Thursday, August 30, 2012

Intentions by Deborah Heiligman


* * *




Rachel thought she was grown up enough to accept that no one is perfect. Her parents argue, her grandmother has been acting strangely, and her best friend doesn't want to talk to her. But none of that could have prepared her for what she overheard in her synagogue's sanctuary.



Now Rachel's trust in the people she loves is shattered, and her newfound cynicism leads to reckless rebellion. Her friends and family hardly recognize her, and worse, she can hardly recognize herself. But how can the adults in her life lecture her about acting with kavanah, intention, when they are constantly making such horribly wrong decisions themselves? This is a witty, honest account of navigating the daunting line between losing innocence and entering adulthood—all while figuring out who you really want to be.




 
Growing up is a pain especially when it seems that everyone around you is either disappointing you or treating you differently. Sometimes it's hard to know which way is up or even believe that things eventually sort themselves out. In Intentions, Rachel is unsure of how to approach the problems assaulting her on many fronts – her parents’ fighting, her deteriorating friendship with her once best friend, her grandmother’s ailing health and finally a potentially explosive revelation about her rabbi. It's hard not to empathize with what it’s like to be that age going through rocky changes that leave you feeling helpless at best.


My first impression of Rachel is that she’s a pent up ball of anger just kind of hovering, waiting to move forward.  Her tendency as a narrator to list every thought and step going through her mind had me wondering if it was therapeutic for her to focus on each minute detail.  I found it tedious initially – I mean really, I don’t need to know all the steps between opening the door to the bathroom and going to the bathroom. But I began to ease up on her later because the very thing that bugged me in the beginning entertained me. Case in point, she goes through all the steps involved in primping and prepping for a much anticipated date. It was hilarious especially because it's so accurate.


The story gains some traction when Rachel finally decides to take action and confront her best friend Alexis about the state of their friendship. It’s a pretty neat scene and the chant that goes though her mind clearly shows her resolve. However, try as she might, it doesn’t make a difference and things go terribly wrong between them. In results in Rachel making a very poor choice with some harmful repercussions that she has to fix later. On the flip side, as one friendship ends, a new one begins as she becomes closer to Jake, a boy she’s had a crush on for a while. Jake is a pleasant surprise offering up the kind of support she desperately needs at this time.


I can’t go into detail any further without giving away the rest of the book. Suffice it to say that I was very much drawn in and even became a bit teary-eyed at parts. Rachel goes through the tough journey of loss, forgiveness and owning up to her mistakes. That last part is the hardest and takes the biggest toll on her. But through that debacle she receives support and encouragement which helps to reestablish her trust in the most important people in her life. It’s clear that her reliance on her religious upbringing is central to her. She finds her faith again and is even surprised by someone she least expects it from. It provides a much-needed feel good atmosphere that helps the book end on a positive note.

So Intentions' somber tone may not have grabbed me from the very beginning but it grew on me. And I very much liked the message it sent.  Rachel ends up being someone to admire, making some tough decisions, confronting her fears and taking control. All in a day's work on her path to maturity.


~ Bel








Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (31)


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that highlights future releases that we are excitedly anticipating.



By Sophie Jordan
Publication Date:  September 11, 2012

(From GoodReads)
Jacinda was supposed to bond with Cassian, the "prince" of their pride. But she resisted long before she fell in love with Will—a human and, worse, a hunter. When she ran away with Will, it ended in disaster, with Cassian's sister, Miram, captured. Weighed down by guilt, Jacinda knows she must rescue her to set things right. Yet to do so she will have to venture deep into the heart of enemy territory.

The only way Jacinda can reach Miram is by posing as a prisoner herself, though once she assumes that disguise, things quickly spiral out of her control. As she learns more about her captors, she realizes that even if Will and Cassian can carry out their part of the plan, there's no guarantee they'll all make it out alive. But what Jacinda never could have foreseen is that escaping would be only the beginning....

Loyalties are tested and sacrifices made in the explosive conclusion to Sophie Jordan's Firelight trilogy.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Otherkin by Nina Berry

**1/2


From Kensington (KTeen):

I thought I knew myself. Then I met Caleb.
Dez is a good girl who does as she’s told and tries not to be noticed. Then she rescues a boy from a cage, and he tells her secrets about herself. Now inside her burns a darkness that will transform her.
Everything is about to change—and neither Caleb, nor the Otherkin, nor those who hunt them, are prepared for what Dez will unleash.

The Bad:
I didn't feel like the characters in Otherkin were fully formed, more outlines than developed characters.  Dez didn't seem nearly freaked out enough about suddenly becoming a tiger and being thrust into a world of shifters and magic.  Her reaction was quite minimal and accepting.  I'm fairly confident this is meant to be a series, so perhaps we will see more depth in Dez, Caleb and their friends and foes. 

