Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Juliet Immortal

Juliet Immortal is a YA supernatural fantasy by Stacey Jay.

Plus – it’s awesome.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we?

The story we all know of Romeo & Juliet is a lie. Juliet did not take her own life. She was murdered by the one person she loved and trusted most in her young fourteen years – Romeo. He sacrificed her for his own chance at immortality.

Romantic, right?

Yeah, not so much.

What Romeo didn’t know is that the dark forces that encouraged him to make that decision and granted him his immortal status had a counterpart force called the Ambassadors of Light. And as Juliet lay dying they offered her the same shot at eternal life, working against him.

Now for seven hundred years, Juliet wanders in mist until every fifty years or so she is yanked back to earth and pulled into the mind and body of a Soul Mate that is on the edge of securing their love with another. Essentially, her job is to insure that Romeo and the forces he works for don’t swoop in and destroy their love and life – like they did to Juliet.

Though she’s supposed to be doing all of this out of the goodness of her heart – Juliet struggles with her primary objective: make Romeo suffer. Her biggest motivation is beating Romeo, saving the couple at the center of the supernatural battle from his now very dark, cruel, bloodthirsty heart – a heart that she believed she once knew as well as her own.

But this time when she’s pulled from the mist, everything is a bit off. She can’t reach the Ambassadors, Romeo is talking even more nonsense than normal (when he’s not trying to kill her – again), and Juliet is somehow feeling a deep connection with the boy she is trying to save. Something suspiciously like love.

It’s absolutely forbidden – and Romeo most certainly won’t stand the thought of her being happy.

Among all the death, despair, and betrayal – can Juliet ever be free to love again?

Juliet Immortal is awesome!

Oh, did I already say that?

Here’s the thing – Stacey Jay has presented us with one of the most famous couples in literature and torn their story apart and remade it into a sprawling, romantic, epic-like battle full of duplicity, bitterness, and the hope of healing. It’s stunning to read.

Purely original, Juliet Immortal sweeps you away to a story where you don’t know who to trust, death lurks around every corner, and forbidden love sizzles with true emotion and chemistry. I don’t want to give too much away, because there are twists galore in this book – but I rooted for Juliet from start to finish, even when there seemed to be no way for her to win.

I became very invested in the story and it zipped along at a swift pace. Here we can find character development and a fantasy plot that weaves in a darker, grimmer tone that is very intriguing and involving.

All I can really say is: READ IT!!!

You don’t want to know anymore, honestly. It’s suspenseful, gritty, lovely, creepy, tender, and kinda poetic! And – thank goodness – there is a sequel coming out later this year! I don’t even want to give you the title because it might influence your opinion of what’s going on in Juliet Immortal, believe it or not. Look it up later.

In the meantime, if you haven’t already, go feed your bibliophile appetite (which, let’s admit it, is insatiable) by reading Juliet Immortal!

*By the way, this week will be the last week in the foreseeable future that I will have five posts a week. Starting on Monday March 5th, I will be returning to three reviews a week – Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I’m sure we’ll have another month or two in 2012 of five reviews a week, but let’s give our bibliophile selves a little time to breathe for a while, agreed? :)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Daughter of the Centaurs

Daughter of the Centaurs is a YA futuristic fantasy by Kate Klimo.

Malora has always wanted to be a master horseman like her father, despite it being traditional that she follow in her mother’s steps instead and pursue healing. Yet nothing could keep her from the horses.

But at the very young age of twelve Malora watches as a horrid species called Leatherwings attacks her small settlement of People and kills both horses and People. Her mother encourages Malora to flee on the horse Sky and never return.

With time, Malora learns to survive on the land and begins to gather around her a large family of horses. She rescues some, she raises some, and she names them all. They are her boys and girls. Yet she longs for conversation, for the small talk she had with her mother, for human companionship. She hopes that somewhere, someplace there are more People that she can find.

Instead, her path crosses a group of centaurs – the very beings that were the humans’ downfall many years ago. To them she is a revelation, a surprise, as they believed all People to be dead and gone – which could very well now be true, except for Malora.

She allows herself to be taken to their city and begins to enjoy a life of entertainment and dialogue, and her horses are taken to a stall to be trained in a race the leader of the centaurs’ is determined to win.

But did she make the right choice, or did her loneliness blind her to the centaurs’ danger?

Today we are happily part of the Daughter of the Centaurs blog tour!

Daughter of the Centaurs is sad and tragic to start but also increasingly engaging and engrossing as we follow years of Malora’s life in a few short pages. There is a subdued yet powerful vibe.

In this mixture of sci-fi, survival, and fantasy, we have a strong, capable heroine in Malora. Her family of horses, whom she loves earnestly, intensifies her likability factor – though it also provides fodder for more extremely wretched moments later on. Kate Klimo certainly makes the grief potent. Grief for what?

Do you think I underwent a complete personality change overnight and now will provide spoilers? Ha!

Once we become involved with the centaurs we are presented with a truly magnetic, detailed idea that is executed relatively well. I certainly haven’t read any books about centaurs lately, which helps to make it feel fresh. The centaurs are a race of their own, both fascinating and superficial oftentimes, living in a world in our future where novels from Stephenie Meyer are considered “ancient”. That gave me a laugh. Kate Klimo has clearly created an entire world and history for the species that we only get a small glimpse of here.

Though Daughter of the Centaurs has much more telling than showing, it is still a fast-moving and gripping debut. I enjoyed the novel, but the story kind of plods along at a leisurely pace without any real discernible plot. So, my feelings were rather mixed. I was never once bored, yet desired more. You know what I mean?

Later on I became frustrated with Malora and the way she’s swept away, a bit, by the life of the centaurs – and this only increased as some later plot developments with her horses reveal themselves. The last quarter of the novel is an improvement, but kind of comes out of nowhere.

Yet, again, Kate Klimo provides the horses with delightful personalities and gives them a voice through an animal lovers’ consideration and gives us an interesting novel here.

Despite the surprising lack of incentive to return for a second book (Daughter of the Centaurs declares itself the first in a series called Centauriad), I would probably give it a shot. I just really wanted more plot and purpose.

Let me know what you thought!

*By the way, this week will be the last week in the foreseeable future that I will have five posts a week. Starting on Monday March 5th, I will be returning to three reviews a week – Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I’m sure we’ll have another month or two in 2012 of five reviews a week, but let’s give our bibliophile selves a little time to breathe for a while, agreed? :)

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Death Cure

The Death Cure is a YA sci-fi dystopia by James Dashner and the third novel in The Maze Runner trilogy.

As always in a series of any sort, a synopsis will give away hefty spoilers of the previous books, so if you have not yet read The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials (books one and two), you should avoid this review. Don’t make me the cause of the ruination of your reading experience!!!

Now, I am trusting, bibliophile to bibliophile, that you who are still reading have been following the James Dashner trilogy and will not be spoiled by anything below. Okay then…

The Death Cure opens where The Scorch Trials left off. After trekking through the charred, dead lands of the Scorch in search of the “safe haven” WICKED promised, the Gladers are exhausted. They’ve lost more friends to the cruel trials and tests these mad scientists have put them through and are certainly not going to trust their assurances the testing is over.

Yet Thomas has now seen firsthand the virus called the Flare and what it turns a human being into – a mindless, insane, bloodthirsty shell of their former self. WICKED claims to have put them through everything they have in order to form a blueprint to cure the Flare, but Thomas must undergo one final test to complete it.

