Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Beautiful Failure by Janet Ruth Young


Billy is a sixteen year old high school sophomore.  The winter prior to the start of this book, his father was severely depressed.  He wasn't eating or sleeping and he eventually had to seek treatment.  This was a very stressful time for Billy and his family and it greatly influenced who Billy is today.   

Throughout the book, Billy maintains a watchful eye on his father and tries to make sure he does everything necessary to remain healthy.  He has even decided that he would like to become a psychologist because he wants to help others like his father.  His father decides to paint as a hobby and eventually wants to have an art show.  His stress level begins to increase and he is once again not sleeping or eating.  Billy begins to worry that things will spiral out of control again.

His father tells him to find a project or hobby of his own, so he decides to volunteer at Listeners, a suicide hot line.  He is remarkably good at listening and handles the calls perfectly when he first starts.  He begins to take a personal interest in one of the regular callers named Jenney.  

As Billy's concern for his father increases, so does his own need for emotional support.  He and Jenney begin to rely on each other and their relationship turns into more than that of a typical Listener and Incoming.

While Billy is not going to become my next fictional boyfriend, I can certainly appreciate what he was trying to accomplish.  He seemed to have only the best of intentions even if his actions were not always ideal.

I really enjoyed the format of the book.  When Billy wasn't talking to another character or caller, it felt like he was talking to the reader.  He would tell us about what happened when his father was ill and what he was observing now.  The chapters are very short and the conversational style kept the pages turning.

The one thing that did bother me is the fact that the author used an acronym twice in the book without defining it.  I spent a considerable amount of time researching it and even asked one of the doctors I work with to see if he knew what it meant, but I am still at a loss.  Based upon the context it was used in, I am guessing that Billy was referring to his father the way we would refer to a patient.  Kind of like he was the psychologist and his dad is his patient.  If a doctor and nurse can't figure out what the acronym means, it clearly should be defined when used in a teen novel.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2nd Chance by James Patterson


At the beginning of 2nd Chance there is a shooting outside a church near the projects, which results in the death of a 10 year old girl.  Lieutenant Lindsay Boxer and her team thought it was a racially motivated hate crime.

Cindy, the reporter in the Women's Murder Club, clued Lindsay in on the possibility that this case may be linked to another murder that occurred a few days prior in another city.  Lindsay begins looking into that case and does find a link between the two, but why would someone shoot at a church and murder an elderly black woman?  When Claire, the medical examiner, completes the autopsy on the little girl she discovers that she was not hit by accident and that they were dealing with a very skilled marksman.

Two police officers are murdered and Lindsay still has next to nothing to go on, until they discover that the symbol found at two of the crime scenes is linked to a prison gang.  They also discover that all of the victims are related to city cops, but what is the motive?

As they uncover clues and get closer to solving this case the murderer selects victims that are increasingly closer to Lindsay.  I thought the mystery was very gripping and the interactions  between all of the members of the murder club were very realistic and entertaining.  We also get to see more of their personal lives in this book in addition to all of their professional interactions.

The one thing that did bother me about this book is the fact that Lindsay seems to take unnecessary risks in the line of duty.  I understand that she is trying to do her job and wants nothing more than to get this creep off the streets, but I don't think ANY cop would have put him/herself in some of the situations she did.  It seemed a bit unrealistic and extreme to me.

I was definitely surprised by who the murderer ended up being and how all of the cases were linked.  This is a very fast paced book and there are a lot of unexpected twists that I did not see coming.  If you enjoy murder mysteries, this is an excellent series.

Friday, December 21, 2012

I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella


I recently let a friend of mine borrow my copy of this book because I thought he could benefit from the message it contains.  I use the term borrow loosely because I actually gave it to him as a pre-Christmas gift with the following instructions.  "Please read this book and return it to me.  If you can tell me the take home message...I will give you your Christmas present."  I thought he would be ready to kill me for giving him such a feminine book to take with him on his family vacation, but surprisingly...he thought it was entertaining.  On top of that, he seems (at least for the time being) to have benefited from the message it contains.  We will see how long it takes him to revert back to his and Sam Roxton's old ways.

Poppy Wyatt is recently engaged, but it doesn't take her long to lose her engagement ring.  On top of that, someone swipes her cell phone.  Now she has no way of being reached if someone does find her ring.  Just when she thinks things can't get any worse, she finds a cell phone in the trash and the story takes off from there.

Poppy begins corresponding with the owner of the cell phone Sam Roxton, who is a marketing executive.  We quickly learn from their texting and e-mail styles that these two characters are polar opposites.  I found it very interesting how comfortable someone can be when carrying on a relationship via text, but when you put those same two people face to face...things quickly become very awkward.  It is so much easier to hit send than it is to talk about many of the same things in person.  Why is that?  

I know this book is supposed to be a stand alone, but I think there is potential for this to become a series.  The characters are very enjoyable and I would love to find out what happens next for not only the main characters, but for many of the supporting characters as well.  It was a very light, funny, fast paced book that I have recommend to most of my girl friends.

I haven't ready any of Sophie's other books, but I plan on starting the Shopaholic series in the near future.  If you have read and enjoyed any of her other books...I would love to hear some of your thoughts and any recommendations you may have.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

1st to Die by James Patterson

I started reading 2nd chance yesterday, the second book in the Women's Murder Club series.  It has been a while since I read the first book, so I decided I needed a little refresher of the characters.  For anyone else who may be interested in this series, here is a copy of my review of 1st to Die.

