Thursday, May 31, 2012

Review: Deadlocked

By Charlaine Harris
Published: May 1, 2012

My review:

Deadlocked is more of a mystery than the other recent books in this series. A girl is found murdered on the lawn at Eric's house shortly after he drank from her. The victim also appears to have been doused with fairy blood to make her more appealing. Sookie and Bill work together to try to figure out who actually killed the girl and what it has to do with Eric, Sookie, and the presence of Felipe de Castro, Vampire King of Louisiana. At the same time, Sookie has other drama in her life from the fairies and Sam's jealous girlfriend (and Were) Jannalynn Hopper.

There is a lot going on in this book but not much in the romance department which will disappoint some series fans. As someone who is tired of reading about the Eric/Sookie relationship, I found the focus on the mystery to be refreshing. I did expect that this book would help to shape the final novel but in the end I still felt that there will be a lot of ends to wrap up. 

As far as the mystery, I wasn't completely surprised by the identity of Sookie's betrayer and I'm not completely sold on that person's involvement unfortunately though I still enjoyed the mystery element. There is one big moment towards the end involving Sookie and Sam that I also liked, though it was sad. For people who are big fans of the secondary characters like Tara and Jason, there are some nice moments of normalcy and finding out how people are doing. There is a theme of new beginnings in the air and hopefully Sookie will have her own new beginning in the final book. 

Overall even with the flaws, I thought this was a better book than Dead in the Family and the other recent entries in the series. I am hopeful that the series will end well (and dare I say a happily ever after for Sookie that doesn't involve a vampire).

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (92)

"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 Shadow Cats by Rae Carson
Release date: July 17, 2012


“Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness. And it was not Alodia.
Alodia is the crown princess of the realm. The sister who knows how to rule, and the one who is constantly reminded that she has not been marked for a grand destiny. But Alodia has plans, and she will be the greatest queen her people have ever known. So she travels–with her hopeless, naïve, chosen sister–to a distant part of their land, to begin to secure her supporters. This region needs its princesses, for it is plagued with a curse. The crops don’t grow, the spring doesn’t arrive, and a fierce jaguar stalks the shadows, leaving only empty homes splashed with blood behind. If Alodia can save them, no one will be able to deny her strength and her sovereignty. But what she discovers could change the fate of her kingdom, if not her world. And it will most certainly change her opinion of her younger sister.”

The Girl of Fire and Thorns was my second favorite book of 2011 and I can't wait to read this prequel novella!

When in Doubt, Add Butter by Beth Harbison
Release date: July 17, 2012


As far as Gemma is concerned, her days of dating are over. In fact, it’s her job to cater other peoples’ dates, and that’s just fine by her. At thirty-seven, she has her own business, working as a private chef, and her life feels full and secure. She’s got six steady clients that keep her hands full. 

There’s Lex, the fussy but fabulous department store owner who loves Oysters Rockefeller and 1950s comfort food; Willa, who needs to lose weight under doctor’s orders but still believes butter makes everything better; a colorful family who may or may not be part of the Russian mob; an überwealthy Georgetown family; the picture-perfect Van Houghtens, whose matriarch is “allergic to everything”; and finally, a man she calls “Mr. Tuesday,” whom she has never met but who she is strangely drawn to. 

For Gemma, cooking is predictable. Recipes are certain. Use good ingredients, follow the directions, and you are assured success. Life, on the other hand, is full of variables. So when Gemma’s takes an unexpected turn on a road she always thought was straight and narrow, she must face her past and move on in ways she never would have imagined. Because sometimes in life, all you need is a little hope, a lot of courage, and---oh yes---butter.

While the title of this book sounds like it should belong to a Paula Deen biography, I think this novel about cooking, friendship, and romance sounds exactly like my cup of tea.

What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Review: The Throne of Fire

The Throne of Fire
By Rick Riordan
Published: May 3, 2011

My review:

The Throne of Fire is the sequel to The Red Pyramid, which first introduced Carter and Sadie Kane and their involvement/connection with the Egyptian gods. In months between this book and The Red Pyramid, they have been training new initiates at Brooklyn House and the book opens with them trying to find a way to reawaken Ra. This dangerous and foolhardy quest is their best chance to stop the Chaos snake Apophis from rising and swallowing the sun (thus destroying the world). In addition to his minions, Carter and Sadie also have to deal with the threat of Michel Desjardins.

