Monday, December 29, 2014

Stand-Out Books of 2014!

Time to find out what I personally recommend to you, my lovely bibliophiles!!!

After what I hope was a bookish Christmas full of gift cards and novels wrapped in pretty, festive paper, I am bringing to you the fifth annual Stand-Out Books of the Year post!

Being that I am working full-time and sadly have less time to read than I used to, a lot of my numbers have dropped when it comes to statistics.

However, what has not changed is the fact that there are a whole lot of books that stood out to me in 2014!

As always, the books don’t have to have been released in 2014 – I’ll just have read and/or reviewed them in 2014.

So:

How many books did I read?

120

That's 45 less than in 2013.

How many pages did I read?

41,186

That's 15,123 less than in 2013.

How many pages, on average, did I read per day?

113

That's 41 less than in 2013.

Like I said – far busier as I get older – but a bibliophile I shall always be!!!

This year there are a whopping 44 books on the Stand-Out Books of 2014 list!

I know!!!

Keep in mind, that I may have liked or even loved many other novels throughout the year – but when going over the list these are the ones that stand-out specifically.

You can click on each title to be transported - almost magically you might say - to my original review of the book.

The Ultimate, Fantastic, Gothic Book for Book Lovers:

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Oh my gosh. Do you love gothic fiction? Do you love to be swept away fully and completely by gorgeous writing? Do you like to be both unsettled and intrigued? Do you, perhaps, enjoy feeling wholly obsessed with a novel? Then this gem is for you! A book that blew me away with mystery and utterly captivating prose, this story of a book loving writer penning the biography of a reclusive author is one-of-a-kind!

Charming “Children’s” Classics:

Howl’s Moving Castle / Castle in the Air / House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones
Featuring charismatic characters, witty dialogue and clever fantasy plots, these three novels were such fun to read! A couple of them have some romance, all of them have surprising character development, and each has an astoundingly intricate story that doesn’t disappoint!

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Golly, this book is a marvel in creativity! When a young boy receives a mysterious tollbooth that magically transports him to a land where he must survive the Doldrums, take look over Point of View, jump to the Island of Conclusions and much other extremely clever wordplay – all the while learning lessons that sparkle with true wisdom – we, the readers, win the bibliophile lottery!

The Chronicles of Crestomanci, Volume I by Diana Wynne Jones
Well, this was the year I really started to read Jones and was enchanted, truly! Here we have the first two books in the Crestomanci series in one volume. Taking a magical, alternate universe and mixing in trouble, multi-layered characters and legitimate surprises and most excellent humor – we yet again have proof that “children’s” books are not always for children! In fact, the best ones (which I feel like I’m featuring in this section) are a delight to ANY age!

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente
Okay, yes, I know that this is a newer book and probably can’t officially be called a classic yet – but my goodness golly does it feel like one! Placing a smart, creative little girl in a Fairyland fraught with tyranny from a frightening queen that doesn’t look any older than her, this stunner combines incredible prose with Alice in Wonderland-like surrealism and underlying astuteness. I was absolutely blown away!

Percy Jackson and the Olympians # 1: The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan
Again – not officially a classic yet but, I believe, soon to be one! What a fun, original, contemporary fantasy take on Greek gods and myths! Mixing comedy, suspense, mystery and adventure into a clever reimagining of mythology, as soon as I finished book one I started looking at every other book Riordan wrote – not to mention the rest of this series – and started getting ready to order!

All the Wrong Questions # 1: Who Could That Be At This Hour?
All the Wrong Questions # 2: When Did You See Her Last?
File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents all by Lemony Snicket
I know, I know. Maybe I shouldn’t have named this section “classic” children’s books - but I’m sorry, I’m convinced! Lemony Snicket is back after the woefully wonderful A Series of Unfortunate Events books, telling his own tale as a youngster entered the enigmatic work of VFD – solving mysteries and avoid photographs of his face. All three are literary fun with awesome wordplay and giggle worthy silliness. File Under is especially fun, providing 13 short story mysteries that have solutions you flip to the back for. I’m ready for more, Lemony!!!

Fantastic Fantasy

The Dresden Files # 1: Storm Front by Jim Butcher
As a huge fan of the short-lived television series, I knew I had to eventually try the popular book series it was based on. Happily, this fast-paced, humorous yet serious urban fantasy was a great start to what I am hoping will be a great series! If you like your hero hard-boiled and mixing all kinds of magical beings with crime mystery, time to try this!

Valour and Vanity
by Mary Robinette Kowal
Here we have the fourth entry in Kowal’s wondrous Glamourist Histories series. Tying Regency-era England, a phenomenal romance and uniquely natural magic called glamour, this series just seems to keep getting better. I especially love the characters and awesome relationship between the married leads – mix in suspense and wartime intrigue and you get quite the read!!!

Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger
In the second entry of the ridiculously clever, intriguing, laugh-out-loud funny Finishing School series, we get more gorgeous alt-Victorian steampunk fun with a heroine that is both intelligent and charming. Truly packed with entertainment as we enter a school of espionage amidst vampires, werewolves and more - total re-read material, this a fantastic!

The Parasol Protectorate # 1: Soulless
The Parasol Protectorate # 2: Changless
The Parasol Protectorate # 3: Blameless
The Parasol Protectorate # 4: Heartless
The Parasol Protectorate # 5: Timeless all by Gail Carriger
Set later in the same alt-Victorian world of Curtsies & Conspiracies, The Parasol Protectorate is an adult series rather than YA as the above. Full of romance, humor, and cleverness up to your eyeballs – this is pure awesome fun! Nothing like worrying about the polite society etiquette rules after accidentally killing an errant vampire during a ball!

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
This is the first book in the Thursday Next series – an out-there conglomeration of goodness! First of all it takes place in an alternative version of 1980s London – the Crimean War is ongoing, there’s time travel and the resurgence of extinct species, such as the dodo. Our main character, Thursday, is an operative the in the Literary Detection agency – in which they spend their time investigating crime against literature! Already sounds too good, huh?! Well, believe me there is so much more – a crazy awesome start to what looks to be a series that gets better and better!!!

