Thursday, September 19, 2013

Review: Crossed by Allie Condie

Title: Crossed

Author: Allie Condie

Rating: 1/2

Who Should Read It? Those who can find beauty and action in the subtle, who can find dialogue to be fast-paced, who enjoy beautifully written, great stories that take their time. If you're looking for non-stop action, this book probably isn't for you. If you're a reader like me, totally check it out.

What I Have to Say:
I read Matched a VERY long time ago, and I ADORED it. I adored Crossed (almost) just as much. Crossed was AMAZING! Seriously, I loved it! I sometimes have trouble with books (and movies, for that matter) that are too action-packed. I get bored with the action, feeling like there's just never enough substance. Crossed, while being a YA romantic action adventure story, definitely has its fair share of action. It's fast-paced and non-stop. But, it's chock full of dialogue and thought and substance. To the point where I could understand if there were maybe some who found it slow.

Th world Condie has created is absolutely terrifying but totally believable. What really struck home for me is that, despite being totally horrified by what was happening, by the actions of the government, I could totally see how something like that would work, for population control, to save the human race from our impending doom. It's refreshing, though, the characters that Condie has created. Cassia and Ky are like a breath of fresh air in this crazy world, seeing through the government, finding beauty and peace in the smallest of things, finding love in places they would never have thought to look.

I thought that Crossed was beautifully written, with poise and grace and poetry in all the right places. The story is heart-warming and frightening, and the characters are lovely. The ONLY problem I had with this book was the double perspective. It was written alternating between Ky's perspective and Cassia's perspective, and I don't feel like Condie really did a great job differentiating between their perspectives.

Final verdit - while I can see why this book might not appeal to those needing constant stimulation, I absolutely adored it, and I can't wait to read Reached, the final book in the trilogy!

Summary: In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky - taken by the Society to his certain death - only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake. Cassia's quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander - who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia's heart - change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever.

Cover Story: Beautiful! I love the blue cover and the girl trying to escape the ball that is her world. It's perfect!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Review: Bloom by Kelle Hampton

Title: Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected

Author: Kelle Hampton


Who Should Read It? I kind of think this book has a really limited audience. If you're into emotional memoirs or interested in Down's Syndrome, I'd say check this book out. Or if you just like looking at really pretty pictures.

What I Have to Say: Bloom was an incredibly touching memoir of love reached through struggle, of coming to understand love and putting aside prejudices and preconceived notions. It was beautiful, and the pictures to go along with it were more than gorgeous. Plus, I really enjoyed the reading of it. As such, I really wish that I could give this book a higher rating, but. . .I just feel like I can't.

When Kelle Hampton gives birth to a beautiful baby with Down's Syndrome, she is shocked. More than/Worse than shock, though, she is HORRIFIED. Not horrified for the baby and for the life that this PERSON will have to lead in the face of prejudiced onlookers, but horrified for herself, horrified for what other people will think. It takes her a little while to come around to feeling horrified for the child. And even though, throughout the book, she keeps moving back and forth between feeling sorry for the child and feeling sorry for herself, I actually breathed a sigh of relief. Regardless of whether or not she was doing it for the child (or, no doubt subconsciously, doing it for image), she was going to be taking care of this child, creating a secure, loving environment in which this child could grow and be nurtured.

I have no children, and I have no clue how I would react if I ever unexpectedly had a child with Down's Syndrome, but. . .I just hope I wouldn't react like Kelle did. I hope that I would immediately love the child, that I wouldn't spend months, years, going back and forth about whether or not this child was a burden for me or whether or not this child was going to be a burden for my other child. I know we're all selfish, and I appreciate everything Kelle went through and just how HARD this must have been for her. But still, I sometimes just found her so selfish and image-obsessed that I couldn't relate, that I hated her a little.

I think it was amazing and beautiful that she was able to get all of her feelings out there; that she was brave enough to chronicle what she was feeling for the world, even knowing that sometimes she was feeling things she probably shouldn't be feeling. She is a brave, beautiful, and courageous woman, and, on the one hand, I look up at her in awe. I know how hard it is to keep staying positive, keep moving forward when everything around you makes you just want to stop. She kept her head up and kept looking for positive, and for that, I loved her and I loved this book. On the other hand, there were so many things that she thought and felt that I just wish she hadn't thought and hadn't felt.

The thing that, more than anything, got me about this book was that I felt like she never truly CHANGED. I didn't get the feeling in the end that she had gotten over image and learned to love her daughter. I got the feeling that she had learned to accept her, and that for the sake of image she would do what she could to raise her. But I still feel like there was a large part of her that was confused and horrified. Anyhow, I'm just glad the child will have a loving environment in which to grow up.

Summary:There is us. Our Family. We will hold our precious gift and know that we are lucky . . . From the outside looking in, Kelle Hampton had the perfect life: a beautiful two-year-old daughter, a loving husband, and a thriving photography career. When she learned she was pregnant with their second child, they were ecstatic. But when their new daughter was placed in her arms in the delivery room, Kelle knew instantly that something was wrong. Nella looked different than her sister, Lainey, had at birth. As her friends and family celebrated, a terrified Kelle was certain that Nella had Down syndrome—a fear her pediatrician soon confirmed. Yet gradually Kelle embraced the realization that she had been chosen to experience an extraordinary and special gift. With lyrical prose and gorgeous photography, Bloom takes readers on a wondrous journey through Nella's first year of life—a gripping, hilarious, and intensely poignant trip of transformation in which a mother learns that perfection comes in all different shapes.

Cover Story: I actually initially wanted to read this book because I thought the cover was so beautiful.

Note: I received this book for review via Shelf Awareness in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Review: The Silver Dream by Michael Reaves and Mallory Reaves

Title: The Silver Dream: An Interworld Novel

Author: Neil Gaiman, Michael Reaves, and Mallory Reaves


Who Should Read It?you definitely can't read the Silver Dream without having first read Interworld, but if you're into sci-fi/fantasy action youthful excitement, check this series out!

What I Have to Say:
Joey Harker is back, and he's just as brave, courageous, and troublesome as ever. Just like with Interworld, in the Silver Dream be ready for an adventure full of magic, logic, technology, and mind-blowing time-bending, and it is the absolute perfect follow-up. Interworld got a bit clunky and wordy at times, which led to it occasionally being somewhat boring. The Silver Dream did no such thing; it started off with a running jump, with the introduction of the mysterious and super-cool Acacia, and continuing soaring right up until the very end.

My favorite part of the Silver Dream was that we got to know some of the other "Joeys" a bit better. None of them were nearly as well developed as THE Joey (perhaps one of the problems with this book; the only character who seems to go through any character development at all is Joey Harker, the main character), but it was fun getting to know them and better understanding how they interact with each other and how they live on Interworld itself.

I really love the idea of the Interworld series in general. Versions of the same person from all the parallel universes (there seems to be an endless number of them) are able to "walk" through the universes, and, as such, they have all come together to protect the "ultraverse" from the bad guys (HEX and Binary, super cool bad guys). I genuinely can't imagine what it would be like to meet the "me" from different parallel universes, and I love reading about how they react to each other, what they think about each other, and, more than anything, the WAY the think about each other.

