Monday, 30 April 2012

While He Was Away by Karen Schreck

While He Was Away
Karen Schreck
Sourcebooks Fire
[May 1, 2012]

"This is just something I have to do, okay?" I hear David say. "The right thing."

He cradles my face in his hands. He kisses me hard. Then he lets go of me. His eyes dart from me to whatever's next.


All she wants is for him to stay. She's been doing pretty well, pretending he doesn't have to go. But one day, after one last night to remember, she wakes up and there's no denying it anymore. He's gone.

When Penna Weaver's boyfriend goes off to Iraq, she's left facing life without him. As summer sets in, Penna tries to distract herself with work and her art, but the not knowing is slowly driving her crazy. Especially when David stops writing.

She knows in her heart he will come home. But will he be the same boy she fell in love with?

I read this book and then I let it sit and frankly, I'm not impressed.

I didn't really have expectations when I went into this one. I hadn't heard anything about it, but all the military novels out this year intrigue me, so of course I decided to try it. I guess the only thing I was hoping for was watching Penna and David's relationship go through his deployment, but that became a pretty minor plot line.

It was pretty well written and Penna's a nice enough character. Yet nothing was truly remarkable. I liked the characters, but the most interesting one's weren't really that well developed. I wanted more from some of the characters.

There were a couple different story lines and relationships being looked at here. And, for me, none of those story lines or relationship developments were really finished. There were a couple that had a bit of closure, but I didn't finish this book and feel satisfied with what I'd read. I felt like there was lot more that could've been said and explored and closed. Even in some of the places where there was closure, I wasn't really happy about how it ended. In other places, there were hints of a plot line that then never developed. That was kinda frustrating.

Maybe this book will work for you. It was slow and steady and well written, it just wasn't a stand out for me. It wasn't even really good for me. Maybe it's me, maybe it's the book. But if you need something with a slower pace and less romance and more family/friend relationships, then this isn't a bad book to try.

--Julie

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Discussion: Bad Book Experience...

I've discussed before how an author can end up on my instant read list if they wow me with an amazing book and how the personalities of authors can sometimes impact whether or not I'll read their books and how much I'll enjoy them...now I want to talk about how authors can sometimes end up on my Won't Read List if I have a bad experience with one of their books.

I didn't actually fully realise I did this until a few minutes ago when I saw a book on goodreads and the summary sounded interesting and the cover drew me in - and I was all set to put it on my Amazon wish list until I noticed one great big flaw: the author. 

It's nothing against the author personally, in fact she actually seems to be lovely from what I've seen of her twitter...but I read one of her books a while ago and I just hated it and I've been avoiding her other books ever since. 

I try not to go into books with expectations, but sometimes a book is so hyped up that it's impossible not to have them - and anytime I start a book, I want to love it, I want it to be good and when I have a bad experience with one book from an author, it makes me ridiculously reluctant to give any of their other books another chance.

I wasn't going to include examples of my - book avoidance, but it's difficult to explain without them. So to be clear, with the following examples: I'm usually in the minority in not liking the books mentioned and just because they didn't work for me, doesn't mean they won't for you, opinions being subjective and all that.

I'm in the very small minority of people, it seems, that didn't enjoy the book 13 Little Blue Envelopes - and I wanted to love it, because Maureen Johnson is so funny and lovely and her blog is great, but the book just didn't do it for me. And so I avoided her other books for years, even though at least two of them are ones I would have read if they had a different author name on the cover. I eventually caved with The Name of the Star and actually liked the book (enough to want to read the sequel, not enough to be totally won over and give her other books a chance quite yet).

I could not get into A Great and Terrible Beauty (and I am most definitely in the minority on that one it seems, because so many people seem to freaking adore that series) and Libba Bray is another one of those people who just seem so freaking awesome in videos and things posted online...but I haven't read any of her other books, even though two are ones I would usually have in my TBR pile by now.

I didn't like Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr and so Sweethearts remained on my shelf for years, unread and forgotten, even though it would just take a couple of hours to read it at most (sadly, I ended up just giving the book away because it felt wrong to keep it on my shelves when I'd probably never read it). I avoided books by Annette Curtis Klaus after loathing The Silver Kiss, but when I finally got over my reluctance to give her books another chance, I read and loved Blood & Chocolate.

There are plenty of other examples, but those ones are the ones that come to mind instantly because they're the ones where a big part of me actually wants to read some of their other books (or in Annette Curtis Klaus's case, I did and she won me over) but I just have a lot of trouble getting past the memory of reading the other books that put me off their books to begin with.

I think one of the problems is more that I can't tell if my problems with the book are down to the authors style of writing (the way they string words together, the way they execute plots and write characters) or if it's things that will be unique to that one book of theirs (like with The Silver Kiss - hated the plot, loathed the characters and was just bored in general but Blood and Chocolate had characters I loved, a great plot and kept me hooked from start to finish). And so I avoid the other books because I don't really like finding out when there's so many other books that I want to read that feel like less of a - risk.

