Monday, August 31, 2015

Two Important Tidbits of Info for All You Book Lovers!

Today is the last day of August! Can you believe it?!? This summer went WAY too fast!!!

To help alleviate those blues you may be feeling, here is some awesome info:

Random House has begun a new YA program called First in Line!


Once you join up at www.firstinlinereaders.com, as a member you will have access through monthly newsletter to behind-the-book material, author content, deletec scenes and giveaways for advance reading copies!!! Don't miss out, bibliophiles!


On a separate note, are any of you fans of Sophia Kinsella and/or Sarah Dessen?!?

They will be having a Google Hangout on Thursday, September 3rd - chatting about writing, their books and more!!!


You can RSVP now and submit your questions via this link: https://plus.google.com/events/cqnuus9ln071ti0i1c90bj2i1f4

Have fun!!! Fight those End of Summer blues!

Head back here on Wednesday for another review, as always! :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Finding Audrey

Finding Audrey is a YA contemporary novel by Sophia Kinsella, author of the bestselling Shopaholic series.

After an incident with classmates, Audrey has developed an anxiety disorder. She now rarely leaves the house and wears dark sunglasses at all times to avoid eye contact.

Her family is loving, if crazy, and are working hard to help her get better – as is her kind therapist, Dr. Sarah. It’s a slow, but steady, progress.

When her brother’s gaming teammate, Linus, comes over to the house she initially feels as much anxiety as she feels about anything she is not comfortable with – that is, A LOT.

But soon she finds that Linus is patient with her disorder and is encouraging her to push farther into recovery than ever before. Suddenly, there is momentum.

And perhaps some romantic feelings…

I have never read the Shopaholic series, so I wasn’t sure what kind of writing style I was getting into at all. I have to say, all in all, I am pleasantly surprised by Finding Audrey!

This novel is more about dealing with psychological damage and the inner workings of a family under stress than it is about romance. However, the romance that is involved is sweet and impactful on the plotline.

Though, I am quick to clarify, romance is NOT the cure to Audrey’s anxiety disorder. I have seen many concerned readers online that were rebuffed by the idea that a boy could, essentially, be the antidote to a mental disorder. That is definitely not the case here – it is more about how his addition to her life affects her recovery.

Finding Audrey also has a comic element, though it never minimalized the weightiness of Audrey’s issues. It simply revolved around a pretty hilarious, sort of crazy family. I liked the way they all seemed to love each other, though – there was a sense of helpfulness, despite their eccentricities.

With all of these components mixed in with engrossing drama, I found Finding Audrey to be a VERY quick read. It was very good and very fast.

I recommend it!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Monstrumologist

The Monstrumologist is a YA historical horror novel by Rick Yancey.

Orphaned apprentice Will Henry lives and works with Dr. Warthrop – a man whose area of study is monstrumology, i.e. monsters.

Already Will Henry has seen terrors that many men three times his age could never imagine, but when a midnight caller drags in the corpse of a young woman entangled with the carcass of an Anthropophagus, the first of his most horrific cases begins.

A headless monster of extreme height and size, eyes deep in its shoulders and a mouth of razor-sharp teeth in its stomach, Anthropophagi are not supposed to exist in New Jerusalem. Yet, here one is.

Will and the monstrumologist now must race against time to put a stop to these horrors before they kill again. And again. And again…

The Monstrumologist is a gory, suspenseful, creepy novel that demands a strong stomach of its reader.

What’s wonderful about it is that as grisly and graphic as the novel is, as it delves into a monsterific mystery, it is written with an eloquent, elegant narration that delves into character development, subtle human emotion and an out-of-the-ordinary relationship.

This book can be deeply disturbing but also a page-turner with excellent characterizations, severe consequences and a sense of caring as we follow young Will Henry. I grew to have an affection for Will and even the eccentric, brilliant doctor.

I have to say that I am most determined to read the next three books in the series – though I did often feel rather nauseous at the detail of grossness in The Monstrumologist.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The School for Good and Evil

The School for Good and Evil is a middle grade fantasy novel by Soman Chainani.

And oh my gosh it is sooooooooooooo good!!!!!!

In the village of Gavaldon, it has become an accepted truth that once every four years two children are kidnapped – only to appear in mysteriously delivered fairytale books later on. Their faces are clearly seen in the illustrations – some the heroes, some the villains.

