Saturday, June 30, 2012

Just a Thread Connects Us



Expected Publication: September 11th, 2012
Hanging By A Thread (Banished # 3)
By: Sophie Littlefield
Random House Children's Books
ISBN-13: 9780385741040

Summer is the best part of the year in Winston, California, and the Fourth of July is the highlight of the season. But the perfect town Clare remembers has changed, and everyone is praying that this summer will be different from the last two—that this year's Fourth of July festival won't see one of their own vanish without a trace, leaving no leads and no suspects. The media are in a frenzy predicting a third disappearance, but the town depends on tourist dollars, so the residents of Winston are trying desperately to pretend nothing's wrong.

And they're not the only ones hiding something.

Clare, a seamstress who redesigns vintage clothing, has been blessed—or perhaps cursed—with a gift: she can see people's pasts when she touches their clothes. When she stumbles across a denim jacket that once belonged to Amanda Stavros, last year's Fourth of July victim, Clare sees her perfect town begin to come apart at the seams.

In a town where appearance means everything, how deep beneath the surface will Clare dig to uncover a murderer?


Review

   Clare has just moved back to Winston, California with her Mom following the economic crisis.  Her family has a long, sordid history with Winston beginning with her Great-Grandmother Alma's murder in her seamstress shop.  Since then, every other generation a woman in Clare's family is born with the gift to see other people's emotions and past deeds by touching their clothing.  Clare and her Nana both have the gift, but her practical Mom prefers to pretend that it doesn't exist.  For the last two years, someone has died on the Fourth of July in Winston and the town's panic is rising as the day draws near, anticipating a third tragedy.  Clare finds a second-hand jacket that belonged to Amanda Stavros, the girl who went missing last year.  The feelings that she gets from it are ugly and terrified.  Clare knows that something bad has happened to Amanda and she was probably murdered.  There is no way to prove it until she finds evidence though, so Clare begins to investigate what really happened last year, starting with Amanda's juvenile-delinquent boyfriend, Jack, who everyone thinks is behind her disappearance.  However, as the suspects pile up and her attraction to Jack grows, will Clare be able to separate fact from fiction and solve the mystery?  Or will she be the killer's next victim?  I might be one of the few people who didn't find all of the clothing talk off-putting.  Clare designs and sells clothing using new and vintage pieces that she fuses together.  Yes, the author used A LOT of mostly repetitive description.  But that didn't bother me, because clothing is an important element of Clare's ability.  I loved that the psychometry was clothing related.  It was interesting and I'd never seen it done before.  Clare was an independent, strong girl who had a goal in life.  The relationship with her Mom was realisitc.  In some YAs the parents are unrealistically distant or close to/from their kids.  In this on there was balance.  They had their differences and Clare is a lot closer to her Nana, who shares her ability.  My main complaint is the slow speed and overall bad plot pacing technique used.  The story all happened in the last third of the book.  It was a pretty disjointed mystery and while I enjoyed Clare, I wasn't such a fan of her stubborn antics and her nonsensical relationship with Jack, who for all she knows might be a killer.  She's attracted to him despite that fact which turned me off.  The ending just seemed rather anticlimactic comapred to the way the mystery was built up throughout the novel.  A fun book, but not the best I've ever read; I won't be revisiting it anytime soon, if ever.

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's expected publication is September 11th, 2012.*

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Not Tough Enough


Expected Publication: August 7th, 2012
Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass # 1)
Bloomsbury USA Children's
ISBN-13: 9781599906959

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men—thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the kings council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Review

   Celaena Sardothien has been an assasin of high repute for almost half of her life.  Then she was caught and sentenced to the salt mines of Endovier, with no one expecting her to survive the harsh and almost impossible conditions.  Then, a year later, the Crown Prince Dorian comes to offer her freedom on the condition that she be his champion in a competition between assassins.  It turns out that his Father is searching for a royal 'champion' and if she beats the others Celaena will serve him for three years - after that she'll be free.  Out of shape, Celaena spends every day training with Captain Westfall, who is suspicious of her every action.  She also spends some time with Dorian and finds herself attracted to him against her better judgement.  But then the champions begin turning up dead one by one and Celaena seems like she's next on the list.  Can she find the assassin before becoming the newest victim?  And will her destiny lead her more places than she's ever imagined?  At first I was really intrigued by the premise of this book.  Plus, it started out as a story on www.fictionpress.com a website for original stories by beginning authors.  I love the website, so I was excited to see someone from there make it big.  I liked Celaena's sarcastic, realistic attitude and her refusal to be anyone's ornament.  Captain Westfall was slightly dreamy, but his attitude annoyed me even though I understood it.  Prince Dorian was one of the characters that I absolutely HATED.  What a sanctimonious, privileged, womanizing, prig!  The fact that he actually appeals to Celaena caused me to seriously disrespect her by the end of the book.   The mystery with the murder of her fellow competitors was fairly obvious.  I pretty much knew who the killer was, although the magical twist to things surprised me.  I honestly can say that my favorite character in the whole book was side character, Princess Nehemia.  She has basically had her kingdom taken over by Dorian's Father, been forced to leave her home as an 'ambassador' and is still a kick-ass warrior girl with a major stubborn streak.  I would have liked to read her story.  Celaena was too much lost little girl and not enough bad-ass assassin for my liking.  I was hoping for someone similar to Katsa from Graceling and got an egotistical, wishy-washy teenager who loves clothes and playing the piano.  Not the book for me but I seem to be outside of the vast majority who have fallen in love with it.

VERDICT:  2.5/5  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's expected publication is August 7th, 2012.*

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Glowing In the Moonlight


Expected Publication: July 31st, 2012
Moonglow (Darkest London # 2)
By: Kristin Callihan
Forever
ISBN-13: 9781455508587

Once the seeds of desire are sown . . .

Finally free of her suffocating marriage, widow Daisy Ellis Craigmore is ready to embrace the pleasures of life that have long been denied her. Yet her new-found freedom is short lived. A string of unexplained murders has brought danger to Daisy's door, forcing her to turn to the most unlikely of saviors . . .

Their growing passion knows no bounds . . .

Ian Ranulf, the Marquis of Northrup, has spent lifetimes hiding his primal nature from London society. But now a vicious killer threatens to expose his secrets. Ian must step out of the shadows and protect the beautiful, fearless Daisy, who awakens in him desires he thought long dead. As their quest to unmask the villain draws them closer together, Daisy has no choice but to reveal her own startling secret, and Ian must face the undeniable truth: Losing his heart to Daisy may be the only way to save his soul.


