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Saturday, May 31, 2014

The After Girls by Leah Konen

So this ended exactly as I predicted early on, but that didn't lessen my enjoyment. I did think the ending did not explain things thoroughly, but it was easy to fill in the gaps. I felt the writing was beautiful and sad. The grief felt by Sydney and Ella was real and heart-wrenching. It really highlighted the pain felt by those left behind in the wake of a suicide.

I liked the dueling chapters with each girl's POV. This typically works best in first person, but in this case third person worked great. Each girl was unique and fleshed out. Both girls are consumed by grief, but each deal with it in their own way. Sydney resorts to self-medicating by drinking. There was a fair amount of drinking from all of the characters which is probably realistic, but by showing it as the norm made it a problem for me.

The relationships felt sincere, and even though there are two love triangles, they felt realistic and not contrived. I absolutely loathed Max. I could see why Sydney was drawn to him since she seemed self-destructive, but every scene he was in made my skin crawl. I do not understand the fascination with bad boys. It is so prevalent in YA lit these days that the girl falls for the bad boy. Give me a nice guy any day of the week.

This was a satisfying read, and I definitely want to see more works by this author.

Besides the portrayal of underage drinking, there was some foul language. It also eludes to one of the characters hooking up.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

(Blurb taken from Goodreads)
 In this timeless new trilogy about love and sacrifice, a princess must find her place in a reborn world.

In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia’s life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight—but she doesn’t—and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom—to a prince she has never met.

On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees to a distant village. She settles into a new life, hopeful when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—even as she finds herself falling in love.

I was super excited to read this one. The Adoration of Jenna Fox was phenomenal so what could be better than a fantasy by the same author? This was really well done fantasy too. The characters were detailed and intricately created. Lia progressed so much in this book in such a believable way.

The way the assassin and the prince were kept hidden from the readers was clever and effective. I couldn't make up my mind which one was which. Fortunately it worked out the way it should have worked out. The ending was a cliff hanger, but I loved the gesture of protection and tenderness that one of the characters made.

I thought the beginning was slow and didn't really world build very well. The second half was much stronger in both of those areas. I would have liked to have seen more about the cultures and gods in the first half of the book.

There isn't really much to say without revealing some of the books secrets. Suffice to say, I think Lia and he who shall not be revealed are the ultimate couple. Their romance was sweet, pure and uncomplicated.

I definitely want to read the next book especially considering where the book left off. It was so well done with many elements that were perfect.

There were no sex scenes, but some of the characters did have sex.  It took place off the pages so there was no description.  There were a couple of minor curse words.  

Panic by Sharon Draper


(Blurb taken from Goodreads)
Diamond knows not to get into a car with a stranger.

But what if the stranger is well-dressed and handsome? On his way to meet his wife and daughter? And casting a movie that very night—a movie in need of a star dancer? What then?

Then Diamond might make the wrong decision.

It’s a nightmare come true: Diamond Landers has been kidnapped. She was at the mall with a friend, alone for only a few brief minutes—and now she’s being held captive, forced to endure horrors beyond what she ever could have dreamed, while her family and friends experience their own torments and wait desperately for any bit of news.

From New York Times bestselling author Sharon Draper, this is a riveting exploration of power: how quickly we can lose it—and how we can take it back

3.5 stars
I felt like this book tried to address too many issues in one short book. One the one hand, you have a girl abducted, on the other there is a girl being abused by her boyfriend. It seemed like they were only dealt with superficially. A longer book might have been better to really delve into the problems that teens face.

The rape scenes were handled very well. They were not graphic, but there was no doubt in your mind what had happened. It was a hard enough book to read without intense descriptions. I appreciated how Draper handled it.

The use of the Peter Pan quotes was brilliant. Each quote felt like it had been written for that chapter. Also, I couldn't help but feel that Peter Pan's refusal to grow up sharply contrasted with the teens in this book who have been forced to grow up quickly and harshly. Peter Pan was a great choice to have intertwined in the story.

This is an important book for teens to read. Like I said it was a hard read. I had to put it down on several occasions because it was overwhelming. It simply needed to be longer to address the fallout of the abuse both girls suffered.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Think you know the story of The Nutcracker?

Winterspell by Claire Legrand
September 30, 2014
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

The clock chimes midnight, a curse breaks, and a girl meets a prince . . . but what follows is not all sweetness and sugarplums.

New York City, 1899. Clara Stole, the mayor's ever-proper daughter, leads a double life. Since her mother's murder, she has secretly trained in self-defense with the mysterious Drosselmeyer.

Then, on Christmas Eve, disaster strikes.

Her home is destroyed, her father abducted--by beings distinctly not human. To find him, Clara journeys to the war-ravaged land of Cane. Her only companion is the dethroned prince Nicholas, bound by a wicked curse. If they're to survive, Clara has no choice but to trust him, but his haunted eyes burn with secrets--and a need she can't define. With the dangerous, seductive faery queen Anise hunting them, Clara soon realizes she won't leave Cane unscathed--if she leaves at all.

