Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Holidays, Bibliophiles!

Sorry I haven't gotten a new book review up in the last couple of weeks - I've been busy during this Happiest Time of the Year! ;)

I will say that I heartily recommend the Lois Lowry trilogy: The Giver, Gathering Blue, and Messenger, and believe them to be fascinating and stunning in all their sci-fi/dystopia glory.

Also, if you're into star-crossed romance, scandals, and a historical setting where the girls get to wear awesome dresses (1899-1900), check out The Luxe series: The Luxe, Rumors, and Envy. Yes, there's a final book out called Splendor - but I haven't read it yet! These books make for fun, fast reading!

So - I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!

See you in 2010!

Wishing you all get piles of books under the tree,

Monday, December 7, 2009

Stage Fright

Stage Fright is Meg Cabot's fourth entry in her middle-grade series Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls.

This time around, Allie's class at her Elementary school is putting on a play - and Allie is so ready to portray Princess Penelope, the starring role. Only problem? One of her best friends, Sophie, also wants the role. Can she beat out her best friend without ruining her friendship? And will Allie's mom's newfound celebrity status help Allie become as famous as she suddenly desires?

Now, I read and readily enjoyed both books 1 and 2 (Moving Day and The New Girl), but hadn't gotten a chance yet to read Best Friends and Drama Queens (the third book in the series), which had me a bit worried when I started Stage Fright. But - no worries! Stage Fright, though surely relished to the maximum when read in complete order, was still extremely fun and easy to catch up on!

In fact, Meg Cabot's trademark hilarious humor was in full blast in this middle-grade book. I can't help but be flabbergasted at just how realistically Meg Cabot captures the voice of a 4th grade girl. It's truly amazing - and certainly entertaining!

Now, the message of Mrs. Hunter's (Allie's teacher) play is environmental awareness and the benefits of recycling - I'll admit that I sometimes felt that some of the lines of the play and talk of Princess Penelope in the Realm of Recycling (name of the play) got a little heavy-handed for my taste. But, happily, that didn't last too long.

Weaved through a lot of funny, true-to-life dialogue and a surprisingly page-turning plot (at least for me, lol), there manages to be quite a few great lessons on friendship, rivalry, and making the best of what you've got. Yet it never felt like a lecture at all. The exuberant, amusing plot was fully formed all on its own.

What with Allie's enormously unique personality and her awesome family (I love Uncle Jay), Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls continues to be a ton of fun with this latest edition: Stage Fright.

And remember - I'm certainly not in 4th grade. So, pick it up - no matter what age you are!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hell Week

Hell Week is the (dare I be cliché and say it? I dare!) hellishly good sequel to Rosemary Clement-Moore’s Prom Dates From Hell. This fun, supernatural YA novel continues the Maggie Quinn: Girl vs. Evil series.

Now, if you haven’t read Prom Dates From Hell yet I gently (okay, not so gently) warn you that this review may contain small spoilers. This series isn’t quite as explosively serialized as The Summoning/The Awakening or The Hunger Games/Catching Fire – but still. Don’t want to ruin any of the fun, right? So, I happily supply the link for you to read the review of the first novel Prom Dates from Hell instead:

Okay, moving on…

Maggie has moved on from high school (a cool rarity in YA) and is a freshman in her professor dad’s college. But bursting into the local newspaper scene is proving a lot more difficult for our likable Veronica Mars/Buffy hybrid than she hoped. Not even her college newspaper is all that friendly and resists succumbing to her charming personality (that’s a bit of sarcasm, if you didn’t realize that, in honor of Maggie).

However, the Phantom Pledge idea comes about – in which Maggie goes undercover to show what being a pledge during sorority rush is really like. Despite the delicious feeling of seeing her articles (anonymous, of course) in the college paper, once her Anti-Evil instincts kick in, it stops being an acceptable irritance to hang out on Greek Row and becomes moreabout life and death. Something bad is happening, and Maggie’s determined to figure it out. She wouldn’t be the heroine if she wasn’t, after all.

One of the many things I really enjoyed about Hell Week was how Rosemary so easily transported Maggie to college from high school and keep her (SPOILER ALERT – this is your second warning!!) somewhat isolated from her closest friends without the novel being any less entertaining – and, in fact, more believable.

From start to finish, Hell Week is an excellent follow-up to Prom Dates from Hell – matching, if not exceeding, the humor, wit, and chills. I actually can almost say I was more invested in the mystery/supernatural element of Hell Week than Prom Dates from Hell, and that really is saying something.

I really look forward to reading Highway to Hell and hope it is not the last novel Rosemary Clement-Moore pens for Maggie Quinn and her Evil fighting powers. With characters like her eccentric grandmother, barely-believing mom, dorky yet awesome dad, hunky but still geeky boyfriend, and once an evil-genius-to-be turned repentant best friend – how can you go wrong?

Answer: You can’t.

By the way: Happy Thanksgiving! You know what I'm thankful for? You! Thanks for reading my blog and letting me know I'm not the only bibliophile!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Invisible Lines

Invisible Lines is the newest middle-grade novel written by Mary Amato.

Trevor Musgrove has just moved to a not-so-cheerfully nicknamed apartment complex (“Deadly Gardens”) with his hard-working mother and two young siblings. His new middle-school is of a higher caliber than he’s been to, and Trevor is determined to get “in” with the popular boys, stay in an interesting class that he was somehow mistakenly placed, and make the elite “Plague” soccer team.

Thing is, unlike some of his new friends, Trevor needs to baby-sit his little brother and sister every evening while his Mom works to keep a roof over their heads. Also, unlike his new friends, Trevor can’t really afford a notebook for his new advanced science class or the cleats for soccer. He’s not sure how he can make all his dreams come true, but he’s sure gonna try.

First off, if the cover of Invisible Lines puts you off – I’m with you. (Because of technical issues, I was unable to put a cover picture on this post, but to check out the book and see what I'm talking about click here: It comes off even younger than middle-grade. The size of the print doesn’t really help either (large, senior-style words).

But once you start the novel, I’m pretty sure you’ll be as impressed as I was.

Invisible Lines delves into the rarely seen world (in children’s literature, especially) of next-to-utter-poverty. For Mary Amato to really show in a poignant, never overdramatic way, the life of a talented, smart boy living in the kind of apartment complex you never want to live in – dangerous, sad, and sometimes hopeless – and come out with an inspiring book that even brought tears to my eyes – Wow.

Some events that happen at Trevor’s apartment building startled me with its stark and heartbreaking reality. Things that many kids see or hear about daily, but you rarely read in books written for the age group. Mary Amato never talks down to her reader, and keeps the tone steady. I never felt that I was being taught a lesson, as much as seeing a real person’s life and the unpretentious encouragement that comes from that.

Mary Amato portrays Trevor’s mom realistically and sympathetically, but never smoothes away the flaws or edges of the authenticity of this life.

Yet, I make Invisible Lines sound far more depressing than it really is.

Invisible Lines also has lots of humor – at first the humor seemed a bit childish, but before I knew it I was enjoying it and identified the down-to-earth nature of the banter and jokes in everyday life. The characters in general, especially Trevor’s classmates and Trevor himself, came across as very grounded and recognizable to your own (at least my own) middle-school experience.

I never expected to be inspired (or find out so many, believe it or not, interesting facts about) mushrooms! But, I lie not, I’d be surprised if you don’t agree with me in saying that Invisible Lines is a powerful, sweet, and funny look at a boy who has a lot stacked against him and proves that it doesn’t have to stay that way.

Another novel that proves that the label “Ages 10 & Up” means nothing. ;)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Candle Man: The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance

The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance is the first book in a planned trilogy named Candle Man by Glenn Dakin.

The plot centers on teenage Theo who has been brought up in what would basically be described a “secluded” way. You see, he’s been told since he can remember that he has a serious and dangerous illness involving his hands, which means Theo wears special gloves. Thing is, his guardian, Mr. Saint, and his ever-present butler, Mr. Nicely (I know, awesome names, right?!) have kept Theo so cut off from the outside world, that he can’t help but thirst for knowledge of the rest of England.

So as soon as Theo has the opportunity to escape the confines of his room, he takes it. Even if he is rather frightened and unprepared for what lies ahead of him.

What he doesn’t realize until later is, his guardian might not be such a “saint”, nor his butler quite as “nice” as he always believed. And maybe he has a true ancestor; someone called reverently the “Candle Man”. And maybe there’s an evil conspiracy at works.

