Friday, October 31, 2014

Famous Last Words

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

To celebrate, what is more appropriate than a ghost story?!

Famous Last Words is a YA contemporary murder mystery –slash- ghost story by Katie Alender.

Still haunted by the circumstances surrounding her dad’s death two years ago, Willa is struggling to adapt to a new life – after all, she’s still trying to return to the person she once was before her dad’s death.

With a successful Hollywood director as her new stepdad, Willa and her mom have moved into a mansion that used to be the abode of 30s starlet Diana Del Mar.

Overall things are going okay – if a bit awkward and strained – but the fact that there is a serial killer targeting young, burgeoning actresses on the loose makes the move hard to swallow.

When Willa begins to have strange visions – and begins to get the sense that either she’s crazy or this house is haunted – she has no one to turn to.

Until she meets Reed – a guy at her school that is obsessed with the Hollywood Killer.

But – is that the best sort of friend to have when you’re already questioning your sanity?

Early into Famous Last Words I found it to be not bad but not particularly original. A ghost story combined with a murder mystery isn’t new, after all.

Once a few more pages in, though, Famous Last Words did become more intriguing. The book morphed into a quick, entertaining read that actually became surprisingly creepy at times.

Willa wasn’t a character I loved – but I did appreciate her matter-of-fact way of handling herself in the midst of otherworldly encounters. Can’t help but root for the girl that doesn’t go the ordinary, horror movie bimbo route!

In the end, Famous Last Words was rather predictable for me – I was able to pick out the serial killer pretty early on – but it was also fun to read and relatively well done.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Unmade

Unmade is the third book in the YA contemporary supernatural trilogy The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan.

This is a phenomenal, emotional trilogy that you MUST read in order!!! Therefore, feel free to check out my review of the first book Unspoken here and the second book Untold here.

But whatever you do – DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW UNTIL YOU’VE READ THE FIRST TWO BOOKS!

Understand?!?

I’m trusting you!!!

An only recently severed psychic link connected Kami and Jared their entire lives – creating a bond that was indescribable to others. Half the time they thought they were crazy – but oh how they relied on it.

When Kami and Jared came face to face in Kami’s small, English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale, the shock of realizing they were both real, flesh-and-blood people nearly tore them apart.

Now, Kami is left heartbroken as Jared is missing – and everyone is telling her he must be dead.

She’s sure she would know if he were dead… wouldn’t she?

During the months of Jared’s disturbing, sudden absence – the power-hungry, blood-thirsty, mad-sorcerer Rob Lynburn has continued to gather followers and cement his place as the master of Sorry-in-the-Vale.

Kami has never easily taken brute force as leadership – especially when they require human sacrifice.

Together with a haberdashery of best buds Angela, Holly, Rusty and her new, reluctant mind connected Lynburn boy Ash – Kami is determined to save her town with the only thing she has…

Truth.

Oh my goodness.

How do I count the ways in which I love Unmade?

Or – rather – the whole Lynburn Legacy trilogy combined?

It would take far too many adjectives, fellow bibliophiles.

Like the prior two books, Unmade is immediately gripping, chilling and addictive. Sarah Rees Brennan – an author I will be on the lookout for more books from – manages to create a heartbreaking, terrifying tale that has characters that light up the pages and spark laugh-out-loud moments of relief.

Kami is a heroine that is smart, unique, hilarious and stylish in the best sort of way – her own! I adore her – and I adore an author that gives me such a fun, brave, awesome character to follow. Not to mention the wonderful supporting cast of colorful personalities that enhances the tale all the more!

This is a stunning, romantic conclusion that I absolutely LOVED!

It was perfect!!!

As I’ve mentioned in prior reviews for this series – this is a love story that is much deeper, darker and meaningful than most that ever are portrayed in YA – or even contemporary adult literature.

Bravo, Sarah!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hexed

Hexed is a YA supernatural contemporary novel by Michelle Krys.