Like Thomas would believe a word they say.

However, Thomas has begun to remember more of his past on his own and he’s ready to bring the truth to light. He’s done playing WICKED’s games. He’s done watching noble kids die for the “greater good”.

The time for lies is over.

Alrighty. So, you already know that I really enjoyed The Maze Runner. I also liked The Scorch Trials quite a bit, though my enthusiasm waned a bit as the story continued in that one. Now, on the third and final book in the series, I really had high hopes that I would find an exciting conclusion.

Yet…

The best part about the series, in my opinion, was the psychological thriller portion of it. The pieces of the puzzle that we were putting together with Thomas. The insanity, the twists, etc. Once James Dashner made WICKED’s intentions clear, however, that kind of went out the window. The Scorch Trials still had elements of it, which is why I still liked it, though the revelations fell a little flat for me when it came to the reasoning behind the trials.

Now, The Death Cure has essentially none of those plot points that I liked best about the first two books. Thomas is escaping WICKED, which is great and all, but none of the cool, sci-fi bewilderment is in there anymore. Everything is about the Flare. And though people that have the Flare are creepy, it’s a glorified zombie virus that doesn’t feel as fresh as being part of an experiment.

Sadly, I was rather disappointed with this final book. You could totally disagree! Read it for yourself, of course! Personally, it didn’t take the story in the direction I wanted – and the cohesiveness really fell apart for me in The Death Cure.

I’m still interested in reading the prequel The Kill Order when it comes out – but I can’t help but hope there’s some shockers in there that shake up the meaning of The Death Cure. I was left feeling a bit cold.

Not every book meets our expectations. But The Death Cure may certainly meet yours. Don’t miss out on forming your own opinion about how Thomas’ story plays out!

*By the way, this week will be the last week in the foreseeable future that I will have five posts a week. Starting on Monday March 5th, I will be returning to three reviews a week – Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I’m sure we’ll have another month or two in 2012 of five reviews a week, but let’s give our bibliophile selves a little time to breathe for a while, agreed? :)

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Scorch Trials

The Scorch Trials is a YA sci-fi novel by James Dashner and the second book in The Maze Runner trilogy.

If you haven’t read The Maze Runner, I suggest reading yesterday’s review of the novel and avoiding this synopsis, since it will obviously contain spoilers of the first book. The Maze Runner was awesome, so don’t ruin it!!!

Otherwise, for all of you who have read The Maze Runner, proceed:

The Scorch Trials takes off right where we left our characters in The Maze Runner. Thomas, Teresa, Minho, Newt and all the other surviving Gladers have just been rescued from WICKED, the Creators of the enormous maze they were trapped in and, apparently, being observed in.

They’ve just had a good meal, a shower, and are laying down for a solid night’s sleep after days of awfulness and death – but Thomas’ dreams are cut short by a telepathic scream from Teresa.

When Thomas and the other Gladers wake up, nothing is what it was when they went to bed. None of their rescuers are around. They can’t seem to find a door out of the place. And wild, violent, insane people infected with a disease called the Flare are trying to get in.

Yet things get even worse from there. It doesn’t take Thomas and the others long to realize that Teresa is missing. In fact, it seems a random, unfamiliar boy they’ve never seen has been placed in her room and is just as surprised and alarmed to see them.

Obviously they may have made it out of the maze, but the game is far from over.

A new mission is laid out and Thomas and the others find themselves crossing a scorched, unspeakably hot desert dotted with crumbled buildings and dangerous Cranks (the term for those infected with the Flare), with new horrors around every corner.

But Thomas and the others aren’t giving up. They’ll find Teresa. They’ll survive.

And, eventually, they’ll find the Creators…

I tried to give a decent overview of the plot of The Scorch Trials without giving anything MAJOR out. I hope I succeeded.

I really, really liked The Maze Runner – and here in The Scorch Trials , James Dashner is at it again! This is another twisty, bewildering, conspiracy-theory, freaky, suspenseful, energetic, rapidly paced novel to continue a puzzle that seems to become even more complex with time. Yet I still feel like The Death Cure (the third novel in the trilogy, which I’ll be reviewing on Monday) will provide answers, so I’m more than happy to go on this trippy, scary, nail-biting journey with Thomas and the others.

Though I don’t know if I could say I was as pleased with it as I was with The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials takes the psychological side of the novels to a new high and really plunges you into a I-can’t-trust-anyone, what-the-hell-is-going-on? feeling that is fun to sink into.

I was never once bored. Not even a teeny bit. And when James Dashner throws in his own version of a zombie-like infection, it’s pretty darn creepy, if a tad familiar. Overall, though, this is a book that messes with your mind – it’s all a big enigma. You never know who’s telling the truth, what is planned and what isn’t, and if it will EVER be over. That’s what’s exciting.

So, I’m prepared to jump into The Death Cure – hopefully the answers and end will be as exhilarating and breathless as the journey to get there was!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner is a YA sci-fi novel by James Dashner.

Thomas wakes up confused and disoriented in a big metal box that is slowly, agonizingly lifting up to somewhere. He has no memory of anything – though he can remember movies, cities, etc., nothing is concrete, nothing is personal, there are no faces in his memory. It feels like an unnatural wipe has been done to his mind. He only knows one thing: his name is Thomas.

When the box opens, he finds himself in the midst of a colossal maze with unbelievably high walls where a large society of other boys, who arrived the same way, have created a semblance of community and stability among the craziness. They’ve been trying to escape the maze for two years – but they have yet to find an exit. They’re trapped, and they have no idea why.

Nobody knows much more than Thomas, though they do know the massive stone walls to the maze close every night – and nobody wants to be left out there. They know that every thirty days another boy arrives, exactly like Thomas, and every week a lift full of supplies and food comes like clockwork.

But then the day after Thomas arrives, the alarm announcing another new arrival begins sounding. Way too early. And when they open it – the arrival is a girl. Also unheard of.

And when Thomas sees her, it’s as if something has been set off in his brain. He’s afraid there might be answers in his mind – memories that are necessary to their survival as things begin to quickly fall apart in the maze. If only he could remember…

The Maze Runner came out about three years ago, so I’m betting a good few of you have already read it. I’m late to the game, having only recently gotten all three books in the trilogy. I’ll be reviewing The Scorch Trials (book two) tomorrow and The Death Cure (book three of the trilogy) on Monday.

I found it to be intriguing and mysterious to start – very effectually so. We’re thrown into the perplexity and discombobulation of Thomas’ new life with as little knowledge as him. The creepy predicament of being a huge maze with amnesia – with no one who has answers – to me, was a fantastically unique premise that caught my attention and hung on to it.

Plus, there are more than a few unforeseen revelations from the get-go that continue non-stop. The Maze Runner is plotted at a tight, break-neck speed that keeps the reader on their toes. I found it to be nerve-wracking, exciting, and a legitimate psychological thriller!

When James Dashner tries to freak you out, you freak out. The heart-pounding action as Thomas struggles to survive in the maze, displaying courage and nobility, makes him a likable hero. Though the cool thing is that neither he nor we know who he might be once he recalls his life. Very interesting…

Questions mount, answers are scarce, and my curiosity was tantalized constantly. The Maze Runner felt like one big mystery, or a puzzle that you wanted to figure out. I really liked that ambiance. And I felt like the author would have satisfactory answers with time, my instincts were trusting – so I allowed myself to be taken on this wild ride.