And maybe, just maybe, Theo is the only one who can stop it.

With a title like The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance, I already had a feeling I would like it. And guess what?

I did. :)

I liked it quite a bit actually! Right away there was a hint of A Series of Unfortunate Events in the style of writing (not quite as many vocabulary definition pauses, though, lol) and zest of characters. That’s a plus right away, in my Lemony-Snicket-lovin’ opinion.

But the plot itself was original, fun, engaging, and had just the right amount of seriousness and depth to make it more than just a fluff book (which I have nothing against – I just do appreciate some sincerity). Theo is truly a sympathetic, likeable character. Glenn Dakin manages to make him naïve without making him stupid, and sweet without being wimpy.

The whole cast of characters are flavorful and attention grabbing – and the action is actually rather thrilling! The fantasy elements and creatures were well executed – and, again, quite unique and interestingly incorporated into the plot. I think you’ll know what I mean when you read it.

I don’t want to give too much away, is pretty much what I’m saying. As always. ;)

I think the point is: There are actually twists to give away, which means you should NOT pass on The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance just because it may say “Middle Grade” or “Ages 10 and up”.

Most of us bibliophiles know better than to pay any attention to these labels – since an awesome book knows no age limits! But I was once, alas, a simple-minded bibliophile-in-training that for a time did pay attention to such things – so I warn any that are as I once was.

Candle Man: The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance is a witty, smart, entertaining fantasy novel that left me quite, ahem, “vigilantly” looking out for the next book in this trilogy. ;)
Check out the official website at:

Vampire's Assistant Giveaway Results!

Thanks to everybody who entered the Vampire's Assistant contest! Two winners have been selected and sent emails. If you are one of those lucky people make sure to email me back ASAP! :)

Go see the movie, bibliophiles! With all those previews they're showing on TV, ya can't help but be intrigued, eh? ;)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Catching Fire

Please, for your own sake, don’t read this review of Catching Fire unless you have already read The Hunger Games. If you haven’t, check out my review of The Hunger Games here:

Also, if you are looking for my contest, simply scroll down or click here:

Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games blew me away, as it did many. I mean, wow! I was left breathless, stunned, and in a state of suspense when it came to a close – Katniss clearly not as safe as she (and we) hoped she’d be after winning the Games with the sweet, every-girl’s-dream-guy Peeta.

The Capitol, she had found out, was not happy with her pulling one over on them. But, what she didn’t realize at the end of The Hunger Games was just how much the final seconds of the Hunger Games impacted all the other districts. Katniss’ actions roused in the citizens’ weary, tired bodies an inspiration that maybe, just maybe, the Capitol could be defeated. An idea that had only been a distant fantasy for the past many decades.

In the meantime, Katniss finds herself torn between a strong bond and confused feelings for Peeta, whom she feels she betrayed, and her loyal, Capitol-hating best friend Gale, whom she also feels she betrayed. Somehow, Suzanne Collins makes these relationships so starkly realistic and painful – not at all angsty or of a different nature than who Katniss is. In other words, she doesn't become a pile of girly-goo when it comes to good-looking, interesting guys. Um refreshing much? Yeah.

But none of Katniss’ heartache regarding Peeta and Gale can overcome the terrible, utter fear of President Snow’s seemingly omniscient knowledge of her and her family and the damage he can do. She finds herself desperate to prove to all of Panem that she was just a love-struck flake when she and Peeta (at her suggestion) took out the poison berries instead of kill each other.

But will it work? Or will things only get worse, and her loved ones be put in even more danger?

I’m not sure if my synopsis really does the basic plot justice. In fact, I'm sure it doesn't.

Catching Fire is truly a magnificent novel, capturing the exact same level of emotion, tension, and character development as the The Hunger Games. Every page and every chapter brought another surprise – I honestly did not have any idea what would happen next.

The guesses of even an experienced bibliophile like me, who has read hundreds of books, could not believe where Catching Fire went, and where it ended.

It was unbelievable, incredible, and astonishing!

Don’t get it yet? Here’s some more adjectives for you: Poignant, shocking, heart-rending, horrifying, and inspiring.

I don’t know what else to say but to READ Catching Fire! For the characters, the plot, the thrills, the tears, the romance, the shocks, and the genuinely original story!!!

Suzanne Collins, you are one hell of a writer. I’m astounded, and frantic for the final novel!!!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Vampire’s Assistant CONTEST!!!

Have you heard about Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant movie coming out on October 23rd? Well, if you haven't here's your chance to learn more about it before heading to the theatres! Yep, it's your chance to WIN!!!

There will be TWO winners, to be exact!

In theaters October 23rd
Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, based on the popular series of books by Darren Shan, is a fantasy-adventure about a teenager who unknowingly breaks a 200-year-old truce between two warring factions of vampires. Pulled into a fantastic life of misunderstood sideshow freaks and grotesque creatures of the night, one teen will vanish from the safety of a boring existence and fulfill his destiny in a place drawn from nightmares.

CIRQUE DU FREAK has been rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned - Some Material May Be Inappropriate for Children Under 13) for sequences of intense supernatural violence and action, disturbing images, thematic elements and some language.

Sounds pretty cool, right?!

Did you catch the part about it being based off a popular series of BOOKS? Here's where the contest part comes in. :)

How would you like to win the first three books in the series, all placed together in one tide volume? Awesome, yes?!

THE VAMPIRE'S ASSISTANT and Other Tales from the Cirque du Freak by Darren Shan

New movie edition features the first three books--Cirque Du Freak, The Vampire's Assistant, and Tunnels of Blood-- bound up in one volume!

Do you love to be scared? Then don't miss the terrifying adventure that begins when Darren and his best friend, Steve, get tickets to the CIRQUE DU FREAK, a wonderfully bizarre and creepy freak show. Brace yourself for thrills and chills as the boys witness a parade of grotesque creatures and face their deepest fears by entering the darkest world of the vampire. In the blood-curdling tradition of Anne Rice and Stephen King, CIRQUE DU FREAK will have you shrieking for the next horror show!

Well, here's your chance to win (pictured above):

Two (2) winners will receive:
Cirque du Freak book Set (3 titles in one book)
Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant Locker Mirror

Shipping Guidelines:
The Vampire’s Assistant giveaway is open to legal US residents who are at least 13 years of age as of October 1st. Prizing is only available to United States mailing address only. (International readers can enter if they have a friend in the States who can accept their prizes by mail.)

All you have to do to WIN is comment on this blog post between October 7th to before midnight (PST) on October 28th with your email address and the answer to this question:

Who is your favorite vampire, and why?

Your favorite vampire can be from a book, TV show, or movie. If you honestly don't have one - give me any favorite character from a horror/sci-fi/fantasy book, movie, or TV show.

Pretty easy, right? :)

Also, if you wouldn't mind being so kind - please vote in my poll on the right side of the blog for your favorite Cirque du Freak T-shirt saying!!! The results will matter, and your votes may help me win my own prize! :)

I'll randomly select TWO winners after the 28th of October and notify them by email! It could be YOU!

Enter away, and spread the word!!! Thanks! ;)

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Awakening

Kelley Armstrong’s The Awakening is the sequel to the adored (speaking from my opinion) The Summoning. If you have yet to read The Summoning, please skip this review and run, don’t walk, to your local bookstore or library to read it! Need more convincing? Read my review of The Summoning here: Reading my review of The Awakening will only spoil all the deliciously thrilling things that happen in The Summoning.

Now, on to The Awakening. I must admit, I have been dying to read this since the day it came out in April. Sadly, due to a series of unfortunate events, I was unable to do so until recently. But it was definitely worth the wait!!!

Last we were with Chloe, she was betrayed by her Aunt Lauren and trapped in a faux hotel room, trying to “summon” Liz, whom all signs pointed, was dead.

We pick up shortly thereafter. It’s hard to know what to say without giving anything away. You see, Kelley manages to keep the suspense from page one to page 360. To give away one tiny twist or even one perhaps quick coming moment in the book could ruin that one second of surprise in your reading experience.

Many people think “little tiny spoilers” aren’t spoilers. Especially if it happens in the first 25 pages. Me? I disagree. Particularly with sequels!

