Saturday, November 30, 2013

Ramblings and the Week to Come 01DEC13

Personal Wrap-Up:
I have had such a relaxing time with this four day weekend (am I already thinking about what I'll be doing when I return to work on Monday? Yes, but in anticipation, not dread.) I had the pleasure of seeing Disney's "Frozen" on Thanksgiving and highly recommend it to fans of animation and women with sisters (I was so thankful I saw it with my sister as I just wanted to hug her at several points.) I think I do like "Tangled" and "The Princess and the Frog" more at this point but I'll need to watch "Frozen" a few more times before rendering a final judgment. On today's agenda is to see "Catching Fire" and I'm anticipating a good time based on the blogging reaction I've seen.
Blogging Wrap-Up:
Yay, I'm on track to reach my reading goal this year! As a reminder, that goal is 300 books for the year and I'm actually ahead at this point (happy dance). Unfortunately part of that total is books for business/non-review books so I'm not ahead on my goals for the blog. But you know what? I'm not even stressing about it. I'm just going to sit back and go with the flow for once. It is going to be a really good week on the blog though (see below).

Monthly Recommendations: 
I wasn't sure if I'd have many to recommend this month but luckily I have a couple, across categories.

For adult non-fiction, Dare by Becky Blalock for pressing my career ambitions.
For adult fiction, The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion utterly charmed me.
For YA fiction, my main focus, we have In the Age of Love and Chocolate by Gabrielle Zevin to bring the Birthright trilogy to a close; full thoughts on Monday. I also enjoyed Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel for its unique historical setting and witty writing and Lauren Layne's Isn't She Lovely (NA + "Stephanie" + Pygmalion retelling = winning combination)

My Obsession:
<I'm definitely still obsessed with Candy Crush, which I realized when I completed an episode (aka 15 levels) in about 24 hours (as I wait for my quests, I'm also trying to get 3 stars on every level). But I thought I'd share about something else this week.>

Recently I rewatched "Strictly Ballroom" for the first time in ages. I know many people are familiar with "Moulin Rouge" but this is an earlier work from that director. If you enjoy "Dancing with the Stars" and such, I think you'd like this movie. In fact, my family ended up joking about wanting a remake starring Derek Hough and his inventive dance steps.
Week to Come: I think this is going to be a super fun week and I'm so excited to share with you all! Have you read any of these books? What are you most looking forward to discussing?

Sunday is a new month, which means War and Peace discussion. We're almost done-I can see the finish line and I can't wait to brag to everyone of my acquaintance that I've finished this behemoth :)

Then we have the highly anticipated conclusion to Gabrielle Zevin's Birthright trilogy In the Age of Love and Chocolate. I'm a huge shipper of Anya and Win so that resolution will strongly affect my review. Tuesday is a sneak peek at These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. For Wednesday, I have a review of Crewel's sequel Altered and thoughts about the cover change.

On Thursday, I'm part of a Rockstar Book Tours blog tour with a review for Amy Spalding's Ink is Thicker than Water. Friday is another YA novel Something Real by Heather Demetrios (very early review because Netgalley wants to archive that). And Saturday features the latest Lauren Willig Pink Carnation novel that I had originally skipped over-now I'll be briefly caught up!

For Americans, how is your holiday weekend going? For everyone, how close are you to meeting your reading goal(s)?

Friday, November 29, 2013

When I'm With You

by Cecilia Gray
4/5 stars
Gray Life, L.L.C., 2012
124 pages
YA Contemporary Austen

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

I decided to end this month on a comforting note, tackling Gray's contemporary twists on Austen novels with the additional bonus of her throwing all six heroines together as each gets her own book but all linked together by the Jane Austen Academy. This book does things a bit differently as main character Kat spends hardly any time at school or with the other girls, mirroring Catherine's travel and isolation in Northanger Abbey. I wasn't sure about that change but I think this ended up being my favorite yet!

In comparison to the first two novels, this really only focuses on one heroine in the person of actress Kat who is finally getting her shot at stardom by serving as Josh Wickham's personal assistant on the set of his latest film. This ends up giving her a role as an extra, subjects her to some scheming, and introduces her to love interest Henry. I was skeptical about leaving campus but it actually worked out perfectly. It's winter break so why not send the girls off. Plus it serves as a nice halfway reminder and we do still get a few conversations between Kat and best friend Fanny whose book comes next. This also mirrors the original novel as the author notes because Catherine left her home.

Speaking of the original, I feel like while this Kat has some naivety in regards to how Hollywood (particularly the paparazzi and celebrity interaction) operates, she is more worldly than Catherine. This is most likely due to being a modern girl receiving an excellent education. Not that it's a big deal but it was something I reflected on during my time reading this book. I also really like the twist on Kat staying at Henry's house. She does not think it is haunted by the ghost of Mrs. Tilney but she does espy Henry's father engaging in an affair while his wife is in Paris-drama!

Oh and what about Henry? I have always had a soft spot for Mr. Tilney and I think this iteration is my favorite of the three heroes we've met so far (all bets are off when we get to the Emma reimagining though!) This Henry has grown up in Hollywood with a very famous father and has frequently sought solace in his characters as he has attempted to forge his own identity. He's just that touch more sophisticated than Kat and unfailingly kind and polite, very important qualities that aren't always seen in YA males (or at least not in ones that get the girl.)

Overall: Another great installment in the Jane Austen Academy series-I look forward to the other books in the series!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

So Into You

by Cecilia Gray
3.5/5 stars
Gray Life LLC, 2012
121 pages
YA Contemporary Austen

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

Yesterday I reviewed the first book in the series Fall for You so today I'm talking about second book So Into You, which retells the skeleton of Sense and Sensibility. S&S is actually my fifth favorite Austen novel and I don't tend to like its adaptations very much; this was not an exception. There's just something about the story that doesn't work for me so I wasn't surprised that this one left me a bit underwhelmed.

It follows the main romantic plot line from the original as well as the look at money and a sudden descent into a lower socioeconomic class. Looking at the latter first, Ellie is surprised to discover that her parents cannot afford to send her to the private Jane Austen Academy but, being desperate to stay, she manages to win an academic scholarship and get a job washing dishes. Though she misses her carefree days, she is mostly grateful to be staying even if it means she's always busy at work. I loved a little peek at the economics behind a private school education (I attended public school but a private college) as it is an expensive proposition. Though Ellie whined a bit, she is still pretty sympathetic.

Meanwhile on the romance side, Ellie has a huge crush on Edward but doesn't seem to be able to connect with him (for the same reason as in the source). Her roommate Emma plays the Marianne role crushing on actor Josh Wickham (who I originally thought might be her love interest as Josh is the name of the male hero in "Clueless"...that is until we meet George Knight who seems to have a weak spot for Miss Emma) and dramatically bemoaning his ill treatment of her while Ellie keeps all of her feelings boxed in.

Building on book one, I liked that some of the plot threads continued (such as Ellie and Lizzie's increasingly frayed friendship and the drama around the Jane Austen Academy ownership) while others were set up (Emma and Knight's romance; bringing Fanny into their group of girlfriends, which will be important since her book is fourth.) This should all pay off nicely as the series progresses.