The Women's Murder Club is formed during 1st to Die in an effort to catch a brutal murderer preying on young newlyweds.  Each woman provides a different piece of the puzzle and is essential in solving the crimes.  Lindsay Boxer is the homicide detective working the investigation.  Her long time friend Claire Washburn is the Medical Examiner assigned to the cases.  Cindy Thomas is a reporter that stumbled upon the initial crime scene and develops a relationship with Lindsay.  When the investigation seems to have come to a halt, Lindsay decides to introduce Cindy to Claire.  The three women meet off the record to brainstorm over margaritas.  Once they have enough evidence for a search warrant and arrest, they seek the assistance of Jill Bernhardt the assistant district attorney.  When Lindsay decides that the case is not taking the direction she first thought it was, she invites Jill to their next club meeting...over more margaritas of course.  Their friendship, strong work ethic, and expertise in their fields enables them to crack a case that is far more than it initially appears to be.

Patterson had me on the edge of my seat from the initial crime to the final scene.  I was sure I knew who the murderer was with about 100 pages left in the book.  I sent fellow BookNerd, Mary, a message and she said to keep reading.  After another 50 pages...I was sure it was someone else.  She once again said to keep reading.  I was SHOCKED by who was eventually responsible for the crimes.  I didn't see it coming at all, but in retrospect it makes complete sense.  Patterson laid out an amazing murder mystery with brilliant characters.  I can't wait to read the rest of this series.  Hopefully I will be able to fit one in here and there between all of my favorite YA series and other BookNerd assignments.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade



I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to meet Stacey Kade at the RT convention in Chicago earlier this year.  She participated in a speed reading panel and read a short section from her latest book Body and Soul.  I was so intrigued, I added her entire Ghost and the Goth series to my to be read list on Goodreads as soon as she finished.

Later that evening, I received a copy of Body and Soul as part of the teen day gift bag we received at the reception.  I was SO excited, I had to track her down to get it autographed. 

The Ghost and the Goth is told from both Alona Dare and Will Killian's perspectives with alternating points of view each chapter.  At the beginning of the story we meet Alona, who was a senior in high school when she died in an unfortunate accident.  (She was literally hit by a bus.)  She was a cheerleader, three time homecoming queen, and a member of her school's elite.  Will is about as far down on the social ladder as one can get.  He is perceived to be schizophrenic and has a medical excuse to wear headphones during school.  The real reason for his "condition" is the fact that he can see ghosts.  The ghosts are constantly talking to him, so he needs the headphones to help tune them out.   

After Alona's death she comes back as a ghost and quickly discovers Will's ability.  Alona wants Will to help her "find the light" while he can benefit from her keeping the other ghosts away from him.  They establish a working relationship, which eventually develops into a friendship. 

The Ghost and the Goth was very light, humorous, and highly entertaining.  I loved the characters and look forward to seeing what is in store for them in Queen of the Dead, which is the second book in this series.   

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky

After I posted my review of Middle Ground, I had a few people ask me about Awaken...the first book in the series.  Here is a copy of the review I posted on Book Nerds Across America.

Awaken is set about 50 years into the future.  From the way technology is moving at the speed of light and people are embracing it without thought or question, I do not feel that Katie's predictions are unrealistic.

I found this book to be very thought provoking.  How many times have you been out with friends or family and spent more time with your head in your phone than interacting with the people you are with?  Are your virtual friends more important than your actual friends?  What do you REALLY know about your thousands of friends on twitter, blogs, and other social networking sites.  Is technology making face to face contact awkward and uncomfortable?  Is it time that we take a step back and actually become "unplugged?"

This is exactly what Justin and his friends are trying to do.  They are helping people who want to live the way things were in the early 2000s, which is considered to be a crime.  Life doesn't have to be ALL about speed and convenience.  We need to take the time to enjoy food, friends, family, and daily activities.  We need to take a step away from the digital world and actually LIVE our lives.  Yes...we can tour a location on a digital screen, but we are not engaging all of our senses and we are missing out on the true experience.  These are just a few of the lessons that I took away from this book and could really relate to while reading it.

The other main character in this book is Madeline.  Her father is the founder of Digital School, but she is a strong supporter of Justin's cause.  While Justin is helping others to live freely, he is all about work and has closed himself off on a personal level.  Madeline is the one person that confronted him about how he needs to take time for himself.  There needs to be a balance in life.  For the first time in his life, Justin spends more than a day in one place.  He begins to develop a relationship with Madeline, but he is still learning how to become unplugged emotionally.

Madeline and Justin's relationship is still evolving and there is a considerable amount of work that still needs to be done if the world is truly going to become unplugged.  Fortunately for us, Katie has a sequel to this book, Middle Ground, which is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2012.  I have already added it to my to be read list and will be anxiously awaiting its release.  I absolutely loved the characters and can't wait to see what is in store for them in the sequel.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Middle Ground by Katie Kacvinsky


Middle Ground is the second installment in the Awaken series by Katie Kacvinsky.  In the first book we met Maddie, who is the daughter of the founder of Digital School.  She is not happy living a digital life and has gotten into a lot of trouble over the years.  When she met Justin, the leader of a group of rebels fighting for a life that is "unplugged" or less digital, she finally found a place where she fit in. 

At the beginning of Middle Ground, Maddie is living in Los Angeles with her brother and some friends just tyring to complete her last year of digital school.  In typical Maddie fashion, it did not take her long to stir things up in LA.  She causes a disturbance at a "digital club", which ultimately ends up landing her in a detention center. 

During her six month sentence, she gathers evidence about the detention center to help bring down digital school once and for all.  The detention center was an awful place, but Maddie did what she felt was necessary for the benefit of the cause.  Fortunately, she did not have to work alone.  She becomes friends with Gabe, a staff member at the detention center.  He grew up in a community that was completely unplugged and can relate to Maddie.  He contacts Justin and helps coordinate weekly meetings between Justin, Maddie, Molly, Pat, and Claire. 

