Wednesday, October 31, 2012

An Heiress at Heart

An Heiress at Heart by Jennifer Delamere
4/5 stars
Forever, 2012
432 pages
Adult Historical Romance

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

The pretty dress on the cover is what captured my eye. I do adore a nice historical romance; they tend to be comfort reads for me and this one was not an exception although it does feature a story I don't think I've read before. This story is about look-alikes. Lizzie ran off with a gentleman who did not do the gentlemanly thing by her and then she sought safety in Australia along with her brother. There she met Ria, who looked extraordinarily like her. After the deaths of Lizzie's brother and Ria's husband, Ria herself fell ill and begged Lizzie to assume her identity and make amends in England for Ria's wrongs. She also guessed that the two were half-sisters and encouraged her to find proof of it.

This information (and a lot more) is slowly shared in manageable chunks over course of the book as we grow to love Lizzie. She lost her virtue to a man she loved but it jeopardized her entire future. Now she has the chance to make amends on behalf of her dearest friend while also claiming a family to replace those lost. I really loved Lizzie: her struggles over her mistake with the arrogant first guy; the real love she has to offer; and her reluctance to practice deceit warring with her commitment to her best friend.

Her love interest, as this is a historical romance, is Ria's husband's younger brother. Geoffrey was a clergyman, elevated to the role of baron after the death of his two older brothers and finding the transition difficult. He is now a very desirable match but he wants a real marriage, of love and companionship, not a society match. Although he and "Ria" clash initially, it is soon very clear that they are falling in love. Although I liked Geoffrey, I'm not sure we really got enough insight in to him to fully make him come alive.

Overall I found the plot points to be pretty predictable.  Not to get spoilery, but when certain pieces of information were revealed, I thought that certain events would happen and I was right. This is not a bad thing as it's part of the reason I expected a comfort read and this was a very easy read. But it didn't rock my socks off. Still I'm excited for the second book which will be connected but focusing on a different character in Australia.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Every Day

Every Day by David Levithan
4/5 stars
Alfred A. Knopf, 2012
322 pages
YA Fantasy

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

I requested this book on a whim having read zero Levithan books but having heard lots of buzz around him. The premise for this book is certainly different: A wakes up in a different body every day, growing in age every year but never staying. Why A is like this, if anyone else is like that, and if A can ever not be like that are some of the questions that came to me while reading. It was also hard not to define A according to the words we usually use (gender-specific comes immediately to mind but others about appearance too) although such adjectives as kind and thoughtful are still applicable. This makes A kind of a difficult character to understand.

The defining event of the book is that in the first chapter (or day 5994) A falls in love with Rhiannon and breaks self-designed rules in order to keep her around. Understandably she struggles with A always wearing a new face and body and not always able to keep promises to show up. A is also frustrated by one of the bodies realizing there was possession and trying to hunt A down. I actually really enjoyed that segment and the suspense that came from it.

Still for all that I praise it, and I do want to praise this book, it just did not quite click for me. I think the concept is stunningly original and that it is very well-written with excellent pacing. It is thought-provoking and could certainly be a book club read as discussions about soul and gender identity could be addressed. But I don't love it and I'm not going to go out and push it on my in-person friends (although I will encourage bookish people to check it out especially if you are a fan of Levithan's writing.)

Cover: I love the clouds but I'm not really a fan of the people randomly there-they're weird.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Woman Who Died a Lot

The Woman Who Died a Lot by Jasper Fforde
3.5/5 stars
Viking, 2012
363 pages
Adult Literary Humor Fantasy
Seventh in the Thursday Next series

Source: Picked up at library.

Again we have ANOTHER Fforde book that is NOT the sequel to Shades of Grey. What? I'm not impatient or anything. And who can really be unhappy to have another installment with the delighful Thursday Next?

Previous book One of Our Thursdays Is Missing was quite possibly my favorite in the series (maybe second favorite after first book The Eyre Affair). That book was largely set in BookWorld and was full of zany adventures and a robot butler, who is possibly destroyed as he is not in this book (I hope he is still functioning but can't remember). This book is focusing on an older Thursday recovering from injuries sustained last book as well as her husband Landen and actually including her kids Tuesday, Friday, and Jenny in addition to the evil machinations of Goliath Corporation.  Tuesday is trying to prevent a Smiting and Friday is dealing with the knowledge that he would have had a brilliant career in the ChronoGuard except that it was disbanded. Jenny does not actually exist; she is a mindworm put into their heads by Aornis Hades.

I had some trouble staying engaged with this book as I feel like it is slightly less literary than some of the other episodes. Thursday cannot read herself into books any more due to her injuries and Goliath's plots against her are as obscure as ever. However while I have previously enjoyed all the zaniness, this time it felt like too much. It all ties together-I can clearly see that Fforde knows what he's doing but it just didn't work for me this time.

Overall: Definitely a read for Thursday Next diehards (and you *must* read the previous books in order too) but it was a letdown for me.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Taylor Swift's Red: A Review

Ready for another long post? Here's my review of Taylor Swift's new album "Red." I do have a request for you; if you find it helpful, would you give me a yes vote on Amazon? The link's here if you're able.
I wanted to start by listing my biases going into this album.
a. I was a little late to the Taylor Swift party, getting her first album for Christmas 2007 and falling super hard for "Love Story" the next year. Then I have continued to follow her career and her life. We're about the same age and I have a deep fondness for the girl.
b. When listening to music, I tend to prefer short, fast songs, which made Speak Now a bit of a trial since there were several songs over 5 minutes long.
c. I also tend to focus on lyrics rather than music or vocal performance. I'll be sharing some of my favorite lines below.
d. I LOVE pop music-Max Martin is a genius to me so I figured I would really enjoy those elements on this album
e. My top 5 most played Taylor songs (so far) are: "Love Story," "Sparks Fly," "You Belong With Me," "Ours," and "Our Song."

1. State of Grace: I'm not saying this is a full-on rock song but I have seen critics classify it as in the rock genre. Although there might be rock enthusiasts who will say it's not rock, I found it to be too much for my poppish sensibilities. So the album didn't open strong to it's soooo long.

2. Red: Much more to my taste; I love the idea of these colors punctuating the moments of their relationship although I wish there had been more than three colors mentioned (just red, blue, and dark gray). I also really love the repeating r-r-r-r-red and the way the music moves during the third chorus (I do not have the vocabulary to describe it properly).

3. Treacherous: Although this is a slower song, I actually really like this one. It seems a bit more adult for Taylor ("I'll do anything you say if you say it with your hands") and I really like the percussive elements.

