, and all the rest of her real life in America. She dons a bonnet and stays at a country manor house that provides an immersive Austen experience, complete with gentleman actors who cater to the guests' Austen fantasies.

Everyone at Pembrook Park is playing a role, but increasingly, Charlotte isn't sure where roles end and reality begins. And as the parlor games turn a little bit menacing, she finds she needs more than a good corset to keep herself safe. Is the brooding Mr. Mallery as sinister as he seems? What is Miss Gardenside's mysterious ailment? Was that an actual dead body in the secret attic room? And-perhaps of the most lasting importance-could the stirrings in Charlotte's heart be a sign of real-life love?

The follow-up to reader favorite Austenland provides the same perfectly plotted pleasures, with a feisty new heroine, plenty of fresh and frightening twists, and the possibility of a romance that might just go beyond the proper bounds of Austen's world. How could it not turn out right in the end?


   Charlotte is still reeling from a divorce that left her shocked and alone.  Then she decides to do something just for her - go on vacation at Austenland, a private and exclusive retreat for women who want to live an Austen-esque experience.....including the romance!  Leaving her children with her ex-husband for a few weeks, Charlotte makes her way to England ready to enjoy herself.  She is expecting a Pride and Prejudice experience but things turn out a lot more like Northanger Abbey, with mystery around every corner and a murder to solve (the killer could be one of her housemates).  Plus Charlotte finds love in a place she least expected it.  But will she live to see another day?  This book was pretty good.  It started out well and I did like Charlotte.  She was completely average like Catherine Morland of Northanger Abbey, which was a tip off to the plot but made things fun.  It may have been harder for me to relate to her than the heroine of the original Austenland novel, because of our fairly large age gap.  Also, I felt like Hale seriously dragged out the murder AND romance plots.  At a certain point I began to really become bored and wish for a more speedy resolution.  I liked the romance, but it felt like the pop-star in disguise subplot was unneccessary and got in the way of the main story.  Overall it was a fun book, but I won't be revisiting it anytime soon if at all. 

VERDICT:  3/5  Stars

*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book was published January 31st, 2012.*