Sunday, June 30, 2013

Ramblings and Week to Come 30JUN13

Feeling tired:
This whole month has been kind of exhausting to me-I feel like I am out all the time doing stuff (for example, I went out every night Tuesday through Friday after work.) Now they were all activities I enjoyed doing but it was too much for me. Therefore I am spending this weekend relaxing, blogging, and reading (I need to finish two more books to stay on track with my reading goal.)

Sadly we endured our first loss this week :( It was to the best team in the league though and we held our own through the first three innings. Then I tried to catch a ball with my right hand (despite the fact that the glove was on my left) and our pitcher got a ball hit right to his ankle and had to leave the game because he couldn't stand. So hopefully we can regroup this week and end strong to return for the championship game. We're also already planning for the Fall Season which starts in August (technically that is still summer but who's paying attention?)

Amazon Vine Goodies:
On Sal Mal Lane by Ru Freeman
Battleship by Dorothy Ours
A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
Sight Reading by Daphne Kalotay
I'll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan
The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton

I was also approved for Red by Alison Cherry on Netgalley-I'm excited to check out this YA title and plan to review it closer to its release date in October.

Plans for July:
As you can see, I received a lot of adult books, which means that Saturdays in July will be devoted to reviews of adult books. I am hoping there is some YA crossover appeal but I haven't read any of them yet so I can't guarantee that. Otherwise weekdays will feature loads of great 2013 YA releases, some ARCs, some from the library, some I've won. 

Week to Come: It is super busy-I am not letting the holiday deter me from my typical posting schedule especially as I made a commitment to myself to read a ton this week and next.
Monday is the latest section from War and Peace; we're halfway through our year! I will also be posting about my fave reads of the year so far-there are quite a few and it will be fun to reflect.

Tuesday, I'm marking the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg with a review of Lisa Klein's Two Girls of Gettysburg.

The rest of the weekdays feature reviews for 2013 releases: Burning by Elana K Arnold, The Symptoms of My Insanity by Mindy Raf, and The Secret Ingredient by Stewart Lewis.

Saturday is a review of On Sal Mal Lane by Ru Freeman, recommended by Christina T at Reading Extensively.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

All I Need

All I Need by Susane Colasanti
4/5 stars
Viking, 2013
212 pages
YA Contemporary

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

I was so excited to receive this book for review as I fall in instant love with the green dress on the cover. Honestly I've been wearing a lot of green this season and I think it's partly because of that dress (also because I'm gorgeous and look great in everything ;) Although I've seen Colasanti's work around, I hadn't tried it so this would be my first experience with her writing. Unfortunately I read some less than enthusiastic reviews beforehand which somewhat dimmed my excitement. Luckily my experience was better as I found this book to be really cute and satisfying!

It begins on the the last day of summer, bringing together rich high schooler Skye and scraping by college Seth. She is looking for true love to change her life while he is trying to get over a broken heart. Their few days together haunt them when they're back at school especially because they weren't able to exchange contact information. The next summer brings them back together as they make a go at a real relationship-can their love last?

This book is told in alternating dual perspective (with Skye and Seth each having their own font-I love that), taking us deep into the pain and hopes of each character. I think what really resonated with me was these two young people fought for their relationship. They didn't throw in the towel when things got hard and they certainly got hard, each coming from very different childhoods and with different goals and communication styles. I loved that it wasn't easy for them but they didn't give up. I do feel like they fell in love too fast (near instantaneously and simultaneously) but they subsequently put in the time to get to know each other and that redeemed it for me. The book covers several years and really allows us to see a lot of changes in them as people, in their life circumstances, and in those around them.

Overall: A super cute summer read-I feel like it definitely lives up to its cover expectations and would be perfect to read at the beach or by the pool or as a palate cleanser between some heavier books (also look at the short page count!)

Cover: I really love this cover-it screams lighthearted summer fun and I love the pops of color on the author's name, title, and Skye's dress.

Other Opinions:
Book Loving Mommy
Good Books and Good Wine
Harley Bear Book Blog
Parajunkee's View
The Flyleaf Review

Friday, June 28, 2013

ARC Review: Some Quiet Place

Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton
3/5 stars
Flux Books, 2013
350 pages
YA Paranormal
Scheduled to release July 8

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

The main reason I wanted to read this book is the stunning cover-what was going on there, I wondered. It seemed to promise a dark and creepy read against a pastoral setting, which is fairly accurate. The setting is rural Wisconsin with many scenes set at the farms of the characters. Additionally the premise has some unique and very scary moments that occur later in the book and specifics are omitted here due to spoilers.

Main character Elizabeth Caldwell is different. She feels nothing but possesses the ability to see Emotions and Elements, which ordinary humans cannot. For example, when someone feels scared, Fear appears and she can see that but he cannot touch her; similarly Joy may show up for someone else but never for Elizabeth. This inability to display emotions causes most of her fellow townspeople to shun her, disrupts her dysfunctional family life moreso, and surprises/annoys/intrigues the Emotions and Elements especially Fear who plays a bit role in this story. However as Elizabeth has aged, things seem to be changing with a sinister presence lurking and a mysterious woman urging her to remember. "Remember what?" asks Elizabeth and the reader; we do eventually discover but it takes a very long time to get there.

Like other reviewers have mentioned, the hardest part of this book comes from its basic characterization. As mentioned, main character Elizabeth does not feel emotions; this also means that her personality is a bit flat and hard to connect with. Other characters like her brother Charles, her improbable friend Maggie, and the boy she kind of flirts with Joshua appealed to me but there wasn't really enough of them to compensate for Elizabeth's lack of personality even though the last pages helped to rectify that. The most exciting part comes toward the end when Elizabeth must confront her dark stalker-I found the sequences her very tense and I was on the edge of my seat. It's just that it took so long to get there with a love triangle tangled up and flashbacks that Elizabeth dreams about.

Overall: An interesting premise that struggles with characterizations and is a bit overlong.