I almost wish I could be blind to author names on covers because chances are, all the authors that I avoid because of one bad book experience probably have written a book that I will love (or at the very least, like and enjoy reading) - based on the summaries of some of their books, they all have at least one book that has a summary that appeals to me...and yet I'm probably missing out on their better books because it seems to take me years to get over a case of bad-book-induced-author-avoidance.

Questions:

1. Do any of you have this same problem? The whole not liking one book by an author has you avoiding the rest of their books thing?

2. Have you ever given an author on your unofficial list of avoided authors another chance and been pleasantly surprised? (Got any examples if you do?)

3. The examples I mentioned above - would you recommend any of their other books to me, even as someone who didn't enjoy some of the most-praised books by them?

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Something Like Normal
Trish Doller
Bloomsbury USA Children's
[June 19, 2012]

A powerful debut novel about a young Marine's return home from Afghanistan and the new life and love he finds while fending off the ghosts of war.

When Travis Stephenson returns home from Afghanistan, his parents are on the brink of divorce, his brother has stolen his girlfriend and his car, and nightmares of his best friend getting killed keep him completely spooked. But when he runs into Harper Gray, a girl who despises him for trashing her reputation with a middle school lie, life actually starts looking up. As Travis and Harper see more of each other, he starts falling for her and a way through the family meltdown, the post-traumatic stress, and the possibility of an interesting future begins to emerge.

His sense of humor, sense of his own strength, and incredible sense of honor make Travis an irresistible and eminently lovable hero in this fantastic and timely debut novel.

Can you say awesome?

Let's start with our protagonist, Travis Stephenson. Travis is far from perfect. He's damaged, for very understandable reasons, he's a bit of a rebel, and he's done some crappy things. But this can be said for most teenagers, even if it's not in a way you expect (my rebellion is trusting some people on the internet. I'M SUCH A REBEL, GUYS.)  I loved Travis. He was very different from narrators I usually read, in part because HE IS A GUY. He was lovely and gentle at times, but a lot of the time he was what you expect a teenager in the military to be like. Trish Doller did her research and she did it really well.

The story itself was also really different from what I usually read because the military in YA isn't exactly common. So you have a guy suffering from PTSD, trying to deal with what he saw in Afghanistan, trying to deal with his family problems, and kind of falling in love with a girl who's life he somewhat ruined. It's unique and interesting and while it has aspects we've seen before, it combines in this fantastic, beautiful way.

Guys...I wish I could explain why you need to read Something Like Normal. But I can't. I can sit here and tell you it's different and it's incredible, but you don't get it until you read it. Trust me on this, lovelies. This is truly an incredible read that followed me for days, weeks, really, afterward. Trish Doller is on my insta-buy list. I trust her. I trust her writing. I trust her ability to tell me an fantastic story that most authors can't. I trust her to write something I'll love.

Run for this book. Or, you know, click "buy" on your preferred website.

--Julie

Thursday, 26 April 2012

A Q&A with Julie Kagawa and a Giveaway!

Today, we have the marvelous Julie Kagawa on the blog to talk about The Immortal Rules (which release Tuesday) and some other fun things.


After writing the Iron Fey series for so many years, how difficult was it to immerse yourself in a futuristic world filled with vampires, rabids and an enslaved human race?

It was...very different.  I think the hardest thing for me was the fact that this story does take place in the real world -- a futuristic, vampire-infested world, but the real world nonetheless.  Things had to make sense, for example: how far can a large group walk in a single day if there were no roads, they were going through thick woods, and there were children in the group?  I had to have logical reasons for everything; I couldn't just make something work "because of faery magic," lol.


Just like Meghan Chase in the Iron Fey series, the main character in The Immortal Rules, Allison Sekemoto, is a “take charge and kick butt” kind of girl.  Is this intentional? What woman – real or fictional, alive or deceased – do you look up to or admire?

Yes, Allison comes from a very different world than Meghan Chase.  Meghan's upbringing was pretty normal; Allison grew up among vampires and monsters, where every day was a fight to live, so she couldn't afford to be weak.  While Meghan had to learn to "take charge and kick butt," Allison's first impulse is stab first, talk later.  

As for female role models, the first that comes to mind--when it comes to kicking vampire butt, anyway -- is Buffy Summers.  Thank you, Joss Whedon, for making me love feisty, snarky, heroines who can dust all sorts of nasties but who also look good in a cheerleading outfit. ;)  

You mention in your acknowledgements in The Immortal Rules that at the beginning of your writing career you promised yourself you wouldn’t write a vampire book.  What changed your mind?