4. I Knew You Were Trouble.: This was my favorite song of the five that were released early. It's fast, catchy, and I love the light dubstep influences.

5. All Too Well: A slow 5 min+ song sounds like one I'd hate but this one is another winner for me. All the details that paint a beautiful picture to my word-loving brain. It's so pretty and it also satisfies my gossipy side (this is totally about Jake, right? I mean, maple lattes!) I want to share a few lines too:
"You tell me about your past, thinking your future was me"
"And maybe we got lost in translation/Maybe I asked for too much/But maybe this thing was a masterpiece/Til you tore it all up"
"So casually cruel in the name of being honest"
"But you keep my old scarf from that very first week/Cause it reminds you of innocence and it smells like me"

6. 22: I'm just about the same age as Taylor and am happy to dance to this song until we turn 23 and then I'll be bitter that she didn't release this earlier. The very beginning makes me think of Pink's "Raise Your Glass."

7. I Almost Do: This is another slower song and it's not that I don't like it but after "Treacherous" and "All Too Well," it doesn't stand out enough for me.

8. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together: I am of two minds about this song. On the one hand, it sounds very high school and no way do I ever want to go back to that time but on the other hand, it's so dang catchy and fun! I easily memorized all the lyrics and love to dance to it.

9. Stay Stay Stay: This reminds me of "Ours" except a bit more upbeat so it's no surprise that I loved this one especially due to the image of the boy in the football helmet.

10. The Last Time: A duet with Gary Lightbody from Snow Patrol, a band I'm not familiar with (they don't sing pop do they?) It's a great song and very pretty. I feel that it fits well in Swift's oeuvre.

11. Holy Ground: I don't have much to say about this song; I don't hate it but it's not a standout to me. It is quite catchy as I realized I was singing it to myself during my lunch break.

12. Sad Beautiful Tragic: My least favorite offering on this CD-it's long, slow, and reminds me of my least favorite parts of the album Speak Now. I do really like the line "And you've got your demons and darling they all look like me."

13. The Lucky One: Another song that left me cold. Perhaps better for Joni Mitchell fans? I also bristle at Taylor telling her she's the lucky one; I think she knows!

14. Everything Has Changed: I'm going to steal from my sister since she doesn't follow my online activity: "It is too perfect." I checked out Ed Sheeran's music after hearing that Taylor had tweeted about writing with him and I liked it a lot. If you're a fan of him, you'll probably like this song.

15. Starlight: The lyric message on this song is "For Ethel" which immediately brings to mind the Kennedys and Taylor's whole thing with that kid, which is just so weird. If I were always able to separate her life from her music, I would love this song because it's so danceable.

16. Begin Again: I like the hopefulness but something about the line "And you throw your head back laughing like a little kid" doesn't work for me. The rest of the song is great though.

 After "Ours," "If This Was a Moment," and "Superman" were hits for me, I had to make sure to get the deluxe version again hoping for three more winners (I'm ignoring the two demos and acoustic version). This time though, well, two out of three ain't bad.

17. The Moment I Knew: This is one of my fave slow songs from Taylor ever. It actually reminds me of the OC New Year's Eve episode-does anyone remember that show? Of course, there Ryan does show up to kiss Marissa while here the guy never shows leaving Taylor to cry in a beautiful song for us even if it's emotionally draining to her.

18. Come Back...Be Here: It would be too personal to share the main reason I love this song but love it I do. I love everything but especially the music and lyric at "New here/But you're in...London/And I break down,/Cause it's not fair that you're not around." This occurs about a minute from the end and I keep repeating it over and over again.

19. Girl At Home: Although ostensibly against cheating, this line gave me pause: "And yeah I might go with it,/If I hadn't once been just like her." It sounds like she's only anti-cheating because she's been cheated on-that is not good girl code. But even though this song is short and catchy, it's really repetitive and I find it a bit boring.

Cover: One last thing to mention-I saw another reviewer pan the cover and I kind of agree. Fearless and Speak Now were gorgeous covers but this one is very meh to me.

If you made it to the end, thanks for reading! Did you get this album? What songs do you like? 


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Losing It

Losing It by Erin Fry
3.5/5 stars
Amazon Children's Publishing, 2012
261 pages
MG Contemporary

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

I didn't know much about this book going into it other than that it involved baseball and a young boy intent on losing weight. That sounded like it could be a cute fun contemporary middle-grade title. And for the most part it was. The beginning is actually shockingly serious when it lays out Bennett's mother's death from cancer and then jumps into his father's stroke which kicks into motion the main plot. Part of the stroke may have been due to their poor diets that led to an obese figure. When Bennett ends up living with his health-freak aunt, his diet changes dramatically and he is encouraged to pursue physical activity including taking up cross-country.

That's the core of the book: Bennett rejecting the label of "Fat Boy" and not being afraid of making a change. I've read a couple of other books featuring main characters confronting their weight (pre-blog I believe) and I was pleased to see this one deal with it so realistically as well as optimistically. Bennett really struggles at first but he does start to see results by the end and he makes huge strides in improving his movement. He relapses some and he has many times of discouragement but he keeps pushing through, making this an inspirational book for younger readers.

The problem for me was that it all seemed very familiar. Thus while I rooted for Bennett and his family, I wasn't blown away or fully absorbed in his journey. I enjoyed it while I read it but I won't be rereading it.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Because It Is My Blood

Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin
4.5/5 stars
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012
350 pages
YA Dystopia Sequel

Source: Picked up at library.

Last year I loved All These Things I've Done, feeling almost like I was reading a contemporary to my delight! Additionally I admired main character Anya's strong feelings about family as well as her love interest Win.  Therefore I picked up this sequel with much excitement but also trepidation as second books have let me down quite a bit this year. Although Jen Ryland helped to reassure me with her review, I was still nervous.

Thankfully that was unnecessary. This book also blew me away! I think that is in large part due to Anya's strong personality. While I don't think every character is fully drawn out, Anya is an amazing character. If you don't click with her, these books won't work but I love her. I think she is up there on my list of favorite characters of all time. I can picture her so clearly and I would love to have her protecting me.

The book picks up several months after the conclusion of All These Things I've Done with Anya being released from Liberty and having to make plans for her future. Through a series of events, she ends up having to leave Manhattan, taking a trip that solidifies the reasons why chocolate (remember it's a banned substance) is in her blood and gives her a bold new idea for her future with some unanticipated twists and turns.

So much happens over the course of this novel with a timeline that is a little wacky during the time Anya is out of New York. I don't want to go too in-depth but there are some great scenes of Anya having to kick some butt and a lot of information is thrown at us but there is still more to come. I don't really have the words to articulate my strong positive feelings about this book.

