Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Book Dump

See?  Gwyneth Paltrow lets her books pile up too.
Well I have a few confessions to make . . . exactly ten of them, actually.  That's right, I'm ten books behind in my reviews and it's totally stressing me out.  Lately I feel as if I only have time to read OR write about reading, and I seem to be choosing the former most often.  So, I've created this "Book Dump" for two reasons.  1. So you can see what I've been reading (I'm sure there are at least a few people out there who find my book selections utterly fascinating from a scientific standpoint).  2. To tell you that I'm considering quitting the blog and taking up Goodreads.  By switching to Goodreads I would be able to continue to rate, review, and sort the books I've been reading with far less effort than I'm currently expending.

So, choose among the following:
1. Get a blog review once a month or so.
2. Follow me on Goodreads and see ALL the books I'm reading.
3. I continue the blog, but in a Book Dump format where I basically throw up everything I've been reading in one post every few weeks or so.

In the meantime, here's what you've been missing out on!

The Goblin Wood (Goblin Books, Book 1) by Hilari Bell
The Selection (Selection, Book 1) by Kiera Cass
The Body Finder (The Body Finder, Book 1) by Kimberly Derting
The Pledge (Pledge, Book 1) by Kimberly Derting
Wicked Business (Lizzy and Diesel, Book 2) by Janet Evanovich
Firelight (Firelight, Book 1) by Sophie Jordan
Vanish (Firelight, Book 2) by Sophie Jordan
Heir to Sevenwaters (Sevenwaters, Book 4) by Juliet Marillier
Seer of Sevenwaters (Sevenwaters, Book 5) by Juliet Marillier
The Golden Lily (Bloodlines, Book 2) by Richelle Mead

I've written short reviews and rated these books on Goodreads if you'd like to check them out.  Find them here:  www.goodreads.com/hmclayton

Friday, August 3, 2012

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Book 1)
by Laini Taylor
September 2011
Little, Brown and Company

She had been innocent once, a little girl playing with feathers on the floor of a devil's lair.  She wasn't innocent now . . . 

I must sadly report that this book has been yet another example of what I like to call the "Graceling Effect."  Allow me to explain to you what exactly this phenomenon involves.  The "Graceling Effect" covers all instances in which I was supposed to absolutely love a book and for some reason I skimmed at least half and clawed my eyes out during the rest.  "You will love it!"  They said.  "It's exactly the kind of book you read!"  They said.  "The cover looks awesome!"  I said.  "The premise is perfect!"  I said.  Alas, the stars were not in alignment.  This has happened to me a number of times over the last few years.  Graceling by Kristin Cashore was the first.  To this day I still have people recommend that book to me (I usually reply with hysterical fits of giggles).  I had so many people tell me to read it, in fact, that I gave the series a second chance and read book two, Fire.  It was worse.  So this is what I want to tell you about this book.

I did not like it.  I don't know why I didn't like it.  Perhaps I have some sort of mental block against a romance with angels.  (Fallen suffered similarly at my hands.)  However!  That doesn't mean you won't like it.  In fact, I strongly encourage you to read this book.  Not only does it have stellar reviews, but the writing itself is fantastic and the witty dialogue had me laughing out loud in a few places.  Why this wasn't enough to save it for me, again I don't know.  I will say that the first few chapters (and the European setting!) had me completely hooked and it wasn't until the great reveal and unravel at the end that I got bored, bored, bored.  Maybe it was the romance that killed it for me.  I'm honestly very upset about not liking this book, which is why I keep trying to figure out what was wrong with it.  Especially since the alternative is that there's something wrong with me!  *gasp!*

With her bright blue hair and sketchbook full of monsters, Karou is a mystery not only to others, but to herself.  Raised by demons, Karou has no idea who or what she is.  Until the day she meets Akiva, a gloriously handsome angel, sent to destroy her family.  Now Karou must put all the pieces of the puzzle that is her life together, and accept that the truth will be stranger than anything she has ever imagined.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone Series
Daughter of Smoke & Bone
Days of Blood & Starlight (TBR November 2012)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce ★

Sisters Red
by Jackson Pearce
June 2010
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

The wolf opened its long jaws.  Rows of teeth stretching for her.  A thought locked itself in Scarlett's mind:  I am the only one left to fight.  So now I must kill you.

A few months back I read Sweetly by Jackson Pearce and absolutely loved her twisted retelling of Hansel and Gretel.  I was delighted to learn that Sweetly was in fact book two, or at least a companion novel to an earlier book, Sisters Red.  Happily, they are definitely companion novels in that they one can be read individually, out of order.  But I did learn a lot about the history and methods of the villains that appeared in Sweetly by reading this book, which focuses on a retelling of the story of Little Red Riding Hood.

Scarlett and Rosie March hunt Fenris - werewolves that not only killed their grandmother, but also stole Scarlett's eye when she was a young girl.  Using red cloaks, sweet perfume, and their feminine charms, the sisters lure the wolves out before slaying them with hatchets and throwing knives.  Scarlett has always lived for the hunt, and ridding the world of one Fenris after another is her passion.  But even though Rosie excels at hunting, she doesn't enjoy it, and longs for a different life where her feelings for a young woodsman wouldn't mean betraying Scarlett.

This book's premise had me devouring page after page, eager to delve deeper into the darkness that is a Jackson Pearce fairy tale.  I only had one disappointment, and that revolved around the romance.  There was a sister that I thought needed a little love in her life and I wasn't thrilled with the way it was resolved . . .   Nevertheless, this book is an excellent addition to Pearce's fairy tale collection and I can't wait for more!

For more fairy tale awesomeness check out this list of retellings!

Companion Novels
Sisters Red
Fathomless (TBR September 2012)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Council of Mirrors by Michael Buckley ★

The Council of Mirrors (Sisters Grimm, Book 9)
by Michael Buckley
April 2012
Amulet Books

Once upon a time there was a sleepy river town called Ferryport Landing . . . 

So begins the last book in the Sisters Grimm series about a town full of fairy tale characters constantly getting themselves into trouble.  Luckily for the townsfolk, Sabrina and Daphne Grimm are on the case, ready to take on their own possessed Grandmother as well as an entire army of magical creatures in order to finally end the Everafter War.  This is a series that would be very difficult to read out of order so be sure to read it from book one!

I have never understood why these books aren't more widely known and read as I think they are absolutely fantastic!  That said, and this being the last book I really wasn't looking forward to ANY kind of ending the author was going to give me.  But then, in a surprise twist of fate, I got my wish and instead of everything being wrapped up prettily in the last chapter, it turned into the book that would not end.  First the book ended.  Then it had an epilogue.  Then it had another epilogue.  Now normally this might be okay, except that it actually opened up way more questions than it resolved!  I wasn't curious about Sabrina's adult life before, but now I am!  And I'll never know.  Unless of course there's a new market for Sisters Grimm fan fiction . . . ?  Just putting that out there . . . You're more than welcome to write me some . . .

