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!