Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Bloodrose by Andrea Cremer
Philomel, 2012
406 pages
YA; Paranormal; Wolves
4/5 stars

Source: Library

My feelings about this series have been so frustrating. Calla is a character I want to root for as I always want to support the main character and to be able to identify with her (or him) and to find some part of myself reflected. But Calla defies that with her hormones directing her actions, with her indecisiveness, with the attempts to portray her as a great feminist when her actions do not support those words. Maybe there is some of me in there but it's not a part I want to search for.

It has been very illuminating reading other feelings about this book, many decrying Calla's personality and actions in much more articulate ways than I can. But there are also some crazy Ren fangirls-I just don't get it (and I mean crazy, as in dictating what they expected Cremer to deliver to them). Shay is the marginally better partner in my opinion although I am extremely anti-alpha males in books, tending to prefer a more sensitive guy who won't get all up in my face and <bleep> every girl he can find.  I can see that Ren has a character arc and experiences some growth but first impressions are lasting and that gross guy always seemed to linger. Meanwhile Shay seems to be separating from Calla, partly due to her desire not to hurt Ren but also due to

While the characters drove me crazy, I continue to admire Cremer's backstory and the history of these characters. It felt rich and like there is so much more for us to discover. It really reflects Cremer's long-time interest in witchcraft and warfare, that led to her Ph.D in early modern history (per the bio on the back cover). Additionally her writing draws me in and pulls me along, as I sped through this book. I was a little bit intimidated by its heft but I sped through it due to the easy writing style and good plotting.

A few last quibbles, starting with the way that time passed. It seemed like everything happened over just a few days, way too fast to be able to process everything. I also think the ending could be quite polarizing; it wasn't to my taste as I would have preferred the opposite fate for Calla (hopefully this makes sense to those of you who've read the book and no I don't mean which boy). I think I'm at peace with the decision but I don't think I would have ended the book like that. It certainly left me with lots to ponder.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Rogue By Any Other Name

A Rogue By Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean
Avon, 2012
386 pages
Romance; Historical
The First Rule of Scoundrels
3.5/5 stars

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

Although I loved MacLean's YA debut, The Season, I found her debut romance Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake extremely unsatisfying. However I know MacLean is a good writer so I wanted to give her new series a shot. Apparently the heroine of this book was jilted in the previous series but you do not have to be familiar with those books to read this one.

And this one started very promisingly. Male lead Michael Bourne lost his entire fortune and land, everything that wasn't entailed, on a bad hand of cards to his mentor and protector, the father of his best friend. After losing everything, he is ostracized from society and driven solely by his need for revenge. He manages to rebuild and even outpace his fortune in only nine years by owning a gaming club and the final piece of the puzzle is Falconwell, which has been attached to Lady Penelope Marbury's dowry.

Penelope is a 28-year-old spinster who was jilted years earlier as her fiance sought a love match and now secretly hopes for the same herself; she wants more. I liked Penelope immediately, which made it all the harder to endure the male lead's, who is supposed to be a HERO, treatment of her. He is absolutely horrid to her. He abducts her with the cold intention of regaining his land; he could have played it much better due to their childhood friendship. He did not have to be a monster; he easily could have wooed and won her. But he chose the easy route, not the right route. And he doesn't stop there. He emotionally distances her while boring me with how much he wanted her body. There are glimpses of a decent person but only that. I cannot believe I kept reading, just to find his redemption.

Luckily that redemption was handled well and is responsible for the high rating here. I never got over my first impression of Michael especially because I loved Penelope so much and wanted more for her.  She wanted and deserved to be passionately loved but Michael just kept breaking her heart into little pieces and proving his unworthiness. I prefer a different kind of man in my romance novel.

I guess I'm kind of getting the impression that MacLean and I just don't click. I have disliked the heroes in both of the books I've read by her and not just in minor ways but in big ways that hindered my enjoyment. I'm glad I gave it another shot but I have been burned too much.

Monday, February 27, 2012


Erebos by Ursula Poznanski
Annick Press, 2012
Translated by Judith Pattinson
Originally published 2010
434 pages
YA; Contemporary; Suspense
4/5 stars

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

It's always fun to pick up a book that I haven't heard of before. I don't have any preconceived notions and I don't have buzz building up my expectations; I don't know anything about the author's writing and it means that I can discover a new favorite. In this case, I got to pick up something different from Germany, a YA novel from Ursula Poznanski (who appears to have written two other novels that have not been translated from German yet).

It starts out with sixteen-year-old Nick seeing his friends fall under the sway of something very secretive; he's dying to know what it is and soon enough he is inducted into the secret. It turns out it's a game called Erebos. Erebos has some unusual rules: you must always play alone, you must never talk about the game, and you must never tell anyone your real-name in the game nor your nickname to any one in real life. Those who play are drawn in, playing to the point of distraction. Until one day when Nick is kicked out after refusing to participate in something wrong. That sparks his quest to figure out who is behind Erebos and for what purpose.

On the surface, the book doesn't seem to have many thrills just as the game doesn't sound all that exciting to me. Admittedly I'm not a gamer as I've always found books more enthralling so I don't really get the obsession with Call of Duty and the like. Still the descriptions in this book captured me. I mean, sometimes they were just walking around in the game and yet I could barely put it down! It helped me to understand a little bit how addictive games can be.