The Rising by Kelley Armstrong
As the final book in the Darkness Rising trilogy, which ties into my beloved trilogy Darkest Powers, this one is bittersweet. I felt it was a great ending to a great series – and yet again provided a fresh romantic perspective amidst some truly excellent power and abilities and suspense!

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
I have a feeling you are going to start seeing Mr. Fforde’s name on these lists a lot in the future! This is a YA novel – the first in a quirky, yet heartfelt, Chronicles of Kazam series. With wordy, sharp humor, silly fun and a fascinating world in which magic seems to be fading until word of a dragon hits the streets, this is yet another diverting read!

Miss Mabel’s School for Girls by Katie Cross
When a teen girl slips amongst the ranks of one of the toughest magical boarding schools EVER, she makes it her mission to win an early competition that allows her to be tutored directly by the powerful Miss Mabel. Her intentions, however, are not honorable and she has alternative motives – she wants to take Miss Mabel down. This was a totally different, mesmerizing book that was very suspenseful and felt dangerous – I look forward to reading book two!

The Lynburn Legacy # 3: Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan
Ooooh boy, can’t say much as this is the third book in a trilogy that is AWESOME. I love, love, love this YA book and love, love, love this trilogy! Creepy, funny, romantic, quirky and beautiful, I am now a full-fledged fan of Sarah Rees Brennan and want more from her!

The Raven Cycle # 3: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
Again, tough to say much when it is the third book in a quartet – but Stiefvater is convincing me more and more that she is one of the best YA authors out there with a truly lovely, atmospheric tone and gorgeous writing. An astounding contemporary magical fantasy that is dark and rich with character development.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Placing a contemporary American teen girl in an English boarding school and adding in super creepy supernatural activity – such as they apparent return of Jack the Ripper – creates an awesome book! Especially when there is humor and suspense and all together great writing. I’m happy there are more books to come!

The Princess in the Opal Mask by Jenny Lundquist
Though there is a strong fantasy/fairy-tale vibe to this book, it does not feature any magic or clear fantasy elements. It does, however, provide an original, effective court intrigue story and a swap between two damaged girls. I was surprised just how much I loved this book – it is done very, very well with great suspense and excellent psychological character development. Again – yay, there’s a sequel!

Relatively Realistic Fiction

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
When a girl with a blocked memory of one pivotal summer begins to face the truth, well – let’s just say there’s a lot of twists and turns here. I wouldn’t say I NEVER guessed anything correctly here, yet it is the taut writing and well-drawn characters that help to make this stirring, disquieting novel so very affecting.

Starstruck by Rachel Shuckert
A start to a series, this book focuses on starlets in the 1930s – those who have the fame, those who want it, those who are losing it and those who are thrust into it. Soapy, suspenseful, romantic and mixed in with some mystery, this was a fascinating, undeniably addictive read that was a ton of fun but also had some decent substance to it!

Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
A follow-up to the awesome series and fantastic movie – need I say more? I’m always ready for more mystery, drama and romance with this little blonde private detective!

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
Tugging on the heartstrings and managing to, yet again, create some of the most realistic, believably flawed human beings in contemporary YA literature, this novel really stuck with me. Dealing with the betrayal of a parent’s unfaithfulness, the splitting of a family and the desire to recreate oneself – this is a great book about family and identity.

Ravishing Retellings


Cold Spell by Jackson Pearce
If you like your fairytale retellings more Grimm than Disney, this is a Snow Queen retelling for you! Combining excellent character development, romance and magic with suspense and nerve-wracking danger, Jackson Pearce convinced me yet again that she is one of my favorites when it comes to this genre.

The Mirk and Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson
Okay, I will not say I am that familiar with the Ballad of Tam Lin – but this is a retelling of that, apparently. All I know is that this is a searing Civil War era novel that creates great characters and mixes in forbidden romance and voodoo – a page turner with substance.

Of Beast and Beauty by Stacy Jay
A bloody, dark retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Stacy Jay turns the story I love into a mash-up of war, hate and deep, overcoming romance. I loved the lack of superficiality here!

Sensational Sci-Fi

Fox Forever by Mary E. Pearson
A hauntingly written final book in the Jenna Fox Chronicles, this is a futuristic masterpiece, asking just what defines a human. Lovely prose, excellent thought provoking plot and a bit of a tear jerker.

Divergent by Veronica Roth
Some people want to compare it to The Hunger Games – I don’t feel they’re all that similar, so don’t let that dissuade you! In fact, I felt this was an original page turner, full of suspense, character development and awesome intrigue. I was addicted very quickly and quite consumed by it!

The 5th Wave
by Rick Yancey
A cinematic, truly scary post-alien invasion survival story! Well-written characters, great atmosphere and just enough humor from our strong female lead to not fall too far into hopelessness. Happily, there is a book two!!!

Burn by Julianna Baggott
Oh golly – this was a post-apocalyptic trilogy for the ages! Gory, creepy, frightening – this is a dark tale of what happens after all the “end of the world” events. Complex, intricate and absorbing, this finale pulls everything together for a final epic conclusion.

Neverwas by Kelly Moore, Amber Reed & Tucker Reed
The second book in the Amber House trilogy, this was one of the smartest books I read this year! It’s rare that someone can really dive into alternate futures and realities in such an interesting, diverse way, but this family of writers did! Following up from the end of Amber House in a brilliant way, I was floored by the intellect, detail and suspense involved in this awesome story – and I am breathless for the final book!

The Colors of Madeline # 1: A Corner of White
The Colors of Madeline # 2: The Cracks in the Kingdom both by Jaclyn Moriarty
I am a full-fledged fan of Australian author Moriarty – no qualms about it!!! These two books stunningly combine alternate universes with parallel storytelling – one involving the ordinary world we know and the other a world very different – but somehow, despite the many fantasy elements, just as grounded in reality – and realistic, wonderful characters. One moment it can be hilarious, the next it can break your heart. They are books of their own caliber in creativity and astounding writing – I cannot say enough!!!

