Thursday, November 29, 2012

This Tempest Is Gonna Blow



Expected Publication:  December 18th, 2012
Tempestuous (Twisted Lit # 1)
By: Kim Askew & Amy Helmes
Merit Press
ISBN-13:  9781440552649

Recently banished, unfairly, by the school’s popular crowd, former “it girl,” Miranda Prospero, finds herself in a brave new world: holding dominion amongst a rag-tag crew of geeks and misfits where she works at the Hot-Dog Kabob in the food court of her local mall. When the worst winter storm of the season causes mall workers and last-minute shoppers to be snowed-in for the night, Miranda seizes the opportunity to get revenge against the catty clique behind her social exile. With help from her delightfully dweeby coworker, Ariel, and a sullen loner named Caleb who works at the mall’s nearby gaming and magic shop, Miranda uses charm and trickery to set things to right during this spirited take on Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Review
 
     Miranda Prospero has always had the best ideas.  But her latest one, to start a tutoring hook-up service, has blown up in her face, after evolving into a major cheating ring.  Now she's stuck paying restitution working a crappy job at the mall and all of her ex-friends, along with her slimy ex-boyfriend, are going on the school trip skiing trip without her.  But when she is stuck at the mall on the night before the trip with the aforementioned classmates and various co-workers because of a blizzard, things begin to get really interesting.  This time her rich, stuck-up classmates have gone too far.  And it's time for Miranda and her downtrodden mall friends to get revenge.  Though how this involved Miranda and smoldering, sharp-tongued Caleb being hand-cuffed together, she has no clue.  Also, none of them counted on a burglar being trapped inside the mall with them.  Things have the potential to turn deadly at any second, but that isn't going to stop Miranda and her co-worker Ariel from having plenty of fun while they can.  This book was lots of fun.  It was a cross between The Tempest, of which it claims to be a retelling, Emma and Pride and Prejudice.  I loved Miranda's revenge schemes and her elaborate plans for everyone to have a good time.  I don't want to give anything away, but there were glitter bombs! :)  I also enjoyed the subplot with the burglar, because it added an undercurrent of danger and suspense that gave the book something extra and a little more substantial.  Caleb and Miranda's relationship didn't seem at all believeable to me as a reader, but it was cute in a Mr. Knightley and Emma sort of way.  Ariel was the one who seemed to develop the most over the course of the novel.  This book won't change the world and it was about as substantial as cotton candy - but it was so much fun and well-written enough that I found myself not caring at all.  I want to say that Miranda learned her lesson, but in reality she was mostly unchanged, just less snobbish at the end.  Overall, a fun book and I highly recommend it for those who like to laugh and enjoy a good fluffy teen romance.
 
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 December 18th, 2012.*

The Heist Has a Major Body Count


Published:  March 28th, 2012
The Pineville Heist
By: Lee Chambers
Misfp
ISBN-13:  9780986494314

Seventeen year old Aaron stumbles into the aftermath of a five million dollar bank heist gone wrong. Hiding under a canoe, Aaron partially catches the murder of one of the robbers. In the chaos he sneaks away with the money and heads straight for the closest place of safety, his high school. Terrified, Aaron tells his shocking tale to Amanda Becker, his drama teacher, but it doesn't take long for one of the psychotic robbers to show up. In the locked down school the pair are relentlessly pursued in a quest to get the money back and wipe out the evidence.

 
Review
 
     Aaron is the son of the wealthiest man in Pineville - who everyone in town despises, due to their own less than admirable financial circumstances.  While skipping class one day with a few friends, Aaron stumbles onto a shootout between the robbers who heisted five million from the town's bank.  Hidden under a canoe, Aaron watches while one of the robbers murders the two others and than goes after his friends, who aren't as well hidden.  Trying to get help and return the money, Aaron tells his drama teacher, Amanda Becker (who he has a major crush on), what has happened.  But when they go back to the robbers' hideout, the money is gone and so are the bodies.  But it isn't too long before everyone is locked down inside the school, trying to escape the murderous bank robber and stay alive until the cops come.  But not everything is as easy as it seems and when the dust settles some surprising implications will be made.  Will Aaron survive to see the money returned and the killer caught, or will he be caught in the crossfire?  I got through this book mainly because I knew beforehand that it's being turned into a movie.  That made up for a lot of the plot holes, overusage of action/violence and predictability of the identity of the robbers.  I will say one thing in it's favor was the fast pace and constant action.  If it would have been slow, the book would have been completely intolerable.  My main problem was the lack of character development, but I suppose that it's easily adaptable into a film with the length it is currently.  Overall, I wasn't a satisfied reader but it definitely was not the worst book that I read so far this year.  That honor is being saved for another.
 