Inspired by The Nutcracker, Winterspell is a dark, timeless fairy tale about love and war, longing and loneliness, and a girl who must learn to live without fear. (Taken from Goodreads).

I am beyond excited for this book.  I received an advance copy so I will be reading it closer to the release date, but I wanted to share the book with others.  I am obsessed with The Nutcracker at Christmas - movies, music, books - and cannot wait to dig into this one!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn

A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca   Hahn
If you are a fan of pulse pounding action on every page, this is probably not the book for you. But if you like strong characters, beautiful prose, and a heart-warming story, I would suggest this book for you. The language is gorgeous and poignant. Marni's voice is so well developed and so achingly beautiful that you want to continue on just to hear her words. I think we need books like this. Books that cause you to stop and enjoy a well turned phrase. Books that evoke a different time, when life was quiet and slow. Hahn's imagery is otherworldly. It is hard to believe that this is a first novel. Each sentence is near perfection. My only complaint was when Marni would use a double negative. I know that it was used to show that Marni did not speak as the lords and ladies did. It was jarring compared to the sophistication of her speech otherwise. Her sentences and insights were too well spoken to be cancelled out by a couple of double negatives.

In an age where we seek out strong heroines, this book adds another strong protagonist. Marni is no one's puppet, and I enjoyed the fact that she needed no man to make her complete. She negotiates relationships on her own terms. My favorite scene was when she (view spoiler). I chuckled heartily, but it demonstrates Marni's strength.

This book meanders, but it meanders from truth to truth. It doesn't simply wind along without purpose or framework. Some will be frustrated by the lack of action. It just simply isn't one of those books. I found it to be beautiful and evocative of many emotions. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman

4/5 stars
What an exciting, thrilling read! It kept me on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happened next. The beginning was a flurry of confusion as I was introduced to not only the world and its rules, but also nearly every village resident. I finally decided to plow through, and I'm glad that I did because the town elders and their titles weren't really important. The writing was vivid and brought to mind images of a beautiful frozen landscape.

The village folks were written so well they could have stepped into the pages from any small community. There are always those in the bunch who are revered, those who are afraid of change, those that follow blindly, etc. Templeman writes with a clarity on how villages work and their members.

I didn't really buy the insta-love for one couple. They meet and bam they want to spend eternity together. It was never explained why they felt like they had known each other before. I wanted an explanation for why this connection ran so deep and was instantaneous and some other connections as well, not just the boy-girl kind.

I felt like the answer to the mystery was well thought out, and that all of the pieces fit together in the end. There was such a delicious build to the finale, that I felt the finale needed to be drawn out a little bit. It was over within a chapter or two. I really enjoyed not knowing what was coming. I sort of had my suspicions, but I just wasn't certain.

I would love to see more of this world in other books. I will also be checking out more works by this author. I would definitely recommend this to those who like an edge of your seat mystery in a fantasy world.  It was incredibly exciting and entertaining.

There is no cursing (well, they say things like "My Goddess").  There is one instance where a male character reminisces about a girl's creamy thighs, but that is the only sexual reference.  Sex is alluded to not drawn out in detail. There is also a fair amount of violence with some graphic descriptions of mutilated corpses.

Friday, May 16, 2014

And the books just keep coming....

If I were to stop receiving books and read only what I have (either on Kindle or hard copy), it would take me more than 15 years to read what I have.  Having said that, listed below are some more books that I recently acquired.  I can't wait to read them!

Amber House by Kelly Moore, Larkin Reed and Tucker Reed

The way the past was woven into the present was beautiful and eerie. You never quite knew where the danger was going to come from, but you knew it was coming. I loved Sammy and thought he was one of the greatest things about this book. We need to see characters who are not mainstream, but who have struggles in their day to day lives. The portrayal of the relationship between Sarah and Sammy was awesome to see. Her protectiveness of him was well written.

I found the love triangle to be a distraction from the real story. I felt that one of the characters acted out of the character that had been written during one of the last scenes. It felt a little too convenient that this character would behave that way.

I almost didn't read this because people kept talking about how scary the book was. I didn't really find it to be frightening. There was definitely a slow build toward the climax. The ending seemed a little rushed and a tad confusing as Sarah rushes around the house. I wasn't sure how she was able to do what she did since she had never been able to do it before.

The first line is so intriguing - "I was sixteen the first time my grandmother died." Got your interest? It got mine, but that was never addressed in the rest of the book. Does this mean her grandmother will be coming back from the dead? Or is a reincarnation? You never get to know what Sarah meant by that. I was a little disappointed by that.

I will be picking up the next book and look forward to reading it.

