Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (10)

"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 am waiting on:

Clockwork Angel
By Cassandra Clare
Publication date: August 31, 2010

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos. Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by—and torn between—two best friends: Jem, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length...everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world...and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

I became a fan of the Mortal Instruments series last summer and I was so excited to hear about The Infernal Devices series. I love historical fiction as well so I think this will be a fantastic book. To find out more about Clockwork Angel or Cassandra Clare's new series, visit The Infernal Devices website.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays (8)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read

Open to a random page

Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser this week:

"He was so outlandish, standing there in the sun. Water poured from his flattened hair, out of his ears, from his flopping cravat and his wilting collar, from inside his sleeves, from the bottom of his coat, and water sloshed in his boots as he took a step forward."

The Other Mr. Darcy by Monica Fairview
p. 91

The Other Mr. Darcy is a Pride and Prejudice spin-off featuring Caroline Bingley and Mr. Darcy's American cousin, Robert Darcy. The two meet at the wedding of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy when Robert finds Caroline sobbing over her heartbreak.

So far I am enjoying this novel mostly because of its humorous scenes although it irritates me when quotes are made that are so similar to the original work. The teaser sentences refer to the appearance of Robert Darcy who has just fallen into a lake while out walking with Caroline Bingley. The scene reminded me of a scene from the BBC film where Colin Firth (as Mr. Darcy) has just been swimming in the lake at Pemberly but the effect is markedly different. Robert Darcy is definitely not like his proud British cousin.

What's your book teaser this week? Please leave a comment. I'd love to know what interesting books you are reading!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Review: Wish

By Alexandra Bullen
Publication date: January 1, 2010
My rating: **** 1/2

My review:

Olivia is mourning the loss of her twin sister and best friend Violet when her mother accepts a job in San Francisco, uprooting the family and moving them across the country. At her new school Olivia struggles to fit in. Violet was the outgoing one, the life of the party, and the center of her family while Olivia was the invisible one who liked to play things safe. Olivia doesn't know how she will continue without Violet in the new life she must build for herself. Then after a chance visit to a hole-in-the-wall alterations shop to get a dress repaired, Olivia receives a different dress by mistake. While wearing the dress on a night of social humiliation, Olivia wishes she could have her sister back again. The next morning she is shocked to see that Violet is back although only Olivia can see and hear her. It turns out that the dress is magical and she has two more magical dresses and two more wishes to make. Now that she has her sister back even if it is only in ghost form, what more could Olivia wish for?

On the surface Wish might seem like a shallow fairy tale retelling but to judge this book by its cover would be a mistake. The magic is just a means to an end and not the important part of the story. The focus of Wish is the relationship between Olivia and Violet, Olivia's grief, and the way Violet's family seems to be adrift without her. I liked the character of Olivia. She is shy and bookish which I can relate to. Violet is also likeable as she coaxes Olivia out of her shell, encouraging and helping her to make friends and move on. The best part of the book is seeing this close friendship between the sisters. It is very sweet and moving. Olivia's parents are also grieving although her workaholic mother Bridget doesn't show it and her father Mac is coping by slowly working on their house and retreating into silence.

At school, Olivia doesn't have any friends except for geeky Miles and his outgoing younger stepsister Bowie. With Violet's help, Olivia is able to overcome her shyness and forge friendships with some of the popular kids at school and she even has the chance for romance. Unfortunately the new friendships that Olivia makes take a back seat in comparison to her friendship with her dead sister. Her romance with a forbidden boy at school is sweet but some of the other social interactions seem forced like Olivia is behaving the way Violet would and not being herself. Overall I really liked this book, particularly the closeness between Olivia and Violet and the end relationship between Olivia and her parents. That is the strength of the novel-not the romance or Olivia's school life but in the quiet memories and family moments. I look forward to reading more books by the talented Alexandra Bullen.

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (9)

It's Monday What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme that is hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through A World of Books.