Crushing Classic and Its Remarkable Retelling

Persuasion by Jane Austen
What a gorgeous, gorgeous book! Full of melancholy, maturity and lost romance – Austen has painted a beautiful portrait of a woman who regrets choices she made when influenced by others and the painful ache of acknowledging she can never remedy it… or can she? As always, Austen swept me away with prose that is quotable, searing and just simply unforgettable!

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diane Peterfreund
So, take Persuasion and turn it into a YA futuristic sci-fi novel? Sounds like sacrilege, right?! If it hadn’t been Peterfreund (who has proven her stunning writing skills in prior novels such as Rampant and Ascendant), I don’t know if I would have even tried it. THANK GOODNESS I DID!!! Somehow, she perfectly retold Persuasion with original, unique perspective of the future and made a lovely, memorable read of romance and sci-fi! Not to be missed.

Okay then, you book loving geniuses!!! There are 44 books to fill your shelves with, chat about and (hopefully) recommend madly to everyone you know!

I sincerely appreciate the ongoing readership that the Bibliophile Support Group has, despite my no longer featuring author interviews or giveaways!!! I feel that you awesome bookworms understand that life can become busier and it’s more important to focus on what we’re truly about: BOOKS

It’s been fantastic mixing in older titles with the new releases this year in an effort to return to pure bibliophile enjoyment – I hope you’ve also had fun possibly discovering some new titles that aren’t exactly “new.”

Have a wonderful New Year’s – and let’s meet back here in 2015, eh?

Friday, December 26, 2014

Love Me

Love Me is the second book in the YA 1930s Hollywood Starstruck series by Rachel Shukert.

As this is a highly serialized series, I strongly suggest that you read Starstruck – reviewed in October - before Love Me. Ya hear?

If you have yet to read Starstruck, avert your eyes from this synopsis…

After becoming an overnight sensation and sparkling movie star, Margaret Frobisher is now truly Margo Sterling. She’s also involved with heartthrob Dane Forrest – someone whose picture was over her bed back in Pasadena not that long ago. Now the issue is not losing it all…

Amanda Farraday is nursing a broken heart after her seedy past as Ginger was revealed to Harry Gordon, hotshot screenwriter. She’s sure if she could only talk to him she could convince him that the love they have overcomes her scandalous former life…

Popping pills and downing alcohol is getting easier and easier for childhood vaudeville star Gabby. She’s still waiting for her big break after Harry Gordon decided to go in a different direction for his newest picture. Desperate for someone to see her as a woman and treat her as such, Gabby sets her sights on musician Eddie Sharp – but is she ready for a bad boy?

Hollywood in the 1930s in more dramatic behind the scenes than on it…

I found Love Me to be unapologetically entertaining.

Happy to be back to the dramatic, sordid, fascinatingly messed-up world of 30s Hollywood, I embraced the rather depressing circumstances our characters are in and went along for the ride!

This is pure craziness, soapy fun mixed with truly disturbing glimpses of backstage envy, romance and deceit.

Love Me has some major shockers and twists amidst the glitzy diversion. It dives into some distressing, heartbreaking moments and grounds the plots in reality at times – making the series feel classier than some other fluffy books.

Rachel Shukert manages to make all the characters sympathetic, even as they morph before your eyes from likable to unlikable. That, plus all the little mysteries and surprises, make me all the more ready for book three of the Starstruck series.

I’m waiting!!!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Princess of Thorns

Princess of Thorns is a YA fantasy Sleeping Beauty retelling by Stacey Jay.

Sleeping Beauty’s story did not end with Happily Ever After.

Instead, she sacrificed her life in the arms of her seven year old daughter Aurora in order to give Aurora her fairy magic – and a chance to survive the coup of the murderous ogres.

Now, ten years later, Aurora has learned that magic always has an unexpected, bitter result – and though it has given her excellent fighting skills and a merciful heart, it also has barred her from ever having true romantic love.

When her younger brother, Jor, is captured by the Ogre Queen, she sets off to raise an army to rescue him while dressed as a boy and hunted by the Ogre Queen’s followers.

Meanwhile, Prince Niklaas is searching for Aurora – his life depends on it. A curse laid down by his own father leaves him with only days before his fateful eighteenth birthday – a birthday that will claim his humanity, as it did his ten older brothers.

His only hope, as he was told by a witch, is to find Aurora – so when he locates her brother Jor (or so he thinks) he is blackmailed into assisting “him” in finding an army.

Fighting against an ogre prophecy that foretells the end of human life and each of their own curses – will Aurora and Niklaas find the Happily Ever After that was denied Sleeping Beauty?

I have become a definite fan of Stacey Jay! Both of the Romeo & Juliet retellings were quite memorable – Juliet Immortal and Romeo Redeemed. And then her Beauty & the Beast retelling Of Beast and Beauty was hauntingly lovely.

Princess of Thorns didn’t leave quite as much of a lasting impression but it was still a great book!

Here we have a horrifying, intriguing, captivating start – a given with Stacey Jay, it seems. She breaks apart the lovely naiveté of the Sleeping Beauty story we know and gives it a darker edge.

The ogres are creepy, disturbing villains – yet I felt they were also the novel’s primary weakness. I felt the ogres could have been made clearer – what their intentions are, their motives, etc. We get a little but I felt like I needed more from that portion of Princess of Thorns.

We get an excellently tough, hardened yet spunky and goofy heroine in Aurora and a refreshingly flawed but still likable hero in Niklaas. Their love story was the strength of Princess of Thorns and made the novel very enjoyable to read! The gender roles were turned upside down, shaken up and scattered to the winds to make these characters individuals rather than caricatures.

Basing love on a foundation of friendship and then adding in misunderstanding, mistaken identity and the pressure and problems of magical curses created a very readable dramatic fantasy novel.

For some reason I wasn’t AS drawn in with Princess of Thorns as I have been by Stacey Jay’s other books – but don’t get me wrong, I’m still a big fan of this one.

In fact, I am crossing my fingers that Stacy Jay continues this trend of retelling fairytales – because it’s darn awesome!