Justin and Maddie's relationship continues to grow throughout this book.  She comes to realize that she loves her family, but she belongs with her friends.  In the final book in this series we should find out if there is a way for her to have both, or if the differences between Maddie and her father will be too much to overcome.     

By now, you should all know that I am a HUGE fan of Katie's work.  I have read all four of her books and I have LOVED them all.  Once again she has some great quotes scattered throughout the story.  Here are a couple of my favorites.

"One in three people is crazy.  And the other two are liars." 

"Your only normal friends are the ones you don't know very well."

Middle Ground was actually better than Awaken and will leave the reader satisfied, but curious about what is yet to come.      

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen


This story is about a high school girl named Macy and her mother, who are still struggling with the sudden death of Macy's father, which occurred a year and a half prior to the start of the book.  Instead of living their lives, they have established a routine.  Both her mother and her boyfriend Jason are control freaks.  They want everything in their lives to be perfect.  For her mother, it is a defense mechanism.  Rather than deal with her feelings of loss she has thrown herself into her work and expects nothing short of perfection from both herself and her daughter.

We learn throughout this book that perfection is not necessarily desirable.  Once Macy meets a team of caterers (Delia, Bert, Wes, Monica, and Kristy) and starts working for them, she sees what has been missing from her life since her father's death.  She finally develops true friendships and begins to live her life on her own terms.  Catering is a very chaotic business and she soon thrives in dealing with the unexpected.

One night, Wes and Macy begin a game of truth.  It is like truth or dare, but there are no dares.  They ask each other questions and the only rule is that they must tell the truth.  The game continues whenever they are together and they become very close friends.  They learn that they have far more in common with one another than Macy first thought.  They are both in relationships that are sort of on hold, so there isn't any pressure on their relationship.  Macy feels that they are just really good friends, but she eventually can't deny that her feelings for him are more than that, but is it too late?

I really enjoy Sarah Dessen's style of writing and found this to be another exceptional story.  Both of her books that I have read have had a wonderful message to them.  The characters are far from perfect, but they all have so much personality.  I will definitely read another one of her books and I would highly recommend this one.  I gave it 4 stars on GoodReads, but it is really worth 4.5 stars.  If there was a little more Noah Shaw or Lucas Delos to this story, I definitely would have given it 5 stars.  A little more detail towards the end of the book about the love story is all that was needed for me to give it 5 stars.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Selection by Kiera Cass




The Selection was a little confusing for me at first.  The first few pages refer to people as a number.  America is a five, Aspen is a Six, etc.  I quickly discovered there is a caste system within Illea, a post World War 3 futuristic America, and the lower the number the higher your status. 

At the beginning of the story we meet America and Aspen, who have been secretly dating for the past two years.  They are planning on getting married, but this is a big no no since they are not from the same caste.  Her parents will most likely not approve of someone from a lower caste and Aspen doesn't feel that he can provide for her.

This is when the letters announcing The Selection arrive.  Prince Maxon is now of age and would like to find a wife and future queen of Illea.  Every eligible woman within a certain age range can enter a lottery to be selected as the candidate from her region.  Aspen talks America into signing up for The Selection because he truly wants her to have a better life.  America agrees because she feels the chances of her being selected are one in a million.  Once she is not selected, she plans on marrying Aspen.

Of course...America is selected.  She is soon living at the palace with 34 other contestants competing for the Prince's affection.  It was very much like the bachelor, but America and Prince Maxon soon develop an unusual friendship given the circumstances.  She slowly realizes that her feelings for Maxon may be more than just friends and she is emotionally caught in a love triangle.  She needs to sort out her feelings for Aspen and Maxon and decide what is ultimately best for her. 

The royal family and Illea are under rebel attack, so there is an element of danger which comes with being one of the royals.  There is another twist that develops involving Aspen, which complicates issues even further for America.

I have to admit...I am 100% Team Maxon.  He is very sweet and not at all what America or I anticipated his character would be like.  While the selection is all about Maxon selecting a wife, I think the selection will ultimately come down to America selecting a husband.  If she doesn't end up choosing Maxon, I will be crushed.  She can relate to the people, has already provided Maxon with sound advice he has used to run the country, and will make an AMAZING queen.  Much like Princess Diana, she could be the next People's Princess. 

The Elite, the second book in this planned trilogy, is scheduled to be released April 23, 2013.  I am ecstatic about this because I will be able to get a signed copy at the RT Convention next May.  Kiera Cass was at last year's convention and will be in attendance again this year.  After reading The Selection, I can't believe I passed up the opportunity to meet her last year.  I certainly will not make this same mistake twice. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin


For those of you who have not read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, here is a link to my review.  It was an AMAZING book, so you can imagine how excited I was to get my hands on this latest installment.

The Evolution resumes where The Unbecoming left off.  There was an incident that occurred at the end of the first book, which results in yet another hospital admission for Mara.  The medical staff would like to send her to a Residential Treatment Center, but her parents want to give outpatient treatment one last try.  I was very excited about this because it keeps my favorite character, Noah Shaw, in the picture. 

On Mara's first day at Horizons outpatient program she discovers that her friend from Croyden, Jamie, is also receiving treatment there.  This is one of the few bright spots about this facility.  There are a few VERY crazy characters...Phoebe being the most disturbing...who enter the scene and wreak havoc on Mara's well-being while at the facility.