Check back tomorrow for my review of book three When I'm With You, a take on Northanger Abbey!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fall For You

by Cecilia Gray
4/5 stars
Gray Life LLC, 2012
122 pages
YA Contemporary Austen

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

Jane Austen is my favorite author and consequently I have an incredibly difficult time resisting the various retellings on the market especially when they fall into the YA category as this does. My interest was originally piqued by seeing the fifth book which twists Emma as that's probably my second favorite Austen but I was pleased to start at the beginning, which unsurprisingly takes on Pride and Prejudice. So how did this stack up?

Well, I have two main opinions on it. One is evaluating this book as a novella (see page count above) that will connect with five other stories. The other is looking at it in comparison to its inspiration, which I will address below. On its own, this book is super cute. Lizzie is a brash passionate young woman, seemingly afraid of nothing and leading the charge against the introduction of boys to the Jane Austen Academy, the mystery behind who now owns the school, and especially against a potential name change. Dante is part of the first wave of boys at the formerly all-girls school and he is proud, far too good for everyone around here, clashing with Lizzie's passion. However, to the eyes of everyone around them, this looks an awful lot like sparks are flying-could love be in the air?

One fun twist is that Austen's six main heroines are represented in this book (and will be throughout the series as each gets her starring role). Primarily Lizzie, Ellie, Anne, and Emma are featured here though peeks of Fanny and Kat blink by. That also means they fulfill different roles. For example, instead of Lizzie's sister Jane getting her heart broken by Bingley, it is Anne and her Rick whose relationship Dante meddles in. Ellie also fills the role of best friend for Lizzie in lieu of sister Jane. There is a Wickham who plays little to no role while Charlotte and Mr. Collins make no appearance. Also there is far less mention of family though Lizzie does have two living parents and Dante is very protective of his younger sister.

When I stack this book up against its origin though, there's no contest. P&P has layers upon layers that this short book has no hope of matching. It keeps the most basic plot of Lizzie and Dante being proud and prejudiced but most of the side stories are jettisoned. I was surprised by how barebones this adaptation ended up being (I expected a lot more of Wickham flirting with Georgina at least) but appreciate that Gray didn't try to update every angle for a contemporary setting. It's also fun to imagine the six heroines as friends because I know how they have been friends to us book people for centuries :)

I suspect that this book/series will be more meaningful to people who are already familiar with Austen's novels and especially will help differentiate all the characters (there's a joke about there being so many E names and I know I might have found that confusing if I didn't already know everyone.) Has anyone read this series but not Austen? Would love to know how you found them and hopefully they encouraged you to dive into the original text.

Wow does Dante's family have money! Can you imagine being so rich that you buy a private school for your daughter and then decide to make it coed so your son can attend too? Because that's what his family if it's no big deal.

Check back tomorrow for a review of second book So Into You, a twist on Sense and Sensibility!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Trouble with Being a Duke

by Sophie Barnes
3.5/5 stars
Avon Books, 2013
351 pages
Adult Historical Romance

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

When I read the summary for this book, I got a distinct Cinderella vibe. Being that Cinderella is my favorite fairy tale retelling and that two of my earliest and hence most beloved experiences in reading romance were retellings of that story (An Offer from a Gentleman by Julia Quinn and Once Upon a Dream by Katherine Kingsley), how could I resist?

This book dives very quickly into its central event: a masquerade ball hosted by the new duke of Kingsborough, Anthony Hurst who is on the lookout for a bride. He finds her in yellow under the cover of Miss Smith. In just a few short hours, both are smitten and Hurst knows that he must deepen the connection. For her part, Isabella has grown up dreaming of attending the ball and can scarcely believe she disobeyed her parents and potentially shamed her future fiance, the priggish Mr. Roberts only to fall for the duke himself!

My biggest problem with this book is the extreme lack of conflict. Both parties are quite certain they would like to pursue a relationship. Though Isabella is almost engaged to someone else, neither of them feels a strong passion. Isabella's mother does bear an extremely strong grudge toward the nobility...but that's it. Even the duke's mother isn't that disturbed by her potential daughter-in-law being not of the gentry. So there really isn't that much tension. I feel like this could have been cut down to be a short story, as a companion novella to the other stories at the Kingsborough Ball.

Another annoyance is that it is a case of instant attraction with the possibility of becoming love. Hurst is very definitive that it's not love, yet. But he is also equally certain that it could turn in to love very quickly and is determined to pursue that possibility no matter what objections Society might put up. The other problem revolves around Isabella's mother's dislike of the rich and titled. Her reasons are teased to us before finally being revealed but there are sufficient clues to put together an accurate guess beforehand.

Overall: Perfectly pleasant characters for an okay read; it's just not one that sparks for me. Another way of phrasing it is to say that it lacks oomph.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Rosie Project

by Graeme Simsion
5/5 stars
Simon & Schuster, 2013
292 pages
Adult Contemporary Romance

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

I saw this book and kind of skipped over it as pleasant but not necessarily must-read. Then I saw a review comparing the feelings it evokes to those elicited by Rainbow Rowell's fabulous Attachments, immediately sending this book to the top of my to-read list. And I'm so glad because it worked out very well for me!

Don is a professor of genetics who has reached the age of thirty-nine without meeting a suitable partner. He decides to tackle this lack by creating a questionnaire for what he dubs The Wife Project. Soon after he meets Rosie who he deems completely unsuitable but something about her interests him and he begins to help her with her own quest to find her father, discovering that not everything can be quantified on paper including but especially love.

It is suggested by the text that Don has Asperger's or is at least on some part of the autism spectrum evincing many of the symptoms of that diagnosis though it is never explicitly stated. He has a rigid schedule and is upset when it's disrupted, he is compulsively orderly, and he struggles with social cues, maintaining only a handful of friends. However his time with Rosie disrupts his well-ordered days and introduces him to a wide variety of new acquaintances who actually appreciate his ability to consume information such as a barman who is impressed with Don's knowledge of cocktails or the baseball fan who discusses stats with Don. I loved seeing Don's world open up and how his skills were appreciated rather than looked down upon.

The book reads very cinematically, appropriate as it is my understanding that it began as a script and it falls within the framework of a screwball/romantic comedy, made even clearer toward the end when Don studies various romcoms to win Rosie. I don't want to go in to too much detail but there are so many funny moments as I previously hinted at above.

But for the most part, it's just the way this book made me feel. I know that's not very descriptive to you, a potential reader of this book, yet that's the way it is. I would love to provide concrete examples of why this book worked for me but it's the total package that pleased me and has me singing its praises. This will definitely make my faves list of 2013 and will be pushed on various persons of my acquaintance in the hope that it brings them as much pleasure as it did me.