And then – wowza! The crazy cliffhanger ending had me scrambling for The Scorch Trials!!!

If you haven’t read The Maze Runner yet – I suggest you do so… right now!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Why We Broke Up

Why We Broke Up is a YA contemporary novel by Daniel Holder with art by Maira Kalman.

Sixteen-year-old Min has broken up with her boyfriend, Ed. This book is her letter to him as she returns a box of items and mementos that she has come to collect over the course of their relationship. Each item, from a box of matches to a movie ticket, foretells the end of their time together and Min explains how in this letter to him.

This is the story of why they broke up.

Okay, Why We Broke Up seems to be quite the polarizing novel. I’ve seen people who absolutely love it, and then… there are people like me… who didn’t.

At all.

I know I’ve said this a gazillion times, but I once again want to reiterate: This only my opinion. Please never not read a book because I say I don’t care for it. The Bibliophile Support Group is a place where I honestly discuss my thoughts on novels and try to help and bring them to your attention – never to dissuade you from trying them yourself. Okay?! Okay.

Now, continuing…

Daniel Holder is the real name of the man behind Lemony Snicket and the entire A Series of Unfortunate Events. I absolutely, positively love that series. He was the main reason I decided to read Why We Broke Up, though the premise itself didn’t sound all that interesting.

Here’s my problem – we’re supposed to believe the narrator is a sixteen-year-old girl writing a semi-angry, enlightening letter (that is over 300 pages) to her now ex-boyfriend. But, oh my goodness! The sentences are incredibly long-winded and nonsensical that it put me off right away. Just starting the book, I was floored by how much I disliked the writing and, because of this, the character. I was surprised because, like I said, I found A Series of Unfortunate Events to be witty, smart, hilarious, and excellent. Yet this first-person narration came across as unrealistic, too forced, too much, and impossible to relate to – for me.

I could never get a handle on who Ed was. I never cared one way or the other. Min kind of came across as a rambling, inane, kinda irksome girl. I hate to say that, but that’s how I felt. As much as I tried to reorient myself to the vibe and tone of the novel, the continually wordy, incoherent paragraphs just didn’t do it for me.

Because of how I felt I couldn’t keep trying to read it word-for-word. The writing style made it kind of unbearable for me to. So, I skimmed a bit, checking in occasionally to see if the prose had improved to something more grounded and authentic – but it never did.

Sadly, in the end I had no reason to care why they broke up.

Remember, there are a ton of readers’ out there who have loved Why We Broke Up – so go try it for yourself!

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Once a Witch

Once a Witch is a YA urban fantasy by Carolyn MacCullough.

Seventeen-year-old Tamsin Greene was born to her family of witches to a proclamation of greatness from their matriarch, her grandmother.

Yet when her eighth birthday came around, the age that everybody in the family shows their Talents if they haven’t already, she was still as ordinary as ever. The only non-Talented person in their family ever.

As she grew up, this strained her relationships. It was hard for her to see her cousins, or anyone else, use their powers. The look they’d give Tamsin when they did – a mixture of guilt and pity – was too much for her. She never fit in. Tamsin even forwent writing back to her best childhood friend Gabriel that moved away because his Talent for finding things made him just another person that reminded her she had no Talent and was just a huge disappointment.

By seventeen Tamsin has generally gotten over it, but not so much that she likes spending time at home – a place where everybody in her extended Talented family lives. She managed to get permission to go to a boarding school in New York, but during the summer her parents’ insisted she come home. Leaving behind New York, where she can pretend to be normal and fit in with others is difficult.

While working at her grandmother’s bookstore one summer evening, a good-looking British professor from New York University comes in and mistakes Tamsin for her gorgeous, extremely Talented sister Rowena. Being the object of a look of admiration and respect has its charm, and before she knows it Tamsin has agreed to help him find a family heirloom that was lost a century ago – and foregoes correcting the mistaken identity issue.

Tamsin is desperate to prove she can do something without her family’s help, without Talent – so she, against her own gut instincts, continues to pursue his request. But before long, his motives come into question – and things start to fall apart as a power long kept secret begins to be wielded.

She may have indeed gotten in a bit too deep with this one.

Once a Witch
is awesome!!!

This is a fast-paced story with an easily likable, witty, hurt, and slightly bitter main character that is fun to follow and root for. I sympathized with her situation and felt that the family dynamic was done very well. The magic/witch side of the story was portrayed simply, letting you just sink into the tale and relish it all with a sigh of contentment.

Once a Witch has a phenomenal urban magic plot that lets you disappear in it, taking you on a ride of suspense that is at times legitimately scary and nerve-wracking! The climatic twists are superb, creating a perfect YA novel that entertains, makes you adore it, and gets you desperate to get your hands on the sequel Always a Witch!

Plus, let us not ignore the excellent romantic subplot when her childhood friend Gabriel returns – looking quite hot. Their flirtation is not weepy or cheesy but down-to-earth and very appealing. It doesn’t take over the novel, but gives it yet another great flavor to what is an amazing meal of a book!

I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed Once a Witch (as I’m sure you can tell). I love books, like this one, where you kind of become “one” with it. It sounds weird, but I know you bibliophiles know what I mean.

Now get thee a copy!

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Game of Triumphs

The Game of Triumphs is a YA urban fantasy by Laura Powell.

Fifteen-year-old Cat is on her way home, doing her best to avoid human contact as always, when she can’t help but notice a man being chased – a man that asks for her help. But Cat sees the gleam of excitement in his eyes, along with the fear, and figures he’s just a weirdo.

Yet something about it all sparks her curiosity, and Cat can’t seem to help pursuing the situation. Doing so brings her to an extravagant party that introduces her to the Game of Triumphs. It’s a centuries-old game played between modern-day London and an alternate, unexplainable reality called the Arcanum where game players embark on challenges having to do with the tarot cards they are dealt, or the card they are trying to win. It’s all a bit confusing to Cat at first, but the intrigue is undeniable.

Not long after becoming involved in this enigmatic game, though, Cat finds out just how dangerous and potent the information you can learn in Arcanum can be. Despite others’ single-focus goal to win and gain the power and glory of their Triumph, Cat begins to uncover secrets from her own past that alarm her – including a possible link to the Game of Triumphs from when she was very young.

Determined to learn more, Cat is drawn into the addictive gameplay – and it’s not something you can just walk away from…

My synopsis may be a little befuddling, and I apologize for that. The specifics of the actual game are a little confusing and would take a while to explain – so I’m not. The author does it far better than I could!

The Game of Triumphs has a brilliant, truly enthralling start with a creepy tarot card. It has a plot that feels fresh and new from the get-go, which is fantastic for us bibliophiles that read so much that sometimes plots tend to blur. Not here!

Laura Powell is not shy about throwing us into the story. We’re right in the thick of it from the beginning, though she kindly offers up a tad of exposition to let us a learn a bit more about Cat and her eccentric relationship with her Aunt Bel, who has been her guardian since her parents’ death when she was a child. Its’ sparse but illuminating initial detail provides us some background and explains Cat’s different, likable, maybe slightly standoffish personality.