However it did not get five stars. Why is that? I was disappointed with the lack of Win although I completely understand what is happening there and I really hope he comes back in full force in the third book. I also very much disliked Anya's friend Scarlett's decisions (enough possessives, huh?)

Overall: A strong second installment that sets up many new avenues for the third book to explore.

Cover: Not thrilled with the cover redesign, just because I like my covers to match. I think I will wait to buy all three until the covers are definitely confirmed.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Girl Who Was on Fire

The Girl Who was on Fire edited by Leah Wilson
5/5 stars
Smart Pop, 2012
209 pages
YA Essays

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

I remember falling for The Hunger Games way back in 2010 (shortly before the release of Mockingjay) and being so pleased to have the rest of the world catch on to what us bookish folk already knew when the movie came out earlier this year. I feel like The Hunger Games is definitely one of the more thought-provoking YA series and was excited to check out this collection especially as some of my favorite authors contributed pieces. One thing these essays did a great job at is making me want to reread Mockingjay which I did not enjoy the first time around and which I have never read again. So kudos!

Why So Hungry for the Hunger Games by Sarah Rees Brennan: I enjoy Brennan's writing a lot as there are always some witty remarks; this one is no exception as she touches on the popularity of this series, including the fascinating issues that series brings up, the romantic wish-fulfillment angle, and the author's insight into reality and illusion.

Team Katniss by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: Another author I enjoy tackles the fan perception of the series as solely choosing between Team Peeta and Team Gale, making some great arguments for focusing on Katniss as a person herself who is so much more than the person she chooses to love. I especially loved the discussion of her love of Prim because Katniss' love for her sister is what drew me into the books (it reminded me of my love for my younger sister-I'd try to win the Hunger Games for her).

Your Heart Is a Weapon the Size of Your Fist by Mary Borsellino: This essay, from an unfamiliar author, looks at the power of love in The Hunger Games especially as compared to one of its inspirations Nineteen Eighty-Four. What does Katniss know about love and integrity that allows her to keep going and to ultimately carve out her (scarred but) happy ending?

Smoke and Mirrors by Elizabeth M. Rees: Looks at the realities and the illusions perpetrated by the Capitol and others throughout the series and how the main characters negotiated them.

Someone to Watch Over Me by Lili Wilkinson: This examines surveillance, drawing parallels from our own world where someone is pretty much almost always watched (or could be watched) and the balance of power in Katniss' world. There are the Watchers, the Watched, and the Engineers who must be balanced and the worst that happens when that delicate balance is disrupted.

Reality Hunger by Ned Vizzini: This essay looks at media training, the kind underwent by Katniss as well as Vizzini's real-life experiences doing promotion for his writing. Some humorous stories are included in this writing as it seems that Vizzini does not have the same heroic authenticity as Katniss.

Panem et Circenses by Carrie Ryan: Ryan draws some troubling connections from the series to our own world. Namely she looks at our (well your as I eschew reality television) willingness to watch reality tv but always needing an escalation of the stakes just as in the Reaping every year. This impulse to catch eyeballs also influences the narratives given to us (such as fake romances and how moments are edited together to present one story that we then buy as truth). Very thought-provoking and one of my favorite essays!

Not So Weird Science by Cara Lockwood: Did you think the muttations were terrifying and yet totally implausible? Maybe you were wrong about that second part as Lockwood looks at what our world has been doing with genetic engineering as well as our long and troubled history with creating things with the best intentions that are quickly turned against us.

Hunger Game Theory by Diana Peterfreund: This explores game theory, something I've heard about before but was not very familiar with. Using examples from the series as well as drawing from Harry Potter and Ender's Game, she helps to illuminate the theory as well as that the best results come from human cooperation, which tends to end in refusing to play the game at all (or in other words rebelling against the gamemakers.)

Crime of Fashion by Terri Clark: I love to read about the clothes in books (I blame Ann M. Martin and the BSC's outrageous fashion statements from Claudia) so this essay was of great interest to me. How do the clothes Cinna designs for Katniss help to spark revolution? What does each outfit say that is so needed to hear at that particular moment? Another fabulous essay on a topic near and dear to my heart!

Bent, Shattered, and Mended by Blythe Woolston: This one was a little more science-y than some of the other essays have been as it looks at the brain, memory, and PTSD symptoms. Clearly all of the tributes undergo significant mental trauma due to their forced participation in the games and Woolston draws out those feelings and memories.

Did the Third Book Suck? by Brent Hartinger: This provocatively title essay kind of aligns with my initial impression of Mockingjay-it just did not meet my expectations. However after mulling the book over for going on two years and especially after reading these essays, I am willing to reassess my thinking. I still think I prefer the first two books but I don't think I fully appreciated the differences in Mockingjay and the way Collins pursued her own idea for an ending instead of trying to meet reader expectations for a traditional conclusion.

The Politics of Mockingjay by Sarah Darer Littman: Another really awesome essay, especially to me who has been thinking about a lot of these issues in anticipation of the American presidential election. Collins obviously has seriously followed and thought about the War on Terror in contrast with many of us who prefer the circus to serious consideration.

Gale: Knight. Cowboy. Badass. by Jackson Pearce: There are some hilarious moments in this essay (note watch "Firefly" and "Serenity" beforehand as she will urge you to do so over the course of the writing) as well as an exploration of Gale as an archetype. I was always a Peeta fan so this essay helped to crystallize all the reasons why.

The Inevitable Decline of Decadence by Adrienne Kress:  Kress reveals our society's predisposition toward cycling through indulgence and self-denial until inevitably we fall and seek the other as a counterbalance. She cites ancient Rome and the French Revolution in particular as examples of decadence before destruction just as in the Capitol.

Community in the Face of Tyranny by Bree Despain: I loved the hook for this, which shows how President Snow thought he had everything under control but the tiny act of a boy giving a girl bread leads to community leads to Katniss rising, becoming the Mockingjay, and sparking rebellion. That one small action leads to so much upheaval. Great conclusion.

Overall: I loved it-I'm asking for a hardcopy for Christmas because I want to reread the whole series and then contend with these essays some more. Great for fans of the series!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Scottish Witch

The Scottish Witch by Cathy Maxwell
2.5/5 stars
Avon, 2012
384 pages
Adult Historical Romance

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

Earlier this year I read the first book Lyon's Bride, introducing the Chattans and their curse. Because Charles Chattan broke the heart of Scottish lass Rose, her witch mother Fenella cursed the male descendants. If they fall in love, they will die. Every one for generations has fallen before the birth of their first son except for the most recent generation which consists of two sons and a daughter. Although the three vowed to remain out of love, the eldest fell and started feeling symptoms. This is the second book with second son Harry traveling to Scotland, seeking a way to end the curse.