The Reaves/Reaves team does a great job of keeping this story fast-paced and interesting, action-packed but with enough back story and intrigue to keep even those not so into action interested. I've read a lot of reviews saying that Interworld #1 was better than this, but (and Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, so I almost feel bad saying this), I liked the Silver Dream better. I felt like it flowed better, like things were better explained. And, what was most important to me, like Joey was finally coming to understand WHY he was different than the others, which in the first book, as a topic, was totally ignored.

Anyhow, you definitely can't read the Silver Dream without having first read Interworld, but if you're into sci-fi/fantasy action youthful excitement, check this serious out! It was left on a severe cliff-hanger, so I just hope that I haven't forgotten to keep caring by the time the next book comes out!

Summary:Sixteen-year-old Joey Harker has just saved the Altiverse—the dimension that contains all the myriad Earths—from complete destruction. After mastering the ability to walk between dimensions, Joey and his fellow InterWorld Freedom Fighters are on a mission to maintain peace between the rival powers of magic and science who seek to control all worlds. When a stranger named Acacia somehow follows Joey back to InterWorld’s Base, things get complicated. No one knows who she is or where she’s from—or how she knows so much about InterWorld. Dangerous times lie ahead, and Joey has no one to rely on but himself and his wits—and, just maybe, the mysterious Acacia Jones. Full of riveting interdimensional battles, epic journeys between worlds, and twists and turns along the way, this sequel to the New York Times bestselling InterWorld is a thrilling, mind-bending adventure through time and space.

Cover Story: Is that Interworld they're staring at or Interworld they're standing on? Whatever the case, it's beautiful, and just looking at it left me totally intrigued.

Note: An e-copy of this book was received by Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review

Friday, June 28, 2013

Review: Insatiable by Meg Cabot

Title: Insatiable

Author: Meg Cabot


Who Should Read It? People willing to put away their serious for a minute and read Meg Cabot doing a romantic comedy esque social commentary on vampires. I can see it not being for everyone, but I thought it was fabulous!

What I Have to Say:
It's really hard for me to review Meg Cabot books for many reasons. First, because I just love her, and in my mind, she can do no wrong. So, even if she does do wrong (which, I'll admit, she maybe did a little bit in this one), I just don't notice, or at least don't want to admit it. Second, because I just want to gush and squeal and say the same thing about EVERY SINGLE ONE of her books.

And that same thing is - Meg Cabot has done it again!

While Insatiable in no way takes a fresh, new, or exciting look at vampires, it did manage to be adorable and make me forget that, ultimately, I am SO OVER vampires (though with the books I've been reviewing lately, you might not know it). Cabot herself seems to know that there is WAY TOO MUCH vampire out there lately, and through snarky, sees-when-people-are-going-to-die Meena, her can't-seem-to-get-it-together brother John, and the ever so hot Lucien Antonescu, she actually seems to be making fun of the fact that she caved and wrote a vampire book.

All of her characters are fun and quirky and lovable, with slight personality disorders, which just makes them even more lovable. the romance is sickening and sappy while at the same time making fun of sickening and sappy. The plot is completely over the top, but researched in such a way that you're like "Oh yeah," and you suddenly find yourself believing in vampires and dragons and crazy when none of the other vampire books you've read ever made you feel that way. And then you laugh at yourself because you fell for the extreme.

This book is a hilarious social commentary on the vampire craze, and it should be read as such. It's not trying to be serious, but it does seriously kick butt.

Summary:Sick of vampires? So is Meena Harper. But her boss is making her write about them anyway, even though Meena doesn’t believe in them. Not that Meena isn’t familiar with the supernatural. See, Meena Harper knows how you’re going to die (not that you’re going to believe her; no one ever does). But not even Meena’s precognition can prepare her for what happens when she meets—then makes the mistake of falling in love with—Lucien Antonescu, a modern-day prince with a bit of a dark side . . . a dark side a lot of people, like an ancient society of vampire-hunters, would prefer to see him dead for. The problem is, he already is dead. Maybe that’s why he’s the first guy Meena’s ever met that she could see herself having a future with. See, while Meena’s always been able to see everyone else’s future, she’s never been able look into her own. And while Lucien seems like everything Meena has ever dreamed of in a boyfriend, he might turn out to be more like a nightmare. Now might be a good time for Meena to start learning to predict her own future . . . If she even has one.

Cover Story:I just noticed the tattoo. I'm SUPER tired of YA books where the cover girl is missing her head. I wonder if this, too, is supposed to be some kind of social commentary.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Review: Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

Title: Along for the Ride

Author: Sarah Dessen

Who Should Read It?Sarah Dessen mold: teenage girl with family problems (and thus problems of her own) falls in love with boy off the beaten track and must overcome obstacles to make the romance happen. Sound interesting? Then this book is for you.

What I Have to Say:
As is often the case for Sarah Dessen, this book was absolutely ADORABLE! Heart-wrenching, cutesy, deeply intense, adorable. Dessen has this way of reaching into the reader's heart and finding the teenage girl within, and Along for the Ride is no exception to this. While Auden's teenage-girl situation is quite a bit different than mine was, I found myself transported back to the dramas

I loved Auden, with her intelligence that was limited only to books. I loved how selfish and self-centered she was without even seeming to notice. I loved how much she grew throughout the book and, ultimately, began to turn into someone I might actually like. Turned from someone I could have related to as a teenager to starting to be someone I could relate to now (for the record, I would have MEGA trouble relating to my teenage self). I loved Eli I loved Maggie and Leah and Ester and Adam. Even the secondary characters were given enough depth, enough personality to make them interesting. I love the life-lessons that Auden manages to learn, which to me today seem totally obvious, but which were definitely much less obvious to my teenage self. For me Dessen is a master of creating wonderful, believable teenagers, and, in Along for the Ride, she has not failed.

I also love the way the story progresses. Dessen has taken an extremely rare situation and turned it into something that can be FELT by everyone. Somehow, in Along for the Ride, I felt like the plot didn't move along smoothly or have shocking, unexpected happenings, I felt like the plot actually grew. And the growth of the plot was more than appropriate, as the theme of Along for the Ride seems to be "growth." Growth through friendship, growth through romance, growth through family, growth through new experiences, growth through growth.

Along for the Ride had me laughing and in tears all at the same time, and for totally different reasons than I would have expected when I started reading. I felt like I myself maybe grew a little bit through the reading. It's a fabulous book with a fabulous story, and I highly recommend it. It's a great vacation read (I read it lying by the pool in Turks and Caicos), but I think it's also the perfect read for a cold winter night by the fire, dreaming of summer. Definitely check this book out!

Summary:It’s been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents’ divorce—or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live. A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend. In her signature pitch-perfect style, Sarah Dessen explores the hearts of two lonely people learning to connect.

Cover Story: Tooooootally off. Not into it at all!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Review: the Dark Heroine: Dinner With A Vampire by Abigail Gibbs

Title: the Dark Heroine: Dinner With a Vampire

Author: Abigail Gibbs


Who Should Read It? I honestly wouldn't recommend it to anyone, and I'd even advise people against it, as it is awful. But I know there are a LOT of fans of this book out there, so I recommend reading my review then reading a couple other more positive reviews and making the choice for yourself.

What I Have to Say:
Let me start off with a quick one sentence review: This book was awful.