As she gets more involved in the Game of Triumphs I was just as confused as Cat was about how the game is played. I hoped it would eventually make sense – I was captivated by it. And, happily, Laura Powell expertly lets us learn by little explanation and lots of observation without bombarding us with rules and details in one fell swoop.

The Game of Triumphs is kind of psychedelic, in a good, intoxicating, stimulating way! Mysteries and questions abound and my curiosity always mirrored Cat’s. Startling revelations, done in a hypnotic, dream-like way bring about a new level of meaning and history to the game.

Let me put it this way, since I’m not so sure I’ve made it clear yet: The Game of Triumphs is very cool, very original, and very alluring.

And I will be waiting to read the sequel the day it comes out!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Wildcat Fireflies

Wildcat Fireflies is a YA paranormal fantasy by Amber Kizer, and the sequel to Meridian.

If you not yet read Meridian, this review with its brief synopsis will inevitable include spoilers of the first book. I recommend you don’t read today’s post until you read Meridian – from one bibliophile to another.

Final warning…

Meridian and Tens are still on the road after Auntie’s death and all the craziness that happened at the end of their time in Revelation, Colorado.

They’re still mourning, and hoping that Auntie taught them enough to complete their goal. Meridian is getting better at helping souls pass over, and she and Tens are trying their best to find more Fenestra.

What they find is a corrupt and cruel facility called Dunklebarger that houses foster children and dying elderly. A girl named Juliet, who is reaching her sixteenth birthday, has no memory before her time there. She does her best to provide some semblance of love and happiness to the other kids there, as most of their days are filled with abuse and violence.

She also feels a stronger and stronger urge to sit by the dying as they breathe their last breath…

Tens and Meridian, while dealing with their Soul Mate status and continuing threat of the evil Aternocti, are trying to get to Juliet.

But will they get to her in time?

If you read my review of Meridian yesterday (and hopefully you’ve actually read the book, because otherwise you’ve ruined some plot twists by reading this review!), you know that I had some serious mixed feelings about it.

I was engrossed enough in the overall plot, though, to definitely want to give the sequel a shot. As Wildcat Fireflies starts, I found that I do like Meridian more now – I have come to invest in her slowly and surely. And her tentative, yet passionate, relationship with Tens often was the feature of my favorite parts of the novel – but also provided the most (I hate to say this) embarrassing moments as well. I’m not saying this because there was some advanced (hint, hint), legitimately steamy parts, but more because of the way it was written. It was still offbeat for me, still peculiar, and still felt maybe a tad idealistic.

Wildcat Fireflies has a stimulating, decent plotline – and the times at Dunklebarger are extremely wretched and often disquieting. Amber Kizer does that very well. It gives the novel gravity and strength. Yet even then, I wasn’t fully absorbed by the story. It was a little on the convoluted side – and maybe longer than actually necessary.

Kizer is excellent at showing tension and misunderstanding among Tens and Meridian’s new, untested love – but for some reason that characters don’t connect with me enough. Plus, I did sometimes get tired of Tens reluctance to be open, even if he has a good excuse.

Wildcat Fireflies, and Meridian before it, are both potentially great books that, sadly, weren’t great for me.

According to the Author’s Note at the end of Wildcat Fireflies two more books are planned. I’m on the fence over whether I’d give them a shot or not. I definitely encourage you to read both of these books, though. I’d hate for you to miss out on your new favorite YA fantasy paranormal because it didn’t gel right with little ol’ me!

Form your own opinions! This is just mine.

See you next week!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Meridian

Meridian is a YA paranormal novel by Amber Kizer.

Since Meridian was very, very young she’s attracted dead and dying creatures. It would be a horror waking up in the morning to a bed full of lifeless insects, frogs, rabbits, etc. Her parents never said a word about it, but Meridian could see the disgust and revulsion in their eyes as they silently cleaned it up.

Even when she was at school creatures would find their way to her, just to die at her feet. She became an outcast from the get-go, other students and even teachers seeing her as a freak – probably even wondering if she was doing something to the animals to cause them to die.

Then on Meridian’s sixteenth birthday there is a car crash right outside her house and her body explodes with pain – she can hardly walk, hardly move. Her mother drags her away from the accident, quickly packs her in the car, hands her a stuffed backpack, and directs Meridian’s dad to get her to the bus terminal as fast as possible.

Meridian’s pain lessens the further she gets from the accident, but the story her father is telling her makes absolutely no sense. As her dad dodges traffic he haphazardly explains to Meridian that she is a Fenestra, a half-angel, half-human link between the living and the dead.

And she’s in serious danger.

Before she’s had a chance to even try to process this information, Meridian’s being instructed to get on a bus and go an aunt she’s never met in person – to leave her family behind.

Meridian’s life will never be the same…

Meridian has a really interesting premise; it’s unique and dark for sure. But I had a really hard time connecting to the story. The writing almost seemed a bit stale to me, sometimes a little on the cliché side and just overall had an odd vibe that kept me at a distance. Because of this, I lacked the investment that would allow me to get lost in Meridian – I always felt like I was at arm’s length.

Once Meridian got to her Auntie’s house, things began to improve for me. There were more characters, more dialogue, and some majorly dramatic “wow” moments that began to turn me around. There are some disturbing plot twists and events that really bring the threat against Meridian and her abilities to the forefront.

We also started to get more potential romance in the shape of Meridian’s hot protector Tens. Her attraction and feelings for him are charismatic – and I got to the point where I cared enough for our main character to long for her to feel wanted – her life had been so lonely so far.

Yet, despite all the improvements as Meridian continued, I still felt occasionally awkward (especially in romance department, as things progressed) and the book was stilted from time to time. Now, as I always say, this is just one bibliophile’s opinion. You could completely disagree with me – but I just had a bit of a hard time with Meridian. Something always felt a little off.

It’s funny to say this, because just last year Seven Kinds of Ordinary Catastrophes by Amber Kizer made by Stand-Out Books of 2011 list. But that book was a contemporary humor novel – so, maybe the different tone doesn’t work for me?

Overall, Meridian is a compelling and effective new paranormal fantasy – but, for me, an uneven and uncomfortable one.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Numbers

Numbers is a YA sci-fi-ish novel by Rachel Ward.

Jem has seen the numbers since she can remember. Like any child, she just accepted it and didn’t wonder what it was. But when her drug-addict mother died, Jem got her first idea of what the numbers meant. Because the number she always saw when she looked at her mom? 10102001. The day her mom died? 10/10/2001.

Over the years she’s been shuttled from one foster home to another, always seeing the numbers – never sure if she caused their death or could just see it. But there was nothing more haunting than seeing the number of a toddler, seeing the inevitable end of every single person she came in contact with.

Now fifteen, Jem has succeeded in having not one friendship or relationship of any kind. But then she meets Spider. He’s another outsider – goofy and good-natured. Somehow she finds her guard melting just a tad around him, until she becomes almost-friends with him.

Only problem? According to his number, she doesn’t have much time left with him. And sadly, the time they have left may be on the run – after a trip to London ends with her and Spider being sought after by police…

Numbers is different than other sci-fi/supernatural books on the market right now in YA. It takes place in gritty, urban London and is very grounded and grim. Jem’s character is very flawed, very broken, and very alone. She is sometimes caustic, sometimes unlikable – yet Rachel Ward helps you to understand her, to forgive her.

Jem’s ability is not one that anyone would generally want, I think. And that brings about even more empathy. Thing is, Numbers is much more a character study than it is a sci-fi/paranormal novel. You’ll want to know that before you jump in.

