Monday, July 30, 2012

Life Is a Highway


Expected Publication: October 1st, 2012
Stealing Parker
By: Miranda Kenneally
Sourcebooks Fire
ISBN-13: 9781402271878

Parker Shelton pretty much has the perfect life. She’s on her way to becoming valedictorian at Hundred Oaks High, she’s made the all-star softball team, and she has plenty of friends. Then her mother’s scandal rocks their small town and suddenly no one will talk to her.

Now Parker wants a new life.

So she quits softball. Drops twenty pounds. And she figures why kiss one guy when she can kiss three? Or four. Why limit herself to high school boys when the majorly cute new baseball coach seems especially flirty?

But how far is too far before she loses herself completely?



Review

   Parker Shelton used to have the perfect happy family complete with her stay-at-home Mom, overachiever brother Ryan and architect Dad.  But then her Mom revealed that she was a lesbian and left them for another woman.  Now Parker is ostracized by her ex-best friends Laura (the youth pastor's daughter at the family's church) and Allie, gossiped about by everyone in church and only her friend Drew stands by her.  Conflicted about whether or not to stay in touch with her Mom and forgive her, or to stay angry and keep herself away from the 'sin' Parker is determined to prove that she is NOT a lesbian like her Mom.  She quite softball and loses 30 pounds to seem less 'butch.'  She refuses to have committed relationships and instead only hooks up with a guy once and moves on to another the next day.  But with her brother becoming more and more into drugs, her Dad never being home and no Mom to guide her, Parker is making some serious mistakes.  Can she do the right thing for her family and herself?  And is it really okay to sneaking around with the new, college graduate assistant coach Brian when it's against the law and could get them both in serious trouble?  Can Parker find a way to keep her friendship with Drew and start a real relationship with his teammate Will?  Parker has some serious issues and I honestly think that made me sympathize more with her and like her more than I would have if she'd have been more like Jordan Woods, the main character in Miranda's other book.  Parker wants for things to go back to normal with her family and she does want a relationship with her Mom.  But at the same time, her church and her old friends have managed to make her so confused about what's right or wrong, that she is reluctant to communicate with her Mom at all anymore.  I felt so sorry for Parker that had the idea that she needed to hook up as much as possible to avoid the label of 'lesbian' because of her Mom.  Small towns are so cruel.  I have gay relatives, but that doesn't mean that by association I'm anything less than straight as an arrow.  I loved the realistic family conflicts and I wasn't surprised when Drew tells Parker about his personal revelation.  I liked the slow-growing relationship between Parker and Will (aka Corndog) and was seriously pissed when Drew questioned her ability to remain faithful and have a serious relationship.  I enjoyed the prayers that Parker wrote at the start of each chapter and burned to keep them personal.  Brian was an unusually sympathetic character for me, as it was obvious that  he really did care about Parker, but had so many issues of his own that he wasn't capable of a strong relationship.  Not to mention that she was a student and that their hook up could have destroyed his coaching and teaching careers for good.  I liked the plot, characters, overall story and the development that each person went through, but especially Parker.  The ending was very sweet and I am impressed with this book's approach to life.  I am interested to see what the author does next and I would recommend this to fans of YA contemporary fiction, especially Sarah Dessen, Deb Calleti and Susanne Colasanti.

VERDICT:  4.25/5  Stars

*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. It will be available for purchase on October 1st, 2012.*

You Are Not My Beloved


Expected Publication: September 25th, 2012
Dearly, Beloved (Gone With the Respiration # 2)
By: Lia Habel
Del Rey
ISBN-13: 9780345523341

Can the living coexist with the living dead?

That’s the question that has New Victorian society fiercely divided ever since the mysterious plague known as “The Laz” hit the city of New London and turned thousands into walking corpses. But while some of these zombies are mindless monsters, hungry for human flesh, others can still think, speak, reason, and control their ravenous new appetites.

Just ask Nora Dearly, the young lady of means who was nearly kidnapped by a band of sinister zombies but valiantly rescued by a dashing young man . . . of the dead variety.

Nora and her savior, the young zombie soldier Bram Griswold, fell hopelessly in love. But others feel only fear and loathing for the reanimated dead. Now, as tensions grow between pro- and anti-zombie factions, battle lines are being drawn in the streets. And though Bram is no longer in the New Victorian army, he and his ex-commando zombie comrades are determined to help keep the peace. That means taking a dangerous stand between The Changed, a radical group of sentient zombies fighting for survival, and The Murder, a masked squad of urban guerrillas hellbent on destroying the living dead. But zombies aren’t the only ones in danger: Their living allies are also in The Murder’s crosshairs, and for one vengeful zealot, Nora Dearly is the number one target.

As paranoia, prejudice, and terrorist attacks threaten to plunge the city into full-scale war, Nora’s scientist father and his team continue their desperate race to unlock the secrets of “The Laz” and find a cure. But their efforts may be doomed when a mysterious zombie appears bearing an entirely new strain of the virus—and the nation of New Victoria braces for a new wave of the apocalypse.


Review

   Nora Dearly has had enough adventure to last her a lifetime.  But it doesn't seem like her life will be slowing down anytime soon, now that she has her Father back in her life (as one of the undead affected by the Lazarus virus) and she is involved romantically with a zombie soldier named Bram.  Also, now that the zombies have proved that they aren't all flesh-eating monsters, they're trying to peacefully co-exist in society with the living.  It isn't working out all that well.  With a new group of the living called the 'Murder' committing hate crimes against zombies, and a group of hostile zombies wanting to strike back against all of the living in New London, Nora and Bram have more to deal with than they can handle.  The novel is told from the points of view of Nora, Bram, Pamela (Nora's best friend), Michael Allister, complicated mean girl Vespertine Mink and a new zombie named Laura who grows plants from her rotting body.  Dealing with terrorist attacks, possible outbreak of a new strain of the virus and a possible apocalypse, Nora and her friends may not all make it out alive.  And how do you move on from a betrayl so deep that it could crush your heart completely?  I wanted to love this book.  The first one was new, exciting and well-written with characters that had distinctive voices, even with multiple points of view.  That wasn't the case in the sequel.  I felt like the divide between the six p.o.v.s was clunky, not at ALL well-executed and I lost track of who was supposed to be narrating quite a bit more than was acceptable.  Nora has basically become a petulant brat now that she is living with her Father again, Bram is annoying and without any real purpose anymore and the only character I could really even stand was Pamela.  Even she managed to get on my nerves a lot.  I felt like the author was trying to cram too much plot into one book and yet it still moved at a glacial pace that bored me to tears for the most part.  I found myself no longer caring if the characters lived or died and I was sorely disappointed with Habel's treatment of the formerly strong and admirable Coalhouse.  I loved the scene with Vespertine and Renfield (unfortunately there was only one, at almost the end of the book) and learning the badass backstory of Drs. Samedi and Chase.  I however feel cheated by the poor follow-through of the first book's wonderful set-up and execution.  I have wasted some time reading this and will not be reading the next book in the series.  I just don't care anymore.