It is VERY rare that I read a book that is part of a series (or a trilogy or that just has a sequel) and, at the end, decide that there is NO POSSIBLE way I will read the next book in the series. Usually, no matter how much I dislike a book, there's always at least that SMALL possibility that, somewhere along the line, I'll end up reading the next one.

the Dark Heroine: Dinner With a Vampire, is an exception to that. I have NO desire to read the next one, and I will remember this book forever just so that I remember not to read it. That sounds harsh, and I know it is, but this book lacks every quality ever known to a good book.

First, I felt like Gibbs is still trying to figure out her writing style. Some parts were so long and overly drawn out that they nearly put me to sleep while other parts were so extremely compact and filled with pointless action that I wished they were putting me to sleep, just to get it over with. Her characters, while trying to be full of spunk and umpf, were completely lackluster. When they did, occasionally, do things to make them stand out, it was mostly to make me sincerely dislike them. Violet, the main character, is annoying, petty, and delusional (She thinks that only vampires do bad things, never humans. Um, seriously? Everything about her screams annoying, snotty, bratty spoiled rich kid), and yet we are SUPPOSED to like her. Oh, AND she's vegetarian. Which normally, being a vegan, I would think was awesome. But I wish she weren't, because she gives a terrible name to vegetarians everywhere, and the fact that she is doesn't become nearly as much a part of the book as it should.

And then there's the fact that the love interest regularly tries to rape the main character, and this is written about as if it's totally okay. And she falls in love with him for it. I feel like there are ways to treat falling in love with your rapist, and this is TOTALLY NOT IT! (Yet somehow, when someone ELSE tries to rape her and drink her blood, he deserves to die. Yeah,. . .)

Lastly (though not really, just lastly for this review), there's the plot, which was supremely awful and awfully developed. I kind of got the feeling that she herself didn't know what the plot was going to be until somewhere around the last chapter of the book. Which means there was no buildup to it, because the author herself didn't even seem to know where she's going. And when finally the plot reveals itself, it's in such an underwhelming way that you expect that there has to be something more. There never is. It's undeveloped, boring, and full of holes.

Seriously, don't ask me how I managed to finish this book. I really don't know. I feel like screaming DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME!!!!

Summary: A chance encounter on a darkened street draws Violet Lee into a world beyond her wildest imaginings - a timeless place of vast elegance and immeasurable wealth, of beautiful mansions and lavish parties, where a decadent group of friends lives for pleasure alone. A place from which there is no escape... no matter how hard Violet tries.

All the riches in the world can't mask the darkness that lies beneath the gilded surface, embodied in the charismatic but dangerous Kaspar Varn.

Violet and Kaspar surrender to a passion that transcends their separate worlds - but it's a passion that comes at a price

Cover Story: I WISH the cover were less cool, then maybe I wouldn't have ready it.

Note: I received this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Review: the Registry by Shannon Stoker

Title: The Registry

Author: Shannon Stoker

Rating: 1/2

Who Should Read It? Like chick lit? Into dystopian fiction? Ever thought you might want a mix of both? Then this book is DEFINITELY for you!

What I Have to Say:
The Registry is a cute story about a dystopian future in the United States. To call it cute is perhaps somewhat weird, as it takes place in a future where women are groomed uniquely to be married, then sold off to their husbands, who are allowed to do with them what they please, via a registry; where boys are given to the government as soon as they're born, then thrown out, with nothing, when they're teenagers, to try to survive a heartless world until their military service. So cute? It doesn't really sound appropriate, and yet, that's what it felt like to me. Because of Mia. A completely innocent, somewhat refreshing girl who spent her entire life dreaming of marriage, until. . .

Mia, just like nearly every other girl, was groomed to be a "perfect fit" for any husband - brainless and entirely concerned with her looks, makeup, fashion. The story is told from her point of view, and so even though it takes place in a dystopian future, and even if their are quite a few deep political undertones, everything just seems innocent and simplistic. At first, this is great, but I would have liked her, along with the other characters, to develop a little bit more as the story develops. She doesn't, and neither does Andrew, her love interest. As such, it becomes hard to believe why she thinks some of the things she supposedly thinks, why they do some of the things they supposedly do.

As characters, though, they were far-more developed than any of the others, who remained somewhat 2-dimensional (or even 1-dimensionl) throughout. While this was frustrating, it was also, in a weird way, refreshing. For one thing because it made it very clear that it doesn't take a genius to see that change needs to happen, but also because it made a somewhat intense story seem somewhat fluffy while still managing to hold tight to the message.

Overall, I liked it. It was fluffy but intense, deeply political yet innocent. Even though it takes place in the future in the United States, I sort-of felt like I was reading about North Korea, and it seems more likely that something like this story happen there than here. Though I'm not sure the author meant for it to, reading it I felt the need to become more aware of the plight of North Koreans. It was a whirlwind of excitement and action. And while there were definitely some negatives about this book, I definitely enjoyed it. And I'm definitely looking forward to the next one to come!

Summary:The Registry saved the country from collapse. But stability has come at a price. In this patriotic new America, girls are raised to be brides, sold at auction to the highest bidder. Boys are raised to be soldiers, trained by the state to fight to their death.

Nearly eighteen, beautiful Mia Morrissey excitedly awaits the beginning of her auction year. But a warning from her married older sister raises dangerous thoughts. Now, instead of going up on the block, Mia is going to escape to Mexico—and the promise of freedom.

All Mia wants is to control her own destiny—a brave and daring choice that will transform her into an enemy of the state, pursued by powerful government agents, ruthless bounty hunters, and a cunning man determined to own her . . . a man who will stop at nothing to get her back.

Cover Story: I'm going to be honest - I don't get it. That's all.

Note: I received this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Book Club: Review: Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs

So, I mentioned a while ago (I know, I haven't been as great at updating as I would like to be/as I promised I would be. I'm aiming for once a week, but I figure, as long as I manage at least twice a month, I'm good) that I'd joined a book club. We had our first meeting last week, and we talked about the book Naked Lunch. Amazingly, all of the girls in the club seemed to feel the EXACT same way about this book.

Title: Naked Lunch

Author:William S. Burroughs

Rating: 1/2

Who Should Read This?
Honestly, no one. I genuinely can't think of a single person to whom I would recommend this. Not one. And yet, obviously there are people that enjoyed it. I don't know them, and, honestly, I can't even imagine them. If you're one of them, please tell me, WHAT about this book appealed to you?

What I Have to Say:
I can think of no way to describe this book other than "piece of trash." Normally, I would feel AWFUL about calling any book, no matter how terrible, a piece of trash. No matter what I think of it, a book is the author's life blood, their baby. And yet I have no qualms whatsoever saying just that about Naked Lunch. It's a piece of trash. And the fact that the author claims he doesn't actually even REMEMBER writing it makes me feel even less guilty about calling it such.

And honestly, all of the other girls in the book club thought so, too.