Well, there were already so many really good books about our favorite bloodsuckers, so many stories and ideas, I thought I didn't have anything new to add to the masses.  I was actually toying with a post-apocalyptic YA novel when my agent mentioned I might want to try writing a vampire series.  I wasn't intrigued with the idea at first, but then I thought about combining vampires with the post-apocalyptic novel and then rest sort of fell into place.   

Allison claims she hates vampires and believes they are monsters yet when faced with a choice of die or become one, she becomes a vampire.  Would you have made that same decision?  

Me personally?  No.  I'm like Zeke in the belief that there is something better waiting for me beyond this life, and I just have to do my best until it’s time for me to go.  Besides, I love pizza and Mountain Dew too much to give it up.

Who do you think the most complex character is in The Immortal Rules?

Probably Kanin, Allie's sire.  He's a vampire who has made his peace about being a monster, yet chooses to live by his own set of moral rules.  He warns Allison about getting too close to humans, yet he does not kill unless he absolutely has to.  He is tormented about something in his past that he refuses to share with anyone.  He is certainly the most mysterious of all the characters, if not the most complex.

How many books will be in the Blood of Eden series?  When will the next book be coming out?

At the moment, there are three books planned, with the second coming out sometime next spring, after the release of the new Iron Fey series this fall.

Before you starting writing full time you were a professional dog trainer.  Do the professions share any similarities?

Lol, well you have to think on your feet a lot.  And some of the small dogs could be compared to tiny snapping goblins, but writing requires less dodging skills, though perhaps the same amount of creativity and problem solving.

When starting a new series, like Blood of Eden, do you have the entire series mapped out in detail or do you let the story develop book by book?

I have a high point that I write toward in each story; I know this and this has to happen, but getting from point A to point B usually develops as I go along.

And for the speed round:
What book have you read and re-read, and read yet again?

Any of the Harry Potter books.

Favorite song to play when writing a fight scene?

My "favorites" change daily.  Right now its "Awake and Alive" by Skillet.

Worst job?

Working a kiosk in the mall during Christmas.  It sold glass figurines, and the maneuvering space around the hundreds of very breakable merchandise was quite small.  I was like a bull in a china shop.

Best vacation spot?

Walt Disney World

Sweets or salty?

Sweet.

One thing most people don’t know about you – and would never guess!

I used to play the flute when I was a kid.  I was really good at it too, but my instructor stopped teaching to have a family, and I never went back to it. 


And now that you know a bit more about The Immortal Rules and Julie herself, I have a giveaway for you!
One finished copy of The Immortal Rules can be in your hands and all you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form below.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa



The Iron King
by Julie Kagawa


Summary: Meghan Chase has a secret destiny; one she could never have imagined.
Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school or at home.

When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change.

But she could never have guessed the truth - that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face; and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.
Generally, I don't like books about fae/fay/faeries (however you'd like to spell it) and there are few exceptions. I'm not sure what it is about them--whether it's the world, the courts, the nature of fae, their usual attitudes to humans or the word games and manipulations and tricks, I dunno--but usually, I don't like stories where fae are the focus (unless it's fae in our world instead of showing theirs too, but even then...).

I loved this book. The fact that it was a book about fae and I still loved it? Impressive. The fact that it was a book about fae, mostly set in the fae world, and I still loved it? Even more impressive. I really, really wish I had a read it sooner; everyone kept saying how awesome it is and I've had it on my shelves for ages but the fae aspect of it had me putting it off.

It's 5:41am right now so I kind of can't think of much to say about the book really and I don't think that will change later. Plot? Loved it, never bored me. Characters? Awesome, particularly Grim, Puck and Ash (can I please keep Puck and Ash?). Romance? Adored it, it didn't dominate the book and it seemed to be setting up for a love triange in future books but this is one of those rare times that it doesn't bug me because it was done well and I genuinely don't know which character I'd be rooting for because I love them both (I do hope they consider just having a polyamorous relationship really if it goes down the love triangle path, that way everyone wins - but I doubt that'd happen).

Really, if I try to think of negative things about the book, there is hardly any and they're trivial at best (like the fact that Meghan refers to her brother as her "half brother" so often instead of just her brother, or that her mum calls her step dad Meghans father - but those are just little irritations based on personal reasons,  or the fact that some names didn't ever stop sounding silly, like the "Nevernever"). The only big-ish thing that bugged me was that Meghan seemed weak too often for my liking and always seemed to need to be rescued - I kept wishing she had a bit more fight in her (beyond just determination to save someone), but there was a turning point and she got pretty bad ass in spite of the odds being against her and I ended up liking her character even more for how much she grew and how different she was from in the beginning.

Anyway, loved the book, it'd get 4.5 stars out of 5 (maybe even 5...probably closer to 5 actually) and I really wish I had the sequels to read right now. I'm on a book buying ban but I may have to break it soon to get the next books that are released.