VERDICT:  1.5/5  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 September 25th, 2012.*

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I Wish She Had Drowned


Expected Publication: July 31st, 2012
Pleasures of a Tempted Lady (Donovan Sisters # 3)
By: Jennifer Haymore
Forever
ISBN-13: 9780446573160

DANGEROUS DESIRE

Captain William Langley knows the ocean well, but nothing could prepare him for what he discovers adrift on the cold Irish Sea. The tiny boat carries two passengers: a child--and Meg Donovan, Will's long-lost love. Meg's disappearance at sea eight years ago was a devastating blow. Now she's back, as beautiful as ever, and with secrets as deep as Will's own . . .


After years held captive by a cold-blooded pirate, Meg has finally escaped with little Jake, the boy she's come to love as if he were her own. But the pirate wants his revenge--and Meg must do whatever it takes to shield Jake from the madman. Determined not to lose Meg again, Will vows to protect them both, yet Meg can't risk putting the only man she's ever loved in danger. With the threat to her safety growing, and her passion for Will burning brighter every day, surrendering herself to Will might be a pleasure too tempting to resist . . .
Review

   This review will be a little different from past ones, as I feel that I honestly have nothing to personally to add to the summary above.  I read the first two books in the series and truly liked Serena (who is masquerading as her twin Meg, who she believes to be dead), Olivia, Jessica and Phoebe.  I loved Serena and truly felt how torn she was about becoming Meg to save her family from ruin.  Phoebe's strength and presence of mind were awesome compare to most historical romance heroines.  I thought that the real Meg would at least be semi-relatable - she was not.  Meg was able to get out of her captor's clutches, be rescued by a handsome captain and returned to her family.  All she could do was complain!  She made ridiculous decisions that supposedly were for the best interests of everyone, trying to solve her problems ineffectually on her own to 'spare' her family.  You can tell that she despises Serena for stealing her identity and  doesn't even want to attempt to understand why she did it, or even that their Mother was the one who originally began the deception.  She is a whining, weak-spined, cold fish of a heroine.  Captain Will Langley was the hero of the story, having waited eight years against all odds for Meg even when she was believed to be dead.  Then when he got her back and she was an ungrateful brat, he still stuck with her and waited for her to wise up.  He's the Wentworth of the paperback, dime-a-dozen set.  I honestly did not really care for most of this book and felt like it was twice as long as it needed to be.  Really glad to be able to say that I finished the series, but I truly wish that Meg would have been worth waiting for.  The fact that I was able to finish and the glimpses of the other characters were the only things that made this book worth reading.  Only attempt if you're determined to finish the series.

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 31st, 2012.*

Accidentally In Love


Published: February 1st, 2012
Secrets of an Accidental Duchess (Donovan Sisters # 2)
By: Jennifer Haymore
Forever
ISBN-13: 9780446573153

With her pale hair and slim figure, Olivia Donovan looks as fragile as fine china, and has been treated as such by her sisters ever since a childhood bout with malaria. But beneath her delicate facade, Olivia guards a bold, independent spirit and the kind of passionate desires proper young ladies must never confess...

It was a reckless wager, and one Max couldn't resist: seduce the alluring Olivia or forfeit part of his fortune. Yet the wild, soon-to-be Duke never imagined he'd fall in love with this innocent beauty. Nor could he have guessed that a dangerously unpredictable rival would set out to destroy them both. Now, Max must beat a Madman at his own twisted game-or forever lose the only woman to have ever won his heart.


Review

   Olivia Donovan has always been treated with caution by her family, due to an illness (malaria) that has plagued her since her childhood days in Antigua.  Olivia is kind, gentle and an obedient daughter - but she also has a passion for life and wishes should could be treated like everyone else.  Men want wives who are strong and can give them heirs, so Olivia expectes to never marry and as such makes no effort towards men at all.  Until Max, the Marquis of Halsey, comes into her life and turns her vows of celibacy upside down.  What she isn't aware of is that Max has signed a wager that he can seduce her with a rival noble, Fenwicke, who is angry that his own attempts to seduce Olivia failed (not to mention that he's married and a total rake).  Can Olivia and Max have a meaningful relationship, despite her illness and his somewhat less than pure foundation?  Will Fenwicke have his revenge for being spurned?  This was a fun book, that dealt with some serious issues.  Serena (the oldest, going by their dead sister Meg's name) is happily married and expecting, but suffers a miscarriage.  Jessica Donovan befriends a reclusive neighbor, only to learn that she is Fenwicke's wife and he abuses/rapes her on a regular basis.  The love story between Olivia and Max is mostly light-hearted with a little bit of a wrench thrown in the works when respectively her malaria flares up, and she finds out that it all started because of a bet.  Fenwicke was a truly sinister and love-to-hate villain - the best kind!  The book went fairly fast and the plot never really stalled in my opinion, except in how fast Olivia and Max become sexually intimate.  I feel like it was rushed and Olivia was far more blase than a woman of her times would have been, especially one as sheltered and ill as her.  Overall, a good read and one that carries the series along past the sophmore curse.

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 1st, 2012.*

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Pushing Me To the Brink


Expected Publication: July 31st, 2012
Pushing The Limits
By: Katie McGarry
Harlequin Teen
ISBN-13:  9780373210497

"I won't tell anyone, Echo. I promise." Noah tucked a curl behind my ear. It had been so long since someone touched me like he did. Why did it have to be Noah Hutchins? His dark brown eyes shifted to my covered arms. "You didn't do that-did you? It was done to you?" No one ever asked that question. They stared. They whispered. They laughed. But they never asked.

So wrong for each other...and yet so right.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

"An edgy romance that pulls you in and never lets go. I was hooked!"-Gena Showalter, New York Times bestselling author of the Intertwined series.


Review

   Echo Emerson has been an outcast since she disappeared from school and came back with disfiguring scars on her arms.  All of her classmates think she tried to committ suicide, but the truth is much darker than that.  It keeps Echo awake at night and haunts her dreams, even though her mind is a total blank and she can't remember what happened.  Plus she has to deal with having lost her brother in Afghanistan, her parents divorcing and her Dad marrying the babysitter, who is pregnant with his child.  Noah Hutchins has been the resident bad boy at Echo's school, but even with the drugs and the parade of girls, he is something much more.  His parents died in a tragic fire and he was separated from his younger brothers, bounced around the foster care system.  Now all he wants is to get his family back together, but he'll need to clean up his act first.  Now with the new counselor Mrs. Collins pushing Echo into tutoring Noah so she can make money to fix her dead brother Aires' car, the lines will blur and they will find something in each other that has been missing from their lives.  As they fall deeper into each others situations, can Echo and Noah find a way to heal together or will they destroy each other once and for all?  I LOVED this book.  It was not completely perfect and sometimes the stupidity of the characters actions annoyed me.  Such as Echo and Noah trying to steal their files, her to find out what happened the day she almost died and him to get the address of the foster home where his brothers are.  And Echo feeling like popularity and getting her old life back were the most important things ever, including her old boyfriend who was a total douchebag and her old BFF who is shallower than a kiddie pool.  I loved the gritty issues that they both had to deal with, that made the story twice as intense.  Plus the chemistry between Echo and Noah was completely smoking hot.  Like off the charts insanely hot!  I liked Lila, Isaiah and Beth although Beth truly made me want to bash her head in at times.  I could not put this book down.  I literally read it in one sitting and wanted more at the end.  By the time things were resolved with Noah's issues and Echo's memory, I was practically bawling.  This was so close to five stars that I have to say I highly recommend it for fans of gritty, contemporary YA who don't mind a little raciness in their fiction.

