Thursday, May 31, 2012

This Gorgeous Game

This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas
4/5 stars
Frances Foster Books, 2010
208 pages
YA Contemporary

Source: Library

I had seen this book around including that it had earned several rave reviews from fellow bloggers. But I really hated the cover. Then I read The Survival Kit and enjoyed it so when I was looking for a short book to read from the library, I picked up this one interested in learning what it is about.

Main character seventeen-year old Olivia is just so lucky because she won a writing contest that allows her to attend a summer seminar at a nearby university taught by the famous and respected novelist priest Father Mark Brendan. They meet beforehand with him praising her talent and assuring her she could go far. He invites her to fancy events and pours attention on her. Everyone says how lucky she is to have his focus on her but why does Olivia feel so uncomfortable? Why do Father Mark's phone calls start to seem sinister and why does his presence make her skin crawl? Why can't she eat anymore?

The book is divided into three parts and the first part shows how Father Mark comes to dominate Olivia's life. At first for me, it seemed fairly innocuous. I'm used to books only showing the parts of life that are relevant to a story and filling in blanks (for example people rarely use the bathroom in books and sleep is often barely mentioned but I know that as humans, it is happening). It was only as the section progressed that I realized just how much time she was spending with him and how very wrong it was. He demands her full attention, as if he is grooming her to be his protege and as if other people are interfering. Father Mark doesn't respect her time with her family, her friends, a potential boyfriend. He wants it all and will go so far as to stalk her.

Olivia starts to realize this relationship is unhealthy and that Father Mark is not behaving properly. At first she copes by ducking him, ignoring phone calls, emails, letters, and trying to put other people between them as a buffer. But since no one else knows the situation, the people in her life are confused by her behavior. They see respected Father Mark, generous with his time and money. It is not until Olivia reads his latest work, titled This Gorgeous Game, that she realizes the full derangement of Father Mark and which spurs her to go for aid from her very loyal family and friends.

I really tried to emphasize that Mark is a priest above because that plays a large role. Olivia attends Catholic school and both her mother and sister are devoted Catholics while Olivia's faith ends up a bit shaken by this experience, to say the least. His position is the main reason why people are so excited about him and trust him. As a man of the cloth, Olivia should have been able to have a mentor to guide her writing, not a predator who destroys her well-being. Happily when she goes for help, she gets it and Father Mark is removed from her life and punished.

Overall: A book that just pulls you in and keeps you turning the pages to see how Olivia is drawn into and then escapes Father Mark's web. Especially interesting for people who like to read about religion in YA-I would not describe this book as preachy at all.

Cover: After reading the book, I understand how the cover applies and I really do love the purple. Still I find it to be a turn-off and not the kind of cover that would entice me to pick up the book without the outside encouragements.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Night Like This

A Night Like This by Julia Quinn
4/5 stars
Avon Books, 2012
Historical Romance Comedy
Book 2 in the Smythe-Smith Quartet

Source: Received an e-ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I'll admit that I definitely have expectations when I pick up a Julia Quinn romance. I expect to laugh a lot, to love the main characters, and to be amused by the many secondary characters who surround the couple. Well, check plus on all three points for this book!

I feel like once you're familiar with Quinn's style, it is immediately recognizable. And that is the case here. I love returning to this London and to the great families she creates. There is so much love evident and for someone who prefers a lighter story, it is so comforting. I don't want angst-I want to have fun and Quinn always delivers!

This is the second book in the Smythe-Smith quartet and it overlaps with the end of the first book, Just Like Heaven, which I read last year but did not review. Daniel Smythe-Smith, Earl of Winstead, has returned from abroad where he had escaped after foolishly dueling with and injuring a peer with a powerful and protective father. It is supposed to be safe for him to return. However it is not exactly as he promptly loses his heart to his sisters' governess the lovely and mysterious Miss Anne Wynter. Anne has worked very hard to reach her current position and does not want to jeopardize it by flirting above her social stratum.

But as the book progresses, of course, she is charmed by Daniel and falls for him. Alas all is not well though with Daniel suffering several attacks that may have been orchestrated by his friend's father who still harbors a grudge and with Anne also threatened by someone from her past. Her story is an old one but not one any less worthy of compassion.  I especially liked the climactic ending because of course Anne's past has to haunt her and of course Daniel has to go after her. But happily Anne can be her own heroine and save herself with Daniel just providing additional support.

While I did miss Lady Danbury who I remember playing a role in the first book, it is more than made up for by Daniel's three younger sisters who dearly love each other. One is an aspiring playwright and another has an obsession with unicorns; just a few of the quirks that make them so much fun to read about. And of course we have the traditional Smythe-Smith performances that open and close the book and will probably never not make me smile.

Overall: I think I actually liked this book more than the first although warning to those who don't like love at first sight stories. I usually don't but Quinn is so masterly that I end loving them.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Girl in the Clockwork Collar

The Girl in the Clockwork Collar by Kady Cross
4.5/5 stars
HarlequinTeen, 2012
411 pages
YA Steampunk
Steampunk Chronicles #2

Source: Received an e-ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I really enjoyed the first book The Girl in the Steel Corset and was super excited to pick up this second book, content in the knowledge that it would be a standalone book without a cliffhanger (I bet you could read this without having read the first although I don't recommend it), excited to have more character development, and intrigued to discover a steampunk America. Most of the steampunk books I've read have been set in London, which makes a journey to America standout.

We are quickly reunited with our main characters from the first book: Finley Jayne, a girl with incredible strength who is struggling to understand the two sides of her personality that almost turned her into another Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Griffin, wealthy duke who feels a great responsibility to those in his crew; Emily, sweet redheaded genius; and Sam, part man, part machine. There is also one other character, Jasper, whose capture ended the first book. He is being taken to America to repay a debt to a powerful gangster who is keeping Jasper's old love Mei in a clockwork collar that could strangle her at any moment. Now that we have our characters reintroduced, what about the rest?

The America that is presented to us is exciting, offering glimpses of the elite of society as well as the rough and tumble dangerous areas of New York City. It's all together in one place, the city that never sleeps. One awesome side-character is Wildcat, a gang leader who has a past with Jasper and has amply earned her nickname. Another character was a society miss desperate for a title who confounds the group's plans several times. Then there is the gang leader who is holding Jasper and Mei captive. He is quite ruthless but very far-thinking once you discover what his ultimate end-game has been.

I did think this was better paced than the first book, which I thought could have used some more help with editing. But I did grow a little weary of Finley thinking the same things over and over again about her split personalities, strength, and feelings toward Griffin (also would have taken more romance between Finley and Griffin although what we got was delicious). The writing was just as good as the first book, very absorbing and good at keeping me engaged. Every time I finished a chapter, I told myself that I probably had time to read the next too and would keep going because I had to know what would happen next! I also felt that Emily (and Sam to an extent) were pushed off to the side to make room for Jasper and Mei. Since I adore Emily, that made me sad.

