Friday, February 24, 2012

Midnight in Austenland

When Charlotte Kinder treats herself to a two-week vacation at Austenland, she happily leaves behind her ex-husband and his delightful new wife, her ever-grateful children, and all the rest of her real life in America. She dons a bonnet and stays at a country manor house that provides an immersive Austen experience, complete with gentleman actors who cater to the guests' Austen fantasies.

Everyone at Pembrook Park is playing a role, but increasingly, Charlotte isn't sure where roles end and reality begins. And as the parlor games turn a little bit menacing, she finds she needs more than a good corset to keep herself safe. Is the brooding Mr. Mallery as sinister as he seems? What is Miss Gardenside's mysterious ailment? Was that an actual dead body in the secret attic room? And-perhaps of the most lasting importance-could the stirrings in Charlotte's heart be a sign of real-life love?

The follow-up to reader favorite Austenland provides the same perfectly plotted pleasures, with a feisty new heroine, plenty of fresh and frightening twists, and the possibility of a romance that might just go beyond the proper bounds of Austen's world. How could it not turn out right in the end?

I have waited a loooong time for a new novel from Shannon Hale (whom I adore) and Midnight in Autenland delivers! Traditionally speaking, I haven't enjoyed her adult novels quite as much as her fantasy/fiction novels, but I was in exactly the right mood for Midnight in Austenland and I loved it.

Shannon Hale's classic wit and gorgeous word-smithing are all in play here and I enjoyed every word of this ride. I laughed constantly and my heart really ached for Charlotte. Divorce (and all its accompanying heartbreak) can be a heavy subject, but Shannon Hale manages it with a deft hand. I felt Charlotte's pain, but I also grew along with her and cheered right along as she regained feelings of self-worth and confidence. And all this happens in the oh-so-fun atmosphere of Austenland - plus murder mystery!

This book is Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Jane Eyre, and about a dozen Agatha Christie novels all rolled into one...written by Shannon Hale! Come on - haven't I convinced you yet? The mystery is fun and intense with several surprises, some of which I saw coming miles away, some of which I didn't. There's just the right amount of romance here, just the right amount of heart, the perfect amount of mystery and suspense, and more than enough laughs. Go read it. (And if you live in Boise you can come borrow it from me :D)

And if you haven't heard the good news, Shannon Hale is releasing another novel later this year! A sequel to Newbery Honor-winning Princess Academy entitled....

Palace of Stone

Comes out August 21st



Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever.

She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.

As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's...

I'm always a sucker for greek mythology retellings, and I've read every Hades/Persephone retelling I've heard of. This one beats them all.

Such beautiful writing, amazing characters, fascinating plotlines, and heart-wrenching romance. I think part of the appeal for me was the originality of the mythology and plot. Aside from the Hades/Persephone story, a little bit of the Orpheus/Eurydice story is mixed in (if you're not familiar with that one, click here), along with several original elements of Brodi Ashton's invention. I was completely sucked into this original world and story, but loved that it was grounded in mythology that I'm very familiar with.

And I desperately loved Nikki and Jack's story. It's not that often that I encounter what I consider "true love" in a YA romance, and Everneath has it. And don't be fooled into thinking this is going to be another warped love triangle where Nikki blows off the nice guy for bad-boy Cole. It's made very clear from the beginning that Cole is evil (though complicated evil). I also really enjoyed the other "real world" parts of the plot where Nikki reconnects with her family and other friends and works to overcome depression (I'd be depressed too if I'd just spent 100 years having my soul sucked out by some creepy immortal). This is a gorgeously-written story about recovery and consequences and it ends with a bit of heartbreak, but also on a note of hope. I can't wait to read the sequel.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


So what did I do with that huge pile of awesome books? Went on a reading binge and finished five of them. In a week. I won't attempt to describe the state of my housework. I haven't been too neglectful of a parent at least (even though I found ten apples in the garbage can yesterday, all with one or two bites taken out of them - compliments of my two boys, ages five and three). My boys are great independent players and have been way into Legos lately, which they will play with for hours. I'm wise enough not to leave them alone, so I'm stuck close by on the couch with nothing else to do but read. Poor me. :D

Anyway, I figure that if I don't post about these books now and do it all in one fell swoop it will take me forever to get around to it. It's almost a pity to do mini-reviews on these books because they were ALL AMAZING. Every single one of them got a five-star rating from me on goodreads and I can think of plenty to say about each, but I'll try to keep things brief.

No summary of this one since it's a sequel. This book blew me away. I was expecting it to be amazing, because I absolutely loved Across the Universe, but I wasn't expecting it to be even better than AtU. It was more intense, had even more suspense and mystery, and was filled with the kind of revelations that had me gasping out loud. It was shocking! I think this book will forever be on my list of books I wish I could read again for the first time. I can't recommend this series enough. Even if you don't normally like sci-fi, you really need to try it (there aren't any weird aliens or anything). Incredible plot, strong characters and character development, and just the right bit of romance.


Official blurb:
What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias' death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.

Just when I thought there was no way any more new dystopian books would wow me, along came Legend. It read like a movie, so visual and tangible. I loved both June and Day and thought it really added to the book to have it written from both their perspectives. The book really races and is one of the most exciting I've read in ages. Fantastic writing, shocking plot, and a pinch of romance, this is exactly my kind of book. Highly recommended for fans of The Hunger Games. It's the best of its kind I've read since The Hunger Games, only not quite so bloody and violent. I promise you'll like it.