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 31st, 2012.*

Our Plane Is Hitting Turbulence


Expected Publication: October 23rd, 2012
Ask the Passengers
By: A.S. King
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN-13: 9780316194686

Astrid Jones copes with her small town's gossip and narrow-mindedness by staring at the sky and imagining that she's sending love to the passengers in the airplanes flying high over her backyard. Maybe they'll know what to do with it. Maybe it'll make them happy. Maybe they'll need it. Her mother doesn't want it, her father's always stoned, her perfect sister's too busy trying to fit in, and the people in her small town would never allow her to love the person she really wants to: another girl named Dee. There's no one Astrid feels she can talk to about this deep secret or the profound questions that she's trying to answer. But little does she know just how much sending her love--and asking the right questions--will affect the passengers' lives, and her own, for the better.

In this unmistakably original portrayal of a girl struggling to break free of society's boxes and definitions, Printz Honor author A.S. King asks readers to question everything--and offers hope to those who will never stop seeking and sharing real love.


Review

   Astrid Jones feels like an outsider in her small town, her family and sometimes even with her best friends.  She feels like no one she knows needs her love, so she sends it into the sky to the passengers of the airplanes that go overhead.  Her Dad is always stoned, her sister has given into the small-town, Stepford mentality and her Mom is a complete control freak.  Her best friends Justin and Kristina are using each other to hide the fact that they're both gay and Astrid herself might be in love with her co-worker Dee - another girl.  Astrid only knows for sure how confused she is and that she can use all the help she can get, even if it's from Socrates (he's dead but he gets her).  How much will she lose before she finally admits to herself who she is and what she wants from life?  Can Astrid be accepted by others and more importantly by herself?  Honestly, my favorite part of the book was the side passages that had the stories of the airplane passengers.  I thought they were more easy to connect to than Astrid by far.  Her disconnect from the rest of her life really was something empathized with, but it made connecting with her emotionally as a character almost impossible for me.  I was pissed at how pushy and hypocritical Kristina was towards Astrid when they were caught by the cops at the gay club, Atlantis, and arrested for being underaged.  She blamed everything on Astrid.  Yeah right.  I think the person whose story affected me the most was Astrid's little sister, because she was caught between her uncaring Dad, her detached sister and her emotionally manipulative Mom, on top of the small town societal bigotry.  Poor girl was confused and it's no wonder.  What pissed me off the most, as someone who is personally bisexual (if you want to label it, which I normally don't), that the possibility of Astrid being able to bat for both teams wasn't even touched upon.  She liked girls and boys.  But she had to be either straight or a lesbian.  I'm sorry, but that is not how the real world works!  I liked the ending and it's stark realisticness.  However, this book just didn't do it for me, no matter how well written it was.  My favorite part was Astrid's conversations with the imaginary Socrates - something I might have done as a teen.  Overall, a decent read but not the best ever.  I much prefer the author's Printz winning novel, Please Ignore Vera Dietz.

VERDICT:  2.75/5  Stars

*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. It will be available for purchase on October 23rd, 2012.*

Monday, July 23, 2012

If You're Angry and You Know It...



Expected Publication: August 28th, 2012
Confessions of an Angry Girl (Confessions # 1)
By: Louise Rozett
Harlequin Teen
ISBN-13: 9780373210480

Rose Zarelli, self-proclaimed word geek and angry girl, has some CONFESSIONS to make... #1: I'm livid all the time. Why? My dad died. My mom barely talks. My brother abandoned us. I think I'm allowed to be irate, don't you?

#2: I make people furious regularly. Want an example? I kissed Jamie Forta, a badass guy who "might" be dating a cheerleader. She is now enraged and out for blood. Mine.

#3: High school might as well be Mars. My best friend has been replaced by an alien, and I see red all the time. (Mars is red and "seeing red" means being angry-get it?)

Here are some other vocab words that describe my life: Inadequate. Insufferable. Intolerable.

(Don't know what they mean? Look them up yourself.) (Sorry. That was rude.)


Review

   Rose Zarelli is fourteen years old and really angry at life.  Her Dad died recently, her Mom has completely withdrawn, and her brother went off to college and ditched them.  She has all of these confusing feelings for Jamie Forta, an older guy who everyone says is no good for her - and he might have a girlfriend.  Her best friend Tracy made the cheerleading squad and is dating a complete jerk named Matt.  Rose just doesn't understand the rules of high school and why everything has to change so much.  Will she always be this angry and on the fringes or can she get her life back together?  Rose tries to be a good friend and look out for Tracy, all the while being left behind and criticized for not thinking that popularity is the end-all-be-all of everything.  She's confused and angry because of her Dad's death.  She loves her brother but is totally pissed when he doesn't come home for Thanksgiving and goes to his girlfriend's house instead.  Plus she has to figure out whether or not she wants to get involved with Jamie or give in to Robert, who follows her around like a puppy that's been kicked a lot.  I sympathize with Rose so much and understand why she's so angry.  I also totally understand her confusion at the rules of high school society.  I hated that Rose saved her friend Stephanie from alcohol poisoning at a party and got labeled 911 Bitch and tormented for months afterward by the cheerleaders, especially Jamie's girlfriend who hated Rose's friendship with him.  Rose has attitude, snarky and sassy comebacks, plus she's a word nerd.  What's not to love?  Yes, she does stupid stuff a lot, but she's only fourteen.  I was angry that there was a cliffhanger at the end!  I want to know what happens now but I have to wait months on end for more of Rose and her screwed up life! :)  I definitely recommend this to people who like a strong heroine.  Don't be discouraged by her age, in this case it worked in her favor because she actually acted like it in a good way.

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 28th, 2012.*

Struck By You


Published: May 8th, 2012
Struck (Struck # 1)
By: Jennifer Bosworth
Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR
ISBN-13: 9780374372835

Mia Price is a lightning addict. She’s survived countless strikes, but her craving to connect to the energy in storms endangers her life and the lives of those around her.