Other Opinions:
Finding Bliss in Books
I Swim For Oceans
Realm of Fiction

Thursday, June 27, 2013

If He Had Been With Me

If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin
3/5 stars
Sourcebooks Fire, 2013
328 pages
YA Contemporary

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

There may be *minor* spoilers in this review.

From what I recall, this book grabbed my attention with the fact that its genre is contemporary and looked to be on the sadder side with the protagonist mourning the loss of her best friend after his tragic death (this is laid out in the first few chapters so I don't want any cries of spoiler!) I tend to prefer humorous books but I also want to push myself out of my comfort zone so I decided to give this a try. My impression of this book being sad was accurate-I mean, even the title and cover work together to advertise that.

I expected the book to look briefly at the pre-accident days of this epic friendship, building to the accident, and then showing how the main character Autumn dealt with the loss of Finn who she has realized she was in love with. To my surprise though the book covers their four years of high school where their history and the fact that they are neighbors whose mothers are best friends keeps them in the same orbit but whose cliques feud and prevent anything more. Indeed Autumn and Finny (I loved that she and his mother were basically the only ones who called him that) spend most of the book dating different people before finally admitting their feelings.

Another thing I didn't expect was for the writing to be quite poetical at times. There were some beautiful passages, perfect as Autumn wants to be a writer. I liked a lot of the side characters but the main focus is definitely Autumn and Finny with the book weighing on her side as the narrator while he remained a bit of a cipher.

Unfortunately I had two big problems with this book that ultimately led to my middling rating of 3. The first is the abrupt ending. Finn dies and then there are a few pages after but far more time was spent on the buildup of their history. It felt unevenly weighted and concluded so fast. I also thought that the book dragged a bit as it rushed to cover four years (plus flashbacks to childhood). My biggest problem with this book though is the two mentions of unprotected teenage sex that lead to pregnancies. I like how there are consequences and yet I feel like it was portrayed as romantic to become a teenage mother when it's anything but.

Content: Sexual references and a lot of underage drinking-the language is pretty clean though from what I remember.

Other Opinions:
Imaginary Reads
Into the Hall of Books

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Boundless by Cynthia Hand
3.5/5 stars
HarperTeen, 2013
434 pages
YA Paranormal Angels

Source: Library

I was quite impressed with the first books in this series (Unearthly and Hallowed), finding them to be very well done examples of angel mythology. My biggest problem is that I just was never really on the Tucker train. I have seen loads of bloggers gush about him but I never got it. I could read the writing on the wall about Clara's feelings for him but I was never that excited about him otherwise. If you similarly aren't that impressed with Tucker, I expect you'll find this finale fairly lackluster. But if you're in the majority who loves Tucker, you'll probably be pretty happy.

The parts that didn't really involve Tucker were very good though especially the story of Clara's friend Angela whose story takes what was to me a surprising twist. Clara's brother Jeffrey also has some interesting twists; I really sympathized with her worries over his (poor) decision making. As for Christian, he has some difficult moments and some aggravating ones as well. I liked him less in this book than I have in the previous ones but he does have his heroic times.

One of my favorite parts is totally random though: see, my job involves some of the geography of California so I was pleased to see mention of some of the cities where I've done work. I felt so familiar with them and it made me smile.

I don't want to go too deep into the plot to avoid spoilers but know that while I think the plot mostly moved along at a good pace, there were some points where it dragged. The book does take place over about the course of a year so there is certainly time for adequate character development but I wanted a bit more action and a little less of everything else.

Overall: A strong enough conclusion to the Unearthly series-I think big fans will be pretty satisfied.

Cover: I love how we've had this same girl in a dress with different colors for all three covers although the purple of the first is still my favorite.

Other Opinions:
Chick Loves Lit
Feeling Fictional
The Midnight Garden
Uniquely Moi Books

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend

Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend by Louise Rozett
4/5 stars
Harlequin Teen, 2013
288 pages
YA Contemporary

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

One of the biggest book revelations for me last year was reading Confessions of an Angry Girl. I was just blown away by its compulsive readability and the relatability of main character Rose. The ending was a bit abrupt, which makes sense when you realize there is a sequel covering Rose's sophomore year of high school and chronicled in this book.

The book opens in the summer and follows Rose through another crazy year at school: continuing to deal with the aftermath of her father's death, her anger with both parents and her older brother, drama at school, and of course her ongoing crush on Jamie Forta who is almost her boyfriend if not for a ton of extenuating circumstances.

As in the previous book, I appreciated Rose's vocabulary and the care she took to express herself to the best of her ability, which is far more eloquently than a lot of us could manage especially as teenagers. She does not always make the best decisions as she acknowledges but she knows right from wrong and she can stand up for right.

I was also touched by some of her self-conscious thoughts, in particular the following quote, which really spoke to me, even today when I am (thankfully) far away from my teenage years:

"What bugs me is that what I see in the mirror doesn't match what I see in my head. In my head, I'm prettier than I am in real life, so when I look in the mirror and see what I see, I feel let down. And also a little crazy. Where did I get that image in my head if not from the mirror?" (page 148)

My big problem nowadays is thinking that I have much thicker voluminous hair (kind of like a Disney princess) when I have quite the opposite. It's often a shock to look at myself in the mirror and realize that I don't have nearly as much hair as I think I do and how that changes my perception of myself. Quotes like this and others really helped me click with Rose.

Of course I couldn't finish this review without mentioning the situation with Jamie. The first book ended with him standing her up and though she tries to shake her Jamie problem she just can't, which is well articulated in the book (there is some kissing). I personally don't much see the appeal of Jamie on his own but I fully understand the way he makes her feel.

Overall: A great sequel-that fans of the first book must pick up (if you haven't read the series, definitely start with the first before moving on to this second; it will make more sense and be more meaningful that way.)