There was one damn in the book and no sex.  It was a really clean read which I appreciated.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Searching for Sky by Jillian Cantor

4 stars
This was a beautifully written book with amazing insights. Sky's perspective on life was refreshing and even though it was simplistic, it was not simple. She may not have book smarts, but she certainly has wisdom.

The ending left me a little puzzled. Is there supposed to be a sequel? I wonder even though it felt like Sky's story had been told. I would be interested in reading more about Sky as she adjusts further to the modern world. Her innocence is refreshing and honest.

I wanted to shake Sky's grandmother several times. It was really annoying that everyone kept calling Sky, Megan. She had already been traumatized enough. You would think her therapist would have suggested that everyone call her Sky like she wanted. There were other things the grandmother did that was completely motivated by selfishness on her part. It was almost as if Sky needed to do all of the changing to fit it without any concessions on the grandmother's side. I would hope that a professional would have pointed out areas where the grandmother could have made the transition smoother.

I will definitely be looking for more books from this author. I would recommend this book to lovers of coming of age tales. Sky's story is beautifully told and will be enjoyed by people who like character driven fiction.

There was no sex and only a couple of curse words.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Murmurings by Carly Anne West

I couldn't really connect to anything in this book. It almost felt like a good premise, but couldn't really deliver. I don't know why it is common in current YA books for the heroine to say that she knows something is not the right thing to do, but goes ahead and does it anyway. There is not even any motive given for doing the stupid thing, but it is necessary for the plot to continue on so we the reader are subjected to reading all about her bad choices. When will we have protagonists who are smart not just in getting good grades, but in making smart choices when faced with danger. I know they are young adults and their judgement is not completely firmed up yet, but there must be more to celebrate about being young than being impulsive and idiotic. Sophie, of course, makes one of these choices, but she is not alone. I have noticed this in book after book.

One of the things that seems like a small complaint but was really distracting was the use of conjunctions as the first word in a sentence. It happened frequently so it is not a matter of a few typos getting through. It felt like it was a style choice. I am in favor of a few broken rules of English for emphasis, but this was very distracting as a normal way of writing.

I was really excited for this one, but it left me a little disappointed.

There was no sex, but there was some language.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Slated by Teri Terry

Slated (Slated, #1) 4 stars
I think the ending left me with more questions than when I started. The big reveal in the end didn't really fit with what had happened in the earlier pages. I was really drawn into Kayla's world and her story. The idea that we could be remolded into a different human being if our memories were not intact is an interesting premise. It does not allow for the nature side of the argument.

I am quite intrigued by Kayla's new Mum. I think there is so much more there than what we get in the first book. It felt like the entire book was just a set up for the next book. There was no real resolution to any of the problems presented. I am really bummed out that I don't have the next book to read right away.

Kayla's artistic talent was a nice touch. My mother-in-law was an amazing artist before her stroke which paralyzed her. She taught herself how to paint with her other hand, and the pieces she painted were just as good. I can see how Kayla could teach herself to draw with her non-dominant hand.

I would recommend this to anyone who likes a good dystopian. However, if you need things wrapped up like a giant Christmas package then I would recommend waiting until you have all three books in the trilogy.  Things are definitely left hanging at the end of this one.  There are also some plot points that you have to suspend belief for, but on the whole it was a good solid read.

There was no sex (chaste kisses only) and no language. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Product Details4.5 stars
If you are reading this and haven't read the summary about the book - don't do it.  I went into this knowing only that it was a thriller/mystery and nothing more. It is so much better not knowing than reading the synopsis beforehand. I found it to be beautifully written. It takes a little while to get into the cadence of the prose, but once you do, it is gorgeous. 

I love books where the narrator's voice is distinctive, and Cady certainly is like no other protagonist I have read. This was truly a book that relies on the strength of the narrator. The characters are drawn in a psychological manner that shows that Lockhart must truly be a people observer. They are so nuanced and full that they feel like real people.  While there is a building of tension and answers that hang just out of reach, it is a study in human nature. It is a quick read because it is short, but it packs an emotional punch for such a small book.  I don't cry over books, but this one did have me wiping away a tear or two (Ok, maybe three). 

I loved the fairy tale vignettes interspersed throughout the text. I thought they were beautiful and brilliant. They added a nice metaphorical touch to Cady's journey.

I noticed some missing commas, but it wasn't enough to distract me from the narrative. This was all in all a great book, and I would recommend it to fans of great characters.  There was some language (a few f-bombs), but it was sex free.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Mine to Spell by Janeal Falor

Mine to Spell by Janeal FalorTitle: Mine to Spell (Mine #2)
Author: Janeal Falor
Publish Date: May 5, 2014
Genre: YA Fantasy

Cynthia has always hidden from her father’s hexes behind her older sister. When her family gains independence unheard of for women, she’s relieved that her days of harsh punishments are over. But as her seventeenth birthday approaches—the typical age to be sold to a new master—death threats endanger her sisters. She now faces two options: run or meet society’s expectations.

