Sunday, July 31, 2011

King Solomon

King Solomon by Philip Graham Ryken
Crossway, 2011
200 pages
Non-fiction; Inspirational
4/5 stars

Source: Received a free e-galley via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book is a close reading of the story of Solomon, an incredibly blessed king of Israel who squandered his blessing through his pursuit of money, sex, and power.  Ryken compares this to modern pursuits as well as how Jesus followed part of Solomon's example without falling into the same traps.  This surprised me as I thought it was just about Solomon but every chapter connected his story to the story of Jesus, encouraging the reader to examine her faith in the light of how Solomon was tempted and failed.

I sort of knew Solomon's story but there were many details that were pointed out to me again as Ryken carefully goes over instances of Solomon's life. Yes, he was very wise and in many ways a good king.  But just like all of us humans, he was able to be swayed by money, sex, and power, which ultimately corrupted his kingdom.  Instead he ought to have devoted all of his time and energies to God.

I really liked Ryken's insistence on how becoming Christian is not one step of saying that you are a Christian but is instead a day by day, moment by moment decision to accept Jesus and do His will.  I think that's something that we all struggle with (I know I do!) and is thus a very universal statement.

Although I liked this book, I did not love it and that is why it receives a 4 rather than a 5.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher
Greenwillow Books, 1993
216 pages
YA; Contemporary
4.5/5 stars

Source: Library

After adoring Whale Talk, I wanted to read more Chris Crutcher and Jan von Harz from Eating YA Books recommended this book so I checked it out and I'm so glad I did! Although I've only read two books, I'm already starting to recognize some Crutcher trademarks: sports (especially swimming), straightforward male character, and exploration of some tough issues.

This time our hero is Eric Calhoune, popularly known as Moby or Mobe for his size and the fact that he swims.  For years he's been among the fattest kids and on the outskirts of his classmates. But that was okay because he had his best friend Sarah Byrnes, a girl whose father burned her face when she was only a child, permanently scarring it.  As they've aged, he has become marginally more popular and she has been in even more danger from her psychotic father.  Although Sarah Byrnes is one of the toughest people he knows, Eric cannot leave her to deal with her father all on her own.

Although this is a pretty short book, I thought the pacing was leisurely with time to connect with all of the important characters; I only mentioned three but there are other students and adults, each with a defined personality who reveals hidden depths.  Eric is a good guy.  He's a decent swimmer, a decent student, a great friend, and in possession of a very determined personality. I also like that there are good competent adults represented in contrast to the crazy father and Religious Right personalities. No one's perfect, everyone makes mistakes but beliefs are challenged and there is an appropriate happy ending.

Overall: A good contemporary, gripping and entertaining.

Friday, July 29, 2011

What Happened to Goodbye

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
Viking, 2011
402 pages
YA; Contemporary
4/5 stars

Source: Library

Is there anything better than a good YA Contemporary by one of your favorite authors, who consistently delivers an enjoyable story with a sweet romance?  I love falling into a Sarah Dessen novel and I enjoyed the multiple references to previous novels (characters, places, things), which help define the Sarah Dessen universe.

I'll admit at first that I was skeptical because the main character's name is Mclean, which to me is a last name and certainly not a girl's name BUT there's an explanation and soon I really felt for Mclean.  For the last two years she's been living with her dad as they travel around the US, each time recreating herself and becoming a new person easily shedding her previous iteration.  Meanwhile relations with her mother are strained as she had an affair and has now set up a new life with a new husband and twins.  But in Lakeview things are different as Mclean falls into friendships easily and begins to rethink her relationship with her mother.

The writing style is distinctly Sarah Dessen and thus comfortable for me as I've read all of her previous novels.  I feel like Dessen does a great job creating complex parents (see-parents aren't completely invisible in YA!) and giving the MC several colorful friends instead of just one.  My particular favorite was Deb, whose intensity and mysterious background make her one of my favorite Dessen characters ever.  Other friends include Riley, Heather, Ellis, and love interest Dave.  Her relationship with Dave is unique and bumpy and not as sawoony as Remy and Dexter's or Macy and Wes's but good enough for people who aren't craving a romantic novel.