The Good:
Otherkin is an interesting story and I admit to being a little fascinated by the foreshadowing of what is to come for Dez and who she will turn out to be and finding out what Caleb's role in her destiny will be.  Fans of Nightshade and other paranormal/shapeshifter romance will find this to be an enjoyable read without the heavy emotional toll that often felt in this genre.  A decent debut for Nina Berry and I look forward to discovering what she does next.

~Shel

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Peek in the Biblio-Bin (38)








Welcome to our Stacking the Shelves post! Stacking the Shelves (or as we like to call it, A Peek in the Biblio-Bin) has been created by the lovely ladies at Tynga Reviews.

Stacking the Shelves is a way for bloggers to share what books they have won, received for review, bought from the bookstore, borrowed from the library or friend, etc.

This is what we have in our bin this week. Tell us what's in your Biblio-bin!










Easy by Tammara Webber
Animal Attraction by Jill Shalvis
The Duke and I by Julia Quinn
Obsidian by Jennifer Armentrout

Friday, August 24, 2012

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

* * * *





The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate percentage of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance between her and the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend America, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand.


Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby needs—and wants—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the charming college co-ed. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his charms, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’ apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.


Beautiful Disaster is unputdownable! Watching two people fall in love can be fun. Watching two very headstrong people explore their feelings for each other is such an emotional, addictive ride with almost more ups and downs than a roller coaster. Travis is EXTREMELY intense. Whatever he puts his mind to, he does it with full on passion, including when he falls hard for someone. Abby is so stubborn and hard to read sometimes in can be frustrating. These two are so dysfunctional yet I couldn’t stop reading. When things are good they're fabulous. When things are bad, they're downright miserable and volatile. So many events happen in this book that I took to each page with one eye open dreading the next dramatic upheaval to be laid upon them.


Each one has their issues. Abby has a dad she's desperate to leave behind. He has managed to make a mess of her life up until now. Going to university affords her the chance to reinvent herself without her father’s shadow looming over her.  Travis has a reason for being a ladies man and not allowing anyone to get close to him. Abby is different and he immediately zeroes in on her.  Seeing how their friendship develops is bizarre. As much as I love those bad boys, and I do love them, Travis posed a bit of a dilemma for me. Sometimes I found him stifling and overbearing. Other times I found him so darn sweet and juvenile, almost naive. I personally would have been put off ages ago. For some reason, Abby is fascinated by him though she won’t readily admit that out loud. She sticks by him and learns to deal with his idiosyncrasies.


There were elements of this book that reminded me of Because I Love Him, a book I reviewed earlier this year. That was about a girl who stayed in an abusive relationship because the guy just couldn’t live without her. She believed she could change him just by loving and placating him. I was nervous that Beautiful Disaster would head in that direction. It never did thankfully, otherwise I would have just called it a day. Still, Travis’ intensity and Abby’s back story are a recipe for a tumultuous relationship. 


Despite all the insanity, they are capable of behaving normally and cozy with each other. Their friends America and Shepley provide a decent counterbalance to all the nuttiness. America, especially as Abby's best friend who's familiar with her past, is an excellent sounding board and can see through Abby's bullshit.
Like I said, I couldn’t put this down regardless of the frequent trepidation I had. I wasn't necessarily comfortable with the ending at first. It took me a day to truly let it all sink in before I could accept that it all makes perfect sense for Abby and Travis. As my hubby says, "crazy likes crazy".

~ Bel

Extra!! Extra!!

Can I tell you what's gotten me excited? Jamie McGuire has written a book from Travis' pov called Walking Disaster which will be released in April of next year! I cannot wait to read what was going on in that crazy head of his as he tried to woo Abby!

By the way, Jamie McGuire is also a girl after my own heart. She has created a soundtrack to Beautiful Disaster. Click here to check it out - it's FANtastic!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sidecar by Amy Lane (Adult Romance)


* * * * *

The year is 1987. The boys wear pink Izod shirts, the girls wear big hair, everyone has a stash box, and AIDS is just an ugly rumor rumbling like a thunderstorm from the cities. A teenage runaway wanders the side of the road, a heartbeat away from despair, and is rescued by a long-haired angel on a Harley.

But that's just the beginning of their story.

Josiah Daniels wanted peace and quiet and a simple life, and he had it until he rescued Casey from hunger, cold, and exhaustion. Then Joe's life is anything but simple as he and his new charge navigate a world that is changing more rapidly than the people in it. Joe wants to raise Casey to a happy and productive adulthood, and he does. But even as an adult, Casey can't conceive of a happy life without Joe. The trouble is getting Joe to accept that the boy he nurtured is suddenly the man who wants him.

