2011 Year In Review

First book read in 2011: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Last book read in 2011: Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
Total books read in 2011: 115

Book of the Year:  Undecided
There were so many new books in 2011, a lot of dystopian series that are just getting started, which is one of my new favorite genres. A couple series coming to an end; The Wolves of Mercy Falls, and The Fever Series most specifically. It is really difficult for me to sit and say, ‘Yeah – THIS was my favorite book of the year.’ I’m really at a loss here. I loved Shadowfever! No matter what I had anticipated might happen in that series, I was always surprised. Then, I actually read Anna and the French Kiss so many times this year that you would think that would be it…but there is just something…not impacting enough about that book to be deemed the ultimate favorite of the year.  It’s just one of those gushy, feel good books that I love revisiting. I think Forever and The Clockwork Prince were the two books I most anticipated this year – but neither are really my favorites. Forever was a great end to a series, but it really contained nothing new that made it stand out, and The Clockwork Prince; I love the characters and the scenario, but it just doesn’t fit the bill. So, I think I’m just going to have to remain silent on this one. There were a large number of books I really, really loved this year, but none that stand out more than another.

Favorite End of a Series:  Shadowfever
The Fever Series was so fun, exciting, sexy, thrilling, just edge of your seat GOOD! If you like fantasy/romance, you WILL LOVE this series. Just trust me on that one!

Favorite Dystopian:  Divergent
So this is the year of the dystopian novel, and why not after the success of The Hunger Games, right?! There are were so many this year, and many of the novels fall into other genres as well, but some of the dystopian novels I read this year include Across The Universe, Matched (and Crossed), Delirium, Divergent, Solstice, Wither, Eve – Once again I’m finding it hard to pick a favorite. I love the cover of Wither, but I think my favorite is going to have to be Divergent. I think it’s mostly because of the action and strong female lead.

Favorite Romance:  Pride and Passion
I read an abundance of Romance novels, mostly thanks to review copies, and publisher and author requests. I’ve been really big into Historical Romance this year. This year my favorite was a book I got off of Netgalleys, Pride and Passion. I really just feel in love with the characters of this book, especially Adrian. I just really enjoyed how much in love with Lucy he was, the anguish he was in over her at times…I just remember finishing this book thinking about how I kind of wanted to start over from the beginning and do it all over again.

Favorite Hero: Cricket Bell
I want to do Will Herondale again…but he was 2010’s hero, and I feel it necessary to no repeat myself. SOOoo I’m going to have to go with Cricket Bell of Lola and the Boy Next Door. It was a close run with Etinne St Clair though (let’s face it, Stephany Perkins knows how to write those awesome male leads) but Etinne loses simply because he stayed with a girl he didn’t love for fear of rejection! Cricket is (unsurprisingly, because it’s me) dark haired and blue eyed. His hair is wild, he’s got an awesome if not slightly eccentric sense of style, and he’s a nerd. He loves Lola so much – he doesn’t sway, he is dead set on her no if, ands, or buts. Reading about him made me want to start writing on my hand in sharpie and wearing rubber bracelets. And that kiss at the end of the book – wow!

Movie of the Year: The Three Musketeers
I love going to the movies. I think watching movies is my second favorite pastime, after reading of course. We didn’t go as much this year as we normally go, and I probably didn’t see any of the real big movies this year that weren’t a part of a franchise. I loved Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, and Breaking Dawn Part 1. Of course there was Beastly and Little Red Riding Hood. I think, though, that I preferred The Three Musketeers to all of those. Silly, I know, but I love the old fashioned “super heros” (Robin Hood, Musketeers, Zorro, etc.) The movie had its flaws and “yeah right” moments, but I still just really enjoyed it.

What's in store for 2012:
There are obviously a TON of really good books coming out in 2012, parts of series I've already started, etc.  And YES, I will be reading them this year for sure.  I think I'm going to scale back on the number of publisher requests I take on this year - that's not saying I still won't accept any, but my TBR pile is large and getting larger by the day.  It's out of control.  So this year, I want to focus on:
1.  Reading most of the unread books I own
2.  I signed up for the  2012 ebook reading challenge, and have agreed to 25 ebooks, which I have no doubt I can fulfill - perhaps surpass.
3.  I want to read 2 Non-Fiction books
4.  I want to read at least 1 classic book
5.  My total goal:  100 books in 2012.