Indigo Blackwood has followed her best friend to popularity in high school.

She’s a cheerleader and dating one of the best looking guys in school.

This is against all odds since she could instead easily be considered the daughter of that weird woman who runs an occult shop. Since that would be accurate.

But then strange things start to happen. A guy drops dead in front of her. Her mother’s ancient “bible” of witchcraft goes missing and she gets some odd, offbeat visitors at school.

Not long after that Indie’s life begins to change forever…

Hexed surprised me.

This is a fast-paced book with humor and intriguing paranormal suspense. I went back and forth between thinking Indie was pretty unrealistic and not loving her to finally coming around a bit later… In fact, I had a hard time with ALL of the characters for a while but did find myself begin to thaw.

Hexed is fun, yet surprisingly violent, with dark twists that take the book places I did not expect. There’s romance – though that was part of my issue with the characters. Again, it got better – but for me Hexed strength is its plot versus its characters. At least for now.

I can see how Hexed could make a good start to an entertaining witchy series.

By the cliffhanger ending I can say I was prepared to read more!

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time is a classic sci-fi children’s novel by Madeline L’Engle.

I know, I know. This another one of those, “How could you not have read this yet?” books.

Well, I’m getting around to them!!!

Many of you have probably already read A Wrinkle in Time – but for any of you who haven’t, join me in fixing this literary crime.

It’s a stormy, windy night when Meg simply cannot fall asleep in her attic bedroom. Wandering down the stairs she is joined by her beautiful, scientist mother and little brother Charles Wallace.

It’s on this night that the mystery of her father’s disappearance begins to unravel. It’s on this night that the marked difference of Charles Wallace becomes all the clearer.

It’s on this night that Meg meets Mrs. Whatsit.

Thus begins a journey of Meg, Charles Wallace and new friend Calvin O’Keefe – a journey that will reveal that far more is out there in creation than she could have ever imagined – including her father.

It’s a journey fraught with peril, magnificence and the fate of the universe…

I’ve always heard about A Wrinkle in Time and am happy to have finally read it. Unfortunately I read it at a rather busy time while I was terribly hot when our air conditioner was not being very cooperative.

So I look forward to rereading it in the future, probably when I jump into the other four books in the A Wrinkle in Time quintet.

I’ll admit I was oftentimes rather confused as I read A Wrinkle in Time – though always intrigued.

I loved the original feel of the characters and plot. It’s complex and demands the reader’s attention – which sadly at the time of my reading was not as focused as it needed to be.

A Wrinkle in Time shows a sad, realistic darkness, has a fascinating sci-fi edge – especially when the characters end up on the creepy, frightening world of Camamotz. It’s thought-provoking and features a lot of Christian overtones and Biblical quotes – which I personally loved.

Intelligence plays a huge, pivotal role in A Wrinkle in Time. Meg, Charles Wallce and Calvin are all “different”. They are very smart and are either hiding it to fit in (Calvin), misunderstood and perceived as stupid (Charles Wallace) or react to it by being inattentive in school and thoroughly shunned (Meg).

By the end of A Wrinkle in Time I felt perplexed – yes, again being honest here – but pleased.

I definitely need to reread this book – when I am not delirious from heat and exhausted from lack of sleep.

Hopefully you’ll get it the first time around!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line

The Thousand Dollar Tan Line is the first book in the book series based on the Veronica Mars television show written by creator Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham.

Stop right there, bibliophile.

Have you watched all three seasons of Veronica Mars? Have you watched the recent Veronica Mars movie?

If your answer is no to one or both questions – get on that ASAP.

Veronica Mars
is one of my favorite TV shows and the kickstarter campaign that funded the movie follow-up seven YEARS after its cancellation is a clear indication I’m not alone in that.

Anywho, this book takes place after the latest movie – in other words you will spoil awesome, heart wrenching binge Veronica Mars viewing if you read this before you do the aforementioned binge watching.