Overall: Simply an excellent feel-good read. Left me feeling all sweet and fuzzy. I definitely second the Rainbow Rowell comparison as well as Tara Catogge's comparison to the fantastic A Confederacy of Dunces with its bold, not the norm hero.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Churchill's Angels

by Ruby Jackson
3/5 stars
Harper, 2013
383 pages
Adult Historical Fiction

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

Doesn't this look like a fun book? The title's mention of Churchill brings to mind WWII and then the main character is obvious an aviator-what could be more fascinating? In the end, a lot of things as the writing for this book kept me seriously disengaged from this book.

I think I have become spoiled from reading so much YA. I feel like the vast majority (though certainly not all) of the titles in that category are narrated in first-person, giving the narrative a sense of urgency and letting me to connect deeply with her (usually female but not always) and those around her. This book largely focused on Daisy, youngest of five, the "delicate" one in the family whose destiny is radically changed with the advent of war. However the book would randomly flip over to her twin sister Rose or some other member of the family for short sections. This rapid change in perspective frequently disoriented me as I tried to figure out if Daisy was also in the scene.

Beyond that I hoped for a strong story of friendship and a sweet romance, receiving neither. There are four friends at the beginning: Daisy, sister Rose, Grace, and Sally. The latter two swiftly leave town for other employment, leaving Rose at a local munitions plant and Daisy trying to decide how she will contribute. Letters are few and far between so I didn't much of a sense for their personalities. As for the romance, it seems like Daisy is being set up for a relationship with Adair Maxwell, the aristocrat who invites her to help with his plane, who encourages her to pursue pilot studies, and who is just generally pretty lovely. But war leaves them little time to be together and absolutely none of the romantic parts thrilled me.

On a historical note, I was a bit disappointed that Pearl Harbor and the US entry into the war wasn't even mentioned as we definitely cover December 1941 in this book. Mightn't it have been appropriate for Daisy to wonder how much longer the war will last with that new influx of American might? In a different realm, this book does not hold back on the deaths. Three named characters of supreme emotional importance to Daisy are killed (plus more who also affect her) in manners that shocked me. I honestly thought at least two of them would make it through but, no, Jackson just killed them. In yet another area, Jackson's characters are of the lower class with the requisite speech patterns and attitudes. I feel like I've read more books with posh British characters so that was a change. It helped show the changes that war is wreaking, the breaking down of classes as well as the rise of women in the workforce.

Overall: What felt like an alienating choice of narration kept me from connecting with the characters as I had hoped and left me dragging through the book. There's a strong chance I would have set this book aside if I had not committed to reading it for review on Amazon.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Ramblings and the Week to Come 24NOV13

Well I didn't finish the book I planned to review today so I decided to switch it up and do my usual Sunday post today. That means I will post a review tomorrow and then definitely also on Monday because I also started that book and already adore it.

Giveaway Reminder:
Last week I celebrated my fourth blogoversary and since I like to party in style, I'm hosting a giveaway. It's your choice of book under $20 from the over 1100 reviews I've posted. You've still got one more week to enter and it's super easy-just leave a way for me to get in touch with you (plus bonus entries if interested.) I thank you very much for the well wishes you've left-it's enormously helpful as I ponder my future in book blogging and what I might want to change in 2014.

It's American Thanksgiving this week! I clarified it because I remember seeing Thanksgiving posts in October and being super confused until I realized it was Canadian Thanksgiving. Now it's ours. I do have work for three days but then it's four days off with loads of food, shopping, and Christmas preparation.

My Obsession:
I am totally obsessed with Little Mix's album Salute (I previously shared about their single "Move" which I still love but I'm finding loads of other gems) but instead I'm sharing about something that a lot of you probably already know and love. Yep, it's Candy Crush! Attached is just a screenshot I found from googling. I read a fascinating article about how players have found it super addictive and for some reason that prompted me to give it a try. I really like playing it but so far it hasn't really taken over my world nor have I paid anything for it-I'm pretty cheap so I don't foresee that changing. I also only play it on my phone, not facebook or any other platform if they're available. Does anyone else play?
Week to Come:
Churchill's Angels by Ruby Jackson-I'm not really clicking with the writing, which is why it's taking longer than expected but I have to write a review for Amazon Vine so I'm going to push through
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion-this is the book I already love and I can't wait to see how it turns out
The Trouble With Being a Duke by Sophie Barnes-another Vine book; should be a good comforting romance
Fall For You, So Into You, and When I'm With You by Cecilia Gray-these are the first three books in her modern YA retellings of Jane Austen novels. You know Austen is my favorite author and I love all the different twists contemporary authors put on her books so I'm excited to check out these three.

Then Saturday will probably be a month wrap-up post so that Sunday can feature part 11 musings on War and Peace because we're done with another month! I have my December reviews roughly planned out and it looks like a pretty exciting month with my usual eclectic mix.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Cracked Up to Be

by Courtney Summers
4/5 stars
St. Martin's Griffin, 2008
214 pages
YA Contemporary

Source: Won What Goes Around bind-up through Sammee at I Want to Read That; see my review of Some Girls Are

I have read all of the other currently published Summers novels but had somehow missed out on her debut. When I won this bind-up, I knew this was my chance to correct that grievous oversight! Something in the spoiler section really upset me but mostly my feelings are positive about this book.

Immediately I was engaged as the book opens with narrator Parker musing on four years of high school and the dark things that have hung over them. She personally has rebelled against this by drinking on school grounds, neglecting to complete homework, and generally completely overturning her image as "Perfect Parker" to the dismay and fear of her parents and school officials. As italicized sections tease, something went down at a party. This may have involved Parker's ex Chris, his new girlfriend/her frenemy Becky, and their other friend Jessie but the details are only fuzzily shared until the final revelations.

I had read about this book beforehand so I thought I knew what the secret was; I had gotten it muddled though so I was a little off-base but on the right track. Certainly I never would have guessed what actually went down. It's a dark secret for Parker to handle and it bothered me that she didn't share with anyone, not even a professional even as she repeatedly talked about wanting to end her life. Though present, her parents are pretty ineffectual and easily manipulated by Parker.

Parker is not a character everyone will like. I personally loved her sass and attitude, how she does not care what others are saying to or about her, and her determination to push everyone away. These kinds of prickly characters often appeal to me and Summers kept the narrative tight and on her instead of attempting to cover too much ground. She is awful to the people around her who somehow manage to stick around and who continuously try to get through to her.

I'm torn on the ending. On the one hand, it's not super happy and there are still some loose ends, which are not endings I tend to like. On the other hand, it was a perfectly realistic ending for this book and the kind I like would have been ridiculous.

Content: Lots of language, sexual content, and underage drinking: multiple instances of all these.


I could not believe Summers killed off Bailey. Among all of the moments that shocked, that is the one that just destroyed me. I started to have inklings about Jessie and Parker but Bailey's death completely blindsided me. Surprisingly as I skimmed some other reviews, he wasn't even mentioned but I couldn't skip over the emotional power this scene exerted on me.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Palace of Spies

by Sarah Zettel
4/5 stars
Harcourt Children's Books, 2013
362 pages
YA Historical Mystery

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

Peggy Fitzroy is in a pickle. Having refused to marry the cad chosen by her uncle guardian, she is out on the street. Miraculously she has made the acquaintance of a mysterious Tinderflint who wants to install her in the court of King George I as a lady in waiting to the Princess of Wales. She is impersonating his former ward and becomes privy to all matter of secrets including some that may have led to her predecessor's murder...

