Friday, July 27, 2012

Time for more Minis!

“One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time.”

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, numerous, messy, affectionate. And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen-year-old Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs her terrace and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely in love, Jase's family makes Samantha one of their own. Then in an instant, the bottom drops out of her world and she is suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

A dreamy summer read, full of characters who stay with you long after the story is over.

My rating: ***

I was really excited to read this, and I think it's because when I got it I was in just the right mood for a sweet summer teen romance novel. And let me say, that there are tons of people who loved this book, and with good reason. The love story is sweet and the Garretts are hilarious. I married into a large family (my husband's the oldest of eight) and I really think Huntley Fitzpatrick captured the chaos, the fun, the friendship, and some of the struggles of a huge family.

So why did I only give it three stars? Because there was way too much swearing, drinking, and casual sex for my comfort level. That, and I just couldn't turn off my brain, which kept interjecting little comments when things didn't mesh logically. How is it possible that Samantha, with her state senator mother and mini mansion lived right next door to the Garretts and their slightly run down house with 9 kids? Those kind of houses aren't usually built next door to each other. And then there were the two youngest Garrett kids. Most reviews I read loved George, the discovery channel loving four year old, but he just wasn't believable to me. I have a four year old (a rather precocious one, I might add) and four year-olds just aren't that intelligent and eloquent. George reminded me of my seven year-old, actually. And the baby just wasn't realistic either. Everything was too funny, too perfectly timed. They didn't feel like real people. And to top it all off, the main conflict of the story was so unbelievable that I almost couldn't finish reading the book. There's no way.

So overall, good with cute moments, but kind of too much to swallow at times.


Summary: (book 3 in the Hex Hall trilogy)
Just as Sophie Mercer has come to accept her extraordinary magical powers as a demon, the Prodigium Council strips them away. Now Sophie is defenseless, alone, and at the mercy of her sworn enemies—the Brannicks, a family of warrior women who hunt down the Prodigium. Or at least that’s what Sophie thinks, until she makes a surprising discovery. The Brannicks know an epic war is coming, and they believe Sophie is the only one powerful enough to stop the world from ending. But without her magic, Sophie isn’t as confident.

Sophie’s bound for one hell of a ride—can she get her powers back before it’s too late?

My rating: ***

I've gone back and forth on this series so much. At times it is so clever and funny. It kind of reminds of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (anyone?), and I love the modern witch idea. This is the last book in the series and while it definitely had its charming moments, I was so frustrated with it. I feel like I've been waiting the whole series to watch Sophie really use her powers and she never quite delivers the way I'd like her too. And the romance drives me crazy. I can't stand a love triangle where every other page a girl switches off kissing one boy and then the other. Plus, the love triangle resolution in this story is THE ABSOLUTE WORST WAY TO END A LOVE TRIANGLE EVER. Sure! Let's just kill off the other boy! It made me mad.

And so, no glowing review from me for the Hex Hall series. I recommend you don't waste your time. There are much better books to be reading.


Mia Price is a lightning addict. She’s survived countless strikes, but her craving to connect to the energy in storms endangers her life and the lives of those around her.

Los Angeles, where lightning rarely strikes, is one of the few places Mia feels safe from her addiction. But when an earthquake devastates the city, her haven is transformed into a minefield of chaos and danger. The beaches become massive tent cities. Downtown is a crumbling wasteland, where a traveling party moves to a different empty building each night, the revelers drawn to the destruction by a force they cannot deny. Two warring cults rise to power, and both see Mia as the key to their opposing doomsday prophecies. They believe she has a connection to the freak electrical storm that caused the quake, and to the far more devastating storm that is yet to come.

Mia wants to trust the enigmatic and alluring Jeremy when he promises to protect her, but she fears he isn’t who he claims to be. In the end, the passion and power that brought them together could be their downfall. When the final disaster strikes, Mia must risk unleashing the full horror of her strength to save the people she loves, or lose everything

My Rating: **

I wanted to like this. I thought, main character with lightning powers? So cool. But this book is strangely anti-religious and rather freaky and dark. I never felt like Mia rose above her issues and the horror to become a leader and make a difference either. She just kind of went along with things and lucked out, mostly. Plus, the romance is too insta.