In Numbers you are presented with a suspenseful, taut story that follows two outsiders on the run, finding friendship and closeness for the first time. They’re scared, and it’s palpable. Spider’s number is so close, though, that it adds to the nerve-wracking tone. You wonder along with Jem – how is he going to die? Why? Is there any way to stop it? The answers are heartbreaking and unforgettable.

Numbers is definitely a darker novel, but there is hope too. I am happy to hear that there is going to be a second and third book coming out. I don’t know how that’ll work, as the story didn’t seem to have a need for a sequel – but I’m glad to follow wherever Rachel Ward is taking Jem.

This is a personal journey, with a twist.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Fallen in Love

Fallen in Love is a YA paranormal fantasy novel, and part of the Fallen series by Lauren Kate.

First of all – Happy Valentine’s Day, Bibliophiles!

I wanted to review a Valentine-centric book for y’all today – and what do you know, the entire story takes place on Valentine’s Day!

Fallen in Love is a short novel (202 pages to be exact) that interconnects four love stories featuring characters from the Fallen series. You’ve got Miles, Shelby, Roland, Arriane, and of course our leads Luce and Daniel.

This story takes place during the third book in the series, Passion, when Luce goes through the Announcers to learn more about her past lives and the other characters are desperately trying to find her to get her back to her present-day life.

We are brought to Miles and Shelby’s tale first. When they decide to go ahead and let the angels deal with the issue and go home, they find it’s not so easy. Ends up they’re in yet another one of Luce’s past lives – this time in medieval times. And guess what? It’s Valentine’s Day!

Seeing the familiar, aching sadness on their friend’s past self’s face, they decide to try and give Luce an idealistic, wonderful Valentine’s Day. But first they need to find this time period’s Daniel.

While trying to help out their friend, Miles and Shelby find that they might also find a love connection on this love-filled day. We also learn more about Roland’s lost love and Arriane’s scar gets a backstory involving a tragic love story of her own.

All this and more in Fallen in Love.

Alrighty, so I’m a fan of the Fallen series. I am looking forward to Rapture, the fourth novel in the series coming out a little later this year… But sadly, I wasn’t so much a fan of Fallen in Love.

I was really surprised how uninterested I was in the intertwined stories. It all felt cloying and cliché, and overall not very good. And you know how much I hate to say anything negative here at the Bibliophile Support Group! Remember, just because Fallen in Love may not have satisfied my drug-like need for awesome books – doesn’t mean it won’t for you! All of our addiction tastes are different!

However, for me? Eh. Fallen in Love lacked any real emotional depth – the parts that were trying to be soaring were just weird for me. I felt no connection at all to characters that I have grown to like quite a bit in the series. Even the level of writing felt subpar, and I was blown away by Lauren Kate in Fallen. So, I guess I’m kind of confused. Maybe if I read it again someday, it’ll be better? I don’t know.

Sadly, it just didn’t work for me. Personally, I’d recommend looking at yesterday’s review of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight for a more romantic, cinematic novel to read for today’s holiday instead of Fallen in Love, though I still suggest you read Fallen in Love for yourself when you get the chance!

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Statistical Probablility of Love at First Sight

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is a YA contemporary novel by Jennifer E. Smith.

Seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan really doesn’t want to go to London. In her suitcase is a bridesmaid dress that she doesn’t want to wear for a wedding she doesn’t want to go to.

It’s her dad’s wedding. To the woman he left her mom for. To the woman that made him stay in London instead of return home to Massachusetts after a four month professor gig at Oxford. This is the end of any hope of Hadley’s life ever returning to normal.

She hasn’t even seen her dad for a year out of protest. Never even met this woman.

But everyone, including Hadley’s mom, thinks she needs to go to the wedding – that she might regret it later if she doesn’t. Well, that’s a laugh.

Then Hadley misses her JFK flight by four minutes and has to wait for the next one.

Yet it’s this very annoying bump in an annoying trip that leads to her meeting him.

Oliver.

He’s about her age, British, and sitting in her row. She recognizes loneliness in his eyes that she feels within herself, and next thing she knows they’re talking.

And talking, and talking, and talking…

It’s a connection – one that doesn’t see logical or make any sense in the grand scheme of things. But when they lose track of each other at the airport chaos in London, Hadley longs to see him again.

In the midst of a momentous day in both of their lives, in the middle of a bustling, cramped city – is there any chance at all of them meeting again?

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight was a movie-like experience. I loved how, despite the fact that the novel only takes place over the course of twenty-four hours, the author makes sure to give us background and character development to make us actually care about Hadley.

The situation with her dad is heartbreaking and done in a believable, relatable way. I empathized with her position – with her anger, with her sadness. And it didn’t take long to see that she was broken – and you rooted for her to heal.

Then when Oliver is introduced, the chemistry crackles. What’s fantastic about it is that it’s not just superficial attraction but conversation, humor, and a mutual understanding and honesty that seems to pour out of them when they are around each other. It’s sweepingly romantic.

Their separation and Hadley’s longing to find him again while dealing with her difficult, painful emotions at an England church and fancy reception is cinematic in its portrayal and done in a unique, interesting way. Despite the fact that their chance encounters and fate-like connection sometimes didn’t always feel all that realistic, you can’t help but begin to become convinced that timing and grandiose occasions do happen – and maybe they could happen to you too.

I really enjoyed The Statistical Probability of Love. It charming, funny, and left me smiling more often than not. It was a feel-good, touching novel that you want to embrace.

It also makes an excellent Valentine’s Day read - check it out!

*I received The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight from Hachette Book Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, or tried to influence, my opinion of the novel.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Real Live Boyfriends

Real Live Boyfriends is a YA contemporary novel by E. Lockhart, and the fourth novel in the Ruby Oliver quartet.

Here we are on the last day of “Ruby Oliver Week” and if you aren’t already reading these books – well, why not?

But I’m more than sure most of you are – and hopefully you’re all caught up, and therefore not at risk of being spoiled by my review of Real Live Boyfriends. You’ve been warned!

Ruby Oliver is beginning her senior year of high school with a real live boyfriend: Noel.

At least she thought she was.

After having spent the rest of junior year and the beginning of summer being fully in love (okay, they never actually said the word, but the vibes were strongly in that direction), Ruby is now confused.

Again.

When Noel went to visit his brother in New York for a while, almost every day they talked on the phone and exchanged funny emails. She never once felt insecure.

Until all of a sudden – communication stopped. Ruby would call and he wouldn’t answer. She’d leave a voice mail, and he wouldn’t call back. Her emails weren’t replied to.

And she had no idea what had happened.

This is Noel – the one guy who never believed the rumors about her, who always stood by her, the one that refused to be flaky or undependable while her life crumbled around her – Noel, her new real live boyfriend.

What was going on?

And when he comes home from the summer – it’s like he’s become a pod-robot lobotomy patient. Looks like her romantic life is falling apart yet again.

Meanwhile her family life is getting even more messed up – her mom is even more shrill than usual and Ruby has a huge fight with her that evolves to a situation in which her dad isn’t doing much of anything but falling asleep with a Cheetos bag in his hand.