Los Angeles, where lightning rarely strikes, is one of the few places Mia feels safe from her addiction. But when an earthquake devastates the city, her haven is transformed into a minefield of chaos and danger. The beaches become massive tent cities. Downtown is a crumbling wasteland, where a traveling party moves to a different empty building each night, the revelers drawn to the destruction by a force they cannot deny. Two warring cults rise to power, and both see Mia as the key to their opposing doomsday prophecies. They believe she has a connection to the freak electrical storm that caused the quake, and to the far more devastating storm that is yet to come.

Mia wants to trust the enigmatic and alluring Jeremy when he promises to protect her, but she fears he isn’t who he claims to be. In the end, the passion and power that brought them together could be their downfall. When the final disaster strikes, Mia must risk unleashing the full horror of her strength to save the people she loves, or lose everything.


Review

   Mia Price is trying to keep her family from falling apart in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake that ravage her city, Los Angeles.  If she could survive being struck by lightning so many times, she could make it through anything right?  But now she's addicted to the feeling of the electricity coursing through her veins.  Then a mysterious group approaches her at school about joining them in trying to stop Rance Ridley Prophet, a religious extremist (basically a cult leader), from destroying the city even more with his prophecies of doom.  But are they just using Mia for the 'Spark' she possesses?  Are they just another cult like the one Prophet is in charge of?  Trying to protect her brother Parker, her Mom who has been drawn into Prophet's web AND figure out the motives of the Seekers and Prophet's followers, plus the weird but hot guy that's been following her around, can Mia make it out of this situation alive?  Or will she be the sacrifice that saves the city from the end of days?  This was definitely one of the more original books that I've read so far this year.  With a girl who is addicted to lightning and the complications of the possible apocalypse, I was riveted for most of the book.  Prophet and his ability to ensnare people was truly creepy!  I understood the fragility of Mia's Mom after being traumatized during the quake, but man how awful to watch your parent brainwash themself into obedience with a cult mentality.  I felt like Mia's younger brother Parker was just there for the author to use as a plot device.  He was the reason for a lot of Mia's actions, but has no real discernible personality or motive for his actions.  It was slightly annoying after awhile.  The Seekers and their connection to the abilities that are brought on by lightning was an interesting inclusion into the plot.  But their motives were still slightly unclear at the end of the novel.  And I truly could NOT STAND Katrina, who gets her way through manipulation every time that Mia tells her no.  Plus she's just a smug bitch for most of the book.  I liked Jeremy, who had a difficult upbringing (can't say anymore for fear of spoilers!) and overcame it to do what he believed to be right.  My main problem is that Mia gave in and began to start a relationship with him so easily after she found out that he was going to murder her originally!!!  YEAH RIGHT!  I can't imagine doing anything other than sticking his knife where the sun don't shine, no matter how hot he supposedly is!  Overall, the plot and the characters came together to create an interesting and fresh book.  It was unlike anything else I've read recently and I would definitely recommend it to fans of apocalyptic and dystopian YA fiction.

VERDICT:  3.75/5  Stars

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

Cool as a Cucumber


Published: October 11th, 2011
Deadly Cool (Deadly Cool # 1)
By: Gemma Halliday
Harper Teen
ISBN-13: 9780062003317

Hartley Grace Featherstone is having a very bad day. First she finds out that her boyfriend is cheating on her with the president of the Herbert Hoover High School Chastity Club. Then he’s pegged as the #1 suspect in a murder. And if that weren’t enough, now he’s depending on Hartley to clear his name.

But as much as Hartley wouldn’t mind seeing him squirm, she knows he’s innocent, and she’s the only one who can help him. Along with her best friend, Sam, and the school’s resident Bad Boy, Chase, Hartley starts investigating on her own. But as the dead bodies begin to pile up, the mystery deepens, the suspects multiply, and Hartley begins to fear that she may be the killer’s next victim.


Review

   Hartley is having a really hard day.  It seems like the school except for her knew about her boyfriend cheating with a member of the Chastity Club.  And to make matters worse, when she goes to confront him she finds the other girl, dead inside his closet.  Now the cops are investigating Josh as the killer, he's on the run and it seems like Hartley is the only one who can clear his name.  She can't do it alone though, but maybe with the help of best friend Sam and nosy, hot school reporter Chase she can crack the case.  But they better hurry, because someone will stop at nothing to make sure the truth stays buried.  Hartley might be the next victim if she isn't careful...  Hartley is funny, sarcastic and strong.  But she is also slightly insecure like any normal teenager.  So watching her go through the situation with the cheating boyfriend truly sucked.  But I loved the interactions between her and Sam.  Especially when they borrowed Sam's brother's car - which runs on VEGETABLE OIL.  It was freaking hilarious when they were talking about how he obtained fuel for the car.  I loved Chase's interference and total inability to butt out of Hartley's investigation.  It made for some major swoon and he sounded like a true literary hottie.  The murder investigation had a conclusion that I truly DID NOT see coming in a million years.  The reason for the murder was so asinine and the killer so crazy, that it actually made a sick kind of sense.  The snarky comments and fast-paced plot were a joy to read after so many mediocre books disappointing me this year.  Hatrley's Mom (who she calls the SMother) was just the right balance of parental crazy and loving understanding.  I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who likes a witty mystery and doesn't mind a teenage protagonist.

VERDICT:  4.25/5  Stars

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

Friday, July 20, 2012

Follow Me Friday # 13



     So, Follow my Blog Friday is a meme hosted by Parajunkee and AlisonCanRead. It's where you answer the weekly question and then link yourself and you go and check out other blogs of your interest.

Q: Christmas in July! Someone gives you a gift card for two books (whatever that costs). What two books will you buy?

A:  I honestly don't know!  I think that I would buy The Humanism of Doctor Who by: David Layton, mostly because I'm dying to read it and then Iwouldn't feel guilty about the fact that it costs almost as much as an inexpensive college textbook!  Also, I would pre-order Beautiful Redemption by: Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl as I am dying to read it and find out how the series ends! :)  I am a totally odd duck, who wears polka dots and listens to K-pop - I admit it!  What about you guys?  What books would you choose that you've been salivating over?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Enchanted To Know You


Published: May 8th, 2012
Enchanted
By: Alethea Kontis
Harcourt Children's Books
ISBN-13: 9780547645704

It isn't easy being the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true.

When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland—and a man Sunday’s family despises.

The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction for this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past - and hers?