I also enjoyed the evolution of Mclean's opinions of her parents.  Although she sided with her father after her mother's heinous betrayal, she ends up remembering how much she really does love her mother and I feel like that's the real meat of the story.

Overall: I like this one; I just happen to love This Lullaby and The Truth About Forever so it suffers a bit in comparison.

Have you read any Sarah Dessen books? What is/are your favorite? Those were the first two I read and I wonder if that's why they're my favorites.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Sister by Rosamund Lupton
Crown Publishers, 2011
318 pages
4/5 stars

Source: Received a free ARC through Amazon's Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

I have a younger sister and am consequently obsessed with stories about sisters especially ones where the older sister protects and looks out for her younger sister(s) (examples: The Hunger Games, Entwined).  I even have a goodreads shelf with books featuring sisters (any recommendations?)  So requesting this from Amazon Vine was a no-brainer even if it's a bit darker than what I usually read.

And overall I thought the link between sisters was the strongest material presented within the book although that may be because I have a sister.  To start, I was a little shocked to see that the sisters are five years apart (as are my sister and me) and I felt that eldest sister Beatrice sounded much older than her 26 years of age.  But her feelings of protectiveness and the feelings that she had failed Tess in the days before her death weighed heavily on me and kept me turning the pages.  Her grief was real and palpable to me even as she attempted to turn productive and solve the mystery behind her sister's murder, especially as almost everyone deemed it a suicide. However I think I may have put in some of my own feelings toward these characters because I didn't really like Beatrice; she's snobby and unkind but living in Tess' shoes enacts a change in her. From the presentation of Tess, I mostly liked her character.

I also was impressed with Lupton's narrative skills; Beatrice alternates between recounting the story to policeman Mr. Wright and her sister, thus switching between first and second person.  She also changes between past and present tense.  Although sometimes a bit confusing, this was mostly presented clearly and kept me in suspense as it seemed that the killer was caught and would soon be sentenced.  However all is not as it appears in a mystery.

There were multiple candidates for the murder of Tess and lots of false avenues.  By the end, I was so turned around that I had no idea.  I'm not entirely satisfied with the conclusion, because of the reveal of the murderer and also because of Lupton's narration. To say there's a twist is probably patently obvious to you but I was definitely thrown off.

One last item I didn't like was Lupton's repetition of certain phrases when describing someone or an event.  The one that struck me most was when Beatrice would pause and a character would assume it was because she didn't understand; this popped up repeatedly and irked me. Other reviews have pointed out other repeated phrases.

Overall: A mostly beautifully written thriller; recommended (with reservations if this isn't your kind of book) to women with sisters.

Read for British Book Challenge.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Supernaturally Giveaway Winners!

I want to start by thanking everyone for entering this giveaway, following me, and leaving comments. I've already made one change and I'm mulling over a few others in order to improve my blog and make it more user-friendly.

Let's see some winners then!
US Winner of Signed Supernaturally
US Winner of Signed Wolfsbane
US Winner of Signed Anna and the French Kiss
International Winner is
who chose Lola and the Boy Next Door

Congratulations! I have sent you emails to confirm mailing address (make sure to check your spam filter!); you have 24 hours to respond or I will pick another winner! I am hoping to go to the post office tomorrow or Friday so please respond promptly.

Book Signing-Kiersten White, Andrea Cremer, and Stephanie Perkins

I arrived at about 5:15 and was excited to see the poster advertising the event as well as quite a few people who had arrived before me.

I checked out where the event would be and there was a table set up for each of the authors as well as the boy they were promoting. According to a volunteer, they were doing a podcast in the back.

The table with the books

This didn't come out as well as I had hoped but if you can see, they renamed some of the items in the Barnes and Noble cafe to celebrate the release of the books.

Then the authors came out (quite promptly I believe although I didn't check my watch so I can't be certain).

This is Kiersten standing on a chair in order to be heard better, describing how the event would go. First each author read a short excerpt, then there were five questions, a quick chocolate giveaway and then the signing.

