Thursday, August 30, 2012

Feature and Follow (10)


Feature and Follow is hosted by Parajunkee & Alison Can Read every Friday. Complete Rules and Instructions are here: Feature and Follow

Question: Best Cover? What's the Best Cover of a book you've read and didn't like?
Bunheads

Bunheads by Sophie Flack. Not saying this is my favorite cover ever or that this is the worst book ever. But not only is the cover beautiful, it also conveys that this is a book about ballet. And the cover also captures what has drawn millions of little girls to ballet, including me. That in ballet, you get to be a beautiful princess on stage. But the book...just so disappointing. Not bad, but I thought it would enable me to take a walk down memory lane. Which I couldn't because the main character, who is on the verge of obtaining the dream of every girl who has ever donned a tutu, is coming to the realization that she hates dance. So ballet is portrayed as a life/youth/soul stealing thing. And the ending was just awful.

While you're here, please check out one of my current giveaways:

1. 300 Followers Giveaway: Choice of $15 gift card to Amazon/B&N (US Only) or a book of your choice up to $15 through Book Depository (International) Rules and Entry Here

2. Win a preorder of Book #3 in Jennifer L. Armentrout's Lux Series,  Opal, through Book Depository. (Open internationally) Rules and Entry for Opal Giveaway

Blog Hop Linky


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review: Battle of the Crossdressers

Ah...you put high school and crossdressing together and what do you immediately think about? I spent my teen years in the mid to late 80's. A time when these things happened: MTV, HBO, and VHS tapes. The combination of HBO and being able to rent VHS movies meant this: It's not just Quentin Tarantino who came out of this time period a movie geek. After all, the only reason so many people "get" his movies is that HBO,VHS tapes, and an abundance of free time meant we could watch the same movie(s) 10-20 times. Now, HBO often played B-type movies the most. Which brings us back to crossdressing...

I came across these two books where the (female) main character dresses up like a boy to "infiltrate" a boys' school:  Babe in Boyland by Jody Gehrman and The Academy by Emmaline Andrews.
Babe in BoylandThe Academy

So of course, my immediate thought was the 1985 movie, "Just One of the Guys".

Now, for some crazy reason, you may not want to read 2 YA books about crossdressing. So, I decided to take one for the team (of readers) and read both of them to let you know which one is most worthy of your limited reading time. Since nothing says high school girl who's a crossdresser like this movie, the winner needs to come closest to the spirit of this movie. Because I've seen it 20 times and consider it to be the Gold Standard of anything to do with teenage crossdressing girls.

1. It needs to be a comedy- of course. Can't help it. Because of this movie, I expect hilarity to ensue once a girl cuts her hair and dons a jock strap. I mean, a girl pretending to be a boy? How's she going to pee, or shower, or handle a PE class of "shirts and skins" basketball where she gets to be "skins"? I mean these are opportunities for comedic gold, right? Um, not in the "The Academy" where these things are occasions for beatings, a knife fight, and an attempted rape. Which, because of my movie memories, was not what I was expecting. Winner: "Babe in Boyland" for being a light, funny read.

2. The "Just a Girl" Effect:

I mean, there needs to be a (good) reason why a girl would want to pretend to be a boy, right? Why else would you cut your hair, wear ugly shoes, and have to use the boys' bathroom. I mean, a boys' public bathroom? It's got to be in the Top 5 Most Disgusting and Smelly things in the world.
Look, in "Boyland", it's almost eerie how similar it is to the movie. Both characters want to win a writing award that they feel they weren't properly considered for...in part because of the whole "Just a Girl" type thing. So in both the movie and "Boyland" they go undercover to get a story about what boys are really like in the hopes of winning a journalism award. In "The Academy", the main character wants to be a space pilot and escape an arranged marriage. And only boys get to train to be pilots...again, not what I was expecting. If you look at the description of the book on Goodreads, it doesn't even mention it was a futuristic world. Not only that, but it wasn't a convincing futuristic world. For the most part, you didn't feel like the author created a new world and when she tried...it felt awkward. Winner: Babe in Boyland 

3. Put a Sock in It:
What we know from "Just One of the Guys" is that the main character must struggle with getting the whole "guy thing" right. And that it's helpful to learn how to walk like a "dude" if you just stuff a sock down your pants. In "Academy", it's pretty much she cuts her hair, ties her boobs down, and...well, that's it. Instant Dude! In "Boyland"...she even uses some glue and fluff to create stubble. Winner: Babe in Boyland. But, I must admit to having some concerns because the book is so similar to the movie.  

The Overall Winner of the "Battle of the Crossdressers", is obviously "Babe in Boyland". It won all categories and deserves this: (from the movie, of course)


But, does "Boyland" too closely resemble "Just One of the Guys"? You know, kind of. As I was reading it, I almost felt like some scenes were lifted straight out of the movie. Like the author had also seen the movie 20+ times like me. But in the end, I thought that "Boyland" was overall charming and entertaining enough in its own right. Now "The Academy" deals with more of the darker issues- like gender identity- than "Boyland". But I honestly don't think it presented those well- it felt awkward. Which makes its sinister tone, kind of pointless. Overall, I'd give "The Academy" a 2 star rating, and "Babe in Boyland" a 3 to 3 1/2 star rating.

Jody Gehrman's Website
Babe in Boyland

Add "The Academy:
The Academy

Monday, August 27, 2012

Review: Confessions of an Angry Girl by Louise Rozett

Confessions of an Angry Girl (Confessions, #1)

Goodreads Summary:
Rose Zarelli, self-proclaimed word geek and angry girl, has some confessions to make…1. I'm livid all the time. Why? My dad died. My mom barely talks. My brother abandoned us. I think I'm allowed to be irate, don't you?

