Friday, August 31, 2012


From Goodreads:
Evie's paranormal past keeps coming back to haunt her. A new director at the International Paranormal Containment Agency wants to drag her back to headquarters. The Dark Faerie Queen is torturing humans in her poisonous realm. And supernatural creatures keep insisting that Evie is the only one who can save them from a mysterious, perilous fate.

The clock is ticking on the entire paranormal world. And its fate rests solely in Evie's hands.

So much for normal.

My Rating: ****

I've had my struggles with this series (mostly Evie tends to get on my nerves), but I couldn't think of a better ending for this series. In fact, after I finished it, I started rethinking my decision not to buy this series. It is fun and ended in such an epic and perfect way. Evie makes some real growth and I was so happy for her at the end. Plus, it was just a hugely magical and dramatic showdown at the end. Really spectuacular. Except it ended a little suddenly after that and I wanted a little more time to slow down and accept the end of this trilogy.

All the major and important characters are here in this book, all with crucial roles to play. Even though, can I just say one more thing that bugs me? In one book, a character will be everything that's evil and the ultimate villain, and in the next they always make a comeback and Evie forgives them right away. Nobody stays a villain, but they don't do it with those shades of grey that I love in not-so-villain-villains. They're all evil. Except, until they're not. Anyway, just a beef and something that confuses me.

Anyway, I don't want to end this review on that note. I'll just end by saying that the Paranormalcy trilogy is not your typical paranormal romance. It is funny and cheeky and sassy and sweet (but not sappy sweet). I think it has a broad appeal and that there are very few readers (who enjoy YA) out there who wouldn't read this trilogy and enjoy it. It's a fun ride and has some wonderful magic and some great characters. Recommended!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Free Throws

From Goodreads:
Going head-to-head with your best friend is never easy, on the court or off.

Josie loves hottie Ethan Lancaster, the captain of the basketball team, but she never can do or say the right thing in front of him. So how can it be fair that Ethan is only interested in her best friend, Cami, when Cami isn't even trying for his affection? Or is she?

Cami dreams of winning her basketball team's coveted MVP award, and earning the chance to take the court during a special halftime demonstration with WNBA star Rebecca Lobo, but her best friend, Josie, is a better player. So how can it be fair that Josie is a shoo-in for the honor if she is barely interested in basketball in the first place and isn't even trying to be the best? Or is she?

My Rating: ***

I'm always looking for a good, clean, fun contemporary, but for some reason I can hardly ever find ones that I like. This one is good, definitely clean, kind of fun, but not brilliant.

Generally, I adore Janette Rallison. I own probably 7 (maybe 8?) of her books. Most of them I've bought used from random places (though I highly recommend buying her My Fair Godmother books - they are far and away her best). I picked this one up at DI for 25 cents. I saw it, squealed "Janette Rallison" and bought it.

I'm not sad I spent money on it, because it certainly was fun (and really, 25 cents? even for cheapskate me I think I can manage not to feel guilty for spending 25 cents). I just couldn't get that into the story or the characters and I didn't necessarily love the way it ended either. Maybe it's like this: some YA contemporaries manage to capture deep emotions and move me. This one really is a fluffy teenage story about silly crushes that don't pan out and friendships that struggle because of dumb things but get worked out. I'm sure there are pre-teen or teen girls who would enjoy it, but for me it's not a reread.

But, being Janette Rallison, it is ridiculously funny at times. She is the queen of the awkward situation. :D

Recommended for Rallison fans and younger teens.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


From Goodreads:
From Brian Selznick, the creator of the Caldecott Medal winner THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET, comes another breathtaking tour de force.

Playing with the form he created in his trailblazing debut novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick once again sails into uncharted territory and takes readers on an awe-inspiring journey.

Ben and Rose secretly wish their lives were different. Ben longs for the father he has never known. Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook. When Ben discovers a puzzling clue in his mother's room and Rose reads an enticing headline in the newspaper, both children set out alone on desperate quests to find what they are missing.

Set fifty years apart, these two independent stories--Ben's told in words, Rose's in pictures--weave back and forth with mesmerizing symmetry. How they unfold and ultimately intertwine will surprise you, challenge you, and leave you breathless with wonder. Rich, complex, affecting, and beautiful--with over 460 pages of original artwork--Wonderstruck is a stunning achievement from a uniquely gifted artist and visionary.