The Sisters Grimm
The Fairy-Tale Detectives
The Unusual Suspects
The Problem Child
Once Upon A Crime
Magic and Other Misdemeanors
Tales from the Hood
The Everafter War
The Inside Story
The Council of Mirrors

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Shamer Chronicles by Lene Kaaberbol

The Shamer's Daughter (The Shamer Chronicles, Book 1)
by Lene Kaaberbol
First published in English in 2002
Henry Holt and Company, LLC

Who dares look into her eyes?

If I had stopped reading this series after the first book, I believe I would have given it a star.  Instead, I found myself desperately slogging through book after book waiting for things to pick up and improve.  Sadly, for me they didn't.  Even sadder is the fact that I liked the characters less and less the more I got to know them.  By the end of the series, I was completely disgusted with even my favorite characters from book one. I think what I'm trying to say here is, if you're going to read these books, try to be satisfied with the ending in book one, because it honestly doesn't get much better.

Dina's mother is a Shamer, a person gifted with the ability to reveal the soul's deepest secrets simply by looking into their eyes.  Frequently called upon to look at hard criminals and common thieves alike, Dina knows the stress and sadness of her mother's lonely life.  For who would willingly look into the eyes of someone who knows all your darkest thoughts and actions?  Which is why Dina is so unsure and even a little ashamed of her new power when she learns she has inherited the Shamer's ability.  But when her mother is called to Dunark castle to assist in the investigation of a triple murder, Dina will come to know the true burden of the Shamer's gift.

Dina is a plucky little heroine all throughout the first book and I enjoyed her adventures and encounters.  Young fans of literature that features dragons, magic, and a little political intrigue may enjoy this series.

The Shamer Chronicles
The Shamer's Daughter
The Shamer's Signet
The Serpent Gift
The Shamer's War

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Man With the Golden Torc by Simon R. Green

The Man With the Golden Torc (Secret History, Book 1)
by Simon R. Green 
June 2007
Roc Hardcover

All those things you heard about as a kid?  The boogeyman under the bed?  The creature in the closet?  The ghost in the . . . er . . . garage?  They're for real, people.  Believe me, I know.  I'm Eddie Drood.  And if it weren't for me and my family, all the things that go bump in the night would be mucking the world up, big-time.

You can call him Bond.  Shaman Bond.  Or at least that's what he goes by when he's on the job, working for "the family" as a secret agent who quietly dispatches those too familiar bumps in the night.  And he's good at it too, or at least he thought he was until the family sent an entire army of dark elves, aliens, and witches to kill him.  Now Eddie's running for his life, from the most elite agents in the world, looking for the answer to questions such as "Why does my family want me dead?", "What secrets are the droods hiding from the world?", and "When did Molly the evil witch get so dang hot?!"  Together with a few new friends, Eddie will go deep into the world of the evil creatures he's hunted his entire life in order to expose the dark truth about the family he's always held so dear.

Filled with plenty of fun parody, action, magic, and even a little romance, Eddie's adventures as the world's most top secret agent won't disappoint!  It may not be my new favorite book, but when you're in the mood for a little Bond action with a sci-fi twist then give this series a try!

The Secret Histories
The Man with the Golden Torc
Daemons Are Forever
The Spy Who Haunted Me
From Hell with Love
For Heaven's Eyes Only

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross ★

Kill Me Softly
by Sarah Cross
April 2012

She'd never looked more beautiful, more perfect, than she did when she was dead.

Before I say anything else about this book, there is something about it that you have to know.  I just wouldn't feel right not warning you about the terrible, horrible thing that happens on page 331 of this book.  The thing that makes you curse your very existence and gnash your teeth as you shake your first at the heavens screaming "Why?!  Why has this thing happened to me?!"  That's right, this book . . . ends.  You heard me.  After 331 pages of delicious bad boys, twisted fairy tales, and dark forbidden romance this book ended.  *sob*  It wasn't even a bad ending.  Everything is very nicely wrapped up, HOWEVER, the author must understand that she cannot simply create an amazing world with such seriously messed up characters and not expect us to need more of their stories.  That's right, Sarah Cross is putting the grimm back in fairy tales.

Mirabelle has spent her entire life with her two guardians who have told her nothing about her parents nor her birthplace, Beau Rivage, beyond warning her that she must never go there.  Fed up with the secrecy surrounding her beginnings, Mira runs away from home right before her sixteenth birthday to find her parents' graves.  Upon arriving in Beau Rivage, Mira begins to notice that the town's inhabitant's seem a little off.  Especially since her new friends include a very pale girl who likes apples, a charming boy who wields swords, and an obnoxious playboy with a beastly personality.  Mira feels like she has fallen into a fairy tale but which character is she?  And will she have a happily-ever-after?

Fast paced and utterly enchanting, I highly recommend this fairy tale where good and evil are not always as black and white as they seem.

Check out this list for more modern fairy tales!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bewitching by Alex Flinn

by Alex Flinn
February 2012

Once, I put a curse on a beastly and arrogant high school boy.  That one turned out all right.  Others didn't.

Everyone knows the story of Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid.  But we rarely get to hear these tales from the Fairy Godmother, or in this case the witch's point of view.  Enter Kendra, the teen witch from Beastly, who discovered her powers in England in 1666 while everyone she loved was dying from the plague.  Kendra has tried her best over the last three hundred and fifty years to only use her magic to help people.  But despite her best efforts mermaids turn to sea foam, and she's constantly banished from kingdoms and countries.  So when she runs across Emma, and her Cinderella-like tale, Kendra hesitates to help.  But Emma might just need a little magic to get her happily-ever-after.

Sadly I didn't enjoy the parts of this book that were written from Kendra's point of view, but I loved Emma's story!  This was such a unique retelling of Cinderella with a wonderful twist!  I found myself sympathizing with all the characters, as there were no villains or heroes here.  Just a lot of misguided people making bad decisions, just like we all do.  Even though I loved Emma's tale I can't put a star on this book, simply because Kendra's stories bored me a bit and I found myself skimming and then skipping over them completely.  But if fairy tales make your heart sing, I wouldn't pass this one up!

For more fairy tale goodness, check out this list of retellings!  I also highly recommend The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey if you're looking for a similar, more adult read.

The Kendra Chronicles

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Stolen One by Suzanne Crowley ★

The Stolen One
by Suzanne Crowley
June 2009
Greenwillow Books

No one wanted you.  But I did.

I'm not normally a fan of historical fiction, so it's surprising to me that not only have I reviewed two of them this week, but that both garnered stars and a "favorites" label.  I actually began this book very grudgingly.  One night I flung myself onto my bed and sighed loudly "I'm bored and have absolutely NOTHING to read!"  My husband glanced at my towering pile of books waiting to be read and (thankfully) didn't say anything.  He simply walked over and began to go through them.  After a few minutes he selected this one from my pile and said "Here, read this.  If you're not happy in fifteen minutes we'll go watch a movie or something."  Fifteen minutes later I shooed him away because I was completely engrossed in Kat's story.