Then Nick gets kicked out, which is mentioned in the synopsis but which I had forgotten making it surprising, and the tension really ratchets up. He tries to find others who have been kicked out so that they can join together to figure out who is behind this game. This also led to the introduction of my favorite character Victor, a gamer and very intelligent guy whose knowledge helps focus their research. I had no idea what was behind everything and I'm not sure there were entirely enough clues for people to figure out although since this is more of a thriller than a mystery, I think that's okay.

Overall: A surprisingly enthralling read that was difficult to put down.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Zumba, Relaxation, and Oscars

When I was thinking about what I was excited about in the past week, I would have to choose my new shoes: the Zumba Z-Kickz II! I love the purple and pink even if it doesn't entirely match my Zumba wardrobe (as so far amassed). Aren't they pretty? And they're so lightweight with perfect pivot points for my Zumba steps.
Lately I have been so tired so after Zumba class and church on Saturday, I settled down with my books, computer, and TV. I also made sure to take a nap and basically was a hermit. I just need my alone time and I will be a much nicer person in-person this week!

I am also preparing to watch the Oscars, something I look forward to every year! While I'm not that excited about any of the films (I've seen two of the Best Picture nominees but have no strong attachment to either), the dresses should still be lovely and I think Billy Crystal is pretty great. Hopefully it will be a decent time.

How are you spending the last weekend of February?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Prehistoric Clock

Prehistoric Clock by Robert Appleton
Carina Press, 2012
189 pages
Romance; Steampunk; Time Travel
4/5 stars

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

I had read Appleton's previous novel The Mysterious Lady Law and was sufficiently entertained to want to check out this new story. I began the story confused as the characters burst onto the page with strong personalities and fully formed backgrounds. I was trying to figure out how everything went together in this alternative world as we jumped around three different perspectives: airship captain Verity Champlain who mourns the loss of her sister; Lord Garrett Embrey, whose father and uncle were executed as traitors and now finds himself on the chopping block; and Professor Cecil Reardon who is planning to travel back in time in order to be reunited with his deceased wife and son. I found it very jarring at first but soon all of those plus more converged on one spot and traveled back in time. Not the few years that Reardon had anticipated but back to prehistoric times with dinosaurs.  Needless to say this results in chaos as they scramble to return while battling an evil secret government agency.

Personally I'm not a big fan of the dinosaur ages so that was not a draw to me; it wasn't even something I thought about. Still it's not something featured often in books so the uniqueness did appeal to me. I was much more interested in the secret agency which is incredibly powerful and has a very hidden agenda that will presumably be unraveled in future books as this is a start to a series.

I am guessing that since we are at the beginning of series, that explains the lack of romance. I wanted much more in that regard and there is some sexual tension between Verity and Embrey but not as much as I would have liked. I am betting that more is to come though.

Overall: Interesting characters and a promising premise bode well for the future of this series!

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Waltz At Midnight

A Waltz At Midnight by Crista McHugh
Carina Press, 2012
64 pages
Romance; Historical
4/5 stars

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

Sometimes you just want a quick jaunt with a sweet romance, you know? And that's what you get in this story. Unusually, as I am a Regency romance reader first and foremost, this story is set in 1866 New York with a country still hurting from the scars of the Civil War. Susanna is a servant in her aunt's boarding house near Vassar College, where she waits on various spoiled rich girls. One day Charlotte tosses aside an unromantic letter from a potential suitor and Susanna writes a curt response on her behalf.

Meanwhile Theodore Blakely chafes at his father's pressure to court Charlotte for the family gain. Her feisty response floors him and also draws him in. He thought she would be prim and boring but instead she's passionate and challenges him. As the letters continue, Susanna is wracked with guilt but interested in forming a relationship based only on the truth with Teddy. This culminates with a waltz at midnight at a masquerade.

As you can see, this is a very short story. But as a long-time lover of epistolary novels, the fact that much of the story is told through the couple's correspondence worked well for me. Both have deep scars from the war: Teddy fought while Susanna lost many in her family. And both share an interest in travel, wanting to see more of the world. Though short, the letters capture their similarities and showcase how they challenge each other. I especially enjoyed seeing how she confronted him and challenged him to be better because he had the ability to do so.

Overall: A nice fast read with two likable main characters-maybe could have been a bit longer but I'm glad it wasn't needlessly padded out to novel length.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Shattered Souls

Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey
Philomel, 2011
326 pages
YA; Paranormal
5/5 stars

Source: Library

After seeing this cover, I fell absolutely head over heels in love and I was most excited to dive in to this book even despite my wariness of YA paranormal. Such wariness seemed justified as I learned more about the premise of the book while reading.

A young girl is informed that she is the reincarnated soul of a powerful paranormal figure; this news comes from her centuries old protector in the form of the hottest guy. However there are some changes from previous cycles. First she doesn't remember who she is and then it's been significantly longer than usual since her last cycle. Now I don't know what books you've read, but this plot reminded me very strongly of Angelfire, a book that I didn't like. However it was the main character who irked me there because I thought she didn't take her new role seriously and clung too strenuously to her "normal" life.  Happily that is not the case here.

While newly seventeen-year old Lenzi does have trouble believing the crazy things this guy Alden tells her and she seems to fall in lust with him immediately (although since I pictured him as my go-to YA guy William Moseley, I have no idea why this guy is in my head but he is also my Peeta and Will from Firelight, I did not blame her), she also embraces her role. That is partly because it convinces her that she is not schizophrenic like her father was and partly because it helps her begin to heal. She thought she was descending into madness and instead she discovers that she has tremendous powers to help the world.

