Thursday, December 27, 2012

Review: Because It’s My Blood

Title: Because It Is My Blood
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Series: Birthright #2
Published: 2012 by Farrar Straus Giroux
Version: Hardcover
Obtained: Library

Since her release from Liberty Children's Facility, Anya Balanchine is determined to follow the straight and narrow. Unfortunately, her criminal record is making it hard for her to do that. No high school wants her with a gun possession charge on her rap sheet. Plus, all the people in her life have moved on: Natty has skipped two grades at Holy Trinity, Scarlet and Gable seem closer than ever, and even Win is in a new relationship. But when old friends return demanding that certain debts be paid, Anya is thrown right back into the criminal world that she had been determined to escape. It’s a journey that will take her across the ocean and straight into the heart of the birthplace of chocolate where her resolve--and her heart--will be tested as never before.

First Sentence:
“’Come in, Anya, have a seat. We find ourselves in the midst of a situation.’ Evelyn Cobrawick greeted me, parting her painted red lips to reveal a cheerful sliver of yellow teeth.”

WARNING. If you have not read the wonderful first book, All These Things I’ve Done, you might want to go find that book, read it, and then come back and read this review for the sequel. :) My review of All These Things I’ve Done.

You know how a lot of series get better and better as they go?  This is no exception! I loved the first one, but there was some lack of a cohesive plotline. In this one, the plotline kept heading in the same direction, there was great character development, and plenty of new characters and new discoveries.

In the sequel, the storyline picks up a few months after the end of the first one, when Anya was thrown back in jail after promising to break up with her boyfriend. Anya gets out and realizes that her life is much more different than it was. She has no clue what to do now.

And that is the prominent theme of this novel. Should Anya stay in the chocolate world, or move on and give up her “birthright” in her family’s company? After much time thinking this over with new friends and seeing the impact of her family on the her city, she makes her decision and it affects absolutely everyone and will change many things she took for granted.

I thought that Anya’s character didn’t change too much, but she finally stepped up and made a decision instead of just remaining indecisive about everything. She and Scarlet tried to work out their differences and she tried to work things out with Win too.

Although I like this book much better than the first one, I still have some complaints. Even though Win is in this story…that’s all he is. He’s just there and doesn’t change, doesn’t grow, doesn’t really help with anything. He is as adorable as ever, but you almost forget about him. And the whole thing with him at the end disappointed me. I just feel like he could have been further explored as a character in this book. While yes, the main focus of the book was Anya finally making a choice about her future, it would have been nice if Win hadn’t been so shoved off to the side.

Scarlet also disappointed me with the choices she made. I know that it is just the character making the bad decision and not the author, but it did seem a little weak for Scarlet.

However. I realize that this is the second book in a trilogy, and it’s usually the one where bad things happen that get mostly fixed up in the third book. So I’m hopeful that the final book (which comes out in 2013) will be even more excellent than this one!

Content Warnings: Mild language

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Review: Enchanted

Title: Enchanted
Author: Alethea Kontis
Series: Woodcutter Series #1 Published: 2012 by Harcourt
Version: Hardcover
Obtained: Library

It isn’t easy being the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true.

When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland—and a man Sunday’s family despises.

The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction for this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past—and hers?

First Sentence: My name is Sunday Woodcutter and I am doomed to a happy life.”

This story is a giant mash-up of many, many fairytales. The obvious one is The Princess and the Frog, as Sunday Woodcutter grows to love a frog and kisses him, turning him human. But Alethea Kontis has given the reader a new and more in-depth look at this story. Not only does the frog turn human, but he has to THEN make Sunday see that it is him.

I really enjoyed everything about this book. Ms. Kontis has a quirky way of writing, and I loved the random information she decided to throw into her story. It helped the whole world have more depth and the characters have more intricacy (many of Sunday’s sisters represented famous fairytale characters). Even though there were many characters, each one possesses a uniqueness and charm.

But by far, my favorite character is Rumbold. Starting as an adorable talking frog, he then turns human and has to decide how to best woo Sunday. It’s a bit of a problem though because her family hates him; yet, somehow he manages to get her attention. As for Sunday, she tries to understand why she actually does like this man that her family has disliked for so long. Their courtship sort of takes off from there…with other speed bumps.

I will most definitely check out the next two books in the series, which come out Fall 2013 and Fall 2014. Hopefully these will further explore the other character’s lives and more of this fantastic world.

Content Warning: None.

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Review: The Crown of Embers

Title: The Crown of Embers
Author: Rae Carson
Series: Fire and Thorns #2
Published: 2012 by Greenwillow Books
Version: Hardcover
Obtained: Bought

Elisa is a hero.

She led her people to victory over a terrifying, sorcerous army. Her place as the country’s ruler should be secure. But it isn’t.

Her enemies come at her like ghosts in a dream, from foreign realms and even from within her own court. And her destiny as the chosen one has not yet been fulfilled.

To conquer the power she bears, once and for all, Elisa must follow a trail of long-forgotten – and forbidden – clues, from the deep, hidden catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her go a one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man whom – despite everything – she is falling in love with.

If she’s lucky, she will return from the journey. But there will be a cost.