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is a middle grade fantasy for all ages by Catherynnne M. Valente.

Twelve-year-old September has gotten rather tired of the sameness of each day – washing the same dishes, sleeping on the same pillow, etc.

That is why she leaps at the chance to go to Fairyland when the Green Wind and his flying leopard extend an invitation.

Adventure at last!

Yet Fairyland is in turmoil – things are not as they once were now that the evil Marquess is ruling after the suspicious disappearance of the beloved Queen Mallow.

With the help of a dragon-like creature who has memorized A-through-L of the encyclopedia and a blue boy who is almost, but not quite, human – September will try to restore Fairyland back to its former glory.

Days after finishing The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making I am still thinking about it!

The prose and plot is astonishingly rich in its cleverness, inventiveness and beauty. I had to extend some effort, initially, to get a grip on this unwaveringly intelligent and charmingly multifaceted tale. Just as in the marvelous Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, you have to absorb not only the amusing wittiness but embrace the oddities, the puzzles and the deeper layer that slowly reveals itself to be incredibly thought-provoking.

Stunning.

With that early effort came an extremely rewarding reading experience. The distance that my reading brain felt at the outset to this elegant story was overcome by an enchantment that forces the reader to slow down and savor.

Valente creates a truly new, magnificent Fairyland that is imaginative, visual and heart wrenching. It’s a perfect book for reading aloud – which I did often – with its complex dialogue and excellent, omniscient narration.

There truly are some new magical presentations – and a genuinely creepy, chilling villain in the hair-color-changing Marquess.

I found The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making to be remarkably moving and effective – and I cannot WAIT to read the next books.

Because – ever so happily – there’s many books to come!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Percy Jackson and the Olympians # 1: The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief is the first book in the middlegrade contemporary twist on Greek mythology series Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan.

Considered a troublemaker, twelve-year-old Percy has been thrown out of more schools than he can count – with his dyslexia and penchant for a temper he finds it difficult to fit in. Even at a school for misfits.

Before being kicked out of his latest school, though, he notices some rather odd occurrences. He knows weird things have happened around him before – but having a teacher turn evil, attempt to kill him, dissolve into tiny bits when defeated and then no one remember her being a teacher at his school in the first place is only the latest.

And, admittedly, the strangest.

Before long, Percy realizes that the mythological monsters and gods of Mount Olympus are not just something to be studied in his textbook – but are real and walking around.

Or trying to kill him.

Pulled into this stunning revelation, Percy is brought to a place where others are aware of this alarming truth – and advise him that the gods believe Percy has stolen from them.

Go figure.

So now he needs to find the stolen item – Zeus’s master lightning bolt – before it’s too late.

Wow – what a FUN book!!!

Obviously I’ve heard of The Lightning Thief as it’s a pretty popular series, so I finally read the first one here and I am pretty tickled!

The Lightning Thief is a thoroughly entertaining and satisfying adventure! It has many laugh-out-loud moments due to excellent, clever writing and a witty hero in Percy. It’s also at times quite creepy and suspenseful – but always oh-so-fun!

Percy Jackson and the Olympians first entry introduces a new, fresh way to mash up Greek mythology and modern times – being imaginative, well written and very engaging. Truly a book for ALL AGES, it’s a delight as we become invested in these characters and situations!

As The Lightning Thief continued it seemed to get better and better. I absolutely loved the essence, the setting, the vibe, the characters and plot! Essentially everything about it.

It’s a hilarious book with a surprising edge – and I am very, very, very ready for the rest of the books in the series.

Awesome news is not only are there four more books in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series but there’s a spinoff series that I may jump into as well called the Heroes of Olympus!

Friday, December 12, 2014

What Happened to Goodbye

What Happened to Goodbye is a YA contemporary novel by Sarah Dessen.

When Mclean made the decision to live with her dad after her parents painful, shocking divorce a couple of years ago she knew she was taking on a life of moving.

As someone who is assigned struggling restaurants to get back in tiptop shape or close up, her dad is sent to various different towns – and so is she.

From the first move, Mclean decided it was an opportunity to reinvent herself. Each move, each short stint at a new high school, Mclean introduces herself with a different nickname and quickly picks a persona – cheerleader, drama crowd, etc.

She makes easy, quick exits when a new assignment come up – never saying goodbye or feeling particularly attached to anyone or anything.

With their most recent move, though, it doesn’t go as smoothly. She finds herself struggling to pick a new identity and her real name begins being used before she manages to correct them with a new nickname.

Mclean soon recognizes that it’s been so long since she’s just been herself that she doesn’t even fully remember who she really is anymore.

And her conversations with the brilliant boy next door begin to become a little too honest, making Mclean face – for the first time in a long time – the realization that she might miss him when they leave…

Oh, Sarah Dessen…

I have now read (and own) ten of Sarah’s eleven books and have YET to be disappointed.

Yes, there are some that affected me more deeply than others – but not one of them was a dud, in my opinion.

What Happened to Goodbye continued that trend marvelously!!!

First – BIG SHOCKER! This book does NOT take place during the summertime! To date, all of Sarah’s books have been set in summer when there’s an “anything can happen” vibe. Here we begin in a wintery season – during the school year. Big change, but necessary for the plotline for sure.

What Happened to Goodbye has an instantly intriguing start with a unique situation. Mclean’s family life – as Dessen always so expertly portrays – presents a subtle but searing pain that cuts through the broken mother/daughter relationship. Mclean’s continual reinvention of herself is a compelling, denial-ridden issue that is hurting her more than she knows.

Sarah Dessen again provides excellent characters – in particular Deb is very memorable – and a fantastically realistic plot that is drama in its purest sense.

Swept away by writing that is gorgeous – just gorgeous – and a story that is human, raw, simplistic yet beautiful and heartfelt – I fell in love with What Happened to Goodbye.

Lovely, lovely, lovely.

Highly recommended!!!

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Fire Wish

The Fire Wish is a YA fantasy novel – the first of the Jinni Wars – by Amber Lough.