Not to mention college applications, even less friends than usual (Hutch is off in Paris and Nora’s still not talking to her – and Noel? Well, Noel is being a pod-robot, remember?), and a suddenly interested Gideon (Nora’s older brother whom she used to have a huge crush) is showing up shirtless wanting to take her out – all the while Ruby’s in her highly vulnerable state of: What’s up with Noel???

All of this and more in Real Live Boyfriends.

It’s an ominous start when Ruby pretty much lets the reader know, from the get-go, that something is going to go wrong with her relationship with Noel. It becomes almost like a countdown, a riveting breakdown of what happened to cause the sudden bad-boyfriend-tendencies in Noel. We know they’re perfect for each other!

Or at least, that’s how I felt.

I don’t want to give away too much more, because this is the last book (as far as I can tell) and there are just too many twists that I don’t want to ruin. But I’ll say this: Real Live Boyfriends was truly a wonderful finale for Ruby Oliver.

The humor is strong, but the agonizing pain of confusion and ultimate reveal (no details) is even more mature and grounded than the previous three books. The situations in Real Live Boyfriends create a true coming-of-age state that brings the deeper, heartbreaking, inescapable parts of life to the table – the crises outside the walls of Tate Prep and all the high school crazy stuff.

I was very, very, very happy and contented with Real Live Boyfriends – and though I will miss Ruby Oliver and all of the phenomenal secondary characters in the books, I feel like her story is complete. I was affected, stirred, roused, and delighted over Real Live Boyfriends.

Thank you E. Lockhart for an entertaining, charming, hilarious, emotionally resonant experience in the Ruby Oliver novels!

Now, what are you waiting for? If you haven’t read the series yet – now is the time!!!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Treasure Map of Boys

The Treasure Map of Boys is a YA contemporary novel by E. Lockhart, and the third of the Ruby Oliver books.

Just like I said yesterday, the Ruby Oliver books would be easy to jump into as stand-alone titles, but to get the full impact you should read them in order. If you haven’t yet read The Boyfriend List and The Boy Book, you’ll spoil yourself by reading this review. Be careful!

Now in the second term of junior year, Ruby is finally starting to feel like her therapy is working.

Maybe.

Well, actually things might not be too great.

Her panic attacks are getting worse again – maybe because she’s in the thirty-seventh week of being in the state of Noboyfriend, maybe because she has pretty strong feelings for her friend Noel (and knows that he has feelings for her too – or at least did last term) but is trying hard to resist them since her friend Nora likes him, or maybe it’s because her ex-boyfriend Jackson dumped her ex-best friend Kim and is now hanging around Ruby at her bake sale table.

Yep.

In this third installment of Ruby Oliver goings-ons, Ruby tries to hold on to the friendships she regained as she does her best to be something other than a basket-case.

Which can be hard when, despite how hard she tries, everything in her life is going downhill fast: her already bad reputation, her job, her romantic prospects, her friendships, and her sanity.

Welcome back to the life of Ruby Oliver.

The Treasure Map of Boys is yet another awesome addition to the series! It’s still hysterical, still perceptive, and still spot-on with high school cruelty. The portrayal of Ruby’s social mishaps, break-ups, make-ups, hook-ups, and more is refreshingly honest, semi-frenetic, and undeniably entertaining. I gobbled down this one just as fast as the others.

While reading The Treasure Map of Boys, as well as the two previous Ruby Oliver books, I find myself getting very involved. They’re easy to sink into. I was torn between Ruby’s prospective new boyfriends (always leaning towards Noel because of their excellent friendship and true “real” relationship potential, in my eyes) and empathized with her continued conflicting emotions regarding Jackson, the jerk who stomped on her heart. Her mixed bag of yearning to have him want her again, anger over what he did, jealousy over him being with other girls, and stoicism towards really wanting anything to do with him again is not only candid to the point of being painful, but also extremely relatable.

Plus, Ruby’s family life is always funny – but also provides another area of slow but steady growth for our heroine. And when some horrible, riling plot twists regarding various aforementioned characters turn her relationships sour, I got worked up for Ruby, sad for her. It’s a fantastic look at when love should be unconditional – and it’s not, between friends, family, and boyfriends.

Though despite sometimes being touching and unhappy, Ruby’s saucy, witty, and fun personality always keep the humor abounding – especially in one instance in particular at a Birkenstocks store in which I could not help but laugh out loud – a lot! You’ll know what I’m talking about when you read it…

The Treasure Map of Boys was wholly satisfying – but with an end like it has, I was very glad I got to jump right into the fourth novel in the Ruby Oliver quartet: Real Live Boyfriends.

To complete “Ruby Oliver Week” come back tomorrow to read my review of the last book!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Boy List

The Boy Book is a YA contemporary novel by E. Lockhart, and the second of the Ruby Oliver books.

Here we are in the second installment of “Ruby Oliver Week” and despite the fact that each of these books probably has great stand-alone potential, I do warn you that these books are meant to be read in order if you want the full power of a continuing storyline! So – you have been warned.

Ruby Oliver has survived the dilemmas of the end of her sophomore year and is now a junior – so she’s totally over everything that happened right? Right.

But of course things get all wonky when Ruby starts getting mysterious notes from Jackson, her ex-boyfriend who is now dating her ex-best-friend. Not to mention becoming privy to a secret about Noel and dealing with her friendship/maybe-more-than-friendship feelings for him. Plus, she’s feeling guilt over an attraction-only relationship that might be developing with yet another boy.

Oh dear. Why can’t life be uncomplicated?

Ruby would rather just hang out with the penguins at her new internship at the zoo than deal with all her borderline psychotic boy issues.

Isn’t this what her parents are paying her therapist for?

The Boy Book is an excellent follow-up to The Boyfriend List. We have our overthinking, overanalyzing Ruby back with her relatable quirks and social trouble! And now she has a license and a job!

This second novel continues Ruby’s growing process as she struggles with lingering mixed feelings about her ex-boyfriend, ex-best friend and new friends and potential boyfriends. Yet again E. Lockhart brings the drama without the melodrama, making it realistic and psychological as we get to some of the deeper roots of Ruby’s issues and insecurities.

Though of course, you can’t deny that The Boy Book is stock full of hilarious lists and entries in her own copy of the Boy Book, in which Ruby and her old friends have written notes and essays about the odd tendencies of boys and their semi-scientific ways of trying to figure them out.

Not to mention the way that The Boy Book sometimes feels like a delicious romantic-comedy, but with more depth, wit, and smarts. It has fun and sweetness and is filled with hope that Ruby will one day have a true, good romance.

This time around, Ruby’s resistance to therapy reaches new highs, however – and I did find myself more frustrated with her than in The Boyfriend List. But it was that good kind of frustration – the kind where you’re irritated because you care so much, and you know that she’ll be happier if she would just do this, and WHY ISN’T SHE DOING THIS?! That kind of frustration. Where you’re kinda happy the entire time, because it’s awesome.

You bibliophiles know what I mean. ;)

So, join me back here tomorrow for the third installment of “Ruby Oliver Week” when I tackle my thoughts of The Treasure Map of Boys. See ya!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Boyfriend List

The Boyfriend List is a YA contemporary novel by E. Lockhart, and the first of the Ruby Oliver books.

Fifteen-year-old Ruby Oliver has had a traumatic last few days.

Her boyfriend, Jackson, of six months dumped her. Her best friend dropped her. The whole school, including her other friends, hate her. She had her first ever panic attack.