Naked Lunch SEEMS to be about a spy, though it's really hard to say, as the moments of coherency are few and far between. Written while he was on heroin, as well as a slew of other drugs, and it seems to be him TRYING to tell a story but actually spending more time describing the ludicrous and ludicrously trashy life of a drug addict who just may also be a sex addict. Sometimes, it felt like his entire purpose in writing was to shock, whether it be with the extreme descriptions of extreme sexual acts, or with what came out just by being lost on drugs. And then, every time he wrote something that actually did manage to shock, it felt like he loved himself a little bit more for it. Honestly, it felt very self-congratulatory. Like "oh, check out how AWESOME I am, I do lots of drugs and know all about the drug world!" or "Yo, check out how TOTALLY RAD I am! I have lots and lots of gay sex in ways and positions that you never even daydream about."

It literally manages to glorify something that should NOT be glorified while at the same time remaining COMPLETELY repulsive (and that's why it gets 1 1/2 stars from me and not just 1 star, because that's pretty impressive)!

Somewhere along the way, it also manages to STOP shocking. It gets to the point when you just expect next-to-non-stop "I love myself and am amazing for being able to write something that will shock you like this" "shocking" scenes about sex and drugs. And then, you're not shocked. You're just annoyed that there's still no coherency and that you can tell he's being totally self-indulgent.

Anyhow, so that's what I thought of Naked Lunch. I guess there's one thing, though - if I EVER had any thoughts of doing drugs (which I didn't), this book would have managed to turn me off. Maybe it should be mandatory reading for high schoolers. Right, well, I could go on about how much I DIDN'T like this book, but I imagine you get the point. In the mean time, if you read this book, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

Summary (that I totally disagree with) (taken from Goodreads):Since its original publication in Paris in 1959, Naked Lunch has become one of the most important novels of the twentieth century. Exerting its influence on the relationship of art and obscenity, it is one of the books that redefined not just literature but American culture. For the Burroughs enthusiast and the neophyte, this volume—that contains final-draft typescripts, numerous unpublished contemporaneous writings by Burroughs, his own later introductions to the book, and his essay on psychoactive drugs—is a valuable and fresh experience of a novel that has lost none of its relevance or satirical bite.

Cover Story: I can't actually find the cover of the version I read, but it doesn't matter. Kind of like the book, I find the majority of the covers for this book totally devoid of interest.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Review: the Heretics by Rory Clements

If you've been following me for a while, you might remember Franklin's review of "Death of Kings" by Bernard Cornwell. Well, today I'm excited to be hosting Franklin as a guest blogger once again! Lyndsey from Hodder and Soughton was so kind as to send us a copy of it, and it seems like Franklin loved it, so enjoy! Title: The Heretics

Author: Rory Clements


Who Should Read It?
This book should be read by anyone that is interested in Elizabethan politics and religious intrigue of 16th century England. Any fan of C. J. Sansom, the author of the “Shardlake” series, or Rory Clements would thoroughly enjoy the 5th installment of the Shakespeare series.

What I (Franklin) Have to Say:
“The Heretics” is the fifth book in the series by Rory Clements. The series is centered around John Shakespeare, an intelligencer in the employ of the Queen’s secret service that was established by Sir Francis Walsingham and passed to Sir Robert Cecil, and he is the brother of the famous William Shakespeare. Not only is England at war with Spain, the Protestant Church is continuing to struggle with, and attempt to extinguish the Catholic Church in England. Consequently, The Queen has to fear both an invasion from the Spanish and the constant threats against her life from staunch ardents of the Catholic faith. John Shakespeare is asked by Queen Elizabeth to find a young lady that has suffered the ritual of exorcism by priests. At the same time he has to investigate a possible threat to the Queen that is revealed in a letter that is discovered on a deceased merchant seaman. He will soon discover that the two cases are related via the Catholic Church. Throughout the book, and the series, the reader will get a glimpse at the great animosity that took place between the Protestants and the Catholics in 16th century England, very often leading to the loss of life.
In “The Heretics”, as well as in the prior four books in the Shakespeare series, Rory Clements brings to life the world of Queen Elizabeth’s 16th century England. He describes in detail the misery of being placed in jail at Newgate prison. The reader will understand the threat of being tortured in order to extract information from a suspect and then being brought to Tyburn to be hanged. Furthermore, he describes the effects that the plague had on everyone that resided in London. Not only where there constant political struggles for the throne and who will be the successor to Queen Elizabeth, but there were passionate struggles between the Protestants and Catholics.
“The Heretics” is easy to read, and the use of old English terms in the dialog and descriptions of the locations in 16th century London are interesting and piqué an interest in wanting to understand more about this time in history. This is another well done book by Rory Clements.

The Spanish make a quick raid in Cronwall, England. Are the Spanish planning an invation of England or is something else taking place? Sir Robert Cecil wants answers for the Queen. John Shakespeare is tasked with finding the answers, but his network of spies is murdered. Will he find the answers in Wisbech Castle? The playhouses of London? Newgate prison? Will Shakespeare be able to solve the mystery in time to save the Queen?

Cover Story:
“The Heretics” – are they the Catholics or are they the Protestants? Thanks so much, Franklin! And thanks so much to Lyndsey as well, for sending the book this way! :-)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Title:A Discovery of Witches

Author: Deborah Harkness

Rating: 1/2

Who Should Read it? Like books about magic? Quirky, adorable witches? Vampires and Demons? Then this book is for you; especially if you are tired of the nonstop romance that most vampire books seem to be. Don't get me wrong, this book has romance, but it's also got something that makes it feel a little more literary. It's important, though, that you don't a book with a lot of detail that takes a while to get to the point.

What I Have To Say:
Diana Bishop is not your typical witch. Born to a long line of witches, she decided to give up witchcraft at a young age, in an attempt to live a normal, magic-free life. But I guess normal is all relative, and witchcraft may be more impossible, and more dangerous, to give up than she ever thought.

I loved this book. It was like historical fiction meets magic, thus combining two of my favorite genres. The history comes from Diana herself - she is a quirky, independent, strong-willed and totally lovable character (who seems way more like a high-schooler than a full grown historian), and she has given up the life of magic to lead a totally ordinary life in academia, where she studies, of all things, alchemy. I immediately connected to her.

The book starts when Diana uncovers a book, Ashmole 782, that just so happens to be a book all the witches, demons, and vampires have been searching for for ages. How did she get her hands on it? Will she do it again? Suddenly, the library where she is working is FILLED with all sorts of magical creatures trying to figure out the answers to these questions. And of course, one of the creatures to show up is, naturally, a REALLY HOT vampire by the name of Matthew Clairmont. And, as must happen, because he is a vampire and a creature of lust, and despite Diana's natural and understandable fear of vampires, they fall immediately in love and, within 3 weeks, are wondering how they could ever be separated.

I understand that vampires supposedly have that effect on people, but I'll admit it - I'm sort of tired of reading about it. Diana is witty and charming and, most of all, INTELLIGENT, and I just can't believe that she would allow herself to be enamored so quickly. By a vampire. I know, I said I loved it, and now I'm ranting - this bit really did bother me, and I wish Harkness had managed to make this book happen WITHOUT vampires and love-at-almost-first-sight, but I also understand that it was necessary to set things up for the rest of the book.
Which was AMAZING!

Harkness uses lavish descriptions, painstaking and well-researched details, and witty conversation to move the plot along. And even though it was only her first novel, she masterfully weaved the world and idea of magic together with the world of academia and logic. It's beautiful, historical paranormal fiction, and I loved it. I'd read a lot of reviews that said some of the research and detail was overdone, but in the end, I totally disagree. I had a great time imagining all of the beautiful places, the intricate architecture she described. And I was presented with just enough information on the history of alchemy that I found myself wanting to actually research it myself.