Review

   Sunday Woodcutter is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter.  But she feels alone and ignored as the youngest in a large family.  Sunday loves writing and telling stories, but even that becomes dangerous when it's apparent that she has the power to make them come true.  Then she meets an obviously enchanted frog who wants to hear all her stories and know all about her for a change.  They build a friendship and one night after Sunday kisses him, the frog becomes Prince Rumbold once more.  Too bad he's the Prince that her family blames for the loss of her older brother Jack.  Sunday is missing her friend the frog and wondering what happened to him, when all of the sudden Prince Rumbold, who has been missing for months, appears and states that he will be throwing a few balls to find a bride.  All the young ladies in the kingdom are invited.  But will he be able to win Sunday's heart now that he's a man again?  What is the mystery about the King and Godmother Sorrow, with such a sinister feeling?  And did Jack really die or is he out there somewhere?  Most of all, will they have a happily ever after?  This book was something that I expected to be a straight re-telling of The Frog Prince - boy was I ever in for a surprise!  This book had bits and pieces of that story, Cinderella, The Princess and the Pea, Rumpelstiltskin, Twelve Dancing Princesses, Sleeping Beauty, Jack and the Beanstalk, and probably one or two I didn't even pick up on.  It made the story slightly wacky, but definitely all the more interesting.  I never truly knew what was going to happen.  Sunday was slightly disconnected from me as a reader, but I found myself loving the plot and her sisters so much that I didn't even care.  The warring Godmothers were a nice touch and the twist about Sunday's Mother and her connection to them was unexpected to say the least.  I really enjoyed this book and all of it's magical twists and turns.  The romance between Sunday and Rumbold was sweet and light-hearted, even with the familial mis-understandings and tension.  The sub-plot with Wednesday and the King was creepy enough to send shivers up my spine and totally fairy tale, through and through.  The ending was cute and overall about what I'd expected.  I would recommend this book to fans of fairy tales, who would like to read something a little off the beaten path.

VERDICT:  4/5  Stars

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Story of My Life


Expected Publication: September 1st, 2012
The Encyclopedia of Me
By: Karen Rivers
Scholastic Inc.
ISBN-13: 9780545310284

A is for "Tink Aaron-Martin," "Aardvark," and "Amazing" in this wonderful alphabetical novel!

Tink Aaron-Martin has been grounded AGAIN after an adventure with her best friend Freddie Blue Anderson. To make the time pass, she decides to write an encyclopedia of her life from "Aa" (a kind of lava--okay, she cribbed that from the real encyclopedia) to "Zoo" (she's never been to one, but her brothers belong there).

As the alphabet unfolds, so does the story of Tink's summer: more adventures with Freddie Blue (and more experiences in being grounded); how her family was featured in a magazine about "Living with Autism," thanks to her older brother Seb--and what happened after Seb fell apart; her growing friendship, and maybe more, with Kai, a skateboarder who made her swoon (sort of). And her own sense that maybe she belongs not under "H" for "Hideous," or "I" for "Invisible," but "O" for "Okay."

Written entirely in Tink's hilarious encyclopedia entries, THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ME is both a witty trick and a reading treat for anyone who loves terrific middle-grade novels.

Review

   Tink Aaron-Martin has been best friends with Freddie Blue Anderson forever, getting into trouble more times that she can count.  Now that she has been grounded, yet again, Tink decides that she's going to write her own encyclopedia.  As she writes, her friendship seems to be falling apart because Freddie wants to be popular more than she wants to be BFFs.  Also they both like Kai, the new boy next door to the Aaron-Martins, Tink begins to skateboard with Ruthie (an unpopular girl Freddie can't stand) and Freddie starts hanging out with a girl who bullies Tink.  The family situation Tink is dealing with only seems to be getting worse, with everyone focused on her brother Seb's autism and expecting her to cope with life on her own.  Can Tink figure out a way to stay true to herself, help her family realize she has feelings too and get the guy against all odds?  Anything can happen in the summer before middle school...  I liked this book more than I thought I would.  I usually end up feeling very 'meh' about middle-grade books, but this one was very funny and relatable.  Even for a young-adult like me!  Tink's family life is slightly wacky and off-balance, with most of the attention on one of her older brothers, Seb, who is autistic.  She and her best friend are growing apart due to the changes they're both making with their personalities and goals.  Kai is an interesting addition to the dynamic, being the first boy Tink has really liked that she's willing to fight for.  And Ruthie was pretty awesome for an incoming sixth-grader.  This book's encyclopedic format was something that took getting used to, but I honestly think that it moved the plot along for me, in a way that the traditional structure might not have.  A cute, funny, heart-trending coming of age story.  My main complaint is how long it took Tink to see that Freddie wasn't worth her time anymore; the excuses she kept making for her got on my nerves.  I thought it was very well-written and it is one that I will be giving to my eleven year old cousin 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 September 1st, 2012.*

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Goodbye Norma Jean, I Still Don't Know You


Published: July 17th, 2012
Marilyn: The Passion and Paradox of Marilyn Monroe
By: Lois Banner
Bloomsbury USA
ISBN-13: 9781608195312

Like her art, Marilyn Monroe was rooted in paradox: She was a powerful star and a childlike waif; a joyful, irreverent party girl with a deeply spiritual side; a superb friend and a narcissist; a dumb blonde and an intellectual. No previous biographer has recognized—much less attempted to analyze—most of these aspects of her personality. Lois Banner has.
Since Marilyn’s death in August of 1962, the appetite for information about her has been insatiable. Biographies of Marilyn abound, and whether these books are sensational or flawed, Marilyn’s fans have always come out in bestselling numbers. This time, with Lois Banner’s Revelations, the fans won’t be disappointed. This is no retread of recycled material. As one of the founders of the field of women’s history, Banner will reveal Marilyn Monroe in the way that only a top-notch historian and biographer could.In researching Revelations, Banner’s credentials opened doors. She gained access to Marilyn intimates who hadn’t spoken to other biographers, and to private material unseen, ignored, or misinterpreted by her predecessors. With new details about Marilyn’s childhood foster homes, her sexual abuse, her multiple marriages, her affairs, and her untimely death at the age of thirty-six, Revelations is, at last, the nuanced biography Marilyn fans have been waiting for.

Review

  Marilyn Monroe is still on of the most recognized sex symbols to come out of America's history and make her way into the world conciousness.  This book is an attempt to analyze the different aspects of Marilyn's personality: her troubled childhood, the dueling longings for a successful career and a family of her own, the partying contrasted with the religion, the dumb blonde versus the very smart girl.  The author, Lois Banner, takes a feminist approach and treats the material like a slice of women's history that is in need of understanding.  Banner managed to gain material that has never been seen before, interviews with Marilyn's personal friends, and facts previously ignored by other biographers.  Banner has also gotten new details about Marilyn's childhood, abuse, and all of her other personal tragedies.  I went into this biography expecting to read something new and fresh to the world's enormous collection of books about the myth and realities of Marilyn Monroe.  The stuff about her childhood as Norma Jeane Mortenson was horrific.  I couldn't imagin a child being shifted around that much, abused, neglected and NOT coming out of it with major problems as an adult like Norma did.  But once we started getting into her movie career, it was the same old stuff that is rehashed everywhere.  I don't care what the synopsis for this book says, it was not anything that was new enough to interest me.  Not to mention that the author spends a lot of time analyzing Marilyn's every action and word instead of just reporting the facts.  This was less of a biography and more of a very amateur psychological analysis.  Seriously, what businees does she have purporting to know the inner thoughts and screw-ups of woman who has been dead for half a century?  This book was just not for me.  If you want to see Marilyn nitpicked to death and be bored out of your mind I encourage you to keep going after finishing the second half of the book.  Otherwise, don't even bother.