Princess Zayele of Zab does not wish to leave her little brother or her home but has been selected to be the bride of the prince of Baghdad. As she travels to the palace in a locked caravan, she longs for nothing more than to return home.

And she won’t pass up an opportunity.

Jinni Najwa has just been admitted to a band of spies as her unusual ability to access an area of the human word no other Jinni can is revealed.

When Najwa uses her magic to glimpse the human world for a mere moment, Zayele sees her, captures her and makes a wish.

The wish does not go according to plan.

Zayele and Najwa – already remarkably similar in looks – have traded places. Najwa is now the princess on her way to marry and Zayele is suddenly expected to help with the war against humans by using a talent she does not have.

Now they are both in terrible danger amongst their enemies…

The Fire Wish is covered in flattering quotes from authors I admire and the cover caught my eye.

Well, you can’t judge a book by its cover – or by its fans.

Sadly, The Fire Wish didn’t work for me.

It was kind of Freaky Friday meets Aladdin – but without the fun of either movie, for me.

It was confusing and hard to get a grasp on because – in my opinion – the author failed to develop the narrative world well. I never felt there was a strong sense of environment, time or plot that really centered the novel.

For quite a while it was tough keeping everyone straight, also, as there are so many out-of-the-ordinary names and the characters personalities alone weren’t unique enough to differentiate them.

Lacking any connection to the characters – whom to me felt weak, cliché and one-dimensional – I also struggled to become interested in the plot. Though later on in the book there is an attempt to explain more how the war between humans and Jinni began, it was still very jumbled in my opinion.

Many people seem to love this book – its exotic tone, romance and intrigue. I am happy for them!

On my side of the fence, The Fire Wish did not have any pull, sparkle or impact on me. All the words simply lay flat on the page and never became alive for me – didn’t sweep me away anywhere.

I eventually had to start skimming The Fire Wish.

You know that everyone is different and this could be your favorite book – so don’t take my word for it!

Read The Fire Wish for yourself!!!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Love, Lucy

Love, Lucy is a YA contemporary novel by April Lindner that will be released in January 2015.

In exchange for giving up her dreams of being an actress to become a business major in college, Lucy’s father has funded a backpacking through Europe trip.

Desperate to soak in as much culture and beauty from a trip that traded away her aspirations, Lucy finds herself absolutely besotted with Florence, Italy.

…Not to mention a certain handsome traveling street musician named Jesse Palladino.

Before long, Lucy is swept into a whirlwind summer romance that feels like more – though Lucy steels her heart as much as she can.

After all, she has to return home. She has to go to college and take business courses.

She has to be practical.

But are their feelings more than a vacation fling?

Yet again, I am impressed with Lindner’s ability to create just the right atmosphere.

In Jane and Catherine she had that gothic vibe mixed with a contemporary setting – here we have a fantastic sense of Italy and traveling. Her descriptions are lush without being too much – I could almost imagine I was in Florence!

Lucy is a likable, nice character that is trying to respect her father’s wishes but cannot help but be saddened by the loss of her true interests in acting and singing. There’s realism there, as with the current economy a lot of people have to make that choice.

Here, though, with the addition of some engrossing romance, we get to see practicality meet with some compromise – and a couple of believable people fall for each other in the meantime!

Love, Lucy was a very fast, captivating read – I cared about Lucy and found the story easy to read (a.k.a. gobble up).

Plus, there was a subtle little tie-in to Jane that made me smile!

Really a great, enjoyable novel to look out for in early 2015!

*I received a review copy of Love, Lucy free of charge from NOVL in order to write an honest review.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Parched

Parched is a sci-fi dystopian YA novel by Georgia Clark.

Born and raised a privileged Edenite, sixteen-year-old Tessa Rockwood left everything behind after the sudden, violent death of her scientist mother to escape to the Badlands.

The Badlands are outside the lush borders of Eden – where water is a precious, rare commodity, as is privacy, prosperity or nearly anything that comes easy in Eden. After years of the Trust – those that govern Eden – leading Edenites to believe the Badlands are simply an exotic, humbler place, Tessa now knows the ugly, brutal truth.

So, when she is approached to return to Eden and secretly fight the inequality by joining a rebel group called Kudzu, Tessa does. She attempts to swallow down her gnawing guilt at the secrets only she knows about her mother’s death and tries to slip back into her old life by showing up at her uncle’s home.

It’s tougher than she expected to return, though.

And as it’s revealed that the Trust may be tinkering with artificial intelligence after a prior epic failure, Tessa is faced with torn loyalties…

Parched provides an interesting, quick thrust into a dystopian, sci-fi future filled with creepy robots. Both within and without Eden robots have taken many of the labor jobs that used to employ humanity and there’s an unsettling feeling that - despite the assurance that they could never kill a person – they are dangerous.

Quickly, I felt the edgy, compelling, suspenseful vibe of Parched and appreciated the way the writing and pacing allows us to get to know the characters and gain an understanding of this futuristic world.

Tessa is different than many YA heroines. She’s secretive and haunted in a Jack Bauer type of way. She’s sarcastic and hardened – yet also vulnerable. She might think she’s tougher than she really is.

Parched is a little bit Ocean’s Eleven and a little bit Elysium, from a movie perspective.

There’s a big shocker that impressed me and a lot of dark, psychologically fascinating twists.

Not to mention a ton of action.

All of this plus a little romance makes for a very good read. I enjoyed Parched quite a bit.

The end, for some reason, felt a little anti-climactic to me – not that it was bad, I really don’t know what I was expecting – but I would recommend Parched to any sci-fi, dystopian, action fans!

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Iron Trial

The Iron Trial is the first middle grade fantasy novel in Holly Black and Cassandra Clare’s new Magisterium series.

All of Callum Hunt’s life, his father has been adamant about steering clear of magic – that it’s dangerous, that it’s something to be avoided entirely.

So, though most kids are excited to be going to the Iron Trial – a test for children exhibiting possible magical abilities to be entered into apprenticeship education at the Magisterium – Callum is entering into it with the intention of failing.