2. I make people furious regularly. Want an example? I kissed Jamie Forta, a badass guy who might be dating a cheerleader. She is now enraged and out for blood. Mine.

3. High school might as well be Mars. My best friend has been replaced by an alien, and I see red all the time. (Mars is red and "seeing red" means being angry—get it?)

Here are some other vocab words that describe my life: Inadequate. Insufferable. Intolerable.

(Don't know what they mean? Look them up yourself.)

(Sorry. That was rude.)

My Review:
Despite feeling a little misled by the book title, overall I liked the book. Why misled? I didn't feel that Rose was an angry, Angry Girl. Especially considering her father died mere months before the story started. Maybe I just knew a lot of angry people. Or my family was right and I was an angry little dwarf during my high school years. (I'm exactly 5 feet tall.) I felt like I spent most of the book waiting to see Rose become the "Angry Girl". So why did I keep reading?

A lot of what went on with Rose and her best friend, Tracy, seemed to perfectly capture the decisions and problems of the teen years. I think that the author really did a good job of capturing the whole sex issue that teenage girls face when, during the novel, Tracy is being pressured by her boyfriend to have sex. And Tracy feeling like, I guess, her and Rose are the only virgins. And they are freshman. Which is really sick and sad. But as a former teacher, I can tell you that every middle school I taught at had quite a few pregnant girls.

I'm putting on my "Mom Hat" now...even though it seems like boys are ready to have sex earlier than girls, they aren't. They just are more open and vocal about the wanting to have sex. Proof? Teen Pregnancy. If boys were truly more mature and developmentally ready to have sex earlier, there wouldn't be a teen pregnancy problem because a mature teen boy would insist that his girlfriend was protected. And that's just protecting your girlfriend at the most basic and minimum level- making sure she doesn't get pregnant or end up with a disease. The fact that many boys can't even meet the basics of respecting their partner means they are in no way ready to protect a girl emotionally from the consequences of having sex. And "Confessions of an Angry Girl" managed to show all of this without getting preachy.

At the end of the book, there's a mention of a second book in this series that will cover Rose's sophomore year in high school- Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend. I'm actually happy to see this because many realistic fiction books are stand alone books. And when you're writing about a teen with problems- alcoholic parent, deceased parent, drug abuse, etc.- it's hard to really wrap that up in one book. Life just isn't that neat. So, I look forward to reading the next books in the series and following Rose all the way through high school.

Overall Rating: 3 stars
Genre Rating: 3 ½ school lockers

Louise Rozett's Website
Louise Rozett's Twitter
Confessions of an Angry Girl (Confessions, #1)


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Review: Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn

Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn 
Goodreads Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Violet loves reading manga and wearing scarves made from kimono fabric, so she’s thrilled that her father’s new painting commission means a summer trip to Japan. But what starts as an exotic vacation quickly turns into a dangerous treasure hunt.

Her father’s newest clients, the Yamada family, are the victims of a high-profile art robbery: van Gogh sketches have been stolen from their home, and, until they can produce the corresponding painting, everyone's lives are in danger -- including Violet's and her father's.

Violet’s search for the missing van Gogh takes her from the Seattle Art Museum, to the yakuza-infested streets of Tokyo, to a secluded inn in Kyoto. As the mystery thickens, Violet’s not sure whom she can trust. But she knows one thing: she has to solve the mystery -- before it’s too late.

My Review:
Am I being unreasonable? Look, if there's a place name in your book title...Like, say, "Tokyo", I think it creates certain expectations in your readers. I mean, aren't I justified in believing that this book should be set in Tokyo and I should feel like it's set in Tokyo? First, it takes about 1/3 of the book to actually get to Tokyo. Yes, really, Violet spends the first 120 or so pages wandering/investigating in Seattle. Then when she finally gets to Tokyo, it doesn't really feel like she's in Japan. For the most part, the complete lack of "Japanese" atmosphere makes the book seem like it could be set in any large city with a side trip to the city's "Little Tokyo". Why? Violet spends most of the Tokyo visit either in a hotel room or in an office building. I mean, the first meal her dad has in Japan is Teriyaki Chicken with rice. REALLY.

This is the book's whole strategy to making you feel like you're in Japan... "Ohayou gozaimausu, green tea, tatami mat, sushi." Does it feel like you're in Japan or in a Japanese restaurant? Just because you throw in a few Japanese words and places does not mean you have made someone feel like they've taken a trip to Japan. And this book doesn't. There is barely any discernible difference between Seattle and Tokyo.

This is me through most of the book- especially the first third before Violet gets to Japan.

GIFSoup

The only good thing I can say about this book is that it's basically readable...meaning it's good enough to finish. Anything else good? No. The characters were pretty much cardboard cutouts- misunderstood yet secretly talented teen girl for a main character, disinterested and distant dad, etc. And the relationships in the book didn't develop in any way that seemed realistic or natural. For example, Violet and her dad's relationship changed, but they spent very little time together. It seemed like character development was based on plot necessities (what the author needed the characters to do to move the book forward. It comes down to this, I should have gone onto YouTube and watched Japanese Game shows instead of reading this book. I at least would have been pleasantly entertained for a few hours.


Overall Rating: 2 stars
Genre Rating: 2 1/2 magnifying glasses
Tokyo Heist

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Feature and Follow (9)


Feature and Follow is hosted by Parajunkee & Alison Can Read every Friday. Complete Rules and Instructions are here:

This week's question: Worst Cover? What's the worst cover of a book you've read and loved?