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 was published March 28th, 2012.*

Monday, November 26, 2012

What Matters the Most? That is the question...


Published:  June 2012
What Matters In Jane Austen?
By: John Mullan
Bloomsbury Publishing
ISBN-13:  9781408820117


Is there any sex in Austen? What do the characters call each other, and why? What are the right and wrong ways to propose marriage? And which important Austen characters never speak? In What Matters in Jane Austen?, John Mullan shows that you can best appreciate Jane Austen's brilliance by looking at the intriguing quirks and intricacies of her fiction - by asking and answering some very specific questions about what goes on in her novels, he reveals their devilish cleverness.

In twenty-one short chapters, each of which answers a question prompted by Jane Austen's novels, Mullan illuminates the themes that matter most to the workings of the fiction. So the reader will discover when people had their meals and what shops they went to, how they addressed each other, who was allowed to write letters to whom, who owned coaches or pianos, how vicars got good livings and how wealth was inherited. What Matters in Jane Austen? explores the rituals and conventions of her fictional world in order to reveal her technical virtuosity and sheer daring as a novelist. Though not a book about Jane Austen's life, it uses biographical detail and telling passages from her letters to explain episodes in her novels; readers will find out, for example, what novels she read or how much money she had to live on or what she saw at the theatre.


Review

     What are some of the most pressing questions that we as readers, have about Jane Austen's novels?  Well, those questions are what Mullan strives to answer in this book.  It's almost like reading a more detailed and involved version of Austen for Dummies (which could exist, but I don't know about it if it does).  The book takes real examples from Austen's letters to her sister Cassandra and other people, and from her individual novels.  Some of the questions include: How much does age matter?  What do characters call each other and why?  How do Austen's characters look?  Why is it risky to go to the seaside?  Is there any sex in Jane Austen?  What do characters say when the heroine isn't there?  Which important characters never speak?  Are ill people to blame for their illnesses?  How experimental of a novelist is Jane Austen?  These are just the bare bones, seeing as there are 20 questions Mullan tries to touch upon in this book.  One of my only complaints as a reader, was that the same examples were used repetitively for different questions.  It got very dry, very quick when this happened.  I began to lose interest about midway through due to lack of fresh material.  Other than that, it was an insightful and fun nod to the greatness of Austen.  The emphasis is definitely on the fact that the devil is in the details.  Overall, only for the middling Austen fans, or the really devoted ones.  You may never think of the characters and the whole novels the same way again!  I wouldn't give it to someone just discovering Austen though.

VERDICT:  2.75/5  Stars

*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 2012.**

Thursday, November 22, 2012

One Thread Pulled Far And Away...


Published:  August 14th, 2012
One Thread Pulled: The Dance With Mr. Darcy
By: Diana J. Oaks
CreateSpace
ISBN-13:  9781475149616

When the wealthy and handsome Fitzwilliam Darcy encounters the beautiful and lively Elizabeth Bennet at a small country ball, he loudly refuses to dance with her, declaring her to be merely tolerable. Fortunately for Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth has walked away and does not overhear his insult, thus snagging the thread that would have sealed her prejudice against the prideful stranger. 

Unexpectedly, circumstances thrust Elizabeth into the same household as Mr. Darcy, and her proximity unwittingly proves tempting, as her tantalizing wit and playfulness evoke desires that threaten to unravel his resolve against her. 

In this delightful re-imagining of Jane Austen's beloved classic, Pride and Prejudice, the players are the same, but the rules have changed as the dance between Darcy and Lizzy unfolds.

Review

     Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are one of the greatest couples in classic literature.  But what if the initial misunderstanding and injurious remark towards Elizabeth, happened unbeknownst to her?  Would there still have been such prejudice and hardship on the way to love?  This is the book that explores that question and also changes the rules of the original book for other classic and well-loved characters.  Will they still get their happy ending or will Lizzy and Darcy be torn apart by something else? This was an interesting look at what might have happened if Lizzy didn't hear Darcy call her 'tolerable,' but other things were changed too.  Jane hits her head falling from a horse on the way to Netherfield, instead of becoming ill from the weather.  This causes her to be confused and say things that make her feelings obvious to Bingley.  This removes the doubt that was in the original P&P.  Also, Darcy tells Mr. Bennet about the nature of Wickham in more detail and also tells the leader of Wickham's regiment.  Fitzwilliam and Anne also play a more prominent role in this novel, with Lady Catherine pushing into things far earlier on in the story.  The changes in Caroline and Mr. Collins were slightly too convenient, but while stretching what was believable, they didn't ring entirely false.  I did enjoy the ending, but really wish that Diana Oaks had just ended it completely, instead of setting it up for a sequel.  Overall, probably the better of all the P&P variations that I've read - and I've read A LOT of them!  I highly recommend for those who can never get enough of Lizzy and her Mr. Darcy.