Other Opinions:
Fluttering Butterflies
Michelle and Leslie's Book Picks
Mostly YA Book Obsessed
Pure Imagination

Monday, June 24, 2013


Trinkets by Kirsten Smith
4/5 stars
Little, Brown and Company, 2013
275 pages
YA Contemporary

Source: Library

I think had seen this book around as an upcoming 2013 release but it really got my attention when one of my favorite bloggers reviewed it (obviously I'm talking about Jen Ryland; see below for link to her review). Her mention of its glossy portrayal of shoplifting and its aftereffects as well as the healthy dose of humor drew me to this book. Additionally there was the promise of strong female friendship and sweet romances. We so often agree and I had a good feeling about this.

All the aforementioned elements are present and I flew through this cute book. Not surprisingly Smith co-wrote some of my favorite films: 10 Things I Hate About You, Legally Blonde, Ella Enchanted, and She's the Man in addition to other films and writing. While reading I just felt so comforted

The book is told through three alternating perspectives: poetic Elodie whose chapters are told in verse (which always makes for fast reading); spoiled popular Tabitha; and burnout rebel Moe. On the surface these girls are unlikely to even meet, let alone become friends. But that's exactly what happens when they're all enrolled in Shoplifters Anonymous and set a challenge to see who can steal the most; yeah, these girls aren't very repentant. Fortunately as the story moves, they do start to feel some guilt, they all make some pretty big changes in their lives, and all three become embroiled in very cute love stories.

These was just the kind of book I was craving-a light, frothy fast read that makes me smile while also demonstrating tremendous character growth. All of the girls steal and have problems with their parents and their friends (the first problem is a bit unusual but the other two are fairly common). Through their friendship, they discover what good friends look like, they confront the problems they have with their parents, and they reform themselves, donating their stolen goods to charity.

Overall: A very sweet satisfying story-if you liked the movies I mentioned above, you'll probably enjoy this book a lot.

Other Opinions:
Jen Ryland/YA Romantics
Reading the Best of the Best

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mini-Review, Ramblings, and Week to Come 23JUN13

I don't read a lot of adult books as you may have noticed but I still try to keep up with them and the following really struck my interest while browsing People; I was so pleased my library had it!

The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan

This book looks at diamond rings, love, and marriage throughout time, specifically following a collection of people tied together by one sentimental object (hint: look at the cover ;) I found the story absolutely gripping and could barely put it down. It follows five different stories as briefly described below; I loved the way the stories intersected and how things tied together as the book progressed. I feel like it is definitely more adult than YA but if you're looking for something a little different, I would recommend this. I am looking forward to reading Sullivan's other novels Commencement and Maine, which also seemed to have garnered a lot of praise.

-Frances Gerety, the copywriter who coined the phrase "A diamond is forever" and instituted the "tradition" that an engagement means a diamond ring, to demonstrate to the woman how much she is loved and for the man to show off how prosperous he is. Meanwhile Gerety remained single her entire life (and liked it like that.)
-Evelyn's first marriage ended in tragedy but she rebounded with another man with whom she built a lovely life that is now being upset by her son's
-James is a paramedic, deeply in love with his wife but struggling to keep his family afloat, full of resentment
-Delphine left her passionless marriage for a much younger tortured artist type
-Kate has been partnered for a decade with no intention of pursuing marriage although she comes up with resistance at this especially as her gay cousin prepares to marry

James' story was definitely my least favorite as its the darkest while Frances' was probably my favorite-I love that she is an actual historical figure while the others are fictional creations.

My softball team is now 3-0! Everyone played so well last week-it was a ton of fun to watch. This week's game will be quite the challenge as we go up against the highest scorers in the league but I think if we keep working well together, we stand a good chance.

As for my outings today, I am currently on a boat! One of my friends brought hers from her old place and invited a group of us out. I've never really gone boating (I've done a whale watching trip and the Disney Cruise) and don't know what to expect other than a ton of fun.

Yesterday was also crazy busy and I'm a bit behind on my reading schedule-hopefully Monday will be a bit calmer because I really just want to curl up with a good book. I also need to catch up on comments although I did some good work this week-can't wait for the 4th of July holiday with its 4-day weekend for me!

Week to Come:
Trinkets by Kirsten Smith
Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend by Louise Rozett
Boundless by Cynthia Hand
If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin
Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton
All I Need by Susane Colasanti

Saturday, June 22, 2013

ARC Review: Antigoddess

Antigoddess by Kendare Blake
3/5 stars
Tor Teen, 2013
333 pages
YA Mythology Contemporary
Scheduled to release September 10

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

Sorry for the very early review; however changes to the Amazon Vine program necessitate completing a review within 55 days of receiving the item and I was fast approaching that time.

This book has such an amazing premise-in our modern world, the great Greek Gods of olde are dying, slowly and painfully. For example, the great Athena is chocking on bird feathers (see cover) while Hermes is winnowing away to nothing. But they are not going without a fight, tracking down the great prophetess Cassandra reincarnated as an ordinary girl loved by a god and banding together to battle Hera and other ancients in a fight to the death.

So I loved the premise for this book and was super thrilled to get a copy. Additionally I really enjoyed Blake's Anna Dressed in Blood (and still mean to pick up the sequel.) But I just could not get in to this book, mostly I think because of the writing style. When the characters were talking to each other, I was fine. When action was being described, though, I lost interest and had to fight to stay on top of the plot. As I try to analyze why, I'm wondering if it's because the dialogue had a lot of humor and I tend to prefer comedy whereas the movements were more serious and high-minded.

Furthermore none of the characters really sparked for me. I guess I do like my gods to be immortal and I was as well-equipped as they were to face the fact that they were no longer. Athena and Hermes still had attitude aplenty but they weren't what I wanted. I think my favorite character was probably Cassandra for her journey to remembering her past but even she was insufficient to keep my full attention.

Overall: I really wanted this book to capture my imagination and enthusiasm but I found it lackluster and disappointing. I hope it works better for others as I know it has been highly anticipated.

Cover: Spot-on! As mentioned, Athena is coughing up feathers as they slowly suffocate her (remember her affinity for owls and probably other birds.)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Identity Theft

Identity Theft by Anna Davies
3/5 stars
Point Horror, 2013
250 pages
YA Horror Contemporary

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

I don't tend to read much horror being a huge wimp but I liked that the premise for this book mentioned sisters, a soft spot for me. I also liked that the one sister was an overachiever bent on an ambitious goal for college, something I always admire. So I decided to give it a shot.