Looking for some evidence that Americans don't know British history? How about the fact that I initially passed over this book because I don't like reading about the 17th century. If you do know your British history, you may have ascertained that I somehow confused George with Charles I and Charles II and come to the conclusion that I don't like Restoration-era stories, which is the case. I get very anxious waiting for their deaths to come. Luckily this is set a bit later though the throne is far from secure. While the Hanover line has begun in George I, there are still Jacobites who would prefer to crown James the Pretender, a Catholic to complicate matters. This forms the bulk of the political background. I think if I had a more solid grounding in this history, I might have grasped certain points faster but Zettel did an excellent job of filling me in and I don't think I missed anything by not been more familiar. I would be interested in reading a non-fiction account of the period though if you have any recommendations.

Before I delve more fully into this particular story, I wanted to share a bit more about Peggy's patroness, the Princess of Wales. I read a lot against princesses, how the Disney princesses don't encourage girls to aspire big for example or how princesses are antiquated and antifeminist, etc. Well, Princess Caroline is an example against those arguments. Though as a woman, she has limited official power, she cultivates a glittering court including mathematicians like Gottfried Leibniz as well as political ministers like Robert Walpole and is able to work her influence through softer means. I think she sounds like a fascinating figure and would greatly like to study her more.

But moving on to our fictional characters. This story centers on Peggy, the droll narrator and main character of this novel in 1716. She is orphaned, raised in her uncle's home by the charity of her aunt but kicked out after refusing to marry her lecherous fiance. Fortunately she falls in with Mr. Tinderflint, Mr Peele, and Mrs. Abbott, a trio who mold her to impersonate the now deceased Lady Francesca Wallingham and to play a role at court. Peggy has spirit for sure as evidenced by her musings on the gift that is a fire poker when men are around as well as courage for undertaking this ordeal. I loved seeing her trying to unravel the many agendas at court and especially when she got down to business in sussing out the exact character of Lady Fran.

Other important characters are Peggy's cousin Olivia who makes only a few brief appearances once the uncle shatters that relationship as well as two potential love interests though only one is really viable. Tinderflint is an especially interesting character-is he a quivering coward or does he have hidden depths? We only start to tap into him by the end of the book. Happily it sounds like there will be at least a sequel and I, for one, very much look forward to that!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Period 8

by Chris Crutcher
4/5 stars
Greenwillow, 2013
282 pages
YA Contemporary

Source: From Jen Ryland/YA Romantics

I first read a Chris Crutcher book in 2011 as part of an YA Overlooked Book Battle (Whale Talk to be specific) and was blown away by his bold writing. I soon sought other books, finding that they tended to fall into a pattern and were branded by his distinctive writing style. Therefore I realized I would not be able to binge on all of his works in one weekend but would need to pace myself. Jen was kind enough to pass a copy on to me and it has been a while since I partook of his writing so I figured it might be a good time to do so.

Immediately I was jarred with an italicized opening chapter that provided no context to me. What was going on? The next chapter situates us in the story introducing MC Paulie and his girlfriend Hannah as well as one of the main conflicts which is that he cheated on her. Having a zero tolerance policy for cheating, Hannah ends that relationship. The male propensity for cheating is brought up the following day in their "Period 8," a lunchroom gathering led by a teacher almost retired that allows all to speak about anything but expects confidentiality. When a classmate goes missing, that security is threatened.

The biggest lingering impression I have of this book is that it doesn't quite feel like the other Crutcher books I've read and loved. Yes, there is a male athlete at the center facing an array of problems, there's an unbelievably cool teacher, and all sorts of other issues for the classmates (there also seems to be way more swearing than I remember). I think the problem for me was that it went in the direction of thriller with a big conspiracy at its heart and yet I found that conspiracy the least compelling part and the short length didn't give much time to set it up nor to unravel it.

In general, I most enjoy the passionate protagonists at the core of Crutcher novels with insights into the punishing lengths they go to for the sport they love and debates over how to become the kind of adult they want to be. Those parts are still here to some degree. In case the water on the cover doesn't make it explicit, Paulie is a swimmer and period 8 naturally gives rise to some of those discussions as does Paulie's close relationship with the teacher.

Overall: I think I was underwhelmed based on my previous stellar experiences with Crutcher's books; it seems like he tried to do something a bit different and it wasn't really what I wanted.

Content: Language would be the big one but also references to underage drugs and light sexual content discussed.

Other Opinions:
Books Live Forever
Forever Young Adult
YA Bibliophile

Monday, November 18, 2013

ARC Review: Crash Into You

by Katie McGarry
3.5/5 stars
HarlequinTeen, 2013
489 pages
YA Contemporary Romance
Scheduled to release November 26

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

While I tend to shrink away from the extreme melodrama of books like Pushing the Limits and Dare You To, I still sometimes find myself drawn to them, craving the beautiful romance that sometimes emerges as well as the addictive writing. After reading the blurb for this book included in Dare You To, I had extremely high expectations for this story of Isaiah. We've seen him in the previous two books and it seemed high time that he got to tell his side of the story.

All started strong. Isaiah is a tough foster kid who has spent years cultivating his image so that no one can mess with him: maybe he wasn't the biggest kid to start but now people know not to mess with him; he doesn't have parents but he has his best friend Noah and Echo around him to provide some family; and he has cars and all his knowledge that can provide him a job and a way out of his life.

Rachel appears to be anything but strong. Born as a replacement for a daughter who died of leukemia and battling an anxiety disorder, Rachel's father and four older brothers "protect" her but they can't stop her from sneaking out to drag race, a need for speed that sends her colliding into Isaiah and putting the pair in debt to Eric, a street thug who is bad news.

Like McGarry's two previous novels, this looks at two seemingly disparate young people with practically uncountable problems who are thrust together, fighting an attraction with various degrees of success. We are already very familiar with Isaiah as he is friends with characters from the first two books. As the MC of this book though, more is shared about him. His love for cars is in the forefront and his family history is laid bare as are his convictions that he isn't good enough for a girl like Rachel.

Rachel is a new character to the series and we've not really seen someone like her. She is very rich and privileged but like the saying goes, "Money can't buy happiness." She is the youngest child and is incredibly overprotected due to the fact that her older sister Colleen died of leukemia. The view in the family is that she is there to keep the mother happy, to the extent that Rachel pretends to like purple and shopping like Colleen, downplays her fascination with cars, and hides her anxiety attacks even as they leave her completely sapped of energy, all so that she won't be a burden to her family. I clicked with Rachel's naivety to be honest; when she ventures in to the world of drag racing, she can't quite believe everything that's happening and I couldn't really either.

The real standout, for me and others as I've seen in reviews, was Abby, a drug dealing friend of Isaiah's who easily welcomes Rachel and is welcomed in return. There are several oblique hints at how she got in to the business but it's kept vague, indicating to me that she will be getting her own book at some point. As book 4 is about Rachel's brother West and a new character Haley, I am hoping book 5 will be Abby's and I'm sure there are others who've read this book that feel the same!