VERDICT:  4.5/5  Stars

**No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in paperback and Kindle ebook form on Amazon.com.**

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Not Dead Just Yet


Published:  September 1st, 2012
Undead (Undead # 1)
By: Kirsty McKay
The Chicken House
ISBN-13:  9780545381888

Out of sight, out of their minds: It's a school-trip splatter fest and completely not cool when the other kids in her class go all braindead on new girl Bobby.

The day of the ski trip, when the bus comes to a stop at a roadside restaurant, everyone gets off and heads in for lunch. Everyone, that is, except Bobby, the new girl, who stays behind with rebel-without-a-clue Smitty.

Then hours pass. Snow piles up. Sun goes down. Bobby and Smitty start to flirt. Start to stress. Till finally they see the other kids stumbling back.

But they've changed. And not in a good way. Straight up, they're zombies. So the wheels on the bus better go round and round freakin' fast, because that's the only thing keeping Bobby and Smitty from becoming their classmates' next meal. It's kill or be killed in these hunger games, heads are gonna roll, and homework is most definitely gonna be late.

Review

     Bobby is the new girl again after moving back to the U.K., having lived in the U.S. since she was little and her Mom's job first took them from the U.K. to America.  Now she is on a ski trip to Scotland with her new classmates, dealing with their harassment because she doesn't sound British enough or like an American either.  So when they get to the diner, Bobby stays on the bus with budding juvenile delinquent Smitty.  But when everyone else comes toward the bus, they've changed for the worse.  Now all their classmates (except stuck-up Alice and nerdy Pete) are coming after them, hungry for their flesh.  Trying to make an escape, they find shelter at a nearby manor that seems deserted.  But who has created these zombies and why?  And what will they do when they realize that there are survivors?  Can Bobby, Smitty and Alice make it back into the real world or will they be silenced once and for all?  This was a funny book.  It had a great sense of humor, which is definitely a plus when it comes to zombies.  I especially loved the snark and prissiness that Alice brought to the group.  Other than Bobby (whose Mother's involvement was kind of iffy in believability), Alice and Smitty, most of the other characters were fairly forgettable.  Because mostly, it was those three characters that the focus was on.  When someone else came into it, they were normally temporary to the plot.  Other than the humor, the plot was a little bit circumspect.  I never quite believed that the corporation would conduct such an unsupervised experiment and not try to contain it more.  Plus, the reasons were never explained much.  My favorite quote in the book was from Alice:

“It’s such a nightmare!” Alice cries. “They want to kill us!” Her eyes narrow. “And Shanika’s got my CoutureCandy bag, the bitch!” she says to the driver. “Run them over!”

Like I said though, Alice's personality was a high point.  The struggles to actually escape the zombies, with the bad weather, messed up bus, lack of gasoline and the hurt driver were very realistic though and I commend that.  Overall, if you like your zombies with some laughs this is the book for you.  But nothing will ever top My Life As a White Trash Zombie by: Diana Rowland.  That was my high point in zombie fiction.

VERDICT:  3.7/5  Stars

***No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

Undercover Lover


Published:  November 19th, 2012
Undercover Professor
By: December Gephart
Carina Press
ISBN-13:  9781426894633

Rule Number One: Must not lie.
Rule Number Two: Must not live with parents.
Rule Number Three: Must have a job.
Rule Number Four: Must not be a friend's ex.

These dating rules shouldn't be hard for Lucy Benoit to follow—after all, she made them. But she didn't plan on falling for Andy Sullivan, a scruffy-yet-attractive man who lives with his mother and is between jobs. These should be deal-breakers, but in other ways Andy is just her type. And there's something intriguing about him…

Andy isn't the geeky gamer he claims to be—not by a long shot. But what seemed like a harmless social experiment has put his chances of a relationship with Lucy at risk. Even if she can get past the silly rules she has set for herself, will she ever forgive him for breaking Rule Number One?