If you’re reading this review, you’ve already read The Summoning (unless you are ignoring my direct warning and have only really hurt yourself and your bibliophile ways) – you already know and love Chloe. You already know and love Derek. At least, I do. I ADORE him! Anyway, ahem, moving on... You know Chloe’s a necromancer. That there is definitely some fishy stuff going on with Lyle House. And that Darkest Powers series is AWESOME and needs no more than to be read and loved as only a true junky bibliophile can!

So, I’m sorry. I won’t give away any plot points. I can’t. It’s against my nature. I say, open the pages and read. Read, read, read!

And, if you’re like me, you won’t stop reading until you’re done. Okay, sure I had to stop reading a couple times (let’s be honest here)… but every time I brushed my teeth, went to bed, or ate my dinner, my thoughts would quite often drift over to the appealing cover and it’s tug of fantasy action/adventure. (The best genre EVER. Lol.)

What can I say? I can say that Kelley Armstrong is an awesome writer! I can say that Chloe is likeably different than other YA heroines with her mixture of confidence, niceness, and all-around normalcy. That is, apart from her ability. And the ability? It’s amazing! It sets up character growth, chills, and plenty of storylines. Derek manages to be a bad boy without being “the” bad boy. He’s complex and interesting. He’s not necessarily attractive. He’s grumpy. He’s DIFFERENT!

I could go on and on and on. But the main thing is, if you like to get a little scared (in a fun way), like slow-building romance (at least, that’s what I hope for – whether you love Simon or Derek), action, suspense, thrills, a full-fledged fantasy universe set within our own and everything in between – this is the YA book for you!

As for me, I’m breathlessly waiting for The Reckoning. Kelley, if you read this: Please stop the torture and get the book released months sooner! :)

Important Side Note: Like winning stuff? Show up on Wednesday October 7th for a brand new contest!!! Spread the word! :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Winners Have Been Selected!!!

The Maximum Ride Celebration Promotion is officially over!!!

Two of you guys should have an email letting you know you WON!!!

Thanks to everybody for entering and spreading the word! I got more entries than I expected for my first EVER contest!!! :)

Thanks so much!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Nameless Night

Hi! Looking for my awesome contest? Simply scroll down or click here:

Otherwise, here is my review of the week, after a couple weeks slacking off. Sorry about that, by the way. :)

Nameless Night, by G. M. Ford, is a "novel of suspense" according to the cover.

Well, that definitely describes it!

But before I get into all that, let us pause and get a brief synopsis: When a man is found nearly dead in a railroad car he is admitted to a group home for disabled adults, and since they seem unable to identify him they christen him "Paul Hardy". Seven years pass in a haze until Paul becomes involved in yet another near-death incident and he wakes up in the hospital with extensive and mysterious plastic surgery and a much clearer mind.

One small problem? He still has amnesia, and now he continually has flashes, pictures that he can only hope may be memories. But just as soon as he begins to try and follow-up these images, to search for an answer, government agents suddenly seem violently eager to find him - and Paul finds himself running to save his life, with no idea why.

Okay. Nameless Night jumps right into action within the first sentence. There's never a moment to breathe throughout this bloody, suspenseful, intriguing action thriller. And I mean, never.

Though you aren't even completely sure who Paul is, you find yourself empathizing with him quickly. And his journey to discover who he is, while ditching "government" officials is as interesting to the reader as it is to him. In my opinion, at least.

Along the way we're introduced to other characters as well, and find heartbreak and hope amidst some of the darkest corners of corruption and poverty. It's not always entirely plausible, but it's always extremely entertaining and compelling.

G. M. Ford even manages to make you care about a middle-aged romance and the goings-on of an ambitious female lawyer. And the amazing thing? He manages to tie it all together in the end.

I found Nameless Night to be incredibly fast-paced, though a bit gory at times (I didn't mind, but I thought I'd warn ya), and very well-done.

I'd definitely recommend it to any of y'all who like 24 or action movies, and those who enjoy suspense in general. In fact, I'd encourage even you guys who don't usually go for the genre to check it out. You never know, you might love it!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Promotion Celebration for Maximum Ride!!!

Do you love the series Maximum Ride? How about James Patterson? Are you a huge fan of action-packed books?

Well, I’m thrilled to bring to you an opportunity to stock up on some awesome reading!!!


Read “MAX” - the newest book in the bestselling Maximum Ride series.
On sale in paperback 09/01/09!

Still reeling from their most recent adventure, Maximum Ride and the rest of the flock must head out to sea to uncover the secret behind a brand new series of disasters—fish are dying off the coast of Hawaii, hundreds of ships are being destroyed. As if that weren’t enough, they’re also being tracked by a criminal mastermind with, oh yeah, an army of mercenaries. Can the flock save themselves and the ocean, and the world, from utter destruction?

Now for the rules:

The Maximum Ride: Max Promotion is open to legal US residents who are at least 13 years of age as of August 24, 2009. There will be two prizes for each Promotion. Each prize consists of the following eight (8) books: Maximum Ride: Max (paperback); Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment (paperback); Maximum Ride: School’s Out – Forever (paperback); Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports (paperback); Maximum Ride: The Final Warning (paperback); Maximum Ride: Manga (paperback); The Dangerous Days of Daniel X (paperback); and Daniel X: Watch the Skies (hardcover). The approximate retail value of each prize is $72.00. Winners will be confirmed on or about September 28, 2009 by email. Prizes will only be shipped to confirmed winners with addresses in the US. Prizes will be shipped within 30 days after a selected entrant is confirmed as a winner.

That’s right, you could win EIGHT books! 2 of you will receive (picture above):

-> Maximum Ride: Max (paperback)
-> Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment (paperback)
-> Maximum Ride: School’s Out – Forever (paperback)
-> Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports (paperback)
-> Maximum Ride: The Final Warning (paperback)
-> Maximum Ride: Manga (paperback)
-> The Dangerous Days of Daniel X (paperback)
-> Daniel X: Watch the Skies (hardcover)

All you have to do to enter to win is to write a comment for this post, including your email address and the answer to this question:

What was the last book you read, and what did you think of it?

Simple, right?!

The entry time is from today, August 31st to before midnight (PST) on September 21st. I’ll randomly select two email addresses from all the qualifying entries and notify you ASAP.

Pretty awesome, I’d say!!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Behind Every Illusion

Behind Every Illusion is Christina Harner’s debut book, the first novel in a new YA fantasy series. (Sorry, I wasn't able to get a picture in time for my posting.)

The focus is on Tatiana, a very timid, introverted teenager who is on the brink of her eighteenth birthday and college. Her shyness in social interactions causes her some serious anxiety about leaving home, but it helps that she’ll be going to the same college as her older sister, Bethany, and her (slightly) younger brother, Isaac.

Her siblings, especially her kindred spirit Isaac, hold a special bond with her since their parent’s death when she was only 11. But only Isaac knows just how horrifying that experience was to Tatiana, as she had had a feeling that her parent’s wouldn’t be coming back from their trip, and was unsuccessful in convincing them to stay home.

Isaac has always been convinced Tatiana was special since that day she told him, and when Tatiana’s 18th birthday passes, she must admit he may be right. But to her, there’s nothing “special” about it.

Physical and mental changes begin to occur, and Tatiana is terrified as each day she seems to become less and less human. But that’s not possible, right? Her parent’s were human, so she must be human.

But as time goes by and it only gets worse and she must work harder and harder to hide her differences, Tatiana can’t help wonder: What is she becoming?

And more importantly: Why?

Now, before giving you my personal opinion of Behind Every Illusion, I need to let you know that the ARC I received was a copy that hadn’t had final edits made. A large portion of the novel ended up being cut out in order for it to be more brisk and faster to action.

So, even though I did find the novel to be a bit slow in the beginning, I would most likely say to ignore that comment because this has probably been changed.

More importantly, even if the beginning of Behind Every Illusion is still a tad slow I implore all of you: BE PATIENT.

Why? Because after a while of feeling a bit distant towards the character and the plot, waiting for some action to occur, and wondering if maybe there was a bit too much telling and not enough showing – I soon forgot all of these early criticisms.

Christina Harner’s lovely writing ability comes across as she little by little lets you grow accustomed to Tatiana, to her nuances, to her quiet personality. Behind Every Illusion is less about super-powers and more about the reality: What would you ACTUALLY do if you started looking majorly different – less human – and began to have abilities that aren’t “normal”? Would you make yourself a batgirl costume and start saving the world at night?

When you think about it, you know you’d want to hide it. You’d be freaked out and scared. And if you were already shy in the first place? Yeah, that’d be torture.