These are the two that come to mind. Because I recently read them. And because I do a feature called "I Hate This Book of The Month" and they were both "winners"

Something Like Normal
Something Like Normal won my "I Hate This Cover" of the month in June because I almost didn't read it. Thought it looked like a cheesy romance and decided not to read it based on the cover.

Otherkin (Otherkin, #1)

"Otherkin" was my "I Hate This Cover" runner up this month because, well, the cover makes it look like shifter erotica. Which is not my thing....Not that there's anything wrong with that. (Otherkin is a YA book)

While you're here, please check out one of my 3 current giveaways:

1. 300 Followers Giveaway: Choice of $15 gift card to Amazon/B&N (US Only) or a book of your choice up to $15 through Book Depository (International) Rules and Entry Here

2. Win a preorder of Book #3 in Jennifer L. Armentrout's Lux Series,  Opal, through Book Depository. (Open internationally) Rules and Entry for Opal Giveaway

3. Win an autographed (paperback) copy of Taste by Kate Evangelista: Rules and Entry Here
Taste







Review: Bare-Naked Lola by Misa Ramirez

Bare-Naked Lola by Misa Bourbon Ramirez
Goodreads Summary:
Meet Dolores 'Lola' Cruz...Going undercover is second nature for Private Investigator Lola Cruz, but she’s out of her league when the case of a murdered Royals Courtside Dancer leads her to a local nudist resort. Parading around the sidelines of Sacramento’s professional basketball scene in a barely-there cheerleading outfit is one thing—but parading around in nothing but a smile?

If she has any chance of hiding this from her traditional family and on-again/off-again boyfriend Jack, she’s going to have to keep a lot more than her duct tape bra and killer dance moves under wraps…

Dislosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher/author via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Review:
It's kind of difficult to review mysteries. If you mention something and say it's not a spoiler, then you're basically giving away the fact that that's not a clue/important, etc. Which is a spoiler. So I like to focus on characters because I think that in the modern cozy-type mystery, characters make or break the story. Why? Because most of these are series and you have to like and/or be interested enough in the characters to keep reading the series year after year.

Which brings us back to this series and its main character, Lola. Now, the previous book in the series, Hasta la Vista, Lola!, was released in 2010. Then, no book in 2011. I was disappointed and sad because I really like the MC, Lola. So, I'm very happy that this series is continuing. More importantly- for review purposes- is that I even remember Lola. Now, I read about 400 books a year. I've read 1000's of mysteries. Many of the mysteries blend together and I often can't remember the name of the main character, but I do remember Lola. I love Lola's loving, loud, sweet, and eccentric extended family as much as I love the mystery parts of the book. The one bad thing about this series: not enough of Lola's grandpa. Who I just think is adorable and cute. This is why creating great and memorable characters is so important in a mystery. Every year when you get the latest book in the series, it should be like going to a family reunion. It should feel like visiting and catching up with friends. And this is how that series feels.

Back to this book...in part of it, Lola needs to do some investigation at a nudist resort. Which, um, Yuck. And because Lola shares my feelings about nudist resorts, the scenes there are among the funniest in the book. The nudist colony pretty much freaks Lola out. I think that Lola would agree with my "4 Layers Rule". Which is logical and only right when you think about it. The "4 Layers Rule" is one of the cornerstones of my family's neuroses. The "Rule" states that: "At all times there should be 4 layers of clothing between your genitals and other people's genitals." (Your underwear and pants/dress/skirt and the other person's underwear... 4 layers.) Now obviously a nudist colony violates The Rule in an extreme way and, rightly, this kind of leads to Lola's discomfort with being there. In a humorous way. Just thinking about someone getting all gross and sweaty playing naked volleyball, then going into the (nudist) restaurant and sitting their sweaty...um, butt on a chair...that I would later sit on. {{{Shudder}}}

   

Author's Website
Author's Twitter    

Overall Rating: 3 1/2 stars  
Genre Rating: 4 1/2 Magnifying glasses 
Bare-Naked Lola (A Lola Cruz Mystery #3)
   
Pleating for Mercy (A Magical Dressmaking Mystery, #1)The author also writes The Magical Dressmaking Mysteries under the name Melissa Bourbon. This is another great mystery series you should check out. The first book in the series is Pleating for Mercy. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Giveaway: Preorder copy of Opal by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Goodreads Summary:
No one is like Daemon Black.

When he set out to prove his feelings for me, he wasn’t fooling around. Doubting him isn’t something I’ll do again, and now that we’ve made it through the rough patches, well... There’s a lot of spontaneous combustion going on.

But even he can’t protect his family from the danger of trying to free those they love.

After everything, I’m no longer the same Katy. I’m different... And I’m not sure what that will mean in the end. When each step we take in discovering the truth puts us in the path of the secret organization responsible for torturing and testing hybrids, the more I realize there is no end to what I’m capable. The death of someone close still lingers, help comes from the most unlikely source, and friends will become the deadliest of enemies, but we won’t turn back. Even if the outcome will shatter our worlds forever.

Together we’re stronger... and they know it.

Giveaway Rules and Details:

Yes, really. You can already buy a preorder copy even though the release date is December 11, 2012. Isn't that nice of JLA? Kind of like an early Christmas gift.

I know that JLA said this isn't the official cover, so when that's released I'll update.

The (Boring) Rules, again. Although some are new.