BOOK REVIEW: Why We Broke Up - Daniel Handler

GENRE: Young Adult – Fiction, Romance
FORM: Audiobook
NARRATOR: Khristine Hvam

SYNOPSIS: A letter written by Min to Ed explaining all of the things that she kept from their relationship that are included in a box she is leaving on his door step, and what they meant to her.

REVIEW: Why We Broke Up is a five and a half hour (via audiobook) monologue of…well exactly that. Sounds boring? Well, it really isn’t. What you get in that monologue, which is actually a letter written to Min’s ex-boyfriend, of their entire relationship from start to finish. She points out areas where she should have seen the break up coming, where she knew things were going wrong but had remained blind.

The relationship between Min and Ed was actually very sweet most of the time, like when it was just the two of them together. Outside of that scenario, Ed was kind of a jerk. I did feel like his feelings were very true and exactly how Min described it, “fragile.” Something so new and big to him that in a way I think he couldn’t handle it’s magnitude. Or perhaps I still just want to think the best of him and he not only acted like super-mega jerk, he actually IS super-mega jerk! Anyway, I enjoyed the book – but on the other hand, the entire thing was very predictable. I loved Min and Ed’s adventure, and the way they came together so sweetly. That was a fun experience, but we all knew what was coming in the end. (Well, DUH, title..)

Al, on the other hand, was a dope. He sat around on his feelings way too long, and Min was equally stupid for not catching on anyway. I am glad that there wasn’t some grand stateMint at the end – a proclamation of undying love that was going to last forever – but that never would have happened. What I enjoyed most about this book was how realistic it was, and in this story Min has put herself out there and proclaimed a love that was shattered, and she isn’t one of those girls who has that kind of reaction on a weekly basis. (Sorry about the spoiler, but as I said, this book was very predictable, if you didn’t figure this out within the first couple of chapters…well, I’m sorry, but you should have!)

Daniel Handler’s writing style was very descriptive and detail oriented. He created a picture where you could see what the characters where seeing, actually hear the slam of the lockers, etc. The book brought me back to High School, and it was so accurate – from the description of going to a sporting event, to a school dance, all the way to standing in the hallway with your peers; it was almost as if Daniel was in high school himself. (Maybe he is or recently was? I haven’t really done any author research or anything.) It was kind of a nice flashback, at least in that way that is nostalgic but not something you actually want to do sort of way. I was completely under impressed with the names of his characters, however. And really, a name IS important in a book – they help shape personalities in my opinion. In the case of this book, I would have though (without reading) that this book was full of very dull characters with barely any personalities at all. Not people I would be jumping at the chance to get to know…

My only regret is, having listened to this on audiobook, I did not get to see the illustrations of the book. I might have to flip through the book in a bookstore or library just so I can find out what I was missing out on.


BOOK REVIEW: The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky

GENRE: Young Adult - Fiction (16+)
FORM: eBook

SYNOPSIS (from goodreads.com):
Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie is navigating through the strange worlds of love, drugs, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show", and dealing with the loss of a good friend and his favorite aunt.
REVIEW:  I first heard about The Perks of Being a Wallflower during Banned Books week.  The title alone draws me to the book because, well growing up I was a bit of a wallflower myself, and felt that I could relate to the book.  After reading a few reviews, I sort of backed off though - because I'm not real big into reading sad books, and it sounded like this book had the potential of being sad.  Of course in my mind I come up with all of the worst case scenarios and just know I don't want to read about it.  If you are like me in this - let me put your mind at ease just a bit.  No one in this book that wasn't already dead dies in the end.  It has some tough situations and topics, but it's worth the read.  Trust me.

Charlie is the perfect mix of a normal 9th grader and extremely awkward teenager.  This is just another way that I felt like I could relate to him as read the book.  As a young teenager, I was oblivious about so many things - innocent really. I was not, however, as quick to try unknown things as Charlie was.  And, as emotional as my baggage goes, mine was not near as heavy as Charlies was in the end either.

