Friday, July 29, 2011

Pretty Bad Things


Pretty Bad Things is a YA contemporary novel by C. J. Skuse.

Ten years ago, when Paisley and Beau were six-years-old, they became famous. But not for being child actors or anything. They became famous because after coming home to find their mother dead, they wandered off into the woods trying to find their dad, whom they did not know was already in prison, and survived for three days alone. The paparazzi called them the Wonder Twins - and everybody loved them.

Their grandmother, who took custody after they were found, built up quite a trust fund for Paisley and Beau by keeping them on TV as much as humanly possible - strictly requiring they act sweet and innocent at all times, and keep the camera on as much as it was available. A trust fund she liked to dip into...

But Paisley was too much trouble to keep around, so their grandmother shipped her off to what ended up being multiple boarding schools and kept Beau at home - the act of separating the twins adding to her cruelty.

And now, both sixteen, Beau finds out that dear-old-Grandma has been keeping their dad's letters from them. The housekeeper, feeling it was wrong, kept them in a box instead of burning them as instructed. When Beau tells Paisley that their dad has been keeping in contact, she ditches school and jacks their grandmother's Pontiac - and the two take off to Las Vegas, the last place their dad mentioned being after his release.

Only problem? They can't find him. So, Paisley concocts a plan to get their faces on TV again - and help their dad find them. A plan that involves a stolen gun, donut shops and candy stores, and a familiar slogan - the Wonder Twins...

Pretty Bad Things introduces us to two very distinctive voices, alternating the narrating between Beau and Paisley. Both are very damaged and sad in different ways - and inextricably linked by their experiences and love. Paisley's the wild child potty-mouth and Beau is the gentler, perhaps doormat other half.

The novel is feisty, wild and adventurous - delving into disturbing and frank places that aren't always pleasant or fun. I had initially thought that Pretty Bad Things was going to be a crazy, entertaining story - and it is, in part. But a larger part of the book is dark, bleak, and upsetting.

I wanted these two to find a better home and chance to be taken care of by someone who loves them. Especially poor Paisley whose mask of toughness and refusal to ever cry is so very hard to keep up. But at times I found Pretty Bad Things hard to read, because what they do and how they do it isn't something I can stand behind or root for.

Yet by the end, Pretty Bad Things was surprisingly poignant and touching - perhaps even quite good. Just not what I was expecting. So, don't expect a funny jaunt when you pick up a copy. I'm still rather polarized about my opinion - create your own!

***BIBLIOPHILE ALERT! I have been reading like an even crazier book addict than usual this year, and apparently three reviews a week can't keep up pace with me! Because of this, for the entire month of July I will be having FIVE reviews a week! That's right! Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! So, please remember to check back here more often during July - and come August I'm planning on returning to three reviews a week. Keep the schedule change in mind, and don't miss any reviews! :)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Empire of Gut and Bone


The Empire of Gut and Bone is the third YA sci-fi/fantasy novel in M. T. Anderson's Norumbegan Quartet.

Let me just say: this series is awesome! And if you haven't read both The Game of Sunken Places and The Suburb Beyond the Stars then you should NOT read The Empire of Gut and Bone. This story is too amazing and intricate to spoil, not to mention I think you'd be pretty darn confused. So just hop over to my review of The Game of Sunken Places here, or if you've read that book you can read my review of The Suburb Beyond the Stars here... but until then - avoid this review!!!

Now I am left with the fans of Norumbegan Quartet. You already love the series. How could you not? Okay, I'm sure there are a couple of you who didn't think it was so great - but the majority of you must have been as flabbergasted as me! You don't really need any persuading to read the third book - The Empire of Gut and Bone. So, in order to avoid any spoilers, I'm just going to give a little recap of where we left off in the series and what I thought of this third book. No plot details on this new one, okay?

So last we saw - best friends Gregory and Brian along with the automation troll Kalgrash (whom I heart!) were going to find the Norumbegans to let them know that the Thusser, their enemies, were no longer waiting for the outcome of the Game of Sunken Places to decide who gets to reside on Earth. The Thusser, last we saw them, were taking over a suburb, messing up the time and space of it, slowly sucking the people who lived there into the walls, making it habitable for them. Since this is in direct violation of the Rules, the trio went to inform the Norumbegans and get their help. But back in the suburb, time is moving much faster... will they be too late?

Like I said, no details on the plot of The Empire of Gut and Bone really - which I think you will thank me for once you read this third book without any preconceived ideas about what will happen!!!

I was SO EXCITED to read it, I am not even kidding! I think the Norumbegan Quartet is becoming one of my absolute favorite series - it grows more beloved the more often I think of it. It is a mind-bending, brilliant series that that takes an awesome pair of characters, and their out-of-this-world (literally) sidekicks and presents a hilarious, awesome, witty, clever, yet easy to invest in novel - wow!

The Empire of Gut and Bone, and the rest of the Norumbegan Quartet, is so extremely different from anything I've ever read - it pleases me both intellectually and entertainment-wise. M. T. Anderson riddles the book with fantastic twists and turns, but keeps a grounded quality that makes all the characters seem even more real - creating a thrilling adventure saga!

There seems to be no end to the creativity M. T. Anderson brings to the table. I am astounded by it as I read each smart, fun, unique page - honestly a must-read for any fan of sci-fi or fantasy! There are no age limits to this book - it is just plain awesome. Have I said that already? Oh well. ;)

The Empire of Gut and Bone is an excellent, laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes poignant, endlessly inventive, phenomenal read!!! Read it, and spread the word!!! More people need to know about the Norumbegan Quartet!

I absolutely cannot wait for the fourth and final novel!!!

***BIBLIOPHILE ALERT! I have been reading like an even crazier book addict than usual this year, and apparently three reviews a week can't keep up pace with me! Because of this, for the entire month of July I will be having FIVE reviews a week! That's right! Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! So, please remember to check back here more often during July - and come August I'm planning on returning to three reviews a week. Keep the schedule change in mind, and don't miss any reviews! :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Forgotten


Forgotten is the YA debut of Cat Patrick.

Sixteen-year-old London Lane can't remember what happened yesterday. She never can. At 4:33AM each morning her memory wipes clean, and all she has to keep a handle on what happened the day before - or in fact, any day since she was six and this started happening - London reads all of her notes. Her notes inform her of what she wore the day before, what she needs to bring to school, what's going on with her best friend, etc. Each morning her life is new.

But she does "remember" the future. Not all of it. Just pieces. Just like a memory of the past. And in this memory of the future she sees various upcoming heartbreaks or joys for her classmates, including her best friend. But when her flash-forwards don't warn of the gorgeous new guy named Luke who seems interested in her - she's afraid that means it's not going to go anywhere anyway. And how can she keep up a potential romance with a guy she'll forget tomorrow anyway?

When London's "flash-forwards" start to become disturbing and begin to feature a funeral, London is convinced she needs to find out what is going on in it, and try her best to change it. Because, after all, what's the use of her unique brain if she can't at least do that?

Forgotten is a fascinating and certainly original novel. The basic premise is already enough to blow your mind, and the intimate, lovely, and mysterious way Cat Patrick writes it made me patiently await more info on London's strange ability/disability as I followed, oh-so-willingly, this bizarre but admittedly intriguing plot down the rabbit's hole.

This is one of the most flat-out enigmatic novels I have read this year! It was never, ever boring - keeping me glued to the tantalizing revelations and stunningly presented story of a girl who never remembers, but you do. And it's never a bad thing that Forgotten also features a hot, awesome guy who has become the perfect boyfriend for London (in my mind, at least), though she can only look to her reminder notes each morning to "know" that.

Heartrendingly beautiful and lyrically scribed, I was utterly riveted as London's story turned more harrowing and revealing as it neared the end. After all, you all know that we're wondering what London's brain resets every day since she was six. What happened to her? Cat Patrick doesn't expect us to forget this question.