Kat doesn't know who she is.  Abandoned as a baby, she and her "sister" Anna have been raised by Grace in their tiny village outside Sudeley Castle.  After Grace's death, Kat declines her childhood friend's marriage proposal and runs away to London in order to discover the truth about her parentage.  Through her talent with a needle and a few small twists of fate, Kat soon finds herself a member of Queen Elizabeth's entourage.  Graced with the constant presence of a Queen she's always loved and respected, and surrounded by many flirtatious men at court, Kat has everything she's ever wanted.  But as the mystery of her birth unravels, Kat may learn more than she wants to know, and sacrifice more than she knew she had to lose.

This book does an excellent job with the mystery surrounding Mary Seymour's disappearance from all records after the year 1550.  I cannot believe it has so few reviews on Amazon as it has nothing less than a four star rating for a reason!  My library doesn't own it, and chances are yours doesn't either.  But if you're a fan of historical fiction or "love dodecahedrons" then find this book and read it!  I promise you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers ★

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, Book 1)
by Robin LaFevers
April 2012
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Why be the sheep when you can be the wolf?

Okay, first of all, who doesn't want to read a series called His Fair Assassin?!  Sqeeee!  So cool!  No?  Not your thing?  Alright then, how about killer nuns in medieval Europe?  Ahh yes, that got you, didn't it?

Ismae was only fourteen when the man she knew as her father promised her to a lecherous, old man in an arranged marriage.  Through the help of a secret order, she managed to escape her husband and find refuge in the convent of St. Mortain, the God of Death.  Now, at seventeen, Ismae is a trained assassin, using whatever means necessary to kill those whom her blessed Saint has marked for death.  With St. Mortain for a father, Ismae has never questioned her abilities, nor her destiny.  Which is why she eagerly embarks on a dangerous assignment where all of Brittany is at stake.  Her mission: to watch the mysterious Gavriel Duval at court and look for opportunities to dispatch him.  But what's an assassin to do when she finds herself falling for her mark?

Rich in history, romance, and political intrigue, Grave Mercy is an adventure not to be missed!

His Fair Assassin
Grave Mercy
Dark Triumph (TBR 2013)
Dark Hope (TBR 2014)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Just Ella
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
September 1999
Simon & Schuster

I was cold.  I was lonely.  I was engaged to be married in two short months to the most handsome man I'd ever seen - the prince of the land, the heir to the throne.  But I had never felt so alone in all my life, not even shivering in rags in my garret the day they came to say my father was dead.  This was happiness?

Most people know the story of Cinderella, but we seldom get past "and they lived happily ever after."  Well what if she didn't live happily ever after?  What if promising to marry a prince was only the beginning of her problems?  For Ella, it is.  She may be living comfortably in the palace, waiting to marry the local stud muffin, but her days are filled with endless lessons on manners and propriety, and absurd restrictions.  Is this what she wanted?  Is Ella doomed to live happily never after?

I love that this story continues a tale that we almost never hear more about.  The premise of the book was definitely interesting as the love at first sight story that we all know has always seemed a bit silly to me.  The awkwardness of that encounter can definitely be felt throughout this book as Ella and the Prince rarely have anything to say to one another except "Boy, you are SMOKIN' hot!"  But the book also got a little ridiculous at times with the insane restrictions placed upon Ella and the other ladies at court.  I'm no historian (and yes, I know we're in fairy tale land here) but the world is definitely more strict than is traditional.

*SPOILER*  The book also gets a little darker at the end, when Ella faces the possibility of being raped and murdered.  But the number one thing that bothered me happened near the end.  Ella has been imprisoned in a cell until she can come to her senses about actually going through with the wedding to the prince.  Happily, her servant friend brings her a shovel, with which she is able to dig her way to freedom through the crap hole in her cell.  That's all fine and plausible, but what did she do with the dirt?!  Surely someone would have noticed all the dirt piling up in the cell, so she can't have put it there.  Did she hide it under the bed?  Fill her empty food dishes with it?  I don't know!  Perhaps Ella really did have a fairy godmother who magicked it all away.  In any case, this question of what happened to the dirt bothered me so much I was nearly incapable of enjoying the rest of the story.  *SPOILER END*

If you're a fairy tale fanatic like me then this book (which only takes a few hours to read) is definitely worth your time.  Or, try these other fairy tale retellings!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Lorien Legacies by Pittacus Lore ★

I Am Number Four (Lorien Legacies, Book 1)
by Pittacus Lore
August 2010

Three are dead.  I am number four.

I knew when they were making this movie that I was going to have to read the book first.  What I cannot believe is how long I had to wait for it to be available from the library.  This has been a seriously popular series in my town!  Happily, having to wait forever for book one meant I got to read the first TWO books in the series and I only have to wait a few more months for book three.  See?  Bet you wish you'd waited to read these too.  (I'm under no delusions.  There can't possibly be anyone else out there who hasn't read these who wanted to.)  But for those who saw the movie and loved it, or have never heard of this series, get ready for an extraterrestrial action/romance/suspense that kept me so entertained I never stopped to question the logistics.  (Unlike other alien reads . . . )  But let us not speak of unpleasant things.

Number four was marooned on earth with eight other children when their home planet, Lorien, was destroyed by Mogadarians.  Luckily the Loriens look completely human (again, this really didn't bother me) and they have spent years hiding on earth, developing their special talents and abilities in preparation for the day when they can strike back at those who took their home.  But the Mogadarians know they are coming, and have begun hunting the children, who are now in their teens.  A spell that was cast on them makes it so that they must be killed in order of their numbers, or they will not die.  Number four has three scars on his leg that tell him the first three are dead.  Which can only mean one thing . . . number four is next.

I highly recommend these books for reluctant readers, and anyone looking for a different kind of paranormal series.  The Lorien Legacies are among the few books out there that successfully deal with aliens;  a subject which secretly fascinates us all.

The Lorien Legacies
I Am Number Four
The Power of Six
The Rise of Nine (TBR August 2012)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons ★

The House at Tyneford
by Natasha Solomons
December 2011

Please treat the church and houses with care; we have given up our homes where many of us lived for generations to help win the war to keep men free.  We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly.  ~ Notice pinned to the door of Tyneford Church by departing villagers, Christmas Eve, 1941

It has been a long time since I last read a book that brought me this much joy while simultaneously causing me to sob uncontrollably upon finishing it.  A friend recommended this one and I started it thinking "I'll just read it slowly in between my other more exciting young adult fantasy books."  Well within about ten pages it was the only book I was reading, as fast as I could, desperate to completely immerse myself in the beautiful English countryside and the stately house at Tyneford.