The book contains exploration of drugs, alcohol, sex, and even homosexuality - none of these are the main topic or point of the book.  I feel that their point in the book was more about being a teenager and trying to find yourself and understand who you were and why.  And though it does include all of the things said above (which is why I included 16+ in my genre) - I'm not so sure that the age distinction is true.  Usually I get a little sensitive with those topics being so prominent in a young adult book, but I almost wonder if this book might help other teenagers realize that yes, other people have the same thoughts and concerns, but would also help those of us who weren't so lucky to be the popular kid, the beauty of the school, or just simply blessed to be able to make friends easily - that yes, there are kids who are "different" but they are people with feelings and thoughts, and the capacity to love and be loved and...I just don't know.  I remember how hard high school was for me, and outside of some of the mental things - I could really, really, really relate to who Charlie was in the High School scheme of things; I was Charlie.

All of that being said - I am curious to see the movie coming out in 2012(?).  I'm curious to see what they do with the characters, and honestly to see what things are changed and what things will be staying the same.  I also love that Logan Lerman was cast as Charlie, and Emma Watson as Sam.  I will have a hard time watching of those actors do any kind of drugs - so there is a large part of me that is hoping it is left out of the movie, but other than that I'm hoping things are left true to the novel.


BOOK REVIEW: Clockwork Prince - Cassandra Clare

GENRE: Young Adult – Fantasy/Steampunk/Romance
FORM: eBook
SERIES: The Infernal Devices – Book 2

SYNOPSIS: The London Institute is under harsh evaluation after having harbored a spy, and eliminated a vampire clan that had been falsely accused (despite breaking the law regardless). Questions are being raised of whether Charlotte and Henry are really cut out for this kind of responsibility. They are given a chance to prove themselves and ensure their spot at the institute though. They have two weeks to find the one who calls himself The Magister; Axel Mortmain.

REVIEW: After a years’ worth of anticipation – I could hardly wait to get my hand on the next installment of The Infernal Devices. I will admit though, after reading subtle hints or blanket statements from both Cassandra Clare (via Twitter/Facebook – I don’t know her personally obviously) and other blogs/fans/etc., I was also sort of dreading this book – mostly because…and if you read my blog regularly, this will not come as a shock to you…there was a true blue love triangle in this series. ARRrrg! I fell hard and fast for Will Herondale in Clockwork Angel. His wit, love of books, and secrets were intriguing to me. (And I’m a bit like Magnus Bane – I really like black hair/blue eyes, what’s more attractive?) Don’t get me wrong, I like Jem….in a nice, sidekick/bestfriend/guy who will always be there sort of way, just not as a love interest.

That being said; I both absolutely loved and really hated Clockwork Prince. (“Hate” is not indicating how GOOD this book was, it was excellent!) I cannot, will not diverge on all the reasons I hated the book. I will just say that there IS a love triangle, and while Tessa does get hot and heavy…ITS WITH THE WRONG GUY!!!!!! Not that Will didn’t get his fair share of play time as well, but still. Another reason I do not like love triangles: someone will always get hurt. Badly. Usually more than one someone. I love Tessa, she is funny and wonderfully nice. It’s that “nice” that is getting her into trouble though. This all would never would have started if that nice, ‘I don’t want anyone to get hurt/be hurt by me’ attitude didn’t present itself. Granted, she had her fair share of hurt, by Will none-the-less, I just think it was always obvious that he was lying. It was obvious something more was at play with him. Patience is a virtue.

And I will be patient. For another year. Waiting on Clockwork Princess. When I’m almost positive the world will right itself once again. ;)

Okay, so why did I love this book? Well let’s see. First of all, we get to see and learn more about Will. I find this funny because I remember reading someone say that this was “Jem’s book,” and I can see where that might partially be true, but we don’t learn much more about Jem that we didn’t already know. Will and his past was a larger part of this book.

Clockwork Prince was the “inbetween” novel, the middle one in a series that gets you from Point A to Point B. It is also the novel that in most series you get the most insight and historical details on most if not all of the characters and the situation at hand. While sometimes it can make a book seem long depending on the author, I tend to like these middle books because I like knowing why people are the way they are and why they act the way they do. Cassandra Clare does an awesome job of doing this while at the same time keeping the storyline moving forward. Progress is made in finding out the how’s and why’s of the automatons and the Magister, but not much. Just enough to keep the story engaging, the real movement in this book is between characters.