Review

   Daisy Ellis Craigmore was not as lucky as her sisters in having a loving, happy marriage.  Hers was full of verbal abuse from a religious, fat old man who refused to touch her in the marriage bed at all after the first time.  Now that Craigmore is dead, Daisy is finally free to be the passionate and loving woman that she was before her marriage to him.  Then her life gets turned upside down after someone is killed outside a party she is attending - while wearing a perfume that is supposed to by hers.  Now the only man who might be able to help her is Marquis Ian Ranulf.  He knows exactly what the beast is thinking and feeling because he is akin to it himself - a werewolf.  However, a rogue is a threat to the entire pack community so Ian has a sacred duty to put an end to the beast.  Helping Daisy becomes part of the equation when he realizes that he can't keep his hands off of her and doesn't even want to.  Could this be the beginning of a love that will last?  But with secrets being kept by Daisy and Ian, the possibility for heartache is just as great as that for love.  I liked that Ian and Daisy were the principal characters in this novel, seeing as they were my two favorite secondaries from Firelight.  Daisy's snarky, loyal and lovable personality reminded me of my favorite cousin, so I couldn't help but fall in love with her as the heroine of the novel.  Ian's wounded spirit, issues with acting responsibly and overall rakishness were a major attraction for me.  I'm a sucker for the wounded, reformable bad boy, what can I say? :)  The fact that the killer was a sick and mentally unstable werewolf (from illness not inherited insanity) added to the interest of things mystery-wise.  One thing I didn't like was the utter predictability of the identity of the mad, syphilitic werewolf.  Also the verging on tragic ending for Daisy and Ian REALLY made me mad.  Daisy's solution was also predicatable, with set-up near the middle of the novel.  I rather liked the way the steampunk was incorporated.  It didn't overwhelm to fantasy or paranormal elements of the novel.  I was happy about the revelation that all of the sisters have elemental powers.  Truly waiting with excitement for oldest sister Poppy's story.  I would recommend this to fans of the first book.  It could be read separately, but I still think readers should go in the sequence of the series.

VERDICT:  4/5  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's expected publication is July 31st, 2012.*

Beauty In the Firelight


Published: January 31st, 2012
Firelight (Darkest London # 1)
By: Kristin Callihan
Forever
ISBN-13: 9781455508594

Once the flames are ignited . . .

Miranda Ellis is a woman tormented. Plagued since birth by a strange and powerful gift, she has spent her entire life struggling to control her exceptional abilities. Yet one innocent but irreversible mistake has left her family's fortune decimated and forced her to wed London's most nefarious nobleman.

They will burn for eternity . . .

Lord Benjamin Archer is no ordinary man. Doomed to hide his disfigured face behind masks, Archer knows it's selfish to take Miranda as his bride. Yet he can't help being drawn to the flame-haired beauty whose touch sparks a passion he hasn't felt in a lifetime. When Archer is accused of a series of gruesome murders, he gives in to the beastly nature he has fought so hard to hide from the world. But the curse that haunts him cannot be denied. Now, to save his soul, Miranda will enter a world of dark magic and darker intrigue. For only she can see the man hiding behind the mask.


Review

   Miranda Ellis has been dealing with a strange gift since she was a child.  It allows her to call forth fire with her mind.  It resulted in the accidental and tragic destruction of the warehouse that was her family's livelihood.  Now her Father is bitter and plans to wed her to the infamous Lord Benjamin Archer so he can pay off the family debts.  Lord Archer is trying to break a curse that has left him disfigured, almost completely alone and on the fringe of polite society.  He has been drawn to Miranda's beauty and spirit since he met her three years before while she was disguised a boy and a street urchin.  Upon their marriage, Miranda and Archer manage to find passion and are swiftly headed towards being completely in love with each other.  She sees beyond the mask he wears, to the man within and he doesn't revile her for her fiery ability.  But when people begin to turn up dead, Archer is called into suspicion as the possible murderer.  It's up to Miranda to clear his name, help him figure out who the murderer is and break his curse before he's lost to her forever.  Will Miranda and Archer be able to have their happily ever after?  I enjoyed the Victorian era with a hint of supernatural thrown into it.  I was a big fan of Archer from the very beginning of the novel and greatly admired Miranda for her spirit and independence.  The slow-build of their romance into something lasting and true was something wondrous to find in a historical romance.  That said, the mystery seemed very convoluted for most of the novel, throwing the reader directly into the thick of it with no prior knowledge of the secret club that Archer belonged to, what their goal was or why he was cursed.  With absolutely NO backstory, that plotline became somewhat frustrating very quickly.  I did appreciate the resolution's creativity and the freshness of Callihan's take on a mashup of Beauty and the Beast and The Phantom of the Opera.  One of my favorite side characters was Miranda's sister Daisy, who is totally encouragable.  I am looking forward to the rest of the series and recommend this to fans of historical romance and supernatural fiction.

VERDICT:  4.25/5  Stars

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

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Why Are We Being Silent?


Expected Publication: July 24th, 2012
Circle of Silence (WiHi # 2)
By: Carol M. Tanzman
Harlequin Teen
ISBN-13: 9780373210626

THE BIGGEST STORY OF MY LIFE COULD BE HOW IT ENDS It's my turn to run a "Campus News" crew, and I've put together a team that can break stories wide open. And Washington Irving High has a truly great one to cover, if only we can find a lead.

A secret society has formed in our school. It announced its presence with pranks: underwear on the flagpole, a toilet in the hallway, cryptic notes. A circle of silence keeps the society a mystery. No one knows its members, agenda or initiation secrets-until a student lands in the hospital under "strange" circumstances.

I "will" blow this story wide open and stop others from being hurt...or worse. And while my ex, Jagger, might want to help, I don't trust him yet. (And, no, not because of our past together. That is "not" important to this story.)

But whether you find me, Valerie Gaines, reporting in front of the camera, or a victim in the top story of the newscast...be sure to watch "Campus News" at 9:00 a.m. this Friday.