More of an enigma was Eric. First I know an Eric who is nothing like this villain so it was hard for me to keep seeing his name. Second this Eric is nineteen but seems to be in charge of a large swath of territory with his hands in many pots. As I confessed, I certainly overlap Rachel in naivety so I don't know if that young age is really plausible for his position but I suspect it's a bit unlikely. I felt a lot of menace from him though he wasn't nearly as frightening as Rachel's dad when he discovers what she's been hiding being that the father is a very rich and therefore powerful man who likely has many connections to law enforcement that he can call upon.

My biggest problem with this book (as I think it was for the previous two) is just the lack of communication between people. Rachel could have shared with her family on multiple occasions about her anxiety and her feelings as a stand-in for Colleen. It would have been hard, so hard but also so worth it to perhaps face her anxiety attacks and give her some piece. Similarly I wish they had felt comfortable turning to more of the people around them to fulfill their debt to Eric as they do have people in their corner. I feel like that's one of the conditions for melodrama though-people can't share what's going on or problems are headed off before they even occur. I also think I'm a pretty blunt and honest person so this whole "not sharing things that really bother you" thing is kind of foreign to me.

Overall: I don't think I will ever be completely won over by this category of melodrama but I remain committed to the series and look forward to more of the cheeky Abby.

Other Opinions:
A Belle's Tales
Alison Can Read
Belle's Bookshelf
I'm a reader; what about you?
Jen Ryland/YA Romantics-review day twins!
Love is not a triangle
The Reader Bee

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Ramblings and the Week to Come 17NOV13

For me the biggest piece of excitement from last week was reaching my FOURTH blogoversary. I shared some reflections as well as a giveaway offer (your choice of one of the 1100+ books I've reviewed over the years). Thank you for celebrating with me!

My Obsession:
We're back to music, this time "Move" the new single from British X-Factor winners Little Mix. It does not appear to have been officially released in the US but thanks to the power of the internet, I did eventually discover it. Obviously I like that I can dance to it but the line I'm kind of obsessed with is "Feeling like it's my birthday/Like Christmas day came early." I guess because my birthday is next month as is Christmas and I'm highly anticipating both?

Week to Come:
Crash Into You by Katie McGarry
Period 8 by Chris Crutcher
Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel
Churchill's Angels by Ruby Jackson

I do have two other books I'll potentially review as I usually shoot for six reviews a week but at the moment, these are the only ones I plan to finish and write about. What are you up to?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

ARC Review: Pawn

by Aimee Carter
3/5 stars
HarlequinTeen, 2013
346 pages
YA Dystopia
Scheduled to release November 26

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

In a future America, rankings are assigned at age seventeen to put you in your place. Get a IV or up and you're set; III or lower and you're basically dead. Kitty, an orphan in a group home, knows this and laments her III status planning something desperate before being snatched up and brought into the wealthy enclave of the ruling Hart family to replace the dead niece figurehead Lila. Upon being inducted into the family, she realizes just how much of a pawn she is within the politics of the family but also starts to grasp how powerful a pawn can be when making the right moves (there is actually a conversation about pawns in chess and how they can end up being the most powerful so this comparison is fairly stressed even within the context of the book.)

I didn't have the best experience with Carter's The Goddess Test so I was leery of trying more of her writing. Still I thought For about the first third of the book, I was thinking I had really second-guessed the plotting. Then things really started happening and I got confused, leading to me feeling muddled and overall mixed-up about this book.

The setup was fascinating. Right away we see Kitty who has a good head on her shoulders but cannot read, making the test nigh on impossible to pass. Her unique eyes are what rescue her and insert her in to the Hart family. All of that setup was fine. Even the first few chapters of her acclimating to life as Lila were acceptable. However she soon starts getting involved with the family and discovering more about the rebellion against their dictatorship, which is when secrets start to emerge. Of those secrets, I was genuinely shocked by them but the impression of them mostly left me confused-I just could not picture those scenes in my head and I can't be more explicit without entering spoiler territory unfortunately.

Before that part I was really enjoying myself though. Kitty is a very sympathetic character and I was rooting for her as soon as I understood the implications of being branded a III. Of the people she meets in her new life, I really liked Greyson, her sweet cousin who seems the least conniving of the bunch. I also appreciated that there wasn't really a love triangle. Kitty remains firmly committed to her childhood boyfriend Benjy despite being involved with Lila's fiance Knox.

Lasting impression: Be prepared for a wild ride as we move very quickly through plot points with revelations unfolding in practically every chapter with only more secrets to be unraveled. I'm not sure I'm involved enough with the characters to want to continue with the series but I do highly encourage fans of dystopia and those who are tired of love triangles to check this one out.

Other Opinions:
Getting Your Read On
I Swim For Oceans
The Best Books Ever
Young Adult Book Haven

Friday, November 15, 2013

4th Blogoversary Post and #giveaway

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." One of my favorite quotes from literature and an apt description of my latest year in the blogging world as I have had a lot of ups and downs. I remember my first year where I didn't really know what I was doing or even wanted to do. My second year saw me complete a lot of reading and feeling very accomplished. My third year saw tremendous growth in numbers but also troubles balancing blogging with full-time work. And now we've reached four full years since I made my first post.

Why worst?

I have lacked so much motivation this year. There have been multiple points when I didn't want to read, write, and/or comment; most frequently I felt like I didn't want to do any of those things. And it's not because of blogging drama or a lack of good books. I think it's partly because sometimes I feel more interested in work or clothes, neither of which I want to be too detailed about on my book blog. It just doesn't seem the place. But it's also some lack of internal motivation that I'm thinking about how I'll want to address in the coming year. I'm definitely thinking less posting but I know that will be a struggle as I feel guilty when I don't post anything. This is a work in progress and I'll keep you informed about what's going on in my life.

Moving on to the best!

First would be the realization and acceptance of myself as a writer. As I shared, I used to think of writers primarily as novelists (not to downplay the work of poets, playwrights, etc.) just because that's what I mostly read. But I do think I can lay some claim to calling myself a writer as I write a lot and am drawn to an elegant turn of phrase, always searching for the perfect words to describe where I am.

Secondly I've gotten to participate in some fun tours and score some amazing ARCs-I tell people in real life all the time about the great books I get to read and have even had discussions about some of them. I appreciate how I feel encouraged to try books I wouldn't otherwise know about without being in the blogging world and being on the cutting edge of trends. That often means reading a book way before it's turned into a movie and gets the attention of the general public.

But the very best is all of you of course! It's kind of cliche to say that the blogging community is the reason for continuing but it has reached that point because it's true. Whenever I confessed my lack of motivation, I received commiseration and encouragement. When I had something exciting to share, I got enthusiasm in return. I am so thankful for everyone who stops by my blog, who leaves a comment, who shares of themselves and their time. I don't always know how to express that appreciation but I value your comments (especially when we differ on a book-our cordial disagreement is something I'm proud of; no screaming matches in my comments!) and knowing that you're there. THANK YOU!