Review

     Lucy Benoit is finally getting her life together after being used and destroyed by a former boyfriend.  Which is why she now follows some very simple dating rules - so she'll never have her heart broken again.    
Then Lucy meets her neighbor's son, Andy, who is living with his Mom and has no job.  Not to mention her cousin Becca (who is man crazy and desperate) has latched on to him and thinks he's her boyfriend.  This breaks all of her rules and she should just let him go.  But the chemistry is undeniable and Lucy can't walk away.  But when it turns out that Andy's been keeping a secret that will change things immensely, Lucy runs away from their growing relationship.  Can Andy win her back and can Lucy get over the past so she can have a future?  Lucy was utterly insufferable.  I get the idea of the author was to cause conflict for a good romance, but most of the time Lucy came across as an undeserving shrew.  She was downright rude to Andy for most of the book and cruel to her cousin, who she calls 'crazy.'  I just found her very unsympathetic.  Plus the tantrum she throws when she finds out that Andy hasn't told the exact truth was epicly immature.  She spent most of the book going on about her list of rules and when she finds out that he meets the criteria, she throws a fit.  Not to mention she refused to even listen to an explanation.  I really did like Andy though.  He had a great sense of humor and I loved that he was a Professor whose work was to do with the world of video games and other geeky things.  Becca came across as desperate and pathetic, but I could tell she had a good heart and wanted the best for Lucy, even if she was overzealous about love in general.  Overall, I feel like I wasted my time but not a complete horror of a book.  Not one that I would recommend or re-read though.

VERDICT:  2/5  Stars

**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 November 19th, 2012.**

Friday, November 16, 2012

Follow Me Friday # 15


      
       So, Follow my Blog Friday is a meme hosted by Parajunkee andAlisonCanRead. It's where you answer the weekly question and then link yourself and you go and check out other blogs of your interest, helping to support out endeavors as a community. Also, do it just because it's fun! :)

Q: Books are turned into movies all the time! Turn it around. What movie would make a great book?

A:  I think that one of my favorite movies EVER that would have been a great book, is Elvis and Anabelle.  I adore that movie and I think that as a book, it's quirkiness might have been far more appreciated and maybe even lauded by critics.  Another one that I would have loved as a book was My Girl, especially when I was younger.  That one would have translated almost perfectly too, I think.  The T.V. show I wish had been a book is Freaks and Geeks!  Then I actually would have found out what happened next!!! What about you guys?  What movies or T.V. shows do you think would make good books?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fan Girl With Fangs


Published:  September 11th, 2012
Fang Girl
By: Helen Keeble
HarperTeen
ISBN-13:  9780062082251

Things That Are Destroying Jane Greene’s Undead Social Life Before It Can Even Begin:

1) A twelve-year-old brother who’s convinced she’s a zombie.
2) Parents who are begging her to turn them into vampires.
3) The pet goldfish she accidentally turns instead.
4) Weird superpowers that let her rip the heads off of every other vampire she meets.(Sounds cool, but it doesn’t win you many friends.)
5) A pyschotic vampire creator who’s using her to carry out a plan for world domination.

And finally:
6) A seriously ripped vampire hunter who either wants to stake her or make out with her. Not sure which.

Being an undead, eternally pasty fifteen-year-old isn’t quite the sexy, brooding, angst-fest Jane always imagined....

Review

     Fifteen year old Xanthe Jane Greene may have been obsessed with all things vampire - that didn't mean she wanted to be one!  So imagine her surprise when she wakes up inside her coffin, with her very own set of fangs.  Of course it's nothing like the movies or books she's read.  Now Jane is dealing with her kind of creepy sire, Lily, some vampire hunters that are on her trail, and the fact that she's stronger than the average vampire.  Oh yeah, her parents and her steampunk obsessed little brother Zack are also begging her to change them over to be with her!   Unsure who to trust, Jane is only sure of one thing - being a fifteen year old vampire SUCKS.  Jane is just an average girl, and I liked that about her.  I was glad that she was intelligent and realized very quickly that the cons of being a vampire outweighed whatever pros there were.  Her parents and little brother Zack were absolutely hilarious!  I liked the confusion over who was the true villain, her sire Lily or super-ancient, child vampire Haakon and his minion, Ebon.  The twist on the vampire mythology we know and love was also humorous.  Vampires that are basically obsessive compulsive and can't leave things out of order?  Hilarious!  I especially loved when Jane goes after the hunters and they drop paperclips behind them so she'll have to stop and pick them up!  Other favorites was the vampire goldfish named Brains and the whole situation with Sarah, the transplant patient who had Jane's heart.  Overall, a fun book to read even for those completely sick of anything to do with vampires.  It was such a well-thought out parody that I couldn't help but like it, even with my propensity to avoid books with main characters from the U.K.  I usually can't handle Britishisms, which read like another language, but here the novel surpassed that personal quirk! :)

VERDICT:  4/5  Stars

**No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

Finally, The One and Only Jennie Spring!