And all of the events are related, in ways we’re not elaborating on here.

Ruby’s whole life is shattering around her – and she doesn’t know what to do.

So what do Ruby’s parents do? Send her to therapy!

The Boyfriend List is one of those books that you don’t want to give too much more than necessary away in the premise. I’m a bit late jumping on the bandwagon with this series, but I got the opportunity to read the latest Ruby Oliver book – Real Live Boyfriends – and knew I would not dive into it until I read the first three. I’m a stickler that way. So the rest of the week will be dubbed “Ruby Oliver Week”.

I have to say The Boyfriend List exceeded my expectations. It’s different than most boy-obsessed, contemporary YA books in a few ways. One is the non-linear way in which the story is told. E. Lockhart switches time periods in a way that creates almost a puzzle – a bunch of Ruby Oliver puzzle pieces that we get to fit together to create an overall story that is surprisingly poignant, inspiring, and relatable. Another way E. Lockhart makes it different is by having Ruby's first-person narrative be peppered with footnotes, which are both enlightening to her overall personality and usually causes a good laugh.

Oh, and talk about relatable? Ruby Oliver meets that description without a doubt! She’s in a highly dramatic yet far from unrealistic situation involving backstabbing, a broken heart, crush confusion, crazy parents and misunderstandings. It’s all painful and portrayed in an honest, blunt way with a good dose of humor and wit to bring a sense of fun.

Before I was even done with The Boyfriend List I was so happy to know that there were three more books to read featuring Ruby – I absolutely loved her! Following her romantic entanglements and sudden outcast label, I was riveted, glued, and adoring every second of it. If you’re like me, you root for Ruby to realize how great she is and how crappy her boyfriend and friends have been to her. It’s a novel of self-growth.

E. Lockhart is excellent at showing the bad side of high school through a good girl’s eyes. It’s illuminating, insightful, empowering, sensitive, and touching in a raw, non-gushy way. Not to mention often hilarious.

What an amazing start to a series!

To see what I think of the second book, The Boy Book, return to the Bibliophile Support Group tomorrow!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Eyes to See

Eyes to See is an adult urban paranormal novel by Joseph Nassise.

Jeremiah Hunt was once a father and a husband – an ordinary man living an ordinary life, with a decent career as a professor of classics and dead languages at Harvard.

But then his little girl, Elizabeth, disappeared from their house while he was studying. Jeremiah heard nothing suspicious. He was working. Last he saw her she was playing quietly – then she was simply gone.

The police have nothing to go on and the investigation goes nowhere. And the normal life Jeremiah had been enjoying begins to crumble. It only takes months for his obsession with finding Elizabeth on his own costs him his job, his wife… all that he has.

He tries everything. Desperate, Jeremiah turns to a bizarre ritual in a book that promises to allow him to “see what is unseen” – he hopes this will lead him to Elizabeth.

Yet the ritual is more than he bargains for. Jeremiah is now mostly blind – except for the ability to see ghosts and other non-mortal creatures clearly. He never would have guessed there were any – let alone so many. And his gut instinct tells him that this world of ghosts and otherworldly beings is somehow connected to Elizabeth’s disappearance.

With time, Jeremiah learns enough about different types of ghosts to make a small living off of getting rid of the peskier ones for hire. He needs to fund his continued search for his daughter, and there’s no chance of him getting a normal job now.

The latest case, however, seems to be directly related to Elizabeth’s disappearance. Yet his elation of finding a lead also stinks of a trap.

But one thing Jeremiah knows is that if he doesn’t find this killer, this tormenting abductor, it will not only make the last many years of his life even more worthless than others find it, but ruin many more innocent lives…

Eyes to See was amazing!

First off, the vibe of urban fantasy and supernatural mythology/legends vibrates with creepy coolness right from the start. We meet Jeremiah Hunt on a job, a job in which he is trying to rid an apartment building of a vengeful, murdered ghost. Very well done. Plus it’s a great way to meet our protagonist. He’s gruff and definitely anti-social, he both knows what he’s doing yet is rather new at it all – he’s unique and compelling, for sure.

The storyline zipped along fast – I was in its grips from beginning to end. The city grit and mystery solving is dark, yet still keeps a sense of fun. I mean, the crimes themselves are most assuredly violent, disturbing, and the stuff of nightmares – yet Jeremiah’s humor and need for justice gives it levity.

Our ongoing plot of finding Jeremiah’s sweet, missing daughter is also absorbing. Pretty much, there is not one thing in Eyes to See that isn’t awesome. It’s funny, suspenseful, touching, enthralling, and flat-out fantastic entertainment!

I absolutely loved it. I was sucked in, I was impressed with the level of writing and creativity that wrapped me in an overarching fantasy story that made sense and was clearly thought out. I especially loved Jeremiah Hunt as a lead character and am so very, very happy to know that Eyes to See is the first in a series – because I definitely want more!

For all of you who follow the Bibliophile Support Group and primarily read YA, I believe that you’ll love Eyes to See too. Besides Jeremiah being a grown man with an ex-wife and missing daughter, the story itself isn’t all that more grim, graphic, or violent than a lot of paranormal YAs I’ve read – maybe just a tad on the crime side. But I definitely encourage you to give this adult novel a chance, because it is incredible!!!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Summer of Promise

Summer of Promise is an inspirational historical romance by Amanda Cabot.

It’s June 1885 and Abigail Harding is concerned about her sister, Charlotte. Charlotte’s letters have grown increasingly downhearted and Abigail is sure there’s something wrong – though Charlotte never mentions anything. Not that she would.

Since Abigail has the summer off from the girl’s school she teaches at in her beloved Vermont, she decides to travel to Fort Laramie, Wyoming where her sister lives with her enlisted husband to spend some time with her and get to the bottom of whatever’s going on.

On the monotonous travel by stagecoach to the fort, their stagecoach is attacked by armed robbers – which is how Abigail meets Lieutenant Ethan Bowles, a fellow passenger. He quite easily diffuses the situation with a well-placed bullet and back to traveling they go.

Despite being rattled by the incident, Abigail is even more disturbed when she reaches her sister and finds her thinner and in ill health. She knows she made the right decision visiting.

Yet Abigail knows she won’t stay forever – Vermont is her home, and she plans to marry a fellow teacher when she returns – though nothing has been set in stone yet. But as the summer continues she begins to see the beauty of Wyoming, with the help of Lieutenant Bowles who quickly becomes a good friend.

She begins to wonder… will she return to Vermont? Or is her heart finding a home elsewhere?

That might sound a tad cheesy, but stay with me here. :)

Summer of Promise is actually a very good novel – especially for an inspirational historical romance fan. It has a lovely, visual Wyoming landscape and a likable, independent heroine in Abigail who is dealing with an unhappy, worrisomely pregnant sister and her not-so-welcoming, possibly secretive husband, giving lots of good family drama which is both interesting and tender.

Ethan, as our male lead, also has a good chunk of character development and investment potential. The subplot dealing with his profession of finding the numerous deserters and traitors is actually quite absorbing and twisty, creating a novel long mystery that I enjoyed.

Though I wasn’t head over heels with Summer of Promise, I was pleasantly and gently swept away by the time period detail and burgeoning feelings between the leads. The biggest moment for me, though, was when Ethan had his epiphany about God (no details here!) and all the circumstances surrounding it. It was truly touching and emotionally beautiful – gave me chills!