An interesting concept, but the execution was too dark and depressing for my tastes. If I'm going to read apocalyptic/dystopian fiction I want my heroines to be kick-butt and I want to find hope and happiness. There's not much of that here.


When your chance for getting into college and your date for the prom are all on the line…

Sixteen-year-old Samantha Taylor is used to having things go her way. She's head cheerleader and has all the right friends and a steady stream of boyfriends. But when she tanks the SATs, her automatic assumptions about going to college don't appear to be so automatic anymore. She determines that her only hope for college admission is to win the election for student body president. Unfortunately, with her razor wit and acid tongue she's better suited to dishing out insults than winning votes.

When she brashly bets her classmate Logan that she can go two weeks without uttering a single insult, Samantha immediately realizes that she may have bitten off more than she can chew. And when her current boyfriend dumps her, less than three weeks before the prom, it couldn't be a worse time to be forced to keep her opinions to herself. Finding a new boyfriend will be a challenge now that Logan shadows her every move, hoping to catch her slipping back into her old ways. Samantha is determined to win the election and find a dream date for the prom, no matter what it takes. After all . . . all's fair in love and war (and high school!).

My Rating: ****

Another hilarious novel from Janette Rallison! I'm still on my quest to read all of her books. This one is a great addition to my little home library and perfect for lending out to all my high school age piano students. Janette Rallison always makes me laugh out loud and her books are perfect pick-me-ups. All's Fair is interesting because I started out not liking Samantha very much, but she makes some real growth as a character and discovers some surprising things about herself. Lots of fun, lots of laughs.


Galen is the prince of the Syrena, sent to land to find a girl he's heard can communicate with fish. Emma is on vacation at the beach. When she runs into Galen — literally, ouch! — both teens sense a connection. But it will take several encounters, including a deadly one with a shark, for Galen to be convinced of Emma's gifts. Now, if he can only convince Emma that she holds the key to his kingdom . . .

Told from both Emma and Galen's points of view, here is a fish-out-of-water story that sparkles with intrigue, humor, and waves of romance.

My Rating: ****

This book surprised me! I wasn't sure how I felt about the whole "both teens sense a connection" line and I was worried about major insta-love, but the story turned out to have some very nice depth and substance. I liked both Emma and Galen and their very real struggles. And I'll admit, I really enjoyed all the mermaid (pardon me, Syrena) mythology.

One weird thing I have to mention is that the chapters are told from alternating points of view, and when it's Emma's POV it's written in first person, but when it's Gale's POV it's written in third. That kind of bothered me.

Other than that, I don't have too many complaints. I thought it was funny, the writing was nice, and the story flowed well. The setting with its beautiful underwater world totally sucked me in. Loved the bits with sunken treasure and shipwrecks (including a certain ship that wrecked that I happen to be obsessed with, which you will discover in my very next review...).

Great plot, very fun, and a perfect summer read.


The classic minute-by-minute account of the sinking of the Titanic, in a 50th anniversary edition with a new introduction by Nathaniel Philbrick First published in 1955, A Night to Remember remains a completely riveting account of the Titanic's fatal collision and the behavior of the passengers and crew, both noble and ignominious. Some sacrificed their lives, while others fought like animals for their own survival. Wives beseeched husbands to join them in lifeboats; gentlemen went taut-lipped to their deaths in full evening dress; and hundreds of steerage passengers, trapped below decks, sought help in vain.

Available for the first time in trade paperback and with a new introduction for the 50th anniversary edition by Nathaniel Phil-brick, author of In the Heart of the Sea and Sea of Glory, Walter Lord's classic minute-by-minute re-creation is as vivid now as it was upon first publication fifty years ago. From the initial distress flares to the struggles of those left adrift for hours in freezing waters, this semicentennial edition brings that moonlit night in 1912 to life for a new generation of readers.