VERDICT:  1.75/5  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 July 17th, 2012.*

You Tarzan, Jane Kick-Ass


Expected Publication: September 18th, 2012
Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan
By: Robin Maxwell
Tom Doherty Associates
ISBN-13: 9780765333599


Cambridge, England: 1905.

Jane Porter is hardly a typical woman of her time. The only female student in Cambridge University's medical program, she is far more comfortable in a lab coat, dissecting corpses, than she is in a corset and gown sipping afternoon tea. A budding paleontologist, Jane dreams of travelling the globe in search of fossils that will prove the evolutionary theories of her scientist hero, Charles Darwin.

When dashing American explorer Ral Conrath invites Jane and her father on an expedition deep into West Africa, she can hardly believe her luck. Rising to the challenge, Jane finds an Africa that is every bit as beautiful and fascinating as she has always imagined. But she quickly learns that the lush jungle is full of secrets--and so is Ral Conrath. When danger strikes, Jane finds her hero, the key to humanity's past, and an all-consuming love in one extraordinary man: Tarzan of the Apes.


Review

   Jane Porter is a woman ahead of her time.  Instead of being the consummate lady of the early post-Victorian era, she is brash and curious about everything life offers to men, but withholds from women.  Jane is a student at Cambridge and the only female in the University's medical program.  She participates in labs and corpse dissections, dreaming of the day that she go on expeditions like her Father who is a professor and palentologist looking for the missing link.  There is a lot of tension between Jane and her Mother, because she sees her daughter as being an old maid and completely improper.  Jane jumps at the chance to escape from the stifling conventions of her life when she and her Father, Archie, meet a dashing explorer at a scientist's convention who is heading an expedition to West Africa.  Jane manages to convince her Father that she should be allowed to go and her Mother, being completely charmed by the explorer Ral Conrath, agrees to let her go along.  Excited and disbelieveing, Jane is astonished by the beauty and native cultures of Africa.  But the further into the jungle they go, the more apparent it becomes that Conrath has very different reasons for the expedition that the Porters.  When she is attacked and nearly killed, Jane is rescued by Tarzan who heals her and shows her his world.  Raised by the apes, Tarzan is different from anything Jane ever imagined.  Determined to find her Father and expose Conrath for the monster that he really is, Jane learns to survive and fight for her life in the harshness of the jungle.  All the while she is confused by the feelings she is developing for Tarzan, who goes against every rule of propriety she was ever taught.  Can Jane rescue her Father, get rid of Conrath, come to terms with her emotions and find the missing link in the evolutionary chain?  But will it be what she imagined when she finally gains her answers?  This to my knowledge has never been done before: the story of Tarzan, from Jane's point of view.  It was interesting to me that it started out with Jane's life in England, giving the backstory of her semi-radical behavior and very proper upbringing.  I loved all the science speak.  So much paleoanthropology and I loved that Mr. Porter was friends with Eugene Dubois, who was brilliant but much scorned during his lifetime.  All of the anthro-speak might be a bit much if the reader isn't interested in it to begin with, but I enjoyed it.  Jane is a strong, independent woman who knows what she wants - most of the time.  She has conflicting emotions because of all the 'proper' things she should do, versus what she knows to be right for her heart.  The whole Ral Conrath situation disgusted me.  But I was able to really understand how Jane and Archie were fooled by his charming facade, only learning the truth AFTER it was too late to turn back.  The interactions of Jane with Tarzan and his ape family really allowed me to see her grow as a character, not to mention it was fascinating to see the communication system that Maxwell devised.  This book was one that I truly enjoyed.  The idea that Jane is narrating the story, telling it to Edgar Rice Burroughs made me smile.  It was fun, fresh and well-written.  Major props to Robin Maxwell, my only real complaint being the way the plot dragged slightly at times.  Highly recommended, even if you've never read any of the original Tarzan stories.  You won't regret it! :)

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's expected publication date is September 18th, 2012.*

Fairy Godmother Sans Cinderella...



Published: November 1st, 2004
The Fairy Godmother (The Five Hundred Kingdoms # 1)
Luna Books
ISBN-13: 9780373802456

In the land of the Five Hundred Kingdoms, if you can't carry out your legendary role, life is no fairy tale....

Elena Klovis was supposed to be her kingdom's Cinderella -- until fate left her with a completely inappropriate prince! Determined not to remain with her stepfamily, Elena set out to get a new job -- and ended up becoming the Fairy Godmother for the land. But breaking with "The Tradition" was no easy matter. True, she didn't have to sleep in the chimney, but she had to deal with arrogant, stuffed-shirt princes who kept trying to rise above their place in the tale. In fact, one of them was so ornery that Elena could do nothing but change him into a donkey.

Still, her practical nature couldn't let him roam the country, so she brought the donkey -- er, the prince! -- home to her cottage to teach him some lessons. All the while keeping in mind that breaking with tradition can land everyone into a kettle of fish -- sometimes literally!

And so begins a whole new tale...


Review

   Elena Klovis has a miserable life with her demanding and cruel Stepmother and two Stepsisters.  She is forced to cook, clean, dress in rags and live on almost nothing.  Unknown to her, Elena has magic swirling around her, building up due to her unfulfilled potential - she was supposed to be her kingdom's Cinderella.  But with an unsuitable Prince she is eventually rescued by a Fairy Godmother, who offers to train Elena as her replacement.  Excited to have a way out, Elena agrees.  Then she finds out firsthand how hard it can be to circumvent the Tradition, a magical force that steers people into retelling fairy tales, folk stories, ballads, etc. in their real lives without them having any choice in the matter.  When she is helping questers and trying to avoid tragedies, Elena comes across a Prince who goes too far.  She does the only thing she can think of - she turns him into the donkey (ass) that she thinks he already is.  Elena must find a way to help the Prince realize how to become a better man.  But can she accomplish it without losing her heart in the process?  It is really easy to love this book.  I am already a major sucker for anything to do with fairy tales, or re-tellings of them.  I loved the aspect of Fairy Godmothers having to fight against an unseen and unintelligent force like the Tradition.  It explains why so many people don't get a happy ending.  Elena was a good heroine, wanting to do the right thing, easy to empathize with and with a sense of humor.  By no means was she perfect, but that just made her even more fun to read about.  Prince Alexander was not appealing to me until almost the end of the novel.  He truly was a complete ASS for most of the book, constantly being cruel to Elena and barely viewing her as a person.  The side characters were interesting as well, especially the Maleficent type character who only wanted to be loved for who she was (she had been alone all her life except when an evil sorceress took her in) and the village woman Rosalie, who narrowly escaped having a 'Ladderlocks' (Rapunzel) child.  The unnecessary sex scenes were a bit discouraging, but there were only a couple so they were fairly easily overlooked.  The book does take a little while to really gain any speed, the plot dragging through the beginning Cinderella portion quite a bit.  But once it gets going it is truly funny and wonderful to read.  I really liked this book for its originality and sense of humor.  Highly recommended to fans of fairy tales.