I'm doing something kind of different; for book choice, you can pick any book I've reviewed here up to $20 at Book Depository or Amazon, depending on winner's location. In four years, that's over 1100 books so you have loads of options across genres and categories. My archives are mostly up to date (arranged here by title and here by author) but you can also search in the side bar.

1. There will be 1 winner, who must have a mailing address in a country where Book Depository ships (or it will be through Amazon if US). So this contest is international :)
2. You must be 13 years of age or older or use parental information to enter.
3. To enter, you must merely leave your email; there are extra optional entries for following, tweeting, and commenting
4. Contest ends December 1 at midnight, EST per Rafflecopter standards
5. Winner will be contacted via email by December 2 and will have 48 hours to respond with book selection and address or else I will move on to the next person. I pledge to keep your address confidential and to delete it as soon as I have shipped your book.
6. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or email me at Thanks for celebrating with me :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, November 14, 2013


by Becky Blalock
5/5 stars
Jossey-Bass, 2013
216 pages
Adult Non-Fiction Leadership

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

As I've previously mentioned on my blog, one of my goals for 2014 was to read more business/leadership books and to see how I could implement them in my own career for my professional development. Well, no time like the present so I grabbed this book when I saw it and eagerly ate it up.

The title really grabbed me as it brought to mind Brene Brown's Daring Greatly and its allusion to that excellent Theodore Roosevelt quote "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” I want to be a leader in the business world and I was very inspired by the insight shared in this book.

On the one hand, I don't normally think of myself as a big daredevil (and I work in compliance so that's not really the most desirable trait anyway in my opinion). On the other hand, I'm at the beginning of my career, I want to lean in, and I want to really grow and nurture my career. I definitely need advice and as a reader, books are an important component of that for me. After reading this, I felt that I have made some good decisions so far but am also reminded of my weak spots. There are a couple of points I intend to try out and explore in real life to see what impact I can make.

Besides Blalock's advice, there are additional words from other powerful businesswomen. All of this combines to produce an incredibly uplifting and inspirational book. It made me think about the women who have paved the path for me, making my own journey just that much easier in addition to reminding me that there are people who will root for me (sometimes I struggle with knowing that.) It's a very generous book; Blalock recognizes her blessings and wants to give back and she encourages the reader to do the same.

One thing I would have liked would have been a clearer picture of Blalock's career trajectory (as well as that for some of the other women who so graciously shared). She shares about several key positions and what she learned from them but I'm still a bit confused on how she exactly made each move to reach where she is now and how long that took.

Overall: Incredibly inspiring-definitely a fave read of the year and one I plan to go through at least one more time this year as I make plans and goals for 2014.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Brokenhearted

by Amelia Kahaney
3/5 stars
HarperTeen, 2013
336 pages
YA Urban Fantasy

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

This book has not gotten a lot of love from my blogging friends, which made me nervous to pick it up. But c'mon-it features a young ballet dancer transforming into a superhero working to clean up her city, along the lines of Batman. How could anyone resist???

Well maybe I should have as I found the writing utterly engaging but lacked that necessary connection to the plot. What do I mean about the writing? I don't have a great way of explaining it but apparently HarperTeen puts crack or something equally addicting in their writing talent as this is the imprint I consistently find to be the most compulsively readable even when frustrated with characters, plot, and world-building. This book is no exception with me easily breezing through it in just a few short hours despite neutral to hateful feelings toward the characters.

Most frustrating is our main character Anthem Fleet who starts off as the perfect child of rich parents, aspiring toward a career in ballet and safely ensconced as valedictorian. Until she meets a boy who is then kidnapped. When she is unable to ransom him, she falls apart, both literally and figuratively. The literal falling apart is more related to being shot, which causes her to be saved by having a hummingbird heart implanted that gives her supernatural powers. As she attempts to avenge her boyfriend's death, she also starts to clean up the city giving people hope for about the first time in seventeen years. I found this boyfriend so frustrating. He didn't seem interesting to me and it was appalling to me that Anthem fell so hard and so fast when I disliked him so strongly. Luckily he is not in it that much though it felt like it to me as she went on and on about the guy.

Other potential love interests are Will and Ford. Will is a very popular boy at school who becomes Anthem's ex and then blackmails her into getting back together before she plays him so well. That was actually a moment when I praised Anthem's brain and choices rather than cursing them. Ford is a poor boy who strengthens Anthem's physical talents by training her in boxing and other skills (he's kind of her mentor) that will prepare her for her burgeoning role as vigilante.

Speaking of which, I tend to feel very uncomfortable with vigilante stories. Who are they to decide to implement their brand of justice? However because this seemed to be a futuristic alternative take on history, I felt less stirred. I guess I don't mind it so much when it's not my society. Also logic/realism doesn't seem to be a huge priority so I was willing to give it a pass here.

Overall: A fast easy read if you don't want to think too much and you just can't resist the concept.

Lingering (SPOILER?) question, though I am not confident I will be returning to the series:
So Regina was definitely involved with The Hope right? I mean the initials "RF+TH" certainly gave me pause plus it's been seventeen years since The Hope was around, which coincidentally is how long Regina has been dead. Perhaps Regina actually even is The Hope and her boyfriend just got all the press. If you've read, please weigh in!

Other Opinions:
Books Live Forever
Love Is Not a Triangle
The Flyleaf Review

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Next Big Thing

by Sadie Hayes
3.5/5 stars
St. Martin's Griffin, 2013
344 pages
NA Contemporary Tech
Scheduled to release November 26

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

Despite my general reluctance to embrace the New Adult category, I have dabbled in it and found myself unexpectedly charmed and engaged by Sadie Hayes' The Social Code looking at a group of college students and adults searching for the next technological wonder to make it big with twins Amelia and Adam at the core. She's got the know-how, he's got big ambitions and no one is free from backstabbing. This sequel had to follow up on the abrupt ending of the first book and further develop the various plot lines already introduced.

To be honest, I didn't quite remember everything from book one but soon I was up to speed on the main players. The setting is Stanford in the heart of Silicon Valley. Amelia is a coding genius with a strong moral code; her twin brother does not have such talents but does have outsized ambition. The third member of their group is TJ Bristol who bristles under his powerful father's aggressiveness. Also interweaving is Amelia's first-year roommate Patty and a whole host of other secondary characters with their own agendas.

This book continues to ratchet up the tension while keeping my feelings all knotted up. In so many ways, I dislike the characters and yet I cannot stop myself from reading! Adam has such a chip on his shoulder and he acts like a stupid jerk for almost all of the book. I sometimes wanted to punch this guy and yet I also applaud Hayes for eliciting such a strong reaction. TJ also draws strong largely negative reactions from me. On the one hand, I feel like this book was deepening his character by showing his ex-girlfriend as well as complicating his relationship with his father. But on the other hand, I pretty much still hate the guy. I mentioned Patty in the synopsis above though she doesn't play the largest role just because I think she ended up being my favorite. She takes her own stab at creating a business with humiliating but kind of hilarious results and she comes through for Amelia in a big way toward the end. And Amelia continues to be brilliant and naive yet more able to see how this can be a weakness, bringing in someone to compensate for that.