I remember feeling like love triangles were a big element of the first book and it was something I commented upon in my review. For this book, that definitely takes a backseat. Emily reciprocates Sam's affections although it is not much elaborated upon and with Jasper out of the way, there aren't really any obstacles for them. Meanwhile with the roguish Jack Dandy in London, Finley and Griff only continue to deepen their feelings for each other despite their social divide and his tendency to treat her as something fragile in need of protection. Finley is driven to prove her strength to Griffin, resulting in several reckless instances.

If I had to guess what would happen in the third book (assuming this is meant to be a trilogy), I would say that all of the powers of the ether will come to a head, perhaps with all being revealed to the world. Additionally Jack Dandy will probably insert himself between Finley and Griffin for more tension although I hope they can make it work.

Overall: Another delightful entry in the Steampunk Chronicles with more of the adventure, romance, and fun that could be expected!

Cover: I am so happy that we get to see another beautiful dress in a bright, eye-catching color. Wish we got to see the bottom! I am also happy that we have a Chinese cover model and not someone who was white-washed so bravo to HarlequinTeen for a step in the right direction!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Spell Bound

Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins
4/5 stars
Hyperion, 2012
327 pages
YA Paranormal
Book #3 in the Hex Hall Trilogy

Source: Library

Some spoilers and references to the previous books-read at your own risk!

I was both excited and nervous to pick up this conclusion to the Hex Hall trilogy. On the one hand, I really enjoyed first book Hex Hell and sequel Demonglass, which ended with a killer cliffhanger. But I was unable to prevent myself from skimming some reviews and it looked like I would be unhappy with the resolution of the romance (if you look at my reviews for the first books, you will see that I am firmly anti-Archer).

Happily this book picks up shortly after the end of Demonglass with Sophie learning some pretty important (and surprising) things about her family. I am not going to spoil you-you will just have to pick up this delightful series and find everything out for yourself! What I can share is that Sophie gains some additional allies in her fight against the villains of the book, which is good as she could use the support. I really liked the new people we meet and they have some great snarkiness in the beginning although as the book progresses, we focus more on Sophie herself and her powers.

At the beginning of the book, she is unable to access them, since she was stripped in the previous novel. This leaves her feeling incomplete and increases her fear. This also leads to some interesting scenes where Sophie is possessed by a ghost who can perform magic. Those were some of my favorite scenes with many interesting consequences.

However Sophie is incredibly powerful and I never felt much suspense around whether or not she would be able to defeat the threat once she reclaimed her abilities. Not just because this is a book and that is the ending a book should have. But just because she seems so much more powerful than everyone else around her. As long as she maintains control and focus (a bit of a problem in the first book), she can easily kick butt.

Surprisingly I came around on the Sophie/Archer connection. I'm still NOT an Archer fangirl; I will not swoon over him and I don't think he's good enough for Sophie but I found myself enjoying some of their scenes together. They just seem to "get" each other. The resolution for Cal is not what I would have preferred but it makes sense and provided me with closure.

Overall: A good ending to a really enjoyable series-definitely recommended for the reader who likes some snark with her paranormal as well as some magic, adventure, and romance!

Cover: That cat is still present; am I missing something? I still don't remember reading about a cat in any of the books even though he has been present on the cover of all three. Though I like imagining that Sophie is lucky enough to have a nice, soft kitty cat in her life.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pre-Order Miracle Contest @escottwrites and Blog Updates

Just a reminder about preordering Miracle by Elizabeth Scott but with some new information! See, she is actually hosting a contest with the chance to win some awesome books and you can enter if you just blog/tweet/whatever but you get extra entries if you also pre-order Miracle and send a screenshot/forward confirmation email to

BUT there is also another contest: if she reaches her goal of 1000 pre-orders, she will give away twenty-six gift certificates or donation to a school/library for books (twenty will receive $50, 5 will receive $100, and there is one grand prize winner of $500). I want to especially make sure any teachers or librarians see this so you can enter!

All details are on Scott's blog so make sure to check it out!

Remember Miracle comes out June 5 so I have included some links so you can preorder: Indiebound, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository, and Amazon.

Now for some blog updates:
1. I figured out how to re-add threaded comments to my blog so I am going to try to be better about responding to comments here. However in general I don't respond because I figure the commenter would prefer a comment on a post at their blog (unless there is a specific question). Would you agree with this? I am also totally cool with people leaving a link to their latest post, blog homepage, or just a post that they want some comment love for-it makes it easier for me!

2. I have also been much better about commenting-one of my perpetual goals for myself! I would estimate that I comment on at least 10 blogs a day on average and it really does make blogging more fun.

3. If you received a comment on a post that is over a month old, I'm sorry for the delay. I had bookmarked your review to read and have only just now left a comment. Hopefully this doesn't bother you.

4. While last week I mentioned that I was in a bit of a reviewing rut, which still holds true, I also feel like I'm in a reading rut. My goal has been to read 25 books a month or 300 books this year and I am not going to make it this month barring something crazy that prohibits me from going to work but does let me read. I am hoping to make up the difference over the summer as I will have slightly fewer demands on my time. And I will do my best to catch up tomorrow (Memorial Day in the US); we'll see how I do in my monthly stats wrap-up. I do have a lot of amazing books on tap (including Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross, which should be reviewed at the end of June) so I am very optimistic about playing catch-up.

How are things going for you? Anybody have fun plans for Memorial Day weekend?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Take a Bow

Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg
3.5/5 stars
Point, 2012
278 pages
YA Contemporary Performing Arts

Source: Library

After loving The Lonely Hearts Club and Prom & Prejudice, I knew I would be reading Eulberg's next book. Then I saw a ton of positive reviews of this, which got me even more excited! Unfortunately while there were some things I liked, there was something that really annoyed me (coughethancough).

Let's start with what attracted me to this book besides previous experience with the author's writing. The setting is a performing arts high school, a personal favorite setting of mine. I love reading about all of these kids with tremendous talent and potential and this was no exception. The scenes where the kids were practicing or performing were among my favorite. I also liked reading about the competition and nerves behind the scenes even though it caused me anxiety; it was a pressure cooker situation.

Then we have the characters. By far, my favorite was Carter, former child-star who still has his fans but is longing to leave acting. As he rethinks his life and makes big choices, he retained a down-to-earth sweetness that made his perspective very enjoyable. Next up is Sophie, the aspiring star who sings. Ever since she was a child, Sophie has been driven, keeping an eye out for her big break that will launch her to stardom. But life at school has been hard for Sophie. Although she has managed to date Carter for two years, she sees herself increasingly not getting the roles she thinks she deserves. To Sophie, this pushes her harder; to the reader, we see her stabbing people in the back and trampling anyone she finds in her way. She is not nice and I know a lot of other reviewers have not liked her. But I felt really bad for Sophie, seeing her pain at her ambitions going unfulfilled but without the maturity to examine herself critically.