Though the mystery and suspicions of the past she has no memory of is an important part of Forgotten, the book in itself still epitomizes the ultimate romance, amazingly executed plot, family's enduring love, and character development up the whazoo!

I positively LOVED it!!!!!! And as I finished the novel and sat it lovingly to my side, I couldn't help but let out a contented sigh. Now, that is a sign all of us unashamed bibliophiles recognize! It means, this is a really good book!!!!!!

Now, I am sure that many will say this, so forgive me because I cannot resist... Forgotten is a novel that will never be forgotten. It lingers oh-so-gloriously, reminding you of its power, eloquence, unexpected twists, and one of the most unique first loves you'll ever witness.

All I can do is thank Cat Patrick - and beg her to keep on writing novels this stunning!

*I received a review copy of Forgotten from Hachette Book Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

***BIBLIOPHILE ALERT! I have been reading like an even crazier book addict than usual this year, and apparently three reviews a week can't keep up pace with me! Because of this, for the entire month of July I will be having FIVE reviews a week! That's right! Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! So, please remember to check back here more often during July - and come August I'm planning on returning to three reviews a week. Keep the schedule change in mind, and don't miss any reviews! :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Beauty Queens


Beauty Queens is a new YA novel by celebrated author Libba Bray.

Fifty Miss Teen Dream contestants, one representing each state, were on their way to do Pageant beach promos and final rehearsals before the live show - but the airplane carrying them all to their destination ended up being a dud. So instead of frolicking on the beach in front of cameras, they're plummeting thousands of feet to crash on a desert island.

Most of the people on the plane die, but those starry-eyed beauty queens that survive are left with very little food, no shelter, and next to no water.

But what's even worse?

They are lacking in enough make-up, razors, perfume, and non-tattered clothes to look their beauty queen best!

Miss Texas takes it upon herself to keep the gals focused, and since she's convinced rescue is imminent, what is a better way to spend their time than to practice for the talent portion of the pageant and do mock interviews? But not everything is as civilized as Miss Texas would like - there are huge snakes, suspicious lights in the distance, and many closely guarded secrets among the Teen Dream girls that the wild of the island might be letting loose...

I am an absolute and utter fan of Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty trilogy - haunting, beautiful, and amazingly original. I haven't yet read anything else by her - so a contemporary comedy about beauty queens who crash on a deserted island sounded pretty hilarious - which it most definitely is.

Beauty Queens has a ridiculousness that makes it fascinating and undeniably entertaining. It had some very funny, unexpected moments and a feisty, witty narration that makes this satire an outrageous and crazy fun rollercoaster ride. Plus some of the pretend commercial breaks are just flat-out awesome! Tiny hint from one of the many: All us girls know how annoying "sanitary napkin" commercials are, right? Libba Bray imagines one even worse!!!

However, once Beauty Queens reached the halfway point, the tone changed dramatically - and though keeping the veil of silly, smart cleverness the novel began to have a much more heavy-handed liberal viewpoint than I personally prefer. Maybe some of you lovely readers won't find this to be true in your own reading of Beauty Queens (which I, as always, recommend reading for yourself), but for me I was surprised by how much the book suddenly became about messages about supposedly empowering sexual awakenings and identity issues. As the novel continued, and really only increased in this direction without any subtly, I did become disappointed. Because initially it was just an insane, laugh-out-loud funny book but now it felt most definitely like a stance on controversial issues - not what I signed up for, really.

This is why, by the end of Beauty Queens, I wasn't nearly the fan I was at the beginning. Though there were still moments of hilarity and Libba Bray's talent couldn't help but sparkle, it never recovered from what I felt was a very unsavory turn. I just don't like being preached to - certainly not unexpectedly, or in a one-sided manner either.

But I know, without a doubt, that there are going to be many readers that will love Beauty Queens - and that's why I encourage you to find out for yourself. I think it might be one of those polarizing books - it's just too bad that I ended up leaning more on the negative side, rather than positive - where I much rather prefer to be!

***BIBLIOPHILE ALERT! I have been reading like an even crazier book addict than usual this year, and apparently three reviews a week can't keep up pace with me! Because of this, for the entire month of July I will be having FIVE reviews a week! That's right! Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! So, please remember to check back here more often during July - and come August I'm planning on returning to three reviews a week. Keep the schedule change in mind, and don't miss any reviews! :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Vampire Stalker


The Vampire Stalker is a YA book lover's dream come to life, by Allison van Diepen.

Amy, along with almost every other teen girl in the world, hangs on every word of the insanely popular YA novel Otherworld. But unlike most readers, she's in love with the character Alexander Banks, the brooding, handsome vampire hunter instead of the romantic, gentle James. Amy's problem is that she really feels like she loves Alexander, which is depressing since he doesn't exist, except on the page. No other guy measures up. She can't help but feel that this makes her kinda pathetic.

But then one night as Amy is walking home through the park she runs into none other than Alexander Banks. No way, right? At first she thinks he's a fanboy who's taken things too far with the whole getup and way of speaking - but then she realizes that he is too perfect, too similar for it to be anything but real. And he is hunting down Vigo, the ultimate vampire psychopath from the books. Somehow, someway they are real - and in her world!

She tries to help him, but she's in way over her head - not to mention distracted by the fact that a character she has been in love with is now living and breathing beside her! But Vigo is wreaking havoc on the city - murders begin to pile up and the horror increases. They work together to try and figure out how Alexander and Vigo got to her world, and how they can get back to theirs before Vigo kills even more and turns Chicago into the kind of wasteland Alexander lives in. But if Vigo leaves, Alexander would to...

Everybody is in danger - and so is Amy's heart.

The Vampire Stalker opens with the utter excitement of purchasing an anticipated book, in Amy's case the sequel to Otherworld, which moves the novel into my good graces right away. After all, all of us bibliophiles know and recognize that feeling. And being infatuated with a character from a book? Um, hello? Has anyone noticed that my email is MrsRonWeasley87@aol.com? Uh, yeah. I totally relate.

This book is pretty much the fantasy come true. Once Alexander shows up there is definitely a spicy chemistry that makes me root for a romance between them. To be honest, Alexander's way of talking and the way he reads is not as appealing to me as I think he could have been. But that's just my opinion - and I still wanted them together and did feel their connection.

It's a light novel, but most certainly enjoyable. I was not astounded by originality or brilliance in The Vampire Stalker, but I was charmed and mildly entertained. It was never boring, in fact it whipped by superfast! It's a romantic reader's dream and delightful - perhaps a little superficial and gimmicky, but fun.

In the end, The Vampire Stalker didn't leave much of a lasting impression on me personally (maybe it will for you, remember one opinion is only one opinion), but it was diverting and had pleasant characters. For me, I just never felt real passionate about anyone or anything. Whereas, you very well may!

But all of us book addicts have our own Alexander Banks, so it is most assuredly relatable and a fantasy that is fun to follow and escape with for a while. :)

***BIBLIOPHILE ALERT! I have been reading like an even crazier book addict than usual this year, and apparently three reviews a week can't keep up pace with me! Because of this, for the entire month of July I will be having FIVE reviews a week! That's right! Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! So, please remember to check back here more often during July - and come August I'm planning on returning to three reviews a week. Keep the schedule change in mind, and don't miss any reviews! :)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Starcrossed


Starcrossed is Josephine Angelini's YA twist on Greek mythology.

Helen has never been normal - but she's tried very hard to pretend she is. Not an easy task on an island as small as Nantucket. But in her sixteen years of life she has never been branded the freak she knows she is, so she think she's been successful overall. Sure, the popular crowd hates her - but she has Claire, her best friend since forever, her dad, as supportive and awesome as can be, and Kate, her dad's business partner and the closest thing she's ever had to a mother. None of them know her secrets, but they come the closest.

But when all of a sudden she starts seeing three women weeping tears of blood, while she's awake and certainly not dreaming, Helen has a lot harder time trying to ignore/hide her oddness. Especially when these disturbing women seem to be urging her to hate every member of the new Delos family with a wrath so strong she can't seem to control it, even in public. And Helen has never hated anyone.