It is 1938 and nineteen-year-old Jewish Elise Landau can no longer stay in the glittering city of Vienna.  But visas are extremely hard to come by, and Elise is forced to find work as a housemaid in an English home in order to escape Austria.  Now, rather than attending glamorous parties with her friends, Elise is serving drinks.  When she would have once donned beautiful gowns, she is now hemming them.  Instead of meeting new and exciting young men, Elise is, erm, still meeting new and exciting young men.  The young master of the house to be exact.  (nudge nudge wink wink)  But no place is truly safe, and war is coming to Tyneford.

I don't want to give much more away.  Yes, the characters are a little cliche.  Almost to the point that I was using characters from Downton Abbey as points of reference.  But that was perfectly forgivable seeing as how I love Downton Abbey and don't currently have any new episodes to watch.  The story itself wasn't groundbreakingly original either, but the background story that deals with a novel in a viola was powerful and mysterious.  Elise endured so much in order to love not just once, but twice in her life (I have to admit to being a little disgruntled about the love story, but never mind that).  The House at Tyneford is a beautiful, romantic tragedy set against the backdrop of Jane Austen's English countryside, right before it disappeared forever.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, Book 1)
by Patrick Ness
September 2008

"If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence."  ~George Eliot, Middlemarch

I recently read an article that outlined fifteen young adult books that could be the next big movie (that teens would willingly do chores to go see).  The Knife of Never Letting Go (which has an impressive collection of awards) was one of the books listed that I had never heard of.  This offended me on a very personal level.  How dare anyone consider making a book into an enterprise without me knowing about it?!  To correct this gross affront, I read the book.  (Whew!  Crisis adverted.)

From the very first sentence of this book I was completely engrossed in the strange new world where Todd lives.  A world where Todd's parents and their friends settled after leaving their homes on a former planet that was dying.  A world where you can hear everyone else's thoughts and the endless stream of internal chatter that accompanies it.  It's never quiet.  You always know what people think of you.  They will always know what you think of them.  And it is all but impossible to escape their plans for you.  How do you run from someone that knows your every move?

I'm surprised this book was listed in this article, as it is nothing like most of the other titles.  No one falls in love with any paranormal creatures (aliens included).  There is no love triangle.  (There go all the "team" t-shirt businesses.)  Have I mentioned the absence of romance?  That's not to say there isn't some potential for a cute romance in the future (there are three books, after all) but for the most part the relationships in this book are based on friendship and a mutual fear of the insane murderer who is chasing them.

Even without a "so hot it's practically flammable" love story, this book is thought-provoking and disturbing in a way that keeps you turning the pages.  There are no black and white characters here.  Everyone makes decisions in shades of gray.  But it is these choices that will ultimately shape the destiny of their new home on this alien planet.  Lionsgate has already purchased the rights to make the Chaos Walking Trilogy into a film series.  To claim full bragging rights, be sure to read these books now so you can snottily turn to your friends in a year or so and say "Oh that old thing?  Yeah, I read it before it was a movie."

If totally messed up societies are your thing, give these other books a try.

Chaos Walking
The Knife of Never Letting Go
The Ask and the Answer
Monsters of Men

Monday, May 21, 2012

Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton

Blood Magic (The Blood Journals, Book 1)
by Tessa Gratton
May 2011
Random House Books for Young Readers

I pushed the knife against my skin, puckering it but not breaking through.  My whole body shivered.  I was about to find out if magic was real.  The electric thrill of terror was sharp on my tongue.  I cut deep.

"All the blood with none of the vampires" is how this book is being marketed to fans of Stephenie Meyer and Carrie Jones' dark paranormal teen romances.  (And for a good reason!  Vampires will weep and tear at their parched throats when they see the amount of blood that is causally spilled and let go to waste here.)  After finding her parents brutally murdered in their own home, Silla has a hard time fitting in at school and pretending not to see blood everywhere she looks.  When a mysterious spell book arrives in her father's own handwriting Silla must try even harder to act "normal" as she discovers that her blood has the potential to create magic.  With the help of her older brother Reese and Nick, the handsome new boy in town, Silla is willing to drain every last drop of her blood in order to find her parents' killers.

This was definitely a bloodier novel than most, though not unmanageable for young adults.  It did concern me, however, that the characters had no problem cutting themselves in order to perform their magic spells.  They almost didn't seem to understand the price that they were paying to simply watch leaves dance around the yard.  Instead, they took pleasure from the act and enjoyed the way the magic made them feel.

I also didn't appreciate all the kissing.  Now I do love me some kissing (both in actuality and in my fiction) but the making out was seriously getting out of hand.  And not even in a too hot and heavy kind of way.  It's simply inappropriate for the scenes in which it occurs.  The characters found every possible excuse to shove their tongues down each others throats, even in situations where I couldn't possibly imagine ever feeling like kissing someone!  To demonstrate what I mean, here is some actual dialogue from the screenplay I've decided to write for this book.

Silla:  Nick!  Everyone I love is dead!
Nick:  Nooooooo!  We should kiss!  (smush smush smush)
Ten Minutes Later
Silla:  Oh my darling Nick!  I missed you so much while I was around the corner talking to that other character about our plans to murder someone.  (flings herself into his arms)
Nick:  Dearest Silla, never shall we part again.  (loud kissing noises)
One Minute Later
Silla:  I just figured out who the evil witch in our town --- (Nick grabs her and starts kissing her)
Silla: mmph Nick mphh what are kiss kiss you mphh doing?
Nick:  I just love you that much baby.  Now what were you saying about the evil witch that we've been running from this whole novel who is probably killing everyone we know and love as we stand here wrapped in each other's arms?
Fifteen Minutes Later
Nick:  Are you going to eat that sandwich?
Silla:  No, but I am going to KISS you!  (Silla flies across the table and lands gracefully in Nick's lap.  She proceeds to eat his face.  Nick finishes sandwich during breaks for air.)

Are you starting to get the picture?  I have a man in my life that I absolutely adore.  But I'm almost positive that sucking on his face would be the last thing on my mind if I was running from a psychopathic witch while digesting the news that my father was a sorcerer and everyone I loved was dying while I knelt in an ever growing puddle of their blood.  But I suppose we all have our own ways of coping . . .

The good news is that even though this is part of a series, the book is a standalone!  So feel free to indulge without fear of attachment or the anxiety that today's authors constantly produce with their so-called bestselling series.

Check out this list for other books that run on the side of paranormal.

The Blood Journals
Blood Magic
Blood Keeper (TBR August 2012)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Darkness Rising by Kelley Armstrong ★

The Gathering (Darkness Rising, Book 1)
by Kelley Armstrong
April 2011

The world seemed to dip and darken, and I smelled wet earth and thick musk and fresh blood.  The wind whipped past, like I was running.  Running so fast the ground whizzed beneath me, the wind cut across my skin.  Exhilaration filled me.