Of course, many an adult has tried to resist such a ridiculous idea. Yet it is difficult to deny that it seems these children are being taken to be featured in new fairytales.

Sophie, the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, is ready when the next four-year mark comes. She is prepared to be a princess, marry a prince and continue to wear as much as pink as she can.

Her best friend, Agatha, isn’t too thrilled at the idea though. Not only does she think the idea of being whisked away to a fairytale is ridiculous – she doesn’t want to lose Sophie. With her off putting, antisocial personality, home in the cemetery and pet cat who hates everyone – she certainly knows she wouldn’t be taken along with Sophie – nor could she probably find another friend if Sophie is taken.

But when the time comes, both Sophie and Agatha find themselves at the fabled School for Good and Evil. And when Agatha is dropped in the School for Good and Sophie in the School for Evil, everything they think they know seems reversed.

Sophie is desperate to get to the School for Good, whereas Agatha is just desperate to get them both home. What they will learn, however, is the only way to get anywhere is to live through their own fairytale…

THIS BOOK IS SO AWESOME, I LOVED IT!!!

It’s not as clear from the premise I typed up as I’d like it to be, but The School for Good and Evil extraordinarily original.

With strong world building, Soman Chainani has weaved a story that creates a school to, essentially, teach children to become princes, princesses, witches and villains. Based on your looks and demeanor, it seems, you are plopped into a school and from there you reach your destiny.

Or do you? Can your looks and demeanor truly judge what you should be? Have you no chance to change? To be gray, instead of black or white?

For a “middle grade” novel, The School for Good and Evil presents some very mature questions!

I absolutely adored the twist to the fairytales. From beginning to end, this book is extremely inventive, fun and creative. We get fascinating classes – such as Beautification, Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication for the princesses and Uglification, Henchmen Training and Curses & Death Traps for the villains – to follow and a glorious myriad of unexpected twists!

On top of all of this, we also get characters that are funny and ridiculous, but also heartfelt. The School for Good and Evil, many times, made my heart hurt. It also made me smile with quick turns of wit and flat-out excellent writing.

It’s hard to express how much this book excited me! One other indicator: I immediately ordered book two on Amazon.com, as well as pre-ordering the third and final.

Yay!!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Everything, Everything

Everything, Everything is a YA contemporary debut novel by Nicola Yoon.

Madeline is allergic to the world. She never leaves her sanitized house or sees anyone besides her mom and longtime nurse Carla. She reads a lot, her books arriving in vacuum sealed packaging, and does her schooling online.

Used to this life, Madeline has accepted it and enjoys it. She looks forward to her movie nights with her mom and doesn’t think about how she hasn’t met anyone new in seventeen years.

Then one day a moving truck arrives next door. A boy about her age, named Olly and dressed all in black, notices her looking from her window. Their eyes meet and now she can think of hardly anything else.

When they start emailing and IMing, Maddie becomes sure of one thing – things are changing.

And it’s certainly going to be a disaster…

Everything, Everything is a beautifully constructed story.

When we first meet Maddie, she is fully uncomplaining of her life – loving her books, her mom and Carla. She knows she can’t have more and she’s okay with that. Yet once a burgeoning crush begins, she cannot deny the sudden desire for more.

With a great level of pacing, Maddie slowly becomes more and more involved with Olly until she realizes that never meeting anyone, touching anyone or going anywhere is what she’s had to do to survive – but perhaps survival is not the only thing that matters.

Maybe living is what matters.

And for the first time she is questioning if what she is doing is truly living.

Thus begins a rather taut story of first love and coming-of-age, as the reader both want Madeline to have more but also fears for what that will do to her.

This is a swift, absorbing read that will tug at the heartstrings and also brings about a feeling of inspiration. We should never take for granted what we have – and remember that it may be preferable to live than to just survive.

Compelling. Elegant. Memorable.

*Keep an eye open for your chance to read Everything, Everything when it is released in September 2015!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Princess of the Midnight Ball

Princess of the Midnight Ball is a YA fairytale retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Jessica Day George.