Plus, she's waking up after vivid dreams exhausted, feeling like she has walked for miles - and has the bloody, dirty feet to support the idea. Helen has no idea what's going on - but it's becoming increasingly difficult to avoid the Delos family, especially devastatingly handsome Lucas - whom Helen inexplicably can't stand the sight of.

Something a lot stronger than coincidence is dealing Helen a hand - and she's about to find out what it is...

I tried to give just enough to peak your interest - because this is definitely a book you don't want any spoilers on! It's not necessary. Just give Starcrossed your attention for, like, ten pages and you'll be hooked without any help from me.

It's instantly enigmatic with Helen seeming to have secrets even she doesn't know the answers to. The reader isn't let in on the secrets for quite a while, which is all the more interesting. Then we have the mysterious, quickly talked about, large and wealthy Delos family arriving in town and occupying the huge property that has been vacant - another enigma... love it!

Starcrossed is bursting with personality - each character as individual and vibrant on the page as the next. For example, we've got Claire the BFF who is hilarious, quick thinking, impossibly witty and just overall awesome. Then there's our main character Helen whose panic attacks, shyness, and headaches start to feel like an omen for something bigger - but who wins us over fast with her pure niceness and loyalty as a daughter and friend. With all the mysteries fermenting at the corners, I was ready for the ride Starcrossed was going to take me on before I even knew how wild it was gonna be!

Freaky stuff starts to happen to poor Helen, and I was totally involved and hanging on every word - utterly fascinated. I was wondering what the heck was going on!!! Starcrossed is truly original and chilling as we enter this world of delicious drama, going on this crazy, insane, incredible journey with Helen. I mean, there were moments when I was just like WOWZA!!! Starcrossed was blowing my mind!!!

Ooooh, Josephine Angelini offers us a dynamic, intriguing, and oh-so-different, definitely creepy, mysterious, amazing feel! Starcrossed is dreamy awesome, scorching hot, packed with fiery plots and a relatable, likable gal to follow. It's shocking, twisty, and has near-constant unpredictable surprises! I found Starcrossed to be incredible, powerful, thrilling, and electric with energy that just sizzled through the pages.

As you can tell - I loved it!!! The author puts her own modernized spin on Greek mythology and presents such stunning plot development, which increases in rapidity and depth, I was just stunned. This is YA at its best! Starcrossed has all the magnificent, romantic, bloody and violent trappings of a Greek tragedy - it wowed me over and over and over again!

And - oh my! Sequel??? There better be! Because NO WAY is that the end!!!

Holy crap, bibliophile! Starcrossed is not one to miss!!!!!

***BIBLIOPHILE ALERT! I have been reading like an even crazier book addict than usual this year, and apparently three reviews a week can't keep up pace with me! Because of this, for the entire month of July I will be having FIVE reviews a week! That's right! Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! So, please remember to check back here more often during July - and come August I'm planning on returning to three reviews a week. Keep the schedule change in mind, and don't miss any reviews! :)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Healing Spell


The Healing Spell is a middlegrade contemporary novel by Kimberley Griffiths Little.

Eleven-year-old Livie and her mother have never gotten along well. She's not girly like her sisters and would rather go frogging out in the bayou with her daddy than shopping with her Mamma. They've had many an argument and seem to never see eye-to-eye. But then her Mamma is in a coma, unable to wake up - and maybe she never will. And suddenly Livie is keeping a very big secret about what happened. She knows she is responsible for it, but she can't tell anyone - she can't see her daddy's eyes hate her.

But everybody wants her to help out with Mamma, and Livie can't even bring herself to touch her. What if she hurts her again? So she's branded selfish and uncaring by her older sister, and seems to keep hurting her sensitive little sister. The only friend she seems to have, besides her BFF whom she still can't bring herself to tell the truth to, is a baby alligator she found in the bayou. But despite its current harmlessness, its still forbidden to make an alligator a pet, making it just another secret Livie has to keep.

Feeling like an outsider and full of guilt, Livie tries to stay in the background. But she wants her Mamma to wake up, and she knows that running away isn't going to fix anything. So she decides she has to at least try. But can she, an eleven-year-old tomboy, fix anything when she was the one that broke it in the first place?

Our main character's sad, worried voice is believable right away. You really do feel like you are listening to a heartbroken, scared little girl's thoughts. The town curiosity and her own guarded secrets haunt her, bringing about a quiet despair and tender presentation by the author. There such a feeling of false hope and inevitability of death for Livie's mother that you can sense the denial, while you're doing it yourself.

Little allows Livie's strong guilt to damage her already unsteady relationship with her sister's even further - until finally a healing begins, slowly. It is meaningful and gentle, but the hope does return as our brave and ultimately goodhearted protagonist begins to recognize her responsibilities and flaws.

The Healing Spell is a heartbreaking, yet uplifting, bittersweet story. The character is young, but the premise is most definitely appreciated by an older reader. Kimberley Griffiths Little allows the novel to go to some horrible coming-of-age moments that are extremely sad, present family dynamics that are compelling, honest, and raw, and gives an almost unfinished ending that is both satisfying and tear-jerking, as well as a bit frustrating in its lack of a true conclusion.

But what I can say for sure was that The Healing Spell was worth the read. It is a poignant, sometimes painful, contemporary book that intertwines a little Cajun magic with a terrible family tragedy. Lovely.

***BIBLIOPHILE ALERT! I have been reading like an even crazier book addict than usual this year, and apparently three reviews a week can't keep up pace with me! Because of this, for the entire month of July I will be having FIVE reviews a week! That's right! Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! So, please remember to check back here more often during July - and come August I'm planning on returning to three reviews a week. Keep the schedule change in mind, and don't miss any reviews! :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tighter


Tighter is a YA modern-day retelling of the classic ghost story The Turn of the Screw, reimagined by Adele Griffin.

Seventeen-year-old Jamie has had a rough time of it lately. Her back injury has gotten her attached to pills and she's still trying to get over a painful rejection. The idea of accepting the position of a summer au pair on the New England island of Little Bly is to get away from it all and get over it.

But what she didn't know was that horror preceded her.

The last au pair, Jessie, and her boyfriend died last year in a shocking, tragic accident. And when Jamie realizes that the islanders' stares aren't just about a new girl in town - but more the shock of how much Jamie looks like Jessie - she is even more disturbed.

In the midst of caring for young Isa, her charge, Jamie struggles with leaving. The thing is, she finds herself becoming more and more consumed with the need to learn more about Jessie's death and why she seems to be seeing their ghosts.

Her connection to the couple is so intense - why? What really happened last summer?

Right away author Adele Griffin makes Jamie's state of mind uncertain, dark, and wavering on addict as she relies on stolen pills to get her through. Putting her in the odd circumstance of getting paid to live in a gorgeous mansion without any real adult supervision besides the housekeeper is also strangely fantasy-like - and it seems like there are secrets about both our protagonist's past and the house's that are not being revealed yet.

Before chapter four even arrives the creepiness begins to, well, creep up on you! There is definitely something weird and eerie goin' on!

Tighter sucked me in and enveloped me in its haunting tone and subtle questions of sanity. Each character is slightly off, slightly disturbing - even young Isa and our main character. There is a suspense and palpable feeling of being watched - a bit frightening, yes.

Later on, I did find myself skimming a little bit - mainly because it seemed like the course of the novel was getting a tad lazy - it wasn't as riveting for a while. But then BAM!!!

Holy crap, does Tighter have a BIG shock!!!!!

I was sold with the amazing twist at the end that shows us just how well Adele Griffin plotted Tighter! So, really this book is a fascinating, bizarre, slightly confusing, but definitely darkly alluring novel! Tighter left me hanging, wanting more answers, but leaves a most definite impression and bit of a, "Huh? Wha? Did that just really happen?" feeling.