The Throne of Fire has a lot of action and introduces some new important characters such as teen magician Walt Stone and the Egyptian god of fear, Bes. One of my favorite things about this book was Bes. He is quite a character (though I wouldn't want to see him get his ugly on!).   I enjoyed getting to know more about Egyptian mythology and Ra as well as all the humor. There is also quite a bit of romance as Carter tries to connect with Zia and Sadie deals with mixed feelings about Walt and Anubis. Thankfully that is not the main focus of the book. 

Carter and Sadie both experience character growth as they realize that their decisions and actions have consequences and they begin to see the sacrifices they will have to make to succeed. Carter especially deals with doubts over what is the right thing to do. I found this to be a solid sequel to The Red Pyramid and it does a good job of setting up the final book in the trilogy, The Serpent's Shadow.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (106)

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.

Books read:

Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame

While I liked this book, I definitely thought it could have been better. The characters needed more development and the ending was rushed.

Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews

I think this might be my favorite of her books so far. It is a great beach read though I was sadly nowhere near the beach when I read it :)

Books reviewed:

Slide by Jill Hathaway

Currently reading:

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

What I plan to read next:

A Night Like This by Julia Quinn

This book will be released on Tuesday and you can be sure that I will be buying a copy! I read an excerpt and I have a feeling I will really enjoy A Night Like This. More Smythe-Smith musicales :)

A Teeny Bit of Trouble by Michael Lee West

I love this book cover even without the red velvet cupcakes. Gone With a Handsomer Man was a fun mystery and I hope this sequel will be too. 

Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas

Not sure if I will like Throne of Glass but it sounds interesting enough to give it a try. I have to say that so far I'm not too impressed with the heroine after reading the first prequel novella, The Assassin and the Pirate Lord.  Aside from the horrible title, I thought she was incredibly arrogant for most of the novella and only towards the end did I start to like her for risking her life to save the slaves. Hopefully she will be much less arrogant in Throne of Glass!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls

The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls
By Julie Schumacher
Publication date: May 8, 2012

My review:

Adrienne had planned to go on a camping trip with her best friend over the summer but due to an unfortunate stumble on the bleachers, she hurt her leg and is stuck at home. Then her mom and the mothers of three other girls in her English class decide to have a mother-daughter book club to discuss the books on the class reading list. Against their will, Adrienne, CeeCee, Jill, and Wallis are forced to participate. As they read The Yellow Wallpaper, Frankenstein, The Left Hand of Darkness, The House on Mango Street, and The Awakening, they also come to understand more about themselves. 

The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls should have been a book I loved. I love reading and discussing books and I'm even a member of two book discussion groups. Unfortunately, while I enjoyed learning more about the books they discussed (I've only read Frankenstein and The Awakening), I did not care for CeeCee and I wasn't a fan of the main character Adrienne. This really diminished my reading enjoyment. I also felt that Wallis and Jill were underdeveloped. Wallis especially looked like a promising character so I was disappointed that we didn't get to know her better. 

It is hard to enjoy a book when the main character is annoying. At one point in the story, Adrienne's mother tells her that she is "impressionable". Adrienne is upset by this but it is very true. Throughout the story Adrienne wonders how other people see her and what kind of character she'd be in a book. Her "friendship" with CeeCee is a bad one with CeeCee obviously taking her on as some kind of pet. Adrienne makes really stupid choices when she is hanging out with CeeCee and she doesn't have a backbone. If she had truly changed over the course of the book, then it would have been forgivable but in the end though she realizes some truths about herself and CeeCee, not enough change happens to justify her stupid behavior. 

I think the idea of this book is clever (it is presented as Adrienne's essay assignment) and I did like the literary references. The novels read by the book club help to illustrate points in the story and I thought that was a nice touch. I also enjoyed the writing style. Where this book fails is in the characters, namely Adrienne. Overall, this is a somewhat entertaining book  but it didn't live up to my expectations.