Expected Publication:  January 8th, 2013
Janie Face To Face (Janie Johnson # 5)
By: Caroline B. Cooney
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
ISBN-13:  9780385742061

In this riveting and emotional conclusion to the thriller-romance Janie series, that started with The Face on the Milk Carton, all will be revealed as readers find out if Janie and Reeve’s love has endured, and whether or not the person who brought Janie and her family so much emotional pain and suffering is brought to justice.

Review

       It has been two years since Janie Johnson discovered that her other Father, Frank Johnson, knew where her kidnapper (his biological daughter) was the entire time the FBI was looking for her and he was sending checks to support her.  Since stopping the support, dealing with Frank's failing health and Miranda's incompetence in a crisis situation, Janie has almost gotten past everything.  Janie is at college in New York, equidistant to visit both sets of parents.  She has made new friends who know nothing about her past as a kidnap victim and is finally able to breathe, standing on her own two feet.  Janie is gravitating towards her real parents, Jonathon and Donna Spring, and her siblings after fighting the reality of them since she found out about her kidnapping.  She is finally becoming Jennie Spring, after all the years of being Janie Jonhson.  But now there is a true-crime writer named Calvin Vinesett poking into the family's harsh past.  When someone betrays her to the writer, Janie is pushed back into boy-next-door Reeve's arms.  Happy as she is, Janie still hasn't heard the last of the writer and with him finding a way into her personal business, Hannah also grows closer than ever before.  Will Janie's kidnapper ruin her life once and for all, or will she finally get her happy ending?
       I, like many readers of the Face on the Milk Carton books, felt like What Janie Found left things far too unresolved.  I wanted to know whether Janie and Reeve would end up together, where she would go to college, whether or not she would ever really try to connect with the rest of the Spring family.  The most important unresolved question was whether mentally unstable Hannah would ever be caught and locked up.  All of these questions are answered and we finally get a window into Hannah's reasons for her actions.  She came across as unbelievably cunning in the final few chapters for someone who acts ridiculously childish and has zero reasoning skills for the majority of the book.  Then again, it did make sense in a very twisted way.  I liked the different POVs, letting us see what was happening with basically everyone.  I felt like we could have done without Sarah-Charlotte on that front though.  She was sort of extraneous as a character.  I like seeing where Stephen, Jodie, Brian and Brendan were and what they were doing.  The fact that Janie finally accepts her other family made me fist-pump in joy.  I loved that she became Jennie in the end, like she was always meant to be.  Overall, a great conclusion to a harrowing and heart-breaking series.  Thank you Ms. Cooney, for finally letting them be happy! :)

VERDICT:  4/5  Stars

**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 January 8th, 2013.**

Nothing Compares to Love


Expected Publication:  March 1st, 2013 (Originally published November 1st, 1993)
When Love Comes to Town
By: Tom Lennon
Albert Whitman Teen 
ISBN-13:  9780807589168

The year is 1990, and in his hometown of Dublin, Ireland, Neil Byrne plays rugby, keeps up with the in-crowd at his school, and is just a regular guy. A guy who's gay. It's a secret he keeps from the wider world as he explores the city at night and struggles to figure out how to reveal his real self--and to whom.

First published in Ireland in 1993 and compared to The Catcher in the Rye by critics, Tom Lennon's When Loves Comes to Town is told with honesty, humor, and originality. 