1. Must be 13 years or older.
2. I'm not making it mandatory to follow via GFC or via Twitter, but you must follow me by either GFC or Twitter.
3. Winner must respond within 48 hours and will be notified by email
4. Please confirm that Book Depository delivers to your country before entering: List of Countries. Since this is for a physical copy of a book, you must be willing to supply me with a valid mailing address.
5. In the giveaway, one of the options is to "Be a Fan" of JLA by blogging about the Lux series in some way. Memes, answers to blog hops, cover reveals, etc. all count. So, you can do this more than once. You must link to this giveaway, though, for it to count.
6. I will be choosing the best JLA fan post and giving that person 20 extra entries. So, make them good. I also reserve the right not to select one- which I may do if they are all standard type cover reveals. However, posts about the Lux series are also okay- just make sure to mention "Opal". But try to get your best "Fan" post in a few days before the ending of the contest.
7. Also for the points for commenting, post in my Review of Onyx comments section.
8. As always, if you are a new follower, post the link to your blog in the comments below and I will follow back. If you follow on Twitter, I'll follow back within 24 hours.

My Review of Obsidian which really isn't a review review. It's like "Dating A Bad Boy Part One"

Here's the Rafflecopter thingy:

a Rafflecopter giveaway








Review: Serial Hottie by Kelly Oram

Serial Hottie by Kelly Oram

Goodreads Summary:
Ellie’s sweet sixteen is a summer of firsts. First car. First kiss. First boyfriend. First serial-killing stalker?

Hockey-obsessed tomboy Eleanor Westley has never been the object of a guy’s affection before. So when the hottest boy she’s ever seen moves in across the street and starts treating her like she’s the center of his universe, naturally she’s going to be a little skeptical. But everything starts to make sense when girls who look just like Ellie start dying all around the city. Obviously the new guy is the killer, and of course he only likes her because he wants to slice her into tiny pieces. Right?

The more Ellie gets to know Seth the more she’s convinced he’s a psychopathic killer. The problem is he’s the sweetest psychopathic killer she’s ever met. Not to mention he’s brutally hot. No matter how hard she tries, she can’t help but fall for him. Will Ellie find true love, or will her summer of firsts turn out to be a summer of lasts?

My Review:
Well, a potential boyfriend who is a serial killer would pretty much be at the top of the Bad Boy pyramid, right? Especially if his preferred victim type- the physical traits, etc. of the people he kills- fits you. Well this is the setup and mystery of the book. And she thinks this, initially, because she's spying on him. Kind of like this classic movie, Rear Window.
I'm not going to tell you whether or not he's the serial killer. But Ellie does believe he is and finds him attractive and sort of dates him. Or at least spends some alone time with him. Which kind of makes her all kinds of stupid. And yet the story is full of suspense and charm and you just have to go with it. If this kind of thing will annoy you because you will find Ellie TSTL (too stupid to live), then you might want to skip this book. Or wait until you're just in the frame of mind where you can suspend disbelief and just go along with the story.  Why is this book so appealing to me? I guess because it's one of those stories that highlights the weird things that can happen in suburbia. (Where I spent my teen years.) It's also why I like this movie- in addition to the fact that it's a John Waters film and I just love him. 
All kinds of weird things can happen in suburbia. I don't know if it's a result of people working all day, driving straight into their garage, and walking straight into their homes that creates this kind of estrangement. A disconnect from your neighbors and environment. Where surface things seem to matter so much to people- the obsession with lawn care, driving the right car, etc. Where you almost just have to believe that there's a bubbling cauldron of suppressed...STUFF, I guess, going on underneath the surface type perfection. Which you almost have to because if the surface is all there is...     

If this book is not for you, please go out and rent or at least Netflix "Rear Window" and "Serial Mom",please. If you're old enough for Serial Mom, that is. If the two movies had a child, it would resemble "Serial Hottie". Well, I mean, the two movies are way more awesome than the book. (But read the book anyway?)     

Overall Rating: 3 stars  
Genre Rating: 3 ¾ stars (Can't quite bring myself to give it a 4 star rating. I mean, the MC was TSTL in a way that wasn't really explained beyond, "Gawd, Seth's Hot!" But I read it in one sitting, so I did really enjoy it. But it was a light fluffy read. See...I'm all over the place, so the ¾ stars is a compromise) 

Kelly Oram's Website 
Kelly Oram's Twitter 
Read Chapter One of This Book for Free 
Serial Hottie

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Review: Belles by Jen Calonita

Belles by Jen Calonita 
Goodreads Summary:
Fifteen-year-old Isabelle Scott loves her life by the boardwalk on the supposed wrong side of the tracks in North Carolina. But when tragedy strikes, a social worker sends her to live with a long-lost uncle and his preppy privileged family. Isabelle is taken away from everything she's ever known, and, unfortunately, inserting her into the glamorous lifestyle of Emerald Cove doesn't go so well. Her cousin Mirabelle Monroe isn't thrilled to share her life with an outsider, and, in addition to dealing with all the rumors and backstabbing that lurk beneath their classmates' Southern charm, a secret is unfolding that will change both girls' lives forever.