Honestly I did not find this book that thrilling. There was the brittle Hayley who has forsaken everything in pursuit of her academic goal (including sport, boys, and friends) and maintains her discipline behind a humorless disposition. Until pictures of her on social networking sites partying start popping up and it becomes clear to Hayley that someone is trying to ruin her life. Further research reveals that it is her previously unknown twin sister and she wants to take over Hayley's life no matter the cost.

Man, I thought I could connect with a girl who is into academia but I just could not get behind Hayley. Her rigidity drove me crazy. I mean, I loved school and studying but it cannot be all that one does. Another reason I may not have liked her is that there's this cute boy who obviously likes her but who she ignores as competition while fawning over a guy with whom she has very little in common. Her mother's presence is limited despite ostensibly being an important part in bringing the twin girls into the world and I found the logic behind their separation...odd and difficult to swallow.

What I did like was the chilling premise around one's online presence. Although I tend to think of it more in terms of what you're doing being captured online and potentially haunting your future rather than someone maliciously attacking you, I know that's also a possibility. It really made me think about I do online (I try to keep my blog somewhat low-key and not too detailed about my personal life but if someone wanted to go after me, I don't know how I could stop it.)

Overall: I was not impressed-the story wasn't very strong nor was it thrilling. This might be better for fans of 80s teen horror novels but I was never much of a fan.

Cover: Suitably creepy with red eyes that aren't really relevant to the book.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick
4/5 stars
Scholastic Press, 2013
305 pages
YA Romance Fantasy

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

Part of the reason I picked this book to read was Meg Cabot's endorsement although I have been led astray by similar endorsements. The other part is just the amazing sounding summary with three dresses changing the life of one young girl in unbelievable ways including an introduction to the charming Prince Gregory, heir to the British throne.

Long-time readers might be surprised by the specifics of what my favorite part was although the fact that I found it hilarious obviously explains why it was my favorite. What part was it? Well, it is Becky's best friend Rocher's inventively clever cursing. Yes, I said cursing as in profanity. I have never read such clever language and it really made me think of it as an art form almost. The unusual ways she phrased her thoughts (and the fact that it wasn't on every page) really pleased me.

I also really liked the way I was unable to predict all of the plot twists. Now I maybe should have been able to figure some things out but I didn't and instead just got to enjoy and gasp at some of the shifts. The ending sentence was also fantastic-something to refer back to when you remember how much high school sucked and how much better your life is now (at least that is my experience.)

My main complaint is a bit of a SPOILER so don't read if you want to preserve the mystery.

That reason is the way that Tom is dead (?) or holographic...I don't really know and I would have liked it more straightforward and explained. I don't understand how any of that worked and it left me frustrated rather than just being able to swallow what was offered.

Cover: Gorgeous ;) Love the red dress although I think it would have been interesting to see the red, white, and black dresses.

Other Opinions:
Edgy Inspirational Romance
Reading Is the Thing
Supernatural Snark

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Lucy Variations

The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
3/5 stars
Little, Brown and Company, 2013
308 pages
YA Contemporary

Source: Library

I haven't had the best of luck with Zarr books despite consistently finding her premises interesting (Once Was Lost was promising; How to Save a Life left me cold). Therefore I approached this new release with trepidation: yes, I loved the idea of dealing with music but how would I feel about the characters? As expected, I loved the music section but really struggled with main character Lucy and her trials and tribulations.

Probably my big problem with Lucy is one that's not even really her fault. As she often appears older than her sixteen years, is noted for her cosmopolitan behavior due to her unconventional career path, and as a reader who is a bit older than sixteen years, I wanted her to behave with a lot more maturity. I also wanted her crush, Will, her brother's older married piano teacher, to act with a lot more maturity as he skirted the boundary of appropriate friendship and flirtation far too much for my liking (and for his wife's liking). But all these factors contributed to me not really liking her. I tend to prefer books where I feel a connection with the main character-this is often because we have similar backgrounds (hey, I played piano too but nowhere near Lucy's level) but can be shaken when her actions differ from what I imagine my own would be and Lucy's did.

As for the other elements, another big part of the book is Lucy reclaiming her love of music. When she quit on stage before an important performance, her controlling grandfather said it meant that she quit piano forever. But while she felt burned out at that moment, it didn't mean she never wanted to play again. This also means standing up to family expectations of how she will live her life, which normally I can get behind but in this case since I didn't feel much for Lucy, I didn't want to invest that much in her growth.

My favorite part would definitely be in the beginning with her sweet little brother who now bears the family's expectations on his back. As the book progresses, he becomes more of a brat with his jealousy over Lucy and Will's relationship and presumably his own (unexplored) feelings about being expected to carry on the family's musical legacy.

Overall: Honestly I just feel like this was a book that left me cold-where I wanted to feel excitement and drama and anticipation, I didn't feel anything but ennui or frustration.

Other Opinions:
Books and Things
Chick Loves Lit
Jen Ryland/YA Romantics
Rather Be Reading
The Compulsive Reader

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

ARC Review: A Moment Comes

A Moment Comes by Jennifer Bradbury
4/5 stars
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2013
278 pages
YA Historical
Scheduled to release June 25

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

After taking some classes on Indian history, I discovered that I have a deep fascination for the country and its history that is not often sated in YA fiction, which so often focuses on American or fantastical worlds. Luckily we have books like this, a more serious offering from the author of Wrapped, the historical MG/YA.

What first caught me about this book is its setting during the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, a situation whose repercussions are still felt today in seemingly unending conflict between the two bodies. I knew vague factoids about the situation but this story places you on the ground with Sikhs and Muslims battling over territory but also thankfully highlights the good of people stepping up to do the bit of good that they can do. This is demonstrated in the form of our three narrators: Muslim Tariq, craving to study at Oxford; Sikh Anupreet, a beautiful girl confined to her home to protect her from the violent angry men around her; and Margaret, the British daughter of a cartographer come to divide India who meets the previous two when they are hired as servants in her family's household.