I did find some of the descriptions difficult because much of it is mental and involves the concept of a soul. These aren't images for which I already have formed pictures nor are they something I think much about. Still I think I have a handle on what happens when Lenzi and Alden aid or confront an earthbound spirit. I also really liked learning about the agency that runs this, the ICDC. I like knowing there's an ultimate head of the group who presides over them with rules and paperwork (there is a lot of paperwork that needs to get done).

One last element I would be remiss to skip over is that at the beginning of the book, Lenzi had a boyfriend Zak. On the one hand, Zak is a decent guy who was basically Lenzi's only friend On the other hand, Lenzi desperately wants to avoid the fate of her father while Zak faces his demons the same way as his father (father died of an overdose and Zak drinks far to excess).  Alcohol fuels the worst side of Zak and puts Lenzi in danger. Furthermore her close association with Alden as well as his consumption of alcohol turns Zak into a jealous crazed man who adds additional fright to the book beyond the spirits Lenzi must work with or fight.

Oh, I also forgot to mention one thing-this appears to be a stand-alone! As of this time, goodreads does not show it to be part of a YA trilogy as Lindsey is working on a novel with a completely different concept. Sadly I kind of wish there would be another book but at least Lindsey has another novel in the works because I am very excited for it!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Dressmaker

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott
Doubleday, 2012
257 pages
Historical Fiction
3/5 stars

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

I was wary going in to this book because I saw some negative reviews. While I try to stay away from reviews so that I can have an unbiased mind (and hopefully no spoilers), I am not always successful. Happily I loved most of the story, in particular the events that drew from the actual historical record. What I didn't like though was the romance, which was lackluster and rubbed against my personal biases in a bad way. But let's start with the good.

The hook for this book is that it is about the Titanic, its sinking, its survivors, and a trial investigating the disaster-perfect for fans of the film and those wanting to honor the centennial of the sinking. It's a great way to get readers started on the book and to reveal a new angle with the trials afterward. I was not familiar with them and I bet most people are familiar with the film and not so much with anything.

The primary focus is maid Tess who flees her awful position and manages to win a place with Lady Lucile Duff Gordon on the Titanic. Lucile is a dressmaker and as Tess is an aspiring seamstress, it seems ideal. Until the fatal iceberg when Lucile and her husband Cosmo seem to have acted with extreme cowardice and an eager US senator's trials test everyone. Newspaperwoman Pinky Wade's superb reporting on the scandal and a love triangle for Tess complete the plot lines.

I had complicated feelings about most of the characters, alternately loving and loathing them (merely pages apart). Lucile is selfish, capricious, and manipulating but also fearful of protecting her hard-earned position and capable of generosity at times. Tess has big dreams but sometimes a fearful personality that might slow her ascent. The other characters are also complicated, revealing their many facets.

As mentioned, there are two love interests for Tess. One is Jim, a sailor, who testifies against Lucile and who is searching for a better life in America. The other is Jack Bremerton, an older Chicago millionaire, in the middle of a divorce; despite his age, I far preferred Jack. For me, Jim was nothing and not because on the social scale, he is nothing. Because his personality was lame and I didn't find him to be hero material. In my opinion, the heroine of a story needs a deserving mate and while Jack is not particularly deserving, I thought he was more so than Jim. That conclusion really spoiled the book for me even as I could predict it was coming.

Overall: A rich historical novel with vibrant character depictions that just didn't quite please me.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Double by Jenny Valentine
Hyperion, 2012
Originally published 2010
244 pages
YA; Suspense
3.5/5 stars

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

I had no idea what to expect when I picked this book up other than my trust in the publisher (I've read many great Hyperion books) and the fact that it was YA. The cover is pretty creepy so I thought it was maybe a horror novel. Poking around on goodreads suggested it was more suspense, which allowed me to adjust my expectations and reassured me that I probably wouldn't be too scared.

I am a little leery of going too in-depth on the plot because I think it is probably better to read this with little preparation. There are some twists and I think it would lessen your enjoyment if you knew too much. However as you can see from the title, there is something about doubles, in this case a double of a person. Young Chap is mistaken for runaway Cassiel and assumes the boy's identity including a troubled home life and the real-life guy's mysterious disappearance.

And as promised, I'm not going to spoil anything other than to say that I was drawn in to the edge of my seat looking for explosive revelations and thrilling sequences. I was also tenderly touched by some scenes in the ending when we have learned all of the secrets and filled with hope about what could come (I'm pretty optimistic :)

But while this book was enjoyable, it didn't knock my socks off.  I had a growing sense of dread of what was to come but I wasn't too worried. Mostly because I wasn't too invested in the characters. As Chap is assuming an identity, he doesn't seem to have one of his own and that made it hard for this reader to identify with him.

Overall: An okay outing but not a must-read.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cat Burglar in Training

Cat Burglar in Training by Shelley Munro
Carina Press, 2012
253 pages
Romance; Contemporary; Mystery
3/5 stars

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

This book and I got off on the wrong foot because while reading the synopsis, I honed in on the word "viscount" and immediately fleshed out a Regency-era story. However viscounts still exist in the present day, which is in fact where this story is set. This is obviously one hundred percent my fault but it meant that I was disoriented and unsure of time period. Come to think of it, even after reading it, I don't feel entirely sure of the time period because although there were mentions of phones and social networks, something felt off.

