Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Taking a little break

Sorry I haven't been around as much lately. I have been sick with a bad head cold/possible sinus infection. I thought I was doing better yesterday but then I had a major headache and fever last night. I hope to go to the doctor today and hopefully return to work. In the meantime I am taking a break from blogging until next week. See you in May!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Review: Dash and Lily's Book of Dares

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Publication date: December 1, 2010

My review:

On a trip to the Strand during his Christmas break, Dash comes across a red moleskine notebook with cryptic instructions and a dare. Dash is intrigued and decides to play along. Lily is surprised when she finds out that someone picked up her notebook. When she asks the bookstore clerk to describe this mystery boy, he says that Dash is "snarly". But Dash has also decided to leave his own challenges for Lily and so the two of them go back and forth around New York City leaving clues about themselves and their lives in the pages of the notebook, daring each other to step out of their comfort zones. But does the notebook reveal the real Lily and Dash or are they bound to be disappointed if they ever meet in person?

The book is told in alternating chapters by Lily and Dash. I like this format of storytelling especially since Dash's chapters are written by David Levithan and Lily's chapters by Rachel Cohn. This is particularly good in Dash's case-he sounds male. The problem is that he also sounds more like a college age kid than a teen but it is possible that Dash is just different from other guys his age. His mature voice and dry wit made me like him more. There is a snarkiness to him and yes, he does come across as "snarly". Lily on the other hand seems too immature for Dash at times. She has been overprotected by her family and I found her to be annoying at times. I can see why she was nicknamed Shrilly (though the story behind it is sad). Still, I liked her most of the time, especially when she was willing to step outside of her comfort zone and try new things. I also liked the side characters like Boomer and Mrs. Basil E. though it did feel like they existed more to help us understand Lily and Dash than as characters in their own right.

What I really found enjoyable about this book was the obvious love of words and literature behind it, particularly in the chapters penned by Levithan. There was something very Gilmore Girls-like about it. The smartness of the dialogue and Dash's inner thoughts made him my favorite character. I also liked that both of the characters came to realize that they couldn't base their feelings on the idealized versions of each other that developed from their notebook entries. I think that added something realistic to the story. It would otherwise have been like reading the script for Serendipity: the Teen Years (referring to the John Cusack/Kate Beckinsale movie). 

Thought it has some flaws, Dash and Lily's Book of Dares is a fun book with quirky characters, some humorous moments and strange situations. I would suggest this to fans of Julie Halpern, John Green, and E. Lockhart.

Readalikes: Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern, 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, How to Be Bad by Sarah Mlynowski, E. Lockhart, and Lauren Miracle

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (50)

"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 American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
Publication date: June 21, 2011

Description from Goodreads:

Traveling abroad with her mother at the turn of the twentieth century to seek a titled husband, beautiful, vivacious Cora Cash, whose family mansion in Newport dwarfs the Vanderbilts’, suddenly finds herself Duchess of Wareham, married to Ivo, the most eligible bachelor in England. Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals. Money, Cora soon learns, cannot buy everything, as she must decide what is truly worth the price in her life and her marriage.

I loved the BBC series Downton Abbey and this book has been compared to that show. The main character Cora shares the name (and some of the circumstances) of the Duchess from the show as well. If you are a fan of Downton Abbey or like reading about this time period, add The American Heiress to your TBR list too! Early reviews have been excellent.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Catching Up Readathon

Kristen at Bookworming in the 21st Century is hosting the Catching Up Readathon from Thursday April 21st through Monday April 25th. Kristen decided to hold the readathon to get caught up on her 2011 Reading Challenge on Goodreads. Currently, I am 7 books ahead on my reading goal of 101 books for the year but I have a lot of library books and review books I need to get caught up on anyway. Plus I did not get to participate in the Dewey Readathon this year so I thought this would be fun.

My TBR pile (partial list to choose from):

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (library)
Unearthly by Cynthia Hand (library)
The Magnolia League by Katie Crouch (review)
Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn (library)
Clarity by Kim Harrington (library)
Death Cloud by Andrew Lane (library)
The Help by Kathryn Stockett (own, review for Royal Reviews)
Babe in Boyland by Jody Gehrman (library)
Never Sit Down in a Hoop Skirt by Crickett Rumley (review)
The Lady Most Likely by Julia Quinn (library)
A Cup of Friendship by Deborah Rodriguez (library)
Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray (review)
City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare (own)

My goal is to just complete four of these!