My Rating: *****

I am obsessed with the Titanic. It started in my junior year of high school when we did a Titanic unit in English, and I have been in love with the subject ever since. It fascinates me, especially the human stories. This year my Titanic obsession has reached fever pitch with the 100th anniversary. My husband and I have watched maybe 15 documentaries this year and a couple movies. The movie based on this book is by far the best. It may be older cinematography and black and white, but it really captures the whole story best. And now I'm getting sidetracked.

This book is a must-read and a must-have for Titanic fans. I starts with the sighting of the iceberg and tells the entire story from several points of view, and manages to do it in a way that feels like the best told fiction. And let me tell you, Walter Lord knows his stuff. He is the Titanic expert.

I loved this. I cheered for the heroes, for Lightoller, for the engineers, for Jack Phillips on the wireless, for the brave men and women who chose to give up their places in the boats for others. I screamed in frustration over the Californian, sitting just 10 miles away and doing nothing about the ship they were too indifferent about to realize was sinking. I was terrified and freezing cold and awed at the sight of the biggest ship in the world sinking. I was there.

Highly recommended for Titanic fans!

Can true love be forgotten?

As the only scion who can descend into the Underworld, Helen Hamilton has been given a nearly impossible task. By night she wanders through Hades, trying to stop the endless cycle of revenge that has cursed her family. By day she struggles to overcome the fatigue that is rapidly eroding her sanity. Without Lucas by her side, Helen is not sure she has the strength to go on.

Just as Helen is pushed to her breaking point, a mysterious new Scion comes to her rescue. Funny and brave, Orion shields her from the dangers of the Underworld. But time is running out--a ruthless foe plots against them, and the Furies' cry for blood is growing louder.

As the ancient Greek world collides with the mortal one, Helen's sheltered life on Nantucket descends into chaos. But the hardest task of all will be forgetting Lucas Delos.

Josephine Angelini's compelling saga becomes ever more intricate and spellbinding as an unforgettable love triangle emerges and the eternal cycle of revenge intensifies. Eagerly awaited, this sequel to the internationally bestselling "Starcrossed" delivers a gritty, action-packed love story that exceeds all expectations.

My Rating: ****

I almost gave this three stars. It was close. But I really did enjoy reading it, no matter what my problems were with the writing. Which I had a lot of. I read a review somewhere about the first book, Starcrossed, that described it as "overwritten" and that's exactly how I'd described this. Every line of dialog is editorialized. Every feeling, event, emotion, description, etc... has a simile or metaphor attached. Some of it is truly beautiful, but most of it is just too much! And the romance!!! Ugggh. The dreaded love triangle. The worst kind.

BUT. But. The mythology! This is the only YA series based on greek mythology that really does the source material justice. It really appeals to my inner greek nerd. That and it's creative and translates the mythology to the modern world in a beautiful and so compelling way. I loved the story and could not stop reading. I can't wait to see how the series ends. I wish I had the last book in my hands right now.

So, despite some crazy annoying writing and a just mean love triangle, I couldn't put it down. I loved it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

For Darkness Shows the Stars

It's been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family's estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot's estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth--an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret--one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she's faced with a choice: cling to what she's been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she's ever loved, even if she's lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen's "Persuasion", "For Darkness Shows the Stars" is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

My Rating: *****

Me, several months ago when I first heard about his book:

"Post-apocalyptic retelling of Persuasion? SHUT UP."

Followed by:

"I need it. RIGHT NOW."

So, needless to say, I've been excited to read this. The closer it got to release the more rave reviews I read. So when I got it for my birthday last week (yes, I buy myself a stack of books for my birthday and then give them to my husband to wrap - that's just the way we roll :D) I was terrified to read it. What if I hated it? I bought it before reading it (which I almost never do), what if it wasn't any good?

I considered reading one of my other birthday books first but I didn't. I started with For Darkness Shows the Stars. And absolutely adored it.

First off, the sci-fi elements are amazingly well done. The future society in this book is shocking and scary and contains something that looks alarmingly a bit too much like slavery. There is a lot of segregation and racial prejudice going on, only the race differences are between the Reduced (genetically affected humans with almost no intelligence) and the Luddites who shunned genetic manipulation and so escaped the fate of the Reduced. But what to do with the Post-Reduced? The children of the Reduced with normal intelligence?