Note: I received an e-ARC for review from NetGalley

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Review: Slide

By Jill Hathaway
Publication date: March 27, 2012

My review:

Sylvia "Vee" Bell is known for being a narcoleptic but the truth is that when she suddenly appears to fall unconscious, she is actually "sliding" into someone else's body. It is a creepy and frightening ability that she does not want and when she told her father about it, he refused to believe her. Vee is supposed to be taking medication but the only thing that sort of helps is caffeine pills. Most of the time, Vee sees embarrassing things but one day, she slides into the body of a killer who has just murdered her younger sister's friend. Everyone else thinks it is a suicide but only Vee knows the truth. Who would believe her if she told them? When another student dies, Vee must figure out who the killer is before her sister is next...

Vee was once a popular student and cheerleader like her younger sister Mattie. Now, she lives on the fringes, hanging out with her best friend Rollins and popping caffeine pills in an effort to stay awake so she won't slide. Vee's life is pretty isolated as she can't share the truth about herself with anyone, not even Rollins. Her dad is a workaholic still grieving the loss of his wife and Mattie is kind of spoiled and hangs out with Vee's ex-best friend and other cheerleaders.

Vee is a character who struggles with a difficult condition/ability that leaves her feeling isolated and alone. She doesn't have anyone she feels the can confide in. Given her father's reaction to her ability, she doesn't even trust her best friend Rollins. This adds to the distance between them which only increases when Vee begins to spend time with Zane, a potential love interest. This sense of isolation and the barriers she puts up only increases the suspense when Vee witnesses the aftermath of a murder while sliding. Now she is faced with trying to solve a murder on her own as well. Slide offers up a suspenseful story where it is difficult to guess who the killer is but the book is raised above the average suspense novel because of the internal struggles of the protagonist as well. 

Readalikes: Wake by Lisa McMann, The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting, Clarity by Kim Harrington, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin, Deadly Little Secret by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Note: I received an ARC of this book for review through the Amazon Vine program

Sunday, May 20, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (105)

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 am definitely a mood reader at the moment and I've picked up and put down so many books lately. I just want to read fun stuff and I unfortunately have obligations to read a very serious and depressing sounding book for my book group next week. I also have to get caught up on my review books. Maybe I'll save the serious stuff for the long weekend...

Books read:

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan (reread)

The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan (reread)

The Serpent's Shadow by Rick Riordan

This was a fantastic conclusion to the series that also left the door slightly ajar for future stories (involving other mythologies). I've heard that Rick Riordan's next series will feature Norse mythology...

This is book three in the Bridgerton series and it is loosely based on Cinderella but I didn't like it as much as some of the other books like Romancing Mr. Bridgerton. Probably because of the love at first sight storyline. I much preferred the other Bridgerton book I read this week.

This little novella introduces Celaena Sardothian, the protagonist of Throne of Glass.  For most of the story, I didn't like her because she was so arrogant and rude but by the end I began to like her a little. Hopefully her character will be much improved in Throne of Glass...

Savannah Blues by Mary Kay Andrews

This book was a fun mystery with some romance and lots of details about antiquing/picking. What disappointed me was the lack of sense of place. I was looking forward to reading a story that felt like it was set in Savannah. 

It's In His Kiss by Julia Quinn

I really enjoyed this novel, I think as much as the first Julia Quinn novel I read, What Happens in London. Lots of humor, a good romance, and a little bit of mystery. Now if Julia Quinn would just write Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron...

Books reviewed:

Currently reading:

Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame

Downton Abbey for teens! This book reminds me of The Luxe series so far. I am hopeful that I will enjoy it.

What I plan to read next:

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

If this wasn't a book group pick, I wouldn't be reading it now. I am really more in the mood for lighter stuff. 

The Wild Queen by Carolyn Meyer

I love this cover and I usually like Carolyn Meyer's historical novels. I also love anything Tudor related so I hope I get to read this soon!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?
Do you pick your books based on mood?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review: The Traitor in the Tunnel

The Traitor in the Tunnel
By Y.S. Lee
Publication date: February 28, 2012

My review:

Mary Quinn goes undercover as a maid at Buckingham Palace to investigate a series of thefts. While there, things take an interesting turn involving an opium den, the Prince of Wales, and a the murder of one of his friends. The case becomes more personal as the accused killer is a man who may be Mary's father. There is also the matter of James Easton who is working on the tunnels beneath the Palace...