Reading from Supernaturally; I haven't started yet but it was somewhere in the middle with the introduction of a unicorn.
Andrea reading from Wolfsbane; I was a bit lost because I haven't read Nightshade yet (reviews for both of those books will be posted in August-I have the whole month planned out already!)
And Stephanie reading from Anna and the French Kiss; also clarification on the pronunciation of Etienne.

Overall, it was a very fun event and I'm so happy I got to attend and meet all three authors! Be sure to check back later for the winners of my giveaway.


Abandon by Meg Cabot
Point, 2011
307 pages
YA; Supernatural; Greek Myth
4/5 stars

Source: Received a free ARC through Amazon's Vine program.

I didn't have very high expectations for this as I've been disappointed by Cabot's recent work despite loving a lot of her earlier work.  Additionally I had heard mixed things about the mythology as it differs from the traditional Greek myth of Hades and Persephone.

And while I had some problems, I mostly enjoyed this book; partly because main character Pierce Oliviera is a genuinely caring person whose best attempts frequently result in disaster.  She's curious and brave and hurting in so many ways.  The title is very appropriate because in many ways she's been abandoned as have many of the other characters.

Although they were not as well-defined as Pierce who narrates, the other characters intrigued me.  Of course there's John Hayden, the mysterious guy who always seems to pop up whenever Pierce gets into the most trouble. Then there's her cousin Alex, with an undefined grudge against the popular kids at school and his father Chris, who just got out of prison but also seems like a sweet and caring person.  I also mostly liked Pierce's parents.  Her mother wants to restore the ecosystems of Florida that have been largely destroyed by her father's company.  I certainly wouldn't trade my dad for hers (cause mine is super awesome) but he had some funny scenes and he seems to care about her in his limited way.

As to the story, there's a lot of flashbacks and confusion of time, which confused me although I think I have it sorted out now. And not a lot happened until a (very short) battle at the end.  There's a lot of Pierce puzzling through key incidents in her life to help her figure out her relationship with John in the context of Greek mythology and a lot of very enjoyable narration that I flew through as I read this all in one day.  But if you want kickbutt action, you won't find much of that here...hopefully in the second book Underworld.

Overall: An enjoyable twist on Greek mythology with some of Cabot's signatures; sets up some interesting paths for the rest of the trilogy.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Wildefire by Karsten Knight
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2011
393 pages
YA; Paranormal
4/5 stars

Source: Received a free ARC through Simon & Schuster's GalleyGrab program

In some ways this reminds me of the typical boarding school novel filled with privileged kids who easily drink underage, hook up frequently, are incredibly good looking, break curfew constantly, and receive very little punishment.  Main character Ashline and her friends at prep school fulfill all of those, living larger than life.  But they also have a twist in that they are reincarnations of gods from various mythologies.  And that makes all of the difference.

Ashline is Pele, Polynesian volcano goddess, and her friends come from other mythologies (Haitian, Egyptian, Japanese, Greek, and Nordic), creating one of the more diverse YA books I've ever read. The book began jarringly with Ash beating the crap out of a girl who made out (or more) with Ash's boyfriend and the first section concludes with that girl being killed by Ash's older sister.  The novel then jumps ahead four months to see Ash in boarding school where she begins to uncover their hidden pasts along with the other secret gods and goddesses.

Although the first section was difficult to read, I was immediately drawn in and I sped through this book.  Despite being a goddess, there are a lot of reasons to sympathize with Ash.  She feels abandoned by her sister, that she can't live up to her parents' expectations, boy troubles, and general teenage angst.  She's very far from perfect but she does want to help people and she can step up when it's necessary.  The other characters were also interesting if somewhat indistinguishable; almost everyone is pretty snarky, which is funny to read but it does mean that characters can run together.  And while many of their actions and responses seemed unrealistic to me (meaning almost the complete opposite of what I'd choose to do in a given situation), these kids are gods and goddesses and they need to be larger than life with outsized passions and behaviors.

I guess I mostly disliked the sense of meandering that I felt. I believe that Knight has an end goal for the series and of course a specific end for this book but at times, I wanted the story to be a bit tighter and more focused. However, it was very lighthearted and as I said, I flew through it, which means the writing is engaging. I also want to warn people that it ends with a pretty big cliff-hanger; if that'll bother you, then you might want to hold off on reading this.