The other two characters also need some help, in my opinion. Ethan is a self-sabotaging idiot. For the past few years, he was involved in a destructive cycle of cheating on his girlfriend, writing heartbreaking songs to win her back, and on and on. This was exacerbated by his drinking problem and his unresolved feelings for his best friend Emme. Honestly-I hated Ethan. I cannot handle the self-destruction in his character and I did not see him redeeming himself. I am also worried that his drinking problem was basically tossed aside and ignored; I would have loved some resolution there.

Emme is a much more palatable character but her soft spot for Ethan made me lower my opinion of her. Emme is basically the main character with important relationships with all three of the other characters and she undergoes the biggest transformation from shy wallflower to singer, songwriter, and face-melting guitarist. If she could have held strong to her conviction to not involve herself with Ethan, preserving merely a friendship with him, I would have liked her a lot more. But since she lowered herself, I end with disappointment.

I was also disappointed with the writing. By that I mean, it felt very different from the other two books I've read. Whereas I felt very clearly that they came from the same writer, this seemed like a radical departure and it was not one I liked. And the four perspectives and the short length (not even 300 pages) really impaired my ability to connect with any of the characters.

So I think I would sum up my problems with this book as 1. Too many characters for the length, leading to superficiality on some parts and 2. Deep hatred for the handling of the Ethan character.

Overall: I love swirly scripts for titles and choosing to show Emme was a wise decision.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Lyon's Bride

Lyon's Bride: The Chattan Curse by Cathy Maxwell
4/5 stars
Avon Books, 2012
372 pages
Historical Romance

Source: Received an ARC from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

I was really nervous when I opened this book and saw the year 1632 listed as I had requested this under the impression that it was set during the Regency time period and I was really craving that. Happily this is only a prologue chapter that sets up the basic premise of this book (and the next two that will follow) and what a wallop it packed! See in 1632, Fenella's beloved daughter Rose handfasted with Charles Chattan; but he proved to be faithless, marrying an Englishwoman of title and power. For vengeance, Fenella curses his line that once a man falls in love, his death is imminent. He will father a son to carry on the curse but death will take him. And so it goes to the time of 1814 when our story proper begins.

The first character we meet is Thea Martin, a young widow and mother of two boys who had been disinherited by her duke father for marrying below her station. Now she scrapes by as a highly sought after matchmaker for the difficult cases of the ton. But she has never received a case so preposterous. Neal Chattan, Lord Lyon, wants her to find him a bride who he will not detest but with whom he will never fall in love. Complicating matters are Thea's own deep belief in the power of love as well as a youthful attraction between the two.

For his part, Neal grew up at a distance from his father, learning about the curse during the summer he met Thea and has tried to stay detached since. With his brother Harry and his sister Margaret, they have sworn to let the curse end with them. But Neal craves children and, although he doesn't want to admit it, he craves Thea. Thus enters their conflict. Her youthful marriage has left her scarred but still wanting to fall in love and be married. If he marries a woman he loves, he will father a child but die young.

I really liked the dance Neal and Thea went through as each pretended they were untouched by the other's presence especially because I as the reader got to see how much they loved each other. Both characters have strong senses of personal honor and are restrained, which tend to be my favorite characters as I feel I have similar attributes. It was easy to put myself in Thea's shoes despite our very different positions and that always makes me happy.

But what I probably found most interesting was how the story ends with Neal facing the first symptoms of the curse: a numbness on his left side. The group does not want to give up though so Harry is dispatched to search for Fenella. The next book is called Scottish Witch, due Fall 2012, making me think Harry might fall for one of Fenella's descendants, leading to another reason to end the curse as Chattan finally makes restitution for the wrong.

There is also a house party (I love Regency house parties), snobby leaders of the ton, adorable little kids, and plenty of threads for the future romances of Harry and Margaret with all of their flaws and virtues.

Overall: An intriguing curse premise hangs the entire trilogy together and I can't wait to read the next section!

Cover: Really not a fan of books where a model stares out at the reader but I still kind of like this especially with the gorgeous blue cover background.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Fair Concubine

My Fair Concubine by Jeannie Lin
5/5 stars
Harlequin, 2012
221 pages
Historical Romance

Source: Received review copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

I have read two previous works by Lin and having enjoyed them, I remained on the lookout for more work. The premise for this one instantly piqued my interest: "My Fair Lady" reworked to historical China? Yes, please! I have a soft sport for "My Fair Lady" that is only marred by my intense loathing of Rex Harrison (read about him-he's a jerk!) But this book would have no Harrison, just using the Pygmalion story. I could not wait to pick it up!

And I found this to be even better than I was expecting! That would be mostly because of the characters. The main characters are very concerned with honor and with doing the right thing even when it conflicts with their own personal wants.  The tension of them wanting each other but thinking it's the wrong thing kept me glued to the pages.

The book actually opens with hero Fei Long barging in on his sister, who I originally thought had been stolen and sold into prostitution. Nothing quite so dire-instead she ran away with her lover to avoid her fate of being sent out of the country as a princess bride in order to make an alliance for China. The siblings had been close so Fei Long does allow her to leave despite the dishonor it will bring on their family, which weighs heavily upon him in the aftermath of their father's demise and crippling debts. To ponder his quandary, Fei Long orders tea and sits there for hours.

Yan Ling has no family and has been very fortunate to be given a servant position in the local teahouse. Without that job, she has nothing. So when she tosses tea at Fei Long after an arrogant comment, she is in big trouble. She begs him to help her and he realizes that she might prove useful in taking the place of his sister as a bride. First though she must undergo thorough training in manners, speaking, writing, posture, etc. and all in only a few short months. But as the two spend time together, sparks start to fly, complicating their already complicated position.

I really don't think I can say enough about how much I enjoyed the slow burn of their romance. Neither particularly likes the other at first and they continually butt heads. It's just that the more time they spend together, the more they fall but the more impossible it all seems. Fei Long must maintain his family's honor including getting them out of the crippling debt his father led them into. He has servants who have served them for generations and he is also responsible for them. Meanwhile Yan Ling recognizes his situation and wants to uphold her promise of going while really all she wants to do is stay. For the most part, they don't touch and they stay away but nothing can dull the passion they feel.

Overall: I just adored this book-it was SO good, combining romance, history, amazing descriptions of food, some action, and some suspense all with strong characters and excellent writing. Highly recommended!