I did not read the summary very closely as it clearly states that these three would be followed so I was surprised to meet the three as narrators. Each chapter lists the narrator so it is easy to keep track that way although the personalities, wants, and desires of all three are so different that it would be simple to do even without (it is appreciated still.)

Probably what I liked most about this was how everything kept building. The circumstances became darker and more violent, everyone became a bit more desperate until the great climax of these ordinary people stepping up to do what they could despite the odds. In the author's note, Bradbury writes a little about this and I loved how she brought that theme out.

I do think there could have been a bit more depth into the religious, racial, and gender issues of the time, especially for people who are not familiar with the period. Still there are a few books to reference mentioned in the author's note that I think it would behoove me to check out so as to further enlighten myself.

Overall: A very well-done historical novel about a time not very well-known to modern American audiences.

Monday, June 17, 2013

This Is What Happy Looks Like

This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E Smith
3.5/5 stars
Poppy, 2013
407 pages
YA Contemporary

Source: Library

My big impression of Jennifer E Smith's well-received previous book The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight was that it was unbelievably emotionally devastating to me and completely unexpected. I was thus wary to give her plots another chance although I read some reviews that seemed to promise that this was a lighter read and owed a debt to some classic romantic comedies, my favorite genre of movie so I decided to give it a shot once my library bought it. I was also promised emails and I'm a total sucker for epistolary novels although the emails taper off after the opening chapters.

Well, this did not destroy me but instead it didn't elicit much of any kind of feeling beyond frustration. The beginning was super cute with email exchanges starting when one person inputs the wrong email address, asking his friend to watch his pig but instead meeting someone new. That new person is ordinary girl Ellie living in Maine while the pig owner is Graham, one of the biggest movie stars who gets the set of his new film to be in her small-town in Maine specifically so they can meet. This all happens pretty fast (much faster than I expected) and soon the book focuses more on her concerns about privacy given her past and his continual struggle to grapple with the privileges and responsibilities of celebrity.

I am a huge fan of celebrity gossip and loved viewing Graham's life through that prism although this book doesn't delve too deeply into the practicalities of the life of celebrity. Privacy is a big concern though and what you can keep to yourself and when you need to share or how you can frame events in a certain light to convey a particular perspective. So I guess I thought there were some interesting themes.

Less interesting to me was main character Ellie whose friendship with Quinn is splintered pretty early on and not repaired for most of the book in scenes that drove me crazy. I feel like I've read quite a few YA books this year where the best friendship is fractured in some way and I hate it-I know YA friendship isn't always as valued as romance but it matters to me and it's something I try to point out in my reviews. I really wanted Ellie to take more agency and fix that relationship far earlier despite stating that it could only be fixed once Quinn had come around to wanting to fix it too.

As for the romance, which of course must be mentioned, it just didn't do much for me. Ellie and Graham are perfectly fine people. I got the impression that they did have a connection but as the reader, I wasn't that excited about them. It was enough to sustain me while reading the book but after a few days, I just feel completely lackluster about them.

Overall: A cute enough contemporary but not an outstanding representation of the genre.

Other Opinions: Since this book has been out for a while, I had a ton of reviews; here are just a few from my blogging friends
Beauty and the Bookshelf
Candace's Book Blog
Consumed by Books
Jen Ryland/YA Romantics
Michelle and Leslie's Book Picks

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Ramblings and Week to Come 16JUN13

Happy Father's Day!
I am so happy to be with my dad today. We are taking him out for brunch at our favorite restaurant which gives out a pint glass to fathers on this day. We will also probably play some games and maybe watch a movie in addition to a light dinner of hamburgers.

My Mood:
Last week, I shared about how I hadn't been feeling that great to which you responded with an outpouring of well wishes that was much appreciated. I am happy to report that this week at work was excellent with Thursday especially being a standout. I hope to be able to rely on that mood to carry me through the rest of the month (how are we almost halfway through the year already? I really don't know.)

I've been talking about updating my review archive and finally made a start on that. So far I have finished updating through 2012 so that just means 6 more months of reviews to update. I'm still working on catching up on comments, my perpetual goal. Reading is about average-I have liked most of the books I've tried recently but am still craving an outstanding YA read.

We had our second softball game last week, which was another victory. I am pleased to say that I got my second hit and I also scored a run. My (female) friend scored an inside the park home run, which earned many cheers-we have a couple guys on the team who have scored several home runs but never a girl so we were just ecstatic for her accomplishment. I've also been participating in a 3 times a week boot camp in addition to working with a trainer (I feel so luxurious saying that) and I can really feel a difference especially in the back of my thighs. They feel tighter and less flabby and I feel so strong and powerful because of it. It's really pushing me to continue all my hard work.

Reviews to Come: Lots of 2013 releases across genres
This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E Smith
A Moment Comes by Jennifer Bradbury
The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick
Identity Theft by Anna Davies
Antigoddess by Kendare Blake-this isn't out until September but Amazon requires a review within 45 days of receipt and I'm approaching that deadline. I don't want to post on Amazon three months before posting on my blog so you're getting a super early look at this book.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Sword Dancer

The Sword Dancer by Jeannie Lin
5/5 stars
Harlequin, 2013
281 pages
Adult Historical Romance

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

I've read several of Lin's historical romances before including the amazing My Fair Concubine last year, which completely blew me away. I was thus excited to return to historical China and meet some new amazing characters.

As expected, the hero and heroine were fantastic, each strong, powerful characters with tremendous physicality in addition to their growth as characters to confront the emotionally scarring moments of their past. My favorite part though is probably the way I read hero Han: a man who was attracted to the independence and agency of Li Feng. Though he wanted to take care of her and protect her, he also knew that she could take care of herself and he was attracted to her spirit. I just...I can't even fully describe how incredible I found their relationship to be.