Later.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Plagiarising, Bullying, Equality and Finding Conclusions

When I talk about the current YA drama, I usually keep it on my twitter. If I were to post every time there was drama on the blog, I'd never get to talk about books. And you probably care more about the books, right? Right. But this time, I had a hard time keeping quiet and I couldn't pick a place to vent all my feelings and I wasn't sure where it could even fit.

From a really young age, I've been taught that certain things were wrong either by my parents, my teachers, my religion, T.V., or my older siblings. There's the obvious, like killing people, but it was also important that I learned that intentionally hurting other people is wrong, stealing is wrong, and plagiarism is wrong. I've also been taught that we have democracy for a reason. I can't remember a time when I didn't know these basic things.

Let's start with plagiarism. I don't want to name names and I'm doing my best to avoid the specifics of the case that inspired this post, and I'd appreciate it if you didn't in the comments either. I just wanna talk about the ideas this event is bringing up.

Why is plagiarism wrong? I mean, we all know it's bad, but why? Let's start there.

When you plagiarize something, you're stealing another persons idea, work, layout, concept, words, whatever it may be. You're taking it away from them and claiming it's wholly yours. Not even touching on the legality of it, it's rude. It's mean. It's inconsiderate. It's unprofessional. It's something, as lovers of the written word that is so easily taken and reclaimed, should be entirely against.

Sometimes, we accidentally take things. We get this idea and don't realize we only had it because our subconscious has it stored in memory from when we did see it. Other times we're so inspired by something, we go to make it our own and don't really manage to do it. It might be accidental, but it's still plagiarism.

If you intentionally plagiarized someone's work, then I have no pity for you. None whatsoever. No amount of apologies or begging will fix that. But if you did it accidentally? Then it becomes trickier. Yeah, I still want to see an apology and I want an apology for those you took from and I want an explanation. If you keep the posts up, I definitely want to see you credit those people you took from.

But how do we tell the difference? It's nearly impossible to tell when someone's lying on the computer. There's no body language to read, no voice inflictions to listen for, only words. That's not a question I can answer for you, friends. All I can do is point you in the direction and let you figure it out for yourself.

Recently, there's been a lot of talk about the fact that some of the Big Six colluded about ebooks in order to prevent Amazon from forming a monopoly on ebooks and now the publishers that haven't settled are going to court against the Department of Justice. I asked my teacher, who likes talking about current events, which was worse, forming a collusion or letting a monopoly form. He couldn't answer the question. I still can't.

So, what's worse, being a plagiarist or a bully?

As we've discussed, plagiarism is wrong. No doubt about it. But so is bullying. Does it become okay to bully a plagiarist because they've done something wrong? No, I don't think it is.

It's one thing to discuss what's happened, to be upset and disappointed and confused. It's one thing to say you won't be visiting that blog or reading those author's books. It's another to wage a hate campaign. It's another to attack from all sides. I think we as a technology driven society have become really detached from the idea that there is a person on the other side of that screen. Yes, it's a person who may or may not have done something wrong, but still a person with feelings and thoughts and people who love them. And we're not talking about a murderer here, we're not talking about someone who tortures small animals and babies for fun.

And, to go for the cliche, two wrongs don't make a right. Berating, attacking, and trying to hurt a person who may or may not have plagiarized isn't going to fix things. It isn't going to undo what that person might've done. And maybe this is just me, but it's not going to make you feel better.

I've been bullied, online and in person, as many of us have. I've also been the bully. I've done things that I look back at now and regret, a lot of it because of an accident or a misunderstanding that I didn't take time to look into, but I've done some things on purpose.The two events that stick out in my mind brought me to tears when I realized what I'd done. The first event I was able to fix, but I still feel bad. I don't have a lot of regrets in life, but all three of these things would be on the list of events I wish I could redo.

Many bloggers have commented on what this is going to do to our already pretty poor reputation as bloggers, myself included. At first, I hadn't heard about the attacks that came after, just about a major blogger who plagiarized and I thought "Dear God, if this one can do it, why would publishers trust any of us?" Then I learned about the bullying that came after and my heart sunk. The YA community has always been so anti-bully. What will outsiders think if one of the most well known YA bloggers who's very against plagiarism is caught plagiarized, then a community against bullying starts bullying that blogger? How can we be so hypocritical? How can those observing trust us to be honest with anything?

Someone who represents a community messing up is bad enough. When the rest of the community proceeds to mess up more, that looks worse. A blogger I follow on twitter (terribly sorry I can't remember who, a lot of people have been discussing this) brought up a good point. People may not judge a community based on the actions of one, but when two or three or more act poorly, then that community may be judged on that.

