Monday, October 31, 2011

The Books For Which We Are Thankful

I've enjoyed books for as long as I can remember.  Story time in grade school was my favorite part of the week.  The Scholastic Book Fair was the best day/night of the year.  I would return from my weekly trip to the library with a stack of books a mile high.  I would finish each and every one of them before my mom and I would head back to the library a week later.  There are so many books for which I am grateful.  Books that have made me think, books that have challenged my imagination, books that have taught me to do something I love and books that have helped me take care of a sick infant.  So many that I find it hard to narrow it down to just one.  The book I decided to share with you today will seem odd.  That book is Twilight by Stephanie Meyer.  I know!  Right?  You are thinking "What is this lady talking about?" Here is the thing.  I read Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.  But that was the extent of my foray into the YA/MG categories.  Then long story short, Shel gave me Twilight to read.  I read it.  I loved it.  To quote Bel's husband, "Edward is so dreamy!"  In the end it's a great story if not necessarily a well written one.  And why am I thankful for it?  Because after reading the Twilight saga, my love of YA literature was born.  I can't get enough of it. And a few months after that, Shel, Bel (both who discovered YA long before I did) and I started our blog.  A blog which has been a ton of work and even more fun. A blog that has allowed me to spend even more time with my friends.  A blog that has allowed us to meet other bloggers as well as some of our favorite authors. A blog that has definitely been one of the many highlights of what has been a very amazing year.   ~ Nat

I am thankful for City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. This is the book that really started it all for me. It has everything – romance, action, humor, mythology, drama and dirty sexy scenes that I love to re-read over and over. But most importantly, it manifested my profound love of snarky bad boys and their snarky dry wit via the ever-awesome Jace. The phenomenal writing and detail just captured me. And the myriad of colorful characters has become dear to me. Until City of Bones, I’d never considered YA novels as being of any relevance to me. I mean I’d read the Twilight series and enjoyed it but City of Bones just had something magical that literally opened up an entire genre for me. Honestly, it blew apart the freaking door! Getting lost in a fantasy world whether it is paranormal or ordinary has been one of the highlights of the past year. I cannot get enough of it. From City of Bones I moved on to other authors, books and characters I’ve since discovered and enjoyed (like that other snarky bad boy Patch). I’ve grown to appreciate the depth of creativity and variety there is out there. The fact that it’s such an open field means that there’ll always be something unexpected around the corner. And because of City of Bones, I am now a part of BiblioJunkies where I get to share my love of this fantastic, imaginative genre with my fellow BiblioJunkies Nat and Shel and other enthusiastic, likeminded readers – all thanks to City of Bones!  ~ Bel

So why are we sharing this with you?  This is part of an entry to an amazing contest YA author Beth Revis is having on her blog.  Check out her post and read about what she is thankful for this year.  And then check out the amazing list of books and swag she is giving away.  And after you do that, add a like-minded post to your blog or FB page to enter.  And once you do THAT, let us know what book you are most thanful for.  We love to hear how books have changed others lives.

The Bibliojunkies

Name Of The Star by Maureen Johnson

* * * *

The Day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion.  For Rory, it’s the start of a new life at a London boarding school.  But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city – gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific world of Jack the Ripper in the autumn of 1888.

Soon “Rippermania” takes a hold of the modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses.  Except one.  Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect.  But she is the only one who can see him.  Even her roommate, who was with her at the time, didn’t notice the mysterious man.  So why can only Rory see him?  And more urgently, what is he planning to do about her?

In this edge-of-your-set thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.

I have this horrible thing where I actually don’t mind spoilers too much.  Sometimes I can’t stand the anticipation so I feel justified in finding out what happens before I even get to it just to placate my curiosity.  With Name of the Star, I found myself doing the opposite.  For once I made myself wait and go through the motions and experience the events as they unfolded. 

Rory as a Louisiana transplant in London is a fun, quirky character in contrast to most of the more reserved English characters she encounters.  She’s a bit out of place but that makes her all the more likable.  Rory doesn’t seem to comprehend the significance of the Ripper-like murders taking place until one happens by her school.  This is when her life and that of the Ripper intersect and then all hell breaks loose.  The Ripper takes a particular shine to Rory and soon she finds herself embroiled in not only the Ripper’s morbid intentions but also in London’s secret police.  The mystery deepens and becomes more dangerous as more crimes are committed and cryptic messages are revealed.

London as a backdrop is simply amazing.  I enjoyed Maureen Johnson’s tour through the London streets and neighborhoods and the many “English” things that Rory was experiencing for the first time.  She was drinking tea so much that I found myself doing it as well. No complaints here – I love tea.  And London’s long and rich history lends itself very well for the mystery told in NOTS.  I also liked how Johnson incorporated the events as told through other random people’s points of view and tied them all together.  All those eerie moments definitely give you a sense that what’s happening is far bigger than just Rory.  Her friends at school, her roommates, Jazza and Boo are delightful characters.  I especially liked Boo who I picture as The Good Wife’s Archie Panjabi’s character from Bend It Like Beckham.  When you read the book and read how she talks, you’ll know what I mean.  She helps ease some of the tension that builds as the mystery progresses and provides a good shoulder for Rory to lean on.