So, what we have in Behind Every Illusion is more of a character-driven fantasy.

That’s not to say, however, that some massive things don’t happen. I take my hat off to Christina Harner, who really managed to SHOCK me at least three separate times in the course of the novel. I mean, wow. I was not expecting certain things to happen AT ALL.

By the end of Behind Every Illusion, I had really come to appreciate the style of Harner’s writing and the subtle build of both characters and plot. The slow but noticeable change in Tatiana’s personality – becoming earthier and other things – was quite fascinating. It was an inside glimpse of a transformation in a way I had never quite experienced in a book before. Christina has a unique way of telling the story, which as time went on, I came to grasp more and more. And to know there will be another book makes me very interested in what will happen next, yet I was still satisfied with the conclusion of this one.

One other note: Behind Every Illusion has a strong environmental focus. I want to let any potential readers out there know that even if you aren’t a big environmental activist or conservationalist, this novel has enough plot and fantasy elements to entertain and interest you anyway. I don’t believe that should impede your enjoyment.

Though it took a bit of patience (which you may not need with the new cuts, mind you), I felt, in the end, it was worth it to enjoy this subdued, yet very charming novel.

HEADS UP: Next week, August 31, you'll have a chance to win EIGHT books!!! Come back and find out how to win! :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Agatha Christie Special

I don’t know if maybe there are some of you out there who’ve never heard of Agatha Christie (I can just see, simultaneously, someone saying, “Who?” and someone else saying, “Who doesn’t?”)… But y’all should.

She is the Queen of Crime and the originator (as far as I know, at least) of the “cozy” murder mystery. There is something oddly enjoyable about snuggling up in a comfy chair and reading about murders, suspects, and Christie’s truly infamous sleuths.

Agatha is the creator of such greats as Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, and others. Even the mysteries she writes that lack a traditional detective are first-rate.

Why? Because her writing talent surpasses the ages. The books take place from the 30s to the 70s. There is no Internet, no iPods, no video games – but there is a good cup of tea and a full cast of British characters, so believable and well penned that you could almost say you’d met the people before.

Except one (or more) have committed the oh-so-heinous crime of murder.

And oh what a puzzle she creates! Of every novel I’ve read of hers, I have never been disappointed. She has dozens of books, and I have recently had a reading spree of 5 of them. Here’s a brief, spoiler-free summary of each for your perusing pleasure. I recommend each one heartily, with perhaps a slight extra ounce of hearty bibliophile approval for They Do It With Mirrors, After the Funeral and Cards on the Table.

But, really, they are all awesome. So, if you like to piece together clues and tiny drops of conversation and suspicious glances, enjoy being a couch detective, yet enjoy even more being completely wrong: Read these and all other whodunit’s from Dame Agatha Christie.

They Do It With Mirrors: When one of Miss Marple’s oldest friends implores her to take a holiday with her sister, Carrie, because she feels something is “off” at Carrie’s home, Miss Marple finds that Carrie has turned her home into a sort of rehabilitation for delinquent boys. And her family isn’t very happy about it. Once murder occurs, Miss Marple realizes that she must look behind the magician’s trick and find the killer in their midst.

Cat Among the Pigeons: Meadowbank is a heralded upper-class girls’ school, completely above scandal. That is, until a teacher is found dead. But such an exclusive school must not house a cold-blooded murderer, could it? It’s decided it must be a degenerate stranger. However, yet another teacher is killed and it’s clear there is someone that has a personal vendetta against Meadowbank. Only Hercule Poirot seems able to piece together this puzzle.

A Pocket Full of Rye: When the tyrannical and odd tycoon Rex Fortescue dies a sudden and mysterious death, the strangest thing about it is why his pocket is full of rye. It can’t help but puzzle the detectives. But as the investigation seems to be gaining ground, a prime suspect gets knocked off just as peculiarly. It’s not until Miss Marple finds her way to the scene do they realize these murders seem to be following a children’s nursery rhyme, and instead of looking amongst possible inheritors, they may be searching for an insane, pointless killer. The problem? Those can be the hardest to find.

Cards on the Table: Mr. Shaitana is a disliked, strange person who looks at people more as objects and collectibles than as actual human beings. However, his gift for party throwing causes Hercule Poirot, crime writer Ariadne Oliver, Colonel Race, and Superintendent Battle of the Scotland Yard to play bridge with four of Mr. Shaitana’s “collectibles” at his home. But before the night is through, Mr. Shaitana pays the ultimate price for his dangerous hobby and is murdered. This puts the investigators in an interesting position as only four people could have committed the crime, and, according to a statement made by Mr. Shaitana to Hercule Poirot before the bridge game, all four had previously gotten away with murder.

After the Funeral (also printed as Funerals are Fatal): When the family members assemble for their beloved and rich relative Richard Lanscombe’s funeral, after a battle with a fatal illness, they are shocked when the ever-outspoken Cora asks loudly, “But he was murdered, wasn’t he?” But when another death suggests that maybe there is more to her question than a lack of brains and sensitivity, Hercule Poirot is called in to investigate.

Go ahead. Go and see if you can figure out whodunit. ;)

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Lucky One

Nicholas Sparks brings us yet another novel, The Lucky One.

Thing is, though I know it is “yet another novel” to many of you – I actually haven’t read anything of Nicholas Sparks’ yet. Sure, I saw A Walk to Remember (who could resist Shane West?), but I never base my thoughts on authors strictly off a movie of one of their books. I’d say most of you bibliophiles feel the same way.

So, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would it be mushy? Saturated in love scenes and gloriously romantic language? I had no idea. But I did think the cover was pretty. (I know, I know – we shouldn’t pay attention to covers, but how can you help it?)

Spoiler free synopsis comes to this: Logan is an honorably discharged U.S. Marine who has embarked on a journey with his dog, Zeus. He has succumbed to curiosity fueled by his fellow marines about the beautiful girl in a photograph he found, abandoned, in the deserts of Iraq. Thing is, the photograph turned into something more than a pretty, anonymous woman to look at in the dreariness of war – it seemed to keep Logan safe when all around him causalities were almost inevitable. Though never completely convinced of this idea that the photo was a good luck charm, Logan ends up searching for her.

And he finds her. But what was previously only a nameless face is a grown woman, a single mother, and a hardworking employee to her ailing grandmother. Her name is Beth, and Logan soon realizes they have a connection and over time they fall in love.

However, the origins of the photo that brought him there, past heartbreaks, small town politics, and lies by omission threaten to ruin what Logan has found.

Okay, I wouldn’t say this synopsis really does the book justice, but it’s the best I can do. That is the basis idea behind the plot, but it’s the writing that really pulls it off. I was blown away by how absorbing and suspenseful Nicholas Sparks’ storytelling is. Without much prodding, I was fully entrenched in the lives of these people he brought to the table and cared immensely.

There is a romantic and sensitive demeanor about the novel that never turns saccharine. It has heart, as cheesy as that may sound. Thing is, if you read it – you’ll see what I mean.

I was moved many times during the course of The Lucky One, drawn into the back-stories and everyday lives of these three-dimensional characters. It was honest and melodrama-free in its telling, something that was refreshing, especially for a novel involving some romance. And I say some romance because there is more to it than that. This is character-driven, this is a book about people’s journeys and where life leads you through tragedies and sadness.

I actually loved The Lucky One and I am now much more interested in seeking out more novels by Nicholas Sparks. His writing was restrained and poignant, mature and captivating. The end was a killer. (Vague enough for you? Now you have to read it, right?)

Extremely recommended.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Jinx is a stand-alone paranormal by the never-disappointing Meg Cabot.

Jean has earned her nickname, Jinx. And it’s for that very reason, her tendency to attract and cause trouble that she has now fled from her small town to her Aunt’s home in New York City. Jean’s hoping to start a new life, one in which she could go two minutes without messing stuff up.

But she’s not up to a great start when she finds out her once adorable and fun cousin Tory is now a gothic seductress trapped in a high schooler’s life. And Tory doesn’t find Jean charming like her friends do.

When Jean only angers her cousin further, entirely by accident, by befriending Tory’s cute boy-next-door crush, Jean learns out more about why Tory’s “act” isn’t as much of an act as she was hoping it was. And, of course, she has try and keep Tory from not only endangering herself, but everyone else around them.

But what could she expect? She’s a jinx.