Might be worth a second read to figure out all the implications of the curveball - and most definitely worth you giving Tighter a shot!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kindred


Kindred is a YA fantasy novel by Tammar Stein.

Miriam is the quieter twin. She's a college freshman, and just working hard - keeping her head down. Mo, her twin brother, is the more vivacious, outgoing one. It's strange being apart from him - but they are both dealing with it like adults.

But then one evening as Miriam is studying the archangel Raphael visits her - it's terrifying, confusing, and utterly overwhelming. She deciphers what he said in ancient Hebrew and finds herself given a mission, of sorts. At first she doesn't believe it, not sure if she was just hallucinating, but then she meets the girl mentioned in the unsolicited message and finds herself believing more and more that she is meant to save her.

What happens sends Miriam into a tailspin - her entire life changes course. She's not sure what to do, where to go. But what only increases her fear is that Mo tells her that he was visited as well - only his visit was from the opposite end of the spectrum and he seems oddly pleased by this...

Is Miriam blessed? Cursed? Why her? Why Mo?

What is the purpose behind her mission?

I definitely don't want to give away much here - especially because even the inside jacket cover of Kindred is sparse on the details - which I love - and I want you to experience this phenomenal novel like I did!

First off, as a Christian I am not big on fictional angel stories - it's a fad I've never really gotten into. There have been occasions when I've been truly impressed with them - Silver Smoke was very cool and A Touch Mortal was original in its course - but I've never sought out "angel" books. But taking all of these novels as fantasies can be enjoyable - but so far, I have not yet read one as utterly unique, unsettling, and riveting as Kindred!!!

Miriam is a sweet, smart gal - it's easy to follow her. You hurt with her and root for her. When later we meet an attractive, kind, caring, and very hot tattoo artist named Emmett you want her to find happiness with him. I was super invested in her as a character because Tammer Stein's writing was absolutely excellent.

Then when we are introduced to her twin brother Mo, there is an underlying creepiness and a feeling that he is hiding something dark and wrong - yet you feel their connection, their love, and their familiarity. But it is being tested by outside parties, it seems, and the struggle is engrossing.

Miriam's story is a constant surprise, her character development is incredible, and there is a hushed suspense to everything. I rarely read a YA novel so stark and realistic about some of life's lesser written about moments, nor have I often read about a character I loved almost like a friend - Kindred had it all.

Kindred is, in my opinion, stunningly beautiful, lyrical and touching. It's a romantic, jarring, compassionate story that has no easy answers or resolutions but packs an emotional punch that still leaves me wowed, days later!

I was truly taken aback by Kindred - if you haven't read it - then, in my view, you need to!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tomorrow Girls#1: Behind the Gates


Tomorrow Girls #1: Behind the Gates is the first book in a new dystopian suspense series written for the middle-grade set by Eva Gray.

Louisa is sick of dirty and crowded Chicago. Ever since the War, the disaster and destruction have taken more and more away from her. There is no longer anywhere unpolluted enough for her to swim, and she just feels suffocated by how many people surround her. But her parents, being doctors, still are able to provide for her better than many. And she does love them, and her best friend Maddie, very much. Yet the prospect of being able to go away to school can't help but excite her.

At thirteen, any child that has parents with money to pay for it can be sent to Country Manor School - an opportunity to get out of the filthy cities and learn survival skills, among regular classes, and get the chance to be out in the fresh air. Plus, the locations are super-secret in order to protect them from the Alliance, their enemies in the War.

Maddie's parents don't have the money to send her, so Louisa's parents pretend that Louisa and Maddie are twins so that they can go together. But once they arrive, though Louisa loves it, Maddie isn't quite sure. There is no Internet, TV, or contact with home. They are completely cut off for their own safety.

But what if it is not for their safety...?

Eva Gray throws you right into the story in an electric way, intriguing me instantly. This is a futuristic world where jeans cost more than $500, oil is practically a legend, paper and pen have been replaced completely with electronic devices, and you have ID bracelets from birth on that identify you when you enter buildings, etc. It's creepy and interesting - and extremely fast-paced.

Behind the Gates definitely kept my attention glued to the story. Despite the sense that the Tomorrow Girls series was written with a younger audience in mind, it is still highly entertaining as it twists and turns take you to conspiracy theories, isolation, paranoia, clues, and valid suspicions. It's too fun to ignore just because the characters are only thirteen!

When an overnight survival test out in the woods turns into much more, I became quite nervous for the characters. Behind the Gates is surprisingly suspenseful! And with its huge twist at the end, you definitely have a reason to read the next one! I'm happy to say that three more Tomorrow Girls books are already planned to come out this year - and I'm looking forward to see where Eva Gray will take us!

***BIBLIOPHILE ALERT! I have been reading like an even crazier book addict than usual this year, and apparently three reviews a week can't keep up pace with me! Because of this, for the entire month of July I will be having FIVE reviews a week! That's right! Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! So, please remember to check back here more often during July - and come August I'm planning on returning to three reviews a week. Keep the schedule change in mind, and don't miss any reviews! :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Midnight Palace


The Midnight Palace is a YA horror novel by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

Sixteen years ago an English lieutenant raced to save newborn twins from the unthinkable danger of a mysterious and deadly man. The twins were separated for their own safety, never being told of the other, their pasts a complete secret - and now they find themselves on the cusp of their sixteenth birthday in 1930s Calcutta.

Ben has spent his life in an orphanage, surrounded by friends that he has formed a society with - he has been cared for by the kind orphanage staff and is nervous, along with his sixteen-year-old peers, to be sent out as an adult into the world. But before that event can occur, an old woman accompanied by a girl Ben's age arrives at the orphanage with a warning - to get out of Calcutta as quickly as possible.

Because the threat that followed them as newborns has never given up. And now the threat is determined to reach them. Ben's brave and loyal friends try to help him fight the terrors lurking in the shadows, but is his fate inevitable?

This is the newest offering by the author of The Prince of Mist, which I found to be excellent. One thing I feel I must make clear is that Carlos Ruiz Zafon's books are easily read by any age group. He provides such a fantastically presented tale, full of an atmospheric, adventurous, spooky feel - like a really good movie with more creepy detail and imagination, that any fan of the genre, no matter what age, would find enjoyment in The Midnight Palace.

It didn't take long before I felt like I was being told a sophisticated ghost story. Ian, one of Ben's friends at the orphanage, narrates and gives a quick but ominous overview of the first sixteen years of the life of Ben and the rest of the Chowbar Society. The sinister figure that was initially chasing the twins in the creepy opener seems to be returning again - and you definitely have the impression that this dangerous man might be more than just a man...

However, as the story continued I was surprised by how tedious the book became for me. I guessed the "big" revelations way too early on, and had to wait for the characters to catch up. And even though I didn't dislike any of the characters, I realized I didn't grow attached to any of them either. They were pretty much just names on a page. This is probably what led me to feel a bit more bored as the climax peaked. Thing is, I was pretty tired at the time and can't help but wonder how much that influenced this opinion. Because I still couldn't deny the amazing lyrical flow mixed with suspenseful horror elements. And the sometimes very, very scary moments... I wonder if I would like it better the second time around. Which just might mean you'll like a whole lot the first time around!

There were effective moments nearer the end, even with my tepid response to the novel at the time. And the end is definitely not cliche. I did see how The Midnight Palace could be an impressive book for many. So definitely check it out and form your own opinions!

*I received a review copy of The Midnight Palace from Hachette Book Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

***BIBLIOPHILE ALERT! I have been reading like an even crazier book addict than usual this year, and apparently three reviews a week can't keep up pace with me! Because of this, for the entire month of July I will be having FIVE reviews a week! That's right! Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! So, please remember to check back here more often during July - and come August I'm planning on returning to three reviews a week. Keep the schedule change in mind, and don't miss any reviews! :)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I'll Be There


I'll Be There is a YA contemporary novel by Holly Goldberg Sloan.