Of course he does not anticipate meeting Portia, poor plain spinster, sister to the beautiful Minerva and daughter of a snobbish mother. Portia is a delight-loyal to her family, strong, protective, fun. The pair meet when she pretends to be a witch in order to earn the reward he offers. Pretty soon the physical attraction between the two is bouncing off the walls but as Portia falls in love with Harry, they know it would be the death of him and he resists.

Although I was highly anticipating this book, I ended up feeling very disappointed. Harry is very flat here despite being charming and undergoing a great trial in the first book. Almost immediately after meeting, the two begin their physical relationship and while we are told about the talks they share, the reader isn't really privy to them. I felt like I was supposed to care about the characters either because of my previous experience reading about Harry or because that's what you do when you read romance. But I found the whole very unsatisfactory. Subplots of Portia's sister and mother's courtships were a nice addition to pad out the story but were insufficient to cover up the lack of depth in Portia and Harry's relationship.

On the other hand, I did like the supernatural elements. Possibly Fenella has been reincarnated as a cat and that is how she is keeping the curse strong. I love cats so I just like thinking about that sweet ball of fur lounging around and getting the better of everyone.

Overall: A disappointing sequel although I am still curious to find out how Margaret Chattan is going to break the curse as she must (and who she is going to fall in love with)!


Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Flutter by Gina Linko
3/5 stars
Random House Books for Young Readers, 2012
342 pages
YA Paranormal

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

I entered this book, not really knowing much about it but caught by the mention of time loops. Time travel being a concept I love to ponder, I was curious to know more. In this case, Emery has suffered from what she calls "seizures" for years. However during those seizures, she seems to loop through time, meeting people she knows and especially one particular little boy. As the years pass, they get more serious and Emery fears she is approaching death. Her father and his medical team share this opinion, treating Emery as a scientific subject rather than his daughter and a human being. So Emery decides to go on the run, following clues she has received from the little boy she meets.

These clues lead her to a beautiful small town and bring her into collision with Ash, who she seems to know instinctively is important. I the reader did not understand this at all. I felt like she had plenty of time to shake him but since he ended up being a huge part of her story, he stayed around. While I tried to connect with Emery, I could tell it was not going to happen with Ash.

So the characters were a bust for me. But what about the plot? Emery's father is very indistinct but he does convey scariness later on as he searches for Emery, sending her threatening emails and further distancing himself from his daughter as if she is only something to be studied. I loved the loops-they're told every couple of chapters in italicized font and they have a very different feel, as is appropriate for the truth behind them. That truth is awesome and the ending is killer. If I only I had loved Emery...

If you've read this book, what did you think of the ending? Were you expecting that at all?

Overall: My inability to connect with the characters made this an average read for me.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Come August, Come Freedom

Come August, Come Freedom by Gigi Amateau
4/5 stars
Candlewick Press, 2012
231 pages
YA Historical

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

While selecting books to read, I was intrigued to see that this was historical fiction set in 1800 and focusing on a slave revolt in Virginia, drawing inspiration from authentic primary sources to tell a moving story.

As I said, I loved the synopsis for this book and thought it was right up my alley as a student of American history. This wasn't my time period and I had never heard of this particular planned slave rebellion inspired by the Haitian revolution. Unfortunately I had a lot of trouble with the writing style. I can't quite put my finger on why as I didn't think it was opaque or too challenging. It just didn't click with me and made it a struggle to read this (really not long) book.

I mean, I liked the main character, Gabriel. Gabriel has had an unusual background, receiving reading and writing instruction from the mistress of the house alongside her son as the two are approximately the same age. He also played with the boy until the difference in their situations was brutally emphasized. But he went on to become an excellent blacksmith and to earn money for himself. His love for his girl Nanny and his education help him to plan and lead other slaves in a fight for freedom. While the other characters weren't as well-developed, they were still interesting to read about.

Overall: I loved the focus on a different kind of time period and excellent historical sources even if I didn't fall in love with it.

Cover: It's definitely not my usual kind of cover but I think that's why I like it. Plus the title is so perfect for everything that comes about in the novel.

Quote from author (so excellent I have to share it): "I love learning about people who lived during the Early Republic era. Gabriel's story illustrates how one individual's pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness can intersect with a nation's pursuit of a more perfect union. Gabriel went all in for freedom. To me, he is one of America's greatest patriots." (source-back cover of ARC I received).

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Celebrating #SykesSunday with books, shoes, and #IFoundYou @thewantedmusic

Last week, I shared about some of my main preoccupations: namely, books, shoes, and The Wanted. So today I thought I'd share some specifics from those very general categories.

First up is books. I got to pick up two highly anticipated books from the library this week (expect reviews before the end of the month):

Next up I'm thinking about shoes; I really like these green flats from yeswalker. Firstly I prefer to fantasize about affordable shoes and second I already bought red, orange, yellow, and blue shoes from them with good results. What do you think?

And lastly, we have The Wanted's new video for the lead single from their upcoming as-yet-untitled third album, "I Found You." Please watch and then let's talk.

A. I quite like the cinematic feel as well as the violence. The ending's also a neat twist.

B. I love the Nathan wink at approximately 3:15 (and his solo before that...and the fact that he wears a watch...and, well, everything. Nathan's my favorite ;)

 C. I haven't quite been able to articulate all my feelings but I do feel like there's something problematic with the portrayal of the woman in this video. Does any one else get that feeling? If so, can you articulate it for me?

D. Cannot wait for more songs to come from the boys (as well as for them to spend more time in America so I can see them live!)

What are you up to this fine Sunday?


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Dawn Comes Early

Dawn Comes Early by Margaret Brownley
4/5 stars
Thomas Nelson, 2012
341 pages
Adult Christian Historical Romance

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

Having read Brownley's previous series Rocky Creek Romance, I knew that I enjoyed her writing and was eager to pick up another romance set in the West. This time we journey to the Arizona Territory in 1895, getting a glimpse into ranch life.  Although I don't usually seek out non-Regency romances, I will admit to a fondness for these interconnected trilogies.

Our heroine is Boston-bred Kate Tenney, disgraced novelist whose latest book was banned by the prudish Boston watchdogs and who worked hard every day of her life to be able to afford an education. She travels out west for the opportunity to become an heiress to a cattle ranch; the main condition is to remain forever unmarried, something that does not sound difficult due to Kate's abysmal examples of parents. All that she has seen is bad marriages where the men don't stick around and why would she want that?