It's difficult to go to much in to this book as it is a sequel and everything moves so fast. There are all sorts of salacious details but I feel like the focus is mostly on the tech and the relationships so it's definitely a read for anyone who found the first book captivating.

SPOILER referencing the ending:

I so hate the budding Amelia/TJ romance. I cannot believe she has a crush on that guy! I mean, I even like Adam more than I like TJ and Adam did so many boneheaded things. But I simply refuse to be won over by TJ. What am I missing? I would like to get on board the Amelia/TJ train if only because I assume the third book will move them forward positively even if they don't end up getting married.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Isn't She Lovely

by Lauren Layne
4/5 stars
Flirt, 2013
240 pages
NA Contemporary

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

I grabbed this book on Netgalley after seeing that it was a contemporary retelling of the Pygmalion tale and I always have a soft spot for that. See My Fair Lady, Pretty Woman, and She's All That for examples. The clincher though ended up being the discovery that the main female character's name is Stephanie! I always lament that I don't see my name much in books despite its popularity in the late 80s.

And I'm so glad I gave this a shot because it was just what I wanted to read this weekend. I found the writing engaging, the humor spot-on, and the sexual tension sizzling. My main complaint would have to be some editing and formatting errors, all of which can be expected when reading an e-ARC; I'm sure they were rectified before release.

What we have is a pretty basic story. Stephanie appears as an angry Goth girl who's really into films. Ethan is a preppy rich jock. They meet, they clash, they get partnered for a film project, which turns into their own Pygmalion experience. Ethan's cash will help transform Stephanie into the perfect preppy girlfriend to get his mom off his back while also providing fodder for their script. But what happens when the participants fall in love for real?

So yeah, it's not like this book is super original in its plotting or character archetypes as you could tell everything that was coming but it was just so satisfying. The characters are very quippy and as the book progresses, some real depth is revealed. Stephanie and Ethan both have pain in their pasts that helps them to bond and to help each other with healing.

How about the love aspect though as that is the main focus? There is only the tiniest of nods to a possible love triangle but that is quickly squelched. As expected both try to deny their feelings and soon think they feel more for the other than is reciprocated but the short length of the book ensures that those moments are not unbearably dragged out.

Overall: A fun and flirty NA title that looks closely at two characters entangled in a contrived situation; perfect for fans of romance (and the name Stephanie :)

Other Opinions:
Ash Wednesday
Ivy Book Bindings
Lisa Jayne~Addicted to Pages
The Random Transliterator

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ramblings and the Week to Come 10NOV13

Real Life:
This was such a good week at work! I really made some good dents in my workload and was super busy Monday-Wednesday. I also wore some cute outfits, which was good for my morale. It's only going to get busier at work and I can't wait. We complete a ton of work in December, January, and February and I'll be able to do even more in my new position than I did last year.

This was a really hard week for me. For the most part, I didn't really love what I was reading and constantly found myself doing anything but reading or blogging. I did clean out my feedly though and am planning to be more on top of commenting in the week to come.

A real heartbreaker this week! My softball team came *so* close to victory, eventually losing in the sixth inning 14-15. Worst was how the other team behaved throughout the game with several instances of what I consider unsportsmanlike conduct. We still have one more game this week with a high probability of making the playoffs the week after because the fifth team in the league always forfeits and there are supposed to be four teams for the playoffs.

My Obsession:
Some more pretties! It's a fun website called Baublebar which has all sorts of pretty jewelry options. I personally love their Monogram shop (I adore monograms and am thus coveting the Ella bangle, seen below) and they're celebrating November with 30 Days of Sparkle, discounting a different piece every day. I also like that they have free US shipping, which is always something I check out when doing online shopping. Does any one else like looking at pretty jewelry?

Week to Come:
Isn't She Lovely by Lauren Layne-a NA contemporary Pygmalion retelling
The Next Big Thing by Sadie Hayes-the sequel to the addictive NA The Social Code
The Brokenhearted by Amelia Kahaney-female superhero; need I say more?
Pawn by Aimee Carter
Blogoversary post for Friday to mark FOUR years!
Dare by Becky Blalock-a book for career women, helping me get a jump start on my goal to read more business/leadership/career development books

Friday, November 8, 2013

Glittering Promises

by Lisa T. Bergren
3.5/5 stars
David C. Cook, 2013
311 pages
YA Historical Christian

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

Well, we have come to the conclusion of the Grand Tour series which began so promisingly in Glamorous Illusions and continued in Grave Consequences. I'll admit that there were times when I found myself bored and just waiting to finish so I could say it was done but I did like the ending, which left me with a fond impression of this book.

I think Glamorous Illusions impressed me by taking me into a glamorous world of touring Europe for months with that being your sole occupation. Can you image? Just going to fabulous museums, seeing incredible works of art and buildings that have stood for ages with nary a care about money or responsibilities. But this is the third book of their tour and I was kind of over the grand tour by this point. Luckily there are other plot lines like Cora's continued mostly commitment to their bear Will but also battling lingering feelings for the wealthy charming Pierre.

Something I really liked was the exploration of attitudes toward women in business and politics. Though there is a vile character who says some hateful things, most of the men are pretty supportive of Cora's aspirations. She's an heiress, yes, but she also wants to do work that matters and use her wealth for positive efforts. One arena might end up being women's suffrage, a cause I can certainly get behind! But either way she's not going to blindly follow a path laid down by her father, instead choosing to forge her own way and abide by the dictates of her conscience.

The best part for me though was the Christian faith aspect. These books are from a Christian imprint and I remember God playing a part in both of the preceding books. However here it really poured out and over. Cora is brought to her knees at several points: trying to discern about a husband, how to spend the money she has so suddenly been handed, coping with grief, and wrestling with her identity, for starters.

Overall: Though the last few chapters really made me smile, I ended up feeling like this was dragged out and may have been better served as a duology. I can certainly understand the desire to have three books but so many passages felt like filler to me. Still, if you started the series, you'll probably want to finish and this does continue in the style begun by the previous two.

Other Opinions:
Black 'n Gold Girl's Book Spot
Seasons of Humility

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Flo & Wendell

Flo & Wendell by William Wegman
4/5 stars
Dial, 2013
32 pages
Children's Book

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

Just a quick review as I've been busy and haven't had as much time to read as I'd like.

This randomly arrived in the mail and while I'm definitely a cat girl, the image of these dogs in clothes acting like humans caught my imagination. Even now after completing the book the incongruity makes me chuckle, even more so as I like seeing an older sister boss around her younger sibling (oh those were the days!) even when the younger sibling demonstrates some reluctance.

This book's story is very simple, exploring a sibling relationship between Flo and her little brother Wendell. But obviously it's the artwork that is the draw. As can be seen in the cover, it's a mix of photographs of Wegman's own dogs and beautiful colorful paintings. I wish I had more of an artistic eye to do justice to their loveliness but the colors are the part that really gets me. They seem very rich with Flo's pink sweater probably being my favorite hue featured.