Jude is a perpetual problem once again throughout this book.  The readers are left guessing whether or not Jude really exists or if it is all related to Mara's apparent "condition."  We quickly learn that Mara and Noah may have issues, but they certainly are not crazy.  They continue to discover more about their abilities and we learn just how misunderstood they are.  They are well aware that telling the truth sounds crazy, but it IS the truth.  Everyone is just too short sighted to even consider the fact that it could be real and the stakes are escalating.    

Towards the end of the book I REALLY felt sorry for Noah and Mara.  I think they could have a somewhat normal relationship if these outside factors were not in existence.  I do not want to give away any spoilers, so I will simply say that I loved EVERYTHING about this book.  The way Noah understands and believes Mara and how she begins to see through his protective shell was the highlight of this book for me.  There is also one exceptional date night, which I can only hope there will be more of in The Retribution of Mara Dyer. 

The final installment in the series is scheduled to be release next fall.  I just hope that Noah and Mara will get the last laugh when this series is all said and done.  They have been through SO much and deserve a happily ever after.     

Monday, November 5, 2012

Second Chance by Katie Kacvinsky


I have read and LOVED all three of Katie Kacvinsky's novels.  Awaken, First Comes Love, and now Second Chance.  If you have not read her books, you are without question missing out.  I am not over exaggerating.  I included her as one of my top 5 favorite authors in a post for Book Nerds Across America a couple of months ago and she did not disappoint with her latest work.

When I started Second Chance, I was under the impression this would be the final book in the series.  First Comes Love was supposed to be a standalone novel, so I never imagined it would turn into a trilogy. The story was not taking the path I had expected, so I began to panic.  This could NOT be happening.  I immediately jumped on-line and found out there will be a third and final book in the Dylan and Gray series titled  Finally Forever.  With this information, I could take a deep breath and continue reading. Finally Forever has a ring to it that is more in line with what I was expecting.

Second Chance is an emotional roller coaster for Dylan and Gray as they work through their personality differences.  They are clearly in love with each other, but Gray does not want to get hurt by Dylan floating in and out of his life.  In my opinion, Dylan is very short sighted and does not see the effects her traveling has on Gray.  When she began to realize it; however, she changed in ways that were detrimental to her own well being and I began to feel sorry for her.  She was no longer the free spirit Gray fell in love with.  

I absolutely love how Katie changes the narration between Dylan and Gray, so we get to experience the story from both of their perspectives.  I am amazed by how realistic her dialogue is from both the male and female perspectives.  When we are listening to a group of college baseball players carrying on a conversation it is just as believable as listening to Dylan's thoughts and conversations.  There were so many AMAZING quotes scattered throughout this book, but I will only share a few.

For my fellow Book Nerds: "Relationships aren't like library books. You can't just check people in and out whenever you feel like it." - Cat to Dylan

"You need to fall apart once in a while before you understand how you best fit together." -Dylan

"Aren't the things you work the hardest for, the sweetest victory in the end?" - Dylan

Katie hit another home run with Second Chance.  Dylan and Gray are exceptional characters and I encourage everyone to read this series.  I will be anxiously awaiting the release of Finally Forever, which Katie hopes will be out next fall.  For the next year, I will envision Gray making the Pros and Dylan traveling the country with him.  This would be the ultimate win/win.  I have no idea if that will really happen, but that is one way I could see these two reaching their happily ever after. 

For more information about Katie Kacvinsky, you can check out her website

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Lola and the Boy Next Door is a companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss, which I LOVED.  It was 5 stars and then some, so I was excited to see that Anna and √Čtienne were a part of this story as well.  They are not the main focus like they were in the first book, but their presence was a plus for me.

Lola is a seventeen year old high school girl living in San Francisco.  She has a non-traditional family and is very eccentric in her own right.  She wants to become a costume designer, which greatly influences her personal style.  She wears different colored wigs and tries not to wear the same outfit twice. 

She has had a love/hate relationship with Calliope and Cricket Bell, the twins who have lived next door to her growing up.  Specifically...she hates Calliope, but loves Cricket.  This all changed when their family moved away and rented out their house.  A couple of years later, the Bells move back and Lola is conflicted.  She hates Cricket for the way things ended between them two years prior, but she still has feelings for him.  She has a boyfriend, so she tries to push her thoughts of Cricket aside...BUT...Cricket is now, after all of this time, openly expressing an interest in her. 

Cricket is 6 foot 4, thin, wears tight pants, rubber bands on his arm and is always writing messages on his hand.  He has always been interested in inventing things and has been extremely talented at it since a very young age.  His great, great, great grandfather is none other than Alexander Graham Bell, so he comes by it honestly.  He is one of the sweetest, most polite, and caring character I have come across in quite some time.

In contrast...Lola's boyfriend Max can only be described in one way.  He is 22 years old (five years older than Lola), has tattoos, is the lead singer in a band, and has NO personality what so ever.  He treats Lola's friends like crap and to top things off...he gave √Čtienne the brush off.  That was the icing on the cake for me.  Every time I read about him a quote from The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer crept into my head.  I think Mara sums Max up with the following:

 Asscrown," I muttered under my breath as I headed to my next class. I wasn't proud of swearing at a complete stranger, no. but he started it.

Noah matched my pace. "Don't you mean 'assclown'?" He looked amused.

"No," I said, louder this time. "I mean asscrown. The crown on top of the asshat that covers the asshole of the assclown. The very zenith in the hierarchy of asses," I said, as though I was reading from a dictionary of modern profanity.


Yes...That is Max for you.  By the time Lola finally sees through him and comes to terms with her feelings for Cricket, I was SO done with Max. 

Lola and Cricket are perfect together.  She appreciates his inventions and he understands her style.  They both need emotional support throughout the book and they are always there for each other.  How many guys would actually help a friend design and create a dress?  Not many.  