If you'd like to sign up and to find out all the details (including info about a prize she is offering!) head over to Bookworming in the 21st Century.

Top Ten Books I'd Like To See Made Into Movies

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 Rewind" where we pick a topic we didn't get to do. My topic this week: top ten books you wish were made into movies.

I love it when books are adapted for film, especially when it's done right. Here are some books that I think would make great movies:

1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

This may be a huge book but I think it could be adapted nicely into a fantastic movie. Of all the books on my list, this one is the book I'd most like to see made into a movie. I'd certainly love to see Jamie on the big screen :)

2. Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman

This is one of my favorite YA fantasy novels. The dragons would be hard to get right but I would love to see this made into a movie. We need more movies with courageous YA heroines.

3. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
While this moving story would be a challenge to adapt, I think it would make a fantastic movie. The filmmakers would probably have to use flashbacks to show what happened during World War II but the fascinating characters and story would be excellent on the big screen.

4. Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

I'd love to see Amy and Roger's Epic Detour on film. The travel adventures, the friendship/romance that develops, and the journey the characters go on emotionally would make this a film with wide appeal.

5. Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

When I read this book, I kept thinking over and over how this story was made for film. It kind of reminded me of the film Serendipity. With the right actors and screenwriter, this would make a cute, fun teen movie especially at the holidays.

6. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

This book has a powerful and uplifting story that I think would inspire a beautiful movie about a daughter and mother trying to rise above horrible circumstances.

7. Soulless by Gail Carriger

This would be such a fun film. I already know who I'd like to see play Conall Maccon (Kevin McKidd of Grey's Anatomy and Rome) and Professor Lyall (Jude Law). The characters are fantastic and as long as they cast the right person for Alexia, I think it would do well. Even if they never make it into a movie at least I can pretend with the wonderful audiobook.

8. The Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter
I know that years ago the film rights for this series were optioned but it was never developed for film. I think Disney should buy the rights and make them into TV movies. It would do very well. It would be even better as a movie on the big screen but then probably only the first book would be adapted and I like the later books in the series even more. Cammie is a fun and intelligent heroine and so are her friends.

9. Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Dairy Queen could be such a fun teen movie if adapted properly. DJ is a great character with a lot of spunk and strength. The football angle would give this a wide appeal to movie going audiences. So enough YA vampire/werewolf movies already! Adapt something like this, Hollywood!

10. Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Secret Daughter is one of my favorite books and I think this touching story about mothers and daughters would make a wonderful film. The universal theme of mother-daughter relationships would appeal to a broader audience as well.

Teaser Tuesdays (46)

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

My teasers this week:

"Thieves and prostitutes. Our mothers were in that car, along with a teacher, a librarian, elderly people, and a newborn baby-thieves and prostitutes. Jonas looked at the writing. I grabbed his hand, thankful he couldn't read Russian."

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
p. 41


In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina is preparing for art school, first dates, and all that summer has to offer. But one night, the Soviet secret police barge violently into her home, deporting her along with her mother and younger brother. They are being sent to Siberia. Lina's father has been separated from the family and sentenced to death in a prison camp. All is lost. Lina fights for her life, fearless, vowing that if she survives she will honor her family, and the thousands like hers, by documenting their experience in her art and writing. She risks everything to use her art as messages, hoping they will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive? Between Shades of Gray is a riveting novel that steals your breath, captures your heart, and reveals the miraculous nature of the human spirit.

I just started this book yesterday and I think it will be one of my favorites of 2011.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (60)

It's Monday What Are You Reading? is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. I always enjoy seeing what other people have read and reviewed over the past week. It is also a great way to find new books to add to that ever-growing TBR list!