Cover: Um, he's kind of hot! I'm trying not to stare at him right now but I kind of want to; I am definitely putting myself in Yan Ling's shoes right now.

Where to buy: You can get an e-copy from the Harlequin store. Or for paperback, Barnes and Noble or Amazon. Please note that I am not affiliated with any of these places and receive no financial compensation if you use these links to buy.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The One That I Want

The One That I Want by Jennifer Echols
3.5/5 stars
Simon Pulse, 2012
259 pages
YA Contemporary

Source: Library

While most of the books I read, I pick up fully anticipating to like, that was not the case here. Although I have loved Echols' writing, I have had serious problems with some of the plots and characterizations in her most recent books, perhaps most notably in Love Story.  And this book features a plot I hate: girl with awful best friend falls for said friend's boyfriend.

That girl is Gemma, a band geek who is trying out for majorette after being pressured by best friend Addison. Gemma considers herself overweight and has been teased about that so there is little that sounds good about performing in a skintight leotard in front of a crowd. But she tries out, she succeeds, and she goes on to lose a good amount of weight, giving her a bit more confidence at band camp where she spies a hot football player from a rival high school. Addison spies the same guy and soon they are out with two guys. One is Carter, the QB, and the other is Gemma's crush, Max, the kicker. But through Addison's aggressive flirting and Gemma's diffidence, the pairs are swapped with Gemma going on her first date with Carter while falling for Max and his quirky personality.

There were so many times where Gemma talked about how she hated Addison and I just could not understand why she had stayed friendly with her for so long. Addison could barely speak without insulting Gemma and she had no qualms about manipulating situations for her own advantage. I know Gemma doesn't have much self-confidence but I think it would be better to have no friends than to have one who is so eager to stab you in the back. Of the several books I've read with this basic plot, Addison is probably the worst friend and the one where I most wanted her to get some comeuppance.

As for the guys, Max and Carter have their own complicated relationship, perhaps akin to Gemma and Addison's. While I didn't swoon for either guy, I can see why different parts of them appealed to the girls. One thing I wondered about was how fast they became boyfriend/girlfriend, ie after one date. I understand that it ups the ante but I don't understand why they wouldn't keep things casual. And of course there is a serious lack of communication between all parties that leads to most of the problems in this book. If people could have just been honest, well, this book wouldn't have happened.

I also wish we could have gotten more insight into Gemma and Addison's childhood friendship as well as into their personal family dramas. Gemma's father is not present in this book although he does send her a brand-new Mercedes-Benz for her sixteenth birthday (yeah, they're super rich). But they don't talk and I think there could also have been more about her distance from her mother. Their relationship is very fractured with her mother basically a workaholic.

Overall: I really didn't like this but dang is Echols' writing absorbing. I absolutely flew through this book because she just makes it so easy.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Unbreak My Heart

Cover for Melissa Walker Unbreak My Heart summer read pink heart boating sails sunglasses
Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker
5/5 stars
Bloomsbury Publishing
231 pages
YA Contemporary

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I wasn't entirely sure about this book when I first picked it up because I had some problems with Walker's previous outing Small Town Sinners. Plus I have been in a bit of a reading/reviewing rut where books have not been exciting me. Not exactly an auspicious beginning.

And at first, my apathy seemed overwhelming. Main character Clem is spending the summer on a boat with her family, sailing down the Mississippi River. My family is composed of indoor people so this seems like a horrid idea to me. I mean, I'm all for family togetherness but spending months on a 42-feet boat does not seem like the way to do. Still the family in the book has a long history and connection to boating so it's actually pretty perfect for them. And once I got past my own feelings about sailing, I did grow to like the idea. There is a whole community of boaters and we get deeper insight into two other families along the way.

Plus the boating works out well for Clem who almost had a fantastic junior year until the last few days when something went down between her and her best friend's boyfriend Ethan, resulting in her being ostracized and desperate to get away from the gossip and rumors. Once upon the boat, she spends most of her time moping and sulking. Chapters alternate between her healing and her flashbacks to that disastrous lead-up and fallout.

While some people will have trouble liking Clem (I almost didn't like her myself), I really bought into her feelings (the sulking I did as a teenager-whoa) and especially her feelings about best friend Amanda and how the loss of that friendship is affecting her. I just feel like a lot of YA doesn't spend much time on female friendships, focusing instead on love triangles (or in the case of dystopia, fights for survival...along with a love triangle ;) And for me, as a teenager, my friendships were SO much more important. Of my closet friends, I've known four of them since eighth grade or earlier-that's about half of my life. So I liked Clem a lot even as she lashed out at her adorable younger sister and parents (who are a. present and b. really understanding and loving to Clem). I also liked what we saw of Amanda in flashbacks (Amanda is colorful and dramatic and definitely reminds me of some of my friends).

But the book is not just about remembering and making peace with the past. It is also about Clem's journey toward healing, spurred on by her encounter with James, who is also going down the Mississippi with his father. His sunny disposition disconcerts and eventually inspires Clem, especially as she gets to learn more about him and his past. Although James is not personally to my taste as someone to swoon for, he is a good guy and I liked his relationship with Clem.

Overall: It's early but I think this is a great summer read so put it on your list and clear space in your schedule for a lazy day at the beach or the park or curled up in your favorite reading post so you can enjoy this book :)

Cover: Fairly accurate! I'm rubbish at remembering how characters are described so I can't remember if Clem has long hair but this book takes place mostly on a boat so that is good and I love how the sails make a heart. It looks like this book is a great contemporary read, perfect for the summer, which is true!

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Illusion of Murder

The Illusion of Murder by Carol McCleary
3/5 stars
Forge, 2011
352 pages
Historical Mystery

Source: Library

I read the first book The Alchemy of Murder last year and enjoyed it enough to pick up this second book when I happened to spot it at my library. This one focus on Nellie's famous journey around the world trying to best the record set by Jules Verne's characters in Around the World in 80 Days. So many people thought a woman couldn't handle it but that only fuels Nellie's determination to see it through. No matter the difficulties, Nellie will make it around the world and write a story about it.

This is challenged when Nellie witnesses what she is convinced is a murder in Egypt. Her companions try to convince her otherwise and ask for discretion as they are British citizens worried about the powder keg that is Egypt during that time. As they continue on their journey, Nellie pushes her theory, putting herself into danger and learning more about the larger plot.

I do like Nellie, a brave and daring woman who bristles at the suggestion that she might not be able to do something simply because she is a woman. But I really had trouble sympathizing with her quest to prove that a murder had occurred and to prod the people around her to do something about it. The situation seemed like Nellie was grasping at straws and using her imagination to provide conflict for the book; I didn't believe Nellie either although I knew that she had to be right about a murder or else the novel would be pointless. I just felt like she made some big leaps in her deductions that were not supportable.