I won’t say much else because that would mean giving away too many details.  This really was a fun mystery – suspenseful and quite creepy at times and I was thankful for something different.  I think Maureen Johnson did a fantastic job with the historical details.  Jack the Ripper will always hold everyone’s fascination no matter how graphic the nature of his crimes were.  While the absolute truth about who he was may never be discovered, I think people will always experience an uneasy mix of awe and repulsion for him.  I’m sure after reading this, some people will interested in learning a bit more about him themselves.  Name Of The Star is the first in the Shades of London series so there’s much more that Rory has yet to show us!

~ Bel

Friday, October 28, 2011

Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner

* * * *

SHAKESPEARE SHAPIRO HAS ALWAYS hated his name. His parents bestowed it on him as some kind of sick joke when he was born, and his life has gone downhill from there, one embarrassing incident after another. Entering his senior year of high school, Shakespeare has never had a girlfriend, his younger brother is cooler than he is, and his best friend's favorite topic of conversation is his bowel movements.

But Shakespeare will have the last laugh. He is chronicling every mortifying detail in his memoir, the writing project each senior at Shakespeare's high school must complete. And he is doing it brilliantly. And, just maybe, a prize-winning memoir will bring him respect, admiration, and a girlfriend . . . or at least a prom date.

“The son of an alcoholic father and a neurotic mother, Mr. Shapiro endured a torturous childhood, made worse by his social ineptitude and uncanny ability to transform any situation into a full-blown catastrophe.” - Chapter - Senior Year: September

I came across this book while patiently looking through every electronic YA title provided by my library. No, I really don’t have this kind of time in my life right now but often my obsession over books (and Brandon Flowers) takes precedence over sleep.

Shakespeare Shapiro is your run of the mill teenager with a semi-dysfunctional family, sexual obsession and the belief that his life must be worse than that of anyone else around him. While working on his senior project, a memoir of his life called “17 Down”, he learns that maybe his life doesn’t suck nearly as much as he likes to believe.

Jake Wizner has a wonderfully dry and sarcastic sense of humor that is slightly reminiscent of David Sedaris. The story starts out with a considerable amount of humorous moments. In line with where the story is going, the middle and end are a bit more serious as Shakespeare begins to realize how what he has in life compares to what others may or may not have at all. Have no fear, the satirical feel remains through out the book along with a considerable amount of bathroom humor. I found myself laughing out loud more times than I can count.

The pure honesty portrayed in this book completely won me over. There doesn’t seem to be anything that Shakespeare isn’t afraid to share with the reader. And the things he does to purposely rile up his parents are smart and hilarious. It truly is a witty read that I would recommend to most anyone. So much so that I passed it around at the dinner table when we had friends over so they could read Shakespeare’s obituary (which he had to write for a class project). It was a huge hit and I easily convinced three people to read it right then and there. Honestly, what could be a better sell that that?


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Flying Blind by Deborah Cooke


From NAL:


The next generation of shape-shifting dragons from the popular author of the Dragonfire novels.
Zoe Sorensson is perfectly normal, except she’s been told she’s destined for great things. Zoe’s the one female dragon shapeshifter of her kind. But Zoe is at the bottom of the class when it comes to being Pyr and her powers are AWOL, so she’s sent to a Pyr boot camp.
Zoe quickly realizes that she has to master her powers yesterday, because the Pyr are in danger and boot camp is a trap. The Mages want to eliminate all shifters and the Pyr are next in line - unless Zoe and her friends can work together and save their own kind.
I am a fan of Deborah Cooke’s adult Dragonfire series. Flying Blind is a young adult series set in the same universe of dragons and magic. The Pyr are an ancient race of dragon shape-shifters. In Cooke’s universe, there is only one female Pyr per generation. She is the Wyvern and she is revered by the other Pyr as their spiritual guide and advisor. In this generation, Zoe is supposed to be the lucky winner, but she cannot figure out her shifting or Wyvern powers. She doubts that she is the true Wyvern and when she and her friends get to boot camp, they begin to doubt it as well. But Zoe must quickly learn to believe in herself and figure out her powers, because strange things are happening at boot camp and she fears the adult Pyr are in trouble. The only way to save everyone is for Zoe to convince herself and her friends that she is the Wyvern and for them to work together.

Cooke’s dragon lore is engrossing. The characters are lovable and the story is completely entertaining. Flying Blind is a fun tribute to the trials of growing up - learning to believe in yourself and figuring out who you are and want to be. While Zoe figures herself out, she is awkward and ridiculous - seriously, you totally feel embarrassed for her! It’s one part adorable heroine, 1 part high-flying adventure (literally) and 2 parts hot dragon & spellcasting boys = a fantastic reading experience!
The sequel, Winging It releases December 6, 2011.
You can learn more about Cooke's Dragonfire series (adult paranormal romance) here.  I recommend you check out both series for some seriously fun entertainment. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

* * * *

What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every newborn has become a ticking genetic time bomb – males only live to twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty.  In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out. 

When sixteen year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege.  Despite her husband Linden’s genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one other purpose: to escape – to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than her freedom.  Linden’s eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting close to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments.  With the help of Gabriel, a servant she is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left. 

Wither is a suspenseful novel that I could not put down.  In fact, stupid me kept reading it until one in the morning, which wouldn’t have been a bad thing except I had to get up four and a half hours later for work. Don’t worry.  I learned my lesson.  I only stayed up until midnight the following night to finish it up.