Favorite books read this week:  Mariana by Susanna Kearsley and The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

I was sick this weekend with a sore throat so I spent more time reading rather than doing other things I should have done like vacuuming, dusting, or laundry. I have a feeling this week will be more of the same as I fight off a cold. One good thing this week-I am closer than ever to getting a Kindle now that Amazon has offered one with ads. I'm not too keen on that but I like the price :)
Books finished:
The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

This was my first book by Sarah Addison Allen but it certainly won't be the last! I really enjoyed her writing style and the Southern setting.

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley

While not as good as The Winter Sea, I still really enjoyed Mariana and Susanna Kearsley is becoming a favorite author of mine. The book is currently unavailable from Amazon so I ordered my own copy from Book Depository.

Stay by Deb Caletti

This is the first book by Deb Caletti that I read cover to cover and I was surprised at how much I liked her writing. It is reminiscent of Sarah Dessen and Elizabeth Scott.

Gone With a Handsomer Man by Michael Lee West

This one made me laugh out loud and groan with frustration at the antics of Teenie Templeton. I think it would appeal to fans of Sookie Stackhouse though there isn't anything paranormal about it. Just a fun Southern mystery with quirky characters, good food, and a lot of romance and humor.
Books reviewed:
The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell
Out for Blood by Alyxandra Harvey
Deadly Little Games by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen
Currently reading:

Timeless by Alexandra Monir 

I just started this one but I may put it aside and pick it up later. I am having trouble paying attention and the writing style is a little jarring at times. I will give it one more day and see if I get pulled into the story.

What I plan to read next:

 Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
I can tell that this will be a good book. I was going to read this instead of Timeless but I am in the mood for something a little lighter first.
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
There are over 200 people waiting to read this book so I need to read it soon and return it to the library! I hope it lives up to all the hype. It is a really thick book.
Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
I waited months to get this from the library and I hope I get a chance to read it before I have to return it.
Clarity by Kim Harrington
I am not sure if I will actually read this. It reminds me of The Body Finder. I kind of want to take a break from YA paranormal fiction for awhile so after I finish Unearthly I might skip this one and just stick with books for adults or contemporary/historical YA for the next few weeks. We'll see...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

In My Mailbox (52)

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'm most excited about: City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare and The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

For review:

I think this cover is beautiful and I hope the story lives up to it! I like that this is a YA steampunk novel and I am really looking forward to reading it.

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

I think this debut has a promising premise as it is a twist on the Helen of Troy story. I like Greek mythology so hopefully I will enjoy Starcrossed.

The Dark Enquiry by Deanna Raybourn

I've only read Silent in the Grave (I hope to read Silent in the Sanctuary and the rest soon) but I loved it so much that I was excited to have the opportunity to review The Dark Enquiry. Now I need to get caught up on this fun mystery series!

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review these ARCs.


Most of these were purchased with gift certificates!

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

I've only read the first chapter of this one because I have so many other books from the library or for review that I have to get through first!

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman

This is one of my favorite fantasy books but I didn't own a copy. Now that it is out in paperback (to match Eona which releases this week!) I had to have a copy to reread. I was happy to be able to use the Borders giftcard I received from the 2010 POC Reading Challenge (thanks Ari!) to get a copy for my bookshelves.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I have been wanting to read The Help for years but the waiting list at the library has always been long. I decided to get my own copy (also using the Borders gift card) because I want to read it before the movie comes out this summer.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I wasn't planning to read this book because it had to do with the circus (which I hate) and clowns (which scare me) but when I saw the movie trailer and read an excerpt of the book I decided to give it a try. Since so many people are trying to read it before the movie comes out I purchased my own copy with the movie tie-in cover (I like it much more than the original). I may break my usual rule and go see the movie before I read it!

The Sari by Linda Lynton 

I have been eyeing this book for years and it sat languishing on my Amazon wishlist until I made an impulse buy decision.  In addition to beautiful pictures (not enough!) and illustrations of various sari types it also gives instructions on how to wear one. Since I have only worn a sari one time in my life, this will be useful because I am doing a program this summer at my library and I'm supposed to show people how to wear a sari!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Review: Skipping a Beat

Skipping a Beat
By Sarah Pekkanen
Publication date: February 12, 2011

My review:

Julia and Michael's marriage has been on the rocks for a long time but Julia considers herself happy with the life she leads. She loves her job, her friends, and her expensive and elegant home. When her husband collapses during a meeting and dies for four moments, he is revived but he is a changed man. This new Michael decides to give up his high profile career and company and give away his wealth, sending Julia into a tailspin. Now she has to decide if she will stand by him in this new life or choose to walk away from the man who was once her best friend.