Also I found most of the novel really slow. Even though Nellie travels eastward from Egypt to New York over the course of the book, I didn't really think it picked up until she was back in the States and racing an unknown competitor along with getting to the heart of the mystery. When everyone is together on a train for the conclusion, I could not turn the pages fast enough! The denouement was a bit muddled for me but I was also reading really fast.

On a historical note, it seems so bizarre to me that a journey around the world could take months; now you could take a plane over the course of a day. Just goes to show how much things can change in just about a century! And like the previous novel, we have some visits from famous personages although I cannot reveal their identity as it was a nice surprise for me to see them in the book.

Overall: Slow beginning with improbable leaps in logic by the main character was my main impression but the ending did tie everything together. This is a lighter mystery with lots of character and historical details for the careful reader to savor.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Help-Book Recommendations Wanted!

On Friday, I posted my review of Gilt by Katherine Longshore, a YA historical fiction about Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII. It left me craving more about her as well as fourth wife Anne of Cleves. I am hoping that you might be able to make a recommendation to me, middle-grade, YA, or adult. I have read far more about Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn than about the later wives so any recommendation you can make would be appreciated. Thanks!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Naughty in Nice

Naughty in Nice by Rhys Bowen
4.5/5 stars
Berkley Prime Crime, 2011
328 pages
Historical Mystery; Cozy
A Royal Spyness Mystery #5

Source: Library

There really is nothing like reading a cozy by one of your favorite authors, especially once the series is established and you already have a good connection with the principals and especially when the setting is historical because it means the author gets to bring in all sorts of fun people.

I always anticipate a fun, fast read from Rhys Bowen and this is no exception. I am currently reading two mysteries series by her and I think this one might be my favorite because I adore the setting in 1930s England and Europe with accidental sleuth Lady Georgiana Rannoch. Georgie is a pretty down-to-earth young lady who just happens to be thirty-fourth in line for the throne. She's basically broke but it is expected of her to live a certain lifestyle even during these depression years (it is 1933 in this book). Luckily with a bit of luck, Georgia scrapes by, in this book, earning a trip to Nice along with many other members of her set to recover a priceless treasure for Queen Mary and to keep an eye on her cousin, the Prince of Wales, and *that* woman. Once there though, Georgia falls in with some new people and becomes implicated in a murder.

I did miss her friend Belinda and love interest Darcy, both of whom do make brief appearances in this book but not as much as they have in other books. I am a little tired of her will-they-won't-they with Darcy as I very much want Georgie to have a steady relationship and maybe even get married as is expected of her even if her adventures are a lot more possible when she's not tied down. But this was also the first book where I really liked her mother, a social-climbing actress who follows the money. Georgie's grandfather also makes a welcome appearance while the historical figures Coco Chanel and Vera Bate Lombardi were among the delightful new characters.

While I rarely figure out whodunnit in mysteries, I enjoyed the storytelling so much that I didn't even care although in this case I did have a few ideas. I wasn't able to piece everything together but I don't think that's the point. The point is to enjoy a light story with humorous details from Georgie's narration and to imagine yourself in the beautiful luxury of the French Riviera even if your real-life circumstances are far different.

Overall: One of my favorites in this series so far-a must-read for fans of Bowen and historical cozies!

Friday, May 18, 2012


Gilt by Katherine Longshore
4/5 stars
Viking, 2012
404 pages
YA Historical Fiction

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I originally passed over this novel, not realizing that it was YA historical fiction (see Cover below) but after seeing more information, I decided to give it a try. After all, I adore the Tudor period in which this takes place. But I did have my reservations as I prefer stories about Henry VIII's second wife Anne rather than his fifth wife Catherine Howard, who is the focus of this novel.

Well it is actually narrated from the perspective of Catherine's best friend Kitty, starting when both girls are young teenagers living as basically forgotten wards while their families may or may not make them advantageous matches. Kitty is shy, cautious, and loyal; she supports the sparkling Catherine through all of her daring-from inviting boys into their sleeping chambers to stealing and lying for her. Thus once Catherine achieves her goal of a crown, Kitty and their peers are brought to court with all of the glitz and gilt before her downfall.

As an exciting character who does things, Catherine is fascinating to read about. Kitty is more retiring, which at first I enjoyed but too soon my modern sensibilities bristled against Tudor codes of conduct and made me want to reach in and manipulate scenes to be more my taste. Especially frustrating was her infatuation with a young man who hangs with Thomas Culpeper, a rapist and the man with whom Catherine dallies. The writing wanted to take me away while Kitty lusted but the man was so despicable that I just grew disgusted. The frustration also grew as Kitty stayed away from a man she might truly love and who loved her in return. That was probably my least favorite aspect.

I did really like the presentation of Henry VIII. At this point, he is about fifty but still thinks he is the young hot stuff he once was. He is willing to turn a bit of a blind eye to his young wife's youthful exuberance but will not tolerate infidelity or anything that makes it seem like he was played for a fool. We only see a little bit of him but I enjoyed those bits.

I also liked brushing up a little on my history. This is definitely not a dry history book so don't worry that it is a litany of facts but it did help me put events in order and leave me craving some more historical fiction! Any recommendations for (ideally YA but adult is okay) reads about this period?

Overall: An enthralling read (I read the first half really fast) that captures the debauchery and manipulations of Henry VIII's court and the perilous position of women at the time.

Cover: I actually originally thought this was erotica and passed over it before reading about it on goodreads so I do not think that it accurately captures the book's content.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy
4.5/5 stars
Walden Pond Press, 2012
423 pages
MG Fairy Tale Fantasy

Source: Received an ARC through Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.

As a huge fairy-tale lover, of course I wanted to check out this new twist focusing on the princes Charming this time instead of the princesses-they always get the spotlight! In this story, we are introduced to four princes, all with very different personalities, who are determined to set the record straight since it has been so bastardized by the local bards. Besides their journey to right this wrong, the princes also have their own personal battles to face.

First is Frederic, an extremely delicate prince whose sense of adventure was quashed by his father but is being awakened by his relationship with Cinderella. Ella's restlessness persuades her to leave the life of luxury in the palace and Frederic's love spurs him to follow her, requiring him to undergo many trials and do without. I liked Frederic (well, actually I liked all of the princes) as he was a sweet guy with an obvious love for his princess. Frederic needs to learn to be bolder as well as how to interact with others better over the course of the novel.

The second prince is Gustav, the youngest and smallest of 17 sons and subsequently with a huge chip on his shoulder. His moment of bravado in climbing up Rapunzel's hair was marred when he was thrown out of the tower, blinded, and regained his sight through her tears. He thus pushed her away and quests to claim the glory he feels is his due. Gustav's strength is actually his strength as he is fair and away the strongest of the bunch. But he is also bullheaded and overeager to prove himself, which needs to be reined in as he works with the other princes.