First Sentence:
My entourage of guards struggles to keep pace as I fly down the corridors of my palace.

ATTENTION!! This is a SEQUEL and therefore the first book might be spoiled slightly in this review. So if you have NOT read the masterpiece that is Girl of Fire and Thorns, read my review of it. Then read it. Then come back here and read this. And then go get this book. See you in like…3 days. :)


Why Rae Carson? Why are your books devastating in SUCH a great way? Why do I finish them and then not want to read another book until the sequel comes out? Why are you so perfect?

All who have read the first in this series can agree with me when I say that these books are perfect. I legitimately think that they cannot be made better in any way. Also, if you thought the first book was unbeatable….oh boy.

The story picks up right where it left off. Elisa is trying to run this country she just inherited. After several attempts on her life, she decides to go in search of the source of all the world’s magic, so she can control her powers for once.

Elisa is the poster-child for proper character development. What a difference in her from the shy, overweight, and over-looked girl we met in the beginning of the series! She has matured through the events of the first book and now she is trying to understand how to be the person she has always wanted to be. Many times when she takes control of a situation, you just want to say, “Look at you go girl! Show them how smart you are!”

However, many people are still trying to manipulate and use her: basically everyone with power around her. With the beautiful exception of Hector. OH HECTOR, my friend! You went from being a faithful side character to becoming a full-blown, beautiful, complex, and HOT love-interest. When I first heard that Hector was the new love interest, I was like, “Isn’t he the silent bearded guard who barely had a part in the first one?” Oh my friend, you will fall in love with Hector even faster than Elisa.

More nice thoughts: Setting was just as vivid and immersing as last time, I want to go there. New side character of Storm = completely awesome. I love characters that don’t ever lie.
Mara…I love you. Thank you for making heavy moments light-hearted.

But hey, Rae Carson, stop killing me. You’re a bit of a jerk after that move you pulled in the first one, and now the ending to this one. I mean, it’s a wonderful set-up for the next story, but it made me slam the book down. A few times.

Now I will sit patiently, bookless, as I await late 2013.
(just kidding, I’ll totally be reading other books until then.)

Content Warning: Kissing and talk of sex


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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Review: Ripper

Title: Ripper
Author: Stefan Petrucha
Published: 2012 by Philomel Books
Version: Hardcover
Obtained: Library

Carver Young dreams of becoming a detective, despite growing up in an orphanage with only crime novels to encourage him. But when he is adopted by Detective Hawking of the world famous Pinkerton Agency, Carver is given not only the chance to find his biological father, he finds himself smack in the middle of a real life investigation: tracking down a vicious serial killer who has thrown New York City into utter panic.

When the case begins to unfold, however, it’s worse than he could have ever imagined, and his loyalty to Mr. Hawking and the Pinkertons comes into question. As the body count rises and the investigation becomes dire, Carver must decide where his true loyalty lies.
Full of whip-smart dialogue, kid-friendly gadgets, and featuring a then New York City Police Commisioner Teddy Roosevelt, Ripper challenges everything you thought you knew about the world’s most famous serial killer and leaves you gasping for breath.

First Sentence:
'Let me show you a secret.'

Wow. I had a feeling this book would be great, but I had no clue it would be as wonderful as it turned out to be. I’m in love. Can I have more books starring Carver, Delia, and Finn?

Carver Young is just a poor orphan with a lock-picking skill and a love for mysteries, when he  gets oddly “adopted” by a retired Pinkerton agent, Albert Hawking. Hawking plans to teach Carver how to be a great detective, although his methods are quite crazy. Craver is brought into a secret society of detectives and is encouraged to try to find his biological father. There are also these murders that keep happening, and Carver eventually discovers quite a few things about the killer. It turns into a crazy puzzle game that he tries to figure out with his friend Delia and his frenemy, Finn.

Stefan Petrucha perfectly crafts a historical mystery, and he expertly picks the most deplorably evil of real-life bad guys: Jack the Ripper. Jack the Ripper, as most people know, was never caught, therefore any story that builds on that mystery is already intriguing. I loved the way he built on the facts and created a crazy story, that more or less could be possible (except for some glaring additions).

The mystery sucked me in and took me all over NYC. Because of the short chapters, I sped right through the book, and even if they had been long I would have still rushed through because the story was so addicting.

And you guys who have read it: that last twist, I honestly did not see it coming. At all. So weird. Mind-blown.

I found the characters to be all VERY complex. And, for this type of book, that is pretty unusual. Hawking was completely crazy, but he changes a lot throughout the book and he becomes such a mentor to Carver. Although half the time I was ticked at him, I did find him to be oddly amazing.
Finn was one of my favorite characters because of the growth he goes through. He matures and changes so much throughout this story, and I loved how realistic he was.
Carver, our main character, was dedicated to his task, but slightly a more boring character (think Harry Potter, wonderful, heroic, but hardly ever anyone’s favorite character). While he was complex, dynamic, and respectable, he confused me to no end. He was SO slow in the beginning and eventually gained in astuteness, but his reasoning was sometimes very hard to follow. He was remarkably dedicated to stopping the murders and finding his father. The lengths he went to sometimes to follow someone or find information…oh goodness, I would never have done that.
Delia was…ehh. I loved her at the same time as I thought she could have been so much more. But then again, this book was not really about women empowerment or anything, so I guess she can just be the cute, intelligent sidekick.