Their relationship can either die or change with the world around them. As they make a home, negotiate the new rules of growing up, and swerve around the pitfalls of modern life, Casey learns that adulthood is more than sex, Joe learns that there is no compromise in happy ever after, and they’re both forced to realize that the one thing a man shouldn’t be is alone.


Once my kids are older, they will probably run from the house like it’s on fire every time I start a new Amy Lane book.  Why?  Because I can always count on her to leave me sleep deprived and cranky.  Not that I am complaining.  Her books always keep me up until the wee hours of the morning because I simply can’t put them down.  Sidecar was no exception. 

It’s no secret amongst the Bibliojunkies that my favorite type of book is a romance.  Throw in a forever boy and I am in heaven.  Sidecar delivers both - an absolutely loveable forever boy (Joe Daniels) but also a beautiful romance that slowly grows over the years.   

Sidecar does not contain the angst that Ms. Lane writes so well.  And for that I am grateful.  Even without it I found myself wiping tears off my face during little moments through out the book.  Within the first two chapters both Casey and Joe become such a part of you that your heart hurts for everything they experience.  The good and the bad.   

Joe Daniels is pretty simple.  He lived the carefree lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.  But then he decided he was done.  No big dramatic moment made him change.  He just decided he was missing the space and quiet of where he grew up.  So by the age of 27 he is comfortably living in his own home far enough away from civilization to enjoy the quiet but close enough to drive to his job at the hospital where he works as a nurse.  Although a little scary looking with his broad shoulders, long hair, handlebar mustache/soul patch combo and a giant Harley, Joe is an all around NICE guy.  He believes in helping people.  His family taught him that it was the right thing to do.  He helps his aging neighbor that lives 20 acres away; he makes friends with patients at the hospital.  Even if they aren’t his patients.  And he takes in strays – dogs, cats and you guessed it, kids that he finds helpless on the side of the road.   He has no ulterior motives.  He is just that kind of guy.  Who doesn’t want this guy?  He is perfect.  I was imagining Aaron Eckhart a la Erin Brockovich (just change the hair color) while reading this.  Can I just say forever boy AND totally biker hot?

But here is the thing….although Joe Daniels is the forever boy in this book, I found that I was absolutely smitten with Casey.  The YA reader in me was drawn to him instantly.  He is so young at the beginning of this book (16 years old) and has had a pretty rough experience.  He isn’t broken by any stretch of the imagination.  He has an inner strength and outward feistiness that allows him to stay standing no matter what life might throw at him.  His instant love and hero worship of Joe in the beginning is almost heartbreaking in its sincerity and hopefulness.  I think the parts that made me cry the most were watching Casey grow up.  So many of his chapters made me want to put my book down and hug my children. 

There is always a risk of making the reader uncomfortable when building a romance between two people that start out with a guardian/child relationship.  But that isn’t the case here.  This story is so well crafted and paced that you can only cheer these two men on as they slowly reach that point where everything comes together.  And when it does come together?  You better watch out.  Their kiss in the car is smoldering.  And although the sex scenes are few, the few that are there….oh, my.  My book almost burst into flames from the heat.   

Watching the relationship develop and change between Joe and Casey over the span of 25 years is beautiful and romantic and heartwarming.  I absolutely love books like this.  They settle in and become comfort reads when I need something to brighten a gloomy day.  It is a guarantee that I will be re-reading Sidecar next time I need a pick me up.



Nat

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (30)


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that highlights future releases that we are excitedly anticipating.


By David Levithan
Publication Date:  August 28, 2012

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.

Every morning, A wakes in a different person’s body, a different person’s life. There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.
It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

With his new novel, David Levithan has pushed himself to new creative heights. He has written a captivating story that will fascinate readers as they begin to comprehend the complexities of life and love in A’s world, as A and Rhiannon seek to discover if you can truly love someone who is destined to change every day.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Every Day by David Levithan

* * * * *


Available August, 28, 2012

A has no friends. No parents. No family. No possessions. No home, even. Because every day, A wakes up in the body of a different person. Every morning, a different bed. A different room. A different house. A different life. A is able to access each person's memory, enough to be able to get through the day without parents, friends, and teachers realizing this is not their child, not their friend, not their student. Because it isn't. It's A. Inhabiting each person's body. Seeing the world through their eyes. Thinking with their brain. Speaking with their voice.
It's a lonely existence—until, one day, it isn't. A meets a girl named Rhiannon. And, in an instant, A falls for her, after a perfect day together. But when night falls, it's over. Because A can never be the same person twice. But yet, A can't stop thinking about her. She becomes A's reason for existing. So each day, in different bodies—of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, walks of life—A tries to get back to her. And convince her of their love. But can their love transcend such an obstacle?
 