My Review: 
This was a book I really wanted tor read- I've been bugging my library to order it for months. So, was the wait worth it? I guess, overall, yes. If that seems like I'm qualifying my answer, that's because I am. This is a very uneven book. One in which the good is greater than the bad. But, there's quite a lot of bad. For starters, the "secret" that's mentioned in the book summary. The answer to the "secret" is dragged out until the end of the book- even though it will be obvious to everyone what the secret is from the very beginning of the book. And they mention the "secret" a few times, then it's basically forgotten about until the big reveal. The plot? The plot that's there- Izzie (Isabelle) trying to fit in at her new, snobby private school- is kind of clich├ęd- like someone watched "Mean Girls" too many times in puberty.
So, what saves this book? Because it was good enough that I plan to continue reading the series. Well, the character of Izzie. That's pretty much it, but sometimes having one character you like makes a whole book. Because you care what happens to them, so you want to find out what happens to them. Yes, I think the author took a lot of shortcuts on creating a sympathetic character- Izzie's mom dies so she lives with her grandma, then her grandma ends up in a home. I mean, this kind of scenario has been done before- repeatedly. However, I still ended up liking Izzie, which saved the book for me.

Overall rating: 3 stars (hope the second book in the series is better)
Genre Rating: 3 school lockers
To me, the ratings make this a borrow from the library type book.

Jen Calonita's Website
Jen Calonita's Twitter
Belles (Belles, #1)

Monday, August 20, 2012

300 Followers Giveaway

Enter Giveaway Pictures, Images and Photos

At some point, when I went on hiatus, I hit 300 followers. Now that I feel semi-caught up, I thought, it's finally time to post a giveaway. Thank you all for following me. I've enjoyed visiting all of your blogs and reading your posts. Thank you for making blogging such a fun experience. If you are a new follower, please let me know in comments: link to your blog and I will follow you back. Also, if you are a new follower on Twitter, I'll follow you back within 24 hours.

The prize is a $15 gift certificate to Amazon or Barnes and Noble. As an alternative, for international readers, you can choose a book up to $15 from Book Depository. U.S. winner may also choose a book from Book Depository instead of a gift certificate to Amazon/B&N. If I hit 450 followers on GFC, I'll add another winner. (Identical prize)

Rules:
1. Must be 13 years old.
2. I'm not making it mandatory to follow via GFC or via Twitter, but you must follow me by either GFC or Twitter.
3. Winner must respond within 48 hours and will be notified by email
4. Please confirm that Book Depository delivers to your country before entering: List of Countries

Here's the Rafflecopter thingy: Please let me know if I screwed anything up again.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl




 Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindle

Goodreads Summary:
Seventeen-year-old Althea is the sole support of her entire family, and she must marry well. But there are few wealthy suitors--or suitors of any kind--in their small Yorkshire town of Lesser Hoo. Then, the young and attractive (and very rich) Lord Boring arrives, and Althea sets her plans in motion. There's only one problem; his friend and business manager Mr. Fredericks keeps getting in the way. And, as it turns out, Fredericks has his own set of plans . . . This witty take on the classic Regency--Patrice Kindl's first novel in a decade--is like literary champagne!

My Review: 
This was a book I was really looking forward to. Seemed a little like Auten's Pride and Prejudice. Young girl about to lose her home unless a good marriage is made. As the book goes on, it seems a little bit like Austen's book Emma. The main character, Althea is also trying to play matchmaker...unsuccessfully. Seems perfectly delightful, right? A YA Pride and Prejudice meets Emma. Then you realize that all the book is, really, is a cute premise. About a third of the way through the book, I almost gave up. It was so dull. The characters seemed so two-dimensional. Althea's stepsisters are fairly typical evil-type, nasty stepsisters. At this point- a third of the way through, you realize there's only about 150 pages to go. So you go on hoping it will get better, comforted that if it doesn't the book will soon be over.

Going on was my mistake. Those 150 pages took me about 2 weeks to get through. Same thing going through my head, "You can't give up there are only 125 pages...then 100 pages...then 50 pages..." It never got any better. I realized something, again. It takes really great talent to write a really great story in 200 pages. Think about it. Even if there are 10 characters, if you spend 2-4 pages on character development per character (back story, physical description, etc.) that's about 20% of the book. So, you have to combine things- instead of going on about how messy a character is, you might just convey that through their hair being unkempt, clothes being wrinkled, etc. In other words, every word has to count and often has to have dual purpose. That's something that the author is not capable of in this book and it shows in the lack of character development, the flow of the plot, etc. 

If you are a real Austen junkie and need a quick fix and are desperate, you may find this book a nice way to pass a few hours. If you go into it with diminished expectations. Otherwise, I think most people can take a pass on this book.

Patrice Kindl's website
Keeping the Castle



Sunday, August 19, 2012

Everything I Learned About Dating Bad Boys, I Learned from Onyx

Onyx by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Goodreads Summary:
Being connected to Daemon Black sucks…Thanks to his alien mojo, Daemon’s determined to prove what he feels for me is more than a product of our bizarro connection. So I’ve sworn him off, even though he’s running more hot than cold these days. But we’ve got bigger problems.

Something worse than the Arum has come to town…The Department of Defense are here. If they ever find out what Daemon can do and that we're linked, I’m a goner. So is he. And there's this new boy in school who’s got a secret of his own. He knows what’s happened to me and he can help, but to do so, I have to lie to Daemon and stay away from him. Like that's possible. Against all common sense, I'm falling for Daemon. Hard.

But then everything changes…I’ve seen someone who shouldn’t be alive. And I have to tell Daemon, even though I know he’s never going to stop searching until he gets the truth. What happened to his brother? Who betrayed him? And what does the DOD want from them—from me?