Dear Kelley Armstrong,

You'll have to forgive me if I come off a little too strong but there's something I've been meaning to tell you . . . I absolutely love your young adult books!  Last year I spent two glorious days engrossed in your Darkest Powers trilogy.  Two truly magical days in which my child had to fend for himself until my husband got home because I couldn't go a single moment without the story.  How pleased I am to be able to tell you that once again my son had no mother while I read the first two books in your new Darkness Rising series.

I am seriously in love with the characters and the premise of this follow up series to Darkest Powers.  Maya Delaney has always lived a somewhat carefree life with her adopted family in a small town on Vancouver Island.  But strange things are happening; such as the mysterious drowning of Maya's best friend, visions of cougars, her friend's spot-on intuition and premonitions, and a scrappy new bad boy who comes to town and seems particularly interested in her birthmark.  Maya is about to discover that her forest, home, and friends all have secrets that they're not sharing.

These books suck you in completely from the very first paragraph.  The characters don't waste time being idiotic and uncertain.  Instead, as revelations occur and the mystery is pieced together everyone is quick to process and move on.  I love this assumption of intelligence and strength!  I read so many books where the characters are unwilling to accept that someone has special powers or who feel betrayed by their friends and take off without waiting for an explanation.  The dialogue and revelations all feel very natural and the characters never forget the friendship and loyalty they have built from childhood.

I also really appreciate Maya's mistakes with love.  Very rarely do authors address the imperfections of falling in love, especially young love.  Rather, they choose to emphasize love at first sight, or throw a perfect man at the teen protagonist so there is never anything to forgive or accept.  And speaking of love . . . please, please, please let her end up with Daniel!!!  *swoon*  With a scorching pace, intriguing mystery, and a romance that never gets in the way of the story, Darkness Rising is a series I will be recommending!

Love from one of your biggest fans,

PS - Please write fast!  I needed book three yesterday!

Darkest Powers
The Summoning
The Awakening
The Reckoning

Darkness Rising
The Gathering
The Calling
The Rising (TBR 2013)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter ★

Uncommon Criminals (Heist Society, Book 2)
June 2011
Hyperion Book CH

This time, Katarina Bishop is making up her own rules.

Recently I've been so disappointed by sequels that I almost decided not to read this one.  I am SO glad I did!  It is very rare for a book to not only live up to the first one in a series but to exceed it!

In Heist Society, Katarina Bishop shocked her friends and relatives by leaving the family "thieving and conning" business.  Unfortunately, old habits die hard and Kat finds herself back in the game, only as a sort of modern day Robin Hood.  Stealing from those who've stolen and returning the items to their rightful owners is what we find Kat doing at the beginning of book two.  But when she's asked to steal the Cleopatra emerald, a cursed gemstone that even her uncle failed to lift, Kat must reevaluate her ideas about being a one man show.  Now she must once again pull together her team of teenage super thieves and set out to do what no one has ever succeeded at before.  This is such a fun series and I highly recommend it to both teens and adults for the non-stop action and adorable romance.  2013 and the release of book three can't come too soon!  (Neither can a film version.  Oh and cast this man as the incredibly sexy, always dependable W.W. Hale please and thank you.)

Heist Society Novels
Uncommon Criminals
Book 3 (TBR 2013)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Blood Ninja by Nick Lake ★

Blood Ninja (Blood Ninja, Book 1)
by Nick Lake
August 2010
Simon & Schuster

Real adventure involves pain, loss, and blood.  Sometimes all at once.

I absolutely love discovering a new series just as the last book is about to be published!  Sadly, my library doesn't own them all yet, leaving me with only one book to share.  But that's okay!  Because there is plenty to say about this marvelous book with a premise that sounds like a train wreck but is in fact a masterpiece!

Premise: Ninjas are stealthy, creatures of the night.  It therefore follows that all ninjas are actually vampires!  Cheesy and preposterous are just two of the words that come to mind, right?  Well Nick Lake is a genius because not only did this work, but vampires in general make so much more sense now as a plausible fictional creature.  Lake explains so many of the things that we wonder about vampires.  "Why do they drink blood?" and "Why can they only come out at night?" are two questions that Lake addresses beautifully as he combines vampires and Japanese mythology.

Fans of Japanese culture and history will absolutely love all the historical references and the Japanese terminology throughout.  This is definitely a book for young Japan enthusiasts and manga readers.  I can't imagine anyone with a love of Japan not enjoying young Taro's adventures as a vampire ninja during one of the country's most defining moments; that of the rivalry between Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

If that isn't enough to convince you, here in the author's own words is his reasoning for the outcome of a fight between Twilight's Edward and Blood Ninja's Taro.
Absolutely no one at all has asked me who would win in a fight between Taro, the vampire ninja hero of BLOOD NINJA, and Edward, from those obscure, hard-to-find books by Stephenie Meyer.
Which is a shame, because I could answer them very simply: Taro would win. Why? Dude is a NINJA. As we all know, thanks to the mine of valuable information that is the internet, a ninja can whale on anyone's *ss. Even a pirate's. And yes, even Edward's. ESPECIALLY Edward's. Even if Taro wasn't a vampire, he'd win. Has Edward got throwing stars? No. 
I see no flaws in his logic.

For more books about Vampires, check out this reading list!

Blood Ninja Trilogy
Blood Ninja
Blood Ninja II: The Revenge of Lord Oda
Blood Ninja III: The Betrayal of the Living (TBR August 2012)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Crossed by Ally Condie

Crossed (Matched, Book 2)
by Ally Condie
November 2011
Dutton Juvenille

Rules are different outside the society.

For reasons beyond my comprehension these books continue to enjoy raging popularity.  Don't get me wrong, this is a great series.  But there are so many other wonderful dystopian young adult novels that follow a similar premise that one might think the success would be more evenly spread . . . In any case, I've finally read book two in the Matched Trilogy, which began (unsurprisingly) with Matched.  If you haven't read Matched, you should.  (Before you're the only one left on your block who hasn't.  Even the 11 year old boy next door who plays video games all day and eats dirt has read it.)

Crossed picks up close to where Matched left off.  Ky has been shipped off to who knows where and desperate to find him, Cassie takes on jobs in the outer provinces.  But before Cassie can go bounding into the wilderness in search of Ky, Xander shows up (Yes of course he's in this book.  What?  You thought the love triangle was completely resolved and tied up nicely in the first book?  Silly you.  Didn't you realize this was a trilogy?).  Cassie knows she needs to find Ky because she loves him.  But does her heart still long for her childhood friend Xander?  How does she keep them both?  And will she stay alive long enough in the wilderness to choose between them?