"This addicting, thrilling mystery hits upon many of our worst fears."-"Booklist "on "dancergirl"


Review

   Valerie Gaines is finally getting the chance to run one of the crews at Campus News, for her high school.  Val takes reporting very seriously, so when a mysterious person or group calling themself 'MP' starts to play pranks (undwear on the flagpole, a toilet in the hall, a box for new member applications) she definitely wants to be the one to crack the case.  Especially after the one of the new initiates lands in the hospital with serious injuries and refuses to talk to anyone about what really happened.  So Val needs to find a way to settle things with her ex-boyfriend Jagger (who is on her news team), figure out what secrets her little sister is hiding from her and shut down MP once and for all.  But will everyone still be alive when the dust settles?  When I requested this book on Netgalley, I didn't realize that it was a companion novel/part of a series.  Banking on the fact that the publisher is HarlequinTeen, I was expecting a little more romance and a little less mystery.  Plus all of the reporting and references to the news team began to get on my nerves near the middle of the book.  Didn't Valerie have a life outside of school at all?  The whole entagled situation with Jagger was only ever half-ass explained and I never felt satisfied with the way it played out near the end of the book.  The whole revelation of who was in MP (one of the people was REALLY close to Val) was so cliched and the resolution so after school-special that it made me want to vomit.  Badly.  Overall, it was a decently intriguing book but I wouldn't highly recommend it unless your main requirement for a book is a lot of filler plot, dialogue that has no place, a pointless and never filled out romatic subplot and a dissatisfying mystery.  Definitely NOT the book for me at all.

VERDICT:  2/5  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's expected publication is July 24th, 2012.*

Tainted Legacies


Expected Publication: July 31st, 2012
The Goddess Legacy (Goddess Test # 2.5)
By: Aimee Carter
Harlequin Teen
ISBN-13: 9780373210756

For millennia we've caught only glimpses of the lives and loves of the gods and goddesses on Olympus. Now Aimee Carter pulls back the curtain on how they became the powerful, petty, loving and dangerous immortals that Kate Winters knows.

Calliope/Hera represented constancy and yet had a husband who never matched her faithfulness....

Ava/Aphrodite was the goddess of love and yet commitment was a totally different deal....

Persephone was urged to marry one man, yet longed for another....

James/Hermes loved to make trouble for others-but never knew true loss before....

Henry/Hades's solitary existence had grown too wearisome to continue. But meeting Kate Winters gave him a new hope....

Five original novellas of love, loss and longing and the will to survive throughout the ages.


Review

   Hera was once a loving, loyal and happy goddess - time and Zeus' unfaithfulness changed that.  Aphrodite saw love as something that is shared by many, not tied down by committment.  Was it so wrong to love Hephaestus and Ares both, just in diffferent ways?  Persephone grew up destined to be with the man her parents chose for her, thinking that they knew best.  But she never loved him and only grew to feel trapped and resentful.  There is a man she could love, however it might be too late for a happy ending.  Hermes was a mischief-maker, but when he became involved with an indepent and spirited human girl, a tragic ending may shatter his heart.  Hades had given up on life after Persephone chose to be with someone else.  His siblings have an idea that might save him.  Will he allow them to carry it out or will he fade into a mere memory?  I enjoyed the revelations that came from Hera/Calliope's novella.  It gave a lot of insight into why she became scorned and angry at everyone in the family.  Plus it explained her unreciprocated attachment to Henry/Hades.  Ava/Aphrodite's novella was definitely one of the more interesting ones, but I honestly felt like she was a tramp/whore who was just looking for an excuse to not have to choose between Hephaestus and Ares.  Her erratic 'romantic' behavior really spoiled any enjoyment I had for her story.  I was bored and annoyed at Henry's novella because I felt that it was totally unneccessary.  Everything had already been told by that point and there was no good reason to have yet another telling of how the tests for the next Queen of the Underworld came about.  My absolute favorite novella was the one for Hermes/James.  I adored his attitude which was quirky and sarcastic as always.  I loved the Robin Hood type setting for the plot that unfolded.  The way he connected with the band of orphans and the slightly tragic romance with their leader was heartrending.  He is definitely my favorite character now, hands down!  One major complaint is the soap-opera behavior and situations of the gods and goddesses.  But then again, Greek mythology is rife with that sort of drama.  Still got really old.  I would recommend reading this before the other books actually, since it's more of a prequel, if you're new to the series.  If not, you should read this for the background it gives.  Overall a decent prequel.

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's expected publication is July 31st, 2012.*

Monday, June 25, 2012

I'm Just Prey in a Hunter's World


Published: May 8th, 2012
The Hunt (The Hunt # 1)
By: Andrew Fukuda
St. Martin's Griffin
ISBN-13:  9781250005144

Don’t Sweat. Don’t Laugh. Don’t draw attention to yourself. And most of all, whatever you do, do not fall in love with one of them.
Gene is different from everyone else around him. He can’t run with lightning speed, sunlight doesn’t hurt him and he doesn’t have an unquenchable lust for blood. Gene is a human, and he knows the rules. Keep the truth a secret. It’s the only way to stay alive in a world of night—a world where humans are considered a delicacy and hunted for their blood.
When he’s chosen for a once in a lifetime opportunity to hunt the last remaining humans, Gene’s carefully constructed life begins to crumble around him. He’s thrust into the path of a girl who makes him feel things he never thought possible—and into a ruthless pack of hunters whose suspicions about his true nature are growing. Now that Gene has finally found something worth fighting for, his need to survive is stronger than ever—but is it worth the cost of his humanity?

Review
   Gene is not at all like his classmates.  He doesn't sleep hanging from the ceiling, he breathes, sweats and can go outside during the day without being hurt by the Sun.  His fangs are fake and Gene is masquerading as 'normal' among creatures that would like nothing more than to rip him apart and drink him dry of blood.  Then he is chosen to be among those hunting the reamining 'hepers' (humans) in a competition that will be televised.  Another of his classmates, Ashely June, has been chosen, a girl he could care about if their races allowed for it.  Everything changes when the officials pit them against one another for their very survival.  Also, Gene begins to know the hepers that he will be hunting - people just like him, only without the advantage of hiding in plain sight.  Can Gene survive the hunt or will he be slaughtered with the rest of his kind?  I honestly didn't know what to expect with this one.  It's also kind of funny that I never made the connection that the creatures ruling society were vampires until I was almost finished with the book.  I know, I'm kinda flaky and dense!  But as much as the premise interested me, Gene was a hard character to empathize with.  He's just scraping by, instead of truly living.  Plus the amount of time he spent talking about his sweaty armpits and the way the creatures drooled at the thought of hepers got annoying, monotonous and unnecessary after the first few times.  Plus it was disgusting to constantly think about it.  The whole book began to decline when it started to focus onm Gene and Ashley June's 'forbidden love.'  Especially when it turned out that she was heper like him.  This book was disappointing, boring and disgusting a lot of the time.  I will not be reading the rest of the series.  I'm just not interested, it wasn't the book for me.

VERDICT:  2/5  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 May 8th, 2012.*

I Was Under Your Spell...