No one is who they seem. And not everyone will survive the lies…

My Review: 
Fair warning: This may contain spoilers for Onyx and Obsidian. Also, this is not going to be a review-type review. Instead:

How To Tell If A Bad Boy Is a Keeper (Using the Lux Series)
1. "Bad Boys Are Like Onions"

Pretty simple.  Eventually everyone- even bad boys- will show their true colors over time. You just need time to peel back the layers. In Daemon's case, he has good and noble reasons why he puts on the bad boy act. (He's a Keeper). If you keep peeling back layers and just getting more stinky onion, that bad boy will make you cry. For example, we'll use my ex-boyfriend/fiance. (Can we refer to him as The Jerk? Trust me, you'll agree after this story) Over time, the more I knew about him the worse it was. Once, when we were semi-living together, the doorbell rings. There's a girl on the doorstep- thought she was there for one of his/our friends. Nope- he had made a date with her. Yes, he made the date while we were "on a break", but...You get the point, right. Not a Keeper. So, how much time to you give yourself to peel off layers? Well, that's in direct relation to the hotness of the guy. In Daemon's case...quite a lot of time.

2. How Does He Treat Women (he doesn't date)? You can't look at how he's treated women he's dated. Because he's a bad boy, he's probably treated them badly. Second, one night stands and booty calls are not relationships. Although you should consider whether he was at least honest about the fact that he was going to treat them like dirt. So, you have to look at how he treats women he's related to- mother, sisters, aunts, etc. And not just whether or not he's nice to them. (If he's not, run.) You also should look at whether he respects them or not. In Daemon's case, no mother. But he treats his sister well. (SPOILER POTENTIAL) He's okay with her having sex- and a lot of men are okay with "their" women so long as they conform to a certain image and remain "pure", but once they deviate from that...The Jerk? Once referred to his mother as a gold digging, trailer park tramp with a thin veneer of class she had to buy. So, Daemon is a Keeper. The Jerk...that's why he's an ex.

3. I'm Rubber, You're Glue. Whatever You Say Bounces Off of Me and Sticks to You.
Whatever a bad boy accuses you of is something he's guilty of. Doesn't trust you going out with your friends? It's because on boys' night out, he's picking up other girls. Gets bent out of shape when you talk to a boy- even for something as innocent as getting a math assignment? That means, "When I talk to girls, I'm  hitting on them. All the time, every time." Now Daemon is always following Katy, but not because he doesn't trust her. It's because he's worried about her safety. Daemon feels the need to "babysit" her around Blake, but that's because he doesn't trust Blake. Again, this is a time thing. You need time to sift through the motives of a bad boy. But I think it's clear, Daemon is a Keeper. The Jerk? Used to have his friends follow me around- even if we were on a break. Didn't like me going out with my friends because he couldn't go with us. In other words, he didn't trust me. Why? You read what he did in "Bad Boys Are Like Onions", right?  For some reason all of my friends hated him and didn't allow him to go out with us. Don't know why when he said such charming things to them like, "Wow, you're screwed. You're even uglier as a woman." (To my best gay friend) All I know is, I wish the Lux series had been around to be my "Guide to Dating Bad Boys". Maybe I would have dumped The Jerk sooner.

My Review of Obsidian which really isn't a review review. It's like "Dating A Bad Boy Part One"

Overall Rating: 4 stars

Jennifer L. Armentrout's blog
Jennifer L. Armentrout's Twitter
Onyx (Lux, #2)


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Feature and Follow (8)



Feature and Follow is hosted by Parajunkee & Alison Can Read every Friday. Complete Rules and Instructions are here: Rules and Instructions

Question: What Blogger inspires you? It can be any kind, it doesn't have to be a book blog.

I want to say that each and every blogger that's been doing it for a year or more inspires me. The ones who've been doing it for 2 years or more, make my jaw drop in awe. Why? I've been doing it for less than 3 months, and I've already had to take a hiatus. Life stuff. It happens. But also, I'm just amazed at their longevity because none of us are professionals. And yet, to blog almost daily whether or not you feel like writing, feel inspired to write, etc. is amazing. So, to all of you bloggers that have been doing it for a long time:

Photobucket

Also, if you can spare the time...Give the rest of us- especially me- some advice in the comments below. Maybe something that keeps you going on days you just don't feel like it. Tips to balance work, family, reading, and blogging. Or anything you wish you had been told as a new blogger. Please, please, please, tell me one of your secrets in the comments section. Something for new bloggers (like me) to help us make it a year or more. Thanks!



Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Goodreads Summary:
No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.


I received this book from the publisher (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

My Review: 
First, some theme music:


Echo's mom could probably win Worst Mom award in YA fiction. And her dad is a serious contender for Worst Dad. Which when written out like this, seems implausible and contrived. But in the book, it is very realistically written and Echo's mom and dad are believable in their roles. Which is a writing achievement because Echo's mom is rarely in the pages, yet her presence looms and is felt throughout the book. Perhaps even enhanced by her absence.     

The theme music from the Indigo Girls, "Closer to Fine"...the answers to life's questions don't always give us peace. Sometimes knowing the truth doesn't bring comfort, it's just brings more questions and heartache. Which brings us back to Pushing the Limits. That these are the types of truths Echo and Noah are looking for. Which is my major problem with the book- that the ending wraps things up a little too nicely. But it's a relatively minor complaint because the rest of the book was so wonderful- realistic characters, plausible character development, the relationship between Noah and Echo developed nicely, etc.  