As expected from Meg Cabot, Jinx didn’t fail to entertain me. The pages flew by so quickly I was done before I knew it. Jean is likable and different from Meg’s other characters. And Meg always manages to make the guys in her books worthy of being crushed on.

There were quite a few honest-to-goodness twists in there, too. It’s great when you can’t see ‘em coming. Jinx had a fresh feel about it, especially in contrast to other paranormal YA novels. You know you’re reading a great author when you flipping pages swiftly even as you think, “I wouldn’t say this is the best Meg Cabot book.”

Like I said, I wouldn’t go so far as to rank it as high on my personal favorites list as the Mediator series, which I’d say would be the closest comparison in this instance. However, it had classic Cabot humor, romance, and suspense. Plus, it was fun. It’s hard sometimes when you have such high expectations for an author’s books to critique them fairly.

Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed Jinx. I think it just calls to mind how awesome Meg Cabot really is. She’s yet to have a dud. I’m always satisfied by the last page.

What more could you ask for?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

North of Montana

All over my paperback copy of April Smith’s North of Montana, there are reviews mentioning how “breathless” the novel is, how it “zips along”, and how it’s a “page-turner”.

What did I think?

Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Ana Grey is an FBI agent dealing with a sexist boss. She makes a great bust, but the aforementioned boss curtails her much-deserved promotion. She ends up having to prove herself on a high-profile case about an iconic actress claiming she became addicted on prescription drugs because of a deviant doctor. (Quite the hot topic lately, isn’t it?)

But while investigating the case and trying to please all parties involved, Ana is faced with sudden questions of her childhood. Long faded memories begin to surface, and a woman claims that a recent shooting victim was her cousin. A woman she’s never met. A woman she is apparently supposed to be grieving. Juggling the two proves to make both more difficult.

Thing is, I can’t say I agree with the super-positive snippets all over the front and back cover.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I actually liked the book. The last page won me over with Ana’s character and her personal identity issues.

But was it a thrilling whodunit? Was it a fast-paced mystery? Was I breathless to turn the next pages?

None of those words really express, to me, what North of Montana was.

This was a character-driven story, very well done and thought out. Ana was made to be three-dimensional and certainly not perfect. Her family life and almost child-like need for approval from her grandfather was compelling, and her resurfacing recollections were sometimes disturbing, and always magnetic.

But her investigation felt like an afterthought to me. It was uninteresting and seemed almost like filler to me. I’m sure there are many people that found it gripping and a page-turner, but I didn’t. The parts focusing on her job and her case crept along at a slow pace, and I couldn’t help but begin to skim over those paragraphs and get to what I considered the “good parts”. Which was, in my opinion, a patiently plotted, slow reveal of Ana’s personal life.

Something those reviews didn’t really allude to, which could have possibly led me to wrong expectations. Who knows?

So, I’m left feeling mixed feelings. Ana is a compelling character, likable and smart, and where she was left in the novel was certainly alluring. But her work life? Yeah, I could go without. Except for very few exceptions, I found it tedious and far too monotonous.

Since at the top of the front cover it says “The First Ana Grey Mystery”, I can’t help but be interested in what comes next. However, I can’t help but hope that either there is no “mystery” in the traditional FBI sense, or it is written in a much faster paced, suspenseful manner – despite the reviews declaring this novel was written so!

But there ya go. We all have different opinions, don’t we?

Which is why I encourage you to read North of Montana for yourself!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Eyes Like Stars

Eyes Like Stars in the first book by Lisa Mantchev in the Theatre Illuminata trilogy.

Bertie lives on a stage. Her friends are fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Her crush is Nate, a pirate from The Little Mermaid. And her childhood friend and now frenemie is Ariel, a hunky spirit from The Tempest.

That’s right. On the stage Bertie lives on, all those characters from all those plays? They’re alive and bursting with drama. And not just the characters from Shakespeare. Every single play that has ever been written is represented in The Book. The Book that makes all of this possible. The Book that creates the magic.

But Bertie isn’t one of these characters; the theatre has taken her in, with a rather murky explanation as to why. It is her home. The only place she knows.

However, Bertie isn’t the most gracious of guests. She can’t seem to help making messes and getting into mischief. And when she is threatened with banishment – she has to find a way to make herself invaluable to the Theatre in order to stay. But while she works hard at doing just that, things start to fall apart. The very existence she is trying to maintain for herself is disappearing in front of her eyes.

Mixing drama with whimsical fantasy, humor with magical depth, Eyes Like Stars manages to be extremely hypnotic in it’s telling. Bertie is somehow very relatable, yet completely immersed in this world that is so unlike our own. She’s interesting and talented without being a goody-two-shoes. All of the incredible characters from all the plays are mesmerizing and stunningly entertaining.

And the plot weaves itself into more than it first seems. There are twists I can assure you, you won’t see coming! At least, I didn’t.

It’s not just a book for Shakespeare lovers, though I’m sure they’d enjoy the characters being lively and full of personality. I, myself, only have a read a couple of the plays and have only a basic idea of the others, and it was in no way an impediment to my delight in Eyes Like Stars.

Somehow, by the last page I found myself spellbound in this exceptionally unique, dreamlike YA novel and breathless for the next installment. The character depth and wit manages to grab a hold of your emotions in a way that you wouldn’t expect for such a quirky novel. But there seems to be more under the surface.

And ALL of it is excellent.

I think you all should find it when it comes out this month and decide for yourselves: Do you wish you had your own Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, and Mustardseed (the fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream)? My answer is an emphatic: yes.

I’d be shocked if you disagreed.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Quickie

A stand-alone suspense novel, The Quickie, is co-written by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge.

Lauren's whole world shatters when she sees her husband, her best friend, with another woman. Instead of being honest about it, her horror leads her to "innocently" question her husband. He lies.

This makes it all too easy to succumb to the charm of a handsome, longtime admiring coworker. Before she knows it, she's made things even. But when her newfound lover slips out to get some ingredients to cook for her, Lauren witnesses a crime.

In an instant, what had started out as a heartbroken, accidental night becomes a race to make sense of what she's seen. The lies begin to pile up as she tries desperately to save her marriage, hear astounding information about the man she spent the night with without betraying her shock, and somehow not risk everything she lives for in the meantime.

The Quickie didn't convince me in the first few pages, I'll admit. I can be hot and cold with James Patterson. I loved the first two Maximum Ride books (didn't adore the third, haven't gotten to the next ones) but wasn't real thrilled with Hide & Seek.

However, after a few pages (okay, more like 25) I couldn't help but get caught up with it. The action springs up on you fast and you can't help but get tangled up (in a good way) in the web of lies. The suspense successfully makes everyone a suspect, yet leaves everybody seemingly innocent.

Though Lauren came across as stale and unconvincing in her profession at first, I came to feel for her and worried about her choices.

The Quickie did it's job well - I was turning pages swiftly and was very interested in finding out how it'd all turn out.

Would I put it high on my list of "Must Read Again ASAP"? No, not really. But it was fun and entertaining - definitely an enjoyable and fast-paced read for those of you are looking for one of those (and from time to time, aren't we all?).

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Just Listen

Sarah Dessen gifts us with yet another beautiful novel, Just Listen.

Annabel’s life has always been in the shadow of her more buoyant and beautiful sisters, being not quite as outgoing and not quite as lovely. But she’s lived a life that many other teenage girls desire. She’s a local model, like her sisters before her. She’s best friends with the most popular girl in school. She goes to all the parties. And even if she pales in comparison to her older sister, she is pretty in her own right.

But that’s before the party.

After that, she’s friendless and invisible, except when she’s being harassed by her ex-best friend.

Her home life falls apart as well, his stunning sister in danger of succumbing to an eating disorder and her mother having a difficult time facing the truth.

Sitting alone at lunch, she can’t help but become more intrigued by the other loner in school: Owen. Especially since he doesn’t seem to care that he’s a loner. In fact, he doesn’t seem to care about anything but music – and his anger management lessons.

Once they strike up a conversation, Annabel’s loneliness begins to subside and she starts to realize a part of herself that she has never known or accepted before – her opinions. Always the peacemaker and the one to go with the flow, she’s never been truly herself with anyone. Until Owen.

But what happened at that party can’t help but follow her – and eventually she’ll have to stop hiding from it.

So, what did I think of it? Pretty much what I think of every book Sarah Dessen has written. I loved it.