After the twelve year war, soldiers are returning from battle to their home country. Galen is one of these. On his journey to find his mother’s sister, the only family he has left, he meets a mysterious elderly woman on the side of the road gives him magical items and declares he will need them soon…

Meanwhile, in the palace, Rose is the eldest princess of twelve and is faced with a problem. Each morning she and her sisters slippers are becoming terribly worn – and no one call tell the king why. The ordinary flood of balls in their father’s kingdom is not the cause…

Instead, Rose and her sisters are being forced to travel deep into the earth to the malicious King Under Stone’s realm where they must dance with his twelve sons. It is a curse. And it is not one with an ending any time soon.

Or ever.

Once Galen becomes a gardener at the palace and learns of the mystery, and its escalating results, he decides that he needs to help. And in order to banish the curse, he’ll probably need to use the items the old lady gave him…

Princess of the Midnight Ball
has a very classic tone, which I heartily enjoyed. It is very faithful to versions of this story we have seen before yet helps to fill in gaps, provide more detail and give us a chance to know and care about the characters.

I truly felt terribly for the princesses! To be forced to dance all night long whether sick, tired, etc. is horrible – but especially for the little ones that are too young to know the dangers of complaining about it. There was definitely suspense there!

Galen is an extremely likable, honorable young soldier that trumps most fairytale princes with his principles, kindness and intentions. We see early on that he and Rose are a perfect match – and happily the author gives that relationship time to grow and cement on more than attraction or the ridiculous “insta-love” fairytales often provide.

Mixing all of this together makes for a solid, fast-paced magical read and a book that I read very quickly. I was satisfied with the end and ready to embark on the next two books from Jessica Day George that are also set in this land and retelling other tales, such as Cinderella and Red Riding Hood.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron

Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron is the tenth historical mystery in the Jane Austen Mystery series by Stephanie Barron.

As I said last week regarding Jane and the Barque of Frailty, these are really books best read in order to get the full impact and understanding of relationships and such. However, I believe they could potentially work as stand-alone stories, as well.

When Henry’s adored, animated wife Eliza passes away from illness, Jane and Henry mourn her deeply.

Calling on the recuperative, distracting power of the ocean and sea air, the pair head to Brighton to enjoy the teeming, dazzling resort life favored by so many.

It is not long before Jane’s path crosses with the famous, possibly mad, undeniably magnetic poet and seducer of women: Lord Byron. His reputation is known to Jane, but even she cannot help but be shocked by the circumstances in which she meets him.

So, when a beautiful young girl barely out in society is found murdered and placed in Lord Byron’s bed, there are not many who do not think him capable. Including the shrewd mind of Miss Austen herself.

Yet Jane is not one to call a man guilty based off public opinion alone. Pursuing a private investigation, she seeks to discover if Byron is indeed the wrongdoer or if someone is taking advantage of his poor repute.

Another engrossing mystery! Full of period details, fantastic settings and a clue-finding whodunit, Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron is a great read!

The loss of Eliza is a sad one – and one of my favorite things about this series is that Jane, her family and friends are featured in such a way as to care. Some murder mysteries tend to forget about characters and focus primarily on the mystery – but the Jane Austen Mystery series always takes the time to allow for human emotions and relationships. I love that.

This is a captivating story and deals with a rather sad, creepy murder. The ending felt a little ambiguous but it was still satisfying. I am yet again ready for more Jane outings! Though, this time, I am going to pursue some other titles first and return again in a while.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Jane and the Barque of Frailty

Jane and the Barque of Frailty is the ninth in Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen Mystery series.

I thoroughly recommend reading this fantastically imagined, Regency whodunit series from the beginning. You would want to start with Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor. I’ve been a huge enthusiast of this series from the beginning as a fan of both Jane Austen and mysteries!

It’s 1811 in London and Jane Austen is enjoying a month-long visit with her brother Henry and his lively wife Eliza. She’s awaiting publication of her first novel, Sense and Sensibility and spending her free time socializing during the height of the Season.

When a mysterious, exiled, lovely Russian princess is found dead outside of the abode of a notorious Tory minister, though – even Jane is surprised. The determination of self-murder does not sit right with Jane, and she is happy to investigate further.

What is more surprising, however, is that Jane and Eliza manage to thrust themselves into the case – as suspects! Now Jane must solve the mystery not just for her own curiosity and sense of justice, but to keep herself and Eliza from the noose!

What fun!

It’s been years since I’ve read the first eight books and had hoped to be able to reread the series before I continued on – but I think many busy bibliophiles can agree that this can be a difficult thing to do. So, I finally gave in and read Jane and the Barque of Frailty. Happily, my faint memory of the previous books was sufficient.