Content Warning: Violence; Language; Sexual activities

Overall: A gripping unique YA paranormal story; recommended for older readers.

Read for YA Debut Author and E-book challenges.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Rakes and Radishes

Rakes and Radishes by Susanne Ives
Carina Press, 2010
253 pages
3/5 stars

Source: Received a free ecopy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This started out very promising and then took a very different (and to me, unwelcome) turn.  Henrietta thinks she is in love with her cousin Edward, who has left her for London in order to try to publish his poetry.  She eagerly awaits his return so that they can conquer London as a married couple. However she receives a rude awakening upon reading that Edward almost successfully eloped with the Beauty of the Season.  Her neighbor, the Earl of Kesseley, has been in love with Henrietta for as long as he can remember but while they are friends, she scorns his country bumpkin clothing and his honest, compassionate manner.  See, Henrietta reads Gothic novels and desires a rakish hero such as described in them.

So I liked the beginning and the early part of the book as Kesseley attempted to fit in while still maintaining his good character.  He likes farming, he's kind, and so what if he doesn't know the latest fashion? I didn't care!  But Henrietta fails to see what is right in front of her and Kesseley ends up committing himself to becoming the worst rake.  He gets a new haircut, new clothes, and a new *mysterious* personality, which successfully woes the Beauty of the Season.  Meanwhile Henrietta has to stand aside and watch the nice man she knew act more like his father.  Because Kesseley acts so poorly, he almost ends up betrothed to someone else and the relationship between the main couple was not well-developed.  All I saw was two people seemingly intent on inflicting as much pain as possible on the person they claimed to love and want to marry.

There are also two subplots involving their parents.  Kesseley's father was an awful rake who abused his mother while his now-widowed mother has an affair with a married man and laments her lost true love.  She had some interesting mood swings and her treatment of the main couple was...interesting.  Henrietta's father was more interesting to me; he and his now dead wife were astronomers and they mathematically attempted to prove the existence of a planet beyond Uranus. He didn't play a very big part.

Overall: A different kind of romance, which was not to my taste.

Read for ebook challenge.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

When Christians Get It Wrong

When Christians Get It Wrong by Adam Hamilton
Abingdon Press, 2010
120 pages
Non-fiction; Christian
4/5 stars

Source: Received a free e-galley via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is a quick read addressing some of the points that have turned many young people away from Christianity and the church.  I identified as some of those issues had turned me away when I was younger.  These are covered in five chapters looking at unchristian behaviors, Christian attitudes toward science and politics, relationships with other religions, the question of "why does God let bad things happen?", and homosexuality.  I thought some of his treatments were a bit shallow but this was a good broad look with some nice things to ponder.  I felt really encouraged to reflect on how I and other Christians act.  I see this as a nice jumping-off point to pursue other books devoted entirely to one of those topics.

Hamilton concludes with a lovely chapter about how Christians get it right.  Mainly we do that when we follow the example of Jesus and put people before rules. He is a shining example of compassion and love and that is how Christians and the church need to be when interacting with outsiders and within our own community.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dangerous to Know

Dangerous to Know by Tasha Alexander
Minotaur Books, 2010
306 pages
Mystery; Historical; Romance
3/5 stars

Source: Library

I think I'm done with this series.  When I started it, I enjoyed the lightness, Lady Emily's independent streak, and her flirtation with Colin. While this book began promisingly, it went downhill in a confusion of identities, motivations, and vastly different characterizations.

First off Emily is supposed to be so independent and smart and yet I find little actual evidence of that.  It is not enough for me to just be told that she is those things.  Additionally I hate Sebastian and his weird flirtation with her and Colin has become decidedly less appealing to me as he seems very vague.  I felt his personality much more in the first books.  This saddens me because I really liked Colin and one would think their marriage would allow him to be developed more and yet it does not.  In some ways, I think their relationship is supposed to be a bit like Amelia Peabody and Emerson's but I find it much less charming and amusing.  I mostly enjoyed the character of her mother-in-law who finds Emily lacking as I largely agree; I also enjoyed her journal entries about every three chapters.