There will be one additional companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss, which will be titled Isla and the Happily Ever After.  It is scheduled to be released May 7, 2013.  I hope that Stephanie will include ALL of our favorite characters....Anna, Etienne, Lola, and Cricket.  She can even include Calliope since I started to like her towards the end of this book.  I will not be at a loss if Max is omitted. 

Overall, I felt this was an excellent companion novel.  It wasn't quite as good as Anna, but it was easily 4 stars. 

Flo and I met Stephanie Perkins at the RT Convention in Chicago last year.  She was super nice and, as you can see, may have lent some of her fashion sense to Lola.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Jamie Loeak Blog Tour


Welcome to the fourth stop on the Jamie Loeak Blog Tour!! 


About the Author: 

Jamie Loeak is an aspiring YA author. She has written and published her first novel and continues to work toward finishing the trilogy, while new ideas for more novels pop into her ever changing mind. Jamie resides in Florida, where she is a middle school teacher. Finding time for writing is difficult within the world of lesson plans, assessments, and students; however, Jamie makes sure to make time for all of the things that she loves in life, including her students, pets, and a loving boyfriend. When Jamie isn't writing or grading papers, she is forcing her sister into photoshoots or playing her guitar. Her current goal is to finish the Body and Soul Trilogy so that she can let her other ideas escape. (Goodreads)


Review:

Kate is a sixteen year old only child, is very independent, and is used to being alone.  Her parent's both work long hours, so she anticipates spending a lot of quiet time on the beach reading to pass the summer. 

When she meets Rico and Adriana things completely change for her.  For the first time in her life, she has real friends.  The friendship initially started because of a need for Rico and Adriana to protect her.  She was attacked by "demons" on her way home from dinner with her parents and she just narrowly escaped.  Then she starts having nightmares, which seem to be showing her glimpses into the future.  Rico, Adriana, and Kate work feverishly to figure out why the demons have targeted Kate and to devise a way of stopping them.

The relationship that develops between Rico and Kate is very sweet.  While there are elements in this book that reminded me of Twilight, I would not say that this is a bad thing.  There aren't any vampires in this series, but there are similar quirks to Rico and Kate's relationship.  I don't want to give away any spoilers, so I will simply leave it at that.   

The last quarter of the book was very fast paced and contained a lot of surprises that I did not see coming.    Jamie did not leave us with a happily ever after type of ending and there are plenty of unanswered questions that need to be resolved in the next book in this series. 

I was captivated by the world that Jamie created and I absolutely LOVED the characters.  I can't wait to see what is in store for them in the sequel.  I am not sure when the next book will be released, but it sounds like there are currently three books planned in the series.  For the most up to date information, here is the link to Jamie's Blog.  Hopefully she will fill us in on her plans for this series soon. (Hint, Hint)

I would like to thank Jamie for sending me an electronic copy of her book and Krystal Clear Books for hosting this blog tour.  Be sure to check out all of the tour stops for more reviews, character and author interviews, and excerpts from the book.

October 20th- www.vampandstuff.com
November 16th- www.rbtlreviews.com

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys is the first book in a planned four book series.  I really enjoyed all of the characters, but there was something missing.  Perhaps it was the third person narration, but I'm not really sure that was the problem because I enjoyed hearing the story from the different characters' perspectives.  I just never felt a true connection to the characters or the story until the last quarter of the book.

The first 270 out of 408 pages were very slow for me.  We learn about Blue, a high school girl, and her relatives who are all psychics.  We learn about "the raven boys" (Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah) personal histories.  They are all from privileged families, with one exception, and they are all attending a prestigious boarding school in Blue's hometown of Henrietta.

Gansey recruited all of his friends to help him explore the "ley line".  He has conducted research around the world and has come to the realization that Henrietta has the most powerful ley line and Glendower, his ultimate quest, may be buried here.  He just needs to find out where.  Their investigation breaks wide open once they meet Blue.  The closer they get to finding the ley line the more dangerous things become.  They make an unusual discovery, which directly impacts their circle of friends.  Once this discovery was made, I really started to enjoy the book.  I just wish we were given this piece of information sooner.  It shed light on many of the events that happened earlier in the book.  I actually went back and reread several sections to better appreciate and understand them.

I am anxious to see what happens in the second book.  Now that we are past all of the history and build up that was required for this story, the next book should pick up where this one left off.  There was a lot of excitement and energy the last quarter of this book, which I hope Stiefvater will be able to build upon.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

I was not familiar with this series until I perused the entries in the 2012 YA Crush Tournament.  I was still trying to select our September book of the month, so I thought...what better place to look than a tournament promoting all of our favorite YA Males. 

Noah Shaw IMMEDIATELY caught my attention.  I am a sucker for an English boy.  Add in the fact that he is from a wealthy family, is very smart and well educated, witty, and a bit of a bad boy...I was sold.  I was certainly not disappointed.  Noah exceeded my expectations.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer begins with our protagonist Mara waking up in a hospital.  She was involved in an accident that left her best friend, boyfriend of only a couple of months, and his sister all dead.  She has no memory of the accident or the evening that led up to it.

She begins having nightmares about the accident and is starting to recall bits and pieces of that evening.  She then starts having perceived delusions and hallucinations.  Her family decides to move to Miami, Florida to give her a fresh start.  They enroll Mara and her older brother Daniel at Croyden, a private school, which is where she meets Noah.

I do not want to give away any spoilers, so I will simply say there are a series of unusual events that occur and Mara always seems to be involved.  She thinks she is going completely crazy.  She doesn't know what is Real or Not Real.  (For my fellow Hunger Games fans...I would suggest that she use Peeta's game, but I don't think even that will help.)  What any reasonable person would think is Not Real really is Real.