Sam and Riddle have never had a home. And since 2nd Grade, Sam has never gone to school. That's when his unstable father snatched him and his younger brother Riddle out of the house they shared with their timid but loving mother. Paranoid and determined to never be in a system, Sam's father keeps them at the fringes of society, moving constantly. Sam, now seventeen, would escape if he could - but he would never abandon his brother.

Riddle has never been "normal" ever since he fell on his head, hard, as a baby. He clutches an old phone book devotedly, a phone book full of drawings he has done of the insides of clocks, engines, and other devices. He rarely speaks, and wheezes constantly - seeming to be in perpetually bad health. But Sam looks after him. After all, their father leaves them to their own devices as long as they don't wander around during the day, when people will wonder why they aren't in school. However, this is an improvement to the beatings that used to give them his full attention.

On Sunday Sam likes to go to church. He doesn't really listen to anything they are saying, he just likes to be somewhere clean for a little while. He sits in the back, and slips out before anyone notices him. But he looks forward to it all week. But this time a pretty girl his age is singing a solo, not very well, and she locks eyes on him - singing to him. His invisibility dissolves. This girl sees him.

Her name is Emily Bell. And it's like they have an instant connection. But meeting her changes so many things. Sam doesn't know how to act around other people. And it's only so long before his father demands they move again...

This description is purposely light on plot - you can only give so much away before you start to ruin the experience. And what an experience this is... Sloan immediately offers compelling characters in a sad situation, outside the realm of ordinary society. The moment that Sam and Emily lock eyes is stunning just in the mere depth of emotion and connection that the author makes so palpable to the reader. I was instantly involved. I cared so quickly.

As the story moves along at a pace that is both patient and engrossing, there is something so sweet and almost untouchable about Sam and Emily's blossoming romance. You feel like you can't even characterize it as something specific, it is as gentle as a breeze yet strong and profound - a deep-set soul connection. The relationship between Sam and his brother Riddle is heartbreakingly sweet without being at all cloying - it feels real, it feels painful - it's love.

I'll Be There is jarring, unexpected, and beautiful. It turns into a harrowing tale that takes twists that shook me to the core. It's a story dealing with hopelessness and a feeling of having no control over your own life - being under the authority of a mad man, essentially. Then I'll Be There turns the tables on us again and suddenly we're in the midst of a shocking, terrifying survival journey in which only the love and unbreakable bond of two unique brothers can keep them alive.

There were rare moments in which Emily frustrated me - but (without giving away anything) these moments were actually understandable on her part. It was really all because I cared so much about these characters, that certain positions they were put in were agonizing for my bibliophile heart.

This novel is terribly suspenseful and made my heart ache so very much! And as the novel wraps up, giving the readers an oh-so-satisfying end to one particularly deceptive character, I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat.

And why? Because I'll Be There is a brilliant, beautiful, compassionate, emotionally raw, effective and touching debut that more than exceeded my expectations. Wow. Stunning!!!

*I received a review copy of I'll Be There from Hachette Book Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

***BIBLIOPHILE ALERT! I have been reading like an even crazier book addict than usual this year, and apparently three reviews a week can't keep up pace with me! Because of this, for the entire month of July I will be having FIVE reviews a week! That's right! Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! So, please remember to check back here more often during July - and come August I'm planning on returning to three reviews a week. Keep the schedule change in mind, and don't miss any reviews! :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Forever Princess


Forever Princess is the tenth and final book in the extremely popular Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot.

Just like I said about Princess Mia on Wednesday, if you haven't read the books before Forever Princess you'll find inevitable spoilers in the description of Forever Princess. I strongly suggest avoiding it till you get the chance to get caught up! Otherwise, lets see what Mia is up to you in this final (*sniff*) Princess Diaries...

It's been almost two years since Mia and Michael's epic breakup and Mia's epic breakdown. Now Mia is nearing her eighteenth birthday and her graduation from high school, and has changed quite a bit. For one thing, she has a non-obsessive relationship with J. P., a healthy friendship with Tina and (shockingly enough) Lana, and a senior project that is a real accomplishment.

Of course no one knows what it actually is, besides very few people. Mia has decided to keep the fact that her senior project is actually a historical romance novel a secret, especially since all she's been receiving are rejection letters from publishers. So who knows if it is even any good. Apparently the last two years of her life were a waste.

Despite being much more levelheaded than her younger counterpart, Mia can't get herself to be as into her boyfriend as everyone else is, nor can she ignore the fact that Michael is back from Japan and looking very good. But they've both moved on, and Mia has no excuse for not loving J. P. as much as he loves her.

So Mia tries to get herself excited for prom (which will be hard to do when she's trying to avoid it) while watching her dad's poll numbers drop and her cousin Rene's poll numbers rise in the election for Prime Minister of Genovia (completely her fault), and tries to figure out what she's going to do next. Her choices (clearly) have consequences...

When we return to Mia's life in Forever Princess we have skipped over almost two years of time. This is quickly explained away by the fact that while she was writing her novel she wasn't writing in her journal at all. She returns to us much more mature - so much so it is startling! She has a calmer, more confident and sarcastic tone. It's great, but I couldn't help but miss the excited, slightly crazy Mia I had grown to love - and wondered if this was inevitable with the loss of Michael and her lifetime best friend Lilly. Her life changed so much, why wouldn't she?

The fact that Mia has been with J. P. the entire time surprised me, but I found it extremely believable. He's been a secure rock in her life, if perhaps a bit boring and clingy from my standpoint. I really liked J. P. at first, but Meg Cabot has done a great job of making him layered, and even a bit irritating, in a natural way.

I am still flabbergasted that Lana is friends with Mia now, and to see that she still is - awesome! It's refreshing and happily unexpected. And then we have the ever-so-hot Michael come back and spark a light in some of Mia's long dormant giddiness (which has a more grown up tone, but still), which she tries to squash - but makes me ecstatic.

As I was reading Forever Princess, I couldn't believe how much I wanted Mia and Michael to get back together!!! I was on pins and needles the whole time, whipping through the pages. I will not, of course, tell you if my wish comes true or not - you'll have to read it for yourself.

Forever Princess was inspiring, empowering, and bittersweet as we said good-bye to characters I have come to adore, now iconic and beloved in my bibliophile mind. It was a fun yet sensitive end to a series that really emphasized supportive, loyal friendships and the importance of finding your own voice, instead of relying on someone else's. I truly, truly loved it!!!

Still absolutely laugh-out-loud funny and charming, Forever Princess brought to us a phenomenally romantic and exciting conclusion! I gobbled it up - enjoying every delightful, hilarious, touching, and oh-so-terribly awesome bite!!!

I am SO glad I finally got a chance to read the end of the Princess Diaries series, because it is an incredibly PERFECT ending - leaving me gleeful from my fingertips to my toes!!! And a little sad, too. Because I no longer to get to read a Mia story for the first time. Well, except for Sweet Sixteen Princess - which I haven't gotten to yet. So, here I come!

Thanks for an amazing ride, Meg! :)

***BIBLIOPHILE ALERT! I have been reading like an even crazier book addict than usual this year, and apparently three reviews a week can't keep up pace with me! Because of this, for the entire month of July I will be having FIVE reviews a week! That's right! Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! So, please remember to check back here more often during July - and come August I'm planning on returning to three reviews a week. Keep the schedule change in mind, and don't miss any reviews! :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Princess Mia


Princess Mia is the ninth novel in Meg Cabot's best-selling Princess Diaries YA humor/romance/drama series.

If you haven't read The Princess Diaries from the beginning, or aren't at the ninth book yet, I strongly recommend that you avoid this review and all the spoilers that will inevitably come from it. I know the book has been out for a while, but I managed to avoid spoilers, and you can too!

All right - you've been warned - synopsis begins NOW:

Mia is in shock. Her relationship with Michael, the guy she has loved forever, is over. She threw her snowflake necklace at him. He left on a flight to Japan and won't be coming back for a long time. And their relationship is over.