Every Day has got to be one of the most mind-bending books I've read in a while. In describing it to a friend, the best I could come up with is that it's sort of like a Quantum Leap/The Time Traveler's Wife mash up. I was consumed with every detail of A's journey reading it in half a day.
Our initial introduction to A is when A inhabits Justin's body for the day and meets his girlfriend, Rhiannon. Normally A has a steadfast rule about not getting too involved in the "host bodies" lives. A's goal is to create as little disruption as possible to the individual's day-to-day activities. On this day upon meeting Rhiannon, A is instantly enamored. A's mind screams to keep her at a distance knowing the dangers involved in forming attachments. But A cannot fight the compulsion to be with her, to get to know her and to protect her. It's the pull towards her that for the first time in memory, grounds A, providing a center to return to, a home, a possible future to hope for.
However, A's very inconvenient tendency to shift from one body to the next, landing anywhere from a half hour to 4 hours away, provides a huge obstacle to overcome, not just geographically but physically also. This is where the book starts to become a major head-trip. Meeting A for the first time as Justin naturally sets the reader up to think of A as a boy. But A does inhabit girls bodies too. A’s attraction and feelings for Rhiannon do not lessen with that biological difference.  A does inhabit many different bodies throughout the course of the book – kids his age from various backgrounds, physiques and even different sexual preferences. It's disorienting but it packs a powerful punch because it challenges our views on love and sexuality. A easily looks past the gender limitations leaving the rest of us to catch up. It's not even a consideration. Obviously that’s easy being that A has never remained in a body for more than one day, therefore, has never had to identify completely with a specific gender. One of my favorite moments in the book is when A inhabits the body of a gay kid named Hugo. While at a gay-pride parade with his boyfriend, Austin, A makes a beautiful observation about love:
"In my experience, desire is desire, love is love. I have never fallen in love with a gender. I have fallen for individuals. I know this is hard for people to do, but I don't understand why it's so hard, when it's so obvious."
It's a powerful observation that just slams right into you and totally shifts your perspective. I had to remind myself to not pin A down to any gender but to instead see the well-intentioned beautiful soul A is. A’s astute understanding and connection to the people whose bodies are inhabited provide some of the most poignant moments in the book. A has this inherent desire to try and improve their lives through some small gesture. And sometimes A is a life saver. As A and a skeptical Rhiannon become closer, A’s yearning to stay and create a life with her becomes more pressing. A's willing to risk more and starts to deviate from the rules.
Unfortunately taking those risks is dangerous. A has to work extra hard to remain anonymous when one recent outing results in unwanted attention from a religious group who believes that the devil has been possessing bodies. But out of this mishap, could there possibly be some help for A from the unlikeliest of sources?

Simply put, Every Day is phenomenal! It has this amazing "wow" factor that just grabs hold of you and takes root inside of you. It's an unconventional love story so be prepared to be hopeful, uncomfortable, confused but mostly moved. What is most amazing is how through Every Day Levithan challenges us to look at love beyond the conventional norm, beyond the limitations of gender and labels.  A may be in a different body every day but A's humanity and moral fiber come through very clearly. I couldn’t help but fall for A and share in A's hope for a future with Rhiannon.
~ Bel
I'm not exaggerating when I say that Every Day grabs hold of you and doesn't let go. I was honestly moved by it for days - still am. And when I heard the beautiful "Trembling Hands" by the very awesome and very talented Temper Trap, I had the chills and I immediately thought of A and Rhiannon. It's forever their song to me.












Monday, August 20, 2012

A Peek in the Biblio-Bin (37)



Welcome to our Stacking the Shelves post! Stacking the Shelves (or as we like to call it, A Peek in the Biblio-Bin) has been created by the lovely ladies at Tynga Reviews.

Stacking the Shelves is a way for bloggers to share what books they have won, received for review, bought from the bookstore, borrowed from the library or friend, etc.

This is what we have in our bin this week. Tell us what's in your Biblio-bin!



Bought
Blood, Bath and Beyond by Michelle Rowan
Social Suicide by Gemma Halliday














For Review
Sam Cruz's Infallible Guide to Getting Girls by Tellulah Darling

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Little Woods by McCormick Templeman


 * *  

Are the woods behind St. Bede's Academy really haunted, or does bad stuff just happen there? When Calista Wood, a new student, arrives midway through her junior year, St. Bede's feels like a normal school . . . until she discovers that a girl had disappeared a couple of months earlier. Some kids think she ran away, others think she was murdered, but it's only when Cally starts digging around that she finds the startling truth.

Watch as Cally enters a world of privilege, weekend-long parties, high school romances, and . . . well-kept secrets. This page-turner will appeal to teens looking for a fast-paced thriller. Written in a voice at once gripping and crystal clear, debut novelist, McCormick Templeman, will take readers on a twisting and turning journey as only a "new girl" can experience.