VERDICT:  4/5  Stars

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

Monday, July 16, 2012

Owner of a Lonely Heart



Expected Publication: October 9th, 2012
Iron Hearted Violet
By: Kelly Barnhill
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN-13: 9780316056731

IRON-HEARTED VIOLET is a story of a princess unlike any other. It is a story of the last dragon in existence, deathly afraid of its own reflection. Above all, it is a story about the power of stories, our belief in them, and how one enchanted tale changed
the course of an entire kingdom.

Princess Violet is plain, reckless, and quite possibly too clever for her own good. Particularly when it comes to telling stories. One day she and her best friend, Demetrius, stumble upon a hidden
room and find a peculiar book. A forbidden book. It tells a story of an evil being—called the Nybbas—imprisoned in their world. The story cannot be true—not really. But then the whispers start. Violet and Demetrius, along with an ancient, scarred dragon, may hold the key to the Nybbas's triumph…or its demise. It all depends on how they tell the story. After all, stories make their own rules.


Review

   Violet is a beloved princess, the only living child of her parents and they live in a kingdom ruled by tales of the old gods who created their world.  But she isn't the way a princess is supposed to be.  Violet isn't pretty, graceful or cautious.  Violet only has one real friend, Demetrius (the stablemaster's son) and she loves to tell stories about beautiful princesses and evil dragons.  But when her Father goes on a quest to find the last living dragon (not to kill it, but to learn from it) and her Mother becomes sick, she and Demetrius find a book in a hidden room.  Violet thinks the book and the creature trapped in it are the answers to all her problems.  But the Nybbas may not be all that it presents itself to be.  When her very world starts to crumble, only Demetrius and the Dragon will be able to help her stop the Nybbas from taking over the world.  Can they change the story for the better?  This book is from the point of view of the court storyteller which was an interesting departure from  the ususal third-person omniscient or first-person point of views.  At first I was really drawn into the enchantment of the mirrored-world and it's unconventional princess.  I immediately knew what was going to happen when Violet's Father went away and her Mother became ill, and it made me sad.  I loved the fact that Violet was best friends with the stable boy Demetrius.  But the fact that she is so eager to get rid of everything that made her unique and she didn't see anything wrong with it made me angry.  Even by the end of the book I felt like Violet was only sorry that things had gone so wrong, barely understanding that she was perfect the way she was.  I liked the fantasy aspect of the evil god being trapped in the Forbidden Book.  But I felt like the book was overly moralistic and it really began to annoy me by the last 50 pages or so.  The characters were interesting, but I felt like the only ones that were developed enough were Violet and the court storyteller.  The rest of them were slightly two-dimensional.  The plot was intriguing, but I feel like there was too much filler surrounding the main points of action for it to truly shine.  The fact that this book was an ARC and didn't contain the illustrations that will be in the final version also detracted from my enjoyment.  Overall, a good middle-grade, fantasy novel but not really one I would recommend to anyone over thirteen and expect them to fall in love with it.

VERDICT:  3/5  Stars

*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. It will be available for purchase on October 9th, 2012.*

A Soldier's Secret: The Incredible True Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero


Expected Publication: September 1st, 2012
A Soldier's Secret: The Incredible True Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero
By: Marissa Moss
Amulet Books
ISBN-13: 9781419704277

The story of Sarah Emma Edmonds, who masqueraded as a man named Frank Thompson during the Civil War. Among her many adventures, she was a nurse on the battlefield and a spy for the Union Army, and was captured by (and escaped from) the Confederates. The novel is narrated by Sarah, offering readers an in-depth look not only at the Civil War but also at her journey to self-discovery as she grapples with living a lie and falling in love with one of her fellow soldiers.

Review

   Sarah Edmonds lives with her Mother, brother and abusive Father determined to win her Father's love, approval and respect - until he takes things too far.  After he sells her beloved horse and arranges for her to marry its new owner, she dresses as a boy and runs away from home.  She gains a job selling books from a fair employer, but when the Civil War begins Sarah decides to enlist, becoming first a nurse and then a spy under the name Frank Thompson.  She becomes great friends with Jerome, her fellow nurse and slowly falls in love with him.  Revealing to him that she's a woman causes all sorts of complications, especially because he is engaged and doesn't think Sarah/Frank is a proper woman anyways.  Sarah goes on plenty of adventures, but after being taken ill while spying she is unable to make her way back to her regiment.  Wanted for desertion as Frank, she must become the woman she hasn't allowed herself to be to survive.  Sarah decides to write a memoir of her time in the army.  Will she eventually be recognized for her heroics?  Only time will tell...  Obviously Sarah was recognized for her military service.  She was the only woman to receive an honorable discharge and pension from the army for service in the Civil War.  I was intrigued by her story, because it actually happened.  But this book was far too long in my opinion.  I liked the historical detail, but there was no real action per se, until almost the end of the novel.  This meant that is dragged on for quite awhile.  I appreciate how hard it must be to write a book based on true events, trying to stay as close to the reality as possible.  I think that I will stick to ficiton from now on though, instead of fictionalized history.

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's expected publication date is September 1st, 2012.*

Oh, Sweet Child Of Mine


Published: April 17th, 2012
The Springsweet (The Vespertine # 2)
By: Saundra Mitchell
Harcourt Children's Books
ISBN-13: 9780547608426

Heartbroken over the tragic death of her fiancé, seventeen-year-old Zora Stewart leaves Baltimore for the frontier town of West Glory, Oklahoma, to help her young widowed aunt keep her homestead going. There she discovers that she possesses the astonishing ability to sense water under the parched earth. When her aunt hires her out as a "springsweet” to advise other settlers where to dig their wells, Zora feels the burden of holding the key to something so essential to survival in this unforgiving land. Even more, she finds herself longing for love the way the prairie thirsts for water. Maybe, in the wildness of the territories, Zora can finally move beyond simply surviving and start living.