The central conflict for them is that she is technically an outlaw with a soft touch for those in need while he is a thief catcher with a rigid sense of right and wrong that does not allow for leniency. They have several great conversations about their respective point of views and how they can move toward each other on the spectrum of what constitutes justice. In addition, I appreciated that they took a while to give into their physical urges-I like a slow burn.

As for the non-romance aspects, I ended up getting a little confused by the political conspiring going on. As Han and Li Feng discover, there is a salt smuggling ring going on (salt being a very valuable commodity at the time) in addition . But the last few chapters describing the new direction of Han's career with an official position in the government; there's another worker with a generous sense of right and wrong who was great to learn about.

Overall: Another great romance from Ms. Lin-definitely one to check out!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Witch Fire

Witch Fire by Laura Powell
4/5 stars
Bloomsbury USA Children's, 2013
324 pages
YA Paranormal Contemporary

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

Last year, I read Burn Mark, a tale of witchcraft set in an alternate version of our own contemporary world. In that book, posh Lucas and chavvy Glory discover their abilities and set out to negotiate what those changes mean for their lives in addition to battling a larger plot against witchkind. Some of the things I liked most about that book were both main characters, which seems to be rarely the case; its clever incorporation of magic into our world; and its London setting. I wasn't sure what to expect in this sequel but I knew I wanted to read it.

Both Lucas and Glory are struggling with exactly what their powers at their young age means. Lucas' father's ambitions are diverted while Glory's coven is in disarray with witch terrorism continuing. A lead from a posh school in Switzerland sends them off to South America to discover if it's possible to remove the witch from a person and to prevent more violence and chaos.

My favorite part by far was the section at the school. It's a school for (rich) young people whose powers have manifested but have so far escaped official notice from the government. They can hide out here and be safe from prying eyes. I am pretty obsessed with boarding school settings as well as just schools in general so it's probably not too surprising that this was the part I loved the most. Not that I didn't like the other parts, just this one seemed tailor made for me.

I felt like this book really deepened the characters of Glory and Lucas, the latter who is especially conflicted about his magical abilities whereas Glory is struggling with her legacy and her long gone mother. These characters are also still deeply sympathetic and fun-I still like both of them just about equally. They're teenagers who sometimes act above their years but at other times, fall prey to their emotions and vulnerabilities. They seem very realistic for living in such a fantastical world.

Overall, I think this is a very well-done series with excellent characters. I do hope there will be a third book to build a trilogy.

Cover: Got to love how it matches the first book!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Blog Tour: Deviant

Today I am pleased to be a tour stop for Deviant by Helen FitzGerald as part of Precious Gem Book Tours. Check out the link for other tour stops, including interviews, guest posts, and a giveaway!

Deviant by Helen FitzGerald
4/5 stars
SohoTeen, 2013
248 pages
YA Mystery Contemporary

Source: Received an ARC from publisher in exchange for an honest review.
When 16-year-old Abigail's mother dies in Scotland--leaving a faded photo, a weirdly cryptic letter, and a one-way ticket to America--she feels nothing. Why should she? Her mother gave her away when she was a baby, leaving her to grow up on an anti-nuclear commune and then in ugly foster homes. But the letter is a surprise in more ways than one: Her father is living in California. What's more, Abigail discovers she has an eighteen-year-old sister, Becky. And the two are expecting Abigail to move in with them.

After struggling to overcome her natural suspicions of a note from beyond the grave (not to mention anything positive) Abigail grows close to her newfound sister. But then Becky is found dead, the accidental victim of an apparent drug overdose. As Abigail wrestles with her feelings and compiles a "Book of Remembrance" of her sister's short life, she uncovers a horrifying global plot aimed at controlling teen behavior: one that took her sister's and mother's lives, with vast implications.
When I found out about this tour, I was excited to participate because Deviant sounded like a very unique story. I've included the publisher's synopsis above because I think it does a great job at capturing the many interesting bits of this story: Abigail's upbringing in Scotland, her movement through foster homes, her newfound relatives, her sister's death, the plot aimed at controlling teen behavior. It sounded like a very far-reaching book and I loved that it was contemporary!

I'll admit that I had a bit of trouble getting in to this book as Abigail's harsh childhood was far bleaker than my own and I tend to click faster with characters who are like me. Once she arrives in America though, I found myself much more engaged. Abigail had to acclimate herself to a whole new culture AND to a previously unknown family-what a challenge! The pieces of the puzzle come at you slowly before quickly building up to a dark conspiracy with Abigail fleeing for her life and narrowly escaping death. I mean, it is tense and the last chapters just fly by, proving that all the buildup was worth it.

For favorite character, I would have to pick sister Becky although we don't get to spend much time with her before her "overdose." She's a spark and the way her courage and work inspires Abigail was wonderful to see. I also liked their stepmother Melanie who could probably best be described as a Stepford Wife. Her robotic behavior was bizarre but gripping all the same. As I said, Abigail had a much harder life than me turning her somewhat dark and withdrawn, which is understandable although it made me feel like it was hard to connect with her (the use of third person narrative rather than first person like many other YA titles possibly contributed to this as well) but by the end, I was thoroughly absorbed in her journey.

Sadly this book does not currently seem to be part of a series although the conclusion seems ripe for one. I wonder if the author plans to continue; I know I would be interested in coming along for the ride.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Perfect Scoundrels

Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter
4.5/5 stars
Hyperion, 2013
328 pages
YA Contemporary Caper

Source: Library

As I read Heist Society and Uncommon Criminals, of course I wanted to finish the series (it is my understanding that this is only a trilogy but I would be happy to read another installment). I'm so glad I picked it up because I thought this book was absolutely delightful, the best in the trilogy! Every book has had a con of some kind and this one was just so so satisfying.

My one complaint about this book was the shifting of narration. Sometimes it would go to "the girl" or "the boy" meaning Kat or Hale instead of saying their names. It felt like a distancing technique and I hated being away from the wonderful characters.