Published: March 13th, 2012
Spell Bound (Hex Hall # 3)
By: Rachel Hawkins
Hyperion Book CH
ISBN-13: 9781423121329

Hailed as “impossible to put down,” the Hex Hall series has both critics and teens cheering. With a winning combination of romance, action, magic and humor, this third volume will leave readers enchanted.

Just as Sophie Mercer has come to accept her extraordinary magical powers as a demon, the Prodigium Council strips them away. Now Sophie is defenseless, alone, and at the mercy of her sworn enemies—the Brannicks, a family of warrior women who hunt down the Prodigium. Or at least that’s what Sophie thinks, until she makes a surprising discovery. The Brannicks know an epic war is coming, and they believe Sophie is the only one powerful enough to stop the world from ending. But without her magic, Sophie isn’t as confident.

Sophie’s bound for one hell of a ride—can she get her powers back before it’s too late?


Review

   Sophie Mercer didn't want to be part-demon at first, but she was finally getting used to that part of herself.  Then the Council took away her powers against her will.  Sophie manages to find her way to her Mother, having lost her Dad, Jenna, Archer and Cal.  It's there that she finds out her Mother is one of the infamous Brannicks, one of the feared warrior women that hunt down the sipernatural.  At least that's what Sophie was told, but it's not quite the truth.  Sophie might be the key to stopping a war of epic proportions but will she be able to do it without her magic?  And will she choose Archer or Cal to be with romantically in the end?  I really enjoyed most of the first book in this series, but the ending left me pretty pissed off.  I decided to give the second book a chance and really thought it struck just the right balance of action, romance and drama.  I had high hopes for this book, the last in the trilogy - especially after the second book's cliffhanger.  But I ended up feeling pretty lukewarm about this one.  I was intrigued by the Brannick storyline, but I never felt like things were explained to my satisfaction.  The love triangle between Cal, Sophie and Archer reached ridiculously melodramatic heights in this novel, which made it seem like a joke.  Seriously, I felt like Sophie turned into Bella from Twilight, stringing both guys along because she 'loves' them both sooooo much.  C'mon, give me a break!  There wasn't enough of Jenna for my satisfaction in this particular story.  Also, the ending made me Hulk angry.  Why the HELL did Hawkins think that was a necessary conclusion to a pointless love triangle???  Overall I was really disappointed in the writing, plot development and resolution of this book.  The characters fell quite flat for me as well.  A dissatisfactory ending to a mostly enjoyable series.

VERDICT:  2.25/5  Stars

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sparks Fly, When I'm Kissing You


Expected Publication: August 14th, 2012
Kissing Shakespeare
Random House Children's Books
ISBN-13: 9780385741965

Miranda has Shakespeare in her blood: she hopes one day to become a Shakespearean actor like her famous parents. At least, she does until her disastrous performance in her school's staging of The Taming of the Shrew. Humiliated, Miranda skips the opening-night party. All she wants to do is hide. 

Fellow cast member, Stephen Langford, has other plans for Miranda. When he steps out of the backstage shadows and asks if she'd like to meet Shakespeare, Miranda thinks he's a total nutcase. But before she can object, Stephen whisks her back to 16th century England—the world Stephen's really from. He wants Miranda use her acting talents and modern-day charms on the young Will Shakespeare. Without her help, Stephen claims, the world will lost its greatest playwright. 

Miranda isn't convinced she's the girl for the job. Why would Shakespeare care about her? And just who is this infuriating time traveler, Stephen Langford? Reluctantly, she agrees to help, knowing that it's her only chance of getting back to the present and her "real" life. What Miranda doesn't bargain for is finding true love . . . with no acting required.

Review

   Miranda's parents are famous Shakespearean actors and she has always aspired to be an actor someday as well.  But she has always felt like she is inferior and talent-less compared to them.  After what she thinks is a disastrous performance  as Kate in 'Taming of the Shrew', Miranda is hiding backstage.  Then her fellow castmate Stephen Langford finds her and all Hell breaks loose.  It turns out that Stephen is not from this century and he takes Miranda back to the 16th century with him - so she can save Shakespeare. Or so Stephen says.  It turns out that to save him Stephen seems to think that Miranda needs to seduce him.  Apparently Shakespeare is considering joining the Jesuit priesthood, a dangerous occupation during Elizabeth I's reign.  It is a possible death sentence, which would deprive the world of Shakespeare's genius.  Therefore it's Miranda's job to tempt him out of that choice.  Can she manage to save Shakespeare, even if it means sacrificing herself?  Also, Miranda's heart is in danger of being captured, but not by the famous playwright...  This book has two of the things that I love the most - Shakespeare and time travel!  I loved smarmy time traveler, Stephen Langford who confuses Miranda as a girl of loose morals after watching too much 'Gossip Girl.'  Which leads him to think she's perfect for seducing Shakespeare.  It is interesting to see Elizabethan life portrayed including the Jesuit plight, because it's something I've personally never encountered and never expected to in a YA novel!  The description of the book makes it sound lighthearted and at times it is.  But there is a lot of underlying depth, including Stephen's tragic romantic past.  My main complaint would be Miranda's lack of individual thought.  She went along with Stephen's plans for her, even if it was with quite a fight.  Not to mention, she was a majorly spoiled brat.  If your biggest problem in life as a rich teenager is not being a great Shakespearean actor like Mommy and Daddy...well boo freaking hoo!  Also, her blase attitude about losing her virginity was truly annoying.  But by the end of the novel Miranda really showed some major character development and the conclusion to her romance with Stephen left me crying.  It was an enjoyable read, I love any book with time travel that is fairly well done and this one fits the bill.  I recommend to Shakespeare, romance and time travel fans who like a little humor mixed into their books.

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's expected publication date is August 14th, 2012.*

Almost Enchanted...


Published: May 22nd, 2012
The Enchantress (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel #6)
Delacorte Press for Young Readers
ISBN-13: 9780385735353

The two that are one must become the one that is all. One to save the world, one to destroy it. 
 
San Francisco:
Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel have one day left to live, and one job left to do. They must defend San Francisco. The monsters gathered on Alcatraz Island have been released and are heading toward the city. If they are not stopped, they will destroy everyone and everything in their path.

But even with the help of two of the greatest warriors from history and myth, will the Sorceress and the legendary Alchemyst be able to defend the city? Or is it the beginning of the end of the human race?
 
Danu Talis:
Sophie and Josh Newman traveled ten thousand years into the past to Danu Talis when they followed Dr. John Dee and Virginia Dare. And it’s on this legendary island that the battle for the world begins and ends.