Review

   Zora Stewart stops caring about life after her fiance Thomas and her cousin Amelia both die.  With her Mother determined to shove her back into her old life, Zora takes drastic measures.  After almost publicly ruining herself, her Mother finally agrees to send her to live with her widowed Aunt Birdie(not much older than her) and her cousin Louella in West Glory, Oklahoma.  Once she gets there, Zora finds out that she is a springsweet, able to sense water underneath the parched surface of the Earth.  This is a really valuable talent on the dry frontier land, so her Aunt Birdie starts hiring her out to the neighbors.  Meanwhile Zora is resisting the attentions of Theo De La Croix, the man from back home that she used in scheme to get sent away.  She is undeniably attracted to Emerson Birch, a man regarded as trashy and a problem waiting to happen by the other townspeople.  Can Zora make a decision that will allow her to follow her heart or will she be unable to let go of the past?  I honestly was iffy about reading this book after being disappointed by the mediocrity of The Vespertine.  But I was pleasantly surprised.  I really liked Zora in the first book and watching her grow as a person, become even stronger and move past the heartbreak she'd suffered was wonderful.  I honestly didn't particularly care for Aunt Birdie all that much.  I felt like she was too pushy and not a deep enough character.  While I liked Theo, I felt that Emerson was definitely the right match for Zora.  Theo was too much like her old life, while Emerson was part of the frontier world Zora joined.  The supernatural abilities that Zora and Emerson possess were unique.  I've never read of anything like Zora's water sense before in YA.  My major complaint is that this book was far too short.  I would have liked another 50-100 pages to allow the story more time to develop and the characters more time to get into my heart.  All the same, this book stands alone pretty well but the ending would be a little confusing without the backstory of The Vespertine.  Other than that, I'd say skip the first one and dive right into this interesting and fun novel.

VERDICT:  4.25/5  Stars

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

You Disappeared Into the Shadows...


Expected Publication: September 11th, 2012
Shadowfell (Shadowfell # 1)
By: Juliet Marillier
Random House Children's Books
ISBN-13: 9780375869549

Sixteen-year-old Neryn is alone in the land of Alban, where the oppressive king has ordered anyone with magical strengths captured and brought before him. Eager to hide her own canny skill--a uniquely powerful ability to communicate with the fairy-like Good Folk--Neryn sets out for the legendary Shadowfell, a home and training ground for a secret rebel group determined to overthrow the evil King Keldec.

During her dangerous journey, she receives aid from the Good Folk, who tell her she must pass a series of tests in order to recognize her full potential. She also finds help from a handsome young man, Flint, who rescues her from certain death--but whose motives in doing so remain unclear. Neryn struggles to trust her only allies. They both hint that she alone may be the key to Alban's release from Keldec's rule. Homeless, unsure of who to trust, and trapped in an empire determined to crush her, Neryn must make it to Shadowfell not only to save herself, but to save Alban.


Review

   Neryn has been on the run with her Father for the last few years, after the King's men burned her village to the ground and the rest of her family died.  Now they are wanderers, with almost nothing to their names except each other - until her Father tries to gamble Neryn away on a Riverboat for a bet.  She's saved by a strange man named Flint, who doesn't harm her like she expects him to.  Instead he helps her to realize that the only place she'll ever truly be safe is one that might not even exist except in her brother's stories...Shadowfell.  It's a place where Neryn might be able to live without being afraid of dying because she is gifted.  Neryn has the ability to see the Good Folk (fae and other magical creatures) whether or not they want to be seen and to communicate with them.  In order to become the person she needs to be, Neryn has to pass tests laid out by the Good Folk, to prove her worth to them.  It is said that only a certain type of person can overthrow King Keldec's evil rule.  Could that person be Neryn?  Will she be able to find the strength and courage within herself to make it happen?  There was a lot of build-up in this book.  It's understandable considering it's the first in a new series.  At the beginning Neryn sort of annoyed me.  She acted really wimpy and frightened all the time, going with Flint after he won her in a game of chance.  I will say that she wasn't entirely unquestioning, but she didn't fight for herself as hard as a normal person would.  There is a lot of interaction with the Good Folk, who aren't exactly fond of humans due to Keldec's reign of terror (totally plausible) and are skeptical of Neryn from the start.  Some want to help her and manage to aid her in times of trouble but others want nothing more than for her to fail.  I am not normally fond of books involving Fae, but this one was more into other versions of little folk than just solely Fae.  The mythology of the land wasn't touched upon much, but what came across interested me a lot.  Flint was definitely not what I expected personality-wise, although the revelations about his identity weren't totally unwarranted.   One thing that bugged me was the lack of anything that actually had to do with Shadowfell, the place, until almost the end of the book.  I did enjoy the battle scene though and liked the overall plot and resolution to the first book.  I already liked Marillier's writing and this book was no exception, although not perfect.  I am excited to see Neryn's new adventures in the next novel.

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 September 11th, 2012.*

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Stay In The Shadows


Published: June 26th, 2012
Thief of Shadows (Maiden Lane # 4)
By: Elizabeth Hoyt
Grand Central Publishing
ISBN-13: 9781455508327

A Masked Man . . .

Winter Makepeace lives a double life. By day he's the stoic headmaster of a home for foundling children. But the night brings out a darker side of Winter. As the moon rises, so does the Ghost of St. Giles—protector, judge, fugitive. When the Ghost, beaten and wounded, is rescued by a beautiful aristocrat, Winter has no idea that his two worlds are about to collide.

A Dangerous Woman . . .

Lady Isabel Beckinhall enjoys nothing more than a challenge. Yet when she's asked to tutor the Home's dour manager in the ways of society— flirtation, double-entendres, and scandalous liaisons—Isabel can't help wondering why his eyes seem so familiar—and his lips so tempting.

A Passion Neither Could Deny

During the day Isabel and Winter engage in a battle of wills. At night their passions are revealed . . . But when little girls start disappearing from St. Giles, Winter must avenge them. For that he might have to sacrifice everything—the Home, Isabel . . . and his life.


Review

   Winter Makepeace runs an orphans home in the middle of St. Giles, a city no better than a slum, by day.  At night he is the masked harlequin avenger who protects the citizens from evil.  After freeing pirate Charming Mickey (newly his brother-in-law) from execution, he is chased by a mob and nearly killed...until Isabel Beckinhall takes him into her carriage.  Driving him to her home, she tends to a rather serious wound on his leg, admiring his naked body.  Of course she never makes the connection that he could be Winter, whom she thinks to be a dour, stern man that she butts heads with over the oprhan home that she is a patroness of.  A few days later, Isabel comes to the home to begin tutoring Winter in the ways of society, because the other patronesses are trying to have him replaced in his sister's absence.  Reluctantly he allows her to school him so he can stay with the orphans.  Meanwhile, Winter is trying to figure out who is snatching little girls off the streets of St. Giles and to what purpose.  Can he hide his true identity from Isabel, especially once the chemistry between them begins to explode.  Will she be able to trust him enough to give up her heart?  I was expecting more from a book that is supposed to be about Winter.  From the other three novels, I got the impression that he was far too much of a stuffed-shirt to get sexually involved with someone like Isabel.  Also he never struck me as the type to be the Ghost of St. Giles.  I honestly sympathized with Isabel's barrenness, but never really liked her much as a character.  I felt like she was smart, but too focused on the superficialities of life whereas Winter was almost the exact opposite.  The side-story with the kidnapped girls was too disconnected from the main plot for me.  They just didn't seem to mesh together all that well.  Seriously, Joseph Tinbox was my favorite part of the entire book.  But I'm unsure that I will like it when Hoyt decides it's his turn to have his character practically butchered.  Not my favorite in the series by any means.

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 26th, 2012.*