Upon arrival, Kate is assaulted by an outlaw, saved by the swoony hero, and begins her much more difficult than expected life at the ranch. But she has tenacity and is determined not to let anything get in the way. Not even the very upstanding Luke Adams, blacksmith and all-around good guy, who doesn't see why a lady of learning would be interested in a plainspoken man like him.

I would (and in fact did) categorize this as a romance and yet there isn't that much interaction between the two. Immediately there is a frisson between the two but they don't share many conversations. They barely get to know each other. We spend more time following Kate's rejuvenated writing career, a subplot with the aforementioned outlaw, and some focusing on Luke's aunts, who are admittedly a kick. One decides to put the passion in her marriage and ends up thinking her husband is two-timing her, which doesn't sound funny but it was.

Overall: Although I would have liked more romance and more discussion of faith, this book hit all the right beats for me. I'm very excited for second book Waiting for Morning.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Two and Twenty Dark Tales

Two and Twenty Dark Tales edited by Georgia McBride and Michelle Zink
4/5 stars
Month9Books, 2012
311 pages
YA Fantasy Short Stories

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

As an electronic galley, this book is missing the full entries from Nancy Holder, C. Lee McKenzie, and Georgia McBride's poem. I have reviewed what was contained in what I received. One other note is that the formatting on this e-ARC is very odd with a mixing of fonts that made it a little difficult to read at times but I persevered! I also anticipated recognizing most of the stories but as it turns out, I am not very familiar with the Mother Goose fairy tales. Still I enjoyed almost all of the stories and think this collection is well-worth seeking out.

As Blue as the Sky and Just as Old by Nina Berry: First up, starting by quoting a poem I did not recognize (which made me think I wouldn't enjoy this) but I ended up loving this one. It starts out very mysteriously but then the action ramps up. I loved the theme of breaking bad cycles to create your own future as well as the fact that it reminded me of this song I adore ("Meadowlark" as sung by Sarah Brightman).

Sing a Song of Six-Pence by Sarwat Chadda: Having read Dark Goddess by Chadda, I had high expectations for the writing in this selection in addition to actually being familiar with the story that inspired it. This is a very dark tale (as are most of the stories as hinted by the title) about a woman going after her child and the being she goes to for help.

Clockwork by Leah Cypess: Another rhyme I recognized-definitely one of the standouts in this collection! A princess was turned into a mouse while her cousin took over the throne-what sacrifices will she have to make for the greater good?

Blue by Sayantani DasGupta: I found this story to be very bizarre and not at all to my liking. It was very lyrical but not much happened.

Pieces of Eight by Shannon Delany with Max Scialdone: This story seemed very fairy-tale-esque to me. The hero has a quest and conveniently receives all the aid and assistance he needs before digging deep within himself to complete his journey. It felt a little haphazard in that I sometimes had trouble following how one event led to the next.

Wee Willie Winkie by Leigh Fallon: I found this one very scary (especially harrowing for those under sixteen) although I had a little trouble getting involved at first. By the ending, I was on the edge of my seat!

Boys & Girls Come Out to Play by Angie Frazier: Unfortunately this story has something I hate (girl has the hots for her sister's fiance, which are reciprocated if tamped down) and there was a confusing middle but I loved, loved, loved the ending. So perfect for the tone of this collection!

I Come Bearing Souls by Jessie Harrell: I loved that this story used Egyptian mythology (more of that in YA please!) but I don't think we spent enough time here to really appreciate everything.

The Lion and the Unicorn, Part the First by Nancy Holder: As suggested in the title, this is part one of a two part story; the second part was not in this ARC so I don't know how the story ends (I suspect unhappily given what happens in just about every other story) but I was very intrigued by this taste. Set during the reign of James I, we see a different side to the witchcraft trials.

Life in a Shoe by Heidi R. King: In a dystopian future, women are naught but child incubators, having baby after baby as the men arrive for short breaks from fighting a never-ending war. Very bleak although the ending does try to leave us with some hope.

Candelight by Suzanne Lazear: Bratty kids escape their "overbearing" mom only to discover that their actions have consequences! This seemed very familiar to me and the "twist" at the ending was not at all surprising to me.

One for Sorrow by Karen Mahoney: Although this was one of the more anticipated stories for me, after liking The Iron Witch, I was not very impressed. Amid all the other stories, I kind of forgot about this one. It does not help that there is a crow after the second story also featured a crow.

Those Who Whisper by Lisa Mantchev: I thought this story was amazing! I think that was partly because it really reminded me of a fairy tale; additionally it actually had a happier ending than most of the other ones with an excellent survivor of a main character.

Little Miss Muffet by Georgia McBride: This story kind of confused me. I understand the idea somewhat as I'm very familiar with the rhyme but it was too weird for me.

Sea of Dew by C. Lee McKenzie:  Want to read about people adrift at sea dying of dehydration? Well, you've got your wish here. This story was just so depressing.

Tick Tock by Gretchen McNeil: I thought this story had a very creepy atmosphere but I was puzzled by what happened. The events didn't lead into each other.

A Pocket Full of Posy by Pamela van Hylckama Vlieg: I thought the writing and suspense were great here as a boy wakes up with his girlfriend dead and no memory of how that happens. As he searches to prove to himself that he didn't do it, he discovers what did; I didn't like that ending but I did like the beginning.

The Well by KM Walton: A sort of apocalyptic Jack and Jill-very dark but a little too short for my taste.

The Wish by Suzanne Young: I feel like most of my favorite stories were in the beginning but this is an exception as this was another delight for me. A young girl wishes she were dead and then meets a boy who makes her want otherwise.

A Ribbon of Blue by Michelle Zink: I liked the start but wasn't as sold on the ending. I also wish there had been an editor's note to close the anthology instead of just nothing.

Overall: It looks like these stories are arranged alphabetically by author's last name and although it may seem daunting from looking at my list, I think it was fairly well balanced with a mix of genres and writing styles to suit everyone. I think this book is a winner!

Cover: Not thrilled about the dead girl; at the least, we could have been shown her dress.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sam Cruz's Infallible Guide to Getting Girls

Sam Cruz's Infallible Guide to Getting Girls by Tellulah Darling
4/5 stars
Te Da Media, 2012
162 pages
YA Contemporary

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

Synopsis: After getting her heart broken, Ally decides to be more like a guy, more like her best friend Sam Cruz and pursue her physical gratification without all those emotions getting in the way. For his part, Sam is thrilled to groom Ally, striking a blow for guys everywhere. But when the two get involved, will it ruin the best relationship in his life?