For once, Cynthia isn’t going to let her older sister shield her from the problem. She’s going to prove to herself, her sisters, and society that her family isn’t a threat to their traditions. She willingly chooses to be purchased by a new master. A bold step that takes her somewhere she never thought she would go and to a man she might possibly fall in love with. With his help, she may just find a way to save her sisters while discovering how to stand up for herself. If she lives long enough.

 The first book in the series, You Are Mine, is only .99 cents from May 5-10, and Mine to Tarnish is free!

4.5 stars
This was a great addition to the Mine series. I will always love Serena because her story affected me in a way that I cannot describe, but Cynthia is a close second. She has grit and determination, and she doesn't allow obstacles to become excuses. She just keeps plowing forward. I think Janeal must have channeled early feminists such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton because Cynthia truly embodied the attributes of these women. This book highlights what a battle it must have been to gain women equality under the law and makes one appreciate how far we've come. And how far we still need to go. Women still make less than men for the same job, and female professors get tenure almost a year later than their male counterparts. Cynthia is a great study in what it takes to forge new paths.

The ending has left me wanting more, of course. I was kind of hoping for a Waverly novel next time, but not since I read the last chapter. Now I must have a Serena/Cynthia (and Zane too - please more Zane!) novel. I hope Ms. Falor's writing process is speedy!

The world building is amazing in this series. There are numerous cultures that we are being introduced to and at times can be a little confusing, but Falor does a good job of reminding the reader what is what. She has created a world where the subjugation of women is at the forefront. One can literally feel the oppression of these women. Coming from an American background, this seems alien to me, yet it is sadly life for many women across the globe. I think books like this series are important not only for its entertainment value (and they are definitely entertaining), but to reach further than our own world view. These are the kind of books that make us grow and think and broaden our horizons. I love novels that make you think and evaluate your beliefs.

I am taking a half star for minor editorial problems such as missing commas or apostrophes and mistakenly using effect and affect a couple of times. While they were relatively minor, they did lessen my enjoyment of the book.

This was free of language and sex and quite enjoyable because of it!

About Janeal Falor:Amazon best-selling author Janeal Falor lives in Utah with her husband and three children. In her non-writing time she teaches her kids to make silly faces, cooks whatever strikes her fancy, and attempts to cultivate a garden even when half the things she plants die. When it's time for a break she can be found taking a scenic drive with her family, fencing, or drinking hot chocolate.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Time travel and alternate universes

I am always ready for a time travel or alternate universe story.  Listed below are some that I have found during my own travels (which have unfortunately been in my own time zone).  Some are novels about actual time travelers while others have been frozen in stasis and "traveled" to an alien future.
BackwardsAll Our Yesterdays (All Our Yesterdays #1)Pathfinder (Pathfinder, #1)Backward GlassThe Obsidian Mirror (Chronoptika, #1)The Shadow SocietyThe Future of UsA Long, Long SleepRuby Red (Precious Stone Trilogy, #1)MidwinterbloodWhen We Wake (When We Wake, #1)RelativityDissonance (Dissonance, #1)EndlessThe Almost Girl (The Almost Girl, #1)Waterfall (River of Time, #1)Time Between Us (Time Between Us, #1)Timeless (Timeless, #1)Hourglass (Hourglass, #1)The Here and NowErasing Time (Erasing Time, #1)The Looking GlassTimebound (The Chronos Files, #1)WildwingParallelPivot Point (Pivot Point, #1)Through to YouUndercurrentJust Like FateTandem (Many-Worlds, #1)

Saturday, May 3, 2014

After the End by Amy Plum

After the End (After the End, #1)How could you do that to us in the end, Ms. Plum? And now we have to wait a whole year before the next one? Seriously though, this was a great read which I read practically in one sitting. I was not only upset about the way that it ended, but I was sad that it had actually come to an end. Juneau is one great character, and I very much will be reading her next adventure. Miles is pretty great too. I love the dual POVs, and believe it or not, the voices actually sounded different. I feel like this book really raised more questions than it answered. If your looking for closure and a nicely wrapped up plot, this book will not be for you. I have a terrible memory when it comes to books so I will probably forget what happened in this book before the next one comes out. Sometimes I just fake it until the author drops clues as to what happened in the previous book, but this one is one that I will definitely want to re-read.

I really felt like this book was asking us to delve deeper into faith and its roots.  Is faith a valid reaction to something that you have experienced in the past even if you have been lied to about the faith?  I loved how Juneau arrives at her own answer to these questions.  She has been lied to about everything in her life, but she examines piece by piece her belief system and comes to her own conclusions.

There is some language including a few f-bombs, but nothing sexual beyond a kiss.