As a fourteen-year-old who just moved to a new town, with no friends and a louse for an older brother, Doug Swieteck has all the stats stacked against him. So begins a coming-of-age masterwork full of equal parts comedy and tragedy from Newbery Honor winner Gary D. Schmidt. As Doug struggles to be more than the “skinny thug” that his teachers and the police think him to be, he finds an unlikely ally in Lil Spicer—a fiery young lady who “smelled like daisies would smell if they were growing in a big field under a clearing sky after a rain.” In Lil, Doug finds the strength to endure an abusive father, the suspicions of a whole town, and the return of his oldest brother, forever scarred, from Vietnam. Together, they find a safe haven in the local library, inspiration in learning about the plates of John James Audubon’s birds, and a hilarious adventure on a Broadway stage. In this stunning novel, Schmidt expertly weaves multiple themes of loss and recovery in a story teeming with distinctive, unusual characters and invaluable lessons about love, creativity, and survival.

Oh I loved this book. It made me laugh and cry and then cry some more. It made me wish I could adopt every kid who has ever lived with an abusive parent and give each of them a loving home. Or at least I wished I could adopt Doug. I loved everything about him and his story. It seems like a simple enough story, but Gary Schmidt put so much heart into every page. I dare you to read it and not be moved. It left me feeling hopeful and grateful. Read it!


From the book jacket:
The year is 2009. Nineteen-year-old Jackson Meyer is a normal guy… he’s in college, has a girlfriend… and he can travel back through time. But it’s not like the movies – nothing changes in the present after his jumps, there’s no space-time continuum issues or broken flux capacitors – it’s just harmless fun.

That is… until the day strangers burst in on Jackson and his girlfriend, Holly, and during a struggle with Jackson, Holly is fatally shot. In his panic, Jackson jumps back two years to 2007, but this is not like his previous time jumps. Now he’s stuck in 2007 and can’t get back to the future.

Desperate to somehow return to 2009 to save Holly but unable to return to his rightful year, Jackson settles into 2007 and learns what he can about his abilities.

But it’s not long before the people who shot Holly in 2009 come looking for Jackson in the past, and these “Enemies of Time” will stop at nothing to recruit this powerful young time-traveler. Recruit… or kill him.

Piecing together the clues about his father, the Enemies of Time, and himself, Jackson must decide how far he’s willing to go to save Holly… and possibly the entire world.

Ah the YA time travel novel I've been waiting for. I adore time travel and this hit a spot I've been trying to scratch for a while, if that makes any sense. Anyway, this book was intense and fabulous. I would kill for Jackson's powers. And I love that since Holly and Jackson are already dating when the book begins, we're spared the gushy teenage falling-in-love story. This is a story with heart and amazing characters. It's told from Jackson's POV, so that was a refreshing change. All in all, highly recommended and thoroughly entertaining.


Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. She's stuck at JFK, late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's in seat 18C. Hadley's in 18A.

Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

Looking for a sweet love story just in time for Valentine's Day? It's probably too late to get this one in time from your library, so just go buy it. I promise you won't regret it. This is a fantastic book and I loved every second (it's also short - I zipped through it in a couple of hours). Some reasons I loved it:

* Oliver. His British-isms. *swoon*
* London. *love*
* All scenes/conversations on the airplane. So funny. So cute.
* Charles Dickens' Our Mutual Friend. First off, I just started reading it and have been watching this version with my husband these past few days. What a surprise when I started reading Statistical Probability and found that quotes and concepts from the book (not to mention an actual, physical copy of the book) play a very important part in the plot. My inner literary geek is very happy. Especially because this is an important Dickens week and I am a big fan (see my Dickens 200th birthday post here on my other blog - which on second thought I should have also posted here on this blog, being literary and all.)
* The timeliness of me reading about a girl whose parents divorced and were getting remarried. Hadley and my situations are distinctly different, and I certainly don't have the same problem with my mother getting remarried as Hadley has with her dad getting remarried, but there are some emotions that she was going through that I can definitely relate to. No matter how good a thing it might be, there's always a little weirdness seeing one of your parents fall in love and get married. (I'm excited for you mom! I know you're reading this... :D)
* And... I'll stop. This was supposed to be a mini-review!

I adored The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, and I think you will too.

P.S. I promise a review of Midnight in Austenland is coming! I decided to wait to read it, even though I got it from the library and it's still sitting right next to my bed. Why? Because I bought it and it is now in the mail wending its way towards me. Will I be able to wait for my own copy to read it? Or will I give in to the temptation its posing me by sitting there in plain sight? We'll see. Luckily I have Everneath to distract me. :D

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What would you read next?

 I'm having a problem.

The following books are all sitting in a nice pile, just staring at me, and I can't, for the life of me, decide which one to read next. Which one would you pick?

Brandon Sanderson's conclusion to the Mistborn trilogy? (But when you see what else I have in my pile you'll know why this one will probably get moved to the bottom)

Beth Revis's sequel to Across the Universe? I've been dying to read this.

Tempest, which is a debut novel with an awesome cover (and time travel!) that Beth Revis gushed about on her blog? (Even though if she were here I'm sure she'd tell me to read A Million Suns first, seeing as how she wrote it and all...)

Legend? A new-ish dystopian novel that I have only seen amazing reviews of.

Okay For Now? The book that, according to many of my bookish/librarian friends, should have won the Newbery.

This one has also been on my radar since I first heard about it. Sounds like a cute contemporary novel.

And I have only heard amazing things about Everneath. Plus you know how I feel about greek mythology. And as if the cover alone isn't enough to make it impossible for me to ignore it. How gorgeous is this?

Shannon Hale, for crying out loud! Yeah, she'll probably be first.

Add to this my distress over the fact that the 200th anniversary of Dickens' birth is February 7th and I swore to myself that I'd read something by him before then. I love Dickens. But he might just have to wait...

Which would you choose?