Liam is our third prince and he is a true hero, whose greatest achievement was battling the evil fairy before awakening Sleeping Beauty. Unfortunately she is evil and soon reveals her true colors. When Liam blanches at marrying her, her spin team moves into action, besmirching Liam's good name and making life very difficult for him. Liam is a natural leader but needs to learn how to take into account his team's strengths and weaknesses. (Incidentally Liam might be my favorite and I imagine him as very handsome :)

Lastly we have sweet Dustin, an uncommonly lucky young man who woke up Snow White and married her. However he is also loud with a habit of barging into situations without thinking. This often works out for him since he doesn't realize the danger but it needs to be properly directed. Dustin is also a very chatty fellow, to the dismay of most around him as he rarely knows when to stop. But he has a good heart and desperately wants to prove himself to his new friends.

We also get five princesses: the adventurous Ella (who reminded me of Tangled's Rapunzel), the sweet dreamy Snow White, the helpful Rapunzel, the villainous Sleeping Beauty, and Liam's younger sister Lila. Given that Disney's Aurora is my favorite princess, I had trouble with the fact that this Sleeping Beauty was so vicious but that is very much a personal preference. The only problem is that there's a reason most of the fairy tale retellings I read focus on the princess: I tend to like them more. Even as I fell for the different princes and rooted for them through their struggles, I was wondering what was going on with the ladies.

A few last points to mention include the writing style which is of a third-person narrator who often gives the audience sly remarks. It's a very chatty humorous style that brought me right into the story. I liked how the different kingdoms were set up although I had a little bit of trouble remembering them. But last and most exciting is that there is plenty of room for more stories to be told in this room; I know I am eagerly awaiting more!

Overall: A charming humorous story that should please both the target middle-grade audience as well as adults with a soft spot for fairy tales.

Cover: I kind of wish it had all four guys but I really like the brunette woman in green as her determined expression makes me think that she is A. Ella and B. reinforces my comparison of her to Rapunzel in the Disney film.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Cranes Dance

The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey
4/5 stars
Vintage Contemporaries, 2012
383 pages
Adult Contemporary

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book caught me completely by surprise. Although I requested it based on the mention of ballet (hope of backstage dramatics and meltdowns) and the fact that the sister-sister relationship is integral, I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. That sounds kind of negative but I did find this compulsively readable and I feel like it reached me just like I wanted it to.

The book opens with professional ballet dancer Kate Crane, describing the plot of one of the most famous ballets, Swan Lake, and hurting her neck. Although Kate is not the star, she is a soloist in the ballet company and continues the season while her sister Gwen sits out at their parents' home in the Midwest. The book covers the arrival of the sisters in New York City (separately but always linked), the progression of their careers as younger sister Gwen eclipses Kate, and the season when they are separated. I don't want to share too much about the plot because I feel like this touches on some of the important themes and because I feel like the journey through the book is important. I had no idea what to expect and I wouldn't want to spoil that for you.

I would have to say that my desire for a dance story was amply satisfied. There are many many scenes of Kate rehearsing and performing as well as backstage intrigue and ballet plot summaries. I ate up all of these bits and found it immensely enjoyable. I would be interested to know what dancers think of those scenes as I have no idea about their accuracy.

As for the sisters, they are separated both by distance and sentiment. I am an older sister and I do tend to identify with the older sibling in a situation so I'm glad that is who is the narrator in this book. Kate is wracked with guilt and Gwen is struggling with her own longstanding issues, which lead to her not speaking with her older sister. Although my relationship with my sister is nothing like the one in this book, I still strongly identified with Kate and how she felt in any given situation. This book is narrated in first person so that helps with identification but I think I was primed to feel for Kate especially as we reach the penultimate chapter.

I don't know how I feel about the finale, which does provide a hopeful future without neatly wrapping everything up. I kind of wonder how I would have felt about the book without that conclusion as I'm not sure it was necessary.

Overall: I found this book very pleasing in the two areas I was most interested in: dance and sisters. But it also gave me more in regards to character and writing style. If you are interested in branching out to adult books, put this on your list!

Dumb moment for me: Toward the end of the book, a character shares a story and I thought I had figured out where the book got its name. Well, that may be a reason but if you read my earlier paragraphs carefully, you may have noticed that the sisters' last name is Crane and they are dancers, which is a much more obvious explanation of the cover. I just did not figure it out!

Content warning: This is an adult book with language, drugs, and sexual references. I know some of my readers avoid books like that but if it doesn't bother you, I would definitely recommend you consider this book.

Cover: Not really to my taste-while you can see the thin straps from their leotards, I would have liked a cover that showed the ballet aspect more as well as the entire heads of the ladies.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Shine by Jeri Smith-Ready
4/5 stars
Simon Pulse, 2012
401 pages
YA Paranormal
Book #3

Source: Bought

After enjoying Shade and loving Shift, Shine moved to the top of my want to read list of 2012 so I was so happy when my copy finally arrived in the mail. I was pretty good about avoiding spoilers so that I could read this with little expectation beyond what Smith-Ready had promised throughout the earlier books. This review is more aimed at those who have already read the first two books and avoids spoilers for this book.

I was pretty happy to dive into this book and with the developments about the shift. We get answers to the questions we had about why Aura can see ghosts, why Zachary can repel them, about the powerful corporate and government interests and the lengths they will go, about the ancient Irish history, etc. Yay for answers from YA paranormal!

I appreciated that there was no more triangle. Logan passed on at the end of Shift and he does not return in this book. Although he will always have a little part of Aura's heart for the history they shared, his part is done and she can move forward to building a new life with Zachary, who goes through some hell in this book. While Zach and Aura move to new levels of trust with each other,  there is conflict from a dark situation experienced by him. Honestly I was a little frightened by him in some scenes but how could that not wreak havoc on a person?

But for whatever reason, this book didn't blow me away with awesome the way that the previous book Shift had. I don't know if it's because I had my expectations too high or if it's because I'm in a bit of a reading/reviewing funk. This was still a very enjoyable reading experience, well-written and fast paced (I flew through the book). There is character development for our leads and we get at least a glimpse of every character we've cared about from the previous books.

Content Warnings: Language and sexual situations-I feel like this series is definitely for the older end of YA.

Cover Rant: While I find the yellow more understandable now (in the context of what occurs in the books), I am seriously upset that the covers of my books no longer match. I actually bought this series as the books came out, expecting no changes and then there was. I also hate when the cover model is staring out at us-creeps me out!