My Rating: *****

Absolutely gorgeous. I loved this in every possible way. First off, Brian Selznick is a genius. It is so fun to read his books (have you read The Invention of Hugo Cabret?) because of the mix of pictures and text. It feels like a movie. No. Like a comic book. But not. Beecause it has the literary feel of a classic. It's just. EVERYTHING.

I was sucked right into the story and every little detail was so engrossing. I kept waiting, desperately waiting, for Ben and Rose to meet up, because their paths kept crossing. And when they finally did, it was so not what I was expecting. It was more and it blew me away.

I loved Ben, his loneliness and his struggles with learning to handle life as a deaf person. And Rose. Rose is just the most beautiful character I've met in a long time.

So, each Brian Selznick story revolves around some theme. In Hugo, we got a lot of cinematic history, which I found interesting, but I also have very little outside interest or knowledge of the subject. In Wonderstruck, it's museums. Do I ever love museums. I always have. I've wanted to run away and live in a museum since I first read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler when I was who knows how old.

As I was reading I kept thinking about how much the story reminded me of The Mixed-Up Files, and after I finished (and while I was still sighing from the gorgeousness of the story) I read the acknowledgements at the end and Brian Selznick says that he did it on purpose, that any story about museums would have to be a tribute to The Mixed-Up Files, and that he'd hidden references of it throughout the book.


So, I went back and looked for more and found more.

Sheer genius.

Yeah. I loved this. Highly recommended! It doesn't take long to read and you will never regret reading it!

Monday, August 27, 2012


Two days before the start of her junior year, seventeen-year-old Janelle Tenner is hit by a pickup truck and killed—as in blinding light, scenes of her life flashing before her, and then nothing. Except the next thing she knows, she’s opening her eyes to find Ben Michaels, a loner from her high school whom Janelle has never talked to, leaning over her. And even though it isn’t possible, Janelle knows—with every fiber of her being—that Ben has somehow brought her back to life.

But her reincarnation, and Ben’s possible role in it, is only the first of the puzzles that Janelle must solve. While snooping in her FBI-agent father’s files for clues about her accident, she uncovers a clock that seems to be counting down to something—but to what? And when someone close to Janelle is killed, she can no longer deny what’s right in front of her: Everything that’s happened—the accident, the murder, the countdown clock, Ben’s sudden appearance in her life—points to the end of life as she knows it. And as the clock ticks down, she realizes that if she wants to put a stop to the end of the world, she’s going to need to uncover Ben’s secrets—and keep from falling in love with him in the process.

From debut author Elizabeth Norris comes this shattering novel of one girl’s fight to save herself, her world, and the one boy she never saw coming.

My Rating: ****

That's a very surprised four stars from me, because I didn't start out loving it, but the farther along I got into it, the more obsessed with the story I got. I was reading it on the treadmill and instead of going for 3 miles like I planned, it turned into 5 and a half, just so I could finish it.

The Bad: Straight up, I'm just going to tell you that the language is awful in this book. If you're sensitive to swearing, this book will bother you. There are so many "F" words in here that if you open the book to any given page, I'd say odds are 98% you'll see one or more. This is not an exaggeration. As far as other content, there is some mild sensuality, but it wasn't too bad.

Without the swearing, I would have given this five stars.

Wow I loved the characters. Janelle is tough and self-sacrificing. She's not a whiner and she fights every moment of the book for those she loves. She's also smart. Like Sherlock Holmes-ian smart. She notices things. She learned from her FBI agent father every cool trick in the book and I loved it when she turned super spy on me. I love spy stories. Plus, her dad was amazing. She also had a very real relationship with her little brother, a side story that added so much heart to this book. Her family and friends (especially her best friend and next door neighbor Alex) all made this book multi-dimensional. The story is not just about her romance with Ben, which I appreciated.

Ben himself is pretty cool. I thought I was in for some great X-Men style powers but it turns out this story is more X-Files than X-Men. Woah. Talk about surprises and plot twists and things I did NOT see coming. I loved that. I don't get surprised enough.