Lauren DeStefano wastes no time in jump-starting the story.  The first time we’re introduced to Rhine is when she is stuffed into a dark room along with several other girls after they’ve been kidnapped.  It’s immediately clear that Rhine is someone who processes her environment thoroughly before deciding how best to react.  No matter how dire her circumstances, she refuses to relinquish control.  Her courage is admirable.  She’s not the kick-you-in-the-guts, guns-blazing heroine.  She’s the quiet, observant, insightful, calculating heroine who will delicately work her way out of a situation.

And that’s what she does when she's one of three picked from that group of girls and married off to Linden Ashby.  She realizes it would be fruitless to fight so she decides to play by the rules on the surface as she discreetly plans her escape.  Linden is not a cruel husband.  He’s actually sweet but he is utterly oblivious about how his latest wives have been acquired for him.  His overbearing father, Housemaster Vaughn controls the reigns.  While Rhine works hard to keep an emotional and physical distance from Linden, she also can’t help but pity his sheltered life. She and her sister wives live comfortably and are provided with the best, however, it's very much like living under house arrest as everything they do is monitored.  They are relegated to their floor of the mansion and must receive permission to be able to venture anywhere else.  Rhine knows that Linden favors her of the three wives and uses it to her advantage.  She knows the risk of the game she’s playing and she artfully does her best to hide her disgust and loathing of the two men who have stolen her life from her.

Housemaster Vaughn is best described as the father-in-law from hell.  Outwardly, he oozes gentleness.  In reality, he is just plain creepy and views the girls only as playthings for his son to keep him occupied and provide heirs.  He is quietly menacing and makes your skin crawl.  He loves his son very much and will do anything to keep him alive.  She uncovers some horrific secrets about him and what goes on in the rest of the mansion – that he’s been endlessly experimenting and looking for a cure in the basement lab.  It’s how he’s been conducting these experiments and the cruel lies that he spreads that are terrifying. Nothing is sacred and lines are easily crossed in his zealous quest to find a cure for his son.  The more she learns, the more she realizes that running away may not be as easy as she assumes. 

It’s odd to describe something terrifying as also beautiful but Wither is both.  There are painful moments when Rhine is sifting through her memories and reaching for ones that keep her connected to her brother and her family.  The memories of her parents describing life before the genetic anomalies are heartbreaking.  The beautiful moments come when Rhine finds herself sharing genuine friendships with one of her sister wives, Jenna, Deidre her stylist and also with her servant, Gabriel.  These three people provide her with the few bright spots in her miserable prison and give her resolve that she will escape and find her way back home to her brother.

Wither is a dark novel with some graphic and uneasy moments but overall I enjoyed it.  The suspense keeps you hooked and draws you into this absurdly dysfunctional world where the wealthy have everything at their disposal and the less fortunate must fend for themselves.  This upper crust society turns a blind eye to the fact that young girls are kidnapped and sold into polygamy because the grim reality is that it's a sordid means of survival for the human race.  The book has ample deceit and intrigue that leaves you guessing about what will happen next.

Wither is part one of The Chemical Garden Trilogy.

~ Bel

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Peek in the Biblio-Bin -#7

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren. It 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 week Bel gives you a peek into the Biblio-Bin

On the night of Skye's seventeenth birthday, she meets two enigmatic strangers. Complete opposites;like fire and ice;Asher is dark and wild, while Devin is fair and aloof. Their sudden appearance sends Skye's life into a tailspin. She has no idea what they want, or why they seem to follow her every move only that their presence coincides with a flurry of strange events. Soon she begins to doubt not just the identity of the two boys, but also the truth about her own past.

In the dead of a bitingly cold Colorado winter, Skye finds herself coming to terms with the impossible secret that threatens to shatter her world. Torn between Asher, who she can't help falling for, and Devin, who she can't stay away from, the consequences of Skye's choice will reach further than the three of them could ever imagine.

Thomas knows that Wicked can't be trusted, but they say the time for lies is over, that they've collected all they can from the Trials and now must rely on the Gladers, with full memories restored, to help them with their ultimate mission. It's up to the Gladers to complete the blueprint for the cure to the Flare with a final voluntary test.

What Wicked doesn't know is that something's happened that no Trial or Variable could have foreseen. Thomas has remembered far more than they think. And he knows that he can't believe a word of what Wicked says.

The time for lies is over. But the truth is more dangerous than Thomas could ever imagine.

Will anyone survive the Death Cure?

When foster teen Jane Williams is invited to attend elite Birch Grove Academy for Girls and escape her violent urban neighborhood, she thinks the offer is too good to be true. She's even offered her own living quarters, the groundskeeper's cottage in the center of the birch grove.

Something's not quite right about the school -- or is it Jane? She thinks she sees things in the birch grove at night. She's also beginning to suspect that the elegant headmistress and her sons are hiding secrets. Lucky is the gorgeous, golden son who is especially attentive to Jane, and Jack is the sardonic puzzling brother.

The school with its talented teachers and bright students is a dream for a science and math geek like Jane. She also loves her new friends, including hilarious poetry-spouting rich girl, Mary Violet. But the longer Jane stays at Birch Grove, the more questions she has about the disappearance of another scholarship girl and a missing faculty member.

Jane discovers one secret about Birch Grove, which only leads to more mysteries. What is she willing to sacrifice in order to stay at this school...and be bound to Birch Grove forever?

Tell us what books you acquired this week!