Then there was the mystery which had plenty of suspects; I fingered three potentials and one of them actually ended up being the murderer.  However there is a decided element of the paranormal as Lady Emily thinks she sees the ghost of a little girl looking for a mother.  I hate that in a historical mystery so that was another part that displeased me.  I also found the plot a bit confusing although I was not giving the book my full attention, hoping instead just to get through it and find something more pleasurable to read.

Overall, I enjoyed this more than Tears of Pearl and despite what I said above, I may give the sixth book, A Crimson Warning, a shot, because as it's set in London, my beloved butler Davis should make an appearance; he has been sorely missed (Dang, I sure like commas!)

Tears of Pearl

Tears of Pearl by Tasha Alexander
Minotaur Books, 2009
307 pages
Mystery; Historical; Romance
3/5 stars

Source: Library

I've mostly enjoyed the Lady Emily series but this one fell a bit flat for me.  It took me almost a week to read, which is a sure sign that I'm uninterested.  I kept pushing because I really did like the first books but this was a definite disappointment for me.

First Emily and Colin are married! Now I love their relationship and I was rooting for them but I enjoyed their relationship more during the flirtation and without the references to them enjoying their honeymoon phase.  Additionally Emily was incredibly unprepared for the possibility of a child despite frequent acts that lead to a child.  The way she handled that seemed out of character for her; I thought she was more pragmatic.

Second the setting is Turkey, which is not my favorite place to read about.  I missed England and my beloved butler Davis; I also missed Emily's best friend Ivy, who is on bedrest facing a difficult childbirth.  The new characters did not grab my attention and while the murderer(s)'s motivation was clear, the way it unfolded seemed a bit unfocused and confused.  I did not solve the mystery but I also wasn't paying close attention as I kept trying to figure out how many pages were left.

Overall: A bit of a disappointment; however I have my review of the next book Dangerous to Know scheduled for later, which was a bit of an improvement.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cat's Tale

Cat's Tale by Bettie Sharpe
Carina Press, 2011
104 pages
Fairy Tale; Romance (Adult)
5/5 stars

Source: Received a free e-galley via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I've never really liked the fairy tale Puss in Boots because it lacked a princess and a romance; happily Cat's Tale rectifies both issues for a delightful little romp.

Catriona is a beautiful and clever woman and she knows it.  She parleys that into being the consort of the king.  Alas with his untimely demise, she is set adrift, dependent on his heir, the princess, and a wizard.  When she displeases the wizard, he turns her into a cat, which really gets the adventure started.  She finds a miller's son Julian and promises to make him wealthy and win the woman he lusts after, who is incidentally Catriona.  However their relationship shakes her to her core, affecting her more deeply than she ever thought possible.

Cat is selfish and carelessly cruel but not totally evil.  Her voice is distinct and often funny as she tells her story.  Although I do not think she is an admirable person, I enjoyed spending time with her through the novella.  I loved seeing how she changed as she became friends with Julian and how each of them moderated the other (she made sure he didn't naively trust everyone and he made her less cynical).

Overall: Fast-moving with an engaging MC and a great romance.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Follow Hop 22July11

About Me:
I return follows but I would greatly appreciate it if you left a link in the comments to make it a bit easier on me.

I am running a giveaway of four YA books--there is an international component: check the giveaway out!

Q. "Name 3 authors who you would love to sit down and spend an hour or a meal with just talking about either their books or get advice on writing from."

A. That's a tough one. I know that I would pick Jane Austen, hands down as she is my favorite author of all time. I would also probably pick Meg Cabot, a long-time favorite of mine, and Jude Morgan, who's written some amazing Austen-esque fiction.

Book Blogger Hop

Q. "What’s the ONE GENRE that you wish you could get into, but just can’t?"

I'm not the biggest fan of epic fantasy-in my experience, there are loads of male characters but not many female characters (and the ones who are there are love/lust interests and don't really get to do anything) and the names don't have a good vowel to consonant ratio. Consequently I have no idea how to pronounce the names and that frustrates me. However I do love fantasy based on fairy tales and books with fantastical subjects.