Every Sarah Dessen book has such exquisite, stunningly poetic language without ever being patronizing. Her novels are honest, raw, and emotional – and Just Listen is no different. Though each of her books feature completely different characters in completely different situations, Sarah manages to always make them hypnotic in their narration, exceptionally sympathetic and inspiring.

Annabel is an extremely credible character; she is in no way over-the-top. Instead, she is realistically quiet, the one that fades into the background, the friend that gets less attention. Her relationships with her mother, her father, and her sisters are poetically drawn and presented – providing us with three-dimensional characters we can latch onto and follow without any prodding.

Just Listen is yet another triumph in storytelling from Sarah Dessen. And shows us why YA is one of the best genres, and the most underrated, in publishing today.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Q & A with Tonya Hurley!

The author of the awesome ghostgirl and coming soon sequel ghostgirl: homecoming was kind enough to answer some of my questions. If you still haven't read ghostgirl (get with it, you're missing out!), there may be mild spoilers. Here's how it went:

Okay, the biggest, most important question for all of us readers who LOVE ghostgirl: Do you plan on writing more books in the ghostgirl series? How many (assuming you aren't going to deny us this wish)?
· I'll write as many as my publisher allows! I have just finished the third book and I think I'm on a roll! I do love writing them and I’m so glad that there are people out there who love reading them.

If you are writing more books (please, please, please), will Maddy make another appearance (purposefully vague, since I don't want to give anything away in ghostgirl: homecoming)?
· You never know.

Were you ecstatic when you got your first copy of ghostgirl? The covers are truly amazing!
· Ecstatic. Speechless. I cried when my editor Nancy Conescu handed it to me. It far surpassed my wildest dreams. It was a perfect realization of what I had imagined and hoped it could be as a novel. I’m very proud of both ghostgirl and ghostgirl: homecoming.

And on this same note, how do you feel about e-books when they could potentially stifle such creative covers? (I personally can't imagine reading without a book in my hands.)
· I think there will always be an audience for traditional books just as there are for newspapers, vinyl albums, CDs, and lots of other physical entertainment products that are now available digitally. E-books just expand the potential audience, so I’m happy that both of my novels will be available in those formats as well. There is something magical about literally cracking a binding and opening a book for the first time. And turning a page. I don’t think you can replicate that feeling electronically. It's more of a sensory experience.

Did anything in particular inspire you to center a novel on a dead character? I found it so unique, I couldn't help but wonder.
· I was working with some very well known ‘tween stars on a TV series that I created for them and I began to think about the whole nation of fame and popularity and how people aspire to it with varying results. I just took that whole desire for popularity thing down to a high school level, which is where its roots are, and then killed off the main character so I could explore all the typical teenage issues in a very fantastical way. It's all about determination, in the end.

I noticed (and loved) how all your characters are played against type. The goth girl finds love with the popular jock and becomes best friends with the "invisible girl", etc. Did you purposely write your characters to show cliques can be defeated in individual cases, or is this just the way the characters came to you?
· I think life is full of surprises, so I tried to inject some of that into the characters and their relationships. It's too easy to "type" people. That's really Charlotte's biggest complaint. She isn't seen for who she is. I don't think any of us really are, especially in high school no matter what we project.

Do you have any favorite books you can recommend to your fans while we wait with bated breath for Charlotte's next step in the afterlife?
· I like to suggest that people reread a book they loved when they were younger. As you age, things take on a whole different meaning and it's pretty great to take a classic that meant so much to you and read it from a more mature, wiser perspective. Also, there is an audiobook of ghostgirl coming out in a few weeks at, and then a digital version at It is narrated by Parker Posey with music by Vince Clarke! Thank you!

A third book? Finished already? Okay, everybody with me: whoosh. That was a sigh of relief, if you were wondering. :)

Remember to grab your copy of ghostgirl: homecoming on July 1st!!!

Monday, June 22, 2009

ghostgirl: homecoming

*SPOILER ALERT: If you have not yet read the fantastical ghostgirl, and don't want to know how the first one ends (and really, why would you want to ruin the awesome experience of reading the book?), please don't read the review for the sequel. If anything, trust me and just go and buy them both.*

Tonya Hurley's ghostgirl: homecoming has Charlotte Usher in the next level of the afterlife. Yet again, however, she finds it sorely lacking in pearly gates. But her newly matured understanding, which she gained by the end of ghostgirl, helps her deal with the fact that she and her classmates are now interns.

That's right. Interns. Interns at a call center. A call center that helps teens who need guidance.
Yeah, not exactly what she was expecting.

But, apparently, there are more levels to immortality than you'd guess. Plus, with her new roommate Maddy the only fellow deceased sticking around to talk to her, she can't help but wonder if maybe "graduating" wasn't all it seemed cracked up to be.

Meanwhile, among the living, Scarlet finds herself becoming more insecure than she's comfortable with since Damen's been at college and seemingly more and more distant. And he still hasn't said the three small words she wants to hear. But things get a lot worse for her and her sister Petula before many chapters fly by.

And they DO fly by. If you thought Charlotte found her happy ending at the end of ghostgirl, be happy it's not true, because this sequel is just as good, if not BETTER!!!

What does ghostgirl: homecoming bring to the table? A whole new level of the afterlife, complete with jobs and apartments (kinda prison issue) and creepy forests. There are more mysterious characters, the return of the characters we love, just as much humor, and every ounce of sweet-without-being-nauseous moments as the first novel.

And, again, I applaud whoever comes up with these awesome covers. Love it. Just as cool as the book itself. How often does that happen?
I don't want to give away too much, so I'll just say this: Go out and read the sequel on July 1st. By the end, you'll be hoping that there are a lot more volumes to come.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Tonya Hurley offers up a very unique YA novel in ghostgirl.

Charlotte has always been invisible and ignored throughout her life - so the first day of school is her opportunity to insert herself, however forcibly, into the popular crowd and into the heart of her dream guy, Damen.

Or so she hopes.

But just as things are looking her way (Damen is partnered up with Charlotte as lab partners and asks for her to tutor him), she dies.

By way of choking on a gummy bear.

And seeing her hopes and dreams disappear isn't even the worst of it. There aren't any pearly gates waiting for her. No, she still has to go to "school" and "graduate". There is an afterlife, and it includes "Dead Ed".

But as much as her fellow deceased school mates urge her to let go of her old life, Charlotte just isn't made that way. She made plans to get what she wanted this year, and death isn't a big enough barrier to keep her from making it happen.

Ghostgirl is one of those novels that is so insanely fun and different that you just can't put it down. The whole plot is completely cliche-free and the cast of characters are vivid in their personalities. The third person voice was strange to me at first, but before the third chapter was over, I was over any doubts and fully inserted into the story, turning pages quickly.

There's a certain grounded feel to the writing. Charlotte becomes increasingly sympathetic and three dimensional. You can't help but root for her.

I have to applaud Tonya for creating a whole new world to read and reread about. It was equal parts hilarious, poignant, romantic, ghostly, and just plain entertaining.

And the book itself is gorgeous, with a shape as unique as the story itself and details adorning it in a way that you almost never see on other hardcovers. Honestly, I love the cover so much, I wanted to mention it.

Anyway, this book is definitely worth picking up - I am personally thrilled that there's a sequel, ghostgirl: homecoming, coming out in July. Charlotte is definitely a character I'd follow for many books, discovering all the many layers of the afterlife.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Whole, Entire, Complete Truth

Caroline Rennie Pattison’s The Whole, Entire, Complete Truth is her first Sarah Martin mystery.

Sarah’s parents have moved her and her older brother, Ray, to Muskoka, which is much more “back-country” than crowded city. All of a sudden she has to ride her bike a long distance to see another house. And this move comes just in time for her first year of high school.

Parents. Don'tcha love ‘em?

So, she’s already not too happy with her police detective father - then she begins to become friendly with horse-loving neighbor, Mindi. But when she asks to accept Mindi’s invitation to meet up after school and introduce to her to her beloved horses at her mother’s boyfriend’s house, Mr. Braemarie, he insists that she can’t visit her there but that Mindi is just fine to spend time at their house. Even Sarah’s mom is confused.

To Sarah’s already dangerously curious nature, this refusal is extremely suspicious and she can’t help but be tempted to find out what exactly it is about Mr. Braemarie’s house that her dad doesn’t want her near.

And since she and Mindi are hitting it off so well and Sarah’s desperate for friends in her new desolate hometown, she starts visiting Mindi anyway and oh-so-innocently investigates Mr. Braemarie on the side.