Other than that, I loved everything. The book opens throwing Hale into a sad situation that drastically changes their circumstances and brings Kat from her world of cons to Hale's world of money and...well actually there are a lot of con people in the business world too as realized by Kat and which instigates their latest heist.

Have you seen The Sting? (If you haven't, you should check it out: Robert Redford and Paul Newman-enough said.) That's what this book ended up making me think of, which is a very high compliment. Of course it was only after I had read everything that I made this connection because before that I was too caught up in Carter's exquisite plotting. What they pull off in this book impressed me to no end and is the main reason for my love.

There are also all the wonderful characters we already know and love-Kat, Hale, Gabrielle, Marcus, Simon, Angus, Hamish, etc. in addition to introducing some other members of Kat's "family." Kat and Hale's romance is further tested by these new circumstances (to my dismay as I love the couple) but I am happy with the way everything is resolved here. We also get a lot more background on Hale and his upbringing, proving that money cannot buy you love and happiness as his birth family was pretty crappy at providing those two things. I felt so sorry for the guy but happy for him falling in with Kat's crew.

Overall: Another confection from Carter-I was seriously so blown away by the plotting and the light writing. That takes such great skill and is seriously under-appreciated in my opinion.

Other Opinions:
Books are Vital
Jen Ryland/YA Romantics
Reading Is the Thing

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
5/5 stars
Dutton, 2011
323 pages
Adult Fiction

Source: Library

After loving Eleanor and Park, I was intrigued to discover that Rowell had previously written an adult novel that was at least partially in epistolary and featured a romance. Although I doubted it could be as good as Eleanor and Park, I decided to check it out.

Shows what I know: this book was fabulous! While reading it at work, I was laughing and then crying and then bitter that I had to work instead of getting to finish this delightful book. Then I went home and finished it. As in Eleanor and Park, I didn't want the story to end and when it did, I again hugged the book to me. Rowell just seems to write in a style that is exactly what I like to read.

The plot is a bit odd: the year is 1999 and a newspaper is begrudgingly installing computers, internet, and email. Lincoln has been hired to monitor the email exchanges of the employees and he finds himself drawn to the conversation of two women in particular whose email keeps getting flagged. Jennifer is anxious about maybe starting a family with her husband while Beth craves a marriage proposal from her musician boyfriend. Through these emails Lincoln starts to fall for Beth while also following his own journey of growing up and separating from his mother.

I really liked the format of this book. It opens with an email exchange between Beth and Jennifer and then jumps into following Lincoln's life. Every couple of chapters, we get another exchange to punctuate Lincoln's story. I love epistolary novels and female narration so of course I ate up the emails especially because there were many very funny exchanges (literally laughed out loud at a couple of points.) But Lincoln's story is good too as this shy guy really blossoms just by making a few small decisions and following them through. I guess I read this book at the perfect time and I highly recommend it to fans of Rowell's writing!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Anthem for Jackson Dawes

Anthem for Jackson Dawes by Celia Bryce
3.5/5 stars
Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2013
231 pages
YA Contemporary Cancer

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

I think this book called to me because of its genre: contemporary aka my favorite genre! I assume I knew it featured a protagnoist with cancer when I requested the title as it says so in the synopsis and I had read a few other reviews but when I opened the book, I found that a bit unclear at first although it is soon emphatically clear.

For me, the big failing for this book was my inability to form a connection to any of the characters. You might think that main character and narrator Megan would have clicked with me somehow. Or surely the titular Jackson Dawes tugged on my heartstrings? Or any one of the hospital staff, her family, or her friends? Nope; I didn't hate any of the characters but I felt disconnected to all of them. Compounding that was my feeling that the story itself was very disjointed with scene lurching to next scene instead of smoothly flowing. Other reviews have mentioned this jumping so I know I'm not alone in feeling that.

I did think there were some great descriptions in this book and feelings were well captured. Some examples were Megan's conversations with her grandfather, when she realizes her hair is falling out and gets wigs to replace it, and her realization of the great divide between her shallow friends and herself now. That last one did really get to me and I enjoyed the way the friendships played out from that point.

Overall: This is a fine book-it's just not one I can get excited about. People who are craving contemporary or a quieter story may find more to enjoy; I think it might lean even toward literary fiction, which is not something I tend to appreciate.

Other Opinions:
Amaterasu Reads
Blkosiner's Book Blog
Library Mosaic

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Ramblings and Week to Come (09JUN13)

Thank you:
I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who's taken the time to stop by and comment on my blog. I've been feeling a little down in real life but reading your nice words has really helped perk me up.

I ran my first 5K yesterday with a group of friends and it was so much fun! Well, actually when I say "ran," I mean "walked" but either way it was under an hour plus celebratory breakfast afterward. My friends and I are also talking about trying kayaking and rock climbing. What outdoorsy/sporty activities do you like to do? Meanwhile our new softball season started. Yep, we're back! I missed our first game but it was apparently a handy victory. I'm really excited to go back out on the field this week and am hoping to get another hit.

I'm back to work after my time in Hawaii and I was really happy to return but am already disappointed in the lack of reading time I've had. I'm quite behind but am trying to catch up-we'll see how that goes. Commenting has also been slow but I'm hoping to put in some quality time today-there's just so much I want to do and not enough time to pack everything in! I also need to work on some reviews and I don't think I've updated my review archive at all this year so it would be great to get at least a few weeks linked properly.

Week to Come:
Anthem of Jackson Dawes by Celia Bryce-British YA contemporary
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell-a must-read for fans of Eleanor and Park
Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter-concluding the Heist Society trilogy in style
Deviant by Helen FitzGerald-for Precious Gem Blog Tours
Witch Fire by Laura Powell-sequel to underappreciated Burn Mark
The Sword Dancer by Jeannie Lin-the new romance novel from this talented author

Saturday, June 8, 2013

ARC Review: Proxy

Proxy by Alex London
4/5 stars
Philomel Books, 2013
380 pages
YA Science-Fiction
Scheduled to release June 18

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

This book was sent to me for possible review by the publisher and I entered it with very little expectations. It hadn't been much on my radar probably because it is darker, more action-packed, and less romantic than my typical read. Regardless I still quite enjoyed myself.