Michael and Julia came from a small West Virginia town where both had family problems. As teens, they promised each other that they would escape their roots and make something of their lives. Julia started her own successful catering company and Michael became a multimillionaire businessman. Somewhere along the way, they lost sight of what is important. Julia is driven but no more so than her husband. She carries a lot of anger towards Michael as well as baggage from her poor relationship with her dad. These elements are slowly revealed, partly through flashbacks. 

Michael also has his own childhood issues to deal with as the youngest son who felt abandoned by his mother (she left when he was little) and criticized by his athletic father and brothers. Michael's desire to prove to them that he can be successful was the motivating force of his life. The new Michael however is kinder, relaxed, and a little bit too emotional. At times I found him annoying, especially when he kept mentioning his four minute "death" but most of the time I liked his new and improved character.

Skipping a Beat looks at the ups and downs of married life. There are no easy answers and Julia's turmoil is honestly portrayed. Both characters have flaws which makes them more realistic. Though Julia is well to do, I found her character to be relatable, particularly when we see what her life was like back in West Virginia. I also enjoyed the writing style and the use of opera to describe Julia's feelings about her marriage. I thought that was a good illustrative device and wish it had been carried out with more consistency throughout the book. The parts with the mathematical references did not appeal to me as much, though it fit with Michael's character.

Something I did not care for was the overemphasis on the splendor of Julia's home. The constant mention of the heated bathroom tiles does point to Julia's dependence on creature comforts but I thought more time was devoted to those descriptions than even showing Julia's love of her career. We hardly hear about her work at all though we are told she loves her job. I thought the novel started out well and for most of the book I loved it and then towards the end it became too melodramatic. I found the conclusion to be a little predictable as well. Overall, I really liked Skipping a Beat and its exploration of interpersonal relationships. Sarah Pekkanen is a talented author and I look forward to seeing what she writes next. I would suggest this book to fans of Nicholas Sparks.

Readalikes: Seven Year Switch by Claire Cook, Nicholas Sparks, Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff, Nancy Thayer, Patti Callahan Henry, Jennifer Weiner

Thursday, April 14, 2011

National Library Week

Celebrate National Library Week
April 10-16, 2011 at a library near you!

I know that National Library Week officially began on Sunday but I'm a little behind this week and it isn't too late to celebrate!

As a public librarian, I've always enjoyed this time and usually I'm involved in some kind of celebration at the library. This year because of family events going on and the craziness of planning programs for spring and summer reading, I kind of dropped the ball.

What is National Library Week? It is a time to celebrate and promote the services that libraries offer to their patrons and communities. It isn't just limited to public libraries-school and university libraries as well as special libraries participate too.

This post was inspired by a conversation I had with one of my cousins over the weekend. He takes issue with the importance of libraries and their overall usefulness now that so many people are using e-readers to read books and surfing the Internet themselves to find answer to their questions. While he is the sort who never uses the library and prefers to purchase all his books (I have nothing against that practice), not everyone has that kind of salary and there are still those who must rely on dial up Internet access or need help sifting through the information (some of it not reliable/accurate) available online. I defended the usefulness of libraries calmly and to the best of my ability on short notice. Below you will find a few of the things I mentioned (and some I thought of later) and hopefully if you are not currently a library user, it will inspire you to give your local library a visit.

Here are some of the things I love about libraries:

Free books! -We may not get to keep them but it sure feeds the reading habit! I've even been able to check out required books for school so I saved money while I was in college :) I also check out most of the books I review for this blog from the library. Best of all, if your own library doesn't have the book, they can usually get it for you on interlibrary loan!