Many of us agree that the plagiarist shouldn't be bullied. Hurrah, an agreement! However, from there we start differing. Maybe we should leave it alone entirely because this blogger's so important, maybe we never should've heard about it at all. Maybe we should make this HUGE because look at how important they are! We can't let this blogger get off easy! Even I'm not totally sure how to handle this

For those of you who haven't noticed, I'm an American. I believe that we should all be equal, even among bloggers. Is this a big deal because of who the blogger is? Yes. But shouldn't it be a big deal every time? Of course it should!

I do get both sides, I do! And if anything, I tend to lean towards making it bigger than normal. When the average Joe messes up, some people notice. When the president messes up, a lot of people notice and, theoretically, we keep the president from being president again. And while none of this is THAT huge of a deal, I kind of look at it the same kind of way. Like a president, YA bloggers have certain figure heads to the rest of the world. So shouldn't this be the same? Shouldn't we also notice, say something, and try to keep the blogger from being as prominent as they were before? Is it that simple? 

This then leads me to feel this would be a lot better if we didn't have certain bloggers that represent us to the outside world. This whole mess would be a lot easier and less complicated if all bloggers really were equal and there wasn't this hierarchy decided by followers and page views and how long we've been around. If we took turns representing the community and numbers and how long you've been blogging stopped being so important. But, that's just a silly dream, isn't it?

So, what's the moral of the story? It might be that I can be highly idealistic.

Really, I'm not sure there is a moral or a conclusion that we can come to. But, I needed to get this off my chest and try to explain how I felt. And I hoped that maybe I could reach other people who are watching this mess, or maybe even involved, so we could all try to find the bottom. And maybe I'm kind of hoping that those that have bullied will stop and think. Maybe.

If you know what's going on, I hope you can figure out how you feel, because I sure can't. If you do or don't, I hope you can think about all of this and find a conclusion. And I really hope we can all stop plagiarizing, stop bullying, and try to be equal.

--Julie

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

The Immortal Rules
Julie Kagawa
HarlequinTEEN
[April 24, 2012]

In a future world, Vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity.

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.

Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them. The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked—and given the ultimate choice. Die… or become one of the monsters.

Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.

Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend—a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.

But it isn't easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what—and who—is worth dying for.

This is not your average YA vampire novel. But then again, it's Julie Kagawa, so why would you ever expect average?

So, Allie is five kinds of badass. She's an orphan, she takes care of herself and kinda takes care of another kid, she can fight, and she's willing to creep into territories a lot of other people are afraid to. Then as a vampire? The badassery continues to grow. She learns a lot, she becomes a better fighter, the girl wields a katana, guys. 

Now, I'll be totally honest, I was kinda bored at first. It's a big book, it has a lot of build up before you get to the main plot. I'm pretty sure that build up is because it's necessary information for later books in the series and I'll be glad it was there to set up the future books, but it made it kind of hard to get into.This might've had something to do with the fact I decided to do a read-a-thon but I was restless as I always am when I try to make myself sit down and read. It could also have to do with the fact that the romance didn't kick in until the second half of the novel and, well, do I really need to explain?

The world building was really well done. I could picture the world, I understood how it came about. Because while this is a vampire novel, it's a dystopian vampire novel. Which, hard to imagine, but read it and then it all makes sense. But Julie was really thorough with how things worked and any unanswered questions, I don't doubt will be answered in the sequels.

Despite everything The Immortal Rules has going (awesome writing, solid world building, badass main character, dystopian, romance), we just didn't click. It was a really good book, but something was missing for me. Don't even try to ask me to figure it out, because I can't. But that IT factor wasn't there and it made me kind of angry with myself. How could I NOT absolutely love and adore and obsess over this book? I dunno, it bothers me though.

Despite my lack of IT factor, I still really enjoyed The Immortal Rules, especially once I got into the second half. And I still plan to read the sequels because I know Julie puts out quality work and if this series is anything like the Iron Fey series, each book just gets better.

For a second opinion: Two Chicks on Books

--Julie

Masque of the Red Death and Purity Release Today!

Just a quick note that Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin AND Purity by Jackson Pearce release today!

Masque of the Red Death:

Definitely pick these up today!

--Julie


Monday, 23 April 2012

Books I've Read But Won't Be Reviewing (3)

It's that time again! Here's the most recent batch of books I've picked up but won't be doing an official review for.

My Wicked Earl
Linda Needham
Avon Books
[August 1, 2001]

 A Dangerous Lord

Forced to live with her enemy Hollie Finch is horrified when the forbidding Earl of Everingham Lord Charles Stirling, places her under house arrest in his manor. Well, he may suspect her of sedition, but to her it's just freedom of the press -- and she's determined to carry on her work right under his arrogant nose Yet that turns out to be unexpectedly difficult, with his all-too-disturbing presence disrupting her days...and memories of his passion-dark eyes troubling her nights.