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Beautiful Friendship by David Weber

* * * * 1/2

“A stellar introduction to a new YA science-fiction series set in the “Honorverse” of Weber’s popular adult novels…It’s rare to find teen science fiction that strays beyond dystopian fare. The environmental messages, human-animal friendship, humor, action, and inventive technology will make this series starter an easy hit with teen SF readers” – Booklist starred review

Hello – XO here. When my wife/boss/Captain, Nat, told me that my favorite author was going to release a YA novel, I squealed like a 12 year old girl. At which point, she decided that I had the correct qualifications to write a guest review for the Bibliojunkies. With that said, be gentle, I’m nowhere near as good as these ladies at writing reviews. Fortunately, they love me, and I can still read so…

I’ve read all of Weber’s Honorverse novels, actually ALL of his novels, usually within a few weeks of their release, so I was standing at the mailbox waiting for this one to arrive. I was a little cynical since this story was already released in a short story collection, but obviously the book was longer (Yeah, I can count too, usually). Weber made a few modifications to the original short story, and used it the lead off the book, with added story line following. I’ll also throw a plug in for the adult Honorverse series, if you are a fan of sci-fi, please check it out, and be sure you give it a chance; it starts out a bit slow with book 1, but book 2 and on are amazing.

The story follows young Stephanie Harrington, Great-Great-Great –yadda-yadda-yadda Grandmother of the Hero of the Honorverse books, Honor Harrington. Stephanie is smarter than her peers, as grown-up as most adults in town, and as curious as a, well, as a tree-kitten. She meets her companion while trying to solve the great celery mystery of 1518 DP (don’t ask, read it, it’ll make sense) and they instantly form a powerful, unexplained bond. This is a 12 year old, stuck on a planet that has seasons 15 months long, and she is the frst person to find and meet another member of a sentient race of non-humans. Not too shabby for someone who hasen’t even started high school (And for my daughters, just note, she’s set the bar pretty high, but I expect each of you to somehow do at least the same). What follows is an adventure that neither of them expected, but both of them are going to see through, regardless of the cost. I apologize in advance to Nat, Shel and Bel, but this book ROCKS the other YA books out there ! I can honestly say this is the BEST YA sci-fi book I have ever read (Number of YA sci-fi books read prior to this = 0).

There are no vampires, or werewolves, or love triangles, in fact, at 12ish, Stephanie still finds boys a bit “yucky”. There is no depressing dystopian world where everything is morose and sad. There is a bright young girl, her new friend, the sentient arboreal treecat Lionheart, some dastardly evil doers, and a supporting cast of furry, ferocious, friendly, fascinating treecats (see what I did there, chuckle at my hilariousness). I, for one, am now going to annoy my wife on a daily basis, asking when the next book in the series comes out.

~ The Executive Officer (a.k.a Nat's husband)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Spooktacular Giveaway Hop!

It's that time again folks.  We are having another contest (I know, I know, Nat & Bel are going to kill me if I keep signing up for all these giveaways!)!  So, here's the deal, I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Diary of a Bookworm are hosting this awesome Hop.  There are a ton of blogs participating (see linky below) and tons of prizes to be won.  

The BiblioJunkies recently had the opportunity to meet the fabulous and fun Becca FitzPatrick, author of the Hush, Hush series.  She was gracious enough to sign a bunch of books for us to giveaway here on the blog, so we thought we would start now!  This giveaway includes:

A SIGNED copy of Hush, Hush (paperback)

A SIGNED poster from the Silence Tour!

(Who can resist a poster of the beautiful Drew Doyon & Becca FitzPatrick's autograph?!?!?)

Tantalize by Cynthia Lietich Smith (hardcover)

AND because Halloween is never complete without Vampires and Werewolves vying for our love, a paperback copy of New Moon by Stephanie Meyer.

To enter, follow the instructions in Rafflecopter.  This one is simple, leave a comment (be sure to include your email address) telling us what your favorite Halloween read is - that's the mandatory one.  You can get extra entries for following us on GFC & Twitter.  Neither are mandatory, but we would love it if you would follow our silliness.  The contest will run from 12:01 a.m. on October 24, 2011 to 12:01 a.m. on November 1, 2011.  See the terms & conditions in the Rafflecopter for details on notifying the winner, etc. 

Last time I looked there were over 400 blogs participating, so follow the linky below and check out the other giveaways!  Thanks for stopping by and good luck!


Friday, October 21, 2011

Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik

From HarperTeen:

Will Elise’s love life be an epic win or an epic fail?
At Coral Tree Prep in Los Angeles, who your parents are can make or break you. Case in point:
As the son of Hollywood royalty, Derek Edwards is pretty much prince of the school—not that he deigns to acknowledge many of his loyal subjects.

As the daughter of the new principal, Elise Benton isn’t exactly on everyone’s must-sit-next-to-at-lunch list.

When Elise’s beautiful sister catches the eye of the prince’s best friend, Elise gets to spend a lot of time with Derek, making her the envy of every girl on campus. Except she refuses to fall for any of his rare smiles and instead warms up to his enemy, the surprisingly charming social outcast Webster Grant. But in this hilarious tale of fitting in and flirting, not all snubs are undeserved, not all celebrity brats are bratty, and pride and prejudice can get in the way of true love for only so long.

This book was unapologetically Pride & Prejudice. From the names of the characters – i.e., Juliana, Elise, Layla & Kaitlyn Benton vs Jane, Elizabeth, Lydia & Kitty Bennett, to the ridiculously wealthy Derrick (Mr. Darcy) and his little sister Georgia (Georgiana). There were some differences, it being a modern adaptation and all, but the essentials were all there. Prejudice, misunderstandings, manipulation and of course, humiliation.