Books I finished last week:

Wish by Alexandra Bullen
Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
House Rules by Jodi Picoult
The Queen's Dollmaker by Christine Trent

Books reviewed:

My Soul To Keep by Rachel Vincent
Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

Currently reading:

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Books I might read next:

Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede

The Other Mr. Darcy by Monica Fairview

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Review #30 Silver Phoenix

Silver Phoenix
By Cindy Pon
Publication date: April 2009
My rating: *****

My review:

After her betrothal is broken, Ai Ling is left in disgrace as an unwanted girl. Although she didn't want to marry the unpleasant boy who rejected her, she didn't want to bring dishonor to her family. When her father doesn't return from a trip to the Imperial Palace, Ai Ling bravely sets out to find him and bring him home. But there is a malicious evil at work to prevent her. With the help of a new friend, Chen Yong, Ai Ling must confront this evil and hope that her own powers are strong enough to save those she loves.

An only child, Ai Ling has had an unusual upbringing for a girl. She is well educated and she loves to read. Even though her father warned her about reading it, she has always been drawn to The Book of the Dead, with its stories of frightening creatures. It is only on her journey that Ai Ling realizes just why her father didn't want her to read this particular book as the horrible creatures she believed to be fictional keep crossing her path.

Silver Phoenix is a magical tale set in Xia, an imaginary land similar to ancient China with a mythology all its own.The mythical stories that Ai Ling and Chen Yong reference throughout Silver Phoenix add to the tone of the novel and Cindy Pon's worldbuilding for Xia. The description of Xia is interesting and well drawn but for me it was the suspense surrounding Ai Ling's quest and Chen Yong's mysterious past that kept me turning the pages. I also loved Ai Ling and Chen Yong. Ai Ling is a strong female character in some ways reminiscent of Mulan. She also reminded me a little bit of Opal Cowan (from Maria Snyder's Glass series) who has magical talent and struggles to understand her ability and the proper ways to use it. Ai Ling experiences this struggle throughout the book. Her flaws and doubts only add to the richness of her character. Chen Yong makes a great hero in this novel as he both rescues Ai Ling at times and also follows her lead (she comes to his rescue quite a few times too). He isn't perfect but he is a great supporting character and romantic interest for Ai Ling.

The one thing about Silver Phoenix that disappointed me was the lack of "screen time" for the main villains. I really wish that the reader had more time getting to know or understand Ai Ling's enemies. Once we finally do get to meet them though, they live up to the anticipation. I loved Silver Phoenix and I really look forward to reading more about Xia and Ai Ling in the sequel. Ai Ling is a favorite new character and Silver Phoenix is one of my favorite books I've read so far this year. I would recommend this book to fans of Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman as well as those who enjoy magical fantasy in general.

In My Mailbox (9)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren to share what books you received for review, purchased, or checked out from the library during the past week.

Books I received for review:

Between Two Kingdoms by Joe Boyd

In this work of allegorical fantasy, author Joe Boyd takes us on a pilgrimage to a land of two kingdoms, but only one true King. An ancient land, where children never grow old. A living land, where foundations grow in trees and rivers sing and breathe. But also a dying land, where the darkness of a false prince threatens to swallow everything in its shadow.Enter the adventure with Tommy, a child of the Great King, as he and his friends accept the challenge to live as grown men and women in the Lower Kingdom—where hope is hidden, vision is clouded, and pride twists truth into a beautiful yet deadly deception.

Books I borrowed from my awesome sister:

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel' d'Hiv roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours. Paris, May 2002: On Vel' d'Hiv's 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France's past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl's ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d'Hiv, to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah's past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.

I've been wanting to read this one for quite some time so I'm excited that my very kind, wonderful, and fantastic sister allowed me to borrow it.

Books I purchased (even though I'm not supposed to but at least it was on sale):

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

On Meghan Chases's sixteenth birthday, her life is turned upside down when her brother is kidnapped and a changeling is left in his place. To get him back, Meghan must go to the lands of the Faery where many surprises and dangers await.