A quick rundown of some of that movement: We learn more about Axel Mortmain, and why he might hate Shadowhunters so much. Charlotte and Henry are also front and forward a lot more, and we learn of the sweet delicate relationship they share. I was a Henry fan from the start. He’s cooky and distracted, but I always knew that his heart is exactly where it is suppose to be, and that is proven in this novel. Jessamine plays a rather large part in this book, and I’m curious to see if she will be able to redeem herself after this book. Gabriel and Gideon Lightwood…just wait and see. We get a bit more of Magnus Bane, and given that he’s a reoccurring character in two of Clare’s series, it’s fun to sort of gather bits and pieces of his life at random intervals and periods of time. There are also a lot of hints and nudges in the direction of where Tessa came from and how she may have come to be – but nothing definite yet. That is obviously going to have to wait for the Grand Finale!

There was a lot of foreshadowing going on in Clockwork Prince - I may have been looking for things that weren’t actually there, but I don’t think so and I’m looking forward to finding out if I’m right. I’m not going to tell you some of the things I picked up on, because I don’t like ruining anything – if you didn’t see it you’ll just be that much more surprised when it comes up. I will say that I’m a tinsy bit suspicious of that cook. What is her DEAL?


BOOK REVIEW: Allegiance - Cayla Kluver

GENRE: Young Adult – Historical Fantasy
FORM: eBook – NetGalley - ARC
SERIES: Legacy Series – Book 2

While I was granted permission to read this book by NetGalley affiliate publisher, Harlequin, I have received no compensation for this review other than the joy of reading!

SYNOPSIS (from Goodreads.com): Only I saw Narian for who he truly was: a young man with courage and an independent mind, and made to pay for what was outside his control. He couldn't help his past any more than he could help the way those intense, deep-blue eyes pierced me and held me captive.
An eighteen-year-old queen in love with the enemy as their countries pass the point of no return...

Bound to a man she cannot love, Queen Alera of Hytanica must forget Narian, the young man who holds her heart. For Narian is destined to conquer Hytanica at the behest of his master, the powerful magic-user known as the Overlord. Alera doesn't truly believe Narian will fight against Hytanica-until Cokyrian troops attack with Narian commanding the charge.

Faced with the greatest betrayal a heart can know, Alera must set aside personal feelings and lead her kingdom through its darkest time. And when all hope, will and courage seem lost, she must find strength and remember that even the blackest night must have a dawn....

REVIEW: I am in love with this series. It combines all of my many favorite things; fantasy, historical setting, royal court politics, hot heroes, strong heroines, the most evil of villains. Allegiance is a book where the romance does not rule. While there are snippits of gushing here and there, but this book is more about the downfall of Hytanica and about Alera’s rising strength as a Queen. As in the first novel, Legacy, Alera has some questionably immature behavior. There are times when she seems to be completely oblivious to the danger her country is in, or of the responsibility of her new position, however she finds out rather quickly and harshly. In Allegiance she grows up quickly and is becoming a very strong and capable leader.

I addressed love triangles in my previous review, and it seems I’m still unable to get away from them, but in this case it’s a very open ended love triangle, since Alera does not actually love the man she is married to. I actually felt bad for Steldor throughout this book. It seemed as if he loves Alera, even though – if I’m remembering correctly – he never really came close to expressing those feelings in a way Alera could comprehend in the first book. He’s a man who is handsome and knows it. I believe I may have actually compared him to Beauty and the Beast’s Gaston, a comparison I think still fits – but only if Gaston’s character were extended beyond the courtship. You start to see the real man behind the ego in Allegiance. You see he’s a good person, even if he has a temper. He’s protective and possessive over what he sees as his. If played out right, I actually wouldn’t have minded if the book turned to his favor, even if I do love Narian.