I found myself smiling as I read many of the exchanges between Elise & Derrick. I also enjoyed the despicable Grant Webster (George Wickham) and Chelsea (Charlotte). I felt that LaZebnik was trying too hard to make Mrs. Benton as embarrassing as Mrs. Bennett and that it sometimes disrupted the flow of the story. I did not find Mr. and Mrs. Benton to be very believable characters, but otherwise, the story was quite enjoyable.

I am giving Epic Fail 3 stars because I did not quite love it, but I did enjoy it.



Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lord of the Vampires by Gena Showalter - 18+ Read

From Harlequin Nocturne:

Once upon a time…the Blood Sorcerer vanquished the kingdom of Elden. To save their children, the queen scattered them to safety and the king filled them with vengeance. Only a magical timepiece connects the four royal heirs…and time is running out….

Nicolai the Vampire was renowned for his virility, but in a twist of fate "The Dark Seducer" had become a sex slave in the kingdom of Delfina—stripped of his precious timepiece and his memory. All that remained was a primal need for freedom, revenge—and the only woman who could help him.

In her dreams, a wanton vampire called to Jane Parker, drawing her to his dark sexuality and his magical realm. But for a human, all was not a fairy tale in Delfina. Jane was the key to Nicolai's memory…but exploiting her meant dooming the only mortal he craved.
This is Book 1 of the Royal House of Shadows series.  Four books by four different authors.  The esteemed Gena Showalter takes the lead with Lord of the Vampires, the story of Nicolai, born a Vampire and a Prince, but now a slave with no memory of who he was or how he came to be a slave.  Jane is a human who is recovering from a horrific accident in which she lost her family.  Now alone and lonely, she dreams of a devastating stranger who needs her.  Her dreams become reality when a spell transports her to Nicolai.  Jane helps Nicolai escape and on the run the two must face their enemies and their growing passion. 

This one is definitely for the 18 and over crowd.  This story is sweet and steamy.  I did not care much for Jane, but Nicolai was an alpha vampire hottie.  It was easy to picture him as the Crown Prince, doting on his younger siblings and struggling to control his powers.  Jane felt forced and unformed, but overall, the story was enjoyable.  I look forward to reading the remainder of the series.  Book 2, Lord of Rage by Jill Monroe is out now.  Book 3, Lord of Wolfyn, is out October 18, 2011. And Book 4, Lord of the Abyss by Nalini Singh releases November 29, 2011. 

I have to say, for my first Gena Showalter read, I was pleased.  I give Lord of the Vampires 3 stars and recommend it if you are looking for a little sizzle...


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

You Are Here by Jennifer E. Smith

* * * 1/2

From Simon & Schuster:

Emma and Peter are alike in a lot of ways. They are both lonely in a way that they really only mind once in a while. They both come from families that they don't quite understand. And they both feel like something big is missing from their lives. So this summer they are off to find something. For Emma, it is a grave, a grave that may be her only connection to her family. For Peter it is harder to define, but perhaps easier to navigate. It is a freedom, a sense of something more than what he has now. So off they go, searching for what we all search for; something to make sense of who they are where they come from.

If you are looking to read something at a relaxed pace then this is the book for you.

Emma Healey comes from a family of intellectuals that leaves her feeling so completely ordinary.  One day she accidentally discovers a birth certificate for her twin brother followed by a death certificate dated 2 days later.  In an instant, it all makes sense to her why she’s felt like the odd man out.  Now she’s determined to visit her brother’s grave to feel a connection to something, to someone. 

Peter Finnegan is the neighbor who has always wanted to be a part of Emma’s family.  Her parents have always welcomed him as one of their own which is in stark contrast to his relationship with his widower father.  Peter’s penchant for maps of all kinds and his aversion to anything sports-related only widens the distance between them.  Feeling stifled and misunderstood he dreams of leaving town and exploring the world with his maps in tow.

The opportunity comes when Emma calls him out of the blue to rescue her after her car breaks down on her way to North Carolina to visit her brother’s grave.  She invites Peter to join her and he seizes the chance to tag along.  The two sit comfortably in silence, lost in their own thoughts.  Peter never questions why Emma's motivation for going to North Carolina and Emma indulges Peter’s fascination with visiting all the old battlefields during their journey. 

Once they begin to open up, each one offers the other a perspective they haven’t considered in regards to their own circumstances.  Peter who feels his father has never understood him wishes that his dad would share memories of his mother with him.  Instead his father finds fault with his need to escape from their life and go to college elsewhere.  Emma tries to convince him that his dad loves him in his own way, “The thing about parents is that you always just assume they’re supposed to be good at their jobs, because they’re parents.  But they’re usually not.”  Being a parent myself, that sentiment resonated with me. 

Meanwhile, Emma feels betrayed that no one has ever told her about her dead twin brother.  She has felt that there was a missing piece all this time and blames her family for it.  Peter calls her on this pointing out that there have been plenty of times where she has enjoyed the advantages of being “different" from her siblings and parents.  As the journey moves forward, Emma learns more about her family and the impact her brother's death had on them.  There's a very moving scene with Emma and her older sister, Annie that narrows the gap between them.  

I really enjoyed reading about Emma and Peter - Peter especially.  He's so uniquely introspective that it's hard to imagine what Emma would have been like making the road trip on her own.  He helps draw her out of her shell.  Both of them come to some self-realization about their own flaws and mature into wise young individuals.  They gain a new understanding of the people they love most and know that despite what they had believed before, they are certainly not alone.  