Another I liked was that the story didn't wrap up in a pretty bow. It wasn't afraid to be a little tragic, and it pulled it off without being melodramatic. Kudos to Elizabeth Norris for that. Also, I could tell that Elizabeth Norris is a kindred spirit and a fan of literature, because there were a lot of awesome references to classic lit.

So, a pleasant surprise from Elizabeth Norris's Unraveling. I'll be checking out the sequel, Unbreakable, next year.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Princess Academy

Miri lives on a mountain where, for generations, her ancestors have quarried stone and lived a simple life. Then word comes that the king's priests have divined her small village the home of the future princess. In a year's time, the prince himself will come and choose his bride from among the girls of the village. The king's ministers set up an academy on the mountain, and every teenage girl must attend and learn how to become a princess.

Miri soon finds herself confronted with a harsh academy mistress, bitter competition among the girls, and her own conflicting desires to be chosen and win the heart of her childhood best friend. But when bandits seek out the academy to kidnap the future princess, Miri must rally the girls together and use a power unique to the mountain dwellers to save herself and her classmates.

My Rating: *****

This is a reread for me, since the sequel is coming out (hooray!) and I wanted to make sure I was up on my Princess Academy world for that. And, since I've never mentioned it on my book blog, I figured I'd give a quick blurb.

If you have yet to discover the magic of Shannon Hale's fantasy novels, Princess Academy is the perfect place to start. Therefore, get thee to a bookstore. Just buy it. It's a beautiful addition to any library and one of my favorite stories.

The writing is beautiful and in Shannon Hale's trademark poetic style. Her similes and metaphors and to-die-for gorgeous. Her magic system is subtle and powerful. Her characters, perfect in their completely human imperfections. Watching Miri come into her own and discover herself, her talents, her past, her own little romance - it all makes me want to cheer, jump up and down, and hug her. The whole story is thing of sheer beauty.

Read it. You will love it. Then follow up with her Books of Bayern: The Goose Girl, Enna Burning, River Secrets, and Forest Born. And don't forget Book of a Thousand Days, another of my all-time favorites.

I can't wait to read Palace of Stone!

Which cover do you prefer? I love the first but I own the second, a fact I've always lamented until now because at least my cover will match the Palace of Stone cover (except not perfectly because they came out with another Princess Academy cover where the model matches the model for Palace of Stone)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


More than anything, Tom Raines wants to be important, though his shadowy life is anything but that. For years, Tom’s drifted from casino to casino with his unlucky gambler of a dad, gaming for their survival. Keeping a roof over their heads depends on a careful combination of skill, luck, con artistry, and staying invisible.

Then one day, Tom stops being invisible. Someone’s been watching his virtual-reality prowess, and he’s offered the incredible—a place at the Pentagonal Spire, an elite military academy. There, Tom’s instincts for combat will be put to the test, and if he passes, he’ll become a member of the Intrasolar Forces, helping to lead his country to victory in World War Three. Finally, he’ll be someone important: a superhuman war machine with the tech skills that every virtual-reality warrior dreams of. Life at the Spire holds everything that Tom’s always wanted—friends, the possibility of a girlfriend, and a life where his every action matters—but what will it cost him?

Gripping and provocative, S. J. Kincaid’s futuristic thrill ride of a debut crackles with memorable characters, tremendous wit, and a vision of the future that asks startling, timely questions about the melding of humanity and technology.

My Rating: ****

Woah. Just. Woah.

Insignia was not exactly what I was expecting it to be. I don't know why I thought it would be so serious - I imagined Ender's Game (cause it does sound like it, no?) and crazy intensity. And it does deliver on those. But it is also incredibly funny and entertaining. Like, throw my head back, belly laugh funny. It is such a beautiful balance of sci-fi and edge-of-your-seat suspense and action and easy to read entertainment. It was so well done that this is really a very high four stars.

I went into it hesitant. I thought that, despite all the gushy reviews I've seen, it wouldn't quite fit me. Teenage boy protagonist, major video gamer, finds out his video gaming skills could actually be used to fight in WWIII and all of a sudden he's given a computer for his brain, receives a growth spurt and has his acne magically disappear. He turns into a super weapon and gains friends and popularity. Sounds like a nerdy teenage boy's dream come true, right? But this book is so much more than that.