I am of two minds about this book. On the one hand, it was fast-moving and funny with a satisfying ending. The dialogue crackled and I was never bored. I especially adored the two-narrator setup although I definitely preferred Ally's sensitive intellectual narrations to some of Sam's more boorish comments.

On the other hand, I was uncomfortable with the youth of the characters. They're seniors in high school and I know that it's not really that young of an age to be sexually active. But as I get older, I guess I keep wanting to infantilize those youngins, as I think of them. It would have been so much better for me if it was just a few months later and they had been in college. I just expect college students to be more emotionally prepared as well as overall prepared for any negative consequences. This is very much a personal preference when it comes to books.

Additionally as I hinted at above, I really liked Ally but wasn't as sold on Sam due to his promiscuous lifestyle. He seems to have learned it through observation of his widowed dad but I think Ally could do better. It was definitely helped by the fact that Sam got to share his thoughts, with his changing views on his father playing a pivotal role in his journey, but I still think Sam is dating way out of his league.

Content warning: Language and sexual situations.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Summer of the Mariposas

Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
4/5 stars
Tu Books, 2012
352 pages
YA Magical Contemporary

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

While browsing Netgalley, I saw this book and thought the cover was pretty. I didn't look too closely at it but was happy to discover that it featured butterflies (hence the title Mariposa) as well as a group of sisters, five to be exact. My weakness for sister relationships in book is well-documented so I sat back to enjoy the ride.

However all was not smooth sailing as I found the eldest sister Odilia pleasant enough but her four younger sisters were brats. Really all five were annoying with their disregard for the pressure their mother was under after their father ran off and the tough situation they were in. But the five must band together when the middle three decide to deliver the dead body they find in a river back to his family in Mexico. This dead body reminded me very strongly of "Stand By Me" which I watched not too long ago. Then things took a turn for the weird with the spirit of Llorana, a woman who haunts the riverbanks seeking her dead children. She bestows a special blessing on Odilia.

The situation gets weirder as they encounter malevolent spirits throughout their journey. As I picked up the story expecting a contemporary, I was very confused. About halfway through, I started looking through goodreads reviews to discover that this was an Odyssey retelling. This caused a lightbulb to go on in my head and helped the story make a lot more sense to me. A cool addition is the Aztec mythology-something I knew nothing about but was cool to learn about.

I did feel like the book was a little uneven in terms of how engaged I was with the plot and some of the turns felt very simplistic. This might be a better read for younger readers who might be better able to sympathize with the sisters while I was very much on the mother's team. For me, the best part was the concluding chapters when they have to confront their father for his failures. I found it absolutely gripping.

Overall: Really cool story with the addition of Aztec tradition but I had trouble connecting with the characters.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

This Is Not Forgiveness

This Is Not Forgiveness by Celia Rees
3.5/5 stars
Bloomsbury, 2012
280 pages
YA Contemporary

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

I was cautiously excited about this one. Although I hadn't read any other books by Rees, I saw that it was a contemporary and when am I ever not interested in those? Plus I saw Brandi's positive review so I eagerly opened up this book (well figuratively as it was on my Nook).

The beginning was very difficult for me; I felt dropped into a perspective without any guiding posts to orient me. Although it took me more than a few chapters, eventually I worked out that the main perspective was Jamie with additional chapters coming from the point of view of the free-spirited political Caro and his veteran brother Rob with the latter two having a secretive relationship.  All three are compelling especially as Caro and Rob build to something awful with their manipulations and secrets coming to bear on Jamie.

I just loved Jamie-he's a pretty sweet guy and completely falls for Caro despite multiple warnings from everyone in his life and no matter how badly she treats him. Rob has his own wounds, literally from combat and how that pressure has warped his mind. His entries are told via video diaries that he has recorded with his version of events. And lastly we have the mysterious Caro with her own tortured past and scars. For the longest time, I could not fathom what she had planned despite all of her talk. It just seemed too much to imagine it could be that.

Content warnings: Language, drugs, and sexual stuff and yet none of that seems too big in comparison to what ultimately happens.

Overall: Rocky beginning but great buildup to an explosive ending that tackles real-life issues. Very psychologically twisty and if you can get past that beginning, a quick read where you have to know how it all ends.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Diverse Energies

Diverse Energies edited by Tobias S. Buckell and Joe Monti
4/5 stars
Tu Books, 2012
309 pages
YA Dystopia/Science-Fiction Short Stories

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

I was grabbed by the mention of three of these authors who have either written books I enjoyed or have written books I hope to read soon (those three being Ellen Oh, Malinda Lo, and Cindy Pon). Its stated intention is to provide more diversity in our YA fiction, whether race, gender, culture, sexual-orientation, etc. These stories mix dystopia, science-fiction, and fantasy. Like many short story collections, it's a definite mixed bag with some stories working well for me and some not clicking with me.

The Last Day by Ellen Oh-what a powerful story and a great way to start the collection! Atomic non-stop war between the President of the West and the Emperor of the West with nowhere safe for the people.

Freshee's Frogurt by Daniel H. Wilson-Interesting story about robots going berserk and attacking humans; warning about language. Not one of my favorites as it's very short and just focusing on this one battle.

Uncertainty Principle by K. Tempest Bradford-was really interesting and played with time, one of my favorite concepts. A young girl keeps having time shifted around her with no one else noticing until the day she uploads all the times it has happened and she is contacted by others to do something about it.

Pattern Recognition by Ken Liu-I really loved this story although there was an awkward shift at the end, hopefully due to the fact that this is an ebook. I wasn't really sure where it was going but I loved the main characters. It made me think of Ender's Game a little bit, which is a good thing as that's one of my favorite books.

Gods of Dimming Light by Greg van Eekhout-I didn't really like this one; it felt a bit more on the violent side featuring a young Indonesian boy discovering a Norse connection.

Next Door by Rahul Kanakia-This was very weird to me: there are haves and have-nots, the former don't even notice the latter being so plugged into their technology and I didn't quite understand that even as I know people are always talking about how technology is isolating us but I could not imagine not noticing other people in the way that the haves do here.

Good Girl by Malinda Lo-did I mention that all of these stories are pretty uniformly depressing? This was definitely one of those with our main character searching the underworld for her brother, meeting a love interest, and confronting the grim reality of her world.

A Pocket Full of Dharma by Paolo Bacigalupi-I didn't really know what to make of this story, about a boy on the streets and trying to survive among conniving adults in a bleak world. What's in his pocket? It's not a ring of power for one.

Blue Skies by Cindy Pon-I thought this was another really good story, especially because it seemed a little lighter and it had a hint of romance. Although such romance is impossible in the world, I liked the little hit within.