So, the verdict - this book was amazing; I loved the detail, I loved the information on alchemy, and the only things I would change are the love story and the vampires. And I will definitely be reading the sequel just as soon as I manage to catch up on all the other books I have to read.

Summary: A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together. Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell. Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.

Cover Story: Totally love it! Just looking at it makes me want to study witchcraft. :-)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Let's Go On Vacation

So, it may SEEM like I have abandoned Brizmus Blogs Books once again, as I haven't written in an extraordinarily long time, but I am here to let you know that I have not. I've just been preparing for and then ON VACATION!

This is where I've been hanging out for the last weekish!

And while on vacation, I did LOTS of reading, so I've got some great reviews coming up for you! Reviews to expect in the weeks to come:
A Discovery of Witches: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy) by Debora Harkness
The Registry by Shannon Stoker
Insatiable by Meg Cabot
Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
The Dark Heroine: Dinner with a Vampire by Abigail Gibbs

Three whole books about vampires in there - I don't know how that happened. I do know, though, that I am TOTALLY vampired out. :-) The Dark Heroine, which I have ALMOST finished, might have to fight for stars, just because it was last.

In other news, I have also joined a book club, which I am SUPER excited about! I voted on the booklist for the next year today, and we should know by next week, so I'll definitely be posting about that! Yay!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Review: Something About Sophie by Mary Kay McComas

Title: Something About Sophie

Author: Mary Kay McComas


Who Should Read It? Into romantic thrillers? Want a book that will keep you on edge and guessing till the end (just don't try too hard to figure things out, otherwise, you might)? This book is for you!

What I Have to Say:
Sophie is your typical small-town girl from your typical small-town. The only difference is, she's adopted. She's never really cared about her birth parents, though, so this doesn't really affect her. Until she is called to another small town by someone who claims to know something about her birth mother. But by the time she gets there, he's already dead. And that's when things get dirty...

This book was interesting in that all of the things that I liked about it were also things I didn't like. I find that often in books, characters are purposefully made to overreact to everything so that the drama can continue continue continue. And my reaction is often "NO ONE, not even a fake person, would EVER react that way." I don't like the overreactions, and I wish they would just react like a normal person. In Something About Sophie, it's almost as if the opposite is true - the drama is able to continue on in large part because the main character doesn't react. She seems perfectly at peace with herself about everything and yet bad things just keep happening. I liked this. But I also didn't like it. She was TOO at one with herself, TOO perfect, and it annoyed me sometime how she just didn't react or didn't care when it seemed like she should. It was SO the opposite of what I don't like that it ended up being equally bad.

Still, as a character, I liked her, along with all of the quirky people surrounding her. And even if SHE didn't care about her past and about why the things that were happening were happening, I cared for her.

I also enjoyed the way that the plot sometimes seemed to keep developing despite itself, if that makes sense. I had several ideas about who the culprit could be throughout (and in the end I was right), but I was never entirely sure and thus found myself dying to figure out what was going to happen! This thriller really had a thriller feel for me. Unfortunately, because of this, I was never really able to get in to the love story, which seemed totally forced and totally unreal (but then, I've never been one for books about love at first sight. I'm more into the love is a fight kind of books). It's fast and exciting with lots of twists and turns, but sometimes the twists and turns fell flat, because there seemed to be nothing provoking them.

Anyhow, all in all, I enjoyed the book, and if you're into romantic thrillers, I would definitely recommend this book. There are twists and turns all over the place, and it will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

Summary: Answering a call that summons her to a stranger's deathbed, a reluctant Sophie Shepard is too late to hear what he was so anxious to tell her. What was so important that a dying man would think of her in his final moments? With the help of Dr. Drew McCarren, Sophie begins to dig into her past, setting off a chain of events that chills the quiet town of Clearfield, Virginia to its roots. With part of her wanting nothing more than to put Clearfield behind her and run back home, Sophie knows she won't rest until she discovers the truth. But growing closer to the residents also means uncovering their dark secrets: about the woman who gave her up for adoption, the mysterious part these strangers played, and the life she never knew she nearly had. Something About Sophie is an unforgettable story about the power of love...and the things people will do, both right and wrong, to protect it

Cover Story: For a (granted very very short) little while, I was okay with books that had a headless person on the cover. Then, I became annoyed. While I do, overall, think this cover is quite lovely. . .I just wish the body had a head. I really do.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Interview: Ophelia London, Author of Abby Road

I'm so excited to be hosting an interview with Ophelia London in the blog today. I greatly enjoyed her book "Abby Road," and now I've got some super fun interview questions with some super cute answers to share with you guys. Enjoy!

Brizmus Blogs Books:Hi Ophelia! Thanks so much for joining us today here at Brizmus Blogs Books! Abby Road was a wonderful book, and I’m psyched to have had the opportunity to read it for the blog. Tell us, what gave you the idea to write about a superstar obsessed with the Beatles?

Ophelia London: Thank you! I’m thrilled to be here! I got the idea for Abby Road many years ago. I was literally sitting around one day and wondered what it would be like if I became famous overnight. Come on, we’ve all done it, right? The first thing I ever wrote for the story was a scene of Abby being “discovered” by the manager of the recording studio where she worked. It ended up getting cut, but that was the beginning of it all. And the Beatles, well, I kind of stole that from my own life. :-)

BBB: From reading Abby Road, I got the feeling that you must have had SOME kind of experience with the paparazzi yourself. Is it true or are you just an amazing writer who does her research?

Ophelia London: Well, this is kind of embarrassing, and I’m only telling you because your blog rocks! I did a little “method acting” as I wrote the book. I kind of put myself in Abby’s superstar shoes and would walk around the mall, bookstores, wherever, pretending I was a celebrity incognito. Silly, I know, but it got me into her head and what I thought she might be feeling when she would try to do something as simple as go shopping and then be pounced upon by the paparazzi.

BBB:You can choose not to answer this question if you wish, but were any of the characters based on people from your life?

Ophelia London:Oh sure, I’ll answer it. My friends and family already know that I’m constantly stealing from them. Heh-heh. The character of Molly, Abby’s best friend/personal assistant, is bits and pieces of my closest friends. Lindsey, Abby’s older sister, is kind of a combo of my older and younger sisters. I wish I knew someone exactly like Todd, however. Still looking…

BBB: I haven’t read your Playing at Love series (though I’m definitely going to!), but it looks great! Can you tell us a little bit about how writing Abby Road was different from writing Playing at Love?

Ophelia London: Oh, thank you. I hope you enjoy it! Before Playing at Love, I wrote strictly women’s fiction, and had zero experience when it came to writing category romance. I hadn’t even read much of it. I loved the idea of writing a short, romance series, so I jumped in before I knew what I was doing. Woo-boy, there are so many rules when it comes to category, but my editor was very patient with me and I learned to love writing category.

BBB: Tell us a little bit about some of your works in progress.

Ophelia London:Right now I’m working on book three of my Perfect Kisses series (Playing at Love is book one). It’s been a blast. I’ve also got another women’s fiction going through submission and I’m even trying my hand at New Adult. I have a lot of irons in the fire!