And finds out that maybe her dad wasn’t being so irrational after all.

I enjoyed The Whole, Entire Complete Truth for its Nancy Drew-esque flavor – kind of safe, but always interesting. There were some twists that took the plot a bit farther than the 60s Nancy adventures, though. And it shone light on a surprisingly disturbing issue that is prominent in Canada (where the book takes place, and the author lives) that needs to have more notice.

I’d be interested in the next novel involving the pesky, inquisitive Sarah – but not clamoring for one. And for any readers that require, at the least, the slightest touch of romance, you won’t find that here.

But for those of you who don’t require a Logan for Veronica (if you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, go watch the canceled but great Veronica Mars), it is a quick read, written in an engaging first person voice. The characters are drawn with full-fledged personalities, and the sibling rivalry is definitely fun to read. Especially the chapter where Sarah allows her brother to write his own version of events to prove to her father that he isn’t as humble and great as everyone thinks.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Shamer Chronicles

The Shamer's War is the final book in the thrilling series, The Shamer Chronicles. It began with The Shamer's Daughter and continued with The Shamer's Signet and The Serpent Gift. I won't give a description of The Shamer's War because it would give spoilers for the first three books for those of you who haven't had the exciting chance to read them yet! So I'm going to write on the first book, The Shamer's Daughter and give you the basic gist of it. Because, honestly, you are truly missing out by not reading these fantastic book by the amazing author Lene Kaaberbol.

Dina has inherited her mother's "gift" - being a Shamer. But Dina in no way finds the ability to force people to look into your eyes and cause them shame for past wrongs a gift. Especially since neither do the fellow villagers. Despite being only 10 years old, no one will look her in the eye. And deep down, Dina understands it is because looking into a Shamer's eyes only brings back past despair - but it can't help but be a little lonely.

But Shamer's do have a practical purpose which outweighs the overall feeling of fright by others. When any crimes have been committed the villagers simply call upon the Shamer who can easily (well, not exactly easily since the Shamer sees everything the criminal saw, felt, etc., when looking in their eyes) determine guilt or innocence and turn a raving, bloodthirsty murderer into a sobbing mess.

It's on a call like this that her mother goes on - and doesn't come back. Her brother Davin and her little sister Melli can't help but worry. And when a messenger from where her mother is working comes and says Dina's help is needed, she jumps at the opportunity to get to her mother.

But what awaits her there is only the beginning of a nightmare and she learns that the worst enemy she can have is one without shame.

I don't know if that's enough or not to get you intrigued, but I just hate giving stuff away.

And don't be scared off by Dina's young age - she is surprisingly mature and reads much older and wiser than her young years on the page.

These books aren't afraid to go where other books don't. Bad stuff happens. But also wonderful, poignant friendships and courage are highlighted - and not in a schmaltzy, corny way.

It can be truly frightening, heart-pounding thrilling - you never lack a reason to be on the edge of your seat. There are occasions that make you laugh - and especially parts that make you cry.

The Shamer Chronicles are full of political intrigue, espionage, original fantasy concepts and ideas, and plenty of realistic family interplay.

I love, love, love these books and was breathless to the very last page. I am sad that the story is over but also extremely satisfied with the excellent conclusion. Don't miss out on reading and rereading this phenomenal series!!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Dragons of Ordinary Farm

This tale from fantasy writers' Tad Williams and Deborah Beale centers on siblings Tyler and Lucinda, whose divorced parent's seem more interested in their new, independent lives than them. When they receive an odd, out-of-nowhere invitation to Ordinary Farm from an uncle they've never heard of, they're dismayed when their mother leaps at the opportunity to get them a place to stay while she goes on a single's retreat. What ensues is more than either or them expect or bargain for.

Despite it's childish looking cover, Dragons was a page-turner and certainly not condescending in it's writing. In fact, the cheerful little girl on the dragon? Yeah, it doesn't quite happen that way. Anyway, my point is: I'm 21 and I loved it, so don't let the cover scare you away.

The Dragons of Ordinary Farm managed to be original, creative and fresh, while being spooky, suspenseful and awesome! Lucinda and Tyler were believable as siblings - and both of them likable. They succeeded, in my opinion, where Jake Ransom and the Shadow of the Skull King failed - making a brother and sister likable, relatable and realistic. The adventure was new and not a retread of anything else. There are many plots and twists that make every chapter exciting - plus the humor is almost surprisingly current and laugh-out-loud.

I am eager and hopeful to find out that there will be many more books involving this anything-but Ordinary Farm! I think any fans of Harry Potter and fantasy in general will agree!

Check it out June 2nd!!!

P.S. I'm hoping to blog about it soon, but DEFINITELY check out the Shamer Chronicles by Lene Kaaberbol (starting with The Shamer's Daughter). One of the best fantasy/adventure series I've ever read!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Being Nikki

There isn’t a Meg Cabot fan out there that needs any convincing to go pick up her new book, the sequel to Airhead, Being Nikki. In fact, I almost don’t even need to know what her books are about to go out and buy them. There’s a certain trust with an author this consistently great. However, some of us need a bit more info. So, here goes.

Em Watts is still reeling from the fact that her brain is now inside Nikki Howard’s supermodel, celebrity body. She still can’t believe she’s honoring modeling contracts because otherwise the man who “saved” her life, Richard Stark, will sue her parent’s for the full cost of her surgery, not to mention all the legal problems. Then there’s the fact that she has a strong suspicion that the Stark company is watching her at all times, not to mention tracking her computer usage.

But none of that’s as bad as being dead (literally) to her best friend, the guy she loves. And, technically, Emerson Watts is dead. Which makes it a bit difficult to communicate with him.

Nevertheless, Em soon learns things can get even more complicated as Nikki’s formerly mysterious family life begins to come to light and darker twists and turns abound.

I don’t want to give away too much – I’m one of those super-spoiler-paranoid reader’s who doesn’t even read the inside jacket of a sequel. So, this review will be pretty darn devoid of details. But I’ll tell ya one thing:

It’s awesome!!!

There were AT LEAST five times within the course of Being Nikki that I literally said, either verbally or mentally, “WHAT?” In the best way possible, of course.

Meg Cabot keeps the shocks and surprises coming. Not to mention the laughs! I loved Airhead, but Being Nikki takes what I expected of a sequel and turns it on its head. We have the incredible cast of characters she gave us in the first novel – the lovable Lulu, the needy dog Cosie, her popular-desperate sister Frida, the newly somber Christopher – and many new ones. Meg did so much more than the anticipated – it was suspenseful, paranoid, sci-fi, funny, romantic, relatable, mysterious to the max, and full-out freaking awesome! Did I mention that?

And now I am utterly and completely depressed that I have to wait, possibly, another year for the next book, Runaway! The cliffhangers in the last pages were enough to leave me breathless.

But ain’t that typical of Meg?

So, go out and buy yerself a copy of Being Nikki – and don’t forget to have your inhaler handy.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Ruins of Gorlan

John Flanagan's first fantasy/action book in his Ranger's Apprentice series begins the story of Will, a castle ward - which is an orphan taken in by the Baron, given food, shelter, and the opportunity to better their station in life on Choosing Day. Choosing Day is the event that happens in every castle ward’s life where they get the opportunity to make their wishes for their future careers known and hopefully be selected by the Craftmaster of their liking (for example, the Battleschool Craftmaster is an army recruiter of sorts, there’s a Diplomat field, Horsemaster, and many others).

Will, having grown up with no information known of his parents (and no last name), knows only that his father was a brave warrior who died in battle. Because of this, he wishes with all his heart to be accepted in the Battleschool.

But when Choosing Day is over, he’s been rejected by the Battleschool because of his small size and strangely offered a spot by the Rangers, who have always been considered odd and suspicious to the villagers with their nerve-wracking ways of appearing, seemingly, out of thin air.

Soon, though, Will realizes there is more to the Rangers than the ordinary inhabitant of the kingdom understands – and in the battle that is brewing for the near future, his newfound training may just make his father proud yet.

As a first in a series, this novel is excellent at introducing us to cast of characters that are interesting and easy to invest in. We follow more than just Will in his first months of apprenticeship. It is entertaining reading to tag along with Will in his training with the mysterious, likable (if grumpy) Halt. There is good character development offered up here by John Flanagan and a great amount of action, not to mention creative and original supernatural creatures that threaten the safety of the kingdom.