Review

     Neil Byrne is just about to take his exams and go off to university in the Fall.  He has plenty of great friends, has won the prize for English and seems to be just a regular teenage boy.  But he's been keeping a secret from his ultra-conservative, Catholic friends and family -  Neil is gay.  Now with the future looming in front of him uncertainly, Neil spends most of the summer trying to figure out who he is and what it means to accept himself as he is, with no more lies.  Can Neil tell his family and friends about being gay and will they treat him the same once he has?  This was an interesting book to read.  Apparently, the author was a teacher at a Catholic high school in Ireland.  He wrote under a pseudonym to protect his job and this March will be the first time his novel has been published stateside.  It was interesting to read a book about a teen who loved his family, God and his friends, but was unwilling in the end to give up who he was to make them happy.  I really identified with Neil's struggles and greatly respected him for deciding to come out in the end, even though he knew it more than likely wouldn't be well received.  Hie Mother did surprise me, and his sister Jackie.  The rest of his family though, really proved the stereotypes of the 'good' Christians.  His relationship with Shane and his crush on Ian, his new found friend Daphne/Eddie's battle with AIDS - all of it was well-done and realistic.  The ending had me wanting to cry.  Overall, it crosses the generational gap pretty well.  I'm a couple removed and I could still relate, even with slightly dated technological references within the book.  All the same, the themes never get outdated.  Highly recommended to questioning/gay/friends or family of gay teens.  Or even just for someone who wants a good read! I didn't love it, but it was definitely worthy of my time.  :)

VERDICT:  3.5/5  Stars

**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 March 1st, 2013.**

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fitz Has a Gun, So You'd Better Run


Published:  November 13th, 2012
Fitz
By:  Mike Cochrane
Knopf Books for Young Readers
ISBN-13:  9780375856839

A father, a son, and a gun. This could make for an interesting day..

Sometimes Fitz would look at himself in the mirror, an expression of pathetic eagerness on his face. He was a dog in the pound, wanting to be adopted. He'd smile. What father wouldn't want this boy?

Fifteen-year-old Fitzgerald—Fitz, to his friends—has just learned that his father, whom he's never met, who supports him but is not a part of his life, is living nearby. Fitz begins to follow him, watch him, study him, and on an otherwise ordinary May morning, he executes a plan to force his father, at gunpoint, to be with him.

Over the course of one spring day, Fitz and his father become real to one another. Fitz learns about his father, why he's chosen to remain distant and what really happened between him and Fitz's mother. And his father learns what sort of boy his son has grown up to become.


Review

     Fitz is fifteen, living with his Mom in a rundown neighborhood.  He has never met his Dad, but that's about to change.  Today he's going to spend the day with his Dad, holding him at gunpoint, and trying to get the answers that he's always wanted.  Why didn't his Dad stay with his Mom?  Why hasn't he been in Fitz's life, other than sending child support?  This sounded like a book that is very different from my usual read.  I decided to give it a try and had mixed feelings when it was over.  On a basic level I can understand wanting the answers to those questions so badly that you'd do anything for them.  But also, I could never imagine holding someone at gunpoint, especially my estranged Father, to get them.  I felt like Fitz's thoughts, actions and feelings read as being a lot younger than fifteen.  It almost read as though he was mentally ill or had a serious disability.  I know that wasn't the case, but the fact that he seems to have absolutely zero normal range reasoning skills left me wondering.  Plus, taking his Dad to the zoo?  How old is he, five?  I just was not a fan of this particular "gritty" piece of fiction (I use quotes because I feel like it acted more gritty than it was).  I felt like the ending was a major cop-out.  Fitz spends the entire book with his Dad at gunpoint and all of a sudden, they're all playing happy families at the end, with visitation and everything.  Highly unrealistic in every sense of the word.  If you wants gritty fiction go read a book by Ellen Hopkins.  I would recommend skipping this one unless you can relate to it on some deeper level, in which case please find a good therapist!

VERDICT:  2/5  Stars

**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 November 13th, 2012.**

Fiery Souls With Crowns...


Published:  Septmeber 18th, 2012
The Crown of Embers (Fire and Thorns # 2)
By: Rae Carson
Greenwillow Books
ISBN-13:  9780062026514

In the sequel to the acclaimed The Girl of Fire and Thorns, a seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny.

Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old. Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone's power. That is not all she finds. A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume in the Fire and Thorns trilogy.