I don’t often read thrillers or horror stories but once in a while I totally get an itch to read something scary.  The Little Woods sounded like it would fit the bill.   It turned out to be a quick easy read but unfortunately didn’t really satisfy my need for thriller and mystery.

I think maybe I have watched too many episodes of CSI and Law & Order in my lifetime because this is not the first novel I have read where I figured out “who did it” long before the end.  Very early on it was easy to determine the identity of the murderer of Calista’s sister and half way through the book it was obvious why the same murderer killed again.  The only thing I was waiting for was the motive behind the initial murders.   But since I figured it out so early, the wait for the actual reveal made me lose interest. 

I wasn’t a big fan of most of the characters in this book.  You just don’t learn enough about them to develop a relationship with them.  Sadly, I was also not a fan of the main character, Calista.  Her character seemed rather contradictory. She sometimes comes off as an independent rule breaker that turns her nose up at the popular crowd.  This quality is the reason why I never quite understood her decision to build and maintain relationships with the popular girls at the expense of other friends that shared similar interests as her.  It just didn’t ring true.   Also, Cali admits to being a pretentious word snob.  She uses a number of unusual words in her internal dialogue.  Although educational, this quality of hers seemed forced.  I think maybe it would have seemed less forced if she had been using those words in dialogue with other characters. 

The characters I did enjoy were Jack, Sophie and Chelsea.  Jack was just all boy.  Fairly down to earth and “normal” and a little bit clueless.  Sophie was smart and my favorite moment in the book was her response to Cali when she shaved her head.  Then there was Chelsea.  She was truly the most mysterious part of this book.  Every scene with her involves great dialogue and/or creepy actions.  In the end, you still don’t know much about her.  She is the one person that provided true mystery to the story. 

This was just a meh for me.  I haven’t read many YA mysteries but out of those few I have read I would recommend Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf or Every You, Every Me by David Levithan.



Nat

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Much Ado About Magic by Shanna Swendson


****



From Author’s website:
To Do: Manage Magical Mayhem, Save the Company, Save the World
Katie Chandler is back in New York and at Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc. – and just in time. The city’s in the grip of a magical crime wave from spells that wizarding whiz Owen Palmer thinks look awfully familiar, and the rogue firm Spellworks is raising its profile in the magical world by selling protective amulets. It’s Katie’s job as the new director of marketing for MSI to fight this battle of public perception while Owen and the other wizards try to uncover what’s really going on.
What Katie doesn’t realize is that her idea to stage a showcase for MSI’s magical achievements is playing right into a devious plot more than three decades in the making. Now Katie has to do damage control that has nothing to do with marketing. To save the magical world, she’ll have to prove who the real enemy is, and doing that will require digging deeper into Owen’s mysterious past than he wants anyone to go. If she fails, she not only stands to lose a magical war, but she could also lose the man she loves.
The Bad:
I gotta be honest folks, I don’t have anything that can be categorized as “The Bad” here, except perhaps that I had to wait too long to read it and I wish it were not over so quickly.
The Good:
Much Ado was well worth the wait.  The story was action-packed, intense and thoroughly enjoyable.  If you had asked me two weeks ago which of the Enchanted, Inc books was my favorite, I would have gone back and forth between the books because I love them all in their own ways.  Now, Much Ado About Magic is the clear winner.  Not only do we get some long due answers about our cutie Owen, but the story arc with Idris comes to a head, ending with a shock!  Luckily, Book 6 comes out in October, so we will not have long to wait to see where in the world the series is going.  There’s not much more I can say without giving things away, and you all know how I hate spoilers, so I will leave you by saying – get Much Ado About Magic now!  And check out our interview with author Shanna Swendson, who was gracious enough to talk Enchanted, Inc., boys, brownies and Joss Whedon with us! 
~Shel

Interview with Shanna Swendson (Enchanted, Inc. Series)


Today, we are so happy to have an interview with Shanna Swendson, author of the Enchanted, Inc. series (Enchanted, Inc., Once Upon Stilettos, Damsel Under Stress, Don't Hex With Texas and Much Ado About Magic).  You can read Shel's gushing over the series here, here and here.  Shanna's latest book, Much Ado About Magic is available for Amazon Kindle, at Kobo Books, All Romance BooksiTunes, Nook and soon to be available from other ebook retailers.  You can learn more about Shanna and the Enchanted, Inc. series at www.shannaswendson.com.   


BiblioJunkies:  Your series, Enchanted, Inc., features a company headed by Merlin.  Shel is a completed addicted to the current BBC series, Merlin – do you have a favorite movie or television series about Arthur and Merlin?
Shanna Swendson:  I don’t really have a favorite movie or TV series about Merlin, other than perhaps the miniseries starring Sam Neill from back in the 90s, but the series of novels about Merlin by Mary Stewart were staples of my teen reading, and I’ve re-read them several times since. The first book in that series, The Crystal Cave, is about Merlin as a very young man, and I fell a bit in love with him in it. It was because of this series that I put Merlin in my books. I already had a vague idea of there being an executive in the magical company who was a medieval wizard who’d been magically revived and who was learning about modern business from the popular, trendy business books of the sort I’d had too many bosses base their latest management fad on. After re-reading that series, I thought it would make sense to have that wizard be Merlin, since that magical hibernation is part of the legend. Though he turned out to adapt better to the modern world than I anticipated.