What Arms to Hold by Rajan Khanna-Indian children labor in a mine, searching for a big prize that will ensure their promotion to a better job...guess what? That's not exactly the case as is so heartbreakingly shown here.

Solitude by Ursula K. Le Guin-I'm not really sure I got this story, which was one of the longest included. It's about a woman who uses her son and daughter to explore and study a foreign culture on another planet.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

What I Think About: @thewantedmusic

Just a little bit of fun for Sunday! I think it's pretty self-explanatory for the way my mind has been working lately.

I am being a little ambitious today-I am going for a multi-mile walk with my mom (I want to say 3 but I can't remember) as well as finishing Celia Rees' This Is Not Forgiveness (I'm already halfway through) in addition to reading Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall and starting Sam Cruz's Infallible Guide to Getting Girls by Tellulah Darling. Then I also want to catch up on reviews and comment on blogs as I haven't done so since Friday. Happy reading everyone!


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Send Me a Sign

Send Me a Sign by Tiffany Schmidt
4/5 stars
Walker and Company, 2012
374 pages
YA Contemporary Cancer

Source: Won from Bananas for Books

I saw this book appear on a couple of Waiting on Wednesdays posts and made a mental note to check it out as I adore contemporaries and had a good experience with another cancer story earlier this year, which made me less nervous about reading something so dark. Then I was lucky enough to win a giveaway for a copy and I have finally had a chance to dig into it. I end conflicted with my feelings.

First I want to say that this book was very readable. It can serve as one of the reasons why I love to read contemporary as I easily found myself pulled along. The world was familiar: the way people live, attending high school, what a hospital is like. Although cancer is an element, there is a lot of romance, relationship drama, and even some lightness (there is also an unrelated absolutely devastating event in the book; Mom-do not highlight to read this spoiler! Mia has to put her cat to sleep).

I also really loved the start introducing Mia as one of the Calendar Girls with her three best friends-she is Summer and this is supposed to be her fun time before they start their senior year. Instead Mia ends up in the hospital, urged on by her mother to keep her cancer a secret. The only peer who knows is Mia's long-time best friend and next-door neighbor Gyver (short for MacGyver-the unlikely name chosen by his very sensible parents. I really hate that name). Of course the stress of keeping the secret weighs on Mia in addition to fighting the battle for her life. But I was okay with this conflict.

I was less okay with the romance aspect. Pre-cancer diagnosis, Mia had been sort of flirting with/hooking up with popular Ryan, easy-going, hot, fun to be with. When she returns to school, he still pursues her and is among the first to find out about cancer. He really steps up to the plate and tries to be supportive and commit to her despite her own lukewarm feelings. Because there is also Gyver, who was obviously in love with Mia; she was so freaking dense in regards to that. Her waffling over her feelings for the guys drove me crazy. Initially I felt bad about this because she did have cancer and was dealing with a lot but then I reminded myself that she was a fictional character so whatever. I can't hurt her feelings because she's not real.

Overall: Surprisingly fun to read and difficult to put down but some elements that left me frustrated.

Cover: Love the blue although I wish the flower was one where the petals could be pulled off as that happened several times over the course of the book.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Princess Elizabeth's Spy

Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal
4.5/5 stars
Bantam, 2012
384 pages
Adult Historical Mystery

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

Earlier this year I enjoyed the first adventure of Maggie Hope in Mr. Churchill's Secretary. After her aid in foiling an assassination plot there, she has been given the chance to join MI-5. However her lack of physicality stops that and leads to her receiving the position of Princess Elizabeth's maths tutor, ie a governess. However she is actually in place to spy on the household and see if she can ferret out a traitor. Also adding to her troubles are her fractured relationship with her father and the presumed dead status of her sort-of boyfriend (it's complicated).

Maggie is as enjoyable as ever-still keen to prove herself and eager to dedicate all of her brains and passion to England's cause against the scourge of the Nazis. This book is set in late 1940 and it was a lot of fun to see the young princesses Elizabeth (falling for a certain midshipman) and Margaret, who I didn't realize was so much younger. We also get to see their parents as well as their uncle David and his wife, that woman, who are content to allow the Nazis into England provided they get to go back on the throne. Winston Churchill also returns-I love him as a historical figure so much! Beyond them, we get to spend a great deal of time with Maggie's good friend David and her handler Hugh who becomes a new romantic interest for her.

As for the mystery, it was much easier for me than it was for Maggie because the reader received several sections told from the perspective of the conspirators. Additionally Maggie twice jumped to crazy conclusions from her own biases while my less clouded view led to me just shaking my head-what was she even thinking? If she could have listened to me, she would have saved herself much time and grief.

Then we have the ending, which I will leave to you to highlight if you are up for the spoiler: so of course Maggie's love John isn't dead. I could have told her that and if she had read a few more pulp romances, she might have been able to keep the hope alive. But I did not expect that he would cross paths with Maggie's half-sister (for who else could she be?) Also did not expect Maggie's mom to be the double-agent-that was a big surprise!

Overall: A really fun read that swept me away to WWII England, allowing me to luxuriate in the glamor of the period but also driving home the grim mood that prevailed as Britain seemed to soldier on alone. I am very excited for His Majesty's Hope!

Cover: I love how it fits with the first cover but I think I like this one even more since we see more of Maggie's body instead of just her bun.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Once Upon a Time Machine

Once Upon a Time Machine edited by Andrew Carl and produced by Chris Stevens
 4.5/5 stars
Dark Horse Books, 2012
422 pages
Graphic Novel Fairy Tale

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

The blurb promised a collection of 24 tales twisting and playing with beloved fairy tales. However I did not realize that it would actually be retellings of familiar stories. I just thought they would be fantastical and fairy-tale-esque. But no, I recognized most of the stories, which allowed me to seat back and enjoy the beautiful drawings and the science-fiction twists placed on most of them.

I'm not going to cover every story as that would take a really long time but I do have four that really worked for me, style of art combining with the story to resonate deeply.

First up would be "Pinocchio or The Stars Are Not Wanted Now" written by Jason Rodriguez , where an inventor makes his creation who struggles with the dual competing directives of being honest and being human. I wasn't entirely sure how this one was going to turn out but it was a bittersweet yet appropriate resolution to me.

Next would be "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi", based on that great Kipling story and written by Mike Exner III. I was already a fan and immediately perked up when I saw the title. I also really loved the artwork for this one-I have no idea how to describe it but it fits with my preferences.

Next is "The Five Chinese Brothers" from Justin Hughes, another familiar story that similarly to the Pinocchio one was bittersweet. I believe I am familiar with the story it is based on although I cannot remember what it is called. This story also has an inventor father and his mechanical sons in addition to one flesh and blood one, utilizing the science-fiction aspect well.