I did correctly guess who the sought-after traitor amongst them was quite a bit earlier than the characters, but that only bothered me mildly. The outcome did end up being surprising, despite my seeing clues all along. It ended up being a great reveal. I only wish the end of the book hadn’t felt so hasty and rushed. Of course, that’s just how it felt to me.

Summer of Promise was easy to read, fast-paced, and very charming – though I’m not jumping up and down over it personally, I am definitely interested in continuing with the series (of which it looks like there’ll be two more books) as I did have fun reading it and found it to have many merits.

Don’t know if this is necessarily a novel for non-fans of the genre though. From my point of view, I’d recommend it to all y’all who are already interested in some good historical romance with a Christian heroine.

*Available January 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

*I received a copy of Summer of Promise from the Baker Publishing Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Every Other Day

Every Other Day is a YA paranormal novel by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

Okay. I’m a super-fan of Raised by Wolves and Trial by Fire, both by this author. To me, they are brilliant, original, and absolute must-reads. So, despite my disappointment that the third novel isn’t out yet, I was more than ready to read this new stand-alone by Barnes – I had a feeling it would be squeeze-your-eyes-closed-with-glee good.

But before I get ahead of myself – what is it about?

Well, Kali D’Angelo is an average sixteen-year-old girl that stays out of the limelight, tolerates the pep rallies at school, and has a strained relationship with her absent-minded-professor-type dad. She’s human. She’s normal.

That is – every other 24 hours.

The other 24 hours? She’s not quite sure what she is. But it she isn’t normal. Her strength increases by leaps and bounds, she has a special affection for weapons, and longs to hunt. Hunt what? Why supernatural (or as they call them in the scientific world of this book: preternatural) creatures, such as hellhounds, that threaten the world of course! Her blood becomes toxic to those she fights. She revels in the blood. She heals quickly.

Yeah, not so normal.

Yet when Kali notices that a popular mean girl at her school has a tell-tale mark of doom – a mark indicating she will soon be dead, courtesy of one of these hellish beings – she’s human. It’s the wrong day. She doesn’t have her superpower strength, her indestructability, her whatever it is that she has every other day.

The other problem?

She can’t wait for tomorrow to save her… the girl has less than that amount of time to live.

Yep – Every Other Day is pretty darn fantastic.

Jennifer Lynn Barnes has again penned a truly unique premise that is half the time Buffy the Vampire Slayer on steroids and paranormal gore and half the time a tale of a high school outsider who is lonely for friends. It’s such an absorbing contrast that the author makes work so well. We can sense the difference, if slight, in personality when Kali is human and when she is not. She makes it easy for us to care for both sides of her and to invest in her almost immediately. Excellent character development!

And that’s only our heroine! The numerous secondary characters (which I don’t really want to start naming since I want you to go on the same unexpected thrill-ride I did), are three-dimensional and written with humor and compassion, rounding them out into what feels like real people.

My confidence in Jennifer Lynn Barnes only strengthened in my reading of Every Other Day. She has created a world pretty much identical to ours but with a general population knowledge of “preternatural” beings – zombies, hellhounds, dragons, demons, etc. There are government bodies meant to control and sometimes even protect them. As the reader, you get the sense that this is a well-developed world, without having to have everything spelt out for you.

Every Other Day is an exciting, unpredictable paranormal thriller with a terrific narrative voice that is both sarcastic and humorous, yet genuine and kind – all of which applies to our isolated, tough, great main character Kali, whom we root for and like immensely. Or at least I did. I’d kinda be shocked if you don’t agree – though I suppose someone out there will.

I was ecstatic to find depth and sadder, deeper moments to bring an overall increased gravity to the novel, which is an absolutely riveting page-turner, adrenaline-pounding, enigmatic, tantalizing plot twisting YA addition.

And the end? It’s one of those perfect last lines that makes you turn the page by mistake, ready for the rest, only to realize, “Oh yeah. That’s it.” Yet amidst your disappoint at this revelation you are just so utterly floored by the excellence of that last line that you’re okay with it.

I’d love a sequel – yet if there’s not one, I felt satisfied enough to accept that.

Every Other Day is awesome. Plain and simple.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Bad Queen: Rules and Instructions for Marie-Antoinette

The Bad Queen: Rules and Instructions for Marie-Antoinette is a YA historical fiction novel in the Young Royals series by Carolyn Meyer.

Marie-Antoinette has long been hated and scorned as being a superficial, partying, uncaring queen – but here we get her story. At only fourteen she is betrothed to the dauphin of France and presented as a future queen. Rules and etiquette are poured upon her in a foreign country where there are many already wishing for her to fail. She is under the pressure of perfection from the get-go – but often falls short.

What springs forth from the years of stress and scrutiny is a spirit desperate for love, attention, and fun. Yet she doesn’t fully comprehend what is going on beyond the palace walls – the anger, starvation, and increasing rage of the peasants.

She doesn’t know yet that she will pay with her life.

This is her story, from her point of view.

I am a huge fan of Carolyn Meyer and all the other books in the Young Royals series. I have read them all but one (and want to get that rectified ASAP!), which is Duchessina. But I have been floored by the jarringly real, touching, sad, and very memorable stories she has brought to the table among Elizabeth I (Beware, Princess Elizabeth), Mary Tudor (Mary, Bloody Mary), Catherine of Aragon (Patience, Princess Catherine), and Anne Boleyn (Doomed Queen Anne). So, I doubted that this one, featuring Marie-Antoinette (who has always fascinated me), would disappoint.

And I was right.

The Bad Queen starts off with many terrible losses for Marie when she loses her beloved and kind governess is dismissed for being too easy on Marie. Instead she gets someone who provides no affection or caring, but only strict teaching. Then we get a firsthand look at absolutely barbaric dental work to beautify Marie – all for Marie to secure the betrothal to Louis-Auguste, dauphin of France. Oh my. It’s an effective way to start and immediately introduces us to a girl that you sympathize with, despite her faults. After all, don’t we all have faults?

Carolyn Meyer really lets us sink into this story, providing riveting detail on the perplexing, maddening etiquette required in the bizarre and decadent French society. Many of these ridiculous, stern rules are the beginnings of rebellion in Marie’s trained obedience.

Engrossing drama and political intrigue populate The Bad Queen, showing us the immaturity, naiveté, and understandable desire for amusement in a young queen – after so many years of misery – creating an ominous tone, as we know the horror it’ll all lead to. Meyer breathes vibrancy and life into history without flinching.

This is a haunting page-turner, truly gripping – I felt frustrated with Marie-Antoinette, but also couldn’t help but wonder what I would have done in her shoes at that age, with that upbringing, in that situation. Overall, it is her inevitable fate that unsettles you.

Increasing hostility, danger, and violence is disturbing – and you feel like you are in the thick of it, as though it as real as the air you are breathing. As the mob gains control of France it is enough to make you sick, make you weep, and make you have nightmares – it is that potent.

The Bad Queen is a heartbreaker – absolutely unforgettable. This another remarkable novel by Carolyn Meyer, an author with an incredible ability to give a fictitious first-person narrative in history and create an amazing reading experience.

Wow.

Sign me up for her next foray into the Young Royals series – The Wild Queen, about Mary, Queen of Scots. In the meantime, where’s Duchessina?

You can’t afford to miss even one of these staggering titles – seriously.