Many reviewers claim that this book is more suited for children than young adults due to the “cleaning up” of such a disturbing topic. While I agree that because of that, it is completely a great mystery read for middle graders, I enjoyed it for the characters, the twists, the mystery, and the concept. It didn’t have to be realistically grisly for me to understand the horror of the situation. Also, I’ve read about Jack the Ripper before, so I already knew that it was horrid.

I would LOVE if this became a series. It’s totally not going to because the concept just covers one storyline. But I thought the ending was open for more, and the characters are just begging for more stories to star in.

Content Warning: Very mild language only a handful of times

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Review: Deadly Cool

Title: Deadly Cool
Author: Gemma Halliday
Series: Deadly Cool #1
Published: 2011 by HarperTeen
Version: Paperback
Obtained: Library

Hartley Grace Featherstone is having a very bad day. First she finds out that her boyfriend is cheating on her with the president of the Herbert Hoover High School Chastity Club. Then he’s pegged as the #1 suspect in a murder. And if that weren’t enough, now he’s depending on Hartley to clear his name. 
But as much as Hartley wouldn’t mind seeing him squirm, she knows he’s innocent, and she’s the only one who can help him. Along with her best friend, Sam, and the school’s resident Bad Boy, Chase, Hartley starts investigating on her own. But as the dead bodies begin to pile up, the mystery deepens, the suspects multiply, and Hartley begins to fear that she may be the killer’s next victim.

First Sentence:
There are three things you never want to find in your boyfriend’s locker: a sweaty jockstrap, a D minus on last week’s history test, and an empty condom wrapper.”

I’m a huge mystery fan. It was always a goal of mine to read all the yellow hardcover Nancy Drew books (I think I’m still missing two). Anyways, this series is a modern day Nancy Drew series. But instead of being naturally curious, Hartley is haphazardly thrown into this world of amateur crime investigation.

Throughout all of her investigation attempts, all on the down-low, Hartley remains hilariously upbeat. She’s literally living a horror movie, but the story comes across as humorous with great side characters, like her best friend Samantha (Sam) and her new acquaintance, Chase.

Although I probably should have figured out the culprit quickly, I didn’t. Not only is the mystery difficult, but it’s SO ADDICTING! I read this in one day because I could NOT stop reading.

The sequel is Social Suicide, and it’s equally perfect. This is just a fantastic series, so go read them if you love murder mysteries and hilarity.

Content Warning: Language

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review: Death Cloud

Title: Death Cloud
Author: Andrew Lane
Published: 2010 by Farrar Straus Giroux
Series: Sherlock Holmes: The Legend Begins #1
Version: Hardcover
Obtained: Library

It is the summer of 1868, and Sherlock Holmes is fourteen. On break from boarding school, he is staying with eccentric strangers—his uncle and aunt—in their vast house in Hampshire. When two local people die from symptoms that resemble the plague, Holmes begins to investigate what really killed them, helped by his new tutor, an American named Amyus Crowe. So begins Sherlock’s true education in detection, as he discovers the dastardly crimes of a brilliantly sinister villain of exquisitely malign intent.

First Sentence:
'You there! Come here!'
Sherlock Holmes turned to see who was being called and who was doing the calling

I love Sherlock Holmes. And by that I don’t just mean I love Robert Downey Jr., though I do, I really love the Arthur Conan Doyle stories of this unstable genius of a man. However, I wasn’t all that excited to read about Sherlock as a kid. Then something on the cover caught my eye and reassured me. This is the first series about young Sherlock Holmes to be endorsed/approved by the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate.

Everything about this book is amazing and CRAZY.
Sherlock has to go live with his uncle and aunt in the countryside during his school break. While there, bored out of his mind, Sherlock meets a new friend, Mattie, and together they attempt to solve a mystery concerning strange deaths. Soon Sherlock’s tutor, Amyus Crowe, and his daughter Virginia join in to solve the mystery.

The easiest way for me to explain the awesome behind this evil plot is to ask you to think of the Alex Rider series. If you’ve read any of them, you’ll know this type of completely ingenious but dementedly evil plots. This villain is just pure evil and when you finally see him . . .*shudder*. He’s perfect in his villain-ness. In order to beat him, Sherlock, Mattie, Amyus, and Virginia must travel around England and France and escape death over and over again. It’s intense.

This Sherlock is (obviously) younger and he’s beginning to gain the skills he perfected as an adult. It’s interesting to see him mess-up frequently because of inexperience. At the same time, he amazes me with his already budding genius.

I desperately want to read the next book, which has already come out. Consider this series if you love the Alex Rider series, if you love Sherlock Holmes, or if you just love mysteries/adventures.

Content Warnings: Possibly mild language

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Review: Grave Mercy

Title: Grave Mercy
Author: Robin LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin #1
Version: Hardcover
Published: 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Obtained: Bought

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?
Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.
Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

First Sentence:
I bear a deep red stain that runs from my left shoulder down to my right hip, a trail left by the herbwitch’s poison that my mother used to try to expel me from her womb.