BBB: Quick answers:

Favorite Band: The Beatles and McFly (I had to give you two, but they’re both British with 4 guys, so it’s okay!)
Literary Idol: Jane Austen
Favorite Music to Listen to while Writing: my book’s playlist or classical
Favorite place you’ve traveled: The Lake District in England
Favorite food to eat while writing: Trader Joe’s Powerberries
Favorite Book: “Pride and Prejudice”

BBB: I loved reading your “40 things to do before I turn 40” list on your blog. Can you tell us a bit more about that? It seems like you accomplished everything! Was there anything you were afraid you wouldn’t accomplish?

Ophelia London: About halfway through my 39th year, I decided that I wanted to really celebrate my 40th birthday—on a personal level. I started making a list on napkins and the backs of candy bar wrappers, but when the list started taking shape, I knew I needed to make it official, so I put it up on my blog and told everyone about it. I needed some serious accountability! “Teaching a class” was probably the one I dreaded the most. I mean, who LOVES to public speak? Not this girl! Funnily enough, I get the most comments about the “Letting my hairdresser to whatever she wants” one. It was a bit nerve-wracking, but I have such trust in my hair lady that I just sat back, sipped my Diet Coke, and let her have at it.

BBB: To continue with questions about the list – why’d you cross out “Go out on a date with a 25 year old one last time”? That sounds like fun!

Ophelia London: It does sound fun, doesn’t it? One of the interesting things I learned about myself while working on this list is what things are really important. When I started working on my list, hardcore, I decided that I didn’t want to be all cougar-y—as fun as that does sound!—yet I’d been meaning to start a serious recycling program at home. So…there ya go! Priorities!

BBB: Have you ever thought about branching out and writing something other than chick lit?

Ophelia London:Absolutely! I would love to write YA, maybe even some suspense, and like I mentioned earlier, I’ve got a little New Adult going on, too.

BBB: Now to finish – thank you SO much for joining us here today at Brizmus Blogs Books. It’s been a pleasure hosting you in the blog! To end, is there any question you’d like to be asked but never are?

Ophelia London: Thank you so much for having me, it’s been a pleasure! And yes, I don’t understand why no one has asked me why—since I look so much like Jennifer Anniston—that Brad Pitt and I aren’t together. It’s a puzzlement, right?

Well, that was fun, and I hope you guys enjoyed it as much as I did! Now, one question I wish I'd asked her that I didn't - what was her playlist for Abby Road? Was it entirely Beatles songs? I'd be curious to know! Another question I forgot to ask, she luckily answered in her own blog (check it out!) yesterday. When asked who she would get to play Abby, she picked Mandy Moore. I love it!

If you haven't already, don't forget to check out my review of Abby Road!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Review: Abby Road by Ophelia London

Title: Abby Road

Author: Ophelia London

Release Date: March 27, 2013


Who Should Read It? Love a good chick lit with drama, romance, and excitement? Into good music? This book is definitely for you!

What I Have to Say:

I loved this book! I'll admit that, when I started this book, I wasn't sure what I was going to think. The summary made it sound amazing, but I found the initial writing style somewhat lackluster, and in the first 50 pages or so, things just felt somewhat fake to me. Superficial. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but still. . . And then things picked up, and I forgot all about everything I didn't like about the first 50 pages.

In essence, Abby Road is a coming-of-age story about Abigail Kelly, a famous musician going through a tough time, trying to find herself. She is completely broken which, despite her super-star status, makes her seem like a normal, totally relateable character. She's cute and quirky, with spunk and strength and back-bone, and her reasons for being broken are so real that it's easy to sympathize with her instead of just wanting her to get over it.

That said, I've always been a fan of books during which I regularly want to strangle the main character and scream at her all of the things that she's not seeing and that she should be doing differently. And Abby definitely had her moments. There were many times when I felt as if she was lacking a backbone (and I wasn't the only one, thus the drama of the book), and they were somewhat rough, but overall, they gave a much more real feel to the book.

More than just Abby being a wonderfully broken and lovable main character, Ophelia London really brings not just the characters, but also the places, alive. Abby takes a break from work in Seaside, Florida, the town where her sister lives. The beauty of the beaches and the majestic beach houses are brought to life through beautiful, flourishing descriptions. It is here that Abby meets the love-interest of the story, and the emotions and places are described with such loving care that I felt, at times, like I was there. Or at least I wished I was there, falling in love in the quaint town of Seaside.

Abby Road is a thrilling read full of clever witticisms, heartbreak and romance, drama with soothing moments, and totally (mostly, you've got your token evil bad guy) lovable characters.

Summary:Touted by the tabloids as the biggest rock star of our generation, Abigail Kelly is used to being in the spotlight. But beyond the glam of Hollywood, her world is falling apart. Still reeling from the death of her brother and wilting under the iron fist of Max, her manager, Abby banishes herself to the secluded beaches of Florida for the summer, thinking some anonymity and sunshine are just what she needs. What she finds, instead, is Todd, an ex-marine eager to embrace life after war. Together, Abby and Todd find the balance Abby’s life has been missing. That is, until Max resurfaces, demanding Abby return to Los Angeles to record her band’s newest album. As the pressures of public appearances, paparazzi, and late-night recordings start to mount, Abby will have to risk everything or lose the life she always dreamed of. Ophelia London’s ABBY ROAD is a love letter to music—both the kind you cherish and the kind you create—as well as a beautiful love story that proves even when everyone in the world can recognize your face, the only people who matter are those who can see inside your heart.

Cover Story:
It's super cute. It feels like a new musician trying to make her way in the great state of California, though, which kind of goes against the feel of the book. So, while I like it, it just didn't give me a true feel for what the book would actually be like. It evokes "true beginnings" as opposed to "fresh starts."

Note: This book was sent for me by review from Entangled Publishing. This in no way affected my review.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Review: Seventh Heaven by Alice Hoffman

Title: Seventh Heaven

Author: Alice Hoffman

Rating: 1/2

Who Should Read It?
It's really hard to say. This book is not at all what I expected. Somehow, I feel like saying "adults." I don't really know why, but it seems like maybe "adults," whatever that means, would enjoy it.

What I Have to Say:
This book really was NOT what I expected. I had never read anything Alice Hoffman before, and based on the reviews I had read of this book, I expected something beautifully real, magically simplistic. Unfortunately what I got was a motley crew of characters with whom I couldn't relate living what seemed to me to be awful lives and doing awfully stupid things.

This story is, overall, about a woman named Nora, a divorcee with two children who moves onto a street of married ladies who seem to think divorce is one of the worst possible things that could happen. Nora is an interesting character who could be more interesting but is unfortunately underdeveloped. Hoffman spends so much time jumping back and forth, back and forth between all of the characters living on the road that you never get a real feel for any of them. There are some for whom I THINK I am supposed to feel sympathy (Nora actually being one of these) but who I instead severely dislike. There is so much bad in all of the characters, and the author doesn't do nearly enough to show us that they may have a good side as well.

This wouldn't be a problem, except that it seems like she TRIES to. And fails. And so what we end up with instead is a story that trudges on for FAR too long while we wait for something to happen to characters we don't care about. And then when the book FINALLY ended, I still wasn't entirely sure why I had read it. Sure, some transformations and changes took place, but I never got a feel for the actual story, the actual plot, if there even was one.

