Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review: Evil Librarian

Evil Librarian
By Michelle Knudsen
Published: September 9, 2014

He’s young. He’s hot. He’s also evil. He’s . . . the librarian.

When Cynthia Rothschild’s best friend, Annie,
falls head over heels for the new high-school librarian, Cyn can totally see why. He’s really young and super cute and thinks Annie would make an excellent library monitor. But after meeting Mr. Gabriel, Cyn realizes something isn’t quite right. Maybe it’s the creepy look in the librarian’s eyes, or the weird feeling Cyn gets whenever she’s around him. Before long Cyn realizes that Mr. Gabriel is, in fact . . . a demon. Now, in addition to saving the school musical from technical disaster and trying not to make a fool of herself with her own hopeless crush, Cyn has to save her best friend from the clutches of the evil librarian, who also seems to be slowly sucking the life force out of the entire student body! From best-selling author Michelle Knudsen, here is the perfect novel for teens who like their horror served up with a bit of romance, plenty of humor, and some pretty hot guys (of both the good and evil variety).

My review:

I thought Evil Librarian was fun and entertaining. Cyn is a great protagonist. She is brave, snarky, and a loyal friend. Annie can be a frustrating character because she is so blinded to Mr. Gabriel's true nature but Cyn still wants to help her even when she is behaving like a brat. Cyn loves musical theater so while she is busy trying to save her best friend and the school, she is also trying to design the best set for the school's performance of Sweeney Todd (a favorite musical of demons according to the book). I like that Cyn had a fun and quirky personality. Cyn's love interest and eventual ally is Ryan, her longtime crush and the star of Sweeney Todd. I like their awkward friendship that slowly becomes something more. 

I liked the villain(s) of the story too. Mr. Gabriel is suitably evil though a bit cartoonish as a villain and the other demons are equally creepy or stupid in some cases which adds to the humor. I would say that this book is horror lite. It is more comedic with some suspense rather than truly spine chilling like The Diviners

I wanted to read this book because it featured a librarian as a villain and because I knew it was supposed to be a horror/comedy of the Buffy variety. Evil Librarian did not fail to deliver on that promise. However I do wish there was more depth to Mr. Gabriel's character (and I kind of wanted him to be more librarianish by talking about research databases and Dewey decimals but I'm probably the only one who felt that way...)

If you are looking for a good Halloween novel that also has a lighthearted tone, give Evil Librarian a try. This story reminded me of a cross between Rachel Hawkins's Hex Hall and the Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent (though with less angst and romance). I was also reminded of the Disney Channel movie, Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior because of certain scenes at the school and the way a seemingly ordinary teenage girl has to take down an evil threat. I think fans of Rachel Hawkins and Buffy the Vampire Slayer would really like Evil Librarian. I do not know if there will be a sequel though the author leaves some room for one.

Note: I received an ARC for review courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (143)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly meme to discuss upcoming books we can't wait to get our hands on. Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week, I'm waiting on:

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen
Release date: January 20, 2015

From the New York Times bestselling author of GARDEN SPELLS comes a story of the Waverley family, in a novel as sparkling as the first dusting of frost on new-fallen leaves...
It's October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly.  As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree... and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.
Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies.  Though her handcrafted confections—rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds—are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts.
Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance. With each passing day she longs more for a baby— a namesake for her wonderful Henry. Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has.
Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to…if only he could see it, too. But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke?
When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before.  And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.
Lose yourself in Sarah Addison Allen's enchanting world and fall for her charmed characters in this captivating story that proves that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It’s where the real story begins.
I really liked Garden Spells and I look forward to reading about the Waverly family again. I enjoy Sarah Addison Allen's descriptive writing style and Southern settings.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (194)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

I had a very productive afternoon of reading today and I finished two books and read another from beginning to end. Now I don't know what I'm in the mood to read next. I have a lot of ARCs to get caught up on still but I also have some library books I've been wanting to read. October is National Bullying Prevention Month and I have a copy of the biography Positive by Paige Rawls, who was bullied as a young teen when her classmates found out she is HIV-positive. I also have some sequels to books I really enjoyed last year.

Books reviewed:

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Books read:

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

I loved this book and I am sad that this series is finished. I am hoping however that Percy and his friends will somehow make an appearance in the Norse mythology series. Rick Riordan has hinted that the main character Magnus Chase is somehow related to Annabeth.

Boomerang by Noelle August

I liked this more than I thought I would. It reminded me a little of both chick lit and contemporary romance novels like those written by Jill Shalvis only with younger characters and no charming small town setting. I guess it is part of a trilogy but I'm not sure I'll read the rest of the books.

Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis

While there are some obvious similarities and comparisons to Cinder, Stitching Snow is its own self-contained novel. I don't know if there is a sequel in the works but this can be a standalone book which I really appreciated. It is also not a faithful retelling of Snow White and more loosely based on the source material than Cinder was.

All Lined Up by Cora Carmack

This book took me by surprise. I only read it because of a positive review from Christina at Confessions of a Book Addict. I had tried one of Cora Carmack's other New Adult series and didn't like it but I read All Lined Up in one afternoon and I plan to pick up the sequel. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Review: The Rosie Project

The Rosie Project
By Graeme Simsion
Published: October 1, 2013


MEET DON TILLMAN, a brilliant yet socially challenged professor of genetics, who’s decided it’s time he found a wife. And so, in the orderly, evidence-based manner with which Don approaches all things, he designs the Wife Project to find his perfect partner: a sixteen-page, scientifically valid survey to filter out the drinkers, the smokers, the late arrivers. 

Rosie Jarman is all these things. She also is strangely beguiling, fiery, and intelligent. And while Don quickly disqualifies her as a candidate for the Wife Project, as a DNA expert Don is particularly suited to help Rosie on her own quest: identifying her biological father. When an unlikely relationship develops as they collaborate on the Father Project, Don is forced to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that, despite your best scientific efforts, you don’t find love, it finds you. 

Arrestingly endearing and entirely unconventional, Graeme Simsion’s distinctive debut will resonate with anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of great challenges. The Rosie Project is a rare find: a book that restores our optimism in the power of human connection.

My review:

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I picked up The Rosie Project but having read an excerpt, I thought it at least looked promising. Don is a likable character and his bumbling attempts at dating are both funny and endearing. He has a very analytical mind and so he approaches relationships in a very original way. He also doesn't seem to have a filter and he is very forthright in sharing his thoughts which leads to some humorous situations. 

It is implied that Don might be on the Autism Spectrum but while he realizes he sees things differently than those around him, he does not seem to think he might have Asperger's Syndrome. As Don interacts with Rosie, the reader learns more about his life and way of thinking. What I found interesting is that though Rosie is so different from him and she pushes him to live outside his comfort zone, Don genuinely likes to spend time with her. He goes along with the changes that she brings to his life.

Rosie is not as fully formed a character as Don. She is quirky and I liked her but I felt that the reader does not get to know her as well as Don perhaps because his character has so much presence. Rosie is very much her own person and in a way this makes her perfect for Don. They both have issues to deal with but they fit together well and complement each other. 

I could easily see this book adapted as a romantic comedy (and indeed I think the rights have been optioned). I thought this book would be funny but I was surprised by how thoughtful it was too and how much I enjoyed the character of Don and his unique worldview.  I have since learned that there is a sequel, The Rosie Effect, to be published this December and I can't wait to read it.

My book group read this for our February book discussion and the members all really liked it. Although it was mostly a lighthearted book it did provoke discussion on relationships, friendships, and what constitutes "normal" behavior. I would suggest The Rosie Project to readers who like quirky romantic comedy (I've heard this book compared to The Big Bang Theory but haven't watched the show...). It also reminded me of the writing style of Jojo Moyes and Rainbow Rowell (particularly her books for adults). If you decide to give this book a try, prepare to be charmed :)

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Sunday, October 5, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (193)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

I had a major disappointment last week. I am trying to find an apartment in the town where I work so I don't have a scary commute or car accident this winter like I did last year. It is really hard to find apartments there and this one would have been perfect but it turned out to be too expensive. I am hopeful that this week will be much better and that things work out for the best. 

October is going to be a very busy month and I have a feeling it will fly by. I have a Wild West murder mystery dinner program for the library coming up towards the end of the month and next week I have to help give a presentation at our staff development day. I hate public speaking but I have the reward of Tim Horton's donuts to look forward to afterwards.

I was excited to realize today that The Blood of Olympus will be released on Tuesday. I preordered my copy ages ago and forgot the release date. Now I have something fun to look forward to on Wednesday when I have the day off. I had just planned to do laundry and some of the cleaning I neglected this weekend but now I have something fun to do as well.

Books reviewed:

Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn

Books read:

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (reread)

I thought this audio book was excellent. I'd forgotten some of the incidents that happened in the book (I'd only read it once before but I watched the movie several times) and some of the differences between the book and film.

My True Love Gave to Me by Stephanie Perkins, Rainbow Rowell, Laini Taylor, etc.