Monday, May 14, 2012


Enchanted by Alethea Kontis
4/5 stars
Harcourt Children's Books, 2012
305 pages
YA Fairy-Tale Fantasy

Source: Received an ARC through Amazon Vine.

I was so excited to pick this book up! I have loved fairy tales ever since I was little and I vividly remember my mom reading to me from her book of Grimm's fairy tales. While most recent YA fairy tale retellings and twists have focused on stories with a princess, this one promised to deliver a lot more, incorporating references to pretty much every fairy tale you know.

The primary story draws from "The Frog Prince" when a lovely young girl meets a frog and her kiss transforms him back to his human shape. But there is so much more to the story as the girl Sunday shares her crazy family history and the frog prince Rumbold struggles to recover his memories and woo Sunday despite her family's grudge against his family.

Sunday is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter and a seventh son, destining her for a life filled with magic. She meets and befriends the frog, called Grumble, early in the book and soon decides she is in love with him; this makes his sudden disappearance very hard for her. The hardship is compounded when she meets Prince Rumbold and finds herself developing feelings for him despite her lingering love for Grumble. Meanwhile Rumbold is trying to win her hand on his own while also struggling to remember his life pre-transformation and the basic human functions. But pretty much everyone else has their own little story too that corresponds to one or more fairy tale so it is not just the love story of Sunday and Rumbold.

I did find the story a little overstuffed. Every character has a pretty detailed backstory and it sometimes took away from Sunday and Rumbold's story. I also found the tone a little too lighthearted at times. I guess I found the whimsy overwhelming. Perhaps I should have tried to read the book slower so that I could savor all of the connections. On the other hand, I am sure I will discover even more to love in this book when I read it again as I will be able to focus more on picking up the various references. I'm a big reader of fairy tales and I am sure I only picked up on a small proportion of the allusions.

Overall: Full of magic, this is an enchanting book perfect for lovers of fairy tales and romance.

Cover: The model makes me think more of "Sleeping Beauty" but I love the top part, especially the swirly "E."

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Help-Review Rut!

While I am a bit behind in reading, I am quite a bit behind in reviewing. I'm not really sure why because I've been enjoying the books I read and am excited to share about them with you and get your feedback as some of them have been popular around the blogosphere. And yet when I sit down, I get nothing. No words flow and my thoughts become muddled.

Now of course I don't have to review every book I read but do you have any tips for when you get stuck? Is there anything you do to shake up your review style to make it easier? Or do you just power through until you get your groove back?

Any help is greatly appreciated!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

DNF-The Keepers of the House

The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau
Open Road, 2012
Originally published 1964
226 pages
Adult; Fiction; Historical

Source: Received an e-copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I saw this while browsing on Netgalley and requested it as part of my campaign to read all of the Pulitzer Prize winners (as it stands I have read...5). This are supposed to be some of the best works of American fiction and I definitely want to be open to exploring that.  of course, it also tends to mean a change of pace from my usual reading diet of YA romance and dystopian. That can be good or bad.

In this case, I was just not connecting with the book at all. After reading the summary, I thought it could be really interesting with its examination of community as the book covers seven generations of the same family in the same small Southern town and racism, especially with the book coming out during the Civil Rights movement. Unfortunately I didn't see much of that in the first half of the book.

Instead I had stories about the beginning of the Howland family, death, an extravagant wedding, and how the Howland ended up taking his servant as a mistress. I was also very confused about what year it was (post-slavery, pre-WWI, I think). And, as a literary novel, there were a lot of descriptions especially of the swamps; I feel like there were pages of them.

I'm not saying I'll never give this book a try at a later date but it did not spark anything in me since the characters were flat and indistinguishable and the plot moved as slow as molasses. I need more excitement before I can invest in a book.

Overall: DNF-not the book for me.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Please Ignore Vera Dietz

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
4/5 stars
Alfred A. Knopf, 2010
323 pages
YA; Contemporary

Source: Library

I've seen a lot of praise for the writing of A.S. King so at a recent trip to the library, I decided to check out one of her books and this is the one that caught my eye, probably because of the lime green cover. I wondered who Vera was and why she should be ignored.

Short answer is that Vera is the main character of this book, raised by a single father after her mother ran off and whose best friend Charlie recently died after getting caught up with a bad crowd. All Vera wants is to get through the rest of her schooling before leaving for college but first she will have to confront what happened the night Charlie died.

As you can see from the synopsis, this is a dark book; certainly darker than I was expecting. In fact, I would say it is quite a bleak book with sadness creeping over me as I read further. For example, Vera hears a husband abuse his wife pretty much every day but is encouraged by her father to pretend she doesn't hear anything. Charlie sells his underwear to an old man for significant amounts of money, again with Vera turning a blind eye and not reporting anything.

While Vera is the main narrator, she also gets some help from three other sources. One is that Charlie interjects at a few crucial moments, haunting her from beyond the grave, encouraging to stand up and do the right thing while also apologizing for screwing her over in the months before his death. The third narrator is Vera's father. He only has a few moments but they were some of my favorites as they incorporate flow charts and his awareness that while he may not be the best parent, he does love Vera and wants her to have a better life than her parents did. The last narrator is also the most unusual, being a pagoda that comments upon the antics of the teenagers in the book. It has stood for years and seen their parents and it will continue to stand and see their grandchildren.

As you may have guessed from the amount of time I just spent talking about the other narrators, Vera was not exactly my favorite character. I didn't hate her and I had tremendous amounts of sympathy for her situation. But I didn't click with her and her story.

Overall: My expectations were for a lighter book so I was disappointed in this heavier story despite its excellent writing and deep themes.

Cover: While I find the green deceptive, the lighter does have relevance to the story!

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Struck by Jennifer Bosworth
4/5 stars
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012
373 pages
YA Paranormal Apocalyptic

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I wasn't too sure about the idea of a lightning addict but after some early reviews mentioned the presence of cults, I was one-hundred percent sold on this book. I love reading about cults-those kinds of books are made of win! And there are actually two cults in this book, with opposing agendas but similar methods. The circumstances that have given rise to the cults make perfect sense; after an earthquake that destroyed ten square miles of Los Angeles and its environs, many are dead or severely injured and chaos reigns. Turning to a man claiming to be a prophet who can heal and predict the future is an entirely plausible reaction. The other cult is much smaller but also requires obedience from its members and speaks in similar language to the first cult. But both desire the presence of our main character Mia Price.

Mia is one of the "lucky" survivors, living with her brother and her heavily drugged mother who spends her time watching the Prophet on TV in an effort to cope with her experience during the earthquake. I love when characters are fiercely protective of their families and really identified with Mia as she struggled to make some tough decisions. I didn't always agree with her but reading about her justifications in regards to taking care of her family, I could understand them. The other element about Mia is that she has been struck by lightning multiple times, leaving her body below the head covered with tell-tale scars and filling her with mysterious powers that are highly desired by both cults. Their efforts to recruit her and her attempts to resist drive the majority of the plot.