Actually most of the book felt off with too much stuffed in for the book to reasonably contain. Main character Eve must take up cat burglaring, the family profession, as her father is just too old and injured to do it himself. Nobody is able to get an honest job it seems. They also have competition in the area and her father owes tremendous debts to a very bad guy who has no compunction about threatening Eve and her daughter and feels no shame in propositioning Eve in exchange for forgiving some of the debts. Then there is Eve's complicated relationship with her father and servants (?) Ben and Hannah, the Terrible Trio as she dubs them with alternating exasperation and love.

And that's just the start! There is also Eve's quest to discover the man who drugged and raped her, leading to the conception of her daughter six years earlier.  A new character on the scene is Kiwi cop Kahu, who just might be bringing Eve out of her self-imposed chastity and his own quest to discover who murdered his brother.

Just listing off the plot threads took up a considerable amount of time and the book itself had trouble juggling them.  I soon realized that Eve's efforts to discover her rapist was the most important thread but the other threads seemed to rise and fall in importance. I wish the romance had been a bit more prominent since this is a romance novel; Kahu seemed very intriguing but I didn't see them forming much of an emotional connection although the physical attraction was off-the-charts.

Additionally the setting was confusing for me; I guess I'm just not very familiar with the upper-class lifestyle but the schedule of these people didn't make sense to me. There were so many parties and other events and so little actual work.  People didn't seem to use their phones or computers very much despite having access to them (I'm not sure anyone owned a TV), although this might be because narrating their interaction with technology isn't necessarily very interesting.

Overall: The plot was not satisfactorily paced for me and I wanted more of the romance-ideally witty banter but just more scenes between the main couple would have been good.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

100 Unforgettable Dresses

100 Unforgettable Dresses by Hal Rubenstein
Harper Design, 2011
203 pages
Non-fiction; Coffee Table Book
4/5 stars

Source: Library

The ladies in my family love looking at pretty dresses so it was a no-brainer for us to pick this up at the library.  We were familiar with most of the Hollywood dresses and got to be surprised by some of the more out-there designs.

Besides spotlighting individual dresses, some ladies get several pages with several iconic dresses such as Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly-very deserving in my opinion. Personally I didn't think as much of the inclusion of Sarah Jessica Parker but I may be holding some recent missteps against her.

I do have some quibbles with the presentation such as the fact that some pages were white text on black background. I have seen many pages recommending that bloggers do not use that design and it holds true for print as well-it was *so* hard to read. Luckily most of the pages are not like that but unfortunately some are.

I most also quibble with a few of the entries. While there are several dresses I don't think very highly of, I will admit that I can conjure them in my mind at the least. Others though were not that impressive to my mind. I guess that is the problem with a book like this: there will always be disagreements about what is included and what is not.

Lastly I wanted more pictures. Some were only in black and white when color would have been helpful. For example Grace Kelly has a picture from To Catch a Thief in black and white despite the fact that the movie was filmed in color and the dress is gold-I don't understand that. I also would have liked more pictures as there was not always enough detail to fully examine the dress and its construction.

Overall: A fun book to look over but not necessary to own if you can find it at your library.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Article 5

Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
Tor Teen, 2012
362 pages
YA; Dystopia
3.5/5 stars

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

I was pretty excited about this book going in to it, having seen much positive buzz. I would definitely agree that this is well-written and gripping. I moved through it very quickly as the suspense was maintained and I was fascinated with the changing rules of the government, exemplified by the implementation of Article 5, condemning single mothers such as the mother of our main character Ember. When the soldiers come for them, it sets off the whole story.

But I am discovering what I do and do not like in dystopias although I suppose this is more accurately a post-apocalyptic as the government is strengthening its control rather than already firmly in power. I like believability and I feel like the governmental control over sex and women's bodies is frighteningly believable. I'm not entirely sure about the separation of mothers from their children though. That is a bond that is generally respected and extolled in American society. At the least, I would have imagined that Ember would have been placed in a nuclear family so that she could learn the "right" way instead of attending a reformatory school.

A second element I don't like is when the main character(s) is/are on the run. Obviously you need movement in a story but it seems as if I prefer emotional movement instead of characters fleeing. I just got tired of all of these new locations and the fact that they're never able to rest.  I don't know if that's just my taste in books (I mean, my favorite series growing up was the Baby-Sitter's Club and they stay pretty close to home although they do get to have adventures in new places) or if it's because I'm a homebody whose thoughts of home keep her going through the day. But the parts I liked most were the extended periods of Ember at the school and Ember in prison, movement within a more confined space. Of course there is another potential reason.

In neither of those examples was she with Chase. Now I am happy that there was not a love triangle. And Chase seems like a pretty decent guy, albeit one with significant issues stemming from the death of his family and time in the army. I found him inscrutable and not very swoonworthy-he doesn't have much of a sense of humor.  I bought that Ember was super in to him but I wasn't and as the reader, I feel like my opinion is pretty important too ;)

Not that I liked Ember all that much. I found her inconstant. She loves him, she hates him, she wants this, she wants that. I understand that Ember is under intense emotional pressure and maybe not thinking clearly but it came off as weak characterization in my opinion.  I was actually keeping track (in my head) of whenever she contradicted herself, which is not something I usually do despite the ability to do so frequently in YA books.

