Sunday, September 30, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (120)

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 busy week but I also managed to pull a muscle in my back at work on Friday so I spent a good deal of time resting and reading this past weekend. I have a feeling I will be reading a lot this week too as I try to get over my ongoing sinus infection. Boy, I'm full of complaining today! Really I had a great week otherwise and I hope to be on the mend soon. Besides it gave me an excuse to ignore the cleaning and other errands and sit and read The Diviners instead :)

Books read:

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

As much as I complained while reading this book, in the end I did like it. Parts of the story did drag but overall I thought it wasn't that bad. 

The Diviners by Libba Bray

I was surprised by how much I liked this book. I thought I'd find Evie annoying (and I did at times but I still liked her) and I wasn't sure I'd like this book at all. I thought it had a great creepy atmosphere at times and it was pretty suspenseful.

With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin

I enjoyed this book though at first I didn't think it was as good as her other series (I later changed my mind). It is interesting to learn about life as a flight nurse in WWII and I liked the way the romance developed through letter writing like the movie The Shop Around the Corner.

Books reviewed:

Dearly, Beloved by Lia Habel

Currently reading:

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan (reread)

I am planning to reread the first two books in this series before I read The Mark of Athena which will be published on Tuesday. 

What I plan to read next:

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan (reread)

I loved this book when I read it last year. I kind of prefer it to The Lost Hero because it focuses on Percy. I did miss Camp Half-Blood though.

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

I can't wait to read this book! Looks like it will be epic :)

Hidden by Sophie Jordan

I may not get to this book yet but I am looking forward to finding out how the Firelight series ends. 

Those are my reading plans for this week. 
What have you been reading lately?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review: Dearly, Beloved

Dearly, Beloved
By Lia Habel
Published: September 25, 2012

My review:

In this sequel to Dearly, Departed, Nora and her friends and family deal with the threat of a new strain of the Laz, a group of zombies that call themselves the Changed, and anti-Zombie attacks from a secret group of masked vigilantes. 

I liked Dearly, Beloved but it doesn't quite live up to the first book. Like Dearly, Departed, the story is told in multiple points of view including that of a new character, Laura, whom I wasn't a big fan of because she was kind of weak. I was also disappointed with the behavior of a returning character. I think what really didn't work was the multiple storylines that didn't tie well together in the end. I think if one plot thread had been removed (particularly the Changed or the one with Aunt Gene), it would have been better. There were just too many things to focus on and some story lines were not as fully developed because of it.

What I did like were the characters I loved from the first book-namely Nora and Bram. Their relationship grows as they think about what the future holds for them and those they love. Pamela is also growing as a character as she deals with her family issues and PTSD. I missed some of the camaraderie between Bram and his friends from book one but it was still nice to read about them. I also started to appreciate Vespertine Mink more in this book. She isn't just a mean girl and she has some positive qualities. 

Overall I think this book was entertaining and I enjoyed it though I wish that it had been a stronger sequel. I am looking forward to book 3 to see what happens next.

Note: I received an ARC for review courtesy of NetGalley and Amazon Vine.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (104)

"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: 

Sirens by Janet Fox
Release date: November 8, 2012

Description from Goodreads:

When Jo Winter’s parents send her off to live with her rich cousin on the glittering island of Manhattan, it’s to find a husband and forget about her brother Teddy’s death. But all that glitters is not gold. Caught up in the swirl of her cousin’s bobbed-hair set—and the men that court them—Jo soon realizes that the talk of marriage never stops, and behind the seemingly boundless gains are illicit business endeavors, gangsters, and their molls. Jo would much rather spend time with the handsome but quiet Charles, a waiter at the Algonquin Hotel, than drape herself over a bootlegger. But when she befriends a moll to one of the most powerful men in town, Jo begins to uncover secrets—secrets that threaten an empire and could secure Jo’s freedom from her family. Can her newfound power buy her love? Or will it to ruin Jo, and everyone around her?

I am currently reading a book set in the 1920s and I wouldn't mind reading more. It also doesn't hurt that Downton Abbey's new season is set in the '20s too (though in the UK). This looks like it could be an interesting historical fiction novel and it continues the trend in YA fiction of writing about the Roaring Twenties. I have to admit that I am not a big fan of the cover though.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Top Ten Series I Haven't Finished

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's topic is "Top Ten Series I Haven't Finished".  

Writing this post reminded me of how many series I haven't finished because I've lost interest in them, particularly YA paranormal romance series. I noticed that I'm reading more dystopian or fantasy novels as opposed to the paranormal romance this year. I still love my Richelle Mead books and a few others but I think I am moving away from that reading trend.

1. The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

Though I loved the first book when I read it and have since read the second and third, I haven't been able to catch up with the series yet and I'm not sure I will. I read an excerpt at the back of The Scottish Prisoner that made me think this series is going in a direction I don't care for.

2. The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare

I was seriously disappointed with City of Fallen Angels so I haven't even read City of Lost Souls. I am not certain I will read the rest of this series either. Maybe I will wait till all the books are published and then catch up. I do wish this had been a three book trilogy instead of a prolonged series.

3. The Dark Divine series by Bree Despain

This is a series that I meant to finish but I haven't gotten around to it yet. I wanted to reread the first two books in the series before reading the final book, The Savage Grace. Maybe I will get to it by the end of the year!

4. The Blue Bloods series by Melissa de la Cruz

This is another series I've become disenchanted with (since Misguided Angel). Unlike the Sookie Stackhouse books (which I still read even though I'm not a big fan anymore), I don't feel the burning need to keep up with this series. I am glad to hear it is finally wrapping up. I'd like some closure by reading spoilers online :)

5. The Across the Universe series by Beth Revis

I loved the first book in this series and I bought the sequel right away this past winter. The only reason I haven't caught up is because the first book was so disturbing to me (it doesn't matter that I know what happens-I still find some of the situations and characters creepy) that I haven't been able to bring myself to reread it yet. I need to get caught up with book 3 releasing in January!

6. The Divergent series by Veronica Roth

It may have been my favorite book of 2011 but I have yet to pick up the sequel, Insurgent. I want to reread Divergent first. I am going to make it my goal to get caught up on this series by the end of the year.

7. The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini

I don't think I will be finishing this series. I've forgotten so much of Brisingr already and I just don't feel like going back and rereading these books. 

8. Eon/Eona series by Alison Goodman

I waited two years to get my hands on the sequel to Eon (and it felt like longer than that) but to my shame I have not finished this series. Maybe I will finally read it this year. I loved book one but I am not big on rereading so we'll see if I can finish this series by January...

9. The Paranormalcy series by Kiersten White

Charmed as I was by Paranormalcy, I just couldn't get into Supernaturally and decided this is one series I can cross of my list. Hate when that happens.

10. The Soulscreamers series by Rachel Vincent

This is another series that I used to love but then the characters changed my mind. I wasn't happy with Nash in My Soul to Keep and the introduction of Sabine kind of confirmed my decision to quit reading this series. 

Honorable mentions:

The Nightshade series by Andrea Cremer (couldn't get through book 2)
Prophecy of the Sisters series by Michelle Zink (lost interest)
Hush, Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick (lost interest)
Caster Chronicles series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (no time to read latest)
The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott (lost interest)
Need series by Carrie Jones (haven't had time to read last book/lost interest)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (119)

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 can't believe fall is already here. The weather certainly reflects it with the cold snap and the rain we've had. At least it is good weather for staying indoors and reading with a mug of cider in hand!

It is book discussion week for me at the library (one on Monday night and one on Tuesday afternoon) but I only have one book to finish up since I read ahead last week. We also have an author visit at the library on Tuesday (Wanda Brunstetter will be doing a book signing) and my friend Kim and I will be filming our first library craft program Friday so it is going to be a crazy week for once. :)

Books read:

While I liked this book I was a little disappointed with it in the end. I did enjoy the author's writing style though.

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

This was a fantastic second book in the series though The Girl of Fire and Thorns remains my favorite. Romance is definitely a stronger presence in the story this time around.

Books reviewed:

Currently reading:

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

I am still pushing myself to read this book. I was alternating chapters with books I wanted to read but what usually happened is that I'd start reading more of the other books instead. I hope to finish The Age of Innocence by tomorrow evening.

What I plan to read next:

The Diviners by Libba Bray

I wasn't sure about reading this book but I read a glowing review from April at Good Books and Good Wine and when I saw that there was a free 11 chapter sampler available on Amazon, I downloaded it and liked it enough to buy it. There are some chilling scenes mixed in with the 1920s slang and YA breeziness so I will try not to read this at night!

Perfect on Paper by Maria Murnane

My sister loves this series and said they are really funny books. I decided to borrow this one from Amazon's Lending Library to give it a try. I read a few chapters and it is funny if not quite on the level of Sophie Kinsella.

With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin

I hope to read this soon. Maybe I will move it ahead of Perfect on Paper. It depends on what I'm in the mood for this week-historical romance, humor, or paranormal/horror set in the 1920s...

So what have you been reading?
Do you enjoy the fall or are your mourning the end of summer like me?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns

The Girl of Fire and Thorns
By Rae Carson
Publication date: September 20, 2011

My review:

The story begins with Elisa's wedding day. She feels fat in her dress and is sure that her future husband, King Alejandro will be disappointed when he sees her. Elisa believes she is the polar opposite of her graceful, intelligent, and beautiful older sister Alodia. What makes Elisa special to her people is the Godstone. As the Bearer, it is expected that Elisa will go on to do great things. These expectations only serve to make Elisa feel like a failure. As the new queen of Joya d'Arena, Elisa wants to help King Alejandro but she is met with ridicule from the people at Court as well as the injustice of having to keep her marriage a secret. It is only when Elisa is kidnapped that she begins to find out the truth about herself and what it means to be chosen. There are those who see her as a savior and those who see her as a threat and will do anything to possess the power she doesn't realize she has.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns is not a fairy tale though Elissa is a princess. It is also not a quest story. It is instead a fantasy novel that took me by surprise with its world building, political intrigue, magic, and character development. There is romance too but it isn't the main point of the story which I really appreciated. There are plenty of plot twists that were unexpected too.

Elissa really grows as a character from the girl with zero self confidence into a true leader. She does have an issue with her weight for much of the book but to me those negative thoughts made her character more real. She also grows out of that self-hate which was really nice to see.  All along she displays her intelligence though she doesn't seem to value herself at first. It takes her awhile but she is able to put her knowledge of military strategy to good use and she learns how to work within the politics at court. As a heroine, Elissa can be brave but she also has weaknesses and she isn't perfect. She relies on others as well as on her own strength.

Overall I thought this was one of the best books I read in 2011. I liked the character development but I also enjoyed the world that Rae Carson created and the discussion of faith and belief in yourself. While Elissa is a pretty religious person, this is not Christian fiction by any means. I look forward to finding out more about Elissa and the Godstone in the next book, The Crown of Embers, which was just released. 

Readalikes: Daughter of the Flames by Zoe Marriott, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (because of the political intrigue), Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

Note: I received an ARC for review courtesy of NetGalley but this review is based on the book I purchased from Amazon after publication.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (103)

"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:

Flame of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier
Release date: November 6, 2012

Description from Goodreads:

Maeve, daughter of Lord Sean of Sevenwaters, was badly burned as a child and carries the legacy of that fire in her crippled hands. After ten years she’s returning home as a courageous, forthright woman with a special gift for taming difficult animals. But while her body’s scars have healed, her spirit remains fragile, as she fears the shadows of her past.

Sevenwaters is in turmoil. The fey prince Mac Dara has become desperate to see his only son, who is married to Maeve’s sister, return to the Otherworld. To force Lord Sean’s hand, Mac Dara has caused a party of innocent travelers on the Sevenwaters border to vanish.

When Maeve finds one of the missing travelers murdered in the woods, she and her brother Finbar embark on a journey that may bring about the end of Mac Dara’s reign — or lead to a hideous death. But if she is successful, Maeve may open a door to a future she has not dared to believe possible...

I was disappointed by Seer of Sevenwaters but I think this book sounds really promising. I think I will like Maeve as a heroine more than I liked Sibeal anyway.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (118)

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.

Note: Please forgive the weird formatting of this post. Blogger is annoying me today!

I wish I was in the UK so I could watch Downton Abbey Season 3 but in the meantime I will hopefully have some good books to keep me occupied (as well as watching my DVDs of Season 1 &2).  I am still fighting a sinus infection (really I feel sick because of my antibiotic more than the sinus infection) but I got some rest this weekend and managed to read more books and make some progress on my book discussion books so I won't feel rushed.
Books read:
Dearly, Beloved by Lia Habel
I liked this book but it did not live up to Dearly, Departed. I am still trying to get my thoughts  together to write a review.
Don't Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon
I know that Noa is being compared to Lisbeth Salander but I haven't read the Millenium trilogy yet so I don't know how well that fits. What I do know is that this was an entertaining techno thriller novel for teens and I look forward to the next book in the series.
Among the Nameless Stars by Diana Peterfreund
This prequel to For Darkness Shows the Stars gives a look into Kai's thoughts and actions after he runs away from the North Estate. I think it is important to understanding his character and motivations.
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Persuasion is one of my favorite Jane Austen novels so I wasn't surprised that I enjoyed this book. What did surprise me was the anger I felt toward certain characters, such as Kai and Baron North. Of course it helped to keep in mind all that Kai had been through but still didn't excuse his rudeness. Baron North on the other hand just should have had a visit from Ser Ilyn Payne (King's Executioner from A Game of Thrones). Off with his head! The original Sir Walter Elliot from Persuasion was much nicer in comparison.
Books reviewed:
The Great Escape by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Currently reading:
This book is so good so far but the story is different from what I expected (and so much better). 
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
I am slowly making my way through this book by alternating it with The Story of Beautiful Girl. It is kind of boring at times but hopefully it will pick up.
What I plan to read next:
The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
I am so excited that this book will be published on Tuesday. I can't wait to get my hands on it (or at least download it to my Kindle).
Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia Macneal
I still haven't read this library book yet but hopefully I will get to it soon. I love the time period.
With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin
This is the first book in a new series by Christian fiction author Sarah Sundin and I am looking forward to it. I enjoy her historical fiction novels more than most Christian fiction.
Thanks for stopping by! 
What have you been reading lately?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review: The Great Escape

The Great Escape
By Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Published: July 10, 2012

My review:

Lucy Jorik realizes that she is about to make a big mistake on the day she is supposed to marry her perfect groom, Ted Beaudine. She runs out of the wedding and into the path of a biker named Panda, a guy who is the exact opposite of Ted. Lucy just wants to get away and hide out for awhile so she convinces Panda to help her make her "great escape". What Lucy doesn't plan on is her unexpected attraction to Panda.

Lucy is a returning character who first made her appearance in the novel First Lady, which was about her adoptive parents, Nealy Case and Mat Jorik. In that book, Lucy was a tough teen who was taking care of her baby sister after her mother's death. The Lucy we meet in this book is a steep contrast to that character. As the daughter of a former President of the United States, Lucy is now cultured and well mannered. Now that she has decided that she doesn't want to be Mrs. Ted Beaudine, Lucy has to figure out what to do next. She is unsatisfied with her work as a lobbyist for children's causes and she misses working with kids and teens in a more direct way. Unfortunately the book drags as Lucy takes forever to come to a decision that seemed obvious from the beginning.

The romance was a disappointment to me. I hated the name "Panda" and though his real name is later revealed (as well as the reasons behind his early crude behavior) I didn't ever warm up to the character. I also didn't like how Lucy just decides to hook up with him casually after finding him so repulsive. She behaves like a rebellious teen instead of a 30-something responsible woman, even refusing to call her family to let them know she is okay (though she does stay in touch through her best friend Meg). Her relationship with Panda is just about attraction at first and later as they get to know each other it is overshadowed by the other plot threads. I felt that their "romance" went from all lust to sudden declarations of love and it just didn't work for me.

The love story that I actually found interesting is that between secondary character Bree and the guy who had a crush on her years ago in high school. Bree has negative feelings toward Mike because of what happened back then but he is gradually revealed to be a decent guy. I liked seeing how she grew as a person and let go of past hurts. I also liked her relationship with her foster son, Toby. I wish Bree's story had been the main story line. 

The other plot thread involved a mean fitness guru ala Jillian Michaels who has become overweight and is hiding out while she gets herself back in shape. I thought her character was not necessary to the story and found her annoying. I think it was just a way to keep Panda and Lucy together in the same house (he is serving as security for the fitness guru who is hiding out at his house and the fitness guru needs Lucy to stick around as a decoy). 

Overall this book did not live up to my expectations but the secondary story line with Bree definitely improved it. If the romance had been more believable and if Lucy hadn't been so annoying and immature I think I would have enjoyed it more. I am certainly glad that I picked up my copy from the library instead of buying it!  First Lady is a much more enjoyable romance and I'd suggest that readers new to Susan Elizabeth Phillips pick up that title instead.

Readalikes: First Lady by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (102)

"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:

The Ashford Affair by Lauren Willig
Release date: April 9, 2013

Description from Goodreads:

As a lawyer in a large Manhattan firm, just shy of making partner, Clementine Evans has finally achieved almost everything she’s been working towards—but now she’s not sure it’s enough. Her long hours have led to a broken engagement and, suddenly single at thirty-four, she feels her messy life crumbling around her. But when the family gathers for her grandmother Addie’s ninety-ninth birthday, a relative lets slip hints about a long-buried family secret, leading Clemmie on a journey into the past that could change everything. . . .

What follows is a potent story that spans generations and continents, bringing an Out of Africa feel to a Downton Abbey cast of unforgettable characters. From the inner circles of WWI-era British society to the skyscrapers of Manhattan and the red-dirt hills of Kenya, the never-told secrets of a woman and a family unfurl.

This sounds so very different from the Pink Carnation series but I like Lauren Willig's writing, especially the historical and mystery elements, and I am willing to give this book a try. I am intrigued by the setting and the reference to Downton Abbey doesn't hurt :)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (117)

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 have been feeling under the weather this weekend due to fighting a sinus infection and my antibiotic. Hopefully I will be able to read more this week and actually finish some reviews. It doesn't help that I'm also addicted to Pinterest and spending time on that instead of my blog...

Books read:

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

This was a book group pick and I am glad that I was not the only one who didn't like it. We all agreed that the author's writing was beautiful but the character development was lacking.

The Great Escape by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

This book was a letdown for me after reading First Lady. The romance didn't quite work and the main character annoyed me but I liked the secondary character, Bree. Too bad the book didn't center on her story.

Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

I loved rereading this book and remembering all the reasons I enjoyed the book when I read it last year. It is nice when a book is just as good the second time around.

Currently reading:

Dearly, Beloved by Lia Habel

I am almost done with this book and I think it is almost as good as the first book. There are some interesting plot developments and a few new characters some of which intrigue me and some which annoy me.

What I plan to read next:

Don't Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon

I read an excerpt of this book and it is really promising. It is nice to see more YA suspense novels though I think this is futuristic.

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Why oh why did I have to pick a classic for this month's book discussion? I checked the movie version out from the library and haven't even been able to finish that. I am going to have to force myself to read this one. :(

This is the book my evening book discussion group will be reading this month and it is one I have been wanting to read since it was published. It is a novel about a biracial couple in the late 1960s who have escaped from an institution and it is also the story of the daughter they have to abandon to the care of a retired school teacher. I have a feeling I won't have to force myself to read this one :)

What have you been reading lately?
Have you read any of the books on my list?