Scathach, Prometheus, Palamedes, Shakespeare, Saint-Germain, and Joan of Arc are also on the island. And no one is sure what—or who—the twins will be fighting for.
 
Today the battle for Danu Talis will be won or lost.
But will the twins of legend stand together?
Or will they stand apart—
one to save the world and one to destroy it?

Review

   Sophie and Josh Newman have had a crazy week.  They have been trained in all of the elements, met many figures from mythology and history, learned that one of them will save the world and the other will destroy it - oh yeah and their parents are really Isis and Osiris!  Now they are 10,000 years into the past, on Danu Talis (Atlantis) preparing for the final battle.  John Dee, Virginia Dare, Scathach, Prometheus, Palamedes, Shakespeare, Saint-Germain and Joan of Arc  are also on at different spots of the island, trying to find the twins.  Are Isis and Osiris who they claim to be or is it far more complicated than the twins ever could have imagined?  In the present time Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel are trying to defend San Francisco from the invasion of the monsters from Alcatraz Island.  Will they be able to ally themselves with Billy the Kid, Machiavelli and other unusual forces long enough to save the present day world, or will the monsters manage to kill them all?  Josh and Sophie will have to decide which world to save - Danu Talis or their own.  In the end will they stand together or apart?  And what is Marethyu's (Death's) true identity?  There was a lot of resolution in this book which I appreciated.  It is not an easy thing to write a consistently good series, when all of the action is taking place in a time-frame of less than two weeks! At the same time, it was a little overwhelming just how many characters played a major role in the storyline by the start of book six.  I think that while the storyline with the Flamels and other characters in San Francisco was interesting, it wasn't necessarily relevant to whether or not Sophie and Josh triumphed or failed.  At the end of the book I was a little confused about the prophecy and whether or not it had come true.  "The two that are one must become the one that is all. One to save the world, one to destroy it."  It seems a little vague and confusing, even now.  My favorite character development in this novel was Virginia Dare.  I loved the interactions between her and John Dee.  Marethyu was kind of an interesting inclusion, but it seemed kind of cliched what his true identity ended up being.  The whole thing with Isis and Osiris was decently carried out and more than a little creepy.  The whole loop of time and characters was over-confusing and not explained well enough for my liking.  If you're a mythology and history geek like me, reading this series is worth it if only for all of the interesting characters.  A somewhat lukewarm ending to a slightly directionless series.

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 May 22nd, 2012.*

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Magical, Mystery Chocolate Pot


Published: May 22nd, 2012 (as eBook, originally published April 15th, 1988)
Sorcery & Cecelia or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot (Cecelia and Kate #1)
By: Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
Open Road for Young Readers
ISBN-13: 9781453254677

A great deal is happening in London and the country this season. For starters, there's the witch who tried to poison Kate at the Royal College of Wizards. There's also the man who seems to be spying on Cecelia. (Though he's not doing a very good job of it--so just what are his intentions?) And then there's Oliver. Ever since he was turned into a tree, he hasn't bothered to tell anyone where he is. Clearly, magic is a deadly and dangerous business. And the girls might be in fear for their lives . . . if only they weren't having so much fun!

Review

   The year is 1817 in an England where magic is a natural part of life.  Kate and Cecelia are cousins that have trouble staying out of mischief when they are together.  That's why their Aunts decide to separate them for the summer - Kate will go to London for her Season with her younger sister Georgina and Cecelia will stay in the country with her brother Oliver.  It turns out that Kate doesn't need Cecelia around to get into trouble and this becomes apparent when she gets in the middle of a feud between an undetermined assasin and the Marquis of Schofield.  On the other hand, Cecy's summer in the country has become just as strange when she discovers neighbor James Tarleton spying on her very shy (and strangely popular) friend Dorothea.  Neither man will explain things to Kate or Cecy, so they decide to investigate the increasingly odd goings-on for themselves.  Meanwhile, they are corresponding everything to one another with surprising dedication and wit.  Someone has set a rather horrible plan into motion that may involve harm to the Queen herself - but it won't happen if Kate and Cecy have anything to say about it.  And what does an enchanted chocolate pot have to do with anything?  This book started off a little bit slowly, but once it got going it was so much fun!  I loved the intrigue surrounding (of all the ridiculous objects) the choclate pot, the strange enchantment of Dorothea and the plots swirling around the whole affair.  The idea of proper and boorish Oliver being turned into a tree was absolutely hilarious, as were most of the things that happend in the country setting.  The London issues were a slight bit more of the alarming sort.  I adored the letters between Cecy and Kate.  You could tell how fond of each other they were and how much they trusted each other. I thought the romances were well-done, if obvious.  My favorite was not Kate and the Marquis (Thomas) though it was wonderful.  I loved Cecy and Thomas because of how truly nonsensically they started out and by the end of things, I couldn't imagine them without each other.  At times things did seem disjointed, considering this book began as a letter game between the authors, with no real direction.  But other than that I loved the plot, characters, and the conclusion fit very well for me.  I loved this book quite a bit and would highly recommend it.  If the fact that it's part of a series is off-putting, be glad to know that this book can stand on its own.

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 as an eBook on May 22nd, 2012.*

Welcome Caller, I'm Confused


Published: May 1st, 2012
Welcome Caller, This Is Chloe
By: Shelley Coriell
Amulet Books
ISBN-13: 9781419701917

Big-hearted Chloe Camden is the queen of her universe until her best friend shreds her reputation and her school counselor axes her junior independent study project. Chloe is forced to take on a meaningful project in order to pass, and so she joins her school’s struggling radio station, where the other students don’t find her too queenly. Ostracized by her former BFs and struggling with her beloved Grams’s mental deterioration, lonely Chloe ends up hosting a call-in show that gets the station much-needed publicity and, in the end, trouble. She also befriends radio techie and loner Duncan Moore, a quiet soul with a romantic heart. On and off the air, Chloe faces her loneliness and helps others find the fun and joy in everyday life. Readers will fall in love with Chloe as she falls in love with the radio station and the misfits who call it home.