Only those of who who’ve seen everything to date on Veronica Mars, continue –

Back in Neptune, California ten years after graduating, Veronica is pursuing a much different career path than she’s been working towards for the last many years.

Despite her high-priced law degree, Veronica is sitting behind a desk at Mars Investigations, ready to jump back in to private investigating – something she seems to have an unhealthy addiction to.

But, hey, if it makes her happy, right?

If only her Dad would agree.

Just when Veronica begins to wonder if a big case will come along to help pay the bills – one does.

During the wild, drunken Spring Break revelries a girl disappears from a party and Veronica is called to investigate as tourism begins plummeting – oh the beauty of Neptune’s priorities.

Quickly realizing this is not a simple missing person’s case, Veronica finds herself thrust into a dangerous world of organized crime and a shocking connection to her past.

Well, this is what she signed up for…

I am a Marshmallow. Absolutely, posi – toot – ly!

Thrilled to find out there would be Veronica Mars BOOKS penned in part by the creator himself, well – I was very excited!!! So far I’ve heard of two books to be published in total – but I can’t help but hope for more!

I loved returning to Neptune!! As I read The Thousand Dollar Tan Line I could hear Veronica’s voice and see all of the characters faces – it felt just like a longer, extended episode of Veronica Mars and it made me very, very happy.
The Thousand Dollar Tan Line was exciting, fun and interesting with shocks and twists. Wow!

Exhilarating to read, The Thousand Dollar Tan Line made me wonder if we Marshmallow’s will EVER have enough of Veronica Mars?!

I loved it – it was awesome.

‘Nuff said.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Glass Casket

The Glass Casket is a YA fantasy fairy tale by McCormick Templeman.

Rowan’s village has been a quiet, peaceful place for many years.

Now something dark has invaded it.

It begins with five horses and five riders that gallop through the village and up the hills with covert intent – only to be found days later dead. Dead in a disturbing, unnatural way.

The official word is a wolf attack – but anyone who saw the violence knows it was no wolf…

Other strange happenings take place as well – such as a beautiful girl close to Rowan’s age suddenly moving into the village. A girl that seems to have a connection with Rowan…

Something ravenous – something deadly – has come to occupy their village.

Rowan could be next…

The Glass Casket perplexed me a bit.

On the one hand, the plot itself was stimulating and darkly intriguing.

On the other hand, I found I could never truly connect with any of the characters. I just never really care about any of them, which causes the story to not be as engrossing or frightening as it could have been.

The Glass Casket is creepy, a different sort of fairy tale that is more reminiscent of a horror story. It has some shades of Snow White – but only very, very faintly.

Often, I felt that we were being told more often than shown and as readers were expected to accept a lot on what we’re told. I was still always interested but I did begin to skim The Glass Casket due to this continued disconnection I felt.

Though I guessed the big twist and never was all that enamored with it, I have seen that there are many people that found The Glass Casket to be quite mesmerizing. So definitely read it for yourself!

The Glass Casket is a bloody, gruesome sort of tale – just not one that blew me away.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Starstruck

Starstruck is a YA novel set in the world of 1930s Hollywood by Rachel Shuckert.

Margaret eats up any news on her favorite actress – the dazzling Diana Chesterfield – like candy. She’s seen all her movies and can only imagine one day meeting her. Her zeal helps to liven up the otherwise unexciting finishing school life she lives in Pasadena.

When a bigwig from Olympus Studios, MGM’s greatest competitor, discovers Margaret at soda shop one day and notices her exceptional beauty – her life turns into a whirlwind as she swept toward the silver screen. She can hardly believe her luck! Though, sadly, it comes on the heels of Diana Chestefield’s questionable disappearance from the public eye…

Meanwhile, Gabby Preston has been working the Hollywood and Vaudeville scene since she was a little girl struggling to survive under her mother’s demands during the Great Depression. Her gorgeous singing voice hasn’t transcended into a gorgeous exterior and she struggles to lose weight and see her long held ambitions come true as she reaches toward a headliner movie musical.