Life has lost its purpose for Mia. Especially now that Lilly refuses to speak to her and seems to hate her. J. P. tries his best to cheer Mia up, taking her to see Beauty & the Beast - but nothing helps. How can it? Michael's gone.

So, when Mia gets home she curls up in bed with Fat Louie and refuses to get back out (other than sneak binge trips to the refrigerator and necessary bathroom stops). She just stays in bed sleeping in her Hello Kitty pajamas or watching mindless television in her Hello Kitty pajamas.

But her Mom can only take this so long, and soon Mia's dad (Prince Philippe of Genovia) shows up and forcefully takes her out of the loft and straight into the office of a therapist. A therapist! A therapist that talks about the horses he has back at his ranch way too much to be normal.

Yet as much as Mia tries to stop it, life must go on. Despite her heartache, Grandmere insists that Mia speak at the Domina Rei gala, a party for a bunch of powerful businesswoman for the society they are a part of: a society that Grandmere always wanted to be invited into to.

While trying to memorize the speech Grandmere wrote for her (to make it more spontaneous than reading it off the paper, because who wouldn't be spontaneous about the drainage systems of Genovia?), Mia discovers the journal of a teenage princess of Genovia from the days of the Plague.

It finally sparks an interest in Mia, the first since the loss of Michael. But what she finds in the journal might change everything...

You can imagine how I've felt, being stuck at Mia and Michael's breakup in book eight for years now! Finally, here I am continuing the series (yay!), and find poor Mia so very, understandably, sad over it. Of course, I didn't feel like Mia's reaction to Michael's revelation was that bad, except perhaps a bit dramatic. After all, how would Michael have reacted if Mia had had the same news for him?

Having Mia be an outsider in Princess Mia is so sad, especially to see her so depressed. Though her moping gets to be a bit much after a while. But then I was shocked at how poignant her wake-up call at the therapist ends up being, a surprising turn after how funny her forced removal from bed begins! You begin to feel that Mia is overdue for a bit of help. And there is something sweet and solemn about this particular foray into Mia's life - a character that I have felt has begun to mature over the course of the series but has retained a passionate personality, but who now is in a downward spiral.

Though there are still great funny moments, Princess Mia is a completely different direction for the series - and I absolutely adored it! I simply could not stop reading it, even when I was (*ahem*) supposed to. I could hardly believe that conclusion, which is incredible, nearly brought tears to my eyes!!! I was inspired and touched!

Princess Mia was a huge step in the series and in Mia's character's life. It made me all the more in desperate need of the final novel: Forever Princess. Here I come!!!

***BIBLIOPHILE ALERT! I have been reading like an even crazier book addict than usual this year, and apparently three reviews a week can't keep up pace with me! Because of this, for the entire month of July I will be having FIVE reviews a week! That's right! Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! So, please remember to check back here more often during July - and come August I'm planning on returning to three reviews a week. Keep the schedule change in mind, and don't miss any reviews! :)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Valentine Princess


Valentine Princess is a Princess Diaries YA humorous novella by Meg Cabot.

Whatever happened on Mia and Michael's first Valentine's Day as a couple? It was never addressed in the many diaries we read from Mia's perspective. But at sixteen, Mia finds a long-lost journal covering all the Mia-craziness associated with that first momentous day as a couple, from her freshman year.

In it, Mia tries to figure out why it is that Boris can't seem to help himself but to proclaim his love for Lilly on Valentine's Day, and even Kenny presents Mia with a Whitman's sampler, but Michael just doesn't think the holiday is worth celebrating with heart-shaped candies and roses?

Mia is determined to make their first Valentine's Day a memorable one. And hopefully get Michael on board with it!

It had been a while since I had read my Princess Diaries books - and I just recently got the opportunity to read the final two (!), which I have long been in need of and have been having to avoid spoilers of for a really, really long time. I am a huge fan of the first eight books and the novellas and lesson books in between - so I thought that Valentine Princess might be a good refresher before I read the finale, as I didn't have time to reread the whole series (which is what I would have liked to have done).

Valentine Princess did exactly that: refresh me. Sure it is back from Mia's freshman year, which isn't where I'll be taking off in Princess Mia, but still. I got to reorient myself to Meg Cabot's delicious, hilarious, humor and the sometimes outrageous, but always charming voice of Mia.

Though extremely short at only 86 pages (which is why it's a novella, not a novel), Valentine Princess was fun, definitely romantic (Michael. Sigh.), entertaining, and the perfect type of "fluff" to spend your afternoon enjoying. It reminded me of how much I love this series and these characters - and made me all the more excited to see how the series will conclude!

Meg Cabot never disappoints - and this is no exception!

***BIBLIOPHILE ALERT! I have been reading like an even crazier book addict than usual this year, and apparently three reviews a week can't keep up pace with me! Because of this, for the entire month of July I will be having FIVE reviews a week! That's right! Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! So, please remember to check back here more often during July - and come August I'm planning on returning to three reviews a week. Keep the schedule change in mind, and don't miss any reviews! :)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Author Kat Gerard Visits!



Debut author Kat Gerard is visiting us today to talk about her new book In Transit and her journey in writing it. Let's give her a big Bibliophile welcome!!!

A Novel 17 Years-in-the-Making

My novel, IN TRANSIT, was released in May, but I actually started writing the book 17 years before it was published. A literary agent I had when I was in my early 20s, had an "in" with a romance publisher that was looking for "women in jeopardy" stories. The publisher recommended that aspiring authors read the book REBECCA by Daphne du Mauier (1938) to inspire their own stories. REBECCA is about a girl's transition into womanhood - how her innocent intentions grow into something much larger, as well as duplicity, secrets and lies. REBECCA really appealed to me because of the bold characterizations of a very powerful older man and a younger woman who is not quite so powerful and the surprises that befall their relationship as a result.

With that in mind, I brainstormed, searching for my own unique story to tell. A dear friend of mine since high school, had been working as a New York City Police Officer. She prowled about the New York City Subway System on a midnight to 8 a.m. shift...If that didn't epitomize a "woman in jeopardy," what did? I planted that seed in my imagination and that's when a story began to flourish.

One of my favorite contemporary romance novels is BEYOND EDEN by Catherine Coulter. It's a metropolitan story about "Eden," a New York model (with secrets) who falls in love with an older, handsome ex-cop, with a sordid past of his own. I loved the chemistry between the two main characters, and I really admired how Coulter interwove the plot with elements of romance, family dynamics, mystery and murder.

That mix was exactly what I had in mind in fashioning and structuring IN TRANSIT, and I wanted my novel to crisscross genres, too. However, unlike the more "exotic" nature of BEYOND EDEN, I wanted to write about the lives of ordinary people who just happen to be police officers. The characters in IN TRANSIT might be like those who live next door to you and go to their jobs in the NYPD like a neighbor might go to work as a plumber or a teacher.

IN TRANSIT begins as a rather naive quest for Rita Del Vecchio, a 22 year-old "Jersey Girl" with innocent intentions of becoming an NYPD cop and "marrying a man in uniform." Once she passes the police exam and training, her story snowballs into something much more harrowing and ominous. The plot is rooted in the ordinary lives of NYPD career cops, the choices they make (or don't make), and depicts how their fates are often determined by people who hold secrets as dark and as labyrinth-like as the New York City Subway Transit System.

It took me about four months (8-10 hours per day) to write a very rough, first draft of the book - Rita's (the protagonist's) story was central, and then I rewrote the novel again and again over the next year. When my agent finally submitted the novel to the publisher, it was met with favorable responses, but it was ultimately rejected. At the time, it was a crushing blow, but over the years, I've learned that's the business of writing. Sometimes it's hit or miss. When you miss, you simply dust yourself off and move on to the next project. That's when I decided to put IN TRANSIT away, and I began to work on another book...then another...and so on.