That story alone was interesting and compelling enough to get five stars. And then we add in Persuasion, my all time favorite Jane Austen novel (Pride and Prejudice is a close second but it's still second).

Kai was so awful to Elliot at first. I almost hated him because he was such a jerk. Forget Captain Wentworth who mostly ignores Anne and flirts with the Musgrove girls. Kai returns with a mission to make sure Elliot knows how much she hurt him and to hurt her in return. It was almost too much, but right along with that story the book contains tons and tons of notes passed between Kai and Elliot when they were kids. The notes are so sweet and their childhood friendship is so lovely and entertaining that it really made me understand the relationship between Kai and Elliot, and why Kai was so hurt. And all those notes really set the stage for what we all know is the most important part of any Persuasion retelling: the letter. I totally cried. It was beautiful.

Oh it was all so good. This isn't just about the romance, which happens at exactly the right pace. No, the story is about Elliot's family, and politics, and the ethics of genetic experimentation, and following your heart and vulnerability, and so many other good things. I don't think I can gush enough.

I'm not saying everyone will love this. It definitely has its harsh moments and there is a dusting of scifi-ness. But, I thought it was a gorgeous story and an incredibly well done retelling in a future setting of one of my favorite novels of all time.

And a stand-alone! Who doesn't want to read a nice stand-alone novel these days?

Monday, July 23, 2012


Marianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she’ll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that even the best laid plans can go awry.

From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will she be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke.

My Rating: *****

Yes really. I went into this with low expectations. I figured it would be cheesy and kitschy and fluffy. And you know, it was. But I loved every minute!

What a lovely story. It just flew, too. I loved the quick pacing and because of that pacing I read this in one sitting. It didn't take long either. I was so excited to find out what happened next, I just couldn't stop. So I didn't.

Marianne is a wonderful character. Sweet, but with some serious inner strength. She's not your typical Regency era 17 year-old. She knows what she wants out of life, and it isn't balls and town and an advantageous marriage. She wants adventure and riding horses and travelling the world. She doesn't think she'll find anyone who wants to share that with her, but she's determined to enjoy life anyway. I really felt for her. Her life was torn apart in a very real way when her mother died and she's suffered for it. I shed a couple tears at times; the emotions in this book were achingly written.

And Phillip. Sa-woon! I think I'll just leave it at that and encourage you to find out for yourself. ;)

I adored Edenbrooke itself (named estates? one of my favorite things) and all of Phillip's family. This book had everything I love in a period romance: walks in the grounds, entertaining banter over dinner, tete-a-tetes in the of course drool-worthy library, a ball, and even unexpected things like brushes of mystery and danger. Hooray!

Julianne Donaldson is clearly a kindred spirit. I hope she writes dozens of novels because I want to read them all. The writing was fabulous, even if I could tell at times that she (kind of like me) has always wanted to write phrases like, "What a fair prospect" in a novel. I loved the way she made the story feel true to the period, while still managing to update the pacing and the feel of the story. Very well done!

Highly recommend for Jane Austen fans and anyone who loves a good period romance story or movie.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The False Prince

From the book jacket:


In a faraway land, civil war is brewing. To unify his kingdom's divided people, a nobleman named Conner devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him on the throne. Four orphans are forced to compete for the role, including a defiant and clever boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. His rivals will be devising their own plots as well, so Sage must trust no one and keep his thoughts hidden.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of deceit unfolds, until finally, a truth is revealed that may very well prove more dangerouns than all of the lies taken together.

Jennifer A. Nielsen has woven a heart-racing tale full of danger and bold adventure, lies and deadly truths that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

My rating: *****

Holy freaking cow.

This book is amazing.

I've been reading hype on this book for months and so I tried to lower my expectations because I was getting really excited. There was no need to lower anything, because it met and went way beyond my expectations. This book has everything I love in a fantasy: characters worth staying up late over, courtly intrigue, nail-biting mystery, secret passageways galore, and pinches of romance.