BiblioJunkies:  The Enchanted, Inc. series is in a world in which magic exists with wizards, fairies, gargoyles, dragons, etc., if you had a magical ability or could be any mystical/magical creature, what would you choose?
Shanna Swendson:  I think it would be kind of cool to be a wizard, even with just a trace of magical power, enough to do little things like clean the house with a wave of my hand. A little bit of prescience would be nice. But I think I’d be worried about having too much influence over other people. That could be dangerously tempting.  I think it would take a very good person to have that kind of power without being corrupted by it.

BiblioJunkies:  There was a long lapse of time between Book 4, Don’t Hex With Texas and Book 5, Much Ado About Magic, did Book 5 end up the same story you originally planned back when you wrote the first four books in the series? 
Shanna Swendson:  I actually didn’t have that long a gap between writing books 4 and 5 because I wrote book 5 for the Japanese publisher several years ago. It just took a few years of attempting to get the US publisher to take it before I finally decided to take matters into my own hands. I plotted a lot of this book while I was working on the first and second books, and while a few things were executed a little differently than I initially imagined, it mostly sticks to what I planned. I had one change of heart while writing that subtly shifted one element that I think makes more sense, and one other thing had to be adjusted along the way in revision to make the plot work, but otherwise, it’s pretty close to the book I originally envisioned years ago.
BiblioJunkies:  Much Ado About Magic ends with a huge surprise (at least it was to Shel), does Book 6 begin immediately after the events in Much Ado About Magic? 
Shanna Swendson:  It begins about three months later (I figured they needed some rest), but the situation at the end of Much Ado About Magic is what makes book 6 possible and is critical to that plot. No spoilers, but I think you’ll like how that works. And you only have to wait until October to find out!

BiblioJunkies:  Who is your fictional boyfriend/crush? 
Shanna Swedson:  I have so many that it’s pretty embarrassing.  I seem to fall in love with someone in just about every TV series, movie or book. My current fictional crushes include Nick on the TV show Grimm (he even looks a lot like I imagine Owen to look) and Nathan Wuornos on the TV show Haven, whose personality is frighteningly similar to Owen’s (and his partner/love interest is immune to that universe’s version of “magic.” Hmmmm …). In current books, I’m rather sweet on Gerald Dunwoody in K.E. Mills’s Rogue Agent series. My most longstanding book crush might have to be Rhys Thuryn from Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni series. I fell in love with him when I was in high school and never quite got over it. I seem to have a thing for the nice-guy, boy-next-door type. Fortunately, I generally have them all to myself while everyone else falls for the bad boys.
BiblioJunkies:  Ha!  No need to be embarrassed with us - we quite literally could have an entire blog devoted just to BiblioJunkies fictional boyfriends!   

BiblioJunkies:  We are big fans of pie (cupcakes and really any treats) here at BiblioJunkies HQ – what is your favorite treat?
Shanna Swendson:  I love to bake, so picking one treat is difficult, but it’s hard to beat a really gooey, fudgy brownie right out of the oven with a glass of milk. When I make brownies, I like to put half the batter in the pan, then put small squares of dark chocolate (Dove Promises work great) on top, so that one would be in each piece, and then spread the rest of the batter on top. When the brownies are warm, it’s like having a molten center, but it seems to stay a little gooey even when they’ve cooled, like chocolate chips in cookies.
BiblioJunkies:  Oh my!  That sounds sooo good!  I cannot cook, but I will definitely be convincing Nat or Bel to make me these brownies! 

BiblioJunkies:  We know you are a big fan of Firefly, is that your favorite Joss Whedon series?  Your favorite Whedon character?  And were you as excited about Whedon directing The Avengers and Avengers 2 as we were?
Shanna Swendson:  I think Firefly has to be my favorite, though Angel may come a close second (and there’s more of it, while with Firefly it’s unfulfilled potential). My favorite character is probably Wesley from Angel because he was so complex and complicated and went through such a huge arc. It’s hard to believe that the guy we saw toward the end of Angel was the same person who first showed up on Buffy, and yet the transformation was so organic and driven by events that it made total sense.
But I have a shameful confession to make: I haven’t seen The Avengers. I’ve never been a big superhero fan, had never read any of the related comic books, and hadn’t seen any of the movies leading up to it. My friends keep telling me I need to see it, but I haven’t been highly motivated yet. I fear a kidnapping and forced viewing in my future, since my friends are aghast that I haven’t seen it and don’t really have an opinion about it. Otherwise, I may have to turn in my geek card.