Free e-books! -As more and more people are purchasing e-readers or devices like smartphones or the iPad that allow for e-reading, this is a valuable service than many libraries now offer. While still not available for the Kindle (darn Amazon.com, you need to get on the bandwagon!), other devices like the Nook and NookColor allow you to download e-books from the library and read them for a specific amount of time.  I've checked out and read e-books on my computer such as Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. New books are also available from some libraries although there may be a waiting list. Best of all, when the due date arrives, the e-book just expires. You don't even have to worry about overdues!

Free movies! -I've enjoyed being able to watch DVDs for free. It is a definite budget stretcher and if you end up hating a movie (like The Next Three Days), it didn't cost you anything, unless it is overdue :) Some libraries also offer fitness DVDs so you can check out and try things like yoga (turned out learning by DVD was a bad idea for me), Zumba (not even going there), or Keeping Fit in Your 50s (perfect for this out of shape 30-something)

Free Internet access! -I have the Internet at home but many people do not (and it is also great if you are traveling and get lost and need to find directions-not that something like that ever happens to me...). Library patrons use the Internet for research, staying in touch with friends and family worldwide, job hunting, and more. As a librarian, I've helped people figure out how to upload resumes, look into starting their own business, create e-mail accounts, and use social networking tools. For people who can't afford the Internet or have a slow connection, this is a valuable resource. Many libraries don't even require you to have a library card to use the Internet and they also offer free Wi-fi for those who need a place to use their laptops.

Fun programs! -While it is true that as a kid I didn't attend regular storytimes, I did like my school trips to the library. Storytimes and early literacy programs are just a few of the fantastic and important programs libraries offer. As an adult I've enjoyed cultural programs, summer reading programs, and book discussion groups both as a patron and a staff member. Libraries are a great place to learn new skills (many offer classes on using the computer, FaceBook, etc.) or socialize (unless you go to one of those old school libraries that shush people all over the place!)

Information! -When I was a student, I regularly used the library for research and even for fun to find out about things I was interested in such as learning to crochet, learning French, and bellydancing (I learned that bellydancing is definitely not my skill!). As a librarian, I've been asked all kinds of interesting questions such and while I don't always know the answers (okay many times I don't know the answer), I certainly do my best to find out. Whether you want to find out if that plate you bought in a garage sale is an antique or need help for a school report, the library is the place to go!

These are just some of the reasons that libraries are important to their communities. If you are not a library patron, consider visiting your local library today.

Review: Deadly Little Games

Deadly Little Games
By Laurie Faria Stolarz
Publication date: December 21, 2010

My review:

This third book in the Touch series follows the formula of the previous two books. Camelia and Ben's psychometric powers are further explored and there is once again a stalker involved. This time, Adam's life is in danger and Camelia's apparent fixation on him threatens to drive a wedge between herself and Ben but she is determined to do what she can to help Adam.

I thought the story was very predictable. I figured out right away who the psychotic patient/stalker was. The only new thing for me was seeing Camelia's aunt and her use of psychometry. I liked getting that insight into her character. I found the "clues" between the chapters and the sections where we see into the mind of the stalker to be somewhat annoying. They didn't really add anything to the reading experience for me.

I was just disappointed at how much this plot is so similar to the prior two books in the series. There was nothing new. Even Camelia and Ben's relationship felt static. There is something about Laurie Faria Stolarz's ability to write suspense scenes however that kept me turning the pages anyway so I will probably read book four. I do like to read this kind of suspense novel with a bit of the paranormal. I just hope that there will be more surprises and twists in store in the next book. I would suggest this series to fans of The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting.

Readalikes: The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting, Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus, The Mark by Jen Nadol, Wake by Lisa McMann, the Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (49)

"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 Sweetness of Tears by Nafisa Haji
Publication date: May 17, 2011


When faith and facts collide, Jo March—a young woman born into an Evangelical Christian dynasty—wrestles with questions about who she is and how she fits into the weave of her faithful family. Chasing loose threads that she hopes will lead to the truth, Jo sets off on an unlikely quest across boundaries of language and religion, through chasms of sectarian divides in the Muslim world. Against the backdrop of the War on Terror—travelling from California to Chicago, Pakistan to Iraq—she delves deeply into the past, encountering relatives, often for the first time, whose histories are intricately intertwined with her own . . . only to learn that true spiritual devotion is a broken field riddled with doubt and that nothing is ever as it seems. A story of forbidden love and familial dysfunction that interweaves multiple generational and cultural viewpoints, The Sweetness of Tears is a powerful reminder of the ties that bind us, the choices that divide us, and the universal joys and tragedies that shape us all.