The Traitor in the Tunnel is the third book in the Agency spy series featuring the intelligent and capable Mary Quinn. This time around, we find out more about Mary's family history and Mary has another chance at a relationship with James if she can be open with him. There are three mysteries to be solved-the one involving thefts in the Palace that Mary was hired to investigate, one involving the murder of the Prince of Wales's friend in an opium den and whether the Prince was the intended target (and if Mary's father is the suspected killer), and the final mystery involving plots with the sewer tunnels that lead beneath the Palace. On top of all that, things are not well at the Agency and changes may be under way. Mary has some big decisions to make involving her personal life and her career. 

There is a lot to this book and while I enjoyed it, the mysteries were disappointing perhaps because there were so many plot threads to work with. This is definitely the weakest book in the series in terms of mystery, which is a shame. I was particularly disappointed with the resolution of the tunnel mystery. However I did like seeing Mary grow as she made those tough choices and some interesting developments happen at the end that make me anticipate the final book. I also liked the historical details though I did wonder if  the depiction of Mary's experiences as a maid were authentic and I thought the portrayal of Queen Victoria didn't quite ring true. Still, I enjoyed reading about life in service as a fan of Downton Abbey. I was also glad to see things improve with regards to Mary's relationship with James. He is one of those genuine decent guys in YA fiction that there seem to be too little of and I hope there will be a happy ending in their future. 

Overall, I still liked this book as part of the series though it does not stand up to the quality of the prior books where the mystery element is concerned. I am eager for the last book and I'm hopeful that the series will end well. Despite the flaws with this particular mystery, Mary and James are characters that I care about and it is great to see such an intelligent and brave POC heroine in YA fiction.

Note: I received an e-ARC for review through NetGalley

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (91)

"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:

Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews
Published on: June 5, 2012

Description from Goodreads:

Annajane Hudgens truly believes she is over her ex-husband, Mason Bayless.  They’ve been divorced for four years, she’s engaged to a new, terrific guy, and she’s ready to leave the small town where she and Mason had so much history.  She is so over Mason that she has absolutely no problem attending his wedding to the beautiful, intelligent, delightful Celia.  But when fate intervenes and the wedding is called to a halt as the bride is literally walking down the aisle, Annajane begins to realize that maybe she’s been given a second chance.  Maybe everything happens for a reason.  And maybe, just maybe, she wants Mason back.  But there are secrets afoot in this small southern town.  On the peaceful surface of Hideaway Lake, Annajane discovers that the past is never really gone.  Even if there are people determined to keep Annajane from getting what she wants, happiness might be hers for the taking, and the life she once had with Mason in this sleepy lake town might be in her future.

I just read one of her older books, Hissy Fit, and I thought it was a lot of fun. I think this sounds like a good book to kick off the summer with.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Review: Out of Sight, Out of Time

Out of Sight, Out of Time
By Ally Carter
Publication date: March 13, 2012

My review:

Cammie Morgan wakes up in October in a convent in the Alps with no memory of how she got there or what happened to her over the summer. Just as frightening are the new abilities she didn't know she had-like assembling and shooting automatic weapons. She also has to contend with the mistrust of the other students, faculty, and even her friends. It appears the Circle no longer needs her alive and Cammie is racing against time to remember what they want her to forget.

Out of Sight, Out of Time is a much darker book compared to the rest of the series. The lighthearted tone is gone though there are still some pro and con lists and there is also a touch of romance. Cammie is a senior now and the stakes are much higher with the Circle out to kill her. Cammie and her friends have grown over the course of the series from boy crazy young teens to women who have realized that being a spy is a lot harder and more dangerous than they thought it would be. It reminded me of Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix in the way that people at Hogwarts didn't quite believe Harry and he himself wondered if he was going mad. Cammie goes through something very similar upon her return to the school. It didn't make for pleasant reading at times and I felt angry on Cammie's behalf but it really illustrated her character growth. 

This may be the strongest book in the series yet though I did miss the humor of the earlier books. The suspenseful tone is sustained throughout the book and I was surprised by some of the twists. I think Out of Sight, Out of Time does a good job of setting up the final book and I can't wait to see how it all ends.  

Sunday, May 6, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (104)

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.

Books read:

This book would have been so much better if the protagonist wasn't so hard to like. A book about a book club should have been really interesting but it just didn't live up to my expectations because of the characters.

Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris

I liked this more than I had anticipated as there was a mystery to solve (and there isn't much vampire romance) but it still lacks the quality of the earlier books. By now, I've become quite tired of the vampires and I'm ready for the series to end, hopefully with Sookie swearing off vampires, marrying Sam, and living mostly happily-ever-after.