Failing on purpose.

Yet the tests end up being more obscure than Callum expected – and though he does poorly, somehow he still manages to be selected to be a student.

Tearing Callum aware from his shouting father, Callum’s mind thunders with all of the warnings and fears his father pounded into his head over the years.

Now he has no choice but to face those forewarnings and try to get thrown out and go home before it’s too late…

I could have given even more information in that synopsis – but I’d say less is often more when you enter a novel. Might as well be surprised as often as possible, huh?!

The Iron Trial has left me with a rather split opinion.

On the one hand, Callum is an interesting character – he’s sarcastic, distrustful and both loyal to his dad while also longing for a place to belong. Having dealt with a disabled leg since birth, he’s built up defenses against the cruelty of others and has come out the other end as he is.

On the other hand, the plot often feels very familiar. Of course one obviously easy comparison is Harry Potter. Now, really The Iron Trial is not all that similar to Harry Potter – besides being a magical boarding school.

In The Iron Trial the magic is elemental and the school is – intentionally – nowhere near as fun as Hogwarts. There’s a sense that the Magisterium is not concerned with the students safety at all, which is rather attention-grabbing.

However, at the same time, there are some scenes in which I felt a marked déjà vu – Callum works primarily with one other boy and girl student. The primary villain is the “Enemy of Death”, someone who has become immortal. Certain scenes at the end - no details here - felt eerily similar to scenes at the end of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

I’m not saying that The Iron Trial is trying to be Harry Potter or that there’s any copying going on – it just left me with an odd impression.

Part of me is interested in continuing with the series – which is being approached as five books – and another part of me is not. How much familiar ground are we going to cover? Why do I have such a strange sense of déjà vu?

Like I said, I’m of a split opinion.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Blue Lily, Lily Blue

Blue Lily, Lily Blue is the third book in The Raven Cycle, a quartet of YA contemporary fantasy, by Maggie Stiefvater.

Being that they are stunning books that are highly serialized, I urge you to read the books in order. You can read my review of The Raven Boys here and The Dream Thieves here.

Being in a family of gifted females – gifted meaning clairvoyants, psychics and other type of weirdness – as well as having her own ability of increasing others’ power by her presence, Blue has always been an outsider.

But then she met her Raven Boys.

Now fully accepted into their exclusive group and part of the quest to find the long lost king Glendower amongst the ley lines, her experience in weirdness is coming in handy.

Things are not rainbows and sunshine, however.

Her mother has disappeared – and Blue doesn’t know whether to be angry or worried.

Dangerous people have tracked down Blue and her Raven Boys – people that are getting too close to following their footsteps to Glendower.

Their quest seems to be becoming an increasing risk to their lives.

Plus there’s the ongoing disturbance of knowing that if she ever kisses her true love, he will die…

Blue Lily, Lily Blue is a bit of a tough book to write a synopsis for. There are far too many things going on, really. It’s hard to describe in a short paragraph. Hopefully all of you reading this are already fans of The Raven Cycle!

As I started Blue Lily, Lily Blue – I was initially confused. I struggled to remember where we left off in The Dream Thieves, since I sadly didn’t have time to re-read it. It didn’t take long for things to come back to me, though.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue and the entire Raven Cycle is, in my opinion, very, very accessible to older readers. These are mature, brainy, sophisticated books with characters that are psychologically fascinating, a setting that is superbly atmospheric and a plot that is uniquely supernatural.

Really I have become a Maggie Stiefvater superfan! Her writing is so elegant, unassuming yet undeniably powerful. She sweeps me away with these novels and creates a story that is mesmerizing, suspenseful, creepy and always, ALWAYS new.

Blue is an awesome heroine – reminding me of some other recent favorites, such as Kami in the Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan and Madeline in The Colors of Madeline by Jaclyn Moriarty. Witty, quirky, compassionate but tough and principled.

Steifvater has created a full cast of three-dimensional, layered characters and an incredibly magical, dark storyline that is truly captivating.

All I can say is that I hope the wait for the final book is not long!!!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fox Forever

Fox Forever is a YA sci-fi novel – and the third in the Jenna Fox Chronicles – by Mary E. Pearson.

Happily, I was able to take the time to re-read The Adoration of Jenna Fox and The Fox Inheritance before reading Fox Forever. Yet again I was moved and amazed by the originality and characterizations that made both books so stunning.

I recommend reading these books in order to get the whole effect – so refrain from reading this review if you haven’t yet read The Adoration of Jenna Fox and The Fox Inheritance.

Locke Jenkins has left the relative comfort of Jenna’s home to live the life he’s been robbed of for the last 260 years – time that Jenna has lived, despite still looking a young seventeen-years-old.

But he has a Favor to repay – from the time that he and Kara were escaping from the monstrous Dr. Gatsbro and the Network – those who are on the fringes of society as non-civilians in this futuristic, split United States - helped them.

They seem to think Locke would be a great participant in their latest assignment – and possibly their most important. In order to pursue the rescue of a Resistance leader long thought dead, Locke is tasked with infiltrating the home of a government official by befriending his teenage daughter, Raine.

Locke wasn’t trained for espionage, however – and he’s finding it difficult to perform the increasingly challenging “favors” the Network requires of him and deceiving Raine…

Fox Forever was fantastic!

It took me a few pages to get used to the more political intrigue angle of Fox Forever – but it didn’t take long to grasp on to the humanistic, lyrical, character-centered science fiction that I have come to adore from Pearson.

As we delve more into the situation of this high-tech world and what the Network is doing to try and work toward change – it really shows how much imagination the author put into it. I am continually spellbound with the intricacies of the involvement of different types of Bots in everyday life – and the way some are dreamers and some aren’t – as well as many other types of thought-provoking science fiction.

Fox Forever is a deeply moving, creative, intelligent and breathtaking final novel.

It ties up these three superb novels with an elegant, gripping, suspenseful, meaningful finale.

Now more than ever I am ready for more books from Mary E. Pearson!