That's a lot of negativity, but there were some things I appreciated about the book. Despite disagreeing with several of Nora's choices, I felt that the dilemmas she faced, the traumas she went through, were all very real. And there were times that I was amazed at the way she composed herself and reacted to, well, life. In Seventh Heaven, Hoffman also gives us a clear, if somewhat exaggerated, view of what life must have been like for a divorcee in the 50s. While this is not an issue I particularly think about, I can see how it might be appealing to some.

Also, despite seemingly trudging/sludging on at certain points, overall it was a fast, easy read. And the reading of it wasn't a completely unpleasant experience. I'd be interested to know if others had a better opinion of this book than I did.

Nora Silk doesn’t really fit in on Hemlock Street, where every house looks the same. She's divorced. She wears a charm bracelet and high heels and red toreador pants. And the way she raises her kids is a scandal. But as time passes, the neighbors start having second thoughts about Nora. The women’s apprehension evolves into admiration. The men’s lust evolves into awe. The children are drawn to her in ways they can't explain. And everyone on this little street in 1959 Long Island seems to sense the possibilities and perils of a different kind of future when they look at Nora Silk...This extraordinary novel by the author of The River King and Local Girls takes us back to a time when the exotic both terrified and intrigued us, and despite our most desperate attempts, our passions and secrets remained as stubbornly alive as the weeds in our well-trimmed lawns.

Cover Story: Underwhelmed

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Review: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

Title: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

Author: David Mitchell


Who Should Read It?This is a beautiful piece of historical fiction. Do you like Asian historical fiction? If so, read this book. Period. And just remember that it starts off a bit slowly.

What I Have to Say:
I'm going to be honest with you. I almost put this book down and didn't finish it - which is just NOT something I do. If I start a book, I finish it. Period. But the first 150 pages or so of this book were just PAINFUL for me to read. This book takes a look at what it was like in the late 1700s, early 1800s, on Dejima, a small Japanese island right off the coast of Nagasaki, where Dutch traders lived. It should be noted that this was a very xenophobic time for Japan, in which the Japanese traded with the Dutch and ONLY the Dutch (no other foreigners allowed), and the Dutch traders were RARELY allowed off Dejima and onto mainland Japan.

The book starts off on a positive note, when a female Japanese midwife manages to successfully deliver the baby of the magistrates concubine. The story then immediately turns to the Dutch living on Dejima. The lying, cheating, gambling, whoring Dutch who speak in such harsh, perverse slang that it took extreme effort to actually understand what they were saying and even more effort to actually want to understand what they were saying. I couldn't care less about these Dutch men and what happened to them, and if I had thought it was going to be about them, I would have put the book down.

Luckily (for me), though, there was the decent, virtuous Jacob de Zoet who stood out amoungst a group of repulsive slum. David Mitchell breathed such life in this character from the debut that, despite how awful I was finding the book (which, in retrospect, was sheer genius on the part of Mitchell, as it allowed the reader to get a real feel for what life must have been like then and what de Zoet must have been suffering with life on Dejima), I found that I kept reading just to figure out where things were going for him. And for Ogaewa, Aibagawa, Lord Enomoto, Dr. Marinus, and all of the rest of the large cast of characters that Mitchell put together (for a book with so many characters, he sure managed to breathe life into all of them).

And I am SO glad I did, because I sped through the last 400 pages of the book at record speed. The Japan of 1799 came alive for me, the customs, the characters, the way of living - everything was beautiful and brilliant, and I felt as if I was actually there. As the story progressed, de Zoet became more and more the good guy that the island of Dejima needed, and it became more and more evident that the villain wasn't Dejima itself, but a certain Japanese (whose name I will not mention for fear of spoiler).

As usual, David Mitchell has given us not just a compelling protagonist, but a compelling villain in a compelling setting complete with a rich plot that will leave you page-turning with desire up until the very end.

Aside from the usual David Mitchell brilliance, I thought one of these things that ultimately made this book so great was the way he dealt with the issues - the racism, the sexism, the religious differences, the blasphemy, etc. Today, we look at all of these things, and we think: moral issue. Back then, though, things were different, and they were even more different in Japan. And he dealt with these issues as they may have been dealt with back then, going into just the right amount of depth, while still managing to throw a modern day twist by actually acknowledging that these things are moral issues. It really brought to home the impossibility of life back then for a woman or a slave. Or, in Japan, even a person with thoughts of their own.

"The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet" is full of laughs, it will make you think, make you cry, make you question, and leave you ultimately forgetting the you read about the characters in books (instead thinking that they were people you might have known in a previous life). Jacob de Zoet is a masterful storyteller with a masterful writing style and a creative mind to boot.

Summary:In 1799, Jacob de Zoet disembarks on the tiny island of Dejima, the Dutch East India Company’s remotest trading post in a Japan otherwise closed to the outside world. A junior clerk, his task is to uncover evidence of the previous Chief Resident’s corruption. Cold-shouldered by his compatriots, Jacob earns the trust of a local interpreter and, more dangerously, becomes intrigued by a rare woman—a midwife permitted to study on Dejima under the company physician. He cannot foresee how disastrously each will be betrayed by someone they trust, nor how intertwined and far-reaching the consequences. Duplicity and integrity, love and lust, guilt and faith, cold murder and strange immortality stalk the stage in this enthralling novel, which brings to vivid life the ordinary—and extraordinary—people caught up in a tectonic shift between East and West.

Cover Story: I love this cover! Oh so beautiful and oh so Japanese. The colors and the idea are just right. :-)

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale

With Austenland recently having been turned into a movie, that was recently screened at Sundance, I figured it was a great time to write a review of a book I read last year in my unfortunate non-bloggy phase. I don't know about you, but I'll definitely be looking forward to an opportunity to check out this movie!
Title: Austenland

Author: Shannon Hale


Who Should Read It? Are you a Jane Austen fan? Fan of sappy, sweet, forbidden romance? Especially those that occur for a girl who is just plain bad at love? Ever thought you were in love with Mr. Darcy but keep inevitably falling for the wrong Mr. Wickham? Then maybe this book is for you! If you answered yes to any of these questions, this book is for you!

What I Have to Say: I'll admit it. I'm a little bit in love with Mr. Darcy. I even have a necklace with an image of the fictional Mister Darcy, so that when I wear it, I can keep it close to my heart. Every time I read Pride and Prejudice, or every time I watch one of the MANY video versions, I sob like crazy, especially when Mr. Darcy tells Lizzie "I love you, most ardently." I'm about to start crying right now, just thinking about it.

So you would think that a book about a fellow Austen lover, who goes to an amazing land where everything is Austen, would totally do it for me. And in many ways, it did. The Austenland Hale has created - yeah, I totally want to go there. There were some really awful seeming things about it, and, in many ways, I'm sure I would react the way that Jane did (you'll just have to read about that when you read the book). But in those awful things, Austenland remains true to the spirit of Pride and Prejudice, the spirit of 1816.

Really, I quite sympathized with Jane, even if I did somewhat understand how her obsession with Darcy and perfection left her a single New York "spinster" at the age of 33. Sometimes I wanted to punch her in the face or yell at her that she should do things differently, but still, throughout the book, I found myself rooting for her, hoping that she managed to either get over her obsession with perfection or find the man that would be "Mister Perfect" for her.