I still haven't read The Writing on My Forehead but this also sounds like it will be a fantastic book.

The Demon's Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan
Publication date: June 9, 2011

I am really looking forward to reading the final book in this series. I have a feeling I'll be blown away by it.

What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays (45)

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

My teasers this week:

"Her scalp suddenly tightened and she backed away. Propped against the bowl was the photo of her father, the strangely roguish photo she'd taken out of the album and placed on the coffee table in the living room. And she hadn't moved it here."

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
p. 139 (ARC)

Description from Goodreads:

It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home—has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots. But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood—of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes. But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it. For the bones—those of charismatic traveling salesman Tucker Devlin, who worked his dark charms on Walls of Water seventy-five years ago—are not all that lay hidden out of sight and mind. Long-kept secrets surrounding the troubling remains have also come to light, seemingly heralded by a spate of sudden strange occurrences throughout the town. Now, thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the dangerous passions and tragic betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover truths of the long-dead that have transcended time and defied the grave to touch the hearts and souls of the living. Resonant with insight into the deep and lasting power of friendship, love, and tradition, The Peach Keeper is a portrait of the unshakable bonds that—in good times and bad, from one generation to the next—endure forever.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Review: Out for Blood

Out for Blood
By Alyxandra Harvey
Publication date: November 1, 2010

My review:

Hunter Wild was raised to fight vampires, like the rest of her family. Her grandfather is a well known member of Helios-Ra and Hunter is now a student at the Helios-Ra Academy. Hunter always viewed vampires as the enemy but due to her close friendship with Kieran Black, Hunter was able to meet the new vampire queen, Helena Drake and her family. Since meeting Kieran's girlfriend Solange and her brothers, Hunter has begun to question her assumptions that the only good vampire is a staked vampire. When strange things begin to happen at the Academy and students develop a serious illness, Hunter turns to the Drakes for assistance. Quinn Drake is known for his flirtatious ways but Hunter seems to get under his skin. As they investigate, it becomes clear that someone in Helios-Ra has decided that the safety of the students is not as important as their own vampire killing agenda.

Unlike the previous book, Blood Feud, this third book in the Drake Chronicles is fast paced and filled with romance, humor, and suspense. Hunter is a spunky heroine reminiscent of Rose Hathaway from the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead. If she wasn't such a capable character in her own right, I think I would have found it annoying that she fell in love with a vampire. Instead, she is more than a match for Quinn (he aptly gives her the nickname Buffy). Their chemistry is what makes this such a fun read. The mystery itself was predictable as far as the identity of the person behind the suspicious attacks and illness but that did not detract from an enjoyable reading experience. It was interesting to get a look at the "other side" through the eyes of Hunter and the other students at the Academy.

Out for Blood may not be anything new in the world of YA paranormal romance but it is certainly entertaining and better than some of the titles out there. I liked it more than Blood Feud and just as much as the first book in the series, Hearts at Stake. I would suggest this to fans of Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead because of the strong heroine and the school setting. This would be a good book to pick up when you are in the mood for a light paranormal romance though I would strongly recommend starting with Hearts at Stake if you are new to this series.

Readalikes: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead, Slayed by Amanda Marrone, Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Review: The Vespertine

The Vespertine
By Saundra Mitchell
Publication date: March 7, 2011

My review:

Amelia van den Broek is given the opportunity of a lifetime when she is sent to Baltimore to live with relatives for the summer and hopefully find a proper husband. The sights that Baltimore has to offer are thrilling and Amelia enjoys spending time with her cousin Zora though she does feel out of place at times. Then Amelia begins having unsettling visions that come true. Soon this "gift" makes Amelia popular as a novelty. She also captures the attention of the entirely unsuitable artist, Nathaniel Witherspoon. When Amelia's visions take a dark turn, touching the lives of those she cares about, can she do anything to save them?