Overall: My indifference to the characters prevents me from loving this book despite its interesting concept and compelling writing. I am currently undecided as to whether or not I will want to read the next book.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Vanishing Game

The Vanishing Game by Kate Kae Myers
Bloomsbury, 2012
353 pages
YA; Thriller
4/5 stars

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

I did not know much about this book going in to it. And my curiosity was not immediately slaked as the book tossed me in to the middle of the thrills. Jocelyn has been struggling for several weeks from the death of her twin brother Jack, except is he dead? She received a letter from him indicating that he is not dead but perhaps on the run from dangerous forces.

For some reason, she chooses to return to the city of their horrific childhood in a foster home where she reconnects with their friend Noah from that time period. This was the most confusing part to me as it seemed a little forced that she would choose to go back there. I'm not sure why she decided meeting up with Noah was the best idea but it does stimulate the rest of the story. His first reaction is to almost strangle her, which would have made me question the wisdom of asking for his help but that incident doesn't stop them from eventually teaming up to hunt down Jack.

Once they've met up, they discover more clues about Jack's existence and doggedly pursue them, despite many threats and some supernatural occurrences.  My mind tried to follow the twists and turns but all I could really do was hang on and keep reading-I wasn't figuring anything out. And then we have the stunning conclusion-my mind was blown! I could not believe that was the answer to the questions Jocelyn was asking throughout the story.

One fun publicity element is the chance to try to unravel Jack's clues for yourself. They are available at this link. I looked at them before starting the book but ended up deciding that I didn't want to put forth the effort.

Overall: A tense and suspenseful YA thriller with twists and turns galore.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
Walker Publishing Company, 2012
292 pages
YA; Legend
4/5 stars

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

Like many people, I've long had an interest in Robin Hood, mostly fueled by the classic Disney film and this BBC series (mmm...Richard Armitage). I loved the idea of a female masquerading as male to be part of the band of thieves so I was excited to dive in. I had trouble reading it though. I could only read a few chapters at a time before needing to do something else. It wasn't that I didn't want to know what happened next; the writing style just was a bit hard for me.

I also had trouble writing my review for some reason. There was a lot that I liked, including a spoiler although I don't think it is much of a surprise if you're familiar with the Robin Hood myths. But there was one significant plot element that made me distinctly uncomfortable. So let's start with the good, then the unpleasant, and end with the spoiler, okay?

While I felt slightly naughty, I enjoyed picturing hottie Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisbourne, no matter how despicable his actions were (and he's pretty awful). Guy is the villain called in by the Sheriff of Nottingham to track down Robin Hood and his band of merry men. He is ruthless but not in the book too much, leaving his presence to hang over the fear and desperation of the people.

As befits a story about a famous archer, there is plenty of action although not much archery in my opinion. I would enjoy getting to hear a little bit more about the archery but those who crave action should be pretty satisfied throughout this story. Also apropos for the time period are some gruesome deaths and dungeons.

Robin is noble (literally and as a characteristic) but he has some flaws as will be discussed below. The other members of their gang are Little John and Much, a sweet character-definitely one of my favorites! There is also a decent-sized village of people starving and struggling to stay afloat. We meet a lot of people but it was pretty easy to keep them straight.

For the most part, I liked Scarlet. She's very wounded with lots of secrets and hard-earned talents at stealing that aid the people in the area. Scarlet is wracked with guilt from several events in her past and they make her determined to prove herself. This is her second-chance and she has to do everything in her abilities to aid people.

What I didn't like was Robin and John's romantic posturing toward Scarlet. I was especially irked by Robin scolding Scarlet for giving mixed signals to John while Robin is the master of mixed signals toward Scarlet herself. She is basically already in love with him but she doesn't feel that he could ever care for her in the same way. John is a total player and it makes it hard for Scarlet to take him seriously. Robin gets so jealous without having declared himself and it made me disgusted with both boys; there is definitely some growing up needed!

Now for the spoiler:

As we read, we learn more about Scarlet's background, such as the fact that she seems to come from nobility and was once Guy's fiance. Whoever could she be? Well there was one important character from the Robin Hood myth: his lovely lady Maid Marian which conveniently is the birth name of Scarlet. I'm inordinately proud of myself for figuring this out far in advance of the reveal in the book.


Overall: A mostly fun debut that left me wanting more of Scarlet's fierce passion and determination to protect the people.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I've Got Your Number

I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella
The Dial Press, 2012
433 pages
4.5/5 stars

Source: Received an ARC through Amazon Vine.

I know Kinsella is best known for her Shopaholic series but I never really clicked with them; however I love her standalones like Can You Keep a Secret? and Remember Me? so I had high expectations for this. They were met as I was immediately sucked in to Poppy Wyatt's world.

The book starts in the middle of a crisis as Poppy has lost her engagement ring shortly before she is about to meet up with her judgy in-laws and mere days before the wedding. Then her cell is snatched, leaving her no way to be contacted by the hotel where the ring was lost. Coincidentally she finds a phone discarded in the trash and starts using that, putting her in touch with Sam, the boss of the lady who threw away the phone.

It's kind of a crazy premise-would she really be allowed to keep that company phone that has confidential information on it? But Poppy is so likable that I just went with it. Over the course of a few days, she becomes very involved in Sam's life, even interfering at times, sometimes beneficially, sometimes harmfully but always charmingly to this reader. Of course, it soon becomes obvious that Poppy's fiance is not as good a match as Sam even as they both try to fight their feelings.