And then there's Hale's writing style. I've been a big fan of her in the past - I love the simplistic yet fantastical way that she presents things, the easy way her text flows smoothly from one idea into the next. Austenland was no different and, as it was the first time I'd read Shannon Hale in a while, it kind of felt like "coming home."

Now, while the style and the characters and even the idea of the book were very "Hale" esque, I sort of felt like the actual way the story played out wasn't. The characters didn't seem to really develop, and, aside from Jane, we never really got to know them, anyway. And then there's fact that Jane's dead Aunt sends her to Austenland as "therapy." I wished it would have worked that way for Jane, but I don't really get the feeling that she actually learned anything. She had so much opportunity for growth, and I just felt like she never took it. This made reading "Austenland" somewhat frustrating.

All this said, I'm somewhat wishy washy as to my overall feelings about the book. I loved it. I want to be single and go to Austenland. I want my own Mister Darcy! It has me dreaming that maybe such a place could exist! But then, I'm somewhat disappointed with the way Hale dealt with the world of possibilities. I'll still be reading Midnight in Austenland. No doubt!

Summary: Jane is a young New York woman who can never seem to find the right man—perhaps because of her secret obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. When a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-obsessed women, however, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become more real than she ever could have imagined. Is this total immersion in a fake Austenland enough to make Jane kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own? Don't miss Shannon Hale's next book, Midnight in Austenland, a mystery set at Pemberly available in February, 2012.

Cover Story: Soooo cute! I love covers like this! Even if I didn't know this book were by Shannon Hale or Jane Austen themed, I would want to read it just for the cover!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Review: Queen of Babble in the Big City by Meg Cabot

I know, I know, it's 3 weeks later. But I'm still around, and I'm planning on staying that way this year. So don't forget about me! :-)
Title: Queen of Babble in the Big City

Author: Meg Cabot


Who Should Read It?
Meg Cabot fans, of course! Anyone interested in that perfect fluff book that exists solely to brighten up their day.

What I Have to Say:
Um, yes. That's what I have to say. I don't know how to write reviews for Meg Cabot's books. Reason being that they're all the same to me. I don't say that in a bad way, though. I adore Meg Cabot. So much so that I genuinely believe that, if you've ever liked a Meg Cabot book, you're going to like all other Meg Cabot books, and so all that really needs to be said about a Meg Cabot book in a review is that it is a Meg Cabot book. Did that make sense?
This is a Meg Cabot book.
And I loved it. Naturally. Yes, Lizzie Nichols, the Queen of Babble herself, is slightly annoying. And yes, it is slightly perturbing that she seems to lack any common sense. No, I don't get what Lizzie Nichols sees in her supposedly wonderful boyfriend, Luke. And no, I don't get how oblivious she seems to so many obvious things. But I also wouldn't have expected anything other than that, and in a weird way, I sort-of love it for that. Because the characters are annoying in totally real ways, in almost lovable ways. And I do love them all, in the end.
It's fun, it's fluff, it's bubble gum. It's not going to make you think, it's not going to leave you awed, and it's certainly not going to teach you anything (except maybe a little bit of social protocol), but you're also not going to be able to put it down. It will make you smile, it will probably make you laugh, and it will make everything in your life feel all better for the short period of time in which you're reading it.
So, yeah, like I said, it's a Meg Cabot book. And it's wonderful.

Summary:Lizzie Nichols is back, pounding the New York City pavement and looking for a job, a place to live, and her proper place in the universe (not necessarily in that order). When "Summer Fling" Luke uses the L word (Living Together), Lizzie is only too happy to give up her plan of being postgrad roomies with best friend, Shari, in a one-room walk-up in exchange for cohabitation with the love of her life in his mother's Fifth Avenue pied-a-terre, complete with doorman and resident Renoir. But Lizzie's not as lucky in her employment search. As Shari finds the perfect job, Lizzie struggles through one humiliating interview after another, being judged overqualified for the jobs in her chosen field--vintage-gown rehab--and underqualified for everything else. It's Shari's boyfriend Chaz to the rescue when he recommends Lizzie for a receptionist's position at his father's posh law firm. The nonpaying gig at a local wedding-gown shop Lizzie manages to land all on her own. But Lizzie's notoriously big mouth begins to get her into trouble at work and at home almost at once--first at the law firm, where she becomes too chummy with Jill Higgins, a New York society bride with a troublesome future mother-in-law, and then back on Fifth Avenue, when she makes the mistake of bringing up the M word (Marriage) with commitment-shy Luke. Soon Lizzie finds herself jobless as well as homeless all over again. Can Lizzie save herself--and the hapless Jill--and find career security (not to mention a mutually satisfying committed relationship) at last?

Cover Story:
So many covers to choose from! I don't particularly love any of them, I'm going to be honest. None of them really seem to fit the wonderfulness of the book.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Review: College of Magics by Caroline Stevermeyer

Title: A College of Magics

Author: Caroline Stevermer


Who Should Read It? Lovers of cutesy fantasy!

What I Have to Say:
I liked this book. It was a super cute, super fast read involving everything from English tea to huge rifts in the balance of the world.

That said, let's start with the things I didn't like so much. While the characters very obviously developed throughout the course of the story, it was really hard to actually see that development happening, and I found myself wondering if they were actually like that all along, and I just didn't see it at the beginning. One characters in particular, Jane, changed so much that I actually started to dislike her, when she was supposed to be one of the ones I was rooting for. And if Farris, the main character, actually matured, I had trouble seeing it.

Then I also found it really difficult to imagine where the story was taking place. There just wasn't enough information for my imagination to go into overdrive, and my overactive imagination is one of the reasons I love fantasy so much.

Lastly, the entire story felt somewhat emotionally detached. Death, for example, didn't seem to exact any emotion at all. Since the emotion was lacking within the story, it was also hard for me to get emotionally involved.

Despite all of this, I really enjoyed the book. I liked the subtle way in which the students at Greenlaw learned magic without ever actually being able to learn it hands on. I liked the way the good guys slowly separated themselves from the bad guys. I liked the dreamlike qualities of the plot and the way new plot lines just sort of presented themselves with no real explanation but were just understood (I didn't like, though, how some of them, including the most important, the functions of the wardens of the world) never got explained. I liked the way it progressed smoothly and easily, thus making it a book that I ultimately enjoyed despite all the problems I had with it.

So would I recommend it whole-heartedly? Probably not? But if you've got a little bit of free time and are looking for a quick, fun, cutesy fantasy, I say go for it! I'll be reading the second one only if I find myself in that situation.

Summary:Teenager Faris Nallaneen is the heir to the small northern dukedom of Galazon. Too young still to claim her title, her despotic Uncle Brinker has ruled in her place. Now he demands she be sent to Greenlaw College. For her benefit he insists. To keep me out of the way, more like it!

But Greenlaw is not just any school-as Faris and her new best friend Jane discover. At Greenlaw students major in . . . magic.

But it's not all fun and games. When Faris makes an enemy of classmate Menary of Aravill, life could get downright . . . deadly.

Cover Story: While I get the point of this cover, I'm just not a fan. It feels too 1960's for me - not enough magic.

My Contests

None for now!