This book is intimidating. I don’t know about you, but when I saw the page count (549 pg) and tried to understand the complex summary, I felt like giving up right there. Boy, am I happy I didn’t. I LOVE THIS BOOK.

Ismae is rescued from an abusive husband/life and brought to the convent of St. Mortain, the god of Death. There she learns to fight and kill and destroy men. As she is sent on assignments, she learns different things about the convent and who she is.

First off, I adored Ismae. I loved the feminism she possessed. While she was all “women are powerful,” she didn’t think men were inherently horrible. I mean, she had to get over the evil men from earlier in her life, but she soon understood that not all men were like those. Some men can love you for who you are and not hurt you. It wasn’t the feminism of Graceling by Kristen Cashore, where the powerful heroine doesn’t want to tie herself to any man. This was a true embrace of feminine power without down-grading men, aside from showing their weaknesses when it comes to beautiful women.

Ismae was a force of nature. Most epic, amazing, frightening assassin ever. She knew her job as an assassin and she wasn’t going to let anyone get in the way of her “calling.” However, as her big assignment progressed, she realized that maybe the convent wasn’t as perfect as she thought and maybe her “calling” was different.

Gavriel Duval, by the way, is like, the greatest guy ever. Their romance, which happens at the most perfect speed, is real. I knew where the emotions they felt towards each other stemmed from and understood what it would take to get past their differences and hang-ups.

The sequels to this book will be about Ismae’s two “sisters,” Annith and Sybella. I cannot wait to read about them, as they are introduced as such potentially complex and fascinating characters. The court intrigue did get a bit confusing and I was lost amidst the millions of names and evil plots. Also, one moment had me completely heartbroken for Anne. I felt despair and hopeless during that moment and had no clue how things could get better. Thankfully that wasn’t the ending. :)

I wait with eager anticipation for the two sequels to this fantastic book. I love the length, the world, the writing, etc.

Content Warning: Kissing, blunt talk of seduction, affairs, mistresses, etc., implied sex.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Review: The Scorpio Races

Title: The Scorpio Races
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Version: Hardcover
Published: 2011 by Scholastic Press
Obtained: Library

Some race to win. Others race to survive.

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.

Some riders live.

Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a choice. So she enters the competition – the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

First Sentence:
It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.”

Oh my. This book was in my possession for SO long. I was very hesitant to read it for some reason I can’t remember. Now that I finally have, I’m ready to read more by Maggie Stiefvater.

The Scorpio Races is a novel of dual narrations and a unique mythology. Think killer mermaids, but as horses. Water horses swim underwater and come to shore around October every year. People try to catch these human-hating horses so they can ride one for the Scorpio Races on November 1st. For this island, the races are their only tourism pull. It’s a huge deal, which is a bit morbid because quite a few people die every year. So we have our two characters: Puck Connolly (real name is Kate) and Sean Kendrick. They both desperately need to win for specific reasons, and yet they find themselves working together.

After reading the synopsis, I assumed this was a Hidalgo-like race. One that would take a few weeks to complete. I WAS COMPLETELY WRONG. It takes until page 380 out of 409 pages to start the race. However, this does not mean the book is boring. No way. The racers are required to spend two weeks training on the beach. And trust me, it gets exciting.

Also along the way to the race, the reader gets to see the different motives that drive Puck and Sean to race. We see Puck’s family life (I want Finn to be my brother) and Sean’s love for “his” horse, Corr. And because they both are so perfect for each other, Sean and Puck begin to fall in love. Their romance in NO way dominates the storyline. The plot continues to revolve around the coming race. However, their connection gives them a different opinion on their desired outcomes.

I was concerned about the ending, but Maggie worked it out smoothly in a way I wasn’t even considering as an option. It’s refreshing to be unsure of a book’s ending. The writing style was fine, nothing much to complain about except that the action scenes were sometimes very confusingly written. I found myself having no idea of what just happened.

Hopefully there won’t be a sequel because it really doesn’t need one.

Definitely read this. I highly enjoyed it and found it entirely compelling.

Content Warning: Occasional language and kissing.

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Review: Beguiled

Title: Beguiled
Authors: Deeanne Gist & J. Mark Bertrand
Published: 2010 by Bethany House Publishing
Version: Paperback
Obtained: Bought

Rylee Monroe, a dogwalker in Charleston's wealthiest neighborhood, never feared the streets at night. But now a thief is terrorizing the area and worse, someone seems to be targeting her. Reporter Logan Woods is covering the break-ins with the hope of publishing them as a true-crime book. The more he digs, the more he realizes this beguiling dogwalker seems to be at the center of everything.As danger draws ever closer, Logan must choose: Chase the girl, the story, or plunge into the shadows after the villain who threatens everything?



First Sentence:
Something wasn’t right.”

Ugh. I’m just going to say it right up front: I did not enjoy this book.

Imagine this scenario. Take Christian aspiring romantic fiction novelist. Combine her with an “acclaimed, yet has only written one book” Christian suspense writer. Now have them write a book combining both of their interests: suspense and describing attractive people.
Yeah. It didn’t work.