So many questions raised . . . that mostly went unanswered.  Crossed builds a nice bridge between Matched and what shall be the conclusion of the series.  This book takes you away from The Society and allows the characters the opportunity to get to know themselves and each other better than they were able previously.  Having gotten this far I will definitely be reading the last book in this series.  But if you haven't already, I do recommend that you try other dystopian novels such as Divergent or Legend in addition to the Matched Trilogy.  (Even if the other books don't have the same visually rockin' covers that these books do.)

The Matched Trilogy
Reached (TBR November 2012)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sweetly by Jackson Pearce ★

by Jackson Pearce
August 2011
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

"Where's your sister?"  They asked us questions.  They wanted to know why we had let her go.  What we last heard.  What we last saw.  They didn't believe me when I said it was a witch. 

Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I love two things:  1. Dark Chocolate and 2. Fairy Tale retellings.  Sadly, my passion for both leads to similar misfortune in the form of decreased supply and an ever increasing demand.  With fairy tale retellings especially, there never seem to be enough titles or authors to satisfy my craving.  Which is why I was particularly pleased to find this book!  Not only is Jackson Peace a new author for me, but the retold fairy tale is also new to me!  And I bet it'd be new for you too as it is none other than . . . wait for it . . . Hansel and Gretel!!  I know, right?  Jackson Pearce just blew your mind.  How in the world does one take a twisted story about a cannibalistic old crone and greedy children and make it into a young adult book with action, mystery, and even (gasp) romance?!  (Oh and there are also some werewolves thrown in for good measure.)  Like this of course:

Ansel and Gretchen don't like to talk about the day that their little sister disappeared.  But Gretchen swears it was a witch who stole her twin in the dark forest behind their home.  Years later, Ansel and Gretchen try to make a new life for themselves by moving to a sunny beach with no creeping woods to remind them of their past.  When their car breaks down, however, they find they are deep in the forest, at the mercy of a kind, and beautiful young woman who owns a chocolate shop.  Sophia is the most warmhearted person that Ansel and Gretchen have ever known and they are immediately drawn to her and her home in the woods.  But Sophia has a secret . . . and not everything is as sweet as it seems.

Darkly mysterious, with warm, lovable characters, Sweetly is a must read for fairy tale enthusiasts!  And now you'll have to excuse me while I go and read Sisters Red, which is apparently the first installment in this fairy tale inspired series.

If you love fairy tales too, check out this list of retellings!

Companion Novels
Sisters Red
Fathomless (TBR September 2012)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Shape of Desire by Sharon Shinn

The Shape of Desire (Shifting Circle, Book 1)
by Sharon Shinn
April 2012
Ace Hardcover

What I have is so precious, so intense, such an essential part of my life, that I would not give it up for any inducement.  If I tried, or if someone forced me to, I truly believe I would die.

Sharon Shinn and I have a complicated relationship.  I always think her ideas for her stories are wonderful and intriguing which leads me to pick up the book and begin reading.  Unfortunately, the execution isn't exactly my style.  Shinn takes her readers on a relaxed journey through the lives of her characters that rarely accumulates much tension, making her a wonderful fantasist for readers who enjoy a little slice of life with their magic and mystery.

I picked this particular novel up because this book begins a new series about shapeshifters.  Maria Davane has been desperately in love with Dante Romano for fifteen years.  Unfortunately, he spends more of his life as an animal than as a human, leaving Maria only a few days each month with her lover.  But none of that is enough to keep her from loving Dante and looking forward to his visits as a human.  Due to his nature, however, Maria has been lying to everyone around her for years about him and their relationship.  When a string of strange animal attacks occur near her home, however, Maria is forced to consider who it is she's lying to and whether she really knows anything about this man at all.

Readers who enjoy a leisurely stroll through their fantasy should be huge fans of Shinn's work.  If you enjoy books about shapeshifters, check out this list of other paranormal fiction.

Shifting Circle Novels
The Shape of Desire
Still Life With Shapeshifter (TBR October 2012)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Eve by Anna Carey ★

Eve (Eve Trilogy, Book 1)
by Anna Carey
October 2011

Where do you go when nowhere is safe?

Eve has grown up in New America; a place that survived after a deadly virus swept through humanity.  Men and women have been separated and young girls are taught to fear boys and to never speak to or allow them to get close.  Growing up in a protected orphanage and school for girls, however, Eve has never had to fear the savage men that live in the outside world.  Raised to intelligence, hard work, and beauty, Eve has no idea that the thing she has to fear most is the place she calls home.  What happens to the girls in the orphanage after "graduation"?  And how will Eve escape when there's nowhere to go?

This was certainly a new twist on the concept of forbidden love and a terrifying glimpse into a future where mankind is struggling to continue as a species.  I found myself completely engaged in the story and the characters' struggles.  I also appreciated the author's candid outlook and even her ability to let characters die in circumstances where it was implausible for them to live.  Many times while reading this book I even paused to wonder "What would I do in this situation?"  Eve is an extremely thought-provoking read and definitely deserves a spot close to the top of my list for dystopian young adult fiction!

For more dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction, check out this list!

Eve Trilogy
Once (July 2012)
Book 3 (TBR)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Awaken Me Darkly by Gena Showalter

Awaken Me Darkly (Alien Huntress, Book 1)
by Gena Showalter
May 2005
Downtown Press

There's beauty in her strength ~ and danger in her desires.

Hands down, one of the worst books I've read recently.  I think I might finally be done with Gena Showalter.  I have tried to get through so many of  her books and have never made it more than half way.  In a way I suppose that means this book wasn't all that bad considering I finished it . . . interesting thought.

Mia Snow is an alien huntress working for A.I.R. (Alien Investigation and Removal) in a world where many alien races now live and work with humans.  As a self proclaimed, sexy kick-a first grade b*tch, Mia has always dominated her mostly male workplace (which is full of fabulously handsome men who absolutely adore her).  While investigating a series of murders, however, her super sexy, very strong, kind and thoughtful human partner (who she would never sleep with because he isn't good enough) is fatally injured and Mia must find a way to save him.  Enter Kyrin en Arr, a gorgeous alien prince with the power to save Mia's partner . . . for a price.

If you think you might ever read this book you should probably stop reading here . . . 

This is obviously meant to be an edgy romance novel with aliens as sexual partners to spice things up a bit.  While this paranormal lover formula has totally worked for other authors I couldn't stop myself from periodically screaming "How does he have the right equipment for this?!"  at the book.  I'm just not sure how these aliens managed to be umm err compatible with humans.  Yeah, yeah, I know it's just a book.  It's fiction.  Right?

I can deal with that.  I love fiction.  But this book crosses the bounds of fiction and into the world of delusional with its twisted concept of feminism.  This book fulfills some kind of female dominance fantasy in that Mia Snow is the strongest character in the book and holds power over all she meets.  She displays this by not only beating up all the bad aliens, but also her co-workers, friends, and even her lover.  Seriously?!  These men are just going to take that kind of abuse?  I don't care how attractive she is, if women aren't supposed to put up with physical and verbal abuse, then why should men?