Cascade by Lisa T. Bergren
David C. Cook, 2011
399 pages
YA; Historical; Time-travel; Romance
4.5/5 stars

My review of Waterfall

Source: Library

I mostly enjoyed the first book Waterfall except for some qualms around the whole time travel thing. I mean, I spend a not insignificant amount of time contemplating time travel and the ramifications of interfering with anything. Those worries are not wholely alleviated by this book but I have hopes for the third.

First, I felt conflicted by the love across time, which is a. improper and b. very much interfering in the space/time continuum.  Additionally Gabi worries that she might be disrupting stuff instead of realizing that she already has by keeping Fortino alive for longer (see Timeless Love for an example of why it might be bad to aid an asthmatic during your travels through time), in addition to her and Lia's aiding of the Sienese and creating the legend of the She-Wolfs of Siena. We see one consequence but not enough for my taste. In the beginning, I also thought Gabi's modern speak was sometimes a bit closer to what an adult thinks a teen speaks like but as I move further away from my teen years, I also lose sight of how real teenagers act and speak.

But then I fell headlong into the story, on the edge of my seat as the action and danger just kept increasing.  Both sides mean serious business and that meant even more suspense as Gabi and Lia maneuver through the deadly intrigues and warfare.  They also brought their mom back with them, adding to their danger.  Every time they got caught up in some plot, I wondered how Bergren could possibly get them out of danger...and then she did it in a believable and enjoyable fashion.  I'm still not a big fan of  Marcello (I'll leave him for Small Review ;) but I am very intrigued by Lord Greco, of ambiguous loyalties; I would like to see more of him.  Gabi continues to be pretty kick-butt and remarkably mature and thoughtful about her love for Marcello, even as she wants to just give in and attempt to live happily ever after.  She knows there's more to consider than that.

I felt that this book had more of a Christian aspect than the first book but that is appropriate since the setting is 14th century Italy, where everyone's Catholic.  I didn't find it preachy or evangelistic so rest assured if you were worried about that.

SPOILER-another problem I had:
I was very disappointed in Gabi, Lia, and their mother's decision to rescue the father from an early death.  I completely understand their motivation but that was a bad decision and I can only hope that Torrent unleashes a world of consequences on them as punishment for all of their meddling in time.

Cover: I like the first cover more with the pop of red but this represents continuity with the first cover so I'm happy.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fury of the Phoenix

Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon
Greenwillow Press, 2011
359 pages
YA; Fantasy
4.5/5 stars

Source: Library

My review of the first book: Silver Phoenix

My expectation for this sequel was more romance, more adventure, and more delicious descriptions of food.  I ended up with something else, something unexpected for me as I hadn't read the synopsis at all.

Yes, there are all of those things I mentioned but the focus of the story is actually on Chen Yong's birth father and the back story of the evil Zhong Ye and his love Silver Phoenix.  This was very confusing at first because the chapters switched back and forth and I was not at all prepared for that.  However soon I was drawn into the story and desperate to know more.

First is the present day story with Chen Yong on a ship and Ai Ling stowing away as his sister, which is complicated as she would very much like to be his wife.  Ai Ling's mysterious powers have only grown stronger and she must face Zhong Ye once more in order to save Chen Yong and her own future.  This unravels slowly because it switches between this and a second story.

The other story interwoven is Zhong Ye and his quest for immortality, which eventually overshadows his love for Silver Phoenix and sets the stage for Ai Ling's quest in the first book.  Although I think this could technically be a standalone story, I would definitely recommend reading Silver Phoenix first in order to understand these parts.  I really loved their romance because Silver Phoenix sounds awesome!

I do wish there could have been even more descriptions of food but overall I'm pretty satisfied with the conclusion; I wonder if Pon will write a third Ai Ling book.  If so, I'll definitely want to read it.

In the Shadow of the Lamp

In the Shadow of the Lamp by Susanne Dunlap
Bloomsbury Books for Young Readers, 2011
293 pages
YA; Historical
3.5/5 stars

Source: Library

Light spoilers!

I didn't know much about the plot and the period of this book when I picked it up; quite frankly I wasn't even sure were Crimea was until I just googled it now.  But an inside look at Florence Nightingale and her nurses during the Crimean War sounded super promising.