BiblioJunkies:  You definitely should see Avengers (it comes out on dvd 9/25/12, not that we are excited or anything).  Any Whedon fan will enjoy the classic quips and fight scenes. 

A huge Thank You to Shanna Swendson for coming out to play on our blog.  If you my earlier badgering has not motivated you to pick up Enchanted, Inc and the rest of the series already, you should definitely grab the books.  Much Ado About Magic was nothing short of fantastic!

~Shel

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (29)


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that highlights future releases that we are excitedly anticipating.



By Brigid Kemmerer
Publication Date: August 28, 2012

Gabriel Merrick plays with fire. Literally.

Sometimes he can even control it. And sometimes he can’t. Like the fire that killed his parents.

Gabriel has always had his brothers to rely on, especially his twin, Nick. But when an arsonist starts wreaking havoc on their town, all the signs point to Gabriel. Only he’s not doing it.

More than Gabriel’s pride is at stake -- this could cost him his family, maybe his life. And no one seems to hear him. Except a shy sophomore named Layne, a brainiac who dresses in turtlenecks and jeans and keeps him totally off balance. Layne understands family problems, and she understands secrets. She has a few of her own.

Gabriel can’t let her guess about his brothers, about his abilities, about the danger that’s right at his heels. But there are some risks he can’t help taking.

The fuse is lit…

Damsel Under Stress and Don't Hex With Texas by Shanna Swendson

To save a little time & space (and also to get to the review of Much Ado About Magic this week), I combined the posts for Damsel & Don't Hex With Texas (Books 3 and 4 of the Enchanted, Inc. Series).   
From Ballantine Books:
To-do: Stop the bad guys. Rescue the wizard. Find the perfect outfit for New Year’s Eve.

At last, Owen Palmer, the dreamboat wizard at Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc., has conjured up the courage to get Katie Chandler under the mistletoe at the office holiday party. But just when it looks like Katie has found her prince, in pops her inept fairy godmother, Ethelinda, to throw a wand into the works. Ethelinda’s timing couldn’t be worse. A plot hatched by MSI’s rogue ex-employees, Idris and his evil fairy gal pal Ari, threatens to expose the company’s secrets–and the very existence of magic itself. Even worse, it could also mean the end of Katie’s happily-ever-after.

Now Katie and Owen must work side by side (but alas, not cheek to cheek) to thwart the villains’ plans. Braving black-magic-wielding sorceresses, subway-dwelling dragons, lovelorn frog princes, and even the dreaded trip to meet Owen’s parents at Christmas, Katie and her beau are in a battle to beat Idris at his own sinister game. All mischief and matters of the heart will come to a head at a big New Year’s Eve gala, when the crystal ball will drop, champagne will pour, and Katie will find herself truly spellbound.

Damsel Under Stress introduces us to the fairy godmother from hell.  Things are tense at MSI with spies in the mix, a havoc wreaking fairy godmother and more secrets surrounding Owen, Katie once again has her hands full. 





The Bad:
Honestly, I’m not overly fond of the ending of Damsel and when I first read it, I thought Katie was insane. Also, there’s a very slow build to the relationship between Katie and Owen, which feels a little drawn out, but all in all, Damsel is a fun read and a continuation of a fascinating tale.

The Good:




I love the dragons, more hilarious situations from bad dates to a church full of crazy women trying to steal Owen for their daughters and of course, the gargoyles. I know I mentioned the talking gargoyles in my review for Enchanted, Inc., but we get to go for a ride with more gargoyles in Damsel. 
Book 4 -Don't Hex With Texas







SPOILER ALERT! From Ballantine Books:
Everything’s bigger in Texas–including romance, magic, and danger!

Katie Chandler has fled fast-paced Manhattan and returned home to a simpler life, working at her family’s feed-and-seed store in Cobb, Texas. In a painfully selfless gesture, Katie had left the sexy wizard Owen Palmer to battle his demons in the magical realm–after all, Katie just seemed to attract evil, which only made Owen’s job a lot harder. But now it seems that trouble has followed her home: Despite the fact that Merlin, Katie’s old boss at Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc., has assured her that Cobb is free of enchantment, (magically speaking), Katie begins to notice curious phenomena.