The science is blow-your-brain awesome. My little inner geek was, well, for lack of a better term, totally geeking out. The neural processors freaked me out at first (WHEN! When will YA characters in futuristic sci-fi novels learn NOT to let people put things in their brains????!!!??), but it turned out to be really cool. Some of the most hilarious moments occurred because of people hacking into each other's brains. Also some of the most disturbing and terrifying things too. If this book teaches you one thing, it's not to underestimate the power of a good programmer.

I loved all the characters, especially Tom. He was funny and heartbreaking and I wanted to adopt him for his genius, his wit, his vulnerability, his sweetness, his bravery, and his sheer force of life personality. His friends, Vik and Wyatt and Yuri, all make this book extra amazing. There's nothing stock-character-y about any of them. They are all fully fleshed-out people that I grew to love. And I just have to mention the Medusa side plot (Medusa is the most powerful fighter for the other side of the war - and Tom's arch nemesis). Woah. Just. Woah. I know I already said that, but this one element blew this book to a whole new level of awesomeness. Sheesh. Listen to me. Can you tell I've been reading a book with a teenage boy MC? :D

I know I've been gushing, but this is a great book. Wonderful writing, wonderful editing. Everything was tight, smooth, and fast-paced. Incredible story, believable world, plenty of action - but without sacrificing plot or character development, and loads of laughs.

Read. Enjoy. Thank me later.

Content: The teenage boys do get a bit crass on occasion and there is some casual swearing.

Monday, August 20, 2012


Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina's tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they've turned the final page.

My Rating: ****

Loved it. I have been looking for a good dragon book for a long time. I have a few favorites, but nothing new has impressed me. Rachel Hartman nails it.

The atmosphere and the writing sucked me in, and the characters kept me hanging on until well after I'd finished the last page. I loved Rachel Hartman's fantasy world and she did a great job of fleshing it out and making it believable and beautiful. I was fascinated by the dragons in human form and I loved the way Hartman distinguished between the two species. She added tons of little details and was descriptive, but without bogging things down.

Seraphina herself? So cool. And don't assume you know everything about her, even if you have guesses from the summary. She had all sorts of surprising abilities and cool things going on (I especially loved her mind garden - kind of reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes' mind palace, but not). And being a musician, I really, really loved that part of her and the fact that she works as a musician. There are tons of great musical scenes. Lucian Kiggs is another fascinating character, and don't discount Princess Glisselda, his fiancee either. I liked her way more than I thought I would. All the characters turned out to have fabulous depth and tons of layers. I loved them all: Orma, Seraphina's dragon tutor - Viridius, the court composer and Seraphina's boss - Abdo (can't say who he is) - Lars (can't go into that either) - Dame Okra Carmine, the fabulously snarky - and more. This book is stuffed full of wonderful characters and scenes.

It's a wonderful story that sweeps along, full of surprises and perfect fantasy. The only reason I knocked some points off (I'm technically giving this 4 and a half)? My sheer personal preference about how the romance ended up. I didn't like it. I was NOT happy. Just my opinion. :D Can't wait for the sequel!

Recommended for fans of epic fantasy and dragons.

Friday, August 17, 2012


Sequel to Abandon

Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back.

Seventeen-year-old Pierce Oliviera isn’t dead.

Not this time.

But she is being held against her will in the dim, twilit world between heaven and hell, where the spirits of the deceased wait before embarking upon their final journey.

Her captor, John Hayden, claims it’s for her own safety. Because not all the departed are dear. Some are so unhappy with where they ended up after leaving the Underworld, they’ve come back as Furies, intent on vengeance…on the one who sent them there and on the one whom he loves.

But while Pierce might be safe from the Furies in the Underworld, far worse dangers could be lurking for her there…and they might have more to do with its ruler than with his enemies.

And unless Pierce is careful, this time there’ll be no escape.

My Rating: ***

Hrmm. That's about how I feel. I just wish this was so much more than what it actually turned out to be. I liked Abandon in the same way - good, but just not quite there.