Not only was the descriptions of both Rylee and Logan cringingly awkward, but their entire romance was just…ehh. They were cute together and I appreciated his concern for her safety, but they went from zero to ninety in a week or two. Annoyingly, unbelievably fast. Obviously they were attracted to each other. I had to spend half the book listening to them moon on about each other’s stunning muscles, long legs, attractive figures, tempting lips, etc, etc, etc. It was like a trashy romance novel turned Christian.

The underlying message was not particularly compelling and the final moment of tension (like all intense novels have) was rather lame. The only reason I kept reading was to get closure about the mystery. With so many options for the culprit, I could not even begin to assume my guess was correct. Honestly, once I found out who it was…it was just disappointing.

But if you like an interesting suspense/mystery novel that’s Christian, and can cringe past the terrible descriptions like I did, read it. The portions that Mr. Bertrand contributed do work, while Ms. Gist needs to work on her writing.

Content Warnings: Kissing

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Series: Mara Dyer #1
Published: 2011 by Simon & Schuster
Version: Hardcover
Obtained: Library

Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
There is.
She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.
She’s wrong.


First Sentence:
"The ornate script on the board twisted in the candlelight, making the letters and numbers dance in my head."

As you may have guessed from the vague summary, this book relies on confusion, surprise, an unreliable narrator, and the reader never knowing what the heck is going on.

I don’t want to ruin too much of the plot for you because the book needs you to be confused, but essentially this is the concept: Mara Dyer has come back from a stint in the hospital after a terrible accident that she can’t remember. They’ve changed states and everything because of her, and now she’s going to a new high school. She has these really weird episodes where she sees things that aren’t there, and relives the accident (which you don’t fully understand until the end). At the same time there is tension with everyone in her life, her family, new friends, and potential boyfriend, Noah.

All of these little “episodes” just make the book SO CONFUSING; you don’t know if something really happened or not. Because Mara is telling us the story, it’s hard to understand what’s real and what’s not. There are certain long extended sequences (one in particular) which, even at the end of the book, aren’t revealed to be true or false. This type of story can be very annoying for the reader. . .

But, as it was supposed to, this book drew me in. I became immersed in Mara’s messed up mind and wanted to know all her secrets and find out all that she had forgotten. Noah was a great match for her. Even though his character was a bit of a cliché, he was still a good guy who turned out to be very helpful to her sanity and emotional health.

I might not have loved this as much as many others did, but I did enjoy the suspense and the ending was crazy and cliffhanger-y. I look forward to reading the sequel soon!

Content Warning: Kissing. A bit of language.

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Review: Maya Davis Series

Title: Cool Beans
              Latte Daze
              Double Shot
Author: Erynn Mangum
Published: All published in 2010 by NavPress
Version: Paperbacks
Obtained: Library

Cool Beans Summary:

Everything seems to be going perfectly for Maya Davis: She has a great job at a coffee shop, gets along with her parents, and is happily single. That is until her best friend unknowingly starts dating Maya’s high school sweetheart, her annoyingly perfect brother moves back to town, and her co-worker starts showing interest in her. What is God trying to teach her about life, love, and commiserating over coffee?

Latte Daze Summary:

When Maya Davis’ ex-boyfriend proposes to her roommate, Jen, their apartment becomes Wedding Central. As if that weren’t awful enough, Jen’s obnoxious mom moves in to help with the planning!
Maya's relationships really start to get crazy when her genius brother and sister-in-law announce their pregnancy, and then to top it off there’s Jack—could it be love? Who wouldn’t need a coffee break!

Double Shot Summary:

Now that Maya is engaged to Jack, the love of her life, everything should be perfect, but actually, it’s the opposite. Maya must trust that God is in control even when things seem to be a disastrous mess.

I now officially adore Erynn Mangum. I had thought that she couldn’t get much better than the Lauren Holbrook series, which was completely amazing (My review). However, apparently Erynn is just stock full of hilarious characters and great story lines that resonate with normal people like me.

Both of these series are about normal people. Normal people doing normal things. Dealing with normal problems. However, this becomes way more exciting than it sounds because Maya Davis (and Laurie Holbrook) is SUCH a character. Maya faces her insecurities like sibling rivalry, obsessive worrying, getting over long past relationships, telling the truth, etc. Yes, she’s a college graduate working at a coffee shop fulltime when she majored in English, but she’s a mostly normal 20-something Christian. As the series goes on, she matures, gets over past issues, learns to trust God more and more and commits to a relationship with none other than the dorkily amazing Jack.

I think that Maya should meet Lauren. They could bond over their love for chocolate, coffee, caffeine, junk food, and movies. Also they could tell stories of their adorable husbands. Essentially, I think Erynn writes herself, just with different issues, depending on the character.

Throwing this in here: I’m so glad these aren’t the contemporary stories that toss in a depressing death of a nice character just for drama. There is still plenty of drama in storylines that just sorta chill.

If you are a fan of contemporary Christian fiction, this series is DEFINITELY for you! Unless you like your stories all NicholasSparksian, full of drama. Then I would steer you towards historical Christian fiction (it’s either gonna be the dad or the newly married husband that dies).

:) Write on Mrs. Mangum, write on!

Content Warning: Well, there’s some VERY NON-descriptive kissing.