Cobb is being plagued by a series of inexplicable petty crimes and other devilish mischief, and after her experiences in Manhattan, Katie knows“unauthorized magic” when she sees it. As this new darkness strikes deep in the heart of Texas, Owen appears (literally) to investigate. Now Katie’s friends and family must show the bad guys why it’s bad luck to hex with Texas, while Katie and Owen combine their strengths like never before to uncover a sinister plot before evil takes root in the Lone Star State.
I’m not sure I can do this review without spoilers, so if you are like me and hate too much information, STOP READING and I’m sorry! In Book 4, DHWT, Katie has returned home to Texas to live a magic free life. Or so she thought until she sees spots someone using magic in her small town.
The Bad:
I did not like Katie’s retreat to Texas. It seemed out of character for her to walk away, not just from Owen, but from her friends and more importantly from this battle that had become so much of her life. I realize it was to set up the things we learn in DHWT, but I still had a hard time buying it. DHWT is probably the slowest paced of the books, but I’ve still read it about 5 times if that tells you anything.J
The Good:
Katie’s crazy family is present and accounted for in DHWT. There are plenty of funny situations – such as Katie’s grandma and her mother. Plus, we finally get some Katie-Owen alone time. I DO love the ending and was devastated when Shanna announced in 2008 that Ballantine wasn’t going to pursue Book 5. There’s still so much to discover, including all the mystery surrounding Owen and his destiny. Thus my complete joy at discovering that today, August 15, 2012, Shanna is self-publishing Book 5, now known as Much Ado About Magic AND that there will be a Book 6 later this fall! Plus, if you guys love them as much as I do (meaning the books sell), Shanna will publish Book 7!
Continuing our Much Ado About Magic countdown, our next Enchanted, Inc. review will be Much Ado About Magic!!!!

~Shel

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

* * * 1/2


I just came home from Afghanistan.
My parents are splitting up.
My brother has stolen my girlfriend.
(He also stole my car.)
And I’m haunted by the ghost of my best friend.
Then I run into Harper.
(Technically, her fist runs into my face.)
She’s beautiful, smart, funny …
… and she wants nothing to do with the messed-up Marine who ruined her life.
Sometimes the best you can hope for is something like normal.
Sometimes what you get might be even better.


I chose to read Something Like Normal  because I wanted something contemporary. With all the baggage mentioned above, I was fully prepared for the story to spiral into depression. That never happened. Instead, I found myself very much drawn to Travis Stephenson, the 18 year-old Marine returning home to Fort Myers for a month’s leave.

What impressed me about Travis is his startling maturity. He profoundly honest about himself and his family. He accepts that things are far from ideal: his estranged relationship with his over-bearing, alpha-male Superbowl champion dad, his jealous, undermining younger brother and his eager-to-please mom. His dysfunctional relationships don’t stop there. There’s also his ex-girlfriend, Paige who sent him a “Dear John” letter while he was in Afghanistan. The postage had barely stuck to the envelope when she took up with his brother. Awkward! So you see, it’s not exactly a happy homecoming.

Throughout the story, Travis is haunted by the death of his best friend and fellow Marine, Charlie. Often he reminisces about his experience in Afghanistan but zeroes in on his close bond with Charlie. He’s riddled with guilt over his loss and has yet to process all the things he’s been through. It's a revelation to realize that he feels more at home with his Marine brotehrs in a war torn region than he does with his family in Florida. He feels like a fish out of water. His year away has given him perspective, allowing him to define his idea of what “family” is. And having been in the company of his brothers, knowing that they’d stick with each other through hell and worse, he’s not interested in mending fences with his father and brother.

When Travis runs into Harper, a girl who has been dogged by awful rumors that Travis himself started, he is spun around on his head. Initially she wants nothing to do with him and makes that clear after a swift punch to the face. Hey, a girl deserves her moment of revenge after going through high school hell, right? But they keep running into each other and Harper starts to loosen up even offering to help him with a family dinner.

Here’s where I came to like Travis. Travis hates himself and most everyone around him. He’s been disappointed by his family. He has no pretensions about himself and can be a real ass. He admits his flaws, acknowledges his mistakes and owns up to his jackass nature. Harper is a breath of fresh air, opposite of him and his ex-girlfriend. With Harper, he cares about what he says and does. He’s enamored by her and picks up on her little mannerisms that make him go weak:

 “ … she gives me a tiny bit-lip smile that knocks the wind out of my chest.”

And then there those moments when he shows his vulnerability:

“I want to tell her I won’t hurt her, but what proof does she have of that? Thing is, I don’t want to hurt her. Harper brings out something different in me than Paige. Something better. At least, I want to believe that.”

Every time he noticed Harper, I smiled because he was genuinely happy then. This was something good finally happening to him. Something worth protecting. With Harper’s sincerity and patience, he starts to come to grips with Charlie's death and the traumatic events he witnessed while in Afghanistan. He also steps up to be the kind of man his mom needs in the light of his father’s many transgressions.

Something Like Normal was engaging from start to finish. Travis’ drive to become a better person and work through is issues is admirable. He's the underdog you root for. The story leaves you feeling hopeful that each day gets better and brighter.
~ Bel