Review

     Elisa has survived a war between her country and the Invierne, with their cruel magic.  Now at only seventeen, she is celebrating one victory in an environment of political vipers, with her position as Queen hanging in the balance.  But it comes to light that the war might not be over and the enemy may have just retreated.  The only people she can trust are Hector, the commander of her royal guard, and her maid Mara.   Even loyal protector Ximena has her own political and personal agendas for Elisa. When attempts are made on Elisa's life and others are caught in the crossfire, she decides to undertake a quest that has been prophesied, that will lead to unlimited power for one bearer of the Godstone.  Will it be Elisa?  Also can her feelings for Hector ever be allowed to grow romatically, or will politics get in the way?  It is up to Elisa and those she trusts the most to solve the mystery of who is trying to kill her, find the traitors within her royal court, and complete their latest quest before it's too late.  Will they kingdom crumble or will they succeed?  I truly loved the first book and had very close to zero complaints with it.  Elisa is a strong protagonist, who has grown and matured over the course of the first novel.  She became an intelligent leader with a strong backbone.  In the beginning of this novel the strength has remained, but we also see the insecurities that come with leading an entire kingdom, rather than just a rebellion.  The power of the Godstone that Elisa carries is further expounded upon and she gains more control over its power as the book progresses.  I enjoyed the Invierne man as a reluctant ally and the revelation about his Godstone was interesting in the context of the plot.  I liked the political machinations that took place in this book and how Carson managed to make them interesting and integral to the plot.  The side story-line with Ximena continuously trying to manipulate Elisa and  the latter finally sending her back to the kingdom they originally came from was heartrending  but only made me like Elisa even more.  She refused to have her life planned out for her, even by someone like a Mother to her. As a sequel it is essential to read the first book the know what the heck is going on.  This book managed to completely avoid the sophomore slump that seems to be a given when reading a YA trilogy - even a fantasy one!   It kept pace with the first book, the romance was tastefully, maturely and realistically done and the adventure was plentiful.  I loved it and will be awaiting the last book in the trilogy with great longing.  I cannot recommend this series enough for fans of high fantasy and authors like Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley and Kristin Cashore.  And Rae Carson just might be better than any of them! :)  Also the mention and responsible usage of some form of birth control, even with the novel's religious overtones greatly endears this author to me.  Three cheers for responsibility!

VERDICT:  5/5  Stars

***No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

Ever Capable Dodger


Published:  September 13th, 2012
Dodger
By: Terry Pratchett
HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN-13:  9780062009494

A storm. Rain-lashed city streets. A flash of lightning. A scruffy lad sees a girl leap desperately from a horse-drawn carriage in a vain attempt to escape her captors. Can the lad stand by and let her be caught again? Of course not, because he's . . . Dodger.

Seventeen-year-old Dodger may be a street urchin, but he gleans a living from London's sewers, and he knows a jewel when he sees one. He's not about to let anything happen to the unknown girl—not even if her fate impacts some of the most powerful people in England.

From Dodger's encounter with the mad barber Sweeney Todd to his meetings with the great writer Charles Dickens and the calculating politician Benjamin Disraeli, history and fantasy intertwine in a breathtaking account of adventure and mystery.

Review

     One night when Dodger is out and about, he witnesses a young woman throw herself from a carriage to escape her kidnappers.  Determined to help her, he beats up the men and sends them on their way.  Then Charles Dickens and Henry Mayhew happen along the scene, taking the young woman to Mayhew's home to recover (with Dodger coming along to supervise).  But keeping her alive will take more effort than this, when it becomes obvious that people in high places would prefer for her to be dead.  So Dodger sets off on a mission to find out who ordered the kidnapping and to save the young woman from them once and for all.  Along the way as Dodger rises from the sewers to become a gentleman, he crosses paths with Benjamin Disraeli, Sweeney Todd, Robert Peel, and other famous faces.  Will Dodger, Charlie and the rest of their friends be able to forge a new life for the young woman in question, or will her past catch up with her in a lethal way?  This is actually my first Terry Pratchett book ever.  Not that I have never heard of the many wonders of Discworld!  I do happen to know that he is lauded for his fantasy writings and that this book is one of his few stand alones not part of that particular series.  I thought it was a very interesting concept, almost like a Dickens novel, but with a specific brand of humor and characterization that seemed to be unique to the author alone.  As much as I liked Dodger and found him amusing, I felt like he wasn't quite extraordinary enough to be the main focus.  It was like Pratchett tried to make him that way, but fell just a little bit short.  Also, to be completely honest, the politics of Victorian era London weren't exactly thrilling and keeping me on the edge of my seat.  Honestly, a fun book but not the best one that I've read this year.  My favorite part was Dodger's encounter with Sweeney Todd.  I do plan on picking up another Terry Pratchett book in the future and I have a sneaking suspicion that I'll like his fantasy better than his historical fiction attempt.  I would recommend this to established fans of Pratchett, fans of Dickens and reluctant boy readers in middle school and high school.  

VERDICT:  3.75/5  Stars

**No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I've Got This On Lockdown



Published:  May 1st, 2012
In the Bag
By: Kate Klise
William Morrow Paperbacks
ISBN-13:  9780062108050

A European vacation. A luggage mix-up. A note from a secret admirer.