Seventeen years later, an editor who heard me read a portion of another novel at a writing workshop asked if I had any genre fiction "in the hopper." I remembered IN TRANSIT and sent her a sample. When she expressed interest, I decided to resurrect the novel and completely overhauled the book - updating facets of the plot for a post 9-11 world. Voila! The book finally found a home!

Have you ever committed to something for a period of time in your life - be it in a relationship...in pursuit of a dream or passion...a goal you felt you needed to pursue in order to find fulfillment in your life? Were you met with opposition or did people embrace your choice? We encourage you to share your stories with us.

To learn more about Kathleen Gerard and IN TRANSIT - and to read more details about the story behind the story visit http://intransit-thenovel.blogspot.com

Copyright 2011 by Kathleen Gerard. All Rights Reserved.

Thank you, Kat, for stopping by today! It was a pleasure! :)

***BIBLIOPHILE ALERT! I have been reading like an even crazier book addict than usual this year, and apparently three reviews a week can't keep up pace with me! Because of this, for the entire month of July I will be having FIVE reviews a week! That's right! Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! So, please remember to check back here more often during July - and come August I'm planning on returning to three reviews a week. Keep the schedule change in mind, and don't miss any reviews! :)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Distant Waves: A Novel of the Titanic


Distant Waves: A Novel of the Titanic is a YA supernatural historical novel by Suzanne Weyn.

Being the daughter of a famed clairvoyant isn't always a dream come true. This becomes more and more apparent to Jane as she and her four sisters grow up in the town of Spirit Vale, a place where their mother settled them at the turn of the twentieth century. The town is entirely inhabited by spiritualists, believers, and the tourists who come in seeking answers. When she was young, Jane was convinced of her mother's abilities - but her older, beautiful sister Mimi thinks otherwise. The twins, Emma and Amelie, further complicate matters by seeming to be the next in line to set up shop, since their strange bond and seemingly psychic connections hearkens to an inheritance of "the gift". But the youngest, Blythe, really couldn't care less - she just wants to be famous.

Jane just doesn't know. As she nears 1912 at almost seventeen, she tries not to worry much about what she believes to be true or not, but lets herself be caught up in the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and her impossible dreams of being a writer. But it seems her interest in the genius Nikola Tesla will bring Jane her own adventures - adventures that turn terrifying as the Taylor sisters, the famed inventor, and the great luxury ship Titanic converge fates...

My synopsis of Distant Waves feels weak to me, probably because the novel is so multilayered. I only want to give away so much, as it is full of unexpected twists from beginning to end.

And what a beginning it is! We start off in the middle of one of Jane's mother's seances, in which she was still pregnant with Blythe and all the other girls are very young. It is creepy and ghostly right off the bat! But instead of trying to be a ghost story, Suzanne Weyn brings to us an interesting, compelling tale of coming-of-age among the early 1900s fascination with spiritualism, with a medium as a mother. The question of whether or not her mother is a fraud is constantly intriguing - adding yet another human layer to the fascinating, page-turning book Distant Waves ended up being.

Jane is an excellent character to follow, quieter and more in the background among her more vivacious or odd sisters. The historical details vibrate to the point of feeling like you're there, without filling too many pages with paragraphs of mindless description. There is a strangeness, a wonder, that comes from Jane's unorthodox upbringing and the question of: are ghosts real or is it all a con?

There are revelations involving almost ever character in Distant Waves that are surprising and done with a surprisingly delicate tone. Suzanne Weyn presents identity issues, the pain of family love, and a sisterly bond that bends so much you wonder if it'll break. It is jarring, compelling, and wholly original!

Distant Waves gives us an entirely new story involving the Titanic tragedy that makes it something entirely romantic, heartbreaking, unabashedly spooky, frantically scary as it reaches the depths of survival, and an amazing read!!! I look forward to reading this intelligent novel again!

A great read!

***BIBLIOPHILE ALERT! I have been reading like an even crazier book addict than usual this year, and apparently three reviews a week can't keep up pace with me! Because of this, for the entire month of July I will be having FIVE reviews a week! That's right! Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! So, please remember to check back here more often during July - and come August I'm planning on returning to three reviews a week. Keep the schedule change in mind, and don't miss any reviews! :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

To Win Her Heart


To Win Her Heart is a Christian historical fiction novel by Karen Witemeyer.

When the burly Levi Grant shows up in 1887 Spencer, Texas to be hired for the town blacksmith position, everybody is taken off guard by his large size - including Eden Spencer, daughter of the town's founder. His halting speech leads people to quickly believe he is more brawn than brain, but Eden is surprised when Levi starts turning up at her lending library, reading avidly. The two pieces just don't fit, and Eden can't help but find herself interested to know more.

But Eden has sworn to never be a fool again after her disastrous engagement five years ago. She has resolved herself to be a spinster, and find happiness in her library, charity work, and love of the Lord. Yet Levi's eyes are kind and her attraction to him deepens into friendship...

Levi Grant is glad he has a chance to start over after being released from prison. His was an unintentional crime, but the guilt and shame he feels from it still lingers. During his incarceration he found God, and is looking to make a new life in Spencer, Texas - and he dares not to hope that the pretty and slowly less guarded Eden Spencer might be returning his feelings. But how would she, a lady of good standing, react to finding out about his violent past?

Alrighty! So, I've heard about Karen Witemeyer's books before - that they mix great historical romance with humor and lightheartedness - and I am happy to report that is exactly what I found in To Win Her Heart! Both the title and the cover don't really do the story justice, in my opinion. So often I feel this way when it comes to this genre. Cheesy titles can turn more people off than interest them, and that is just a shame. For me, please ignore the rather corny title and trust me when I say that To Win Her Heart transcends it!

First off - Levi is instantly charming with his impressive masculinity but sweet gentleman demeanor. He's not written an eye-rolling way at all (a problem I sometimes run into in romance novels), but is actually genuinely likable and convincingly attractive. Witemeyer's writing has a delicately flirty air about it and a wonderful self-awareness that already had me having fun within the first twenty pages! I mean, this man (Levi) has a love and caring for animals and a hobby of reading novels, both of which only causes me to love him even more - as well as the story! And again, all of these personality details feel organic and believable rather than cloying. Oh my!

It's easy to forget about our female heroine, Eden, in the wake of all this male hotness - but Eden is definitely her own person - perhaps sometimes a bit stuffy, but she is more guarded than anything else. The fact that she loves novels is always a plus! By the end I definitely loved her, too.

To Win Her Heart features a sizzling attraction and burgeoning romance between our two leads that is hampered by secrets and things left unsaid, causing the story to be a heartrending, moving tale. I absolutely adore the characters, especially Levi (I can't help myself) and found that Karen Witemeyer brought an amazingly lovely human element to To Win Her Heart, an element that exposes hypocrisy, judgment and cruelty along with compassion and redemption.

The moments of pure honesty pierce through the historical richness and brought tears to my eyes - this is a fantastic read for lovers of historical romances, especially those of us who are Christians and appreciate a love of the Lord to permeate the pages as well! A suspenseful and breathless climax brought the beautiful romance to a head, and in the end my arms were covered in goosebumps.

To Win Her Heart is an inspiring, joyous, touching novel!!!

*I received a copy of To Win Her Heart from the Bethany House Book Reviewers program, which you can check out here. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

***BIBLIOPHILE ALERT! I have been reading like an even crazier book addict than usual this year, and apparently three reviews a week can't keep up pace with me! Because of this, for the entire month of July I will be having FIVE reviews a week! That's right! Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! So, please remember to check back here more often during July - and come August I'm planning on returning to three reviews a week. Keep the schedule change in mind, and don't miss any reviews! :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Life, After


Life, After is a YA contemporary novel by Sarah Darer Littman.

Argentina is Dani's home. But living there has brought on Dani's family serious, heartbreaking hardships. For one, a terrorist attack killed Dani's aunt and her unborn child. For another, government choices have thrown the country into economic ruin - causing Dani and her little sister Sari to go to bed each night hungry.