That's what I received in my mailbox this week.
What did you get in your mailbox?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Book Beginnings on Friday (2)

Book Beginnings on Friday is a new meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading. If you'd like, share with everyone why you do, or do not, like the sentence.

I just finished a book and haven't started a new one yet so I am going to share a sentence from the book I just finished and the book I'm thinking of starting next.
Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

This whole enormous deal wouldn't have happened, none of it, if Dad hadn't messed up his hip moving the manure spreader.

I really like this sentence because it captures D.J. really well and it sets up the rest of the book, making readers want to know more. Plus any sentence that includes the word "manure" is an attention grabber. :)

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

Everywhere I look, there are signs of a struggle.

This first sentence is the perfect way to pull readers in to the story. It suggests that a crime has taken place and we want to know more...

Book Blogger Hop (3)

Book Blogger Hop is a fun new meme hosted by Crazy For Books. It is like Friday Follow but specifically for book bloggers to find other book blogs. If you'd like to participate, visit Crazy For Books. If you found my blog through Book Blogger Hop, leave me a comment and a link to your blog and I will visit your blog too!

Friday Finds (9)

Friday Finds are books that you've heard about during the past week. Friday Finds is hosted by Miz B of Should Be Reading.

My finds this week:

By Lee Nichols
Publication date: June 8, 2010

When Emma Vaile’s parents go missing while away on a mysterious business trip, she’s left all alone in her creepy old house. But her brother’s very cute best friend, Bennett Stern—Emma’s knight in J. Crew armor—arrives unexpectedly to whisk her away to New England. There, Emma settles into his family’s museum-like mansion and enrolls at an old-fashioned private school. She quickly finds friends in the popular legacy crowd at Thatcher and spends her free time crushing on Bennett. But the eerie visions she’s been hiding from everyone have gotten worse. Emma has memories of Thatcher that she can’t explain—it’s as if she’s returning home to a place she’s never been. Finally, Emma confides in Bennett and learns she is a ghostkeeper, a person who can communicate with ghosts. Bennett brought Emma to Thatcher to protect her, but now he needs her help tracking an other-worldly murderer.

Thanks to The Book Scout for this find!

By Jackie Morse Kessler

Seventeen year old anorexic Lisabeth Lewis has been appointed Famine, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. This sounds like a very interesting take on anorexia as Lisabeth sees others around the world who are starving. I am really curious about this one. Thanks to The Serpentine Library for this fantastic find!

On Folly Beach
By Karen White
Publication date: May 4, 2010

To most people, Folly Beach, South Carolina, is simply the last barrier island before the Atlantic. To some, it's a sanctuary, which is why Janie Hamilton's mother encourages her to buy the local book store, Folly's Finds, hoping it will distract Janie from the loss of her husband in Afghanistan. Janie is at first resistant, but intrigued after finding love letters and an image of a beautiful bottle tree in a box of used books from Folly's Finds, and decides to take the plunge. The store's seller insists on one condition: Janie must allow Lulu, the late owner's elderly sister, to continue selling her bottle trees from its back yard. Historically, bottle trees were brought by African slaves to the American South, and Janie had grown up with one in her backyard, and it has always been a symbol of refuge to her.  Janie generally ignores Lulu as she sifts through the love letters, wanting to learn more. But the more she discovers of the letters' authors, the closer she feels to Lulu. As details of a possible murder and a mysterious disappearance during World War II are revealed, the two women discover that circumstances beyond their control, sixty years apart, have brought them together, here on Folly Beach. And it is here that their war-ravaged hearts can find hope for a second chance...
I love Southern fiction and add to that the bookstore and the mystery aspect and this is a must read for me. Thanks to Crazy for Books for this great find!