Review

   Chloe Camden has a big personality and loves vintage shoes.  She has what may seem like a perfect life from the outside - at least she always thought it was.  Until her Grams and her Mom started an all out war over her Grams' mental lapses.   Until her best friends started ignoring her, spreading rumors about her and being nasty to her in public.  Also, her junior idependent study project was nixed by the new counselor, so she has to work at the school's dilapidated radio station instead.  Chloe has a hard time becoming part of the station until she starts hosting a call-in radio show.  Then she becomes popular again, by learning to listen to the problems of other people for a change.  But can Chloe find a way to help Duncan, the boy who is stealing her heart, when his life is becoming a train wreck?  Also, can she find a way to get her Mom and Grams to compromise and finally listen to each other?  This book wasn't fantastic, it wasn't horrible - it was just OK.  That disappointed me a lot.  I wanted to fall in love with it and certain parts of it let me accomplish that.  Other parts of the book were just so far removed from emotional connection it isn't funny.  The family and friend issues interested me and I liked Chloe from the start, even if she WAS self-centered.  She wasn't that way on purpose, but it did get annoying at times.  Yet, I loved the comic relief parts of the book just as much as the dramatic parts.  They just didn't mesh together that well.  This book couldn't decide whether it wanted to be a drama book a la Sarah Dessen or a comic book a la Jaclyn Moriarty.  My favorite part of the whole book was Chloe's Grams, who is just KICK-ASS.  I also loved the radio station misfits, who each have adorably quirky personalities that you can't help but love as a reader.  But the whole situation with Duncan's family felt a little too after-school specialy in the way it was handled, same with the situation of her ex-BFFs.  Duncan's romance with Chloe also left a lot to be desired.  Overall, I'm not sorry I read it but it was pretty mediocre and that makes me sad.

VERDICT:  2.75/5  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 May 1st, 2012.*

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Gather Round the Poison Tree


Expected Publication: July 10th, 2012
Poison Tree
By: Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Random House Children's Books
ISBN-13: 9780385737548

The rich stew of the author's creations—SingleEarth, vampires, shapeshifters, Tristes, the Bruja Guilds—are at full boil here in the story of two 20-ish young women trying to out run their very different pasts, and figure out where they fit in and who they might become. Each has landed in a more "normal" place, and each wonders if, like a tattoo that can't be covered up, they can ever really fit into "normal."

Review

   The book starts off with a prologue that introduces our main characters all at once - then they are separated for half the book until reuniting and not always recognizing one another.  Sarik is a shapeshifting Tiger, who escaped her brutal clan after the murder of her human sister by their Father.  Christian and Alysia are a part of a Bruja Guild - assassins with a strange, complex code of honor.  Jason is a vampire once ensalved to his maker.  Just a few years later Sarik and Jason are part of SingleEarth, a humanitarian organization for supernatural creatures, Alysia is a mediator for SingleEarth on the run from a bounty by Bruja and all of them collide.  Then someone attempst to harm Alysia and she is forced back into the harsh world of the Bruja.  In trying to save two children of her kind, Sarik may have to face the one person she would do anything to forget - her Father.  And what will Christian do know that he is a Triste witch in training, after Alysia reveals her true reasons for leaving Bruja?  Can all of them survive the political and personal intrigues long enough to make it out alive?  I have read EVERY SINGLE BOOK that Amelia Atwater-Rhodes has ever written.  ALL OF THEM.  I loved each of them equally madly, up until the publication of All Just Glass, a sequel to Shattered Mirror written almost a decade after the first book.  It was truly subpar, not at ALL in keeping with the feel of the original book.  Then come an ARC for this book, which I decided to try because it's in her universe that I already know.  This book is NOT teen oriented like the summary would have you believe, despite being published by Random House's Children's Division.  It was all about adults and their complicated, messy, political intrigues.  Half the time I had no clue what the heck was even going on because of how convoluted the plot became.  In trying to tell overly complicated stories for four separate characters, Atwater-Rhodes succeeded in making them all two-dimensional and superficial.  I felt like I never truly got to know any of them, not even Sarik or Alysia who have most of the novel focus.  I felt like SingleEarth was debased by being used as a plot device instead of a living, breathing setting with it's own stories.  It just served to move the story elsewhere with it's presence.  I am truly disappointed by the fact that the author seems to have decided to "spice up" her writing when it was perfect the way it used to be.  In my honest opinion it's not an improvement.

VERDICT:  2/5  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's expected publication date is July 10, 2012.*

Don't Flirt With Me, You're Creepy...


Published: June 12th, 2012
Flirting In Italian
By: Lauren McBride
Delacorte Books For Young Readers
ISBN-13: 9780385741354

Four girls. One magical, and possibly dangerous Italian summer. Family mysteries, ancient castles, long hot nights of dancing under the stars . . . and, of course, plenty of gorgeous Italian boys!

Review

   Eighteen year old Violet is getting ready to go to university in the fall, but there is something she needs to know before she leaves - whether or not she was adopted.  After seeing a painting at the museum in which the girl is practically identical to her, Violet sets out on a quest to find out who the girl is.  The trail leads Violet to Italy.  For a cover story, she tells her Mum that she wants to learn Italian culture, art, history and language over the summer to prepare better for university.  Signing up for a course that will be taught by an Italian woman at her Villa home in the Italian countryside, Violet sets off to discover who she really is.  While there she befriends the other girls taking the course: two Americans, Kendra and Paige, and a fellow Brit, Kelly.  The girls are initially at odds, but they bond over mutual dislike of their teacher Catia's bitchy, evil daughter Elisa.  While trying to learn about the painting, Violet balances her studies, problems involving her new friends and the boy next door to the Villa, Luca.  He is sending her very mixed signals romantically, but Violet can't help but be attracted to his volatile personality.  But things may not be looking up, as it seems someone will stop at nothing to keep Violet from the truth of her birth - even if it means killing her...  This book started out very promisingly.  A light-hearted, summer adventure with mystery, romance and some good times with new friends.  I got a lot of that, but the mystery of the painting really intrigued me as well.  While being annoyed that Violet couldn't JUST ASK her Mum whether or not she was adopted, I did appreciate the need for it as a plot device.  The part that pissed me off was that Henderson inserts a mystery, then ignores it for most of the book.  Than, at the end of the novel, she gives a half-ass cop-out ending that hints at a rather unsatisfactory ending to the truth of Violet's roots.  Plus, a book that could have ended well in one volume suddenly spawns a sequel.  The idea of Violet belonging to the family that was insinuated REALLY pissed me off.  It was unnecessary, unlikely and utterly disgusting to my sensibilities (this coming from someone who managed to stomach the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy!).  Not recommended unless you love to be disappointed.

VERDICT:  2/5  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 June 12, 2012.*

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

One Moment Is Just Too Long


Expected Publication: June 26th, 2012
One Moment
Egmont USA
ISBN-13: 9781606840863

This was supposed to be the best summer of Maggie’s life. Now it’s the one she’d do anything to forget.