When her proud father can no longer deny the need to leave Argentina, as many families have done, Dani and her family arrive in America hoping for a brighter future. It's a hard adjustment. The apartment is even smaller, the high school is vast and full of students who are unkind, and Dani's father is still angry, still sullen.

But then Dani starts to make friends. First there is Jon, who is unusual and different from other students, and Brian whose grinning face proclaims himself her "personal GPS" around the school. And finally, popular, mean, cruel Jessica who might be hiding her own pain...

Dani's life is now completely different. It's not easy. But in it, maybe, she can find a way to move forward and leave behind the hurt and loss, and rebuild a fractured family...

Life, After presents an inspiring character in Dani, amidst a terribly sad story. It focuses on family, country, and the results of terrorism in such a poignant, touching, painfully realistic way. It is a story that easily relates to many of us struggling right now in America, especially in terms of the economic crisis. I couldn't help but become involved in the Dani's life, her sweet, little sister Sari, her courageous, strong mother, and distant, changed, bitter father. You yearn for their contentment and closeness to return. Life, After is lovely and riveting.

Sarah Darer Littman offers a perspective unlike any I've read before. It's simply beautiful with those real-life moments of laughter despite pain, and real-life moments of despair depite hope. The way this amazing author surprised me, touched me, and knocked me out with her delicate, believable, killer prose was stunning.

The characters, all of them, are full of depth and hide their own secret troubles and hurts. Oh, and how easy it is to fall for Brian - the dream guy that isn't so much a Prince Charming as much an honest, good guy with an awesome sense of humor and a caring heart. Not to mention he's cute. You root for Dani to have some happiness, to find some joy between the times of utter sadness at home - walking on eggshells around a father that once was beloved to her.

Life, After brought tears to my eyes! What a fantastic, profound and meaningful novel!!! All I could think as I closed the final page was: I love this book. I really, really love it.

***BIBLIOPHILE ALERT! I have been reading like an even crazier book addict than usual this year, and apparently three reviews a week can't keep up pace with me! Because of this, for the entire month of July I will be having FIVE reviews a week! That's right! Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! So, please remember to check back here more often during July - and come August I'm planning on returning to three reviews a week. Keep the schedule change in mind, and don't miss any reviews! :)

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Magnolia League


The Magnolia League is a mysterious YA novel by Katie Crouch.

Alexandria is still reeling as the sudden death of her beautiful and charming mother hits her hard. The two of them were close, and being without her is unimaginable. But then her wealthy, Southern grandmother, whom Alex has never met or heard of in her entire sixteen years of life, whisks her away to her Georgia home - taking Alex away from the organic farm community she has always known and loved.

And apparently her genes make her a member of an exclusive debutante society called the Magnolia League, which consists of multi-generations of attractive, thin, powerful women. Alex doesn't fit in, nor does she want to. Her dreadlocked hair, chubby form, and vintage tees aren't normal to these people - and she soon finds herself battling the cruelty of high school.

But how is it that the Magnolia League has so much? Luck? Or something more? Something darker? As she unwillingly gets sucked into their world, Alex begins to discover secrets about hoodoo and the cost of having it all.

The Magnolia League was entertaining and full of mystery right away. I loved the great setting of Savannah, Georgia and the voice of poor Alex is both hilarious and sad - her sarcasm can be a facade covering her fear and mourning, which adds an extra layer of depth and emotion to what otherwise could have been a fluff book.

But Katie Crouch presents us with a unique main character in Alex. We don't really get all that many overweight protagonists in YA, so when we do it is refreshing. But to also have had her grow up in a California commune with a hippie flair and a love of gardening - and certainly a lack of regular schooling - just make her all the more different and interesting to place in such a completely opposite situation in Georgia.

Alex's continuing mourning of her mother keeps The Magnolia League grounded, but the hoodoo and humor really make it fun and creepy at the same time! The awkwardness and sometimes wavering confidence make Alex super relatable and likable - making her an excellent, unorthodox character to have at the center of this huge web of secrets, lies, and sparklingly alluring mystery.

From beginning to end The Magnolia League is full of clues and ominous tone that suggests darker dealings than you would first guess. And then we get a killer cliffhanger end that left me dangling - wanting more answers and chapters!!! I was left perplexed because I didn't know this was going to be a series or have a sequel - but now all I can say is: there better be!!!!!

With its blend of Southern charm, family history, humor, horror and heart The Magnolia League is definitely worth the read! And it helps you to ask yourself this intriguing, relevant question: In the drive to improve yourself, could you lose yourself?

Oh, and by the way: Happy July 4th!!!

*I received a review copy of The Magnolia League from Hachette Book Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

*Want some free books? Click here to enter my contest to win TWO books!!! Plus, there's gonna be TWO winners, so your chances are even better!!! Don't miss out, click here before July 5th!!! :)

***BIBLIOPHILE ALERT! I have been reading like an even crazier book addict than usual this year, and apparently three reviews a week can't keep up pace with me! Because of this, for the entire month of July I will be having FIVE reviews a week! That's right! Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! So, please remember to check back here more often during July - and come August I'm planning on returning to three reviews a week. Keep the schedule change in mind, and don't miss any reviews! :)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Bitter End


Bitter End is a contemporary YA novel by Jennifer Brown.

Alex is spending her senior year of high school trying to put the finishing touches on her after graduation trip to Colorado with best friends Bethany and Zack. The three have been close since such a young age that the fact that Zack is now an athlete lady-lover, Bethany is an organizing, humantarian-in-training, and Alex is a budding poet doesn't cause them to split into different cliques. It's always been them, and it always will be.

And Alex is happy to have that stability as her father continues to not really say much of anything since her mother's death when Alex was young. Alex yearns to hear more about her Mom, why her Mom left that night drunk and insistent on going to Colorado, but she never receives any answers and has learned to stop asking. Her younger sister Celia doesn't seem to care, and her older sister Shannin has left for college without needing to seek more closure. But for Alex there never seems to be any closure. That is how the trip to Colorado was born - Alex knew that as soon as she was able, she wanted to go to where her Mom died in the car crash that fatal day and see what it was that was more important than her daughters. She needs to know that it was something meaningful. She needs to understand.

But before all the final planning is over and the first half of senior is even close to concluding, Alex has a new student, Cole, to tutor. He transferred in his senior year and has that athletic, attractive quality that can't help but fluster Alex a bit. The more incredible thing is that he's interested in her. Before she knows it they are dating and she's spending all her time with him. He doesn't like her friendship with Zack, and admits he gets jealous - which feels like compliment. But he starts to get more angry. And over time it seems to be getting worse.

Yet they talk about family and they seem to understand each other so well - and when he tells her he loves her, it's bliss. But as her time with Zack and Bethany reaches near zero as Cole's rage reaches a new peak, Alex's love turns to fear.

Right away I could tell that we were in for a fast read with a true to the heart journey. Jennifer Brown writes relatable, realistic characters and dialogue and quickly wraps you up in their lives. Bitter End is slowly but surely terrifying as Alex's relationship with Cole is almost immediately controlling and all-consuming.

You can't help but be frustrated with Alex and her refusal to see the telltale signs of abuse and cruelty, but you're also sympathetic to her denial and hunger for love. It's heart-wrenching to watch as Cole wrecks her life, unknowingly to her, and deliberately places himself as her only "friend". It is painful and hard to read at times, and grows increasingly so as Bitter End continues.

Jennifer Brown presents the chilling verbal and mental control and abuse and expertly leads us down the scary path to those first violent outbursts in a believable way. It is psychologically spot-on and has such a beautifully vulnerable and sad tone.

Bitter End is horrifying - steadily becoming more and more intense, it made me sick to my stomach. It is an excellent portrayal of abuse and an excellently written novel - up there with the likes of Sarah Dessen!

*I received a review copy of Bitter End from Hachette Book Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

*Want some free books? Click here to enter my contest to win TWO books!!! Plus, there's gonna be TWO winners, so your chances are even better!!! Don't miss out, click here before July 5th!!! :)