Overall: I don't really know any children to recommend this to but if you appreciate sibling stories/have an artistic bent/have an actual child in your life, this could be a fun book to go through together.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

ARC Review: Loud Awake and Lost

by Adele Griffin
3/5 stars
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013
289 pages
YA Contemporary
Scheduled to release November 12

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

I've read quite a few of Griffin's books and have pretty consistently enjoyed them. I just checked and I gave 4/5 stars to the five books I've read and reviewed. From skimming those reviews, I see stories with twists coming partway through, with well-written lines, but not necessarily clicking with the characters. All of these hold true in the case of this book, earning it a lowly 3 out of 5 stars.

One of the best things I would say about this book is that it pretty much answers all the questions posed from the beginning. Ember is emerging from a hospital, eight months after a deadly car accident, ready to return to "normal" but plagued by the loss of six weeks of her memory. She returns to school, to her friendships, to her old stomping grounds but nothing seems to feel right. Until, that is, she meets mysterious artist Kai and she pushes herself to reclaim those six weeks of memory in a devastating episode. I promised that by the conclusion, an explanation is offered. I found myself a bit shocked though I saw a review who considered it patently obvious and bemoaned the length to reach that ending.

I started off with some sympathy for Ember because she's in an awful situation, with her body still physically healing and her mind most probably on its way to full health but not necessarily. But as the book progressed, I rapidly stopped caring about her. I feel so heartless admitting that even though it's only a fictional character but I just didn't. Especially puzzling to me was her preference for Kai over sweet ex-boyfriend Holden. I guess when you don't feel the chemistry, you don't feel it but I never got that relationship in the way I could understand hers with Holden. Reflecting on that, I felt like Holden got more page time (certainly helps in winning a sympathy battle) and actually makes plans and texts Ember. Kai is more free-spirited (that's my nice description) and I hate that-it drives me crazy in real life people and I don't really like reading about it in fictional characters.

The people who ended up really getting my sympathy are her parents. Ember is their only child and they were devastated to almost lose her. Now I don't fault Ember for wanting more independence than her parents want to give her but I could see them trying so hard to be there for her, to love on her, to do whatever they could, only to be rejected and ignored time and again. I agree that they were overprotective but I could see so clearly why they would be.

In Short: This book did not spark for me as previous Griffin offerings have as I found it so dark and gloomy when i guess I was actually craving something lighter. The writing is more on the literary side for those who like that sort of thing.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

ARC Review: Princesses Behaving Badly

Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie
3/5 stars
Quirk Books, 2013
278 pages
Non-Fiction History
Scheduled to release November 19

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

I have frequently talked about my love of princesses and fairy tales so I loved the hook for this book, which references real-life princesses and how their lives don't really fit that mold for whatever reason, often because of their excesses and/or insanity.

Something I appreciated was reading about princess outside of Europe; yes, we look at a few princesses from Asia, Africa and even the Americas though most are based in various Europe countries. However the definition of princess and real is very flexible. Several of these women merely styled themselves as princess without the ancestry one would expect and several of the stories are most probably from mythology and not well grounded in fact. I thought they were fascinating nonetheless but go against what the very title of this book promises.

In general, I found the tone of this book very gossipy, which quite frankly works for me as gossip sites are some of my favorite pleasure reading (my fave for the past four or so years is Lainey Gossip). It was disconcerting though as I'm used to such figures being treated with a bit more reverence. But this book relishes in their profligate ways and sexual excesses. It started to feel overwhelming especially as I read this book in about one day. I was personally shocked at some of what was described-a good reminder that it is not just our era where we see unbelievable wealth and reckless spending.

Probably the most interesting tidbit for me was the examination of Juana the Mad, who I thought was a sad byproduct of royalty's tendency toward inbreeding. However this author suggests that she was framed as mad so the men in her life could rule in her stead. I'm embarrassed that I never considered this possibility and merely accepted this story spoonfed to me.

Overall: A rollicking ride through history looking at some overlooked or even forgotten women who made their mark on history.

*A note: I read an e-ARC that was sorely in need of some editing; I assume the finished copy will be corrected because there were some terrible errors. The finished copy should also contain a bibliography, which was sadly missing here as I would like to explore some of these figures through a more scholarly lens.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Find Me

Find Me by Romily Bernard
3.5/5 stars
HarperTeen, 2013
307 pages
YA Contemporary Thriller

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

This wasn't originally on my radar until I saw some reviews that left me intrigued. I *hate* the main character's name (Wicket, abbreviated to Wick) but I love her hacking prowess and the fact that she is motivated to find a killer by love of her younger sister. I'm always down for a protective older sister (see also Everdeen, Katniss) so I requested this one.

Wick knows she doesn't fit in. How could she with a mother who committed suicide and a father on the run from police charges? Where could she belong? But she does learn she's important when the journal of her former now deceased best friend shows up on her foster family's doorstep with a note saying, "Find me." Her skills as a hacker may make her uniquely qualified to discover the identity of her killer. Though initially Wick resists, the discovery that the man who tormented the best friend in her final months is eying Wick's younger sister Lily motivates her. Can Wick discover the killer and protect her sister?

Honestly I still can't get over the name. I mean, isn't wicket a term used in both cricket and croquet? It's not a name! And then it becomes Wick, which is part of a candle! Her sister's name is Lily (Harry Potter flashback), which is a lovely name and the other characters have names I recognize but Wick is just horrid to me.

Wick as a name is horrid to me, I mean. The person is difficult at times but also quite captivating. I say she's difficult for a few reasons. One is her attempts to investigate this killer, which seemed to veer off-course sometimes. Most notably is via her romance with fellow computer geek Griff. I was not upset that she didn't immediately jump into a romance with him no matter how much he made her weak in the knees; it was perfectly understandable to me that she would be hesitant and not trust his words as hardly anyone has shown her even a scrap of kindness. But at one point, he announces that he can get the IP address and her excitement about this is derailed into flirtation and other stuff before they go back. It made me question her commitment to solving this case.

I was very impressed with myself because I pinpointed the killer almost right away with Wick also thinking it might be him early on before following other potential leads. Then we find out for sure who it is and things get intense. Even though I was anticipating a confrontation with this person, I was not sure exactly how it would play out. Those final pages are filled with tension and were more unpredictable than  As for her other investigations, it was a little choppy. She is still involved with her on the lam father's con operations due to various threats and this sometimes interferes with her other sleuthing but we didn't get much insight in to that area. I also mentioned her lack of logical investigation into the case itself; yes, it was her first of this kind but she's conducted others before and thus I would have assumed she had more skills for laying out a plan than are demonstrated here.

Overall: A predictable mystery that is lifted by compelling personalities and a final confrontation filled with suspense, leading us into a possible sequel that I would certainly be interested in reading.

Other Opinions:
Curling Up With a Good Book
Jen Ryland/YA Romantics
Rather Be Reading
Realm of Fiction
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