Maggie Reynolds remembers hanging out at the gorge with her closest friends after a blowout party the night before. She remembers climbing the trail hand in hand with her perfect boyfriend, Joey. She remembers that last kiss, soft, lingering, and meant to reassure her. So why can’t she remember what happened in the moment before they were supposed to dive? Why was she left cowering at the top of the cliff, while Joey floated in the water below—dead?

As Maggie’s memories return in snatches, nothing seems to make sense. Why was Joey acting so strangely at the party? Where did he go after taking her home? And if Joey was keeping these secrets, what else was he hiding?

The latest novel from the author of The Tension of Opposites, One Moment is a mysterious, searing look at how an instant can change everything you believe about the world around you.

Review

   Maggie Reynolds was really happy with her boyfriend Joey.  They were in love and about ready to spend the summer before their senior year with a group of the best friends they could ever have.  Kicking off the summer with a party and hanging out at the gorge seem like great ideas.  Until Joey and Maggie climb up to dive off the cliff - and Joey ends up dead at the bottom.  Now Maggie has amnesia.  She can remember walking up the cliff with Joey, but nothing after that until he was dead at the bottom.  Trying to find out what really happened on the cliff, Maggie comes to the realization that Joey was keeping some big secrets from her.  They might not have been as happy as she thought and when she uncovers the truth, the hurt and betrayal threaten to consume her.  Can Maggie regain her memory, come to terms with whether or not Joey's death was her fault and forgive him for his mistakes - most important of all, can she forgive herself?  Maggie has blinders on for most of the book and I seriously wanted to crack her over the head.  How dumb can you really be???  I was disgusted with the idiocy and betrayals of most of her so-called friends.  I disliked that Maggie felt as if Joey was her entire life, that she couldn't live without him.  Maggie was completely pathetic to me and needed a guy to feel strong.  She was unable to be by herself, as evidenced by the romance that was crammed in last minute between her and Adam.  The conflict with Shannon felt extremely contrived, with the other girl painted as the villain and Maggie as the poor, helpless victim.  It made me gag.  The only thing at all that I really appreciated about this book was that it was descriptive and well conceived.  It just wasn't very well executed.  This book reminded me of a particularly annoying episode of The Secret Life of The American Teenager - only without all the pregnancy.  There was plenty of talk about sex though and that got on my nerves as well.  It was definitely NOT the book for me personally.  Perhaps fans of Lauren Barnholdt should give it a try?

VERDICT:  2/5  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's expected publication date is June 26, 2012.*

That Evil Woman Better Change Her Evil Ways


Expected Publication: October 2nd, 2012
Sailor Twain, or The Mermaid in the Hudson
First Second
ISBN-13: 9781596436367

One hundred years ago. On the foggy Hudson River, a riverboat captain rescues an injured mermaid from the waters of the busiest port in the United States. A wildly popular--and notoriously reclusive--author makes a public debut. A French nobleman seeks a remedy for a curse. As three lives twine together and race to an unexpected collision, the mystery of the Mermaid of the Hudson deepens.

A mysterious and beguiling love story with elements of Poe, Twain, Hemingway, and Greek mythology, drawn in moody black-and-white charcoal, Sailor Twain is a study in romance, atmosphere, and suspense.


Review

   Twain is a riverboat captain who thinks that he has the difference between right and wrong fairly well figured out.  He's faithful to his sick wife while at sea and tries to keep a reputable ship, with a hard-working crew.  Therefore it's not such a big surprise that he's at odds with Lafayette, a French nobleman who is a passenger on his ship.  He is obsessed with having 'seven loves' at the same time.  It may not be for the reasons Twain thinks though - Lafayette has been afflicted by a mermaid's call.  He is fighting the urge to go under the water and not resurface again.  Meanwhile, Twain has saved an injured mermaid from the Hudson River and is hiding her from his crew while she recovers.  In spite of her promise never to sing to him, Twain feels himself coming under her spell just the same.  Will all be lost to the mermaid's song or will Sailor Twain be able to defeat her curse?  At first I didn't quite get what was going on (as I had missed the second part of the book's title).  I was still intrigued, so despite confusion I soldiered on.  I ended up falling in love with the illustrations in the graphic novel (which I also did not know this happened to be a GN before I began reading).  Their black and white splendor, with an almost obsessive attention to detail was beautiful.  I liked that they were cartoon style rather than realistically drawn.  It lent to the feel of the story as an American myth.  I felt as though I were reading a book written by a Victorian author and I loved every minute of it.  The characters were multi-dimensional and the story was so layered I could swim in it for days.  I loved the ending and the way the plot unfolded in general.  You could tell that Mr. Siegel has done a LOT of research and it certainly payed off.  If you are a fan of historical fiction, suspense and romance this is the book for you  - even if Graphic Novels aren't your thing you should give it chance.  You'll be pleasantly surprised.

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's expected publication date is October 2, 2012.*

The Girl Who Came Down The Mountain...


Expected Publication: August 21st, 2012
Palace of Stone (Princess Acadmey #2)
By: Shannon Hale
Bloomsbury USA
ISBN-13: 9781599908731


Coming down from the mountain to a new life in the city seems a thrill beyond imagining. When Miri and her friends from Mount Eskel set off to help the future princess Britta prepare for her royal wedding, she is happy about her chance to attend school in the capital city. There, Miri befriends students who seem so sophisticated and exciting . . . until she learns that they have some frightening plans. They think that Miri will help them, that she should help them. Soon Miri finds herself torn between loyalty to the princess and her new friends’ ideas, between an old love and a new crush, and between her small mountain home and the bustling city.

Picking up where Princess Academy left off, this incredible stand-alone story celebrates the joys of friendship, the delight of romance, and the fate of a beloved fairy tale kingdom.


Review

   Miri is excited to go to the castle and help Britta prepare for her wedding to Prince Steffan.  But when she and the other girls arrive in Asland, the capital city of Danland, nothing is exactly like she thought it would be.  Peder, who came to the capital with them to apprentice a stonecarver, never has time to spend with her.  Her friends from home are diverging from each other and finding new interests.  Miri herself finds comfort in her education at the much lauded Queen's College.  But there is a revolution brewing due to the unfair treatment of the city's common people.  Miri will have to decide whether or not to stand with her new friends against the royal family and everything they stand for, or stay loyal to Britta and the mountain she comes from.  Can Miri sort out the confusion in her heart as well, and decide between Peder and the city boy who intrigues her?  This book was an interesting follow-up to a cute, if somewhat bland predecessor.  I did like the original book, but it didn't have enough action or intrigue for my personal tastes.  I loved the whole idea of Danland's citizens trying to mount a revolution against the King.  It was very realistically portrayed.  Not everything was solved by the end and wrapped up in a tidy bow.  There were still problems and all of the characters were very human.  The main complaint on my part for the book was how selfishly Britta is portrayed to be, after being so normal and down to Earth in the first book.  Also, Steffan came across as a prig and Miri's college friends for the most part, seemed truly idiotic in matters of common sense.  Other than minor annoyances, I loved Miri's parts of the story and the ending made me smile.  To me this novel was better than the one before it.  Recommended for fans of the original novel for sure.