And stunning redhead Amanda Farraday has less interest in what Hollywood can do for her than she does in on-the-rise screenwriter Harry, whom she’s fallen for. Her hope is leave an unpleasant past behind her and never be called “Ginger” again…

All three girls are on the scene of a golden era for cinema – but will their dreams come at a price?

I’m late getting to Starstruck – I receive it over a year ago! But, hey, you can only read as much as you can, right? I’m very happy I finally took this title up, though!!

First of all, 30s Hollywood is an instant draw – a historical time period in addition to backstage drama? It’s exactly what I hoped it would be – fun, sudsy, glamorous and, at times, quite dark!

Starstruck has varied characters that morph from likable to unlikable – all with their own ambitions, demons and hopes. There’s enough character development to satisfy the likes of me – who wants a little grit and meat to her soapy entertainment.

Shuckert serves up plenty of period details, romance and intrigue – making for a saucy, disturbing, addictive start to a series. The mystery aspect kept me interested – yet happily there was no need for extra incentive to read Starstruck, as I was already quite hooked!

Then we get a truly surprising, effective revelation that left me all the more in anticipation of book two!

One good thing about starting a series late? The second book is already available!

*Cue maniacal laughter*

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Bride Wore Size 12

The Bride Wore Size 12 is an adult contemporary mystery humor novel by Meg Cabot – and the fifth book in the Heather Wells series.

To fully enjoy the series in order read the books as such:

Size 12 is Not Fat
Size 14 is Not Fat Either
Big Boned
Size 12 and Ready to Rock
The Bride Wore Size 12


Got it? Now, if you haven’t read books one through four yet – don’t read this review! It’ll contain spoilers of the earlier books!!!

Established Heather Wells fans, read on:

Preparing for incoming freshman at New York College as the assistant director of Fischer Residence Hall – a.k.a. Death Dorm – is almost as exhausting as planning a wedding at the Plaza.

Heather wants nothing more than for everything to go smoothly.

Then an attractive junior turns up dead in her room.

Tragic? Absolutely.

Murder? Heather certainly hopes not.

Yet Heather’s rather skilled observational talents and nose for trouble is starting to wonder…

In the meantime, Heather’s mother shows up - the mother who stole all her money and hasn’t visited Heather for years.

Heather really doesn’t have time for this.

After all, with her luck, she’s going to be seeing wedding bullets instead of wedding bells…

The Bride Wore Size 12 was a lot of fun, as this series always is!

I have to say that the later books in the series don’t seem QUITE as perky, fun and humorous as the earlier books – but they are still all of those things.

In the same vein, Cooper – Heather’s hunky P.I. fiancé – is still hot, but doesn’t feel as… real?... as the first books.

I can’t put my finger on it, but it just seems that as good as The Bride Wore Size 12 was, the earlier books in the Heather Wells series were even better.

Don’t get me wrong, though, people!!!

The Bride Wore Size 12 provided plenty of chuckles and an entertaining, fast-paced, surprising mystery.

Plus, I absolutely LOVED the tie-in to Meg Cabot’s Queen of Babble when Lizzie Nichols shows up near the end. What fun!!!

I’m not sure if this is the last Heather Wells book – I would love more – but if it is… well, it’s a happy, satisfying end.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Rebecca

Rebecca is, as the cover states, a classic tale of romantic suspense by Daphne Du Maurier.

Shy and timid, our heroine is stunned when the dashing, enigmatic Maxim de Winter asks him to marry him. They barely know each other but have spent many days in Monte Carlo – while her employer was ill in bed, leaving her an unusual amount of free time – taking drives and enjoying a comfortable quiet.

She knows that his home, Manderley, is revered and that she will be the second Mrs. de Winter, but when she accepts Maxim’s proposal she isn’t too concerned about all that.