4 Pigs

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Review: Shadow and Bone

Title: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha Trilogy #1
Published: 2012 by Henry Holt
Version: Hardcover
Obtained: Bought

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..

First Sentence:
The servants called them malenchki, little ghosts, because they were the smallest and the youngest, and because they haunted the Duke’s house like giggling phantoms, darting in and out of rooms, hiding in cupboards to eavesdrop, sneaking into the kitchen to steal the last of the summer peaches.” (Prologue)


I couldn’t even begin to start thinking of ways to explain my love for this novel. But I have thought of the word “perfect,” and I think it works pretty well.

The pacing? Perfect.
The characters? PERFECT.
The creativity of the plot? Perfect.
The writing style? Perfect for this story.
The cover? Perfect.
The ending? Perfect.
The “prologue” and “epilogue”? Perfect.

Also, I was just so emotionally invested in the story that I couldn’t handle reading it for but a few chapters at a time, and I wouldn’t pick it up until I knew I had time to read a chapter or two. This isn’t a bad thing, mind you. It’s a completely fantastic thing. Usually if I only half-care for a book, I can read a few pages and be fine. But for Shadow and Bone, I had to have time, time without distractions in which I could absorb every beautiful word in this beautiful book.

I was completely immersed in the world of Ravka. From the customs to the language, from the geography to the food. Every character, every moment, I was drawn into this creative world, fashioned mostly after Russian customs and languages. Please let the sequels come quickly because I want more than this taste.

Alina’s journey was not unlike that of the average heroine in a fantasy adventure novel, but she succeeded in shining through her normalness. But then again, she isn’t normal at all. I mean, she thinks she’s normal. She’s weak, skinny, and clumsy, but she remains unaware of how amazing she is. She’s smart, quick, and confident. She’s honest, way more honest and snappy than you would think based on her outward appearance. I cheered when she stood up for herself or made a decision contrary to what others were telling her to do. She acted so spunky even when she was feeling ugly or weak. I don’t blame her for anything that happened. I completely stand behind her on all of her decisions, even those that turned into mistakes. She was an inspiring main character and I hope to see more of her story in future books.

I have officially found the next best love-hate character. I both love and hate the Darkling. Sometimes I found him completely hot and irresistible and other times I hated him. But it was still a love-to-hate thing.

Baghra and Genya were amazingly complex side characters. I’m still confused about Genya and where she stands on all the junk that went down at the end. I loved her so much and thinking that she might be a character I soon have to dislike, is not making me happy.

If there is ANYTHING inside of you that craves a magical fantasy full of great characters in a creative world and wonderful writing that makes you lovingly read each and every word, read Shadow and Bone. I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to. It’s just so beautiful.

Content Warnings: Kissing.

5 Pigs 
Just so much love for this book.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Review: Pretty Crooked

Title: Pretty Crooked
Author: Elisa Ludwig
Series: Pretty Crooked #1
Published: 2012 by HarperCollins
Version: Hardcover
Obtained: Bought

Willa’s secret plan seems all too simple: take from the rich kids at Valley Prep and give to the poor ones.
Yet Willa’s turn as Robin Hood at her ultra-exclusive high school is anything but. Bilking her “friends”-known to everyone as the Glitterati-without them suspecting a thing, is far from easy. Learning how to pick pockets and break into lockers is as difficult as she’d thought it’d be. Delivering care packages to the scholarship girls, who are ostracized just for being from the “wrong” side of town, is way more fun than she’d expected.
The complication Willa didn’t expect, though, is Aidan Murphy, Valley Prep’s most notorious (and gorgeous) ace-degenerate. His mere existence is distracting Willa from what matters most to her-evening the social playing field between the have and have-nots. There’s no time for crushes and flirting with boys, especially conceited and obnoxious trust-funders like Aidan.
But when the cops start investigating the string of burglaries at Valley Prep and the Glitterati begin to seek revenge, could he wind up being the person that Willa trusts most?

First Sentence:
To the locals, it was probably a weird sight: a short blond girl in a miniskirt and laced-up boots, riding through the desert on a bright orange 1970 Schwinn Suburban on an early September morning.”

This attempt at bringing a Robin Hood–esque plot into modern day succeeded in making me very ticked off at the main character, while still appreciating her kind heart.

Although this was an entertaining and funny book, the main character made a thousand idiotic mistakes in her attempts at “evening out the playing field.” I understand wanting to help those who are bullied. It’s a serious problem, and this book’s insight into the online bullying world was very depressing (I don’t understand people who want to hurt others…). However, I’m pretty sure that the way Willa went about it wasn’t very helpful at all. Instead of actually standing up to the BULLY, she just went about making the targets even bigger targets by giving them suspiciously expensive clothes. I mean, it was nice to think of them, and I’m sure the girls appreciated looking nice, but it didn’t accomplish much in the long run. Also, it took half the book before Willa decided to steal anything. The beginning was all her making friends with the rich kids and spending too much money while trying to keep up with their lifestyle. I kept getting mad at her through this portion because her mom had trusted her. Although I thought Willa was sweet to be so legitimately concerned with helping those who had less, she mostly got on my nerves for being so stupid in her plans. It was less “mischief” and more plain old “crime.”