Once again, it's Meg Cabot's pacing that really made this a struggle. Abandon crawled along and so did Underworld. I got 30 pages in and I realized I was still reading the same conversation that started on the first page. Soooo long. Soooo slow. It actually made me pull up my current manuscript and start hacking and slashing at long conversations.

Anyway, I love the concept of modern Persephone retellings, but I haven't loved any of them yet. Goddess Test failed, Abandon is just not there (though John is a MUCH better lord of the underworld than boring Henry from the Goddess Test), and Radiant Darkness was dimly there, but not good enough. Tell me you just got all my bad puns. :D You're welcome.

Anyway, I read it and kind of enjoyed the reading, but at the end I felt like I'd wasted time. The entire book NOTHING happens. Except Pierce occasionally lusting after John. And there is some mild sexual content. And while I was expecting Pierce to struggle to get free of the underworld, there are only two scenes that actually take place in the underworld. The conflict was barely there. I just didn't get what the danger was or the "why?" of the entire book.

In a nutshell? Ok - if you love greek myth retellings. But look elsewhere if you are wanting a great story or great characters or any form of greatness.

Keeping the Castle

From Goodreads:
Seventeen-year-old Althea is the sole support of her entire family, and she must marry well. But there are few wealthy suitors--or suitors of any kind--in their small Yorkshire town of Lesser Hoo. Then, the young and attractive (and very rich) Lord Boring arrives, and Althea sets her plans in motion. There's only one problem; his friend and business manager Mr. Fredericks keeps getting in the way. And, as it turns out, Fredericks has his own set of plans . . . This witty take on the classic Regency--Patrice Kindl's first novel in a decade--is like literary champagne!

“If you’re a fan of I Capture the Castle you will love this sharply funny tale of courtship. A delicious confection.” -- Polly Shulman, author of Enthusiasm

“Take one Austenian heroine in desperate financial straits. Put her in a crumbling castle, give her two evil stepsisters and some very unsuitable suitors. Make it funny! Patrice Kindl’s Keeping the Castle is an absolute charmer!” -- Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club

My Rating: **

It looks pretty and sounds funny, but I was really not much impressed with Keeping the Castle.

For one thing, all those comparisons to Austen and I Capture the Castle got me all excited, but reading it felt more like I was reading a cheap imitation of both. There's nothing original here; in fact, it's more a straight up retelling of several Austen books and I Capture the Castle, bordering on plagiarism. The characters were so irritating! I hated Althea and could hardly root for her to get a happy ending. I didn't think she deserved it. She behaves so badly and is so rude and fake to everyone else!

And don't get me started on either Lord Boring (and just so you know, there are plenty of awful names like that in this book) or Mr. Fredericks. If you're looking for romance or tension or longing or desire, you're not going to find it. Nada. Zip.

I think the humor was supposed to be the point, but it was not enough to be a redeeming virtue for me. How could I laugh when the whole time I was reading I was thinking, "Surely this isn't what this whole book is going to be; surely it's going to get better,"? I was so annoyed.

There were glimmers here and there of things I found interesting, and I did read it quickly (this is a short book), but overall I did not enjoy it. Not recommended. Nope. Not even if you're desperate for a good period romance. I say go with the originals (I especially love I Capture the Castle) and if Austen originals are not your thing, try out Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Shadow and Bone

Alina Starkov doesn’t expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, the one thing she could rely on was her best friend and fellow refugee, Mal. And lately not even that seems certain. Drafted into the army of their war-torn homeland, they’re sent on a dangerous mission into the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh.

When their convoy is attacked, all seems lost until Alina reveals a dormant power that not even she knew existed. Ripped from everything she knows, she is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. He believes she is the answer the people have been waiting for: the one person with the power to destroy the Fold.

Swept up in a world of luxury and illusion, envied as the Darkling’s favorite, Alina struggles to fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But as the threat to the kingdom mounts, Alina uncovers a secret that sets her on a collision course with the most powerful forces in the kingdom. Now only her past can save her . . . and only she can save the future.

My Rating: ****

I've been reading gushing reviews about this one for a while so I was excited to get my hands on it. I'm glad that I read a few reviews that had more tempered opinions, though, because it helped lower my expectations a bit. For me, it was really good. But not quite a five star book.