VERDICT:  4/5  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's expected publication date is August 21, 2012.*

Monday, June 11, 2012

That Girl Is A Drama Queen


Expected Publication: July 10th, 2012
Diva (Flappers #3)
By: Jillian Larkin
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
ISBN-13: 9780385740418

Parties, bad boys, speakeasies—life in Manhattan has become a woozy blur for Clara Knowles. If Marcus Eastman truly loved her, how could he have fallen for another girl so quickly? Their romance mustn't have been as magical as Clara thought. And if she has to be unhappy, she's going to drag everyone else down to the depths of despair right along with her.

Being a Barnard girl is the stuff of Lorraine Dyer's dreams. Finding out that Marcus is marrying a gold digger who may or may not be named Anastasia? A nightmare. The old Lorraine would have sat by and let the chips fall where they may, but she's grown up a lot these past few months. She can't bear to see Marcus lose a chance for true love. But will anyone listen to her?

Now that the charges against her have been dropped, Gloria Carmody is spending the last dizzying days of summer on Long Island, yachting on the sound and palling around with socialites at Forrest Hamilton's swanky villa. Beneath her smile, though, Gloria's keeping a secret. One that could have deadly consequences . . .


Review

   Gloria Carmody has been released from prison by the FBI - but only on the condition that she spies on wealthy playboy Forrest Hamilton.  They think that he's involved in illegal activities, but they need Gloria to gain proof for them.  And the only way to do that is by becoming part of Forrest's crowd.  Is Forrest really the bad guy, or is there more to this mystery than what's on the surface?   How are famous Broadway star Ruby and shady henchman Pembrooke involved?  Clara is still heartbroken over her split with Marcus, especially when she finds out that he's already engaged to another woman.  Still writing for The Manhattanite and partying the flapper way, Clara should be having the time of her life.  But it's empty without Marcus in her life.  Marcus's new fiance may not be as innocent as she seems and when Clara finds out that she's a gold-digging grifter, she needs to come up with a plan to save Marcus and stop the wedding - FAST.  Lorraine Dyer is living out her dream of being a Barnard girl, but she has no friends and is ostracized.  All because of her part in the plot to put Gloria in jail.  The only people who will even talk to her at all are Melvi, a really nerdy guy and her roomate Becky.  Lorraine still thinks she might be in love with Marcus, so when she finds out that his fiance is a con artist, she is desperate to get back into Clara's good graces and put a stop to the wedding before it's too late.  Along the way Lorraine finds out that looks aren't everything and that sometimes love is where you least expect it.  Will the girls be able to forgive and forget the past, to work together and stop Marcus from making a huge mistake?  Will Gloria be able to have her happily ever after with Jerome, or will they be kept apart for good?  This was a pretty awesome ending to a really action-packed series.  I adored the first book and liked the sub-plots in the second.  Surprisingly, I really didn't care much about Gloria or Jerome in this installment.  I just wanted to know whether or not Clara and Marcus would get back together.  I was really ecstatic to see Lorraine grow up and realize that she could be happy without popularity or wealth.  As always, there was a mystery that needed to be solved.  Where was Forrest getting his money?  Boy, I did not see THAT one coming!  I also liked Anastasia being a grifter, even if it was somewhat cliched.  I liked this book a lot and thought it sent off the series with a bang.  I can't wait to see what Jillian Larking writes next! :)

VERDICT:  4.85/5  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's expected publication date is July 2nd, 2012.*

If I Can Learn To Do It


Published: July 6th, 2005
Princess Academy
By: Shannon Hale
Bloomsbury USA
ISBN-13: 9781599900735

Miri lives on a mountain where, for generations, her ancestors have quarried stone and lived a simple life. Then word comes that the king's priests have divined her small village the home of the future princess. In a year's time, the prince himself will come and choose his bride from among the girls of the village. The king's ministers set up an academy on the mountain, and every teenage girl must attend and learn how to become a princess.

Miri soon finds herself confronted with a harsh academy mistress, bitter competition among the girls, and her own conflicting desires to be chosen and win the heart of her childhood best friend. But when bandits seek out the academy to kidnap the future princess, Miri must rally the girls together and use a power unique to the mountain dwellers to save herself and her classmates.


Review

   Miri lives on Mount Eskel, where her family quarries the linder stone that is within the mountain and lives off the land.  Except for Miri, who isn't allowed to quarry with the others.  She thinks it's because her Papa thinks she's not big or strong enough to help out.  Things change in the villagers' routine when it's announced that the future Princess will come from Mount Eskel.  An academy is established to prepare all of the eligible girls for the Prince's visit in one year's time.  Miri is forced to attend the academy and at first she is miserable.  But then she decides that she will learn as much as she possibly can, trying to best the other girls for the title of Academy Princess.  Along the way Miri makes a discovery about the real worth of the linder stone and changes the trading practices of the villagers.  But when a real threat to the girls arises, will Miri's wisdom and wit be able to save them from a disastrous fate?  And who will the Prince choose to become his wife?  Miri is strong, determined and very intelligent.  Not to mention extremely stubborn!  But she's also insecure about her place in the village and in her Father's heart.  Miri is friends with Peder, a mountain boy, and she's begun to have other feelings for him as well.  The Princess Academy is her chance to prove herself, but it also drives a bit of a wedge between her and Peder.  Also Miri finally learns the truth about her friend Britta's mysterious past.  I loved the idea of quarry-speech.  The thing this book really brought to the forefront was finding your personal identity and how important it is.  I enjoyed the story, but it was so very plain at times that I almost wanted a dragon to eat someone or an evil wizard to come to the village.  I honestly don't really classify this book as fantasy.  It was basically just historical fiction, of a made-up place.  At times it was boring and I felt like I wanted to stop reading.  I also felt like the situation with the bandits was so contived that it was laughable.  Yet, this book still has something charming about it.  I would recommend it more for middle school aged girls. 

VERDICT:  3/5  Stars

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