Currently reading:

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan (reread)

I am having so much fun rereading this book. It is just as good the second time around. I want a cat like Muffin...

Books reviewed:

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

What I plan to read next:

The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan (reread)

I didn't like this one as much as The Red Pyramid but I am hopeful that my opinion will improve when I reread it this week.

The Serpent's Shadow by Rick Riordan

I'm excited to get to this final book in the Kane Chronicles series. I don't know what I will do when it is over. I hope there will be a spin-off series like there was for Percy Jackson! Or maybe I will need to take a class on Egyptian mythology...

Starters by Lissa Price

Creepy cover...will the story be just as creepy? We shall see...

Divergent by Veronica Roth (reread)

I tried to reread Divergent this past week but just wanted something lighter and funnier so I switched to Deadlocked and The Red Pyramid instead. We'll see if I can fit it in this week and then move on to the sequel. I do want to know what happens in Insurgent but with depressing books, I have to be in the right frame of mind. Right now, I am still in the mood for humorous books or books that remind me of summer. Something I'm sure Insurgent won't do...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Review: How to Save a Life

How to Save a Life
By Sara Zarr
Publication date: October 18, 2011

My review:

Jill MacSweeny's already messy life is turned upside down when her mom announces her plans to adopt a baby. It has been a difficult year since Jill's dad died and she hasn't been coping at all. She has lost her friends and her boyfriend Dylan by pushing them away and shutting them out of her life. Now she has to contend with this major change. Pregnant teen Mandy Kalinowski wants a better life for her baby than the one she has living with her unloving mom and her mother's abusive boyfriend. Mandy believes she has found the perfect family for her baby to grow up in when she meets Robin MacSweeny through an adoption website and then travels to Denver to live with them till the baby is born. Unfortunately while Robin is welcoming, Jill is resentful and doesn't trust Mandy or her own mother's judgment about the adoption.  

How to Save a Life is told through the point of view of Jill and Mandy and I think this is a brilliant decision on the part of the author. It allows us to view Mandy through both Jill's jaded eyes and through Mandy's own thoughts. At first I thought I wasn't going to like Mandy's character but I really came to care about her. She is naive and she had a terrible role model in her mother. She has also been through a lot and she is trying to be strong and make the best decision for her baby. Jill is not an easy character to like because of her rude and prickly demeanor but at heart she is also a deeply hurting and wounded person. 

This is a book that is strong in character development and the alternating chapters keep the story moving along. There is some romance and while it wasn't really necessary to the plot, it helped to make Jill a more likable character. The two secondary characters, Dylan and Ravi also add to the story. Overall, I think How to Save a Life is an excellent YA contemporary that explores the themes of family, friendship, and grief. Though the ending may be a little saccharine, it is also satisfying and the book should appeal to fans of Sarah Dessen.

Readalikes: Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen, Moonglass by Jessi Kirby

Note: While I received an e-ARC of this title from NetGalley, I read and reviewed the finished copy which I checked out from the library

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday (90)

"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:

Wallflower in Bloom by Claire Cook
Release date: June 5, 2012

Description from Goodreads:

From the acclaimed bestselling author of Must Love Dogs comes a winning and witty new novel about a woman who emerges from the shadow of her overbearing family and finds herself “dancing with the stars.” Deirdre Griffin has a great life; it’s just not her own. She’s the around-the-clock personal assistant to her charismatic, high-maintenance, New Age guru brother, Tag. As the family wallflower, her only worth seems to be as gatekeeper to Tag at his New England seaside compound. Then Deirdre’s sometime boyfriend informs her that he is marrying another woman, who just happens to be having the baby he told Deirdre he never wanted. While drowning her sorrows in Tag’s expensive vodka, Deirdre decides to use his massive online following to get herself voted on as a last-minute Dancing with the Stars replacement. It’ll get her back in shape, mentally and physically. It might even get her a life of her own. Deirdre’s fifteen minutes of fame have begun. Irresistible and offbeat, Wallflower in Bloom is an original and deeply satisfying story of having the courage to take a leap into the spotlight, no matter where you land.

I am a fan of Claire Cook's books and an even bigger fan of Dancing With The Stars so I am very excited about this book!