And just like I thought, the historical setting and details were fantastic and fascinating!  I loved reading about the high hygienic standards established by Florence Nightingale, how much of their initial nursing was gruntwork just to set up the hospital, and the personality of main character Molly.  Although she's pretty innocent in the ways of the world, she's a hard-worker, practical, and eager to learn.  Nightingale is also an interesting character with more depth than I had known about previously, as she struggles and overcomes challenges.

But then there was the romance, which had some odd elements.  First Molly is somewhat drawn to Will, who supported her in her first position and then followed her to the war zone.  But in the meantime, she has become interested in a doctor with whom she shares a mysterious connection.  One of them ends up dying and she ends up marrying the survivor but their romance doesn't quite work because it seems like she may have actually loved the dead man more.

There is also a mystical aspect as Molly's intuition about nursing takes over and gives her knowledge that she couldn't possibly have known.  It was bizarre and occurred in three main places.  I thought this was a straightforward historical and couldn't understand the insertion of these instances.

Overall: A rich historical novel about the Crimean War.

Cover: I really like the cover-it's accurate and it caught my eye.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Supernaturally Giveaway! [Four winners]

Do you remember when I reviewed this book, all the way back in January?
Well its sequel Supernaturally is coming out July 26th and Kiersten White is having a launch party at a Barnes and Noble that is accessible for to me to celebrate.  But that's not all! Andrea Cremer and Stephanie Perkins will be joining her to sign books, talk about books, and generally be awesome.

So I thought it might be cool to have my first giveaway centered around this event! That's right! Three US winners will each receive one SIGNED book and one international reader will receive one of their books from the Book Depository.

If you live in the US, you can choose to win Supernaturally, Wolfsbane, or Anna and the French Kiss and you will receive a SIGNED copy.

If you live outside of the US, you can choose to win one of those three books, Paranormalcy, Nightshade, or a preorder of Lola and the Boy Next Door-your choice and it will be shipped from the Book Depository.

1. There will be 4 winners: 3 from the US and 1 outside of the US.
2. You must be 13 years of age or older.
3. You can enter the US contest if you have a US mailing address but you cannot enter both.
4. You do NOT have to follow although I appreciate it; followers get one extra entry. I'm not doing a ton of extra entries because I'm lazy and I don't want to calculate all of that.
5. There is a section for comments on the form for two reasons. I've been working more on my blog (trying to network more, write better reviews, and improve the design) so I would greatly any comments about my efforts. This is also my first contest so feedback would be great. Negative constructive comments are greatly appreciated and have no impact on your chance to win.
6. Contest ends July 26th at midnight, PST although I reserve the right to end the contest earlier or extend the end date if I so choose.
7. I will probably use to choose the winners although I am still exploring my options.
8. You will have 24 hours from the time I notify you to respond otherwise I'm moving on to the next person on the list. I pledge to keep your address confidential and to delete it as soon as I have shipped your book.
7. I hold the right to disqualify entries if I suspect any mischief.

Love Story

Love Story by Jennifer Echols
Gallery Books/MTV Books, 2011
243 pages
YA; Contemporary
3/5 stars

Source: Received a free egalley through Simon and Schuster's GalleyGrab program.

So conflicted! While I've loved Echols' writing for a while now, I've increasingly disliked the characters and plots of her books.  Forget You had the incredibly stupid Zoey and Love Story has Erin and Hunter, incredibly dysfunctional and manipulative people.

The book opens with an excerpt from Erin's creative writing story, which is a loosely fictionalized version of her life with herself cast as the heiress to a horse farm and Hunter as her hunky stable boy.  Then he actually shows up in her class and their backstory is revealed: Erin was supposed to inherit her grandmother's horse farm but she was disinherited for wanting to major in English rather than in business.  Instead Hunter gets everything: the farm, the money for college, everything that Erin had expected for herself.  She's understandably upset and spends about eight chapters hating on Hunter while still feeling attraction until she starts to soften.  This is a very quick change and I barely had time to warm up to Hunter because he continually does hurtful things.