Those characters? So awesome. I loved Sage from the start. He's clever, cheeky, a smashing good thief, arrogant in a good way, brave, reckless, daring, full of heart, so smart that I was pages behind him in figuring things out, and with the kind of secrets that made me shout out loud (BIG spoiler: It all came out about 270 pages in and I actually started jumping up and down, screaming, "I knew it!!! I knew it!!" My kids think I'm insane. But seriously, Jennifer Nielsen's a genius because from the start I suspected Sage was actually the prince, but she made it so I couldn't tell for sure until she told me. Brilliant use of foreshadowing and clues. Brilliantly layered plot.) It was impossible to put this book down because of Sage; I read it in less than a day.

The story is so good. I really couldn't turn the pages fast enough because I had to figure out what was going to happen. I had to stop my eyes from jumping ahead, every time I turned a page. The other orphans Sage is competing with to pose as the false prince were such interesting multi-layered characters too. I liked that Sage wasn't the only one I cared about because it made the whole story all that more compelling.

This book has immediately moved to the top of my to-buy list. It is a great story that really stands out and I can't wait for the other two books in the series. It's a perfect book for all ages, both boys and girls. Sage is the best orphan since Harry Potter. I promise you will love him.

Recommended for fans of The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner, The Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan, and anyone who loves a great castle, a great story, and great characters.

Monday, July 2, 2012


From Goodreads:

Callie lost her parents when the Spore Wars wiped out everyone between the ages of twenty and sixty. She and her little brother, Tyler, go on the run, living as squatters with their friend Michael and fighting off renegades who would kill them for a cookie. Callie's only hope is Prime Destinations, a disturbing place in Beverly Hills run by a mysterious figure known as the Old Man.

He hires teens to rent their bodies to Enders—seniors who want to be young again. Callie, desperate for the money that will keep her, Tyler, and Michael alive, agrees to be a donor. But the neurochip they place in Callie's head malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her renter, living in her mansion, driving her cars, and going out with a senator's grandson. It feels almost like a fairy tale, until Callie discovers that her renter intends to do more than party—and that Prime Destinations' plans are more evil than Callie could ever have imagined. . . .

My Rating: ****

I've been a lot pickier lately about which dystopians I pick up, doing a lot of vetting and reading a lot of reviews before actually requesting one from the library. As a result, they've all been really good.  Starters is original and fast-paced. I really liked the world-building. All the technology was close to what we have, just a step or two more advanced. It was all so believable.

The story really rockets along, sometimes, I thought, at the expense of character development. I wanted to get to know Tyler better (Callie's little brother) and her friend Michael. And then there was Blake, the senator's grandson. Yeah, I thought the romance was a little too "insta" with not nearly enough solid foundation. (BUT.... - spoiler: it didn't turn out well anyway. TOTALLY did not see that coming!!!! I suspected that Blake wasn't everything he appeared to be, but the truth is just too awful!!!)

But, the concept was fascinating and really well done. Even with my character development issues, I was emotionally involved in this story and it flew by. I thought there were some compelling moral and ethical issues raised and addressed. That stuff can feel heavy-handed, but the questions are raised right along with the fast-paced story and felt genuine. Bravo to Lissa Price for that.

Another thing that I liked? Did you read the summary and how it mentioned Callie's life feels almost like a fairy tale? Turns out the fairy tale thing was a reoccurring theme, with very well done lightest brushes of it here and there. Very nice!

There's just one more book in this series coming out next year called Enders. Can I just say how much I love that fact? Two book series! Instead of trying to stretch it out into a trilogy, Lissa Price has a story to tell and tells it in exactly as many books as she needs to tell it in. I'm so glad there's going to be a sequel. While I was reading it, everything seemed to be wrapping up in with a nice little bow and I didn't want it to end. Then of course there were some MAJOR and terrifying reveals at the end to throw everything in upheaval and set it up for the second book. Can't wait to read it!

Recommended for fans of The Hunger Games, Divergent, Partials, Legend, and it also reminded me a little bit of Stephenie Meyer's The Host, because of the whole body takeover thing.