Absolute highest marks, though, for setting, atmosphere, and gorgeous writing. Plus a very imaginative magic system that I really loved. And before I forget to mention it, I really like this cover. It is so beautiful and ties in perfectly with the book.

The whole book had a wonderful epic fantasy feel and I read it quickly. I was emotionally invested in all the characters, especially Alina. She had a very human and vulnerable feel to her, imperfect and likeable - all qualities she was able to hold on to even after she became incredibly powerful. I have to complain for a second about the romance (SPOILERS): I just thought the book spent too much time building up the Darkling as being all sexy and in love with Alina, only to turn it around too quickly. It damaged the romance line with Mal, in my opinion. And I had a hard time forgiving Mal for being such a loose flirt at the beginning of the book.

My only complaint is that some of the plot lines felt too recycled and unoriginal. The boy and girl who grow up best friends but then maybe become something more... poor, neglected orphans who are more than they seem... the girl who suddenly comes into unexpected powers and is the most powerful of her kind with very little work... the villain who pretends not to be a villain when we all know he really is the villain who is eventually undone because he doesn't understand deeply magical concepts like mercy and love.... oh hello Voldemort. Anyway, I just wanted it all to feel original and new and it didn't quite happen.

But I loved every minute I spent reading it. And I am definitely looking forward to the sequel. I can't wait to see what fate (or Leigh Bardugo) has in store for Alina and Mal and Genya and the Shadow Fold, and all sorts of other things in this world that I can't wait to revisit.

Recommended for fans of Graceling/Fire, Maria V. Snyder's study series, epic fantasy books like Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy, and anyone who loves a gorgeous, magical setting.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Monument 14

Your mother hollers that you’re going to miss the bus. She can see it coming down the street. You don’t stop and hug her and tell her you love her. You don’t thank her for being a good, kind, patient mother. Of course not—you launch yourself down the stairs and make a run for the corner.
Only, if it’s the last time you’ll ever see your mother, you sort of start to wish you’d stopped and did those things. Maybe even missed the bus.
But the bus was barreling down our street, so I ran.
Fourteen kids. One superstore. A million things that go wrong.

In Emmy Laybourne’s action-packed debut novel, six high school kids (some popular, some not), two eighth graders (one a tech genius), and six little kids trapped together in a chain superstore build a refuge for themselves inside. While outside, a series of escalating disasters, beginning with a monster hailstorm and ending with a chemical weapons spill, seems to be tearing the world—as they know it—apart.

My Rating: ***

Ok. It's like this: Amazing setting. AMAZING. What a fantastic idea! If I were going to pick a place to be trapped while the outside word was being bombarded with apocalyptic disasters that place would now be a superstore. These kids had everything! And who hasn't dreamed about what it would be like to be trapped in a store like that? Eat anything you want. Clothes? Take your pick. Every gadget or appliance or supply you could need of any kind - just an aisle or two away. It's such a cool idea.

Execution? Not so much.

It's not the writing. The writing or pacing didn't stick out to me in either a good or a bad way.

It's just the teenagers.

They drove me crazy.

Ok. So maybe if I were still a teenager I would have spent my first two days eating pizza and partying. Maybe. But it didn't take long for these kids to realize that they were in serious trouble and probably in for the long haul. But it did take them a long time to start acting responsible. And for heavens sake! Why did they keep eating pizza and frozen foods when they had an entire section of perishables and produce to use up???? WHY???

And. AND. (This is the worst of it). Such content! If it were the end of the world I would certainly hope that a group of teenagers could act more responsibly than drinking, having sex, and abusing drugs from the pharmacy.

I won't keep going on here, but the concept was so cool. Some of the scenes and the characters were super amazing. I just had such a hard time with the teens acting like idiots. Especially when they were taking care of six little kids. And I hate kid peril. I'm a mom, so anytime little kids are separated from their parents it makes me panic. Same reason I hated Michael Grant's Gone series.

So, a great idea and lots of cool and interesting scientific things going on - great end of the world drama, natural disasters and such. If you like that kind of thing and stupid teenagers don't bug you, you will like Monument 14.

This is the first book in a series. Don't know if I will be reading the others. It was quite a cliffhanger, but I don't know if I can take much more if the content is similar. I will be doing some heavy screening of sequel reviews before picking it up.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Code Name Verity

I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.