Each cult is clearly defined but their goals are shadowy, something Mia tries to investigate. I did get a bit confused with the paranormal powers possessed by the different members but I think I got what was important. While the book didn't end in a cliffhanger, there does seem to be the possibility of another book, which I would be interested in reading.

Another element (and a disappointment for me) was the love story. While I loved that Jeremy wore glasses (yay for spectacles!), I didn't feel that he had much of a personality nor was I sure about why Mia was attracted to him. I actually really liked militia man Brent (who has a taser!) much more in the few scenes he had. Jeremy's history is revealed more toward the end (although I figured out his secrets way before then so you might too), which filled in more of his personality but he still reminds kind of a cipher for me and therefore not swoonworthy.

I would have liked to have more of a sense of what was going on outside of L.A. We are told that people are fleeing the area but are they going to a better situation? How has the rest of the US been affected by the disasters here? I understand keeping the focus on Mia and her life but I would have liked a bit more information about this.

Overall: A solid debut with some exciting action scenes.

Cover: As a fan of covers with pink and/or a pretty dress, this isn't very appealing to me but I do think it captures the novel in a way that those elements would not.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Two Crafty Criminals

Two Crafty Criminals! by Philip Pullman
Illustrated by Martin Brown
4/5 stars
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012
275 pages
Historical Mystery Middle-Grade

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I think it would be nearly impossible to read these books and to be unhappy while doing so. The sheer charm and cheekiness of the main characters completely won me over as did the lighthearted tone of a romp. These stories are not very serious and there are many comedic moments that left me chuckle.

This book is actually two short stories featuring an overlapping cast of characters but focusing on different mysteries. I found the first one confusing due to the many different personalities present while the second one was more to my taste. Realism is not the priority but having fun certainly is!

We start with "Thunderbolt's Waxwork" and the New Cut Gang comprised of several youths. My main problem here was my inability to keep the kids straight. They all seemed very similar and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't tell them apart. Obviously this makes for a difficult read. The plot itself is also a bit confusing as first the gang is trying to get a sculpture of their friend into a wax museum while also investigating if the father of one of them counterfeited coins. It started with the wax plot and then added in the second awkwardly, which added to my confusion.

The second story is "The Gas Fitter's Ball" which I preferred. In this one, the kids are trying to have a guy propose to his lady love in order to collect on a bet. The mystery comes from some stolen silver. The culprit is fairly obvious but I loved the bumbling attempts of the guy as well as the kids' efforts to ensure that they win their bet. This includes a cute cameo from the Prince of Wales because, why not?

Overall: Cute stories that are well-told; great for younger readers too!

Cover: I love the cute drawings. It captures the chaos of living in their area and references an actual scene from the book.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink

Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink by Stephanie Kate Strohm
4.5/5 stars
HMH Children's Paperback, 2012
204 pages
YA Contemporary with Historical Aspects

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is such a "me" book-I loved the MC so much and completely clicked with the sense of humor displayed. The storyline is about the summer adventures of a young woman with a love of history, color, reading, Jane other words, someone a lot like me!

In this case her name is Libby and she is going to be a historical reenactor at a 1791 village in Maine; this includes wearing historically accurate clothing, leading a group of little girls through time-era appropriate cooking and craft activities, and interacting with her peers including a seriously dedicated impersonator and the annoying nerdy Garrett who is investigating possible paranormal activities that are attracting more attention to little Camden Harbor.

Well, as I mentioned I loved Libby. She loves Mr. Tilney, who we both agree is seriously underappreciated and is far more our type than Mr. Darcy (although I still prefer Mr. Knightley most of all). She loves colors and fashion and has a great memory for history. She also stands up for her friends in an awesome scene where she punches a guy (totally justified). I totally want to be best friends with her and her best friend Dev, who had a bizarre story line in New York City before showing up to hang out with Libby for the rest of the summer.  The other characters are not very well-developed but they are a lot of fun and add local color to Libby's time there.

This is a fast-paced book, going quickly over the whole summer, almost like little vignettes into Libby's life but still with an over-arching plot. I would have enjoyed knowing a bit more about Libby's life at home, maybe how her parents and school have shaped her interests. I also wanted a lot more about Dev's plot, which left me very confused.

Overall: Just hit all the right notes for me-if we often agree on books, this might be right up your alley!

Cover: Of course I love the polka dots and the pink but I think it would be better with some glitter (maybe the actual cover does?)

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls

The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls by Julie Schumacher
3/5 stars
Random House Children's Books, 2012
230 pages
YA Contemporary

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

It's a bit unfortunate that "unbearable" is in the title of this book as that largely describes my feelings about the characters presented in this book.We have four high schoolers who for one reason or another are stuck in their small town for the summer with mothers who think it is a great idea for them to gather for a book club.

Those book clubs were very interesting especially when they actually discussed the work such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," both of which I have read and enjoyed. I was not familiar with the other titles but they were intriguingly presented and I am interested in checking them out at a later date. I also liked the framing device of defining various literary terms such as "simile" at the beginning of each chapter since the book is presented as a school assigment.

However the book club is not the only thing going on in the book. Narrator Adrienne has a knee injury that kept her from going on a camping trip. CeeCee is a spoiled rich girl, eager for thrills whose parents have grounded her from a Paris trip. Jill is an overachiever who managed to secure a summer job and Wallis is the mysterious precocious youngster who skipped a grade (or two) and clawed her way into the group despite the absence of her mother. I never felt a connection to any of them and at times actively disliked them and their choices (in particular CeeCee's bad girl ways and Adrienne's attraction to them).

Overall: Due to my inability to connect with the characters but enjoyment of the writing, this was a wash for me. If you do give this a try, I hope it all works better for you.

Cover: Promises a fun summer read; the setting is around a pool but I didn't feel the fun.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Anticipating in May

So I guess this is kind of like Waiting on Wednesday, except on Sunday. I have two books to mention here, both of which I am reviewing later this month.

First up is the highly anticipated conclusion to Jeri Smith-Ready's paranormal Shade trilogy, Shine. I have passionate negative feelings about the design change (I loved the originals for Shade and Shift) but that should not affect my feelings of the actual contents. I should be receiving my copy this week and the review will be up May 15.

The other book is The Girl in the Clockwork Collar, the follow-up to The Girl in the Clockwork Corset, a surprise hit for me last year. That book has inspired me to check out more steampunk and I can't wait to find out what happens in this version. I have an e-ARC via Netgalley and will be posting my review on the official release date May 29.

Have you read either of these yet? Are you looking forward to either of them?

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