I do not blame her one bit though for wondering about her mom. Seriously, what is up with that woman??? I need that to be resolved quickly in the next book.

Elisa Ludwig has a very firm grasp on the social world of high-schoolers. Willa’s one real friend, Cherise, is an example of girls who do things they don’t agree with just to stay friends with the popular kids. I kept wanting Cherise to REALLY stand up for what she believed in, instead of saying a few words to Kellie and Nikki, the bullies. Aidan Murphy was the love interest and I did like him. Although I never could see how he was drop-dead attractive based on the physical descriptions of him, his conversations with Willa made me like him. He was all flirtation (I never did see how he had that HUGE reputation though…) mixed with the insecurities and problems of all teenage guys. My absolute favorite character is Tre. I loved his friendship with Willa and the way he was there for her even though he didn’t agree with her (probably a lot like most of the readers actually).

The plotline just got more and more confusing and frustrating as Willa’s mom was very secretive and there was curiosity about Aidan that was never resolved. Actually, nothing was resolved in the end except Willa’s “fate” (which by the way worked out WAY too easily). It was all very ambiguous and annoying.

So bottom line: I enjoyed the perspective the author gave me and good heart of the main character, but I was rather put off by the unrealistic-ness and the stupid decisions of the main character. It was fun, and I will read the second book, Pretty Sly, which comes out May 2012, in hopes that Willa has changed a bit and the character mysteries are resolved.

Content Warnings: Language, bullying, kissing

3 Pigs

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Review: The Traitor in the Tunnel

Title: The Traitor in the Tunnel
Author: Y.S. Lee
Series: The Agency #3
Published: 2012 by Candlewick Press
Obtained: Library
Version:  Hardcover

Queen Victoria has a problem: there’s a petty thief at work in Buckingham Palace. Charged with discretion, the Agency assigns quick-witted Mary Quinn to the case. Posing as a domestic in the royal household and fending off the attentions of a feckless Prince of Wales are challenge enough, but when the prince witnesses a murder in an opium den – and scandal threatens the royal family – Mary learns that the accused killer may be someone very close to her.

Engineer and former flame James Easton, meanwhile, has his own assignment, in the sewers beneath the palace, where someone is making illicit use of the tunnels. Can Mary and James put their simmering feelings aside long enough to expose the trespasser – and avert disaster?

Steeped in suspense, romance, and high Victorian intrigue, this third book in the acclaimed Agency series finds secret agent Mary Quinn tackling her most personal case yet.

First Sentence:
The old man was all but barefoot, with only a mismatched pair of leather flaps, much eroded by time and wear, bound to his feet with strips of rags.” (Prologue)

Have I by chance ever mentioned that I love this series? Perhaps once or twice…..
My reviews of the first and second books in this amazing series can be found here:
#1 - The Spy in the House
#2 - The Body at the Tower
So if you haven’t had the chance yet to pick up the first two books, you might want to hold off on reading this review.


First off it’s the historical-ness of it. Never before has the London of the past been so utterly filthy, realistic, scary, and un-romantic. This book dealt with Queen Victoria and her family which was a nice difference from the first two.
And that leads me to my second reason for love: The differences in plot. Each book has had a completely different concept behind it. The mystery changes along with Mary’s maturity and skill level. As she gets tougher and better, things get harder and more personal.

This book finally brings Mary’s family, particularly her father, back into focus, and it’s fascinating and heartbreaking to watch her go through the full gamut of emotions concerning him. Also, the surprising, but not really surprising, changes with the Academy/Agency create greater and more creative options for the next story. I’m SO excited to see where this all goes, while I also feel really terrible about all that happened.

And the final showdown, like all good mysteries should have, was fantastic!!! This one was more of a random shock and less scary than the past two, but I was still worried for Mary and James.

James. Oh how I adore thee. So those who have read the other two were probably pretty upset on how things got left at the end of the first one…..and then again at the end of the second one. NO FEARS HERE! Since it’s the only thing that makes sense, of course they once again get thrown into each other’s paths and once again realize that YES THEY ARE PERFECT FOR EACH OTHER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Side character love: Octavius Jones. What an annoying man! But goodness, as a detestable side character, he rocks it! I kind of love him even though I’m supposed to hate him.

I’m pretty sure one more book is coming, although if it didn’t I would be content with this ending. But I CAN’T WAIT if one is coming out!!!! :D

Thank you Y.S. Lee for creating such amazing characters and such heart-stopping action/mystery that makes me feel right there in the emotion and adventure. I love you.

Content Warnings: Frequent uses of a mild curse word, sexual harassment, and kissing.

5 Pigs
For everything.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday–Glitch

Title: Glitch
Author: Heather Anastasiu
Release Date: August 7, 2012

In the Community, there is no more pain or war. Implanted computer chips have wiped humanity clean of destructive emotions, and thoughts are replaced by a feed from the Link network.
When Zoe starts to malfunction (or “glitch”), she suddenly begins having her own thoughts, feelings, and identity. Any anomalies must be immediately reported and repaired, but Zoe has a secret so dark it will mean certain deactivation if she is caught: her glitches have given her uncontrollable telekinetic powers.
As Zoe struggles to control her abilities and stay hidden, she meets other glitchers including Max, who can disguise his appearance, and Adrien, who has visions of the future. Both boys introduce Zoe to feelings that are entirely new. Together, this growing band of glitchers must find a way to free themselves from the controlling hands of the Community before they’re caught and deactivated, or worse.
In this action-packed debut, Glitch begins an exciting new young adult trilogy.