Upon arriving at Manderley, however, she finds a magnificent manor that feels as though it’s still inhabited by Rebecca – Maxim’s first wife. The servants still follow her orders as though she were alive, the townsfolk speak of her beauty and grace with awe and the eerie, disconcerting housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, lays out clothes for Rebecca in her old rooms.

Certain that she will never meet the standard Rebecca met – and feeling it’s clear that Maxim could not possibly love her as he loved his first wife – the second Mrs. de Winter finds a pursuit in uncovering the secrets about Rebecca.

The truths she finds are much darker than she imagined…

When I was much younger I remember seeing Hitchcock’s black-and-white movie Rebecca and being thoroughly creeped out. That’s why I was thrilled to get a chance to read the original novel – since the book is always better, right?

Rebecca has a wonderfully thick, moody, atmospheric language. We are taken on trips through our narrator’s insecure mind – flights of fancy, imaginings of the worst, etc. It’s a highly realistic first-person voice from a young woman that lacks confidence – and it’s easy to recognize that fear, naiveté and painful nervousness in ourselves.

While reading Rebecca I felt I was at Manderley – it’s a vivid, disturbing, intriguing, daunting yet also lovely and cozy place. It’s a place that could be an ideal home – if it only it weren’t so haunted by the prior Mrs. de Winter.

Of course Mrs. Danvers is very spooky. With an unnerving excitement entering into her face and voice whenever she speaks of Rebecca and a cool look of hatred for our narrator, she gives you the distinct impression of being mentally unstable – dangerously so.

Rebecca is a gothic, nerve-wracking, surprisingly convincing shocker.

Though it’s been a long time since I saw the movie, I was stunned by how exact to the book it was. There was nothing, that I could remember, that was deviated from. I can’t help but wish I had read the book first – of course – so I could have experienced the surprises the first time around here.

My particular version of Rebecca – Harper’s 2006 printing – has author’s notes and extras that were really interesting as well.

One final comment: Our narrator has no first name.

For a while I was sure I had somehow missed it and kept an eagle eye out for it – but, nope. Du Maurier herself confirms she never gave our heroine a first name.

This both exasperates me and titillates me. The fact that Rebecca’s name is not only the title but a central theme of envy and worship throughout the novel gives a brilliant contrast.

So, I’ll accept it. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Playing by Heart

Playing by Heart is a Christian historical fiction romance by Anne Mateer.

After growing up as flighty “Fruity Lu”, Lula Bowman has prided herself in turning her life around – focusing on academics and achieving a prestigious scholarship in mathematics.

When her mother died, Lula’s father looked to her to achieve his dream of her being the first woman with a PhD – and she longs to make him proud, even as he sits now – elderly and heartbreakingly unaware of her accomplishments.

It’s when Lula’s sister Jewel calls her and desperately needs her help after a shocking death shakes the family to their core that Lula’s goals have to be put – reluctantly – on hold.

Moving back home to help her sister, Lula takes a job at the local school as a music instructor and basketball coach – the only options available to her.

Only problem? She has no idea how to play basketball!

Good thing the handsome boy’s coach Chet seems very willing to help her learn.

But her undeniable magnetic pull toward Chet is against Lula’s will – she never wants to return to her “Fruity Lu” past – and has every intention of returning to college once her sister is back on her feet.

Failing her father is not an option…

Playing by Heart
was a nice, good read with strong themes of family, faith and adjustment of ambitions.

I liked the complexity of Lula’s relationship with her family – her single-minded personality has been shaped by her desire to please her father, whether or not it truly pleases her.

Chet also has a strong family backdrop – feeling disdain from a bitter mother that is resentful of her deceased, deserter husband and finds Chet’s decision to not enlist as cowardice.

Both characters have individualistic personalities and a lot to work out through trust in God – a lot of letting go of parental expectations. It was interesting – I appreciated the depth.

This is a good WWI era novel to enjoy.

*I received a copy of Playing by Heart from the Bethany House Book Reviewers program. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.