I mostly liked the stories in this holiday themed collection though there were a few that were weird or just didn't quite work for me. Surprisingly some of my favorite stories were by Matt de la Pena and Myra McEntire, authors I've never read before. I guess that is the beauty of trying a short story collection. You discover new authors :)

Made For You by Melissa Marr

I didn't mean to finish this book today. I was supposed to be reading Boomerang but I picked this up to try it as a possible book for later this week and I just couldn't put it down till I finished it. Very suspenseful but I do wish I hadn't figured out who the killer was as early as I did.

Currently reading:

Boomerang by Noelle August

My goal is to finish this book by Tuesday because otherwise it is going on the back burner when The Blood of Olympus downloads on my Kindle...

What I plan to read next:

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

I am so excited that this book is finally here! I was also happy to find out that next October, the first book in Riordan's Norse Mythology series will be released.

Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis

I am looking forward to this one and I hope I will be able to put aside my Lunar Chronicles comparisons and just enjoy the story.

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

I don't know if I will get to read this book yet but I put it on my list anyway. I decided to move it down the TBR pile a little because I'm not sure I'm in the mood for it yet. I've heard it is pretty dark.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (142)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly meme to discuss upcoming books we can't wait to get our hands on. Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week, I'm waiting on:

All Fall Down by Ally Carter
Release date: January 27, 2015

Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:

1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her–so there’s no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door who is keeping an eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.

Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can’t control Grace–no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do.

Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn’t stop it, Grace isn’t the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world all stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.

I loved the Gallagher Girls series and I enjoyed the Heist Society series so I can't wait to read All Fall Down. I like Ally Carter's blend of humor and suspense. It always makes her books so entertaining.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Review: Night of a Thousand Stars

Night of a Thousand Stars
By Deanna Raybourn
Published: September 30, 2014

New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn returns with a Jazz Age tale of grand adventure 

On the verge of a stilted life as an aristocrat's wife, Poppy Hammond does the only sensible thing—she flees the chapel in her wedding gown. Assisted by the handsome curate who calls himself Sebastian Cantrip, she spirits away to her estranged father's quiet country village, pursued by the family she left in uproar. But when the dust of her broken engagement settles and Sebastian disappears under mysterious circumstances, Poppy discovers there is more to her hero than it seems. 
With only her feisty lady's maid for company, Poppy secures employment and travels incognita—east across the seas, chasing a hunch and the whisper of clues. Danger abounds beneath the canopies of the silken city, and Poppy finds herself in the perilous sights of those who will stop at nothing to recover a fabled ancient treasure. Torn between allegiance to her kindly employer and a dashing, shadowy figure, Poppy will risk it all as she attempts to unravel a much larger plan—one that stretches to the very heart of the British government, and one that could endanger everything, and everyone, that she holds dear. 

My review:

What I liked about this book was the way it tied together the Lady Julia Grey mystery series with the author's new 1920s historical fiction. Night of a Thousand Stars is a companion novel to City of Jasmine and it features a cameo appearance by Gabriel Starke, the hero of that book. It also has a character from the Lady Julia series and mentions a few more. The relationship between Poppy and Sebastian reminded me of Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane perhaps with good reason. 

Poppy has always stood out in her family because she can't quite conform with what is expected of her. Her mother is very demanding but her American stepfather is kind and doting. Poppy has a history of not finishing what she starts so when she runs out on her wedding with the help of Sebastian and she later finds out he might be in danger, she decides it is up to her to save the day. Of course Poppy is a novice at adventure so with the help of a friend she secures a job as secretary/typist to an elderly gentleman who is traveling to Damascus where she believes Sebastian may be. There she finds out that no one is who they seem to be and she has to figure out who she can trust.

I enjoyed reading this book even though Poppy sometimes annoyed me. To be fair, she is intelligent though she does have some wrong ideas. She is plucky and headstrong and because she reminded me of Lady Julia, I forgave her occasionally stupid decisions or ideas. I guess if she didn't make some bad decisions then we wouldn't see her grow as a character and it would lessen the excitement and suspense of the story.  I do think that City of Jasmine is better in terms of the mystery plot. With this book, I didn't feel as invested in the mystery though I was curious to see how they would escape to safety. The mystery kind of falls apart or seems unimportant in the end. The romance and characters seem more important here but I did like how Poppy's character develops and even Sebastian grows over the course of the book. Like Gabriel Starke, he is not a perfect hero and he needs Poppy's help as much as she needs his. 

While this book can be read on its own, I suggest that readers at least check out City of Jasmine first. If you haven't read the Lady Julia mysteries, that won't ruin your enjoyment of this book though you may miss out on the various cameos and connections. I have a feeling that readers who like Night of a Thousand Stars will want to read Silent in the Grave if they haven't already. Overall I found this to be an entertaining story that should appeal to fans of romantic adventure.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher