Sunday, April 28, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (144)

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.

So this past weekend was the Dewey 24 Hour Readathon and I had signed up to participate in it but I ended up changing my mind at the last minute. We've had so few days of nice weather especially on a weekend (typically it seems that the nice days always fall when I am at work!) and since I had to do some grocery shopping and errand running, I decided to take advantage of it. I did feel bad about not catching up on as much reading as I wanted so I made up for it by spending the evening finishing up one book and trying to finish another.

For those of you who participated in the readathon, I hope it was a great success and a lot of fun. I am looking forward to the next one in the fall. Hopefully it will be a day that I am off and the weather will be cold and rainy :)

Books read:

Crossing the Line by Katie McGarry

This was a short novella from the Pushing the Limits series featuring Lila, Echo's best friend. I like the character of Lila but I wished she'd gotten her own novel. I thought things were kind of rushed with this novella in the end.

The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan (reread)

This book raises the stakes in the series with some big losses and emotional moments. I think it takes the storyline to a darker place in a way as a set up for the final two books. 

Little Century by Anna Keesey

This was a book discussion book and I am glad I was able to finish it early instead of rushing to get through it at the last minute. I still haven't decided how I feel about this book. It is a nontraditional Western/coming of age book and it has its good and weak points.

Dare You To by Katie McGarry

I think I liked this book more than Pushing the Limits. In the first book Beth comes across as a gruff unpleasant character who is kind of mean to Echo. Here we get to see a softer side of her and really find out what made her the way she is.

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

While I was able to predict the "twist" in this story, I mostly liked the book, probably because of the character of Minka, the Holocaust survivor and main character's grandmother. I also liked the fairytale that Minka tells. I thought those parts were well developed. The modern story wasn't quite as compelling.

Books reviewed:

Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Currently reading:

The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan (reread)

What I plan to read next:

The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan (reread)

Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan

I think after reading YA fantasy novels, I will be ready for some historical fiction. This is a book for review so I want to get to it soon so I can write the review in time.

Vanity Fare by Megan Caldwell

I am seriously craving chocolate chip cookies just looking at this cover! It sucks to be on a restrictive diet but if giving up cookies and sweets means I will feel better than I guess I will just have to read about pastries instead of eating them :)

Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland

I could use a good beach read right now. The weather keeps playing tricks on us and I am ready for summer already :)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Review: The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief
By Rick Riordan
Published: June 1, 2005

Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school... again. And that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus' master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus' stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

My review:

I first read this book in my pre-blogging days and I'd decided to pick it up because of the movie adaptation. Though I ended up disappointed with the movie, I loved this book and the rest of the books in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.  With the second movie coming out later this year (it will hopefully be better than the first), I decided to reread the series.

I remember that when I first read this book I wasn't sure I would like it. I thought maybe it would be too much of a "kid book" to hold my attention or too similar to the Harry Potter books to have any originality. I am glad I was proven wrong! While I think this book would appeal to fans of Harry Potter, it is not a copy cat by any means.  I also found it to be entertaining, educational, and really funny.

The idea of blending Greek mythology with the modern world really appealed to me. I enjoyed learning more about the myths and the world of Camp Half-Blood. I also really liked the characters. Percy is an ordinary preteen who finds out he is a demigod and that he has access to all these untapped powers. Percy comes across as a genuine character that I think kids and teens could relate to because while he is dealing with monsters and quests he also has real world problems like family drama. He has flaws as well as strengths and he shows some growth especially in dealing with some difficult losses and betrayals. 

The Lightning Thief is a quick read and I think it appeals to readers on multiple levels as an adventure story with humor, magic, and great characters. I think fans of Harry Potter would particularly enjoy it.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Review: Perfect Scoundrels

Perfect Scoundrels
By Ally Carter
Published: February 5, 2013

Katarina Bishop and W.W. Hale the fifth were born to lead completely different lives: Kat comes from a long, proud line of loveable criminal masterminds, while Hale is the scion of one of the most seemingly perfect dynasties in the world. If their families have one thing in common, it's that they both know how to stay under the radar while getting-or stealing-whatever they want. No matter the risk, the Bishops can always be counted on, but in Hale's family, all bets are off when money is on the line. When Hale unexpectedly inherits his grandmother's billion dollar corporation, he quickly learns that there's no place for Kat and their old heists in his new role. But Kat won't let him go that easily, especially after she gets tipped off that his grandmother's will might have been altered in an elaborate con to steal the company's fortune. So instead of being the heir-this time, Hale might be the mark. Forced to keep a level head as she and her crew fight for one of their own, Kat comes up with an ambitious and far-reaching plan that only the Bishop family would dare attempt. To pull it off, Kat is prepared to do the impossible, but first, she has to decide if she's willing to save her boyfriend's company if it means losing the boy.

My review:

Perfect Scoundrels is a little different from the first two Heist Society books because it doesn't involve an art heist and the job Kat and the gang are working on involves Hale in a very personal way. This book also gives us more insight into Kat and Hale as characters, their relationship and history with each other, and Hale's family and how it shaped him. Another new addition is the romance though it isn't the sole focus of the story.

Kat shows her uncertainty and vulnerability about her relationship with Hale which has become complicated now that they are a couple and also because of Hale's new status as the heir to his family's company. Hale also reveals his own vulnerability where his family is concerned. He was very close to his late grandmother and sought her approval so the idea that she wanted him to be her heir really moved him. It is hard for Kat to even think that Hale actually is a mark in someone's scheme but she is determined to do the right thing even though she knows it might mean the end of their relationship.

I liked seeing Kat and Hale grow in this book and I was entertained by the story which had some funny moments alongside the suspense. There were even some surprise twists that I didn't anticipate. I kind of liked the change from the art heist storylines too. I did feel that some of the secondary characters came across as flat and the story wrapped up a little too quickly but these are minor flaws. I am a fan of Ally Carter's blend of intelligent female characters, humor, and action packed plots and overall I thought this was a good entry in the series. If you like lighthearted adventure stories with girl power, I suggest giving this series (Heist Society) or the Gallagher Girls series (I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You) a try.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (121)

"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 School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
Release date: May 14, 2013

Description from Goodreads:

At the School for Good and Evil, failing your fairy tale is not an option.

Welcome to the School for Good and Evil, where best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

With her glass slippers and devotion to good deeds, Sophie knows she'll earn top marks at the School for Good and join the ranks of past students like Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White. Meanwhile, Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks and wicked black cat, seems a natural fit for the villains in the School for Evil.

The two girls soon find their fortunes reversed—Sophie's dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School for Good, thrust among handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.

But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are . . . ?

The School for Good and Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.

I think this book sounds like a lot of fun. I first heard about it from another blogger (Bookworm 1858) and today she posted her review of it which you can check out here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Top Ten Books I Liked More/Less Than I Thought I Would

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 Books I Liked More/Less Than I Thought I Would"

Books I liked more than I thought I would:

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

My book group voted to read this for our April book and I wasn't sure if I would like it. Imagine my surprise when I ended up loving it!  I think I may have been judging it by its cover but when you read the story, the cover does make sense. I kind of hope they will give it a different more appealing cover in paperback though.

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

I first heard about this book years before the HBO series but it wasn't until I started watching the show that I decided to read the book. I have enjoyed fantasy novels in the past but I am always nervous about trying them because they aren't always easy to get into and this one is just a little long :)

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Even though I'd already read the Harry Potter series when I picked this up, I was afraid that I wouldn't like The Lightning Thief, that maybe it would be too "juvenile" for me. I must be younger at heart than I thought because I ended up loving it! Now Rick Riordan is a must-read author for me.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

I probably wouldn't have read this series if not for the movie. I remember seeing a trailer for The Fellowship of the Ring movie and thinking that it kind of looked good. It motivated me to give the book a try and I am so glad I did. It is now one of my favorite books of all time.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling

It is my little sister's fault that I am a fan of Harry Potter. I had zero interest in reading the books until she forced convinced me to give them a try. I was really taken by surprise at how much I enjoyed this book and ended up flying through the rest of the books that were available at the time. I am so glad I listened to my sister (but don't tell her I said that!)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I had heard some good things about The Hunger Games when it was first released but the amount of violence and the comparison to Survivor made me really hesitant to pick it up. It wasn't until I saw it lauded all over the place by other librarians that I decided to give it a try. Then I made my sister read it and she loved it too. (See, I got her back for Harry Potter!)

Poison by Bridget Zinn

I kind of wanted to read this book because it sounded whimsical. I remember commenting on the "enchanted piglet" on Goodreads as a reason why I should give it a try. I was surprised though by how much I loved this book, especially the humor. 

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

I don't think I would ever have read this book if not for my enjoyment of the film (plus my sister said she'd bought it-though she ended up giving up on it in the first chapter). It was a long long slog through this book but in the end I loved it. I thought it gave me a better understanding of the characters and the story. I think it could have used some serious editing though. I don't think it needed a whole chapter on the history of the sewer system in Paris...

Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Who would have though I would like a book about a girl who wanted to play football? I am not a sports enthusiast and am terrible at playing any kind of sport. Football has especially never appealed to me so it was with great trepidation that I picked up Dairy Queen. Thankfully I found that this book is about more than football and I ended it with a greater understanding of the sport and an appreciation for the hard work of those who play it.  Side note: I am still not a football fan :)

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

I wasn't sure what to expect with Edenbrooke. Some people gave it glowing reviews while others thought it wasn't anything special. I am glad I decided to read it because it was one of those books that just made me smile. I had been worried that the author would try (and fail) to make it like a Jane Austen novel but thankfully she didn't and it was an enjoyable romance.

Books I didn't like as much as I thought I would:

Reached by Ally Condie

I loved Matched and thought Crossed was good (though not as good as the first book). Reached however really disappointed me in the end. I guess I just expected more from the final book than what I got-more emotion, more passion (not of the romantic variety), and more closure.

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

I really liked Delirium and at the time when I read it I thought I liked it more than Matched (I changed my mind when I reread Matched). The sequel however really let me down at the end. I hate love triangles and that is what it looks like we are going to get. I didn't bother reading Requiem after all of its lackluster reviews.

Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella

While in the end I still enjoyed reading this book (there are plenty of laugh out loud moments), it wasn't as good as what I expected from a Sophie Kinsella novel. I felt let down especially by the main character, Lottie.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I did like Mockingjay but it was not as good as the first two books. At first I thought I hated it but after thinking about it for awhile I decided that I could appreciate that the author wanted the ending to be more true to life. It is hard to heal after a war. It isn't something that ever leaves a person. The ending didn't feel very triumphant but that made it more realistic. I still wish it had lived up to all the promise of The Hunger Games though. I expected more from Katniss.

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

I loved Soulless and was excited to see the author was branching out into teen fiction. While I did like this book I thought it could have been so much better. I think I just prefer her fiction for adults. This was a little on the "young teen" side for me. Of course, I am not the target audience but I think that if you read this book without having previously read Soulless, it won't be as easy to get into.

Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult is a hit or miss author with me. I used to think I would like all of her books but then I came across some duds and this was one of them. My book group was really excited about reading this one but in the end we all hated it. 

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings

This is a case where I thought the movie was better than the book. Of course the movie had George Clooney and the book didn't...seriously I think the acting is what made the movie special because the story in the book and the characters just weren't likable at all.

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

I love Jane Eyre and this book received such great reviews. The descriptive writing was kind of nice but the pacing was slow and in the end I was really disappointed by some of the changes made to this retelling.

Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame

I think this is the first of those books marketed to Downton Abbey fans that I read. I thought I'd love Wentworth Hall and I think I expected it to be like The Luxe by Anna Godbersen but I felt really let down by the ending and the style in which the story was told. 

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

I love Maggie Stiefvater's writing but her pacing could use some work especially in this final book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series. It just needed a jolt of adrenaline and the open ending kind of annoyed me. I definitely expected more from this author.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (143)

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 great reading week and even got caught up on some reviews. This coming weekend I am planning to participate in the Dewey 24 Hour Readathon though if I were a really responsible adult I'd spend the time getting caught up on cleaning instead!

Books read:

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (reread)

I am long overdue in rereading this series and since the new movie is coming out this summer and the books were on sale for Kindle a couple of weeks ago, I decided to pick them up again. This is such a fun series!

The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan (reread)

I think this is the first time that I reread The Sea of Monsters. I really like this one because of all the allusions to The Odyssey. I also really hope they don't screw up the movie!

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

I thought this book was amazing. I wasn't really prepared to like it but found myself taken by surprise. I hope the rest of my book group likes it too!

Books reviewed:

Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella

Currently reading:

Little Century by Anna Kesey

I just started this book and I hope I will like it. The writing style is a little different because it is in third person, present tense and it will take some time for me to get used to it. It is a book group book so I have to finish it this week.

Crossing the Line by Katie McGarry

I am reading this novella on my Kindle. It is the story of Lila, Echo Emerson's best friend (from Pushing the Limits). I am enjoying it so far.

What I plan to read next:

The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan (reread)

The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan (reread)

The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan (reread)

Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan

I am kind of interested in this one because it is a teen spy novel set during Elizabethan times.

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult is a hit or miss author with me so I am curious to see how I will feel about The Storyteller. The subject matter is certainly intriguing.

Vanity Fare by Megan Caldwell

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Review: Wedding Night

Wedding Night
By Sophie Kinsella
Published: April 23, 2013

Lottie just knows that her boyfriend is going to propose during lunch at one of London’s fanciest restaurants. But when his big question involves a trip abroad, not a trip down the aisle, she’s completely crushed. So when Ben, an old flame, calls her out of the blue and reminds Lottie of their pact to get married if they were both still single at thirty, she jumps at the chance. No formal dates—just a quick march to the altar and a honeymoon on Ikonos, the sun-drenched Greek island where they first met years ago.
Their family and friends are horrified. Fliss, Lottie’s older sister, knows that Lottie can be impulsive—but surely this is her worst decision yet. And Ben’s colleague Lorcan fears that this hasty marriage will ruin his friend’s career. To keep Lottie and Ben from making a terrible mistake, Fliss concocts an elaborate scheme to sabotage their wedding night. As she and Lorcan jet off to Ikonos in pursuit, Lottie and Ben are in for a honeymoon to remember, for better . . . or worse.

My review:

This book was not what I was expecting. Usually when I pick up a Sophie Kinsella book, I know what I am getting but I was taken by surprise with Wedding Night. At first I wasn't sure I would like it. Lottie is a flake in a big way and not the easiest character to like at times. Thankfully the book is told in alternating POV so we also get chapters featuring Fliss whom I liked a lot more.

Lottie has a history of making rash decisions anytime a relationship falls apart and while I felt bad for her when things didn't happen with Richard, I was annoyed by the way she decides immediately that Ben is who she should be with and marry. I did come to care for Lottie but she was so naive and immature in the way she clung to the past. 

Fliss for me was the star of the book. It is rather hilarious to read how far Fliss will go to prevent Lottie and Ben from being alone on their wedding night. She takes the overprotective big sister act to extremes.  At the same time all of this is going on, Fliss is dealing with her marital breakup and divorce and she wants to keep Lottie from the same pain she is feeling. Fliss may have gone a little overboard in her attempts to protect Lottie but she always had the best intentions.

Reading about Fliss and Lottie's childhood really helps the reader to understand the characters, especially Lottie. I think Lottie is a character that grew on me over time. There were glimpses of this person who could be really helpful and caring mixed in with all the whining and rash behavior. I think it was harder for me to connect with Lottie because I am more like Fliss.

The romance angle was different from the usual Kinsella book because the heroine has a break up and then gets married to someone else. Once the characters were introduced though it was obvious to me who belonged with whom. The characters just needed to realize it for themselves. I never felt really invested in the romance aspect of the book because it wasn't the traditional love story I was expecting.

In the end I liked this book though it didn't live up to my expectations because of Lottie. It did make me laugh out loud at times and I came to enjoy the sibling relationship and the character of Fliss. I appreciated the family relationships and humor but the romance was a letdown.  If you are a fan of Sophie Kinsella, be aware that Wedding Night won't be on the same level as her other books. 

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

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (120)

"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:

Longbourn by Jo Baker
Release date: October 8, 2013


A brilliantly imagined, irresistible below-stairs answer to Pride and Prejudice: a story of the romance, intrigue and drama among the servants of the Bennet household, a triumphant tale of defying society's expectations, and an illuminating glimpse of working-class lives in Regency England. 

The servants at Longbourn estate--only glancingly mentioned in Jane Austen's classic--take centre stage in Jo Baker's lively, cunning new novel. Here are the Bennets as we have never known them: seen through the eyes of those scrubbing the floors, cooking the meals, emptying the chamber pots. Our heroine is Sarah, an orphaned housemaid beginning to chafe against the boundaries of her class. When the militia marches into town, a new footman arrives under mysterious circumstances, and Sarah finds herself the object of the attentions of an ambitious young former slave working at neighboring Netherfield Hall, the carefully choreographed world downstairs at Longbourn threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, up-ended. From the stern but soft-hearted housekeeper to the starry-eyed kitchen maid, these new characters come vividly to life in this already beloved world. Jo Baker shows us what Jane Austen wouldn't in a captivating, wonderfully evocative, moving work of fiction.

I think this book sounds kind of interesting. I suppose it is inspired by the popularity of Downton Abbey (even though it is set in a much earlier time) and novels about the lives of servants. I love Pride and Prejudice so I am curious about how the story will be portrayed through the servants' eyes.