Meet two single parents who think they're too busy to date. 
And two teenagers who can't stop writing flirty emails. 
This is a tale of connections--missed and made--in a universe that seems to have its heart set on reuniting Ms. 6B and Mr. 13C.

Webb
I can't believe I picked up the wrong bag at the airport. My dad is never going to let me hear the end of it.

Coco
I don't understand why Mom told me to pack my worst underwear. And now I've lost my bag? Ack

Andrew
I cannot stop thinking about that woman in seat 6B on the flight to Paris.

Daisy
I don't have time to worry about the creep sitting in 13C who slipped a note in my purse. I have to find my daughter's missing bag before this ruins our vacation.



Review

     Daisy Sprinkle is going on a vacation to France with her daughter Coco, hoping that it will bring them closer together.  What happens instead is that she gets a weird not from a man on the plane, hitting on her and Coco picks up the wrong bag.  Also involved is single Dad, Andrew, whose son Webb is a mystery to him.  When they get to Madrid and figure out that Webb has the wrong luggage as well, eventually Coco and Webb get into contact.  As they begin scheming of ways to meet up with each other without telling the parents, an unsuspecting Daisy travels to Madrid to do a favor for a friend, working on the gallery opening Andrew is there for.  Sparks begin to fly, but when Daisy realizes that he is the man who left the unwelcome note in her bag all bets are off.  Especially when they catch Coco and Webb together, as they've been detained at the airport and mistaken for terrorists.  Can any of the four of them get past the disastrous events of the vacation and let their romantic feelings take control?  It was like reading a slightly old-style romantic comedy movie, in book format.  I liked the portrayal of Daisy's relationship with Coco.  I think a lot of Mothers and Daughters have trouble connecting, definitely when the daughter is in the teen years.  I know that I did with my Mom.  Webb and Andrew were interesting to read about, making me like them with their awkward romantic overtures.  My major complaint was how fast Coco went from wanting to kiss Webb, to believing that all he wanted was sex!  Really?  What a stereotype.  Not  to mention that as someone who was once a teen girl, we don't automatically assume that every guy wants sex from us, every moment of our interactions.  And she is very casual about whether or not she'll give him what he 'wants.'  I liked the screwball antics and found it to be an overall sweet and easy read.  Probably a good beach or airplane book, for readers looking for something light.  Most likely won't re-read it, but I'm not sorry about reading it a first time either.

VERDICT:  3/5  Stars

*No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.*

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Graced By You


Published:  October 1st, 2008
Graceling (Graceling Realm # 1)
By: Kristin Cashore
Harcourt
ISBN-13:  9780152063962

In a world where people born with an extreme skill - called a Grace - are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of the skill even shedespises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him.

When she first meets Prince Po, who is Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po's friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace - or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away...a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

Review

     Katsa is the niece of King Randa of the Middluns, but she is also his most valuable asset.  In a world where certain people are born with gifts, she is blessed with the grace (ability) to kill things.  Katsa is expected to be her Uncle's hired assassin and just gather him money and get rid of his 'enemies' without question.  Then she decides to let a man go and with the help of her cousin Raffin,  Katsa and some others put together a council and to help undermine the tyranny of the King.  Meeting up  with Prince Po in another city's dungeon, he and Katsa grow closer together, while looking for his kidnapped Grandfather and fighting their way to Monsea to save his cousin and her daughter from what appears to be an extremely deadly fate.  Can Po and Katsa work together and save his family from a fate worse than death?  I was expecting to fall in love with this the same way I did the Tamora Pierce books when I was lots younger.  I love me some high fantasy after all!  However, it took me four or five chapters to even get into the story and even after then, I never fell in love with it or the characters.  I was impressed with all of the world-building though.  It was an extremely complex and interwoven world of people and places.  It almost reminded me of the complexity of Game of Thrones, only on a YA scale.  I will echo some of the same complaints as other readers though - Katsa is TOO hard to empathize with!  She is threatened by any sense of femininity at all and loves to stress that point any way she can at all times.  Throughout the entire book, she acts very cocky and self-indulgent.  Making it a point not to listen to anyone Katsa annoyed the heck out of me most of the time.  Her and Po's romance was extremely cliched and I was smiling (albeit halfheartedly) when the end rolled around.  Looking forward to reading the next one when it gets released, but this is not one I will revisit a lot, if ever. 

VERDICT:  3.5/5  Stars

**No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.*