- Bel

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Silence by Becca Fitzpatrik

* * * 1/2 


“Nora Grey can’t remember the past five months of her life.  After the initial shock of waking up in a cemetery and being told that she’s been missing for weeks – with no one knowing where she was or who she was with – she tries to get her life back on track.  Go to school, hang out with her best friend, Vee, and dodge her mom’s creepy new boyfriend.

But there is this voice in the back of her head, an idea that she can almost reach out and touch.  Visions of angel wings and unearthly creatures that have nothing to do with the life she knows.

And this unshakable feeling that a part of her is missing.

Then Nora crosses paths with a sexy stranger, whom she feels a mesmerizing connection to.  He seems to hold all the answers…and her heart.  Every minute she spends with him grows more and more intense until she realizes she could be falling in love.  Again.”

Dear Readers, October has been a good month for fun stuff.  My son’s birthday, new music releases by my favorite bands and last but never least, my fictional boyfriend Patch has returned!   You all know that I’m a complete nutter for him so imagine my frustration when I went to a certain retail location and they didn’t have him…err, I mean the book out.  How dare they keep me from my man, I mean book!  Luckily, BiblioJunkies Nat came to the rescue with her stealth-like determination and managed to get me a copy at a different retailer.  She still had to take matters into her own hands and pry open a box to retrieve him/the book.  She saved the day!

But I digress.  Let’s get back to business.  Silence didn’t start off the way I expected it to which was a nice surprise.  It takes place a few months later with Nora having no memories of the previous 5 months.  However, that doesn’t mean she experience déjà-vus and gut feelings nagging at her.  One déjà-vu  in particular from Hush, Hush will bring a smile to your faces.

Things have changed since she’s been away.  Her mother is now dating Hank Millar (gag!) her arch nemesis, Marcie’s dad.  People aren’t exactly being liberal with details to help her fill in the gaps including Vee, her loyal but slightly obnoxious best friend.  The same cast of characters return, Scott Parnell, the beefcake Nephil, Dabria, psycho fallen archangel and Det. Basso who we have yet to figure out.  I hope there’s more to him later.  And the Black Hand’s mark is everywhere.  Nora doesn’t give up.  She knows that there’s something missing and she’s determined to find out.  Even if it means making dumb decisions like walking around alone at night and getting into trouble.  Hello!  You’ve been kidnapped and away for months and whoever did this is still out there!  So some things don’t change.  (BilblioJunkies Nat and I will be having a discussion with Becca about this particular problem).  But Nora is becoming more fearless as the fog clears and she learns more about her family tree and what’s in store for her.

Things have also gotten a bit complicated thanks to the Black Hand. There’s something brewing between the Nephilim and the fallen angels and it’s up to our heroine and Patch to figure it out.  First she must remember him.  Watching her regain her memories of Patch is fun and he’s still as hot as ever (naturally).  As for Patch – I have to say I didn’t think he was as snarky in Silence probably because he’s busy brooding over Nora.  He’s going by Jev and is more serious with his own agenda.  The old Patch comes back later thankfully once he and Nora start reconnecting.  Case in point:

Nora: “ Do you think they’re going to buy that a guy in tacky leather chaps dances like this?”
Patch/Jev: “Keep it up, and I’ll put you in the chaps.”

Oh Patch, you say the sweetest things!  I won’t divulge much else except that while Silence was supposed to be the final book, Becca Fitzpatrick recently announced that there will indeed be a fourth book.  Yay!  Why a fourth?  Because she can.  And also because the book’s recurring theme of Cheshvan, the two-week period where fallen angels take over a human vassal’s body and run rampant like it’s spring break in Ibiza, is fast approaching and this time it looks like there’ll be a showdown between the Nephilim and the fallen angels. 

I liked how Becca Fitzpatrick describes in intricate detail Nora's memories fleeting in and out and how she'd grasp at them, trying to piece them all back together.  You could feel the mental exhaustion she was going through.  I also liked the subtle hints that there's more to Nora we have yet to discover.  Silence was fun and judging by how it started and ended, I have no idea what’s going to happen in the next one.  Patch isn't the only one calling the shots anymore. Nora has had to make some tough decisions that affect them.  We’ll see how they fare...


P.S.  There's also a  special edition (available only through Wlamart, Inc) which includes an exclusive chapter from Patch's point of view.  It's about the first time Patch and Nora meet and it's not what you think. ;-)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

* * * * *

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit -- more sparkly, more fun, more wild -- the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket -- a gifted inventor -- steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

Cricket Bell broke Lola’s heart two years ago. He moved away and Lola moved on. Now Cricket is back and he is still head over heals in love with Lola. But Lola is dating Max (the older experienced guy that her dads don’t approve of) and she isn’t interested in allowing Cricket to break her heart again. Or is she?

If you remember, I loved Anna and the French Kiss. So much so, that I was on pins and needles waiting for Lola to be released. To give you an idea how impatient I was….I pre-ordered my copy of Lola but then decided I couldn’t wait for it to arrive at my house. So I downloaded it to my e-reader at midnight of the day it was released. Stephanie is a genius at writing romance and I simply cannot control myself when it comes to her books. And I don't regret my need for immediate gratification.  Because Lola managed to be both different and every bit as good as (if not better than) Anna.