There is actually a lot packed in to this story: family and friendship issues, Poppy's insecurities and inability to stand up for herself, corporate espionage, love and marriage. And it was all delivered in what I consider the signature Kinsella style and tone-light and breezy but not afraid of getting a little dark (seriously just a pinch of darkness to balance out the lightness).

I did think the book as a whole was a smidgen too long and I'm not a fan of the cursing although I completely respect the author's right to use whatever language she wants.

Overall: A fast, funny read that is sure to charm fans of Kinsella.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Persuasion: A Latter-Day Tale

Persuasion: A Latter-Day Tale by Rebecca H. Jamison
Bonneville Books, 2011
227 pages
Romance; Jane Austen; Religious
4/5 stars

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

When I was browsing on Netgalley, I saw Jane Austen retelling and my mind went immediately to "must read." Thus I interpreted "latter-day" to mean modern instead of referring to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I was a little concerned going in to it because I'm not a Mormon; I'm Christian. I didn't want to be preached to; I just wanted to enjoy a story inspired by Austen, which is what I got.

I just have such a fondness for Austen that it can overcome most anything. Happily this book had its own strengths and didn't need much help. Our heroine is Anne who was engaged for about a day to a fine young man before being persuaded by her parents to break it off. Now he is a police captain and she is single, relied upon by her family and quietly helping even as they take total advantage of her.

There are a few big differences from Persuasion. Firstly Anne's mother is alive with an influential presence in her life whereas in the original, the mother is dead with Lady Russell serving as adviser. The other BIG difference I noted was the presentation of the William Elliott character. A wolf in snake's clothing in both books, this version has him becoming obsessed with and stalking Anne, adding a very frightening dimension to the tale. This also allows Frederick to be shown off to his best advantage as he plays the hero role perfectly, bringing in his police experience and supporting Anne through the ordeal.

Then there is the religious element. I think Austen's characters were probably Anglican, as I believe she is the daughter of a clergyman but religion is not a strong element in any of her books. Here though religion does play an important role. Anne is a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (I like typing out the full name because it makes me think of "Two by Two" from The Book of Mormon). In this version, Anne prays, she quotes Mormon scriptures, she attends functions, she wants a sealed marriage. Although it was a little jarring and I got the feeling the book assumed I was Mormon or was interested in converting, I didn't feel very preached to.

Overall: Quite enjoyable for those of us who eat up Austen retellings; perhaps not as humorous as the best of Austen is but a quick read for me.

Cover: The cover model has a bit of Keira Knightley to her in my opinion; I am in the pro-KK camp so that is a compliment from me although maybe I am just quick to cast KK in anything at all related to British period drama.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Vow

So surprise, surprise! I saw another movie this week: the highly anticipated romantic drama The Vow, starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum! In this film, they play a married couple who are in a car accident. He is mostly fine but she loses her memory of her life with Tatum, prompting him to try to make his wife fall in love with him again.

Based on the trailer, I thought I would get a sentimental weepy picture that would shamelessly tug at my emotions. However I didn't cry once and the story took some turns I did not anticipate nor did it give me the ending I wanted, something big and emotional with both hopefully crying. Instead it was pretty calm with some optimism.

What surprised me the most was the role that McAdams' family plays. They are not very present in the trailers I've seen but they play a huge role in aiding McAdams after her car accident and in pulling her away from Tatum, of whom they do not approve.  See McAdams remembers her life up to about 5 years before the accident. In those five years, she became disillusioned with her family, dropped out of law school, became a sculptor, and married Tatum. That is all forgotten due to the car accident.

I really loved seeing Tatum be romantic even though I've never thought he was very hot. And it was so sad to see his heartache as his wife pulled away. McAdams is lovely as usual-I'm a huge fan of her and have missed seeing her on screen. Ultimately though I didn't get the cry that the trailers led me to expect so I ended up disappointed.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Queen of Hearts

Queen of Hearts by Martha Brooks
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2010
211 pages
YA; Historical
4/5 stars

Source: Library

While browsing through my library's shelves, I came across this book. I love the title but wasn't completely sold on the idea of WWII happening while the main character lingers in a tuberculosis sanitarium-could that be interesting? It sounded very static. But it is also short, which is sometimes a deciding factor for me.

Actually the sanitarium was rather interesting and where the book picked up for me. Before that it was meandering with Marie-Claire's difficult life. Her family isn't well-off and she works very hard to contribute to their farm along with her brother and sister. Her itinerant uncle comes back to town and soon all three children are infected with tuberculosis; they join their uncle at the local sanitarium, separated by age and gender.

Although Marie-Claire is separated from her family, the sanitarium begins her journey in making a new one of TB survivors including her roommate Signy.  Signy has been in the sanitarium for a while without making much progress and is not Marie-Claire's ideal roommate, being rather perky and coming from a wealthy background. However they do have their disease in common and as they spend most of their time in the same room, they are able to bond. Although this part is better, it still didn't have much depth. I wanted more insight in to the characters, richer world-building, and more action.

Although the story is set during WWII, that doesn't play much of a role. The sanitarium is so remote and difficult to access that the news does not impact their lives nor do they hear much about the outside world. The biggest connection is the letters that both girls exchange with soldier boyfriends and even that tapers off as the boys find girls who don't have TB.