This sounds like a great new technology-based dystopian series! Also the cover is gorgeous. I love the sound of the superpowers and having to hide who they are. However, I’m not a fan of the assumed love-triangle…..

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Review: First Date

Title: First Date
Author: Krista McGee
Published: 2011 by Thomas Nelson
Version: Paperback

The last thing Addy Davidson wants is to be on a reality TV show where the prize is a prom date with the President's son.

She's focused on her schoolwork so she can get a scholarship to an Ivy League college, uncomfortable in the spotlight, never been on a date, and didn't even audition for it.

But she got selected anyway.

So she does her best to get eliminated on the very first show. Right before she realizes that the President's son is possibly the most attractive guy she has ever seen in person, surprisingly nice, and seemingly unimpressed by the 99 other girls who are throwing themselves at him.

Addy's totally out of her comfort zone but that may be right where God can show her all that she was meant to be.

First Sentence:
“‘You’re going to be on television, Addy,’ Mr. Lawrence said, as if it were a good thing.

This novel is a modern retelling of the story of Esther, from the Bible, and I think the story would have been better if it wasn’t.

If this had just been a cute, cheesy, Christian, realty show story, it would have been way better. But with needing to keep to the story of Esther, the plot became terrible. In the real tale of Esther, death is present. But in this fuzzy-feelings retelling, there is no scary almosts, no threat of death, and so the entire plot seems kind of foolish and silly. Also, in real life, King Xerxes was a bit of a creep, so it’s weird having him translated into a cute President’s son.

All the characters were a fraction of who they could have been, the plot was predictable, the resolution was way too simple, and the “deep” moments just weren’t deep. I think it comes down to the writing. Krista McGee is not a good writer. Maybe with time she could get better, but as it is, her dialogue is unrealistic and her plotlines are terrible.

I did enjoy some of the dramatic personalities of the girls on the show. I loved Kara, Addy’s best friend on the show, a very dramatic actress-type. I also enjoyed seeing the “behind-the-scenes” of the realty show.

If you’re looking for a quick, cheesy read with Christian messages, than this is the book for you. If you’re looking for a great retelling of Esther or a great contemporary romance, this is totally not it.

Content Warnings: Nothing objectionable.

2 Pigs

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

List: Favorite Books of my Younger Self

Since I am about to turn 18, I thought I should reminisce a little about my younger years. Even as a kid I was a very voracious reader and these are some of my favorites of my middle school/preteen years or younger.

I still LOVE all of these. :)

(Listed in no particular order)

Book of Bayern by Shannon Hale

These were my absolute favorites as a preteen. I love that Shannon Hale crafts such unique characters that you become genuinely attached to, and that her villains are actually very scary.


Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Ella Enchanted is still my favorite book. I absolutely ADORE Char. I love Ella for being so amazingly spunky (My nine-year-old self always wanted to be just like her). This book is simply amazing. The movie was plain old crap compared to this genius of a book.


The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine

It’s safe to say that Gail Carson Levine was my favorite author. I completely LOVED this book of sisterhood, magical items, romance, dragons, and finding courage.


Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Another winner by Shannon Hale. This was actually my first Shannon Hale book I read, and I LOVE IT. Still. I loved the character transformations  and I love Peder.
There is now going to be a sequel, and I’m so excited!!!


Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene

Oh my. It was a childhood dream of mine to be able to proudly say that I had read all the yellow hardcover Nancy Drew books. Sadly, I am still around 4 short of that goal, and I can’t remember which ones are left. But I am a faithful Nancy Drew supporter and I am proud that I never read those Trixie Belden books my mother always pushed at me. She thought I would like reading about a girl closer to my age, but what I really wanted was to read about Nancy, the 18 year-old detective, and desperately wish to be as mature and cool as she.


A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

Huge fan. I am still saddened over the lack of scenes with my favorite character, Quigley, and over the ending. But I will forever cherish these books for their uniqueness. Each book had a sort of theme, a vastly different location than the last, extraordinarily diverse cast of characters, and the constant genius of the Baudelaires.
Side Note: I was never scared of Count Olaf. Is that normal? Or is it because I watched the movie first and had Jim Carrey in my mind?


The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

These books were my first introduction into the modern fairy world. I actually started reading these because I saw some kid reading them and laughing. I figured if it made him laugh, they’re probably great books! The Spiderwick Movie was pretty great too, except it took out my favorite book, the fourth one with the dwarves.

Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Although I wasn’t allowed to read these until I turned 13, they quickly became very important to me. I will forever adore this series for just everything about them. The magic, the friendship, the romance, the adventure, the comedy, the tears, the battle against evil, the battle against self, and the tragic loss of life involved in battle. These books exemplify everything that is good about children/middle-grade books. While they are enjoyable adventures, there are also great lessons learned from the characters’ decisions.


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