Above all, I guess I simply couldn't identify with any of the characters nor could I get over the *ewww* factor involved every time I tried to contemplate how an alien/human pairing was possible.  I do want to thank Gena Showalter, however, for writing this book so that I could add it to my paranormal romance reading list as one of the very few books out there written about alien/human relationships.

Alien Huntress Series
Awaken Me Darkly
Enslave Me Sweetly
Savor Me Slowly
Seduce the Darkness
Ecstasy in Darkness
Dark Taste of Rapture

Young Adult Spinoff Series
Red Handed

Short Story
Deep Kiss of Winter

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Frog Prince by Elle Lothlorien ★

The Frog Prince
by Elle Lothlorien
September 2011

Someday your prince will come.  Sort of.

I bought this book for my little sister's birthday a few months ago thinking she might enjoy it since it was topping the chick lit charts at the time.  If you think that's impressive, consider the fact that this book, which is Lothlorien's debut novel, is self-published!  Despite all the positive reviews, I have to admit I didn't trust it's indie status and honestly didn't think I was giving my sister a great book.  A few weeks later, however, my sister marched through my front door, shoved the book in my face and said "You HAVE to read this!"  So I did . . . and I totally loved it!

When Leigh Fromm treads on a handsome stranger's foot at her great aunt's wake she has no idea that the bleeding man is actually Prince Roman Habsburg von Lorraine, the would-have-been king of Austria.  Due to Austria's current system of government, Roman will never be King, and chooses instead to spend his time in a self-imposed exile in Denver, Colorado building tree houses and dancing like a star.  But Leigh doesn't mind hanging out with this handsome, delicious-smelling, phoney prince of Austria.  After all, he'll never be real royalty, right?  Right?

This romantic comedy has all the makings of a major film deal.  I honestly don't know how Lothlorien did it. I spent the first third of the book completely disgusted by the perfect guy who could do everything from dance like Patrick Swayze to fly his own airplane and his beautiful, model of a girlfriend who was brilliant but a total klutz.  Everything about the book and it's characters felt so cliche that I was getting pretty bored there for awhile.  BUT THEN everything changes and you're swept away with the characters, completely caught up in an adventure that no one expected or even dreamed possible (that's why this is fiction, people).  I truly have to say that if you enjoy chick lit, and spend hours drooling over the possibility of being a princess, this book is for you!

For more fairy tale reinterpretations, check out these books or read these other modernized fairy tales by Elle Lothlorien.

Other Once a Time Books
Sleeping Beauty
Rapunzel (TBR Spring 2012)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Unforsaken by Sophie Littlefield

Unforsaken (Banished, Book 2)
by Sophie Littlefield
October 2011

I just wanted to be a normal girl in a normal high school with normal friends and normal habits.  And the thing I longed to do was not normal at all.

It's really hard to write a review for the second book in a series without giving too much away.  If you haven't read Banished yet, I highly suggest you do so as it is an excellent, fast-paced read with a unique twist on necromancy.  This book continues Hailey Tarbell's story as she struggles to pretend to be normal and hide her unique healing abilities.  Overall, Unforsaken is very similar to Banished as we run into many of the same villains who continue to have the same goal of capturing Hailey and others like her for their abilities.  If given the choice, I think I would have liked to see these two books meshed into one.  The first book was exciting and engaging but the second felt a little as if there simply wasn't enough new material for an entire book.  That said, together these books make a complete story and this one is definitely worth reading if you've read Banished.  If you like to read books about necromancers and people with special powers, be sure to check out this reading list.

Banished Books

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry ★

The Lace Reader
by Brunonia Barry
July 2008
William Morrow

My name is Towner Whitney.  No, that's not exactly true.  My real first name is Sophya.  Never believe me.  I lie all the time . . . 

If Amazon.com reviews are any indication, this is one of those books that you either love, or love to hate.  I myself had a very hard time getting into this one, but persevered due to my fascination with the setting as well as the intriguing characters.

It has been years since Towner Whitney last set foot in her hometown of Salem, Massachusetts.  Although she comes from a long line of Salem lace readers, Towner has never affiliated with the other mystically gifted women in town.  When two women go missing, however, Towner is drawn back to Salem to confront the truth behind her twin sister's death and bring her killer to justice.  There is not much more that I can tell you about this book without giving its secrets away, but know that while you may think you understand what is going on in these pages, you don't.  And you won't until the end.  With a rich, haunting setting and characters that ultimately reveal such depth that you want to start the book over as soon as it ends, I highly recommend The Lace Reader and hope that you too will make it to the shocking conclusion.

If you liked The Lace Reader, but also enjoy chick lit that make you laugh out loud, try Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Pure by Julianna Baggott

Pure (Book 1)
by Julianna Baggott
February 2012
Grand Central Publishing

Burn a pure and breathe the ash.
Take his guts and make a sash.
Twist his hair and make a rope.
And use his bones to make Pure soap.

I'm not going to lie, this is one freaky book.  All the horrors of nuclear war are brought to life in this post-apocalyptic novel.  Instead of somewhat healthy characters cheerfully bemoaning their fate and scrounging for food, these characters simply survive, melted to the things they were using or standing next to when the bombs went off.  Bicycles, birds, and even their children.  Fused to the baby doll she was holding, Pressia lives in the ashes of this demolished world.  However, she derives hope from gazing at the massive dome which houses those who made it inside before the world ended.  The people inside are "pure", completely unscathed and unmarked by the war.  The pure have promised to come back for all the wretches outside the dome.  But it's taking too long . . .

For someone who has studied the effects of the bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki this book was truly terrifying.  Unlike most post-apocalyptic fiction, this one really does allow the reader to get a feel for what nuclear fallout would be like.  Due to some of the graphic wartime images, I don't recommend this one for anyone not emotionally mature enough to handle it.  This book is disturbing to say the least.  But also thought-provoking and heartbreaking in all the right ways.  For more dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction, check out this list.

Pure Books
Fuse (TBR)
Burn (TBR)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Legend by Marie Lu ★

Legend (Legend, Book 1)
by Marie Lu
November 2011
Putnam Juvenile

June is a military prodigy.  Obedient, passionate, and committed to her country, she is being groomed for success in the Republic's highest circles.  Day is the country's most wanted criminal.  But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

So you know how sometimes when you're reading a book you feel that magical something that tells you this would make an awesome movie and/or Broadway musical*!?  Well this book should be an anime!  Wait!  Don't go!  Hear me out . . .