I was very quickly pulled back into Jane’s smart first-person narration and observations while following the suspense of murder amidst the polite crowd. Yet again we have an intricate mystery with lovely period details.

Stephanie Barron is a stickler – she follows Jane’s locales based on the remaining letters from Austen’s life. We are often exactly where she was in her real life, at the right time. She also takes hints from the letters, or perhaps rumors of the day, and interweaves them into the fictional aspect of the story. You feel almost as though this could all be possible!

A strong, enjoyable story with serious, dramatic elements and plenty of Austen wit, Jane and the Barque of Frailty was a great mystery that left me prepared for reading more. There are now a total of twelve books in this series and I am on to book ten!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Million Miles Away

A Million Miles Away is a YA contemporary novel by Lara Avery.

High school senior Kelsey’s life changes when her identical twin sister, Michelle, dies in a car accident. Her other half is gone. There’s an emptiness inside of her that she can only see reflected in her parents grief-filled eyes.

When Kelsey accidentally intercepts a broken Skype call from Michelle’s boyfriend Peter, deployed in Afghanistan and unaware of Michelle’s death, he thinks he’s seeing Michelle.

Immediately, Kelsey tries to correct him – but the call is so broken he cannot hear her. Soon she realizes that thinking of Michelle is one of the only things keeping Peter going and she finds the truth stuck in her throat the next time she has an opportunity to tell him.

So, she pretends to be Michelle. Emails, chat, written letters.

Initially she tries to write like Michelle – finds an odd comfort and connection to her twin by identifying with everything that made her who she was.

But it doesn’t take long before pretend becomes real – and Kelsey realizes she is falling for Peter…

A Million Miles Away is an absorbing, engrossing story of grief and loss. I scarfed it down very easily and very fast.

Written with a sensitivity that makes Kelsey immensely empathetic, the author manages to make the decision to not tell Peter the truth understandable. You feel Kelsey’s need to, essentially, bring her sister back to life every time she talks to him. And the sadness that comes with the end of each call, each time she has to face that Michelle is no longer there, is evident.

Though it sounds melodramatic for Kelsey to fall for Peter, it happens in a natural, sweet manner in the novel. I appreciated that though Kelsey has some guilt about falling for her sister’s boyfriend, she primarily knows that her twin would understand. That was rather refreshing.

The true worry is the shame of deceiving Peter. Once it’s done, it’s hard to undo.

Despite my captivation in this quiet, mournful story, I did feel that the secondary characters could have been more drawn. Everybody but Kelsey felt like faceless background characters, with the possible exception of Peter and Kelsey’s parents.

Also, though I felt A Million Miles Away was a lovely, heartfelt romance – I felt the end was a bit rushed and convenient, which was disappointing.

However, A Million Miles Away was an excellent, swift read that was worth every minute!

*I received a free review copy of A Million Miles Away from NOVL. Their generosity did not influence the honesty of this review in any way.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Review Posting Schedule Change

My Dear, Lovely Fellow Bibliophiles:

The time has come to make some changes to how many reviews I post weekly. This has happened before, as any longtime readers knows. I used to post reviews 3 times a week and for a short period I even posted reviews 5 times a week!

Wow - the good ol' days!

However, now I am an adult with a full-time job, which already makes it a struggle to read as much as I used to. Now I am also adding another big time consumer to my life: college classes.

Yes, I am now going to be pursuing higher education!

It's wonderful but also carries with it some sobering realities - I will not have even as much free time as I have now, which has already decreased dramatically from my early years with this blog.

As I do not want to put too much pressure on myself to read when I just may not be able to - only 1 review will post per week at the Bibliophile Support Group for the foreseeable future.

This will be every Wednesday.

This has an impact on authors, publishers and publicists that may reach out to me to review their books, as well. Would I love to read and review every book that is sent to me?

You bet your bottom dollar!

Can I? No - not even close. Already I have huge piles of books that I do not know when I will get to read them. Perhaps in my golden years?

So - if you are an author, publicist or publisher - the only way I can guarantee that I will read and review your book is if you email me first and I confirm it. Otherwise, I may not be able to get to it - or it may take a VERY long time.

I thank you all for your understanding and support.

Hopefully one review a week will still bring to your attention some great novels and fun reading!