In the words of Lola’s dad, Andy: “I am trying really hard not use the word ‘fabulous’ right now.” So instead I will say that Lola and the Boy Next Door IS SUPERB, SUBLIME, SPLENDID!

The best things about Stephanie’s books are the characters. Every character in this book was quirky and amazing. Lola was wonderfully insecure yet confident. She was brave in a way that I only dreamed of being when I was a teen. The way she pushes the boundaries to express herself is over the top and fun. And Cricket. Oh my. Yet another addition to my long list of fictional boyfriends. What I loved most about Cricket? Besides his sincerity and insecurity and height (all 76 inches of him)? He was totally the boy I would have had a crush on in school. *sigh*

The supporting cast was also great. Lola’s dads were refreshingly active and overprotective parents. Lindsey was an excellent, steady yet still quirky BFF for Lola. Max was a frighteningly realistic controlling boyfriend that you like in the beginning and then gradually grow to dislike but still pity. And Cricket’s twin, Calliope, was a surprisingly developed and multi-layered character. Then there were Anna and Etienne. They don’t have just a cameo in this book. They are actual supporting characters which was a lot of fun. And it was hilarious to see that they still participate in indecent public displays of affection that embarrass everyone around them.

Seriously, I could get out of control with telling you about all the reasons I enjoyed this book which means I have no idea how to end this review. I will just stop while I am ahead and tell you this one last thing: READ THIS BOOK! It’s a lovely romance and reading it was one of the bright spots of my month.

~ Nat

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Peek in the Biblio-Bin - #6

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren. It 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 week Nat gives you a peek into the Biblio-Bin.

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Evie finally has the normal life she’s always longed for. But she’s shocked to discover that being ordinary can be . . . kind of boring. Just when Evie starts to long for her days at the International Paranormal Containment Agency, she’s given a chance to work for them again. Desperate for a break from all the normalcy, she agrees.

But as one disastrous mission leads to another, Evie starts to wonder if she made the right choice. And when Evie’s faerie ex-boyfriend Reth appears with devastating revelations about her past, she discovers that there’s a battle brewing between the faerie courts that could throw the whole supernatural world into chaos. The prize in question? Evie herself.

So much for normal.

Seven half-bloods shall answer the call,

To storm or fire the world must fall.

An oath to keep with a final breath,

And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death.

Percy is confused. When he awoke from his long sleep, he didn't know much more than his name. His brain fuzz is lingering, even after the wolf Lupa tol him he is a demigod and trained him to fight with the pen/sword in his pocket. Somehow Percy manages to make it to a camp for half-bloods, despite the fact that he has to keep killing monsters along the way. But the camp doesn't ring and bells with him. The only thing he can recall from his past is another name: Annabeth

Hazel is supposed to be dead. When she lived before, she didn't do a very good job of it. Sure, she was an obedient daughter, even when her mother was possessed by greed. But that was the problem - when the Voice took over he mother and commanded Hazel to use her "gift" for and evil purpose, Hazel couldn't say no. Now because of her mistake, the future of the world is at risk. Hazel wished she could ride away from it all on the stallion that appears in her dreams.

Frank is a klutz. His grandmother says he is descended from heroes and can be anything he wants to be, but he doesn't see it. He doesn't even know who his father is. He keeps hoping Apollo will claim him, because the only thing he is good at is archery - although not good enough to win camp war games. His bulky physique makes him feel like an ox, especially infront of Hazel, his closest friend at camp. He trusts her completely - enough to share the secret he holds close to his heart.

Beginning at the "other" camp for half-bloods and extending as far as the land beyond the gods, this breathtaking second installment of the Heroes od Olympus series introduces new demigods, revives fearsome monsters, and features other remarkable creatures, all destined to play a part in the Prophesy of Seven.

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas's life

Share with us the books you acquired this past week!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink by Stephanie Kate Strohm

* * * 

Available May 8, 2012
"Libby Kelting had always felt born out of time.  No wonder the historical romance-reading, Jane Austen-adaptation-watching, all-round history nerd jumped at the chance to intern at Camden Harbor, Maine’s Oldest Living History Museum.

But at Camden Harbor Libby’s just plain out of place, no matter how cute she looks in a corset.  Her cat-loving coworker hates her, the geeky local reporter keeps pushing her buttons, the sailor she’s dating is more shipwreck than dreamboat, and Camden Harbor might be haunted.

Over the course of one unforgettable summer, Libby learns that boys, like ghosts, aren’t always what they seem."

It's been a while since I’ve read something that’s pure silliness and Pilgrims fits into this category very nicely. 

Libby is your typical high school student from Minnesota who’s heading off to her dream internship on the East Coast at a small town history museum.  The book is quick with some apparent stereotypes – she’s blonde, she’s popular and she has a gay best friend, Dev who’s absolutely flummoxed about why she won’t be joining him at his fabulous internship at a magazine in New York.  I admit, the book didn't quite grab me at first and I think the initial stereotypes bothered me a little.  

It was Libby who thankfully reminded me not to be too quick to judge.  When she arrives at Camden Harbour, she’s fully aware that people perceive her as a blonde airhead incapable of grasping the importance and purpose of the history museum.  She finds herself on the receiving end of some serious animosity from her nightmare of a roommate, Ashling.  Libby may be guilty of having shoes for every occasion and not being able to live without blush but she knows her historical facts and she's serious about her work.  She proves herself to be smart though slightly awkward when thrown into the spotlight.