We are a sensational team.

My Rating: *****

Absolutely ruddy brilliant. And such a heartbreaker.

Oh my goodness I don't even know how to gather my thoughts on this book. I completely blew me away and wasn't at all what I was expecting. I figured it was going to be a heartwrenching, sad WWII book, but I didn't realize it was going to be so smart, so blow-my-mind intelligent and clever.

This is the story of two friends, two women who have unusual jobs for women during WWII. One a pilot. The other, a spy. They're based on real positions, though, and there's such an air of authenticity to this story that clearly, Elizabeth Wein did some major research.

And no, this is not a romance. Not even a smidgeon of romance. Just so you know. I'm funny in that I like my books to have a little romance but I don't like books that are only about the romance. This book doesn't need romance. This book has Plot. Woah.

The first half of the book is written by our spy (can't mention her name because that would be telling) - who is a captured prisoner. What a character. I loved her. Adored her. Wanted to be her. She was so brave and so funny and so feisty. And she cracked me up constantly with her short fuse. Do NOT call her British. She is a SCOT!!!

And while I liked Maddie (the pilot) as I read about her story in the first half, it wasn't until the second half told by Maddie's point of view that I realized what a strong and beautiful character she is as well. And speaking of the second half (please don't read this is you don't want any spoilers): Oh my freaking goodness. I should have realized that the first half, told in Julie's POV wasn't reliable narration! She's a spy! Everything she writes was read by the Germans. I can't believe I didn't realize that she was leading them on, giving them fake code the entire time!!!! That blew me away.

This is an incredible book. Definitely another WWII great that I will have to add to my WWII collection. Beautiful writing. Highly, HIGHLY recommended for fans of historical fiction, twisty and unexpected plots, WWII, and moving stories with sparkling characters.

Friday, August 3, 2012

A trio of grown-up books

I read almost exclusively children's and young adult novels, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy 'adult' books sometimes... they just have to be the right ones. :D One of my good friends, Katrina (hi!), has a book club that I would attend if I weren't teaching piano lessons, but occasionally she'll lend me books they've read and I always like them. Here's a recent batch she's let me borrow:

Alexander McCall Smith meets Jane Austen in this delightfully charming Indian novel about finding love.

What does an Indian man with a wealth of common sense do when his retirement becomes too monotonous for him to stand? Open a marriage bureau of course!

With a steady stream of clients to keep him busy, Mr. Ali sees his new business flourish as the indomitable Mrs. Ali and his careful assistant, Aruna, look on with vigilant eyes. There's the man who wants a tall son-in-law because his daughter is short; the divorced woman who ends up back with her ex-husband; a salesman who can't seem to sell himself; and a wealthy, young doctor for whom no match is ever perfect. But although his clients go away happy, little does Mr. Ali know that his esteemed Aruna hides a tragedy in her past-a misfortune that the bureau, as luck would have it, serendipitously undoes.

Bursting with the color and allure of India, and with a cast of endearing characters, The Marriage Bureau for Rich People has shades of Jane Austen and Alexander McCall Smith but with a resonance and originality entirely its own. Farahad's effortless style reveals a country still grappling with the politics of caste, religion, and civil unrest, all the while delivering a shamefully delightful read.

My rating: ****
First of all, this novel made me seriously crave Indian food. I regretted several times while I was reading that I no longer live in Provo, Utah where my favorite Indian restaurant, The Bombei House, is - also where I went on my first date with my husband :D. This book is charming and transported me right to India. It's so atmospheric.What a fascinating culture! Issues of race, religion, and caste are still a big deal there and the whole arranged marriage thing is so foreign to me that it was engrossing to read about. This book is funny and sweetly romantic at times. There are some fabulous characters. Highly recommended!

Written with a delightfully dry sense of humour and the wisdom of a born storyteller, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand explores the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of family obligation and tradition.