Yes, Hunter's hot (seriously Echols can write steamy YA scenes like no one else I've read) but he's pretty cold, controlling, and extremely manipulative. And Erin herself was so hot and cold about him.  I think I could have been more sympathetic if the story were told in alternating perspectives between Erin and Hunter because then his side of the story would have been told and I probably wouldn't have found him so cold.  Because Erin was narrating, I like her more but I also thought she was pretty whiny and that she thought she knew way more about what everyone else was thinking than she actually did.

Besides the main characters, there are lots of fun classmates, notably Erin and Hunter's roommates, who I loved.  Summer, Jordis (don't know how to make the slash), Brian, and Manohar were not the focus but they added a lot of humor to the story.  I wonder if the story could have been stronger if we had actually met Erin's grandmother.  Erin sees her but never confronts her or talks to her after the disinheritance, leaving a bit of a gap in the understanding of Erin's life.

Overall: Yay on the writing, nay on Erin and Hunter.

Read for E-book challenge.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dark Goddess

Dark Goddess by Sarwat Chadda
Hyperion, 2010
376 pages
YA; Paranormal
3.5/5 stars

Source: Library

So I read but didn't properly review the first book starring Bilqis SanGreal, Devil's Kiss, for the YA Blogger Book Battle where it lost its bracket because I did not feel connected to Billi and her world.  I thought there was immense potential within the characters though and I thought the action was kick-butt so when I saw the sequel staring me in the face at the library, I took the hint and checked it out.  And I did enjoy this one more.

This time Billi and the Templars are facing the threat of Russian werewolves who are planning to abduct a Spring Child to feed Baba Yaga who will then unleash a Fimbulwinter, killing all of mankind and starting over.  The stakes are high, the action is fast-paced, and there are more enemies than you can imagine.

Some of my dislikes from the first book were fixed.  Instead of Billi continually wondering (and whining) about her future, she is pretty much set on the path of being a Templar and probably eventually a martyr to the cause.  Instead of becoming involved with the bad guy, she flirts with a much more suitable guy although their romance doesn't go very far.  And the action is seriously amazing-if you like action books, then I would definitely recommend this series.

But something stopped me from loving this book.  Although I admire Billi and her capabilities, I don't feel connected to her nor to any of the characters really.  She seems pretty much the same throughout instead of growing and changing because of the conflicts.  And while she at least likes a suitable guy this time, their romance isn't much discussed or developed.

Overall: Super amazing action but the character development suffers for it.

Read for British Books Challenge.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Back When You Were Easier to Love

Back When You Were Easier to Love by Emily Wing Smith
Dutton Books, 2011
296 pages
YA; Contemporary
4/5 stars

Source: Library

Light spoilers!

Joy and Zan used to be a couple.  Until Zan got his GED and fled small-town Haven for Pitzer College, leaving Joy bereft and obsessing over him.  Eventually she persuades his friend Noah to drive her to California so that she can get closure. 

For the most part, I really liked this book.  Joy is a hilarious narrator with her high levels of neuroticism, her obsession with organizing her books properly (don't we all do that?), and her deep love of Barry Manilow.  I found her narration light and very easy and quick to read.  I also loved that most of the chapters were very short.

A bonus for me was that Joy comes from Claremont, CA and wants to attend Scripps College, my alma mater.  Girl has good taste although unfortunately events in the book may sour her on the Claremont Colleges.  I hope she has the good sense to try for Scripps anyway because it's amazing and gorgeous, as described in the book.  Another bonus was their side trip to Las Vegas, where I will be going soon.  I can't wait to compare their experience to me (although I can drink and gamble so mine will probably be more exciting.)

But this is not a perfect book.  Joy spends most of her time obsessing over her ex-boyfriend Zan who's kind of a jerk.  Luckily she realizes that and she wants to move on while recognizing that it will take time.  Helping in the recovery process is Zan's friend Noah, the very cute and unbelievably nice guy (seriously, the things he does for her? So nice).  They seem to be developing a relationship but they don't even kiss, which would have helped this book; who doesn't like a nice kiss between two adorable people in a YA book?

Overall: Pretty funny and enjoyable fast contemporary read.

Read for Contemps Challenge
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