She meets two guys who couldn’t be more different from each other.  Naturally, she finds herself drawn to the hot guy, Cam the sailor with the killer smile.  I had to shake my head when she couldn’t even see what an obvious chump he was.  Then there’s Garrett, the geeky reporter who’s into all things sci-fi and researching a story about ghost sightings on one of the museum's prized ships, Lettie Mae.  By a stroke of luck (sort of), Libby and Garrett are thrown together as roommates on the ship and these two polar opposites have to learn to tolerate each other. 

Pilgrims is for the most part predictable though admittedly it didn’t end where I thought it would.  My only problem with it was the Libby/Ashling dynamic.  There was just no reasonable explanation for why Ashling was so hostile towards her.  Though Ashling on her own provided a few "roll your eyes" moments of humor.

What I did like were all the random historical facts and trivia that Libby would throw out because I myself love history. She displays her history geek flag proudly and that aspect of her personality nicely balanced Garrett's tendency to rattle of random things like Lord of the Rings trivia.  The two of them together were a treat.  And as much as she loves her modern comforts, she's not a whiner and shows how much a team player she can be.  

Overall this is a fun book.  It's perfect when you want an escape or just something that's quick and easy. There’s plenty to giggle about and in the end it’s just what you need when you want something to smile about.

~ Bel

We received Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink as an ARC from NetGalley.  It will be released May 8, 2012. 
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt    Imprint: Graphia

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth

* * * *

In Beatrice’s Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue – Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent).  On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives.  For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is – she can’t have both.  So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are – and where, exactly a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen,  But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death.  And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves … or it might destroy her. 

Divergent is a powerful novel that will please fans of The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner Trilogies.  There’s plenty to keep your head spinning.  The creation of a society that is so drastically separated from one another is mind-boggling.   No matter how much I liked the book, I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of society being divided into factions based on one main characteristic.  It seemed so one-dimensional and inconceivable to me.  Despite that I was plenty able to go with it.

Tris is a formidable presence.  Having lived her whole life under severe constraints, she relishes her new freedom.  Her acceptance of herself as someone who can’t fit neatly into one category echoes my feeling about factions as a whole.  As a member of a new faction she has to learn to fight for herself.  And for the first time in her life she also has to learn to think of herself  – a concept so alien to her strict upbringing as a member of Abnegation where she was always expected to put others before herself.  However, she doesn’t easily abandon her Abnegation roots.  She silently works to balance her new experiences with her previous beliefs. 

The initiation process is grueling and if it were a reality show it would be a mix of Survivor, Amazing Race, The Apprentice (when it was cool which was forever ago) and Big Brother – but with weapons … used by sixteen year-olds.  As I plowed through the story, I’d seriously pause to ask, “Who was the genius who thought this was a good idea?”  It makes you wonder what could have happened before to create this world. Even though Divergent is pretty heavy, there are a few lighthearted moments as Tris learns to not take herself so seriously.  And she also finds a like-minded soul in Four, her love interest as they both struggle with the changes they're facing.

Divergent is a definite must-read.  There’s so much action to keep you turning the pages as fast as you can.  It’s very hard to put down.  And since I, like the author also live just outside of Chicago, viewing the city through this book was a wild ride!  It was a trip recognizing famous landmarks but unnerving to witness them as part of an unrecognizable bleak, rigid society. The messages in this book are very obvious – can society as a whole really function, and function effectively, when people are divided into factions and expected to perform based on one virtue?  Can this set-up truly erase problematic characteristics of basic human nature?  And what happens when you can’t fit yourself into just one neat little category?  What does that make you?


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

* * *
Some summers are just destined to be pretty

Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer – they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one wonderful and terrible summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up the way it should have been all along.

I think the best way to describe The Summer I Turned Pretty is that it’s a coming-of-age story. I was expecting some great summer high jinx with plenty of laughs but it’s rather the opposite.

Belly, her brother Steven and their mom, go to this beach house every summer that belongs to her mother’s best friend, Susannah. It’s been a long-lasting friendship, one that’s been through ups and downs and Belly and Steven have pretty much grown up with Susannah’s boys Jeremiah and Conrad.

When Belly arrives at the beach house, the other two boys immediately notice that she’s no longer a little girl. Belly has had a crush on Conrad for as long as she can remember but she’s always been the “little sister” to the boys. And unfortunately because she’s a girl, she’s also felt like the odd one out at times. Belly’s maturing isn’t the only change happening. Steven will be going off to college when the summer is over and Conrad has been acting strange and Susannah has been spending more time in her room. The only one who pays any attention to her and treats her normally is Jeremiah.

The story goes back and forth between present day and previous events that happened at the beach house. Belly does eventually meet another boy, Cam at a party and the two begin to hang out together. As that happens, Conrad and Belly’s relationship becomes tense and Jeremiah is left to be both the buffer and peacemaker.

The book pretty much centers on Belly and her hang up over Conrad. I found it aggravating as the reader that she didn’t pick up on some serious stuff that was hinted at that was happening with other people at the beach house. At the same time, it wasn’t her fault as everyone else felt that they had to protect Belly from what was going on – treating her like a little child, something she was anxiously trying to change.

I was able to finish The Summer I Turned Pretty in one night but at the end I felt solemn.  While it turned out to be completely different from what I thought it would be, it's still a well written story.  It’s not lighthearted because every one has to grow up really fast and face some harsh truths. In the end, it’s more than just a love story but also a story about enduring friendships and growing up.

~ Bel