The last one I want to mention is "Hansel and Gretel or Bombus and Vespula" by Josh O'Neill. Unfortunately I can't tell you my favorite part of this story as it is the twist within-definitely worth seeking out!

As I flipped through my copy to pick out my favorites, I was reminded about how hard it was to choose. I liked pretty much every story as well as the various styles of art. Another cool bonus is that there are standalone scenes interspersed between the stories (off the top of my head, I remember seeing some princesses represented here like Cinderella, Rapunzel, and the Little Mermaid.)
One last note is that this would probably be better in a hard copy; there were a few stories where it was a little hard to read the font and even when I zoomed in, the resolution wasn't much better. Particularly hard for me were "The Puppet-Show Man or No Strings" and "The Shepherd and the Weaver Girl." Because of that, I don't think I gave these stories their proper attention. When I pick up a hard copy, I will be sure to read them first!

Overall: A really great collection-everyone a winner and something to please all tastes!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Velveteen by Daniel Marks
4/5 stars
Delacorte Press
447 pages
YA Paranormal

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

I thought the premise for this book sounded interesting so I requested it. As I read, some parts of the book seemed really familiar but it wasn't until Vermillion was mentioned that it all clicked. Wasn't that a short story in Kiss Me Deadly? Why, yes it was-good memory Stephanie! Apparently it was one of my favorites from that collection and it served to further cement my decision to read this book.

Other contributing factors were the unique plot which has young Velveteen stuck in Purgatory but sneaking out to haunt Bonesaw, the serial killer who murdered her. There is also the cute Nick, who I loved in their short story and a big mystery around what is going on in Purgatory.

However I was a little disappointed with the actual plot. The publisher blurb made it seem like the focus would be very strongly on Velveteen and her revenge against her murderer Bonesaw. And I'm not the only one to think that; I've read several reviews that mentioned this as well. The focus is actually more on Purgatory and the paranormal elements that are fraying and destroying its fabric, possibly with huge consequences for the mortal world. That wasn't really represented in the summary and so I was unprepared for the page space it took.

I also ended up being a little confused about all of the rules of the world. It seems as if the spirits are solid in Purgatory but ghostly in our world. I'm also confused about the various powers available to them-each spirit does have powers. For example, Velvet has a talent for taking over living bodies while others can take over a dead body or act as a poltergeist; I am sure we only touched on the beginning of that but I didn't fully understand everything that was presented.

As for our characters, Velvet might be a bit hard to like. She is a tough girl who had a pretty crappy life but her sympathy for the other girls tortured and killed by Bonesaw and her determination to make him pay won me over. I also liked her tough shell being punctured by Nick; they have some great flirtatious banter and kissing scenes that were among my favorite parts of the book. Other characters get way less page time (including the rather obvious villain-I actually figured it out and was telling Velvet to wake up and smell the roses).

Overall: A bit overlong but largely fun ramble through and outside of Purgatory; on the darker side and note about language (there were a few too many f-words for my taste).

Cover: Not my kind of cover at all but it does capture the ash that covers the spirits.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Romeo Redeemed

Romeo Redeemed by Stacey Jay
4/5 stars
Delacorte Press, 2012
365 pages
YA Paranormal

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

After enjoying Juliet Immortal last year, I was pleased to discover this sequel especially since I found Romeo quite reprehensible in that outing. How would Jay strengthen his character to make him palatable as the center of attention?

Well, Jay gave him a chance at redemption. In an alternate world, he is returned by the mercy of an Ambassador to once again woo Ariel who is in full possession of her body this time; Juliet is not there this time. She had worked with Juliet previously but is willing to give Romeo's wretched soul a chance to win Ariel over to the cause of light and protect the world from the devastation she could unleash if the evil Mercenaries won her to their cause. However in the three days Romeo has to accomplish this, he learns more about the two sides and how they are maybe not as dissimilar as they would claim. He also remembers what being in love can be like while Ariel grows leaps and bounds in confidence and in her willingness to be vulnerable, which I think is a key aspect to being in love.

Although I'm not usually into goopy love stories, this one mostly won me over. Seeing Ariel and Romeo's inner thoughts where they were nervous and feeling so much charmed me. Yeah, there was a lot of thinking about the other's appearance and the kissing scenes weren't entirely my cup of tea. But I rooted for those two crazy kids.

However I still am not entirely sure I "get" the Ambassadors and Mercenaries nor do I understand the many alternative worlds that are posited in this book-they would have to be innumerable. I'm also not super thrilled with the setting of the conclusion. I don't want to spoil anything so highlight to read: why do they have to live back then? Who would choose that time of disease over contemporary America? Her world > his world.

But overall this was a fun adventure and one you'll definitely want to check out if you enjoyed the first book (you should read that one first).

Cover: Love the blues and I actually really like this cover. It's not my usual (why are they making out in the surf?) but I find it very striking.

Monday, October 8, 2012

All You Never Wanted

All You Never Wanted by Adele Griffin
4/5 stars
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012
227 pages
YA Contemporary Sisters

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

Immediately after finishing this, I logged onto goodreads to update and the only word I could think of to put in my review then was "wow." Just wow. This was a very hard review for me to write-Griffin is such a talented writer and when she turns her lens on rich girls and the sister-sister relationship, she really hits on my soft spots when it comes to reading.

This book is told in alternating perspectives, first-person from younger sister Thea and third-person from older sister Alex. The reviews I've seen have mostly gravitated toward Alex but personally I found Thea more compelling and I think that was partly because she was telling her story. The other reason is that I think I like to read about master manipulators and liars, which describes Thea. She thinks Alex has it all and she wants it for herself; that means the cool friends, the reputation, the boyfriend, everything, no matter what story she has to spin to secure them for herself.

Meanwhile Alex suffers crippling anxiety from something that happened at an internship. This is revealed to us fairly early in the book and while it was definitely embarrassing, I don't think it deserved as much importance as she placed upon it. Then she spends most of the book hanging out with Xander, a guy who is very much not her boyfriend but who magically lifts her out of her funk over the course of one fast, eh? So even as Thea made me cringe with her obvious grasping ways, I at least admired her determination and nerve over Alex's more sniveling ways.

Lastly we come to the end, which just made me drop my jaw. I can't believe it ended that way. It's been about a week and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, this; on the other hand, that (Obviously I can't be too specific without going into spoilers!) The way that their sibling rivalry comes to a head and is resolved (or more precisely not resolved) just blew me away. I don't think anyone could predict this ending.

Cover: Makes me think "poor little rich girl" but I don't really think Thea or Alex when I look at it.

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