I have never read any book even remotely like this.  I was completely riveted and LOVE, LOVE, LOVED all of the characters.  Not just Mara and Noah, but her brothers Daniel and Joseph as well.  Her relationship with them and their willingness to go above and beyond to help each other was touching.  Mara's only other friend besides Noah is Jamie.  He was equally as captivating, but not in the hot English boy sort of way.  He is the nerdy guy who befriends her on her first day of school.  His insight on the happenings at the school and his opinions of their clasmates greatly added to the story.

There are some shocking twists that take place the last third of the book.  We learn more about Noah and can appreciate why he is drawn to Mara.  They appear to be soulmates and I can only hope that they will be able to bring a sense of normalcy and understanding into each other's lives.

I will be reading The Evolution of Mara Dyer as soon as it is released on October 23rd.  There is so much more for Mara and Noah to discover and I am dying to see what happens next.  It has been a few months since I have given a book 5* on Good Reads, but this one is more than deserving.  I would recommend it highly to anyone who enjoys a good paranormal story with a contemporary setting.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Simple Genius by David Baldacci

Simple Genius is the third book in the Sean King and Michelle Maxwell series.  For those of you who aren't familiar with the series, Sean and Michelle were both formerly members of the Secret Service.  At the end of the first book, Split Second, they decided to open their own firm and are working together to solve crimes.

The beginning of this book took a VERY different twist.  Michelle appears to have come unraveled, which results in an "incident".  This leads to her seeking treatment from a psychologist friend of Sean's by the name of Horatio Barnes.  This was a HUGE surprise to me.  Michelle is the ultimate overachiever and has a very strong head on her shoulders.  I could not understand why Baldacci took this angle with Michelle, but by the end of the book we have a much stronger understanding and appreciation of her character.

Sean is hired to investigate what was deemed to be a suicide by Monk Turing, a very respected scientist from Babbage Town.  Babbage Town is a residential research compound located across the river from Camp Peary, a top secret CIA facility.  Monk's body was found at Camp Peary.  The owners of Babbage Town did not believe Monk's death was a suicide and wanted to further investigate the situation. Shortly after Sean began working the case, another Babbage Town employee Sean had been questioning was murdered.  It became clear to Sean that someone was trying to eliminate all potential evidence before he could uncovering it and would stop at nothing short of murder.

I have thoroughly enjoyed all three of the King and Maxwell books I have read up to this point, but there is one thing that is driving me CRAZY.  These two are OBVIOUSLY attracted to each other.  They are both single, they are subtly dropping clues to each other about their interest, but NOTHING ever materializes.  Will these two ever develop more than a professional relationship?  Perhaps now that Horatio has discovered Michelle's past secrets, he will be able to help her get to a point in her life where a personal relationship will appeal to her.  I don't think she will have to look far to find a person of interest who will reciprocate her feelings.  I certainly hope this is one of the plot lines that will develop in First Family, which is the fourth of the five books currently available in this series.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich


Our favorite bounty hunter, Staphanie Plum, is back in action in this sequel to One for the Money.  She is now after Kenny Mancuso, a local boy from "the Burg" who is none other than Joe Morelli's cousin, who skipped bail and is tormenting his long time friend Spiro.  Kenny is accused of shooting another friend, Moogey Bues, in the knee. Moogey turns up dead shortly after the initial shooting and now Kenny is nowhere to be found.  Joe is also working on an investigation that involves Kenny, so Stephanie and Morelli become an unofficial team once again.

This book was released in 1996 and contains a lot of old school references, which I found to be very amusing.  She has an answering machine, a "car phone", Walkman, Doc Martins, watches movies on a VCR, etc.  The one liners between all of the characters along with the strange happenings scattered throughout the story had me literally laughing out loud.

One of my favorite characters is Stephanie's Grandma Mazur.  I don't know anyone who spends as much time at funeral homes as she does.  Most people dread going to the funeral home, but Mazur is constantly checking the obituaries to find her next big outing.  The events that unfold every time she is at the funeral home are hysterical to say the least.  Spiro is the step-son of the owner of the "best funeral home in the Burg" according to Grandma Mazur.  While Spiro is a bit of a creeper himself, he is really given a run for his money with Grandma Mazur and "Crazy Kenny" hanging around. 

I actually liked this book better than One for the Money.  Stephanie is still relying more on luck than skill when it comes to her profession, but she is definitely showing signs of improvement.  The relationship between Morelli, Ranger, and Plum continues to develop and really strengthened this story.  I will definitely continue with this series. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Rift by Andrea Cremer


I am a HUGE fan of the Nightshade series, so I was thrilled when I heard that Andrea Cremer was going to release a prequel series.  Rift is set in the 1400's in Scotland, so clearly we have a whole new set of characters...with one exception.  I'm not giving away any spoilers since Andrea said in an interview that one character from the Nightshade series makes an appearance in this book.  For the life of me I couldn't figure out who it would be until the individual appeared.  In retrospect, I should have known.             
                                                                     
This book starts out with Ember, a sixteen year old girl from a noble family who wants nothing more than to leave her father's house to join the warriors at Tearmunn.  They are a religious order that protects their lands from other worldly dangers.  Her father does not want her to join the order, but he has no choice.  When Ember was born both mother and child almost died and the family called upon Conatus's healers to save them.  In return, the child was pledged to serve Conatus. 

The first third of the book was a little slow for me.  There was a lot of necessary history, background, and introduction to the characters.  Once Ember was at Tearmunn and training to become a member of the guard, it began to take off.  Once the character from Nightshade arrived, I was absolutely hooked and could not put it down.  