An Impossible Love

Lord Charles Stirling merely planned to keep a close eye on the lovely rabble-rouser -- and he's appalled when her intoxicating scent and lithe curves make him burn to have her in his bed. Even worse, her generous heart and her joyous laughter start him thinking about keeping her with him forever. But the powerful earl has a secret that could destroy him, so he dares not let Hollie into his life. Can the pride and deception separating them ever be overcome...by the miracle of love?
I really enjoyed this one. It had a good mix of humor and tension. But it's not a huge stand out to me. Maybe because hours of finishing, I started...

To Wed a Wicked Earl
Olivia Parker
Avon
[August 18, 2009]

He's on the hunt for a bride...

Adam Faramond, Earl of Rothbury, needs to find a wife—immediately! —or his beloved grandmother will leave him penniless. But Adam, an unrepentant rake, would reform for only one woman, the woman he's lusted after—and loved—for years. It's rather unfortunate, then, that Miss Charlotte Greene would never consent to be the blushing bride of a rogue...or so he thinks.

Charlotte believes that the earl, the only man whose touch leaves her trembling, would never want a woman like her. Weary of her wallflower ways, Charlotte decides that a friendship with the earl just might give her the excitement she desires. Keeping their true feelings hidden, she and Adam plan a sham ceremony to placate the dowager. But when the "marriage of convenience" takes an unexpected turn, will Charlotte and her wicked earl finally reveal their irresistible, unforgettable love—and delight in a lifetime of passion?

Note to self: Spread your earls out to avoid confusion.

I did really like this one too. It reminded me of a Sarah MacLean novel and the ending was all kinds of entertaining and adorable.

Bumped
Megan McCafferty
Balzer + Bray
[April 26, 2011]

When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society. Girls sport fake baby bumps and the school cafeteria stocks folic-acid-infused food.

Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and have never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Up to now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend, Zen, who is way too short for the job.

Harmony has spent her whole life in Goodside, a religious community, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to convince Melody that pregging for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from.

When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common.
I have many feels about this book. You see, part of me feels that if you combined Harmony and Melody, you'd get myself because I'm all about the contradictions. Another part of me isn't sure how to react to the culture they live in because it's so different, yet eerily similar, to our culture today. But basically, once I got past all the terms, I really enjoyed this book and I hope to pick up the sequel...some day.

The Wicked Ways of a Duke
Laura Lee Guhrke
Avon Books
[January 1, 2007]


She thought she was the luckiest woman in London . . .

Surviving on a seamstress' income and a steady stream of fantasies, Prudence Bosworth has always longed for love and romance. Then she inherits a fortune from the father she's never seen, with the stipulation that she wed in one year. Prudence is determined to marry for true love, and after seeing firsthand the splendid chivalry of a certain duke, only one man will do . . .

Rhys de Winter, the Duke of St. Cyres, hides his cynicism behind a quick wit and an even quicker smile. He must marry an heiress, and as luck would have it, the pretty little seamstress-turned-heiress is exactly what he needs. But he never expected to fall for Prudence, and when his shocking deception is revealed, he will stop at nothing to win her back . . . even if it means renouncing every last one of his wicked ways.

This was another cute, fun read. I really like this series (the Girl Bachelor series) because it's a bit different. This one kind of went back and forth at the end and was a bit repetitive, but I enjoyed it.

The Demon King
Cinda Williams Chima
Hyperion Books
[October 6, 2009]

When 16-year-old Han Alister and his Clan friend Dancer encounter three underage wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea, he has no idea that this event will precipitate a cascade of disasters that will threaten everything he cares about.

Han takes an amulet from one of the wizards, Micah Bayar, to prevent him from using it against them. Only later does he learn that it has an evil history—it once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. And the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back

Han’s life is complicated enough. He’s the former streetlord of the Raggers—a street gang in the city of Fellsmarch. His street name, Cuffs, comes from the mysterious silver bracelets he’s worn all his life—cuffs that are impossible to take off.

Now Han’s working odd jobs, helping to support his family, and doing his best to leave his old life behind. Events conspire against him, however. When members of a rival gang start dying, Han naturally gets the blame.

Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana’Marianna has her own battles to fight. As heir to the Gray Wolf throne of the Fells, she’s just spent three years of relative freedom with her father’s family at Demonai Camp—riding, hunting, and working the famous Clan markets. Now court life in Fellsmarch pinches like a pair of too-small shoes.

Wars are raging to the south, and threaten to spread into the high country. After a long period of quiet, the power of the Wizard Council is once again growing. The people of the Fells are starving and close to rebellion. Now more than ever, there’s a need for a strong queen.

But Raisa’s mother Queen Marianna is weak and distracted by the handsome Gavan Bayar, High Wizard of the Fells. Raisa feels like a cage is closing around her—and an arranged marriage and eroded inheritance is the least of it.