The Vespertine is set in late 19th Century Baltimore at a time when there were proper rules of etiquette and women had limited options. Amelia's parents have died and so she is under the care of her strict brother August and his wife. August expects Amelia to marry well. They are not poor but they are not wealthy either. Amelia's relatives by marriage, the Stewarts, are better off in circumstance but not by much. This is reflected mainly in discussions about fashion and suitable husbands. There are a lot of descriptions of clothing worn by Amelia and Zora and other little period details but not a lot of historical fact. Social class is mentioned and there are tidbits about innovations and education. I did like learning about the fashions and customs, especially the idea of hiring someone to be a "fourteenth" at dinner parties to avoid bad luck. I do wish there was more historical fact but the focus is on Amelia's visions and her relationship with Nathaniel rather than the time period.

The story starts out in the fall with Amelia back in Maine and this prologue gives tantalizing hints that something terrible has happened. Though the reader has to wait to discover what took place, the shocking climax of the novel makes it worth the wait. The main part of the book takes place during the summer beginning with Amelia's arrival in Baltimore and the adjustments she must make to being in a city. Amelia and Zora form a fast friendship that is only cemented by time. They are almost like sisters but Amelia is more wild where Zora is concerned with how she is perceived and less likely to rebel. Unlike Amelia who falls in love with an artist, Zora gives her heart to Thomas Rea, the son of a doctor. Thomas and Nathaniel are also contrasts. Both are good men but Thomas is conventional where Nathaniel is a match for Amelia. Nathaniel and Amelia have great chemistry though it is hard to believe they fall in love so quickly when they spend so little time in each others' company. It would have been nice if their relationship could have developed at a slower more believable pace.

I also wish there was more explanation of Amelia's abilities. She has visions at sunset and though Nathaniel has a theory as to why, it is never fully explored. I also thought her easy acceptance (and Zora's) was quite unbelievable. Since she'd never experienced something like this before it would be expected that Amelia would find it frightening and want to understand why it happened but she comes to accept this new talent quite easily. Still, this is a fascinating story and I kept turning pages to find out what happened. The ending was unexpected, which I liked. I also enjoyed the writing style which is accessible to modern readers but still gives the feel of a different time. I hope that we will learn more about Amelia's visions in the companion novel, The Springsweet. I would suggest The Vespertine to fans of A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray or Anna Godbersen's Luxe series.

Readalikes: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, The Luxe by Anna Godberson, Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink, The Twin's Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Note: I read an e-ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (48)

"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:

Sisterhood Everlasting by Meg Cabot
Publication date: June 14, 2011

Description from Goodreads:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Ann Brashares comes the welcome return of the characters whose friendship became a touchstone for a generation. Now Tibby, Lena, Carmen, and Bridget have grown up, starting their lives on their own. And though the jeans they shared are long gone, the sisterhood is everlasting. Despite having jobs and men that they love, each knows that something is missing: the closeness that once sustained them. Carmen is a successful actress in New York, engaged to be married, but misses her friends. Lena finds solace in her art, teaching in Rhode Island, but still thinks of Kostos and the road she didn’t take. Bridget lives with her longtime boyfriend, Eric, in San Francisco, and though a part of her wants to settle down, a bigger part can’t seem to shed her old restlessness. Then Tibby reaches out to bridge the distance, sending the others plane tickets for a reunion that they all breathlessly await. And indeed, it will change their lives forever—but in ways that none of them could ever have expected. As moving and life-changing as an encounter with long-lost best friends, Sisterhood Everlasting is a powerful story about growing up, losing your way, and finding the courage to create a new one.

I loved The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and I'm glad that we will get to read about these characters as adults.

What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays (44)

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

My teasers this week:

"The first sending had come so sweetly. The message so dear that I was happy to carry it. But even as I looked on Sarah and her haughty carriage, I couldn't stand the thought that my own bias had wished an ill sight on me."

The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell
p. 128, e-ARC

Description from Goodreads:

It’s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him. When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.

Monday, April 4, 2011

How Big is Your R.A.K.?

Book Soulmates

R.A.K. or Random Acts of Kindness is a new monthly blog feature created by Isalys and Vanessa of Book Soulmates. This fantastic idea is a way to do something nice for other book bloggers by granting them "wishes" (buying them something from their book wishlists). You can also participate even if you are not able to get something for someone else. That is not a requirement. Just give if you are able.