You don't need to read the Nightshade series to appreciate this book.  For those who have, we get more information about how the witch's war began.  We see the formation of the Keepers and Searchers and what led up to the events that unfold in the Nightshade series.  There is the beginnings of a love story, but it doesn't really develop until the end of the book.  I was hoping "he" and Ember would eventually get together, but Andrea left us COMPLETELY hanging at the end of this book.  The only good thing about this cliffhanger is that we don't have to wait the customary 1 year to get our hands on the next installment in this series.  Rise is scheduled to be released January 8, 2013.  I was not aware of this fact until I was getting ready to write this post.  I was literally *squeeeeing* out loud.  If I have anything to say about it, you can count on this to be one of the Book Nerd's read alongs in January.  I absolutely love Andrea's writing style and would highly recommend all of her books.
     

Monday, August 13, 2012

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

Lock and Key is a stand alone contemporary YA novel.  That sentence alone should tell you this is not your typical YA book.  The protagonist, Ruby, is a 17 year old girl who is a senior in high school.  She has been living alone for ten years with her mother who is divorced, has a substance abuse problem, and is clearly not a good role model.  She attends school all day and helps her mother work in the evening just to meet their basic needs.  Living under these circumstances has left her very guarded and suspicious of others. 

One day, her mother abandons her without warning.  The authorities ultimately figure this out and contact her sister Cora.  Cora is 10 years older than Ruby and has not been a part of her life since she went away to college.  She is now an attorney and is married to Jamie, who hit it big with an online social networking site.  When Ruby goes to live with them, her life is turned COMPLETELY upside down.  She is now living in a wealthy neighborhood, attending a private school, and has everything she could possibly need or want.

Family is a theme that is continuously explored throughout the novel.  As Ruby begins to unravel the truth behind her own family, will she be able to overcome her upbringing and begin to thrive in her new setting?  Will she be able to trust others and develop the social contacts she so desperately needs? 

Cora, Jamie, Nate, and Olivia were all amazing characters in their own right.  Ruby learns that everyone has their own struggles.  The seemingly perfect lives that some people may appear to have are not always a reality.  Through friendship and a willingness to offer and accept help from others, these characters are able to make tremendous strides in their own lives. 

I have to give Adam from Hitting on Girls in Bookstores credit for selecting this book.  He reviewed a couple of Sarah Dessen's books a while back and was raving about her.  I decided to give one a try and I am VERY happy that I did.  I will absolutely read another one of her books, most likely sooner rather than later.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Arise by Tara Hundson

Arise is the second book in the Hereafter trilogy.  In the first book we met Amelia, who is a ghost, and her human boyfriend Josh Mayhew.  Josh is part of a family of "seers" with a long history of being able to see and interact with ghosts.

At the beginning of Arise, we learn that Josh's grandmother Ruth (who was the leader of a coven of seers who tried to exorcise ghosts in Oklahoma) had moved to New Orleans.  After Amelia helped save Josh's sister from the evil ghosts at High Bridge in book 1, his grandmother no longer wanted to harm her.

At this point I thought life would be more normal for Josh and Amelia because they no longer had Ruth to contend with, but that was far from the case.  There were new Demons trying to lure Amelia to the netherworld.

A large portion of the book is actually spent in New Orleans because Josh's family spent the Christmas holiday with his extended family.  There were several new Mayhew seers for us to meet along with their apparent leader Alexander Etienne.  I have to admit, when I read his name I immediately thought I would like him because his name reminded me of Etienne St. Clair.  WRONG.  I don't want to give away any spoilers, but he is about as far from St. Clair as one can possibly get.

Amelia also met Gaby, another ghost in New Orleans, who comes from a voodoo family.  Thanks to Gaby, Amelia acquires some new abilities, but she may have lost her ability to touch humans in exchange.  Will she still be able to touch Joshua?  You will have to read the book if you want to find out the answer to that question.

Overall, I enjoyed Arise.  Much like New Moon in the Twilight series, I struggled through a large portion of this book because Josh did not have as large of a part.  The main focus was on Amelia and Gaby trying to conquer the demons.  Amelia was trying to protect Joshua by keeping him out of most of the action, which was a bit of a mistake for this reader.  I think I would have enjoyed it more if Josh and Amelia worked together and were the focus of the book.  Hopefully that will be the case in the final book in this series.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I will not attempt to write an official review of Harry Potter.  Everyone I know has already read all of the books and watched the movies multiple times.  I read the first 3 books as soon as they were released, but I did not have time...or rather I used my spare time while in College in less productive ways than reading the rest of the Harry Potter series.  Once I graduated, I still had an issue with motivation due to the size of the books.  I simply did not want to carry around these HUGE books, even though I LOVE the series.

Last year the Book Nerds guilted me into reading books 4 and 5.  Of course, I loved them.  I walked around the hospital carrying my hard copies of the books and just about everyone had a comment.  Even physicians I didn't know would stop me in the elevator/hallway/etc. to share their two cents on the book and to find out if I was enjoying it.

This year I was determined to complete the series.  I have been very disciplined and have not watched any of the movies until after I finished the books, so the material is still completely new to me.  There have been a few things that I have heard over the years, but for the most part I have been able to avoid spoilers. 

I will be sure to update you when I complete the series, but for now...

I FINISHED BOOK 6!!!

It was just as good as the previous five books ( 5 stars) and I look forward to seeing what is in store for Harry and his friends in the final book.  I like the relationships that developed towards the end of the book. The scene between Harry and Ginny after the quidditch match was PERFECT.  It wasn't all planned out and awkward...it just happened.  Also....SNAPE and MALFOY!!!  Did that really happen?  After six books Harry can FINALLY say I TOLD YOU SO.