Narian, the character who was present throughout the entire book, without actually being present. He was in it – mostly through Alera’s memories. The moments that he was actually there himself, sometimes he was being painted in a very bad scenario, which I think may have encouraged the “Steldor alignment” of the thoughts mentioned earlier. But Narian is a proven character, and he will behave as you expect him to at the right moments. He is a hero who will not let you down!

I loved Allegiance! I love the story, I love the characters. I love the imagery of the world that Cayla Kluver has painted. I will admit that there were points when I felt the book was getting kind of long on the details. I was a bit antsy waiting around in hiding, in fact, but isn’t that what it would actually feel like? I LOVE the covers, absolutely beautiful!!! As I have read these books in a “borrowed’ ARC format from NetGalley, I am so tempted to purchase the book copies of this series – just so I can see them on my shelf.


BOOK REVIEW: Ten Things We Did - Sarah Mlynowski

GENRE: Young Adult Fiction - Romance
FORM:  eBook

SYNOPSIS (from Goodreads.com):  

2 girls + 3 guys + 1 house – parents = 10 things April and her friends did that they (definitely, maybe, probably) shouldn't have.

If given the opportunity, what sixteen-year-old wouldn't jump at the chance to move in with a friend and live parent-free? Although maybe "opportunity" isn't the right word, since April had to tell her dad a tiny little untruth to make it happen (see #1: "Lied to Our Parents"). But she and her housemate Vi are totally responsible and able to take care of themselves. How they ended up "Skipping School" (#3), "Throwing a Crazy Party" (#8), "Buying a Hot Tub" (#4), and, um, "Harboring a Fugitive" (#7) at all is kind of a mystery to them. 

In this hilarious and bittersweet tale, Sarah Mlynowski mines the heart and mind of a girl on her own for the first time. To get through the year, April will have to juggle a love triangle, learn to do her own laundry, and accept that her carefully constructed world just might be falling apart . . . one thing-she-shouldn't-have-done at a time.
 REVIEW:  A fun book about rejection and rebellion and behaving like an unauthorized teenager. As a mother and adult, I do not agree with the behavior displayed in this book, and am a little bit disappointed that there weren’t stronger consequences for the girl’s actions, even though there WERE consequences…sometimes some pretty harsh ones at that. But so much could have happened, people could have been hurt, killed, or a whole slew of things.

More than the disappointment I felt for some of April’s decisions was the way April’s mother handled the situation. Sure she was across the ocean, but I feel like she still should have done something. Then her dad, who was completely gullible and happily blind to all of April’s lies. But this is the point, isn’t it? April and Vi both have parents who have ceased to really care about them. Maybe not completely, but in many of the ways that matter. They [the parents] all have their own lives and concerns, and April is almost an adult after all…it was sad, in my opinion. And what teenager in their right mind would turn down a crap load of money and parental freedom indefinitely?? There was a secret part of me, that regardless of my shock at the situation itself didn’t want them to get caught either.

The reader in me – taking out the mature adult and responsible parent for a moment – was entertained. The characters were fun and goofy, and sometimes very serious and mature…sometimes. I felt like guy/girl relationships didn’t seem as meaningful as they were intended to be. I felt no chemistry between April and Noah, and likewise I barely felt sparks between her and Hudson. On the flipside, the “girlfriend” relationships seemed to be strong, and forgiving, and ever growing and evolving. All of the girls had open minds, were willing to discuss important matters, and were even willing to let the crazy girl, Lucy, into the group. In the end, I would say that it was the bond between these girls that made me enjoy this book the most.


BOOK REVIEW: Crossed - Ally Condie

GENRE:  Young Adult - Romance, Dystopian
FORM:  Audiobook
NARRATOR(s):   Kate Simses, Jack Riccobono
SERIES:  Matched - Book 2

SYNOPSIS (from Goodreads.com):  
In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky - taken by the Society to his certain death - only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.

Cassia's quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander - who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia's heart - change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever.
REVIEW:  I have been looking forward to this book for, well about a year now. I wasn’t sure how much I was going to like Matched when I first found out what it was about, but it didn’t take me long to really get into it. Cassia and Ky’s secret relationship was made so very precious due to the danger they were constantly in. This was the first dystopian novel that I have read where you get a very clear picture of the government involvement. I, of course, had read The Hunger Games, but I felt like it was more of an outside view of government. In Matched, Cassia was fully involved with "The Society" before she started questioning what was happening around her. Crossed took this information to the next level and then you get a much bigger view of "The Rising." I found it interesting how all of the characters in this book speculate on who “the Pilot” is, and what "The Rising" means, each having a different view, different feelings and different expectations.