Inspired by the author's real-life experience with sanitariums, this is an interesting concept. However I didn't feel much forward progress and I didn't fall in love with any of the characters. This keeps me from wholeheartedly recommending the book unless you are a sucker for medical stories and think the tuberculosis angle sounds intriguing.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Sword in the Stone

The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White
Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, 1963
288 pages
3/5 stars

Source: Own, purchased ages ago

I actually really love the Disney film of this story although it is vastly different. There are the same character names such as Arthur, known as the Wart, although not necessarily characterization as well as the famous wizard duel between Merlin and Madame Mim, which is pretty accurately represented in the film. The ending is also faithful as well as some scenes here and there. Both do deal with the childhood of the boy who would grow up to be the mythical King Arthur and end with the sword being pulled from the stone.

But the book is entirely different. The tone is free-wheeling with a narrator who sometimes directs asides to us the reader and is freely peppered with anachronisms. Arthur is called Wart throughout; although it is mentioned that he doesn't know his parents and this prevents him from becoming a knight, this inner turmoil is not dealt with. I feel like a modern YA interpretation of the Arthurian legend would treat that more.

Instead we get the Wart (and occasionally his foster brother Kay) having a series of adventures. He is transformed in to several animals (this is also portrayed in the Disney film but that interpretation has songs and is generally more humorous) and learns valuable leadership lessons from them. He also meets Robin Hood and his band of adventurers and battle a host of magical creatures.

I guess I wasn't expecting quite this lighthearted tone while following a very episodic format. It was actually very dull. I don't know if I would have enjoyed this more when I was younger but it did not appeal to me at all. The best part was thinking about the movie and how I have a soft spot for it!

Overall: The film adaptation already has my heart and the book did not offer enough to challenge its place.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Then by Morris Gleitzman
Henry Holt and Company, 2010
Originally published in Australia, 2008
198 pages
YA; Historical
4/5 stars

Source: Library

Due to some poor noticing on my part, I did not realize that this is technically the second book in a series, the sequel to Once.  I was worried about how that might affect my enjoyment of this book but I need not have. While reading Once would certainly have added to my experience, I don't feel like it was necessary.

This book opens with a jolt as Felix and Zelda escape from a Nazi train on its way to a concentration camp in the unfamiliar Polish countryside and must figure out a way to survive. Although Zelda's parents were Nazis, Felix is Jewish and circumcised, a very obvious indication of religious background.  But they are determined to be family now and are fortunate enough to be taken in by Genia who disguises them as her relations. They struggle to provide enough food for themselves in the face of encroaching Nazi troops. There are potential enemies all around from the Hitler Youth to anti-Semites among the villagers and the dangers are very very real.

This is a very short book with sweet characters and fine writing. When it ends, it leaves you reaching for another installment (Now) as the ending is inconclusive.  However it did suffer as I read it on the heels of the The Berlin Boxing Club, a longer book, which allowed for more time with the characters. And I again, I would have been enriched by knowing the full story and having a greater understanding of Felix and Zelda.

Overall: A short book with a different premise for the time period; if you've read Once, you will surely went to turn your attention to Then next.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Notes From the Blender

Notes From the Blender by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin
Egmont, 2011
229 pages
YA; Contemporary
4/5 stars

Source: Library

I love the idea of a book cowritten (I'm thinking back to P.S. Longer Letter Later from my elementary school days) so I picked this up, hoping for a funny contemporary.  It actually ended up being more than I thought with its insight into familial relationships, friendships, and religion, the last a most welcome surprise. I love when secular fiction includes depictions of religion. This one features a youth group at a very liberal church (led by a lesbian pastor) as well as a commitment ceremony for a gay couple.

Dec and Neilly are at completely opposite ends of the popularity scale at school. She seemingly has everything while he listens to dark heavy metal and is generally ignored. He also happens to have a crush on Neilly while she doesn't even know he's alive. Each learns that they are going to become part of a blended family in singularly awful ways that is further compounded by the discovery that they will also be receiving a new half-sibling.

At the start, each character seems to fit a mold but as the story progresses, secret depths are revealed. While Dec listens to heavy metal, worrying his widowed father, Dec doesn't draw on that anger. Instead he finds it inspirational and works to make things better such as his introduction to veganism. Neilly is a popular girl whose gay father earned her a lot of scorn and who learns about really matters. They're both good kids and fun characters in this moving contemporary.

Warning: Language-lots of cursing and sexual references. Admittedly this did put me off. There is a lot of it, starting right at the beginning. If you read the first chapter and are displeased, I do not recommend you finishing this book. If these had not been included, I think I would have liked this more-just my preference for cleanness in books!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sorcery and Cecelia

Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
Harcourt, Inc., 1988
320 pages
YA; Historical; Fantastical
4/5 stars

Source: Library

I guess I was on a bit of a historical fantasy kick as I've been meaning to read this for ages but only finally managed to pick it up from the library. Told through letters exchanged by cousins Cecelia and Kate who are separated for the Season, we enter an enchanting Regency world of magic.

Cecy and Kate are trouble-makers, no doubt, as well as curious, intelligent young ladies. Thus even though they are separated, they are still able to become embroiled in related adventures as well as discovering more about their own family and finding romance.

Kate is the one who gets to go to London along with her beautiful sister Georgina. While attending a new wizard's entrance into the Royal Magic College, Kate is almost killed by a witch who thinks she is actually a guy masquerading as a woman. When Kate meets that man, she ends up agreeing to be his fiancee for a season in order for him to confound a magical plot. Meanwhile Cecy in the country is discovering her own magical abilities and endeavoring to teach newcomer James Tarleton how to spy on people, as he is most wretched at the work.