The Karma Club
By Jessica Brody
Publication date: April 27, 2010

After her boyfriend cheats on her and doesn't suffer any consequences, Maddy and her friends start The Karma Club to right the wrongs of the universe. This sounds like a really fun book and many thanks to Rhiana Reads for this find.

Misguided Angel
By Melissa De La Cruz
Publication date: October 5, 2010

I just had to include this because the cover was just revealed and I absolutely love it! I can't wait to read book five in the Blue Bloods series.

What are your Friday Finds this week?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Contest Update and Chance to Earn Extra Entries

Well it's been two months since I started my blog and I currently have 133 followers. Thank you so much for your support. It means a lot to me!

My contest to win My Soul to Save, Fire, and Intertwined will be ending in one week on March 31, 2010 at midnight (EST). For details and to enter, see the original post.  Unfortunately this contest is limited to U.S. only because I can't afford international postage.

For fun I thought I'd offer the opportunity to earn extra entries in the contest by reading and commenting on my reviews. Plus I love comments :)

You can earn 2 extra entries by reading and commenting on any of the following reviews:

All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab
My Soul To Save by Rachel Vincent
Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Truly, Madly by Heather Webber

You can earn 1 extra entry by commenting on any of my other reviews.

Only comments made on March 24th-31st count. I will add up the extra entries and announce the winner hopefully on April 1, 2010.

Review #29 My Soul To Keep

My Soul to Keep
By Rachel Vincent
Publication date: June 1, 2010
My rating: ****1/2

My review:

Teenagers at Kaylee's school have been getting high on a new mysterious substance that doesn't show up on drug tests, a deadly and highly addictive drug from the Netherworld that causes insanity and death. Now she and Nash must try to find out how this "drug" is being brought into their world and put a stop to it before it's too late and the whole school is exposed.

My Soul To Keep is the third book in the Soul Screamers series and in my opinion it is better than My Soul To Save.  One of the themes explored in the book is that people have to deal with the consequences of their decisions. Kaylee has gone through a lot in the previous books but in My Soul To Keep, she faces some of the hardest decisions of her life. I like how her character grows over the course of the series although it would be good if she relied on adults more for advice instead of just her boyfriend and Tod. In this book I found that I liked Tod more especially after reading My Soul To Save. He is more than just the comic relief or sidekick.

This time around, Kaylee and Nash's relationship is a bigger part of the novel although the suspense also keeps the pages turning. Kaylee also has a new scary ability to deal with. Altogether it makes for a fantastic story and I would have to say My Soul To Keep is the best in the series. If you are a fan of paranormal romance and you haven't tried the Soul Screamers series yet, you are in for a treat!

Note: The cover image is not finalized so the final published cover may have a slightly different look.

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Waiting on Wednesday (9)

"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.

My picks this week:

Spy Glass
By Maria V. Snyder
Publication date: September 2010

There is no description available yet for book 3 in the Glass series by Maria Snyder but based on how much I enjoyed Storm Glass and Sea Glass I really want to read this. It features the story of Opal Cowan, a character from the Study series. If you are a fan of the first series, you definitely should give this one a try.

Cool Beans
By Eynn Mangum
Publication date: April 1, 2010


Everything seems to be going perfectly for Maya Davis: She has a great job at a coffee shop, gets along with her parents, and is happily single. That is until her best friend unknowingly starts dating Maya’s high school sweetheart, her annoyingly perfect brother moves back to town, and her co-worker starts showing interest in her. Apparently God’s will for her is to spend her days commiserating over ice cream – or does He have more to teach her?

Cool Beans is loosely based on Persuasion by Jane Austen, a novel which I love so I am looking forward to this. I enjoyed Erynn's earlier Lauren Holbrook series which was based on Emma. The Maya Davis series has two other books, Latte Daze (July 2010) and Double Shot (October 2010).

What books are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays (7)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser this week:

"The last small breath she had drawn dwindled to nothing, even as she willed it to last. Fighting her terror, she looked down and saw dark, slithering shapes beneath her."

Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
p. 38

Silver Phoenix is a YA fantasy novel set in a land modeled on ancient China. The heroine Ai Ling feels that she has brought dishonor to her parents because no one wants to marry her. Then when her father goes missing, Ai Ling heads out after him. Along the way something evil keeps attacking her and Ai Ling must trust in her strange new abilities and the help of Chen Yong, a young man with a mysterious past.

I just started reading Silver Phoenix this morning and I love it so far. It reminds me a little bit of the story of Mulan or  Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman (Eon: Rise of the Dragoneye in the UK or The Two Pearls of Wisdom in Australia) which was one of my favorite YA books from last year. Hopefully I will be able to finish it soon and have a review posted this week!

What's your book teaser this week? Please leave a comment. I'd love to know what fabulous books you are reading!

Monday, March 22, 2010

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (8)

It's Monday What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme that started out at J. Kaye's Book Blog but is now hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through A World of Books.

Books I finished last week:

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine by Lauren Willig
The Mark by Jen Nadol
The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard
The Betrayal of The Blood Lily by Lauren Willig
Still Sucks To Be Me by Kimberly Pauley
My Soul To Keep by Rachel Vincent

Books I did not finish:

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
(I am about halfway through so I may pick it up again this week. I just don't like the protagonist.)

Books reviewed:

Claire de Lune by Christine Johnson
The Mark by Jen Nadol
The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard
Still Sucks To Be Me by Kimberly Pauley

Currently reading:

Wish by Alexandra Bullen

Planning to read this week:

Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

The Queen's Dollmaker by Christine Trent

Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

What does your reading week look like?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

In My Mailbox (8)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren to share what books you received for review, purchased, or checked out from the library during the past week.

Books I received for review:

Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder

I'm Trella. I'm a scrub. One of thousands who work in the lower levels, keeping Inside clean for the Uppers. I do my job and try to avoid the Pop Cops. The Trava family who rules our world from their spacious Upper levels wants us to be docile and obedient, like sheep. To insure we behave, they send the Pop Cops to police us.  So what if I occasionally use the pipes to sneak around the Upper levels? Not like it's all that dangerous--the only neck at risk is my own.  Until a lower level prophet claims a Gateway to Outside exists. And guess who he wants to steal into the Upper levels to get the proof? You’re right. Me. I alone know every single duct, pipe, corridor, shortcut, hole and ladder of Inside. It’s suicide plain and simple. But guess who can’t let a challenge like that go unanswered? Right again. Me. I should have just said no...

The Clearing by Heather Davis

Amy, a sixteen-year-old recovering from an abusive relationship, moves to the country to start a new life with her aunt–all she wants is for everything to be different. In the clearing at the back of Aunt Mae’s property, she makes an amazing discovery—Henry, a boy stuck in the endless summer of 1944. Henry and his world become Amy’s refuge and she begins to learn that some moments are worth savoring. But when the past and present come crashing together, both of them must find the courage to face what is meant to be, even if it means losing each other forever.

Books I checked out from the library:

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Rose and Lissa have been on the run since leaving St. Vladimir's Academy but when they are caught and forced to return, Rose is sure the danger is over. Lissa is a Moroi vampire princess and Rose is her dhampir bodyguard, trained to protect her from the dangerous Strigoi, corrupt vampires who want to turn Lissa into one of them.

Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said. Harsh words indeed, from Brian Nelson of all people. But, D. J. can’t help admitting, maybe he’s right. When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said. Stuff like why her best friend, Amber, isn’t so friendly anymore. Or why her little brother, Curtis, never opens his mouth. Why her mom has two jobs and a big secret. Why her college-football-star brothers won’t even call home. Why her dad would go ballistic if she tried out for the high school football team herself. And why Brian is so, so out of her league. When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said. Welcome to the summer that fifteen-year-old D. J. Schwenk of Red Bend, Wisconsin, learns to talk, and ends up having an awful lot of stuff to say.

Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede

Eff was born a thirteenth child. Her twin brother, Lan, is the seventh son of a seventh son. This means he's supposed to possess amazing talent -- and she's supposed to bring only bad things to her family and her town. Undeterred, her family moves to the frontier, where her father will be a professor of magic at a school perilously close to the magical divide that separates settlers from the beasts of the wild.

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

A teenager with Asperger's syndrome is accused of committing murder. This sounds like another riveting read from Jodi Picoult.

The Betrayal of the Blood Lily by Lauren Willig

After a quick marriage to repair damage to her reputation, Penelope along with her new husband Lord Frederick Staines head off to India where he is to accept a new post as Special Envoy for the British government. In India they cross paths with Captain Alex Reid who is to ensure their safe arrival to Hyderabad. Lady Penelope and Captain Reid form a grudging friendship that becomes important when it appears that she has caught the attention of a dangerous spy and a large cache of weapons have come up missing.

The Other Mr. Darcy by Monica Fairview

This Pride and Prejudice spin-off features Caroline Bingley and Mr. Darcy's dashing American cousin.

The Queen's Dollmaker by Christine Trent

A dollmaker's talent comes to the attention of Marie Antoinette and leads her to trouble during the French Revolution.

That's what's in my mailbox. What did you receive in your mailbox this week?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Review #28 Still Sucks To Be Me

Still Sucks To Be Me
By Kimberly Pauley
Publication date: May 11, 2010
My rating: ****1/2

My review:

In the first book, Sucks To Be Me, Mina had to make a decision to become a vampire like her parents or remain human. In Still Sucks To Be Me, Mina has made her choice and now she has to deal with the outcome of that decision along with hilarious situations that only Mina could get herself into.

Mina is a delightful character with a great sense of humor. She is also very intelligent, brave, and caring. Familiar characters are back such as the very memorable Uncle Mortie and some new faces are introduced including Cameron, a handsome young vampire, who may or may not be a member of a vampire gang. Each chapter begins with funny vampire myths and facts as well as lists from Mina on why her life continues to suck. Still Sucks To Be Me is a fantastically funny book and once again I found myself laughing out loud while reading. I didn't think it would be possible to top the first book but I actually enjoyed this sequel a little bit more!  I hope that there will be more books about Mina, her family, and friends. If you haven't read Sucks To Be Me, go pick it up and if you have read the first book, this sequel is one you won't want to miss!

Review #27 The Secret Year

The Secret Year
By Jennifer Hubbard
Publication date: January 7, 2010
My rating: ***1/2

My review:

Colt Morrissey had a year long relationship with Julia Vernon that ended with her tragic death in a car accident. Now he mourns her loss in secret because nobody knew that he was seeing Julia. She was one of the popular rich kids who lived on Black Mountain and she had a boyfriend. Colt lives in the poor area known as the flats. Even though he and Julia came from such different backgrounds, they had a passionate relationship that Julia detailed in her journal through letters and poems she wrote to him. Now that journal has made its way into Colt’s hands as he tries to figure out how to live without Julia and how to deal with the guilt he feels over her death.

The relationship between Colt and Julia is described both through Colt’s thoughts and Julia’s letters to him. While Colt loved Julia in his way it is not clear if she really loved him. At times it seems that their secret relationship was just about the excitement of keeping it a secret and their physical attraction to each other. Julia goes back and forth about breaking up with her boyfriend Austin for Colt. Colt understandably has not been able to express his feelings about Julia’s death. His friends can’t stand the snobby kids from Black Mountain and wouldn’t be able to believe that Colt had a relationship with Julia. Julia’s classmates certainly wouldn’t accept Colt among them. At school, there is a strict line between the haves and the have-nots. There are three people who bridge that gap-Julia (although she kept her relationship with Colt a secret), Kirby, a girl who is neither from Black Mountain or the flats, and Michael Vernon, Julia’s younger brother who gives his sister’s journal to Colt. It is through his reluctant friendship with Michael and Kirby that Colt comes to terms with his loss.