The rules:

R.A.K. is open to everyone
Sign up each month you'd like to participate
Show off your participation by grabbing the R.A.K. button
Create a wishlist and post it in the Google Doc/monthly sign up form at Book Soulmates
If you choose to do a R.A.K. for someone, check out their wish list and contact them for their address
At the end of the month, create a post to say thank you to whoever granted your wishes

For complete details and to sign up, visit Book Soulmates

Thanks to Vanessa and Isalys for this wonderful idea!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (59)

It's Monday What Are You Reading? is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. I always enjoy seeing what other people have read and reviewed over the past week. It is also a great way to find new books to add to that ever-growing TBR list!

I didn't read as much as I'd hoped to this past week. I have travel plans this weekend as I head back home for a cousin's wedding so I will be lucky to finish more than one book from this week's list. I plan to give it my best shot though!

Books finished: 

Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen

I hope to post my review of this book on Friday. I liked it although it did get a bit melodramatic towards the end.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (audio reread)

I love listening to this series over and over again on my commute to work each day. I don't really have much choice because my car's CD player is incredibly picky. It only plays Sarah Brightman and older audiobooks like the Harry Potter series. Anything else gets spit back out with a nasty "Check CD" message. I tried to listen to Soulless by Gail Carriger (fantastic on audio-will have to buy for my iPod before my next vacation), but it only played one disc and then refused to play the rest. I look forward to the day that I have a new car with a CD player that works properly!

Books reviewed:

Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran

Currently reading:

The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

I am enjoying this book. I had hoped to finish it last week but since it is an e-book, I have less time to read it. Another reason why I should invest in an e-reader!

Tyger Tyger by Kersten Hamilton

I started this one this past week too and it is really good so far. I haven't been able to devote as much time to reading as I'd like. It is hard to read when I kept having headaches. Hopefully I will be feeling much better this coming week.

What I plan to read next:

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley

I am looking forward to reading another book by Susanna Kearsley. I loved The Winter Sea and I'm hopeful that this one will be just as good.

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

I have been wanting to read Sarah Addison Allen's books for awhile now. I had planned to start with The Girl Who Chased the Moon but when I had the opportunity to review this for the Amazon Vine program, I jumped at the chance.

Gone With a Handsomer Man by Michael Lee West

This is another book I received from the Vine program and the timing was serendipitous. I had just heard about it at a library conference and a librarian gave it rave reviews. It is Southern fiction and it is supposed to be really funny with quirky characters. Sounds like my kind of book! Sound like something you might like? Head over to Confessions of a Book Addict today for your chance to win a copy!

What does your reading week look like?

Good luck to everyone participating in the Dewey Readathon this coming weekend!

Friday, April 1, 2011

In My Mailbox (51)

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'm most excited about: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, and A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

For review:

Don't Stop Now by Julie Halpern

I received an ARC of Don't Stop Now courtesy of Ksenia at MacMillan Children's Publishing Group. I loved Into the Wild Nerd Yonder and hope I will like this one too.

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

I was thrilled to get a copy of this through the Amazon Vine program. I've been wanting to try Sarah Addison Allen's books for years.

Gone With a Handsomer Man by Michael Lee West

I first heard of this book when it was recommended at a library conference so I was happy to get a copy through the Amazon Vine program. It sounds very funny and I can't wait to read it.

From the library:

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

After reading so many positive reviews I decided to try this but I had a two month wait to get it from the library. I really hope it lives up to my expectations!

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

This book has received some really positive reviews and I look forward to starting it, hopefully next week or the week after. There is a very long waiting list at the library so I want to read it and pass it on quickly.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

I have a feeling this will be an emotional book to read. It is a debut novel with many positive reviews. It sounds like a book that would be a good crossover for adults or a good book club pick.

Chime by Franny Billingsley

Chime has received really good reviews and I like reading about magic. It is also a debut novel that I'm reading for the Debut Author Challenge.

What did you get in your mailbox this week? Have you read any of the books on my list? What did you think of them?