Raisa wants to be more than an ornament in a glittering cage. She aspires to be like Hanalea—the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. With the help of her friend, the cadet Amon Byrne, she navigates the treacherous Gray Wolf Court, hoping she can unravel the conspiracy coalescing around her before it’s too late.

1.) I read this book in early February. My memory's not all that great.
2.) A LOT is going on in this book. So many plot lines.
3.) I didn't have a lot of feelings about this book. It was very much a Meh book for me and those are hard to review.

So, there's our 5. Anything catch your eye? 

--Julie

Sunday, 22 April 2012

In My Mailbox 116

In My Mailbox time!

I probably shouldn't bother doing this since I think that within a couple hours of this going up, I'll probably be buying more books. Ah well, y'all just have to wait until next week!

"Bought" from Random Buzzers:
The Queen's Lady by Eve Edwards

Purchased on Kindle:
As an Earl Desires by Lorraine Heath ($1.99 on Amazon)
Between by Cyndi Tefft ($2.99 on Amazon)
Waltzing with the Wallflower by Rachel Van Dyken and Leah Sanders (.99 on Amazon)
One Perfect Rose by Mary Jo Putney ($4.30 on Amazon)

Ebooks for Review:
From What I Remember... by Stacey Kramer and Valerie Thomas

Freebies on Kindle:
A Time to Love by Barbara Cameron ($9.68 on Amazon)
Salt Bride by Lucinda Brant (On Amazon)
Brass Hearts by A. Lightbourne (On Amazon)
Out of Joint by A. Faris (On Amazon)

Any thoughts on these? What's in your mailbox?

--Julie

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Prince
Infernal Devices book 2
by Cassandra Clare 

Summary: In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa's powers for his own dark ends.

With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister's war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move and that one of their own has betrayed them.

Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will; the wall he has built around himself is crumbling.

Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do? As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart.

So I liked the first book in the series, but I had some issues with it. But this one? I really liked this book, maybe even loved it. Most of the issues I had with the first book were resolved; in the first book, it almost felt like we were just seeing the same characters from The Mortal Instruments only with name changes and put into a different time, the personalities felt the same or really close to the same...but in this book, the characters felt totally seperate from TMI characters, the character type similarities seemed to change and it made the book more enjoyable.

The plot...it doesn't hold my interest too much; it didn't bore me, but it wasn't amazing. I pretty much just kept reading for the characters and the romance. So I don't have much to say about the story itself - it might interest me more in the next book when some more unanswered questions get answers (it feels like they're all being saved up for a big reveal in the final book and until then, we keep getting a small answer that's not particularly interesting then end up with even more questions by the end of the book - kind of like taking one step forward and three steps back... which I understand, but it's frustrating).

The romance - I liked it in this. It felt like a genuine love triangle... well, for the majority of the book anyway. And that's pretty rare, usually there's one person I'm rooting for, one person that is blatantly obviously going to be the main love interest, one person the main character clearly loves while the other is just cared for/liked. I do think I know who is supposed to be endgame, and I hope it doesn't end either of the ways I think it's going to, but it does feel like the character genuinely loves both guys even if she seems to love one more than the other, and both guys really seem to love her and they're both awesome. In the first book, one of them pissed me off and the other was totally friendzoned so I didn't have much hope, but that changed in this book and they both were just - I don't know who to root for.

And this review seems to be more rambling than usual but it is 12:15pm and I have not slept yet so my brain feels kind of like it's made of cottonwool. But yeah, really enjoyed this book, it was way better than the first one (at least as far as the characters and romance goes).

Later.

Friday, 20 April 2012

When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle

When You Were Mine
Rebecca Serle
Simon Pulse
[May 1, 2012]

In this intensely romantic, modern recounting of the greatest love story ever told, Romeo’s original intended—Juliet’s cousin Rosaline—tells her side of the tale. What’s in a name, Shakespeare? I’ll tell you: Everything.    
Rosaline knows that she and Rob are destined to be together. Rose has been waiting for years for Rob to kiss her—and when he finally does, it’s perfect. But then Juliet moves back to town. Juliet, who used to be Rose’s best friend. Juliet, who now inexplicably hates her. Juliet, who is gorgeous, vindictive, and a little bit crazy...and who has set her sights on Rob. He doesn’t even stand a chance.    
Rose is devastated over losing Rob to Juliet. This is not how the story was supposed to go. And when rumors start swirling about Juliet’s instability, her neediness, and her threats of suicide, Rose starts to fear not only for Rob’s heart, but also for his life. Because Shakespeare may have gotten the story wrong, but we all still know how it ends….
Guys, let's have a little chat.