In the future, wealthy Patrons can do whatever they want but someone always pays. That someone is a Proxy, owing a blood debt from childhood that they may never be able to repay. Knox and Sydney have been entwined like that for years. When Knox crashes a car and kills his passenger, he sentences Sydney to a lifetime of servitude. But there are still a few tricks up his sleeve and Sydney ends up taking Knox hostage as they run for their lives, looking for a jubilee, a way to crash the system and forgive all debts, upending the entire system.

First I wanted to mention that Sydney's name is Sydney Carton as Proxies draw their names from old literature. If you've read A Tale of Two Cities, this name is so appropriate and once I made that connection, I pretty much squealed with glee. I'm not really sure how I feel about him-Syd is an okay guy whose brains I admired but who I wasn't as warm and fuzzy about as I have been for other MCs. I do know how I feel about Knox though; I hated him. He is such a selfish jerk. Luckily over the course of the novel, Knox grows up a little and becomes almost tolerable. There are quite a few other characters but I don't want to go in to them for fear of spoilers.

As for the plot, I love the idea of a futuristic story about a whipping boy who could end society as they know it by invoking an event from Old Testament times. That's just such a cool plot line to me. This book was almost non-stop action with every chapter spurring you on to the next one until you finished it. The book ends pretty abruptly but I found it satisfying. This is the beginning of a trilogy so rest assured that your lingering questions should be answered in books to come.

Content: There is a lot of violence and drug use-I don't remember there being any language.

Overall: I liked this one and thought it was pretty cool but I'm not in love with it or anything. Craving more dystopia? Love lots of action? Give this one a try.

Other Opinions:
Forever Young Adult
Jen Ryland/YA Romantics
My 5 Monkeys

Friday, June 7, 2013

ARC Review: Another Little Piece

Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn
4/5 stars
HarperTeen, 2013
422 pages
YA Contemporary Paranormal Horror
Scheduled to release June 11

Source: Received an e-ARC through the publisher at Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

The blurb for this book teased Pretty Little Liars, a series I've never read but I am a fan of the show (I think the cover model brings to mind Spencer) and became interested in trying this book despite also noting the promise of horror, my least favorite genre.

Well, I'm glad I gave this a shot as I found it refreshingly dark and unique although I was right to be wary of the horror aspects, which are quite gruesome although not unmanageable. This story is twisty covering years as it follows a main character plagued with memory problems and a serious disconnect from the people she should know best. As the story unfolds, she discovers just how far people are willing to go for love or revenge and what price they have to pay to exact them.

I did have trouble slipping into the book, which opens with Anneliese Rose Gordon appearing thousands of miles away from where she disappeared a year ago. But she is not Anneliese despite her appearance and visions only encourage her to investigate what the real story might be. What she uncovers is a cycle of violence and selfishness and destruction that she *might* be able to end if she can only find the strength.

For much of the book, I felt a certain level of disconnect to this book, partly because of Anneliese's own disconnect. She knows that is not her life and can barely stand to be around the parents of Anneliese although they all try. She knows she doesn't belong and is uncomfortable and that transferred to me as well. Her confusion also wore off on me although we eventually figured things out, I think. A lot of pieces of information are slowly unraveled and the way it all ties together is very impressive.

This book is definitely not for everyone but those who loved it, really loved it and it is a very welcome addition to YA horror so I would encourage you to carefully consider giving it a shot.

Content warning: Language, drugs, and sexual situations abound in addition to violence so if you're sensitive to any of those, I would advise you to investigate further and proceed with caution.

Other Opinions:
Finding Bliss in Books
Katie's Book Blog
The Book Geek
The Midnight Garden

Thursday, June 6, 2013

ARC Review: Born of Illusion

Born of Illusion by Teri Brown
3.5/5 stars
Balzer + Bray, 2013
384 pages
YA Historical Paranormal
Scheduled to release June 11

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

I love stories about magic and so far most of the books I've read with that element tend to be about witches and wizards. However this story promised a different take on magic, looking at magicians, illusionists, and mediums in addition to featuring Harry Houdini. Add in the historical period of the 1920's and we've got a lot of potential here.

Anna Van Housen is a talented young illusionist working in concert with her "medium" mother, attempting to keep themselves afloat and ahead of those who would expose their seances as fraudulent including Anna's alleged father, the famous Harry Houdini. However, what no one knows, what no one can know is that Anna has genuine paranormal talent as there are definitely those who would use her abilities, not least of all her mother. When two very different men become entangled in her life, Anna may have to fully utilize all of her talents to avoid destruction.

My least favorite part of this book was definitely the romance. Although at first, I wondered which guy she might choose, it pretty quickly became obvious and honestly neither guy much impressed me. They were such dullards and didn't have any spark with Anna. This is a shame as Anna is quite spunky and fun-I'd probably want to hang out with her and I want her to have an awesome romantic relationship.

On the other hand, her relationship with her parents was much more enthralling although frustrating. Anna's mother is used to being the center of attention and easily manipulates Anna and those in her sphere of influence. Their relationship is complicated to say the least and her lies mean that though Anna hopes Houdini is her father, she also doubts the veracity of her mother's claim. I appreciated the many facets of her mother's character as well as the fact that we get to see her good side near the end, making her more likable to me and feeling better for Anna's situation.

One final element to examine is the presence of magic and other paranormal abilities. Anna knows full well that they are real because she possesses them, something that she cannot share with anyone especially her mother who might not believe her but also might try to ruthlessly exploit her. I loved how Anna had these natural talents in addition to all her hard work at illusions to perform on stage for pay. I thought it was a nice contrast between being born with paranormal talents and working hard at creating illusions for the stage.

Cover: I think she looks like Nicola Kidman circa "Moulin Rouge" which is a very different time period, setting, and circumstances but maybe you can see the resemblance too?

Other Opinions:
Candace's Book Blog
The Flyleaf Review
Tynga's Reviews
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...