When retired Major Pettigrew strikes up an unlikely friendship with Mrs. Ali, the Pakistani village shopkeeper, he is drawn out of his regimented world and forced to confront the realities of life in the twenty-first century. Brought together by a shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship on the cusp of blossoming into something more. But although the Major was actually born in Lahore, and Mrs. Ali was born in Cambridge, village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and her as a permanent foreigner. The Major has always taken special pride in the village, but will he be forced to choose between the place he calls home and a future with Mrs. Ali?

My rating: ****
I found this book so entertaining. That dry sense of humor mentioned? Totally clicked with me. I loved reading about life and changing traditions in the English countryside in modern times. Major Pettigrew himself is a fantastic character and I loved reading his romance with Mrs. Ali. You don't have to be young to fall in love. The whole thing is a very pleasant comedy of manners. My one complaint is that it took an unnecessarily dramatic turn at the end, while made it more of a melodrama than that pleasant comedy of manners I had been enjoying. There were just a couple scenes I thought were out of place. Overall though? I found it delightful.

In the opening pages of Jamie Ford's stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle's Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.

This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry's world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While "scholarshipping" at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship - and innocent love - that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.

Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel's dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family's belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice - words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.

Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.

My rating: ****

Seems like it took me forever to read this, but only because I got bombarded by a pile of library books that just had to get read. And it truly was both bitter and sweet. It's not my typical kind of book, but that's because I don't like books that make me cry. Correction: I don't like books that make me cry because they are too sad. They can make me happy cry and I'm just fine with that. And you know, a certain amount of sad crying is acceptable, as long as everything turns out alright in the end. I was just so angry over all the racial injustice! And I hated the way Henry and Keiko were torn apart again and again. It was such a beautifully written book, though. I felt sucked in and right there on every page. It was a very moving story and even if it's not my favorite kind of book I don't regret reading it for a moment.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


A threat from the past could destroy the future. And the clock is ticking...

Kaleb Ballard's relentless flirting is interrupted when Jack Landers, the man who tried to murder his father, timeslips in and attacks before disappearing just as quickly. But Kaleb has never before been able to see time travelers, unlike many of his friends associated with the mysterious Hourglass organization. Are Kaleb's powers expanding, or is something very wrong?

Then the Hourglass is issued an ultimatum. Either they find Jack and the research he's stolen on the time gene, or time will be altered with devastating results.

Now Kaleb, Emerson, Michael, and the other Hourglass recruits have no choice but to use their unusual powers to find Jack. But where do they even start? And when? And even if they succeed, it may not be enough...

The follow-up to Hourglass, Timepiece blends the paranormal, science fiction, mystery, and suspense genres into a nonstop thrill ride where every second counts

My Rating: ***

Book two in the Hourglass series and the only word I can come up with is mediocre. It honestly wasn't awful, but nothing thrilled me and I wasn't really caught up in the story.

The good? Kaleb's first-person voice. I liked Kaleb in the first book (liked him much better than Michael, in fact, and it drove me crazy that Emerson stubbornly clung to Michael when he is soooo boring). Here in Timepiece, Kaleb's snarky, funny voice and multi-faceted personality were the things that kept me going. I think he's a fascinating and troubled character with a serious sweet side, and his brain was a lot of fun, even if he is a bit self-destructive at times.

The bad? Don't get me started. First off, it's probably been too long since I read the first book, because it took me forever to get back into the story and figure out what was going on. I felt so lost for the longest time. Too many names I couldn't remember and too much technical stuff. That's partially my own fault, and not Myra McEntire's, but still - in my opinion - a lot of that is world building. When world building is done right it's memorable (and I've certainly read series where I didn't have problems diving in after a year's hiatus). I had a hard time buying the Hourglass organization and the history and technicality of Myra McEntire's time travelling. Some of her logic felt pretty flimsy at times.

And seriously. A book about a time travel organization ought to have cool time travel scenes. This one didn't. NO TIME TRAVELLING! I feel ripped off. The first book delivered on that point, but this sequel didn't. I love time travel and I love it when timelines get all twisty and crazy paradoxes get involved. None of that here. Lame.

The plot is sort of interesting, but I kept wondering why. I couldn't figure out exactly why it was so important to find Jack or what the deal was. I just wasn't into the story at all. The urgency implied in the summary? Not there. The book felt very slow-paced to me.

Bottom-line? Kaleb kept me reading, but without him this book would have completely bombed.