When I first finished the novel I was left feeling a little disappointed. I thought that the book ended too abruptly. After thinking about it and going back and reading through different parts, I changed my mind. There are some things I was disappointed with. I felt that some of the minor characters were quite flat, including Austin. I was also sometimes irritated by the way Colt and Julia behaved at times even though it is very true to their characters. Fortunately, Colt and Julia are both well written characters. Some of the best parts of this novel are the letters that Julia wrote to Colt. The author really does a good job of capturing Julia’s voice and making Colt an authentic flawed character. Colt has grown over the course of the year during which the book takes place and the story leaves us with Colt having some closure. While I would not consider Julia and Colt’s behavior toward each other to be indicative of love, it is true to who they are. Overall I would say that The Secret Year is a moving story of friendship and coming to terms with grief. I look forward to reading more of Jennifer Hubbard’s work.

Review #26 The Mark

The Mark
By Jen Nadol
Publication date: January 19, 2010
My rating: ****1/2

My review:

Since she was a little girl, Cassie Renfield has been able to see a bright light around certain people. It wasn't until recently that she realized that the bright light or mark as she calls it, means that person is going to die that day. It is a horrifying ability and one she doesn't understand. Is it her responsibility to warn people that they are about to die or to try to prevent it? Would people want to know?

Cassie is a young teen who is being raised by her grandmother after the tragic deaths of her parents when she was a little girl. When she is sent to spend the summer in her father's hometown with an aunt she didn't know she had, Cassie discovers a mystery about her parents that could provide her with some important answers about her abilities. She also meets Lucas, a handsome young man who helps teach a philosophy class at the local college. While taking the class and developing a relationship with Lucas, Cassie tries to decide what to do about her ability. The Mark incorporates Greek mythology, philosophy, and mystery in a moving tale about an unusual young woman who has had to deal with a lifetime of grief.

I didn't find this to be a typical paranormal YA book. I really enjoyed The Mark and I loved the unexpected twists to the story. Cassie is an intelligent character who really grapples with difficult questions, trying to make the right decision. I loved her character and the character of Nan, her grandmother. In a way, The Mark reminded me of a mashup of a Sarah Dessen-type book combined with paranormal elements. Typical of philosophy, there are more questions than answers so I look forward to the sequel to see where Jen Nadol is going to take the story.

Review #25 The Masque of the Black Tulip

The Masque of the Black Tulip
By Lauren Willig
Publication date: January 2006
My rating: ****1/2

My review:

In the second book of the Pink Carnation series, the deadly French spy known as the Black Tulip is back in operation posing a serious threat to the Pink Carnation. Lady Henrietta Selwick and Miles Dorrington join forces to discover the dangerous spy's identity and stop the Black Tulip before the Black Tulip catches them.

After reading The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, I was a little disappointed but other fans of the series told me that the books just keep getting better and I was glad to find that to be true. Henrietta Selwick is an intelligent and brave young woman and one of my favorite heroines from this series. Miles is humorous and I love the description of him as an elephant under a lampshade. Together they make a great team and as their romance develops it is really funny to see how two old friends fail to recognize what is right in front of their eyes. The Black Tulip is a fantastic addition to the cast of characters, a sort of Moriarty-like villain. Once again, Lauren Willig brings a great blend of romance, mystery, and humor to this series and unlike the first book, I was very happy with the heroine in the end. The only thing I could have wished for was more of a presence from the Pink Carnation but Miles and Henrietta are fantastic as are the new characters that are introduced, especially the mysterious Lord Vaughn. I had fun trying to guess who the Black Tulip is with absolutely no success, which is unusual for me. All in all, I loved The Masque of the Black Tulip and it is one of my favorites from this series.