Monday, November 17, 2014

House of Many Ways

House of Many Ways is a middle grade/YA fantasy novel by Diana Wynne Jones and the sequel, of sorts, to Howl’s Moving Castle and Castle in the Air.

Due to this, I recommend reading the books in order to get the full, fun effect.

When Charmain’s great-uncle, the royal wizard of their land, becomes mysteriously ill and is carried off by elves to be tended to, Charmain is volunteered by her wealthy aunt to look after his house in his absence.

To Charmain this is an opportunity to read nonstop without pesky, bothersome parents about to disturb her – but she soon discovers that time to read at this unique house may be tougher to come by than she expected.

A humble, ordinary dwelling on the outside, Charmain’s great-uncle’s residence is a wonder from the inside – with the ability to bend space and time. There’s also a clingy, stray dog in residence that may or may not be magical and an inconvenient arrival of a clumsy wizard’s apprentice.

To top all of this off, Charmain becomes involved in the king’s search to find clues on how to locate a mysterious Elfgift to save her country, meanwhile avoiding a menacing purple Lubbock with bad intentions.

All in all not the reading paradise she expected it to be…

House of Many Ways has that eccentric, quirky vibe that I love – and despite not having the faintest idea what was going on for a while, I was still thoroughly delighted with the novel. The writing style alone brings a smile to my face!

An interesting aspect to House of Many Ways is that except for being a book lover, Charmain is not the most likable of heroines. She’s selfish, brash, impulsive and insensitive. However, as always, Jones is fantastic at weaving character development and growth into what initially seems to be just fantasy fluff.

There are a few great shout-outs to Castle in the Air, as well as Howl’s Moving Castle. I felt the follow-up with those characters were charming and definitely entertaining.

I can’t say that the plot in House of Many Ways was as clearly concise as the first two books – but as it began to near the end I saw how it all started coming together. Difficult not to appreciate the intricacy!

As with each Diana Wynne Jones novel I have read thus far – I see strong re-read potential here!!!

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Book Thief

The Book Thief is a historical fiction novel by Markus Zusak.

In 1939, Liesel has lost her little brother and has been left by her mother to live with foster parents in Germany. She clutches The Grave Digger’s Handbook, a book left by her brother’s grave by accident, even though she does not know how to read.

This first act of book thievery is only the beginning – and as she learns to read with the assistance of her foster father she commences a passion for books and words.

But as the Nazi’s hold in Germany strengthens, Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement and sets off a string of events that will change Liesel’s life forever…

I have heard of The Book Thief, of course, for quite some time. As I finally reached the point to read it for myself, I was a bit scared of it not meeting expectations – or that it would and I’ll cry for ages!

The prologue is powerful, golly that’s for sure.

The Book Thief is deeply touching, frightening and engrossing.

This is a meaningful and very good book – but for me it was not as earth-shattering as I expected.

This is one of those times that you wonder if you hadn’t heard so much about it, if you would have loved it more.

Don’t get me wrong – it is very, very good. But I didn’t cry and I didn’t feel as emotionally drained as I thought I would.

It’s an effective novel that was very well done and more than worth the read, though.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Surprised by Love

Surprised by Love is a Christian historical romance by Julie Lessman, the third book in The Heart of San Francisco trilogy.

Though each book in the series focuses on a different family member, I’d still advise reading the books in order to avoid spoilers – as the characters overlap. First you’ll want to read Love at Any Cost and then Dare to Love Again. Click on the titles to read my reviews of those novels.

A year ago plump, smart Megan McClare left San Francisco to study in Paris.

During that year she has turned into a beauty – having slimmed down, learned some makeup tips and fashion how-to. Even her own family has a tough time recognizing her at first!

With ambitions and a heart that is as strong in faith as ever, Megan embraces the opportunity to intern at the district attorney’s office.

But then she finds out that Devin Caldwell will also be interning there – the boy that she had a crush on when she was younger.

The boy who mocked, teased and hurt her with callous words.

Faced with this difficulty, Megan turns to her best friend Bram for advice – but Bram counsels forgiveness while alternately struggling with his own newfound, troubling attraction to this girl who used to think of as a little sister.

Will recommending forgiveness push Megan into the cad Devin’s arms?

I liked the transformative story – a duckling turning into a swan, essentially – but it did get a little old rather fast for me. You can only take so many exclamations of shock and so many statements of Megan’s beauty before you think, “Okay! I get it!!!”

As always, the strength of Surprised by Love and the other books in the series is in the grounding of the family – encompassing both drama and romance. An ongoing romantic dilemma between Megan’s widowed mother Cait and her uncle Logan has been pleasing – yet even that starts to feel like we’re going around in circles.

At 150 pages, I was enjoying Surprised by Love but felt the novel lacked direction. Just felt like there was a little of repetition and a frustrating lack of progress. The romantic themes began to feel like they were being conked over my head.

Yet, by the end of Surprised by Love, there were some healthy shocks and a few pretty darn touching family moments, as well as romantic declarations.

So – take from that mixed feedback what you will!

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

Monday, November 10, 2014

Castle in the Air

Castle in the Air is a middle grade/YA fantasy novel by Diana Wynne Jones. It’s also a companion to Howls Moving Castle.

To keep from being spoiled at all on Howl’s Moving Castle – I recommend you read it first. You can read my review here.

Young carpet merchant Abdullah makes smart buying decisions and spends his free time with his friend Jamal and Jamal’s people-hating-except-for-Jamal-and-Abdullah dog.

He also spends a lot of his time dreaming.

When one day a mysterious man sells him a persnickety magic carpet, things begin to get complicated.

That very same night, Abdullah awakens to find himself in his imagined palace garden and meets girl just like the one he’d daydreamed about – she is a princess and her name is Flower-in-the-Night.

Just as Abdullah begins to think all of his dreams are coming true – Flower-in-the-Night is kidnapped by a wicked djinn.

A quest has begun – as he must save her!

Along the way his stubborn magic carpet leads him to a shady genie and deceitful soldier. Not to mention a couple of black cats.

Is there any way Abdullah and this strange group of “helpers” can rescue the princess?

This is my fourth foray into the novels of Diana Wynne Jones and I can officially say I am a fangirl!

Castle in the Air is utterly charming! It made me smile from start to finish – making this reader’s heart a happy one!!!

It’s clever in that wordy way I love, witty and joyful to read. Castle in the Air surprised me, refreshed me and felt FUN all the way through!

As appears to be a common theme for Jones, we have strong females shown, fantastically silly situation, splendid dialogue, humor and that grounding in astonishing character development.

Plus, having peeks at Sophie and Howl’s life after Howl’s Moving Castle was AWESOME!

I loved Castle in the Air! It is truly a book for all ages – as are all of Jones’ books that I’ve read to date.

All I can say is: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Of Beast and Beauty

Of Beast and Beauty is a YA fantasy reimagining of Beauty and the Beast by Stacey Jay.

Inside the domed city of Yuan live the Smooth Skins – of which blind Isra is the princess.

Despite being blind, she knows she is a hideous blemish on her people and has been held in a tower, unseen by the Smooth Skins, since her mother’s death.

But does it matter? She’s been raised to be a human sacrifice anyway – a girl whose death will mean the prosperity of the Smooth Skins for years to come.

Outside Yuan is the vast, barren desert where those they call the Monstrous live. As they fight starvation, Gem is one of many that cross the border into Yuan to search for food for their loved ones.

When caught, Gem becomes a prisoner of Isra and the question of who is the monstrous becomes more pressing than ever before.

Isra’s way of life is called into question by her association with Gem – who she begins to consider intelligent, compassionate and wholly human – not monstrous at all despite his claws and hardened skin.

A deadly, dangerous choice lies in their future…

Of Beast and Beauty floored me.

To begin with, Stacey Jay writes in a tone that is disturbing, gritty and very edgy. She makes Of Beast and Beauty more reminiscent of the Grimm type original stories – a version that is more gory and chilling, but still all its own.

There’s elegance to the evolution of the characters and plot. It’s stunningly romantic – a love story that sets aside all superficiality and continually surprises you.

I cannot say I love it more than the Disney version, or other retellings, but this novel stands all on its own.

This is a new story – engrossing and increasingly beautiful as the pages turn. All of my initial doubts faded as I was pulled deeper and deeper into the novel.

Of Beast and Beauty is heartbreaking and intense.

Truly a stunning book – I loved it!!!

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Mirk and Midnight Hour

The Mirk and Midnight Hour is a YA historical retelling of The Ballad of Tam Lin by Jane Nickerson.

Though this novel takes place in the same universe as Nickerson’s previous novel Strands of Bronze and Gold, my review of which you can read here, it is not necessary to read in order.

Violet Dancey, seventeen, does her best to assist in the efforts of the fight against the North as she lives out her daily life in Mississippi. She tries to help wounded soldiers – though she hardly knows what she’s doing.

When her father announces that he is going to marry and Violet will have not just a new stepmother but also a stepsister – a girl her own age that she knows and does not particularly care for – she is not pleased. To have her comfortable little home invaded by strangers – while she’s still grieving her beloved soldier twin brother and relies on the support of her best friend, a slave her own age that is more like family – sounds devastating.

Then her home of Scuppernong Farm also is visited by two cousins – one very young and one closer to her age and dangerously handsome – and Violet has to accept that her home is now fit to burst with people.

But there are secrets in this town. A mysterious family that many shun. Wild voodoo dances in the woods. A cabin that may house someone forbidden to Violet.

Something isn’t right. Something is dangerous.

And it may be in Violet’s home.

I’m not so sure that I provided a synopsis that does The Mirk and Midnight Hour justice. Hopefully it will make you curious, though, because it is a quite wonderful book!

As I read The Mirk and Midnight Hour I savored the historical, atmospheric setting. There’s a gothic feel, yes, but also an environment that feels wholly believable in reality.

Violet is a very likable character – she’s compassionate, lonely, conflicted, grieving and plain. There are plenty of dramatic plots surrounding the Civil War, the family, slavery and enigmatic, otherworldly elements that are hinted at and slowly build.

The Mirk and Midnight Hour is suspenseful, full of heart and reflection and occasionally quite creepy! It’s also very romantic, well-paced and haunting. It showcases terrible human cruelty, a moment that turns the plot and leads to a heart-pounding, terrifying climax.

I found the supernatural elements of the book to be suitable chilling and unsettling. Very much so!

The Mirk and Midnight Hour is a satisfying meal of a book. I highly recommend it!!!

I hope to see more from Jane Nickerson soon!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Famous Last Words

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 27, 2014

Unmade

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

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

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

Understand?!?

I’m trusting you!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Truth.

Oh my goodness.

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

Or – rather – the whole Lynburn Legacy trilogy combined?

It would take far too many adjectives, fellow bibliophiles.

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

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

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

It was perfect!!!

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

Bravo, Sarah!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hexed

Hexed is a YA supernatural contemporary novel by Michelle Krys.

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

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

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

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

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

Hexed surprised me.

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Wrinkle in Time

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

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

Well, I’m getting around to them!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hopefully you’ll get it the first time around!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line

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

Stop right there, bibliophile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If only her Dad would agree.

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

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

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

Well, this is what she signed up for…

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

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

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

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

I loved it – it was awesome.

‘Nuff said.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Glass Casket

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

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

Now something dark has invaded it.

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

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

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

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

Rowan could be next…

The Glass Casket perplexed me a bit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 10, 2014

Starstruck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Cue maniacal laughter*

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Bride Wore Size 12

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

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

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


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

Established Heather Wells fans, read on:

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

Heather wants nothing more than for everything to go smoothly.

Then an attractive junior turns up dead in her room.

Tragic? Absolutely.

Murder? Heather certainly hopes not.

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

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

Heather really doesn’t have time for this.

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t get me wrong, though, people!!!

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

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

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

Friday, October 3, 2014

Rebecca

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

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

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

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

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

The truths she finds are much darker than she imagined…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One final comment: Our narrator has no first name.

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

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

So, I’ll accept it. 