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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