What can I say about this book that hasn't already been said? I mean, like everyone, I love the characters of Echo and Noah. Maybe because I have kids and am older, what really stuck with me is how much I hated Echo's dad. Which is not a knock against the book, it's actually a good thing because her dad was a complex character with his own issues. His need for perfection- especially surface perfection. The kind of dad that cares about the image his family presents- because they are a reflection on and of him- rather than the reality of their lives. I remember someone asking my mom what she wanted me to be when I grew up. My mother's response: HAPPY. That's it. When I grew up, she wanted me to have a life filled with happiness. I think I hated Echo's dad, because he would be one of those people who just wouldn't get that.
 
Overall Rating: 3 1/2 stars  
Genre Rating: 4 school lockers  

Katie McGarry's Website     
Katie McGarry's Twitter
Pushing the Limits

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Meh Books, Part IV: The Curse of the Long Book Title

I have been stricken by the "Curse of the Long Book Title". Basically, every book with a long title that I've read recently has been...MEH!!!

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Goodreads Description:
Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. Having missed her flight, she's stuck at JFK airport and late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's sitting in her row.

A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?

Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it. 

Mini Review:
A thoroughly mediocre book of the "Meet Cute" type. Rather lackluster character development. Hadley's attraction to Oliver is basically, "Cute Guy with British Accent = Love". Because, all American women love British men (because of their accents) even if they look like this:


The Thing About the Truth
The Thing About the Truth  by Lauren Barnholdt

Goodreads Summary:
In this humorous love story from the author of Two-Way Street, an unlikely romance is the best sort of surprise—but the wrong secret can ruin everything. Kelsey’s not going to let one mistake ruin her life. Sure, she got kicked out of prep school and all her old friends are shutting her out. But Kelsey’s focused on her future, and she’s determined to get back on track at Concordia High.

Isaac’s been kicked out of more schools than he can count. Since his father’s a state senator, Isaac’s life is under constant scrutiny—but Concordia High’s his last stop before boarding school, so Isaac’s hoping to fly under the radar and try to stay put for a change.

When Kelsey and Isaac meet, it’s anything but love at first sight. She thinks he’s an entitled brat, and he thinks she’s a stuck-up snob. So it surprises them both when they start to fall for each other. Kelsey’s happy for the first time in months, and Isaac’s never felt this way about anyone before...But nothing’s ever completely perfect. Everyone has secrets, and Isaac and Kelsey are no exceptions. These two may have fallen hard, but there’s one thing that can ruin it all: the truth.

Mini Review:  
The whole "I'm Misunderstood" thing going on in this book is tiresome. This book hits you over the head with its morality based premise, "LYING IS BAD". This is the whole book in a nutshell: "If you lie, you will get caught, it will be embarrassing. So don't lie." Great, now you can skip the whole book.

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick (Perry & Gobi, #1)
Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber
Goodreads Summary:
Ferris Bueller meets La Femme Nikita in this funny, action-packed young adult novel.

It’s prom night—and Perry just wants to stick to his own plan and finally play a much-anticipated gig with his band in the Big Apple. But when his mother makes him take Gobija Zaksauskas—their quiet, geeky Lithuanian exchange student—to the prom, he never expects that his ordinary high school guy life will soon turn on its head. Perry finds that Gobi is on a mission, and Perry has no other choice but to go along for a reckless ride through Manhattan’s concrete grid with a trained assassin in Dad’s red Jag.

Infused with capers, car chases, heists, hits, henchmen, and even a bear fight, this story mixes romance, comedy, and tragedy in a true teen coming-of-age adventure—and it’s not over until it’s “au revoir.”

Mini-Review: The whole tone of this book was off. It's like a book having an identity crisis? Am I cool? Am I funny? Then comes the graphic violence and you're just stunned. It's like it wanted to be a book version of a Quentin Tarantino comedy. And, I'm sorry, Joe Schrieber but you'd have to be a literary genius to pull that off.. And well...This is from Ferris Bueller's Day Off and reading "Au Revior, Crazy European Chick" is about as interesting as sitting in this class:
 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Giveaway: Taste by Kate Evangelista


Taste

Kate did a book signing in my city and I got an autographed copy of Taste to give away. If you haven't read "Taste", you have a great read ahead of you. It's one of my favorite YA books and Kate is, of course, the nicest YA author.

You know the whole rule thing:
1. Must be at least 13 years old.
2. This is a giveaway of a physical copy (autographed by Kate) of Taste. So, this is open to U.S. residents only. (Shipping costs)

You can use this button to add "Taste" to your Goodreads shelf. For those points, I need to know your username on Goodreads. If you're a new follower, comment below with the link to your blog and I will follow back. If you follow me on Twitter, I'll also return the favor.

Taste

Here's the Rafflecopter thingy:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Also, finally have a winner for Onyx by Jennifer L. Armentrout. Congratulations, Malvina.

Monday, August 13, 2012

"I Hate This Cover of the Month", August

The Vincent Boys (The Vincent Boys, #1)The Vincent Brothers (The Vincent Boys, #2)

I don't have to say it, right? You're thinking or have thought the same thing? No? I guess I'm dirty minded because this doesn't look like a YA book cover, it looks vaguely like porn. In case you think I"m imagining it...EXHIBIT ONE:
Ron Jeremy: The Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz
Yes, remarkably similar to Ron Jeremy's book cover. (Link is safe, just goes to his GR's page) Yes, he's a pornstar. Now, if your book cover is almost the same as a pornstar's autobiography, you've gone to a bad, dark place.

EXHIBIT TWO: (Content advisory, lyrics)
There's actually a song called "Lollipop Porn". I don't have the heart to do an EXHIBIT THREE. I really don't. I really don't want to know if there's a subcategory/fetish for actual Lollipop Pornography. But, I'm pretty sure there is given, you know, the world. Those are the reasons why Abbi Glines' Vincent Brothers series is my "I Hate This Cover of the Month" for August.