William Shakespeare is a fantastic writer, honestly. He's created a lot of words we use today, his writing is really beautiful and descriptive and there's a reason we quote him so much. However, I hate Romeo and Juliet. I hate most of the plays I've read, really, but especially Romeo and Juliet. I always thought it was stupid that Romeo would be so in love with Rosaline and then within minutes it's all about Juliet. I couldn't stand how whiny they were without each other because you're like 14 and there should be more to life than each other, no matter what time period it is. Like, don't you have something you like to do besides that? Anybody you remotely like? And you've known each other for three days, decide to run away together, then kill yourselves because of stupid misunderstandings? Just...no. I could not stand these characters. However, I usually do pretty well with Shakespeare related YA, so I decided to give this a chance. Maybe Romeo and Juliet will redeem themselves! Maybe something will be different!

I really liked Rosaline. I wasn't crazy about her friends (well meaning, fairly typical teenagers, a bit too shallow for my taste), but Rose had a bit more to her and she was nice. She was a genuinely good person and I hated seeing how upset she got about all this and how much it hurt her. She didn't deserve that, but you know, that's how the story goes.

I wanted to hate Rob from the beginning, I really did. But Rose really loved him and he seemed like this great guy, so when he went to Juliet it, it was pretty devastating to read. He was so sweet and so unsure but he wanted their relationship to work and then, again, in minutes he's in love with Juliet. I hated it in the original play and I hated it here.

The story itself was really well done. We actually understand why the families hate each other (was there a reason given? I don't think there was...) and it made some sense. Juliet is not the perfect, innocent little flower Shakespeare made her seem like, but she's also not the devil we originally believe. There were just a few little twists to make it fit with the new setting. There were also a couple twists at the end that I have mixed feelings on, but I can't really explain without spoiling things. Rebecca Serle knows how to write and I'll be happy to check out her other books in the future.

Overall...I really enjoyed most of this book. Then one little twist happened and I got upset but figured it'd work out, but it started going downhill. By the end, I do think it redeemed itself pretty well, but I can't love this book because of the little twist that I can't discuss. I was hoping for something different out of the ending and I didn't get that.

So, make of that what you will. I genuinely enjoyed the story, I was emotionally involved (maybe TOO involved) and it was well written. Just a couple factors towards the end kept me from really, really enjoying this book, but that's a personal preference. You might feel differently.

--Julie

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Scarlet
A.C. Gaughen
Walker Childrens
[February 14, 2012]

Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance.

Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in.

It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.

I have a lot of other books I should be reviewing that I read WAY before Scarlet, but we're going to call this my nod to Fairy Tale Fortnight (though I may do other actual fairy tale retelling reviews later on) which I would link you to but I'm trying to do this fast, but it's hosted by The Book Rat and some other awesome people so there you go.

So, I'm not all that familiar with Robin Hood. I've watched a documentary about how he might've been real and what would've been the true story, but I never really researched or made myself familiar with the characters.

That was something I really appreciated about Scarlet. A.C. Gaughen didn't just assume we all knew the details, she explained things. We got to know the characters in a way that mixed the original tale (I learned a lot from reading the author's note at the end) and the story Gaughen was telling. I never felt like I was missing something and instead it made me want to read more retellings to see how others take on the story of Robin Hood.

I really loved Scarlet. She was a very independent, strong character. She knows how to defend herself, she goes out of her way to feed others, she's crafty and clever, she takes care of her boys. People try to jump in and protect her and she's not putting up with that crap. She's got her knives and her wits and that's all she needs.

There's also this darker tone to Scarlet. She's had a really crappy past and it haunts her throughout the story. Family issues and money issues and guy issues and eating disorders that they can't call an eating disorder because nobody called the that back then. I really appreciated seeing this kind of stuff because first of all, it's not really talked about in historical fiction. Sure the family, money, and guy issues, but eating disorders? The type of stuff Scarlet faced before the start of the novel? I rarely see it get that dark and I think it sends a message that girls are not alone in what we face now, that girls have been dealing with this kind of stuff for centuries and people want them to get better.

I really liked reading about the boys, Robin, John, and Much. John kind of bothered me in a way. He seemed more like a brother for Scarlet, but he didn't want to be and I didn't like how he would treat her at those moments. And Robin was extremely moody, which the author does touch on in the author's note, but I would've liked to see it toned down. I also wouldn't have minded more of Much. But overall, it was fun to see them interact and work together and face their problems as a team.

A.C. Gaughen wrote a really fast paced, addicting story. I read this in a day and it's an average sized book. I started reading in the car as we were running errands and I didn't want to put it down, I even almost started reading in the restaurant we went into for lunch. Then I just sat outside for an hour and read, wanting to know exactly how it would end. It was almost dark by time I finished and I didn't really care.

So, there you go. I really, really liked Scarlet, I want more Robin Hood retellings, and I'm definitely keeping an eye out for A.C. Gaughen's next book.

--Julie

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