The year is 2130 AD and the United States of America has dissolved into The Republic of America (located in CA) and its surrounding colonies.  The RA is ruled by a military government that decides the future of each citizen through an aptitude test when they are sixteen years old.  June is the only person to have ever scored perfectly on the test.  Day has the lowest score.  June has lived her life in the highest circles of society.  Day is a fugitive and has been hiding on the streets for years.  June has been trained to track criminals.  Day will do anything to avoid capture.  June and Day are going to meet.  But will they survive the encounter?

Reasons this should be an anime:
1. Did you not just read that description?  All we're missing are the Gundams!**
2. June is totally Asian.***
3. So is Day!  Except get this - he's Asian, but with freaking blond hair!  I know, right?!  Sooo anime character cliche!

And there you have it.  Whether this is ever made into an anime or manga or not, Legend is a fantastic, fast-paced read for fans of The Hunger Games and other dystopian fiction.

Legend Series
Patriot (TBR September 2012)

*Let the record state that I have never actually thought this.
**Hopefully Patriot will rectify this obvious mistake.
***Of course you don't have to be Asian to make the cut for an anime.  Sailor Moon was born in Tokyo with two silky blond Swiss pigtails for crying out loud.  But in this case, I think it lent that "Asian" feel and only strengthened the case for an anime.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Good In Bed by Jennifer Weiner

Good In Bed
by Jennifer Weiner
May 2001

"Love is nothing, nothing, nothing like they say."  ~Liz Phair

If you've ever been a woman in her late twenties or early thirties there's a pretty good chance you've read some form of diet chick lit.  We've all read books about girls who are unhappy with their weight and we secretly scour the pages for the magic bullet or super diet secret that magically transformed these miserable women into the hot babe at the office.  While these books can sometimes be motivating, they ultimately leave me feeling inferior and disgusted with my own non-barbie figure.  This book, however, was something different.

Good In Bed tells the story of Cannie Shapiro, who is overweight and struggling with life.  Her ex-boyfriend details their past sex life in a popular magazine, the new boy in town wants nothing more than friendship from a big girl like her, her doctor won't give her diet pills, and she can't seem to land any big stories for the newspaper where she currently works.  This book has been called a "modern Cinderella story" because of the way that Cannie's life begins to change, but there is nothing fairy tale-ish about her struggles and the way she handles them.  Cannie is real.  And her story will make you laugh, ponder, and maybe even cry as she deals with the challenges that women have to face every day.  Good In Bed is a redeeming read and a good reminder that the glamour of Hollywood should never have the final say in how we feel about ourselves or live our lives.

You can read the continuing adventures of Cannie Shapiro in Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner or try these other similar books about women who struggle with their weight.

Fat Chance by Deborah Blumenthal
The Next Big Thing by Johanna Edwards
Jemima J by Jane Green

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder ★

Touch of Power (Healer Series, Book 1)
by Maria V. Snyder
December 2011

Magician, heal thyself.

Woot!  Hurary!  It's a brand new series from Maria V. Snyder!  In case you don't remember, I practically begged her for a new series when I posted about her young adult book, Outside In last June.  From this, I can only conclude that she is reading my blog!  Seriously though, I think this is her best book since Poison Study.  I picked it up right before bed as a way to relax.  An hour later my husband was fast asleep in bed and I was on the edge of the couch devouring this book as a midnight snack.  A few hours after that, I finished the book completely satisfied but also looking forward to the next book in the series.  How great is that?!  But enough about me and my nocturnal habits . . .

Avry is a healer; a magician able to take on the injuries and illnesses of others in order to cure them.  Once honored for her abilities, she now spends her days running for her life, as healers are hunted and killed for their seeming indifference to a plague that has recently swept the land.  Avry is not surprised when her charitable acts of healing finally catch up to her and she is thrown into prison for immediate execution.  She is shocked, however, when the leader of a band of rogues abducts her and subsequently drags her all over the nine mountains to save a plague ridden prince.  While facing magical danger, betrayal, and the stirrings of love and friendship, Avry must decide whether peace in the land is worth her life.  And you must decide whether or not this book is worth your time.  If you ask me, it's a resounding YES!

Healer Series
Touch of Power
Scent of Magic (TBR 2013)

Entwined by Heather Dixon

by Heather Dixon
March 2011
Greenwillow Books

Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in The Keeper's silver forest.  But there is a cost.  The Keeper likes to keep things.

Amazon has been telling me for almost a year now that I needed to read this book.  Every time I looked up a book, there it would be, sitting in the "Customers who bought this, also bought . . . " list.  Well Amazon, you're corporate and a little creepy, but you do seem to know me pretty well.  I absolutely love fairy tales that have been retold or rehashed in some way and this book is a cute, heartwarming rendition of the Twelve Dancing Princesses.

As the oldest daughter in a family of twelve princesses, and as the King's heir to the throne, Azalea has a lot of responsibility.  Keeping up with her duties has never been a problem, however, as long as she finds time to dance.  But when her mother dies, the kingdom is thrown into mourning and dancing is banned.  Wanting to honor their mother's memory, the princesses search for a place where dancing is allowed, and ultimately gain access to an enchanted forest with a strange keeper. Azalea thinks she understands the price of this new found freedom.  But she does not.

While I still prefer Juliet Marillier's Wildwood Dancing for my top Twelve Dancing Princesses pick, this book was charming and unique in it's own way.  Unlike many young adult books written today, the girls don't put up a fuss about being, well, girls.  They are very feminine and expect gentlemen to behave a certain way toward and around them.  I don't really have an opinion regarding the "rightness" of one view or another, but it was certainly a nice break from all the heroines that yell "What, you think I can't do it myself?!" when a guy opens a door for her.  Inner strength isn't all about who opens the door, regardless of gender.

This book also had a very nice message about families and helping one another, even when the other person is acting like they'd really rather you never talked to them again.  Overall, a cute, clean read with endearing characters and positive messages throughout.  Oh, and it gets a plus one for not being a part of a series.

For more books based on traditional myths or fairy tales, see this reading list.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan ★

Glow (Sky Chasers, Book 1)
by Amy Kathleen Ryan
September 2011
St. Martin's Griffin

The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.  ~ William Shakespeare

We all know the story of the legendary rape of the Sabine women from history class.  But believe me when I tell you that you've never heard it like this!  Part of a mission to colonize New Earth, the ship Empyrean has been peacefully floating through space for decades.  Fifteen-year-old Waverly and handsome captain-in-training Kiernan were both born on the ship and have known their entire lives that it was their duty to marry early and reproduce in order to ensure completion of the mission.  Their worlds are turned upside down, however, when their barren sister ship attacks, kidnapping all young girls on board the Empyrean.  It will now take all the courage and wisdom that Waverly and Kirenan possess in order to survive their new situations and find one another in the infinite vastness that is outer space.  With incredibly complex characters, a riveting setting, and the knowledge that you can trust no one, Glow is a compelling must read for fans of the futuristic fight for survival.

Sky Chasers
Spark (TBR July 2012)
Possible Book 3 TBA