The beginning was difficult for me as I struggled to figure out all of the relationships. Although Kate and Cecy are well-established as cousins, their other relations are less clear.  Once the book began to assume those relationships were settled and moved onto the magic and romance, I was far more charmed. I did prefer Kate and James' romance but this is apparently a debated point among readers of the book.

At the end, the authors share how they were inspired to write this book. Apparently it is based on an old game and the authors barely consulted each other as they wrote, each allowing the next letter to be a surprise. I love getting a tiny glimpse into the creative process. Some parts did seem a bit rough, evidence of the way it was written but still perfectly readable.

Overall: A delightful read with a premise and setting I just adored. The main characters are also wonderful.

Monday, February 6, 2012


Soulless by Gail Carriger
Orbit, 2009
357 pages
Romance; Paranormal; Historical; Steampunk
4/5 stars

Source: Present from my parents.

I've been wanting to read this for a while after seeing many enthusiastic review but I wasn't entirely sure what to expect when I picked it up. Was it steampunk? Paranormal? A romance? Kind of all of those but most especially the last two with the steampunk elements appearing but not being very developed in my opinion. Of course, this is a series so there's lots of potential for more to come.

The main character is Alexia, an Italian looking spinster who just happens to be soulless. This means that whenever she touches one of the paranormal creatures such as a vampire or werewolf, they are transformed into a harmless human. Such creatures are acknowledged by the rest of human society and are governed by their own strict rules. Until they are not, as new creations appear without being brought up in their society rules and others mysteriously disappear. Most baffling!  Of course Alexia is drawn in to this through her unique power but also due to her forthrightness and curiosity; no one can keep her away.

Not even the alpha wolf of her parts, Lord Maccon. Their relationship is full of back and forth, reminiscent as pointed out by the Book Smugglers of Amelia Peabody and her husband Emerson to their disappointment but my delight. It seemed familiar and utterly charmed me but I couldn't figure out why.  This is the reason why I ultimately felt that the romance part of the book was the main plot despite the many subgenres poking their way in.  I am hopeful that when I read the second book, I will be just as enthralled with their dynamic.

As for the rest of the story, I actually found it a bit confusing, attempting to decipher how Carriger governs her supernatural creatures as well as trying to uncover the mystery. I did figure out a few tiny things but not nearly enough. Oh well, at least I greatly enjoyed the journey!

For additional fun, check out this dress up doll and a video of how the cover for the third book Blameless came to be created-I interacted with these even before reading and it was so much fun! These are some great marketing tools. I highly recommend you check these out even if you have no interest in the book itself.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Week of 05JAN12: The Super Bowl

Probably the biggest American entertainment news for today is the Super Bowl. Personally I am not at all excited. We saw these teams play in 2008 (I was most happy to see the Giants defense dominate then) and I don't need to see them again. Most of my acquaintance are also less than enthused although please keep in mind that I am on the West Coast with many a 49er fan. I'm an Eagles fan and thus hate both teams. I'm not even very excited about the commercials as we've already seen many of them.

Something I am excited about is The Woman in Black, the new film starring Daniel Radcliffe. I am not a fan of scary pictures but I want to support an actor I really admire. I can't imagine him ever having a hit like Harry Potter again (nor does he anticipate such an occurrence) but I definitely want him to continue making movies and I will express that with my pocketbook. This film is also based on a book, which I don't plan to read, but I would love to hear if you've read it.

So that's my Sunday: church, The Woman In Black, the Super Bowl-should be good. What's going on in your life?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Butterfly Clues

The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison
Egmont USA, 2012
325 pages
YA; Contemporary
4/5 stars

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

I had no idea what to expect from this book other than it was from Egmont, which I generally associate with more literary YA. Thus I opened the book with no expectations and proceeded to meet Penelope or Lo, a character with obsessive-compulsive tendencies. I am fascinated with OCD, as a long-time fan of Monk who has been gently teased about having some tendencies of her own. In this case Lo's disorder centers around numbers like 3 or 9; I much prefer even numbers so her distaste for 2 and 4 were inexplicable to me. While sometimes her neuroses were annoying to read (as anything that is repetitive is), they were necessary to create this character. If she's not following her rituals, she cannot function.

Besides Lo's problem with numbers, she is also a kleptomaniac and hoarder whose parents have checked out after the death of her older brother. This death has also hit Lo hard and her life is spiraling out of control. Girl has problems!

That is not the main plot line as the impetus of the book is a mystery. Lo hears a gunshot and later finds out that it killed a stripper known as Sapphire. Lo becomes obsessed with the case, piecing together many clues to discover the killer (this was not too difficult for the reader as there were not many eligible candidates). However the threads end up tying together as the story wound on.

Regardless of the excellent writing and the strong characterization (while I didn't love Lo, she stood out from other YA main characters), this book didn't quite click for me. There's a blah love interest who took up a tremendous amount of page time. And Lo makes a lot of stupid decisions (and not ones driven by her compulsiveness, just genuinely stupid stuff).  The setting also didn't really work for me; apparently there is one big seedy area in Cleveland that is easily accessible by middle-class teens? While a place is mentioned, it did not feel deeply rooted in a time or place and that left me feeling off-balance. Additionally something about the plot seemed very familiar to me although I can't put my finger on it yet.

Overall: A pretty interesting and well-written main character plodding through a fairly formulaic plot.

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