Runner up:

 Otherkin (Otherkin, #1)

Can you sense a theme for August? I saw this bookcover and dismissed it. I thought it was some kind of shifter erotica. I mean, it looks like she's naked behind the, um, bushes and hair. And her expression...I'm going to let you  insert your own inappropriate thoughts. Therefore, erotica, right? No, it's a YA book. Imagine my surprise when I read someone's review.

Edit: Final thoughts...just in case. I don't mean this feature to be mean. I would say that in pretty much all of the cases, so far, I've actually gone on to read either the book or a book by the author. But that the "I Hate This Cover" books were all books that I initially dismissed and decided not to read- based on the cover. I mean there are hundreds, thousands of books that come out every month. I can't read the summaries of every one of them- that would be like a whole book's worth of summaries. So if I haven't heard of a book or author, I often eliminate by cover until I start seeing (positive) reviews. So far, all of the "winners" are books that, if they had a better cover, I probably would have read the summary. And, reading the summary, I probably would have added the books. And I hope that by featuring them, that if other people had dismissed them, they take a second look. Maybe read the summary or a review and then decide.

Review: The Waiting Sky by Lara Zielin

The Waiting Sky

Goodreads Summary:
One summer chasing tornadoes could finally change Jane's life for the better. Seventeen-year-old Jane McAllister can't quite admit her mother's alcoholism is spiraling dangerously out of control until she drives drunk, nearly killing them and Jane's best friend.

Jane has only one place to turn: her older brother Ethan, who left the problems at home years ago for college. A summer with him and his tornado-chasing buddies may just provide the time and space Jane needs to figure out her life and whether it still includes her mother. But she struggles with her anger at Ethan for leaving home and feels guilty--is she also abandoning her mom just when she needs Jane most? The carefree trip turned journey of self-discovery quickly becomes more than Jane bargained for, especially when the devilishly handsome Max steps into the picture.

My Review:
I almost put this book down. Not because it was bad, but because it captured the way life often is with an alcoholic parent. I was lucky. My dad was a functioning alcoholic- he went to work, made sure there was money, etc. But I think there are common threads that run through all families with an alcoholic parent. This is the song that played in my head while reading this book:

Which is about the singer's own struggles growing up with an alcoholic father. I guess there's a whole tribe of us out there. Which I find both comforting and sad.

I guess the reason I stopped reading this book was that it brought up a lot of unhappy memories. Which means that the author did a really excellent job of capturing the feelings of a teenager growing up this way. I honestly can say that I think my father was a good father overall. Still...what resonated in this book was the whole secrecy thing. Once, my dad left me in a locked car...in the summer...windows rolled up. I refused to go into my grandmother's (his mother) house because he was already drunk and swerving the car on the drive over. And I knew she would keep serving him beer. They finally noticed I was in the car an hour later- you know what's coming, right? Heatstroke. Bad. Trip to the hospital type bad. Then the lying- my dad made me promise to tell my mom I had the flu. Or she'd leave him- which she very well may have. So, I became a liar and an enabler for my father. Much like poor Jane in the book.

On Being an Enabler: I was, Jane is in the book. And being an enabler is the worst thing you can be for an alcoholic because you are shielding them from the consequences of their actions. Which means it takes a lot longer to hit bottom- and hitting bottom is usually why people quit.

I hope you can tell that this is a book that I like and highly recommend. I related to Jane and had a lot of sympathy for her. I also liked the whole storm chasing, tornado angle. This book affected me so much that days after reading this book I'm still taking a walk down memory lane.

Overall Rating: 3 1/2 stars
Genre Rating: 4 stars

Lara Zielin's Website
Lara Zielin's Twitter
Link to Al-Anon for Teens (groups for family members affected by alcoholism): Al-Anon Teens

The Waiting Sky




Friday, August 10, 2012

Review: Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

Something Strange and Deadly (Something Strange and Deadly, #1)

Goodreads Summary:
The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper—

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor…from her brother. Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

My Review:
This was one of the books I was really looking forward to in 2012. I mean, the cover alone is great...then you add historical fantasy with zombies...I was sold. I've read a lot of reviews for this book, so I know I'm going to be standing alone here, but I didn't love it. I almost didn't finish it because I found it slow until almost halfway through the book. Now, I just want to say it's not an awful book. I actually think it's a pretty solid 3 stars since it picked up at the end. But worth buying? No. Worth using up a precious library hold for? No. Worth reading? It depends on what's on your TBR list. If you've still got some really great books on there, I'd slide this one way down the list.

What didn't I like about this book? Well, I can't say it wasn't historically accurate. I mean, zombies. But it has a lot of qualities of mediocre historical fiction. Specifically, it will throw in historically accurate stuff that's obvious- like the Centennial Exhibition that was held in 1876. But it doesn't feel historically "lush" in the small details. I know it's historical fantasy, but it doesn't feel very Victorian Era to me. Not in the way people talk, acted, etc. And it's the little realistic details that make or break a historical fantasy novel. If you can get the details of the time period right, then the fantasy part seems more "real" and likely. I read a lot of Victorian Era fiction and Neo-Victorian literature, so maybe that's part of the problem. Maybe if you just go into it expecting a zombie book, none of this would be an issue. (I'm reading Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff right now and so far, Stormdancer is an example of historical fantasy done superbly. And it's just highlighting everything wrong with this book. Crosses fingers on Stormdancer...)



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