Was I jumping up and down as I read The Ruins of Gorlan? No. But it was a fast paced, appealing read that left me very intrigued about the next novel, The Burning Bridge. Will, Horace, Halt and the other castle ward’s make for engaging characters and I have a feeling the following novels might give way more easily to increased action and maybe even romantic subplots. I believe Ranger’s Apprentice is a book that would be as enjoyed by males as females.

I felt it was strong opening to a possibly even better series, but as I said – I’m not shouting about it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Guardian

Joyce Sweeney's new novel centers on Hunter, a teenage boy who has been in foster care his whole life. Now that his faster dad has died, he and his foster sisters are under their unstable foster mother's guardianship.

His only shred of hope is when he sees long-haired, motorcycle driving man that he is convinced is the same man that came to him when he was four and told him he was his guardian angel.

When things start changing for the better and his prayers begin to be answered, Hunter is sure that finally someone cares about him.

But is his guardian angel really what Hunter hopes he is?

I thought this was a fantastic novel!!! Joyce Sweeney so perfectly weaves Hunter's story so that he is real to the reader. I cared immensely about everything happening to him. All of his foster sisters and even his foster mother were starkly contrasted and made to be three-dimensional - honest and raw in their portrayal. Hunter's voice was spot on, and Sweeney's writing style was poetic - yet managed to never be long-winded, but instead suspenseful and gripping. My thoughts and reactions mirrored Hunter's. I felt like I was alongside him at every triumph, every fall.

I was hooked. From the moment I opened it, I could hardly put it down. She does the unexpected - she surprises you, yet satisfies you. She haunts and disturbs you, yet inspires you. I cannot rave enough.

All I can say is make sure to buy it or check it out from your library - because it is worth every second of your time.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Adventure, Murder, & Political Intrigue, Oh My!

Hi! Wow - been too long. Sorry about that! I hope you forgive me by accepting a few mini reviews of books I've been reading during my blogging absence. They're short and sweet. And I don't think any of us mind getting straight to the point, right? Here goes:

Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow, by James Rollins
The concept: 13-year-old Jake Ransom's famous, archaeologist parent's disappeared years ago while on an expedition. He and his sister, Kady, aren't the closest since she's into the popular crowd and he is more often found following his parents footsteps. During a thunderstorm while they are viewing their parents artifacts in a museum, they suddenly find themselves in a different world full of multiple cultures and a bad guy called the Skull King who wants revenge on the people living there.
My reaction: Despite a few twists and ending with a decent cliffhanger, I couldn't help but feel that the novel was missing a main ingredient. Jake came across as younger than 13, and wasn't relatable. The dark creatures Rollins created for the novel, the grakyl in particular (a human form with wings that doesn't talk but screeches and is actually pretty freaky), were intriguing, but other than that there wasn't much that kept me enthralled. The 400 pages went by quick enough, but didn't leave an impression strong enough to cause me to go out and buy the second novel.

Hoppergrass, by Chris Carlton Brown
The concept: A teenage boy goes to a juvenile facility, possibly insane, in the 1970s and tries to defend another boy who is unjustly accused of an accidental death.
My reaction: Eh. Couldn't get into it. The way it was written seemed to keep me at a distance instead of bringing me in. I never could really care about the characters, though the main character's sanity remaining a mystery was intriguing. I ended up only getting halfway through the novel because of all of this - I'm going to try it again someday, but I think my personality and individual taste might just not gel with the writing technique.

Dead Sleep, by Greg Iles
The concept: Successful female photographer stumbles across a painting that is the exact likeness of her missing twin sister. And she looks dead. And there are many more in a series of paintings by an anonymous painter of many different women, all naked and all either dead, or asleep. She joins forces with the FBI to find the painter, and her sister.
My reaction: FANTASTIC concept, don't ya think? Disturbing and maybe more graphic than some might like, though. I was in a state of suspense from almost the first page on. Greg Iles does a great job of fully-fleshing out his characters and making you feel like you know them on a personal level - their flaws and their good qualities. I felt the narrative stumbled here and there, but I enjoyed it. However, the end resolution didn't work for me. I found it surprisingly cliche and rushed for such a long, patiently gripping novel. It kind of tainted the overall experience for me.

The Lion Hunter & The Empty Kingdom, by Elizabeth E. Wein
The concept: Telemakos is a boy of mixed race in Ethiopia, in this historical fiction duology. He has gone through torture and horrors already while he worked discreetly undercover not too long ago to uncover a smuggling scheme. His nightmares continue to haunt him. After a series of events that happen (to give away any, I feel, would be too much information), he ends up being sent to another kingdom to prevent him and his baby sister from encountering danger that stems from his espionage after threats to the unknown "sunbird" begin arriving (one of his code names during his activities). But he might not be as far away from danger as he thought...
My reaction: At first I found it hard to relate to Telemakos of find very much interest in his story. But it didn't take too long to be pulled into the political intrigue and deep crevices of Telemakos personality that the author so beautifully and poetically weaves. The strong bonds of sibling love and bravery that resonate in the character makes every move he makes matter to the reader. By the last sentence, I realized the pure, raw, exquisite story that Elizabeth E. Wein told - and loved it.

Think that's enough for now. Any that sound interesting to you?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Twilight Saga

The Twilight Saga, starting with Twilight, continuing with New Moon and Eclipse, and ending with Breaking Dawn is exactly the reason why I am a bibliophile. Thank you Stephenie Meyer.

This review won't contain one tiny spoiler, I promise. I am only going to give a small summary of the first book - because I don't think ANYTHING should be known before reading this truly fantastic series.

Bella is a fairly clumsy newcomer to Forks, Washington. Living with her dad and all the rainy, cloudy days will take some getting used to. But when she first lays eyes on the Cullen family in the school cafeteria - the extraordinarily beautiful family, especially one in particular named Edward - she doesn't realized that her entire life is about to change.

My reaction to the series? Wow. Just - wow. I love the genre but I just never got around to this series. But with the movie coming out and all the increased buzz going around - my interest piqued. And am I glad it did!

There is a magnificent hypnotic feeling to the books - like you are literally sucked into the story and are holding your breath. Setting it down or being asked a question by someone is like breathing again after a long period - but you just want to go back. It's truly addictive.


Maybe it is amazing atmospheric quality Stephenie Meyer creates. Maybe it is the realistic, relatable characters. Maybe it's how Stephenie seems to know exactly what you want to feel before you even know it, and she satisfies. Maybe it is the character development - how we're able to feel like we honestly know all the nuances of each individual. Maybe it is the perfection that is the romance that she gives us. Maybe it's the excellence of each plot.

Maybe it's all of the above.

All I know is that I can't wait to reread these books, I'm insanely nervous about the movie (you should see me during a Harry Potter movie), and I wish with all my being that there were a billion more books left in the series. Thank goodness I have the Official Guide to look forward to.

I recommend the entire Twilight series to any and everybody - but especially to fantasy lovers, of course. But I just can't see how anyone couldn't be as sucked into the story as I was.

I mean, I was glued to each page.

I could go on and on, I would love to mention every character, and how much I loved each plot twist - but I won't. I'll leave it all up to you - read it!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hi There...

I wanted to write a quick post this morning and apologize to anyone who may notice or care that there hasn't been a blog post/review for quite a while lately.

I am very sorry. I will be getting more on task as soon as possible. What with my computer flipping out, as well as Blogger itself (I had a nice, long entry and reviews for you guys last week but it all went up in smoke, not even automatically saved by Blogger - it was terrible) and my own busy schedule - I just haven't had as much time or energy to get on here. But I will.

Just to let you know real quick what I've been reading... I will give only a one word review for the time being, and will elaborate more when I get the chance.

Tales of Beedle the Bard, by J.K. Rowling: Fantastic!

Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer: Frakktastic!!!

The Prince of Fenway Park, by Julianna Baggott: Eh...

New Moon, by Stephenie Meyer: Frakktastic!!!!!!!!

Eclipse, by Stephenie Meyer (currently halfway through): Supercalafragilisticexpialadosis!!!

Now, to anyone who hasn't been as dumb as me and has already read the Twilight Saga (oh my gosh, I am so loving it!!!): please don't let even the tiniest slip of a spoiler enter into any comments on here, please, if you are so kind to comment, that is.

Thanks for your patience and understanding, guys!

I sure hope this actually posts!