While writing this post I thought of two questions I would love your input on.

First, can you think of a series prior to Harry Potter that really appealed to both teens and adults to this magnitude?  Since Harry Potter we have had series such as Twilight, The Hunger Games, and The Mortal Instruments, but I can't think of anything prior to Harry Potter. 

Finally, what are your thoughts on J.K. Rowling releasing a book for adults?  Do you plan on reading it?  I most likely will give it a try, but I do have this to say... I tried reading The Host by Stephanie Meyer because I loved the Twilight series.  This is her adult series, but I was VERY disappointed.  I read the first two chapters and called it quits.  It was a very strange sci-fi book, which I had NO interest in.  I talked to several of my friends and they advised me not to continue reading it.  I sincerely hope J.K. Rowling will write something that appeals to the fan base she has already established and will not deviate as far as Meyer did.

Monday, July 9, 2012

First Comes Love by Katie Kacvinsky

I am SUPER excited to share the news Katie Kacvinsky posted on her blog last week.  There will be a sequel to First Comes Love!!!  Katie originally planned for this to be a standalone book but, as she explains on her blog, Dylan and Gray's story was far from over.  She could not get them out of her head, so she wrote Second Chance.  She is still trying to sell the book to her publisher, so SHE NEEDS YOUR HELP.

While Katie promotes the concept of becoming "Unplugged" in her Awaken series, this is NOT the time to follow that piece of advice.  Please help spread the word in any way you can.  Facebook, Twitter, Blog, etc.  The more people talk about the book, the greater her chances of getting it published.

Below is a copy of my review of First Comes Love, which was posted on Book Nerds Across America last April.

At first, this book reminded me of Dash and Lily's Book of Dares because the narration constantly switches between the two main characters.  I loved this style of writing in both of these books because we get to experience the story from both of the main character's perspectives.  With so many trends constantly evolving in literature, this is one that I would LOVE to see more often. 

When we first meet Dylan and Gray they are attending summer school at a local community college in Phoenix.  Gray is barely holding on after losing his twin sister in a car accident several months prior.  He and his family have emotionally shut down, he turned down a full ride baseball scholarship, and he has no direction in his life.  Dylan is there for the summer visiting her aunt.  She is a free spirit looking to experience everything life has to offer.

Dylan first approaches Gray because she witnessed him sulking around campus looking empty and lifeless.  She asks him to give her tours around the area.  Gray thinks she is ridiculous, but he can't think of a good excuse not to.  Slowly Dylan starts to breath life back into Gray and their friendship slowly develops. The two of them could not be more different from each other, but they are a perfect match.  They are constantly striving to surprise each other, which I found to be very cute and romantic.  The surprises are not your typical flowers, candy, cards types of things.  They are very genuine and heartfelt...appealing to the other person on the most personal of levels.

The ending was left open, so I can only hope that some day Katie will let us continue to experience Dylan and Gray's journey.  While I began reading with the thought that it was refreshing to have a standalone book...I now understand why most of the books on my TBR list are part of a series.  I get attached to characters and just can't let them go.  These are two characters that I certainly don't want to let go of.  Even though I am passing the book onto the next lucky recipient in the tour,  this book will not leave me any time soon.  There are a lot of very good messages that I have taken from it and can only hope to implement into my own life.  I felt much the same way after reading Awaken.  Katie has such a powerful way of sharing life lessons without coming across like she is trying to do so. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

I decided to read The Woman in Black because it was going to be Daniel Radcliffe's first film after Harry Potter .  I knew nothing about the book besides the fact that it was a ghost story.  When I went to see Breaking Dawn, The Woman in Black was one of the previews.  It looked REALLY scary and I was beginning to wonder what I had gotten myself into.

The book starts out with a family getting ready to celebrate Christmas.  As part of their tradition, all of the children gather around the fire and tell ghost stories.  The children try to convince their father to tell a story, but he is overcome by the situation and steps out of the house for a while to regain his composure.  While outside he resolves to put down in writing what he cannot put into words, the real life ghost story he experienced while in his early 20s and working as an attorney.  At this point I was excited about where this could be leading, but ultimately it did not live up to my expectations.

The first 100 pages were very slow for me.  First we learn that Mrs. Drablow has passed away and that Arthur will have to go to Eel Marsh House to settle her estate.  Whenever he mentions the owner or the house to the people around town, nobody will discuss it with him.  Arthur becomes increasingly agitated by the apparent lack of respect for the deceased.  When he attends the funeral, he is one of only 3 people in attendance.  When he refers to The Woman in Black that he saw at the grave site to others, they become very distressed.  There was a lot of setup such as this before the ghost story truly began.  The last 40 pages were a bit more exciting as we experience the hauntings of Eel Marsh House, but I never once had the feelings the movie trailer conjured up.  Clearly Hollywood is taking some liberties with this one, and for Radcliffe's sake I sure hope they do. 


My thoughts on the movie:
Since I was lukewarm on the book (I only gave it 2 stars on Goodreads) and I am not usually one for scary movies, I decided to wait until I could get the movie from the library.  I was pleasantly surprised.  This is one instance in which the movie was MUCH better than the book.  If I were to rate it with the same standards I use on Goodreads, I would give it 4 stars.

They changed the storyline from the very beginning.  Everything is set in the present, so they eliminated the Christmas scene and flashback.  They also added more detail to the events that happened in the town when someone saw "The Woman in Black", which added suspense and made the film much scarier than the book.

I thought Radcliffe did an excellent job of playing Arthur.  This film was drastically different from his role as Harry Potter, but he pulled it off brilliantly.  His fear was believable and it did not come across like your average horror flick.