I have enjoyed finding out more about "The Rising." I can understand Cassia’s mental dilemma, in many times she is full on for a rebellion against "The Society," yet time and time again she refers back to her life in "The Society" where everything was laid out and decided for her. The lack of confusion and chaos – sometimes it’s like she has gotten caught up with the ease of such a lifestyle that she forgets that the point is that she is an individual with thoughts and the ability to make decisions, yet once she really thinks about it she desires to have that choice and will fight to get it. I think that this would be true for many people today.  There are certainly people out there who would be perfectly happy if their entire lives were laid out before them, and no decision would ever have to be made on their own, while other people would be bursting out of the seams to get out of that box, to do something different, crazy, or creative.  I think Cassia actually does fall in them middle of those two scenarios, but she also knows what is right.

The more I read them the more I am not a fan of love triangles. I hate that in my mind I have made a decision, and about 90% of the time my decision is how the story concludes, but I have to sit through the wishy/washyness of going between boys. I understand Xander has always been Cassia’s best friend from youth, but I don’t still don’t like the longing references back to him. He isn’t giving up, and there is a part of her that doesn’t give up on him either. It cannot be both ways, and Cassia, and every other girl in every other book, needs to stop playing with the emotions of these boys. Especially with this series, isn’t there enough action and emotion, danger and storyline to feed these books without throwing in the love triangle??

It is refreshing how innocent the relationship between Cassia and Ky has played out on the pages. Yes, they kiss a lot, and have their tender moments, but sex is not the only thing on their minds – which has been a consistent theme in many of the books I’ve read recently. It makes them come off as innocent and sweet, and leaves you wanting just a touch more.

So I have a few questions, which is natural for being in the middle of a series; but I am wondering if "The Rising" isn’t a bit like "The Society" in some of the important ways. Order is needed everywhere, but I’m afraid that they are going to end up having a big ugly center. Hopefully I’m wrong since all of the characters we love are wrapped up in the middle of it all. I'm also curious about this invisible enemy they seem to talk about, but who also seem to be completely separate from both "The Society," and "The Rising."  My theory:  the enemy is a made up force created by "The Society" in order to justify their murder of everyone that is not like them.

I love foreshadowing, and I’m hopeful on the Indy/Xander possibility. I do feel bad for Xander, he does seem to have been dealt a bad hand in all of this, so to see him come to some kind of happiness would be wonderful. But more than that, I really, really, really hope that Cassia stops with the back and forth – and falls in love with one guy – who better be Ky!

In conclusion - I really enjoyed Crossed.  I was a little bit afraid, after reading a few other reviews who felt like it was just a filler book with nothing important, but I'm thankful they were wrong.  So much important information has been included in this book.  It just didn't have so much of the relationship aspects of the book that I think people so often are looking for.  That isn't the point of the book!


BOOK REVIEW: Eve - Anna Carey

GENRE: Young Adult – Dystopian
FORM: Audiobook
NARRATOR: Tavia Gilbert
SERIES:  Eve - Book 1

SYNOPSIS (from Goodreads.com):

The year is 2032, sixteen years after a deadly virus—and the vaccine intended to protect against it—wiped out most of the earth’s population. The night before eighteen-year-old Eve’s graduation from her all-girls school she discovers what really happens to new graduates, and the horrifying fate that awaits her.

Fleeing the only home she’s ever known, Eve sets off on a long, treacherous journey, searching for a place she can survive. Along the way she encounters Caleb, a rough, rebellious boy living in the wild. Separated from men her whole life, Eve has been taught to fear them, but Caleb slowly wins her trust...and her heart. He promises to protect her, but when soldiers begin hunting them, Eve must choose between true love and her life.
REVIEW: I listened to this audiobook in one day, so it feels like this book just flew by. It’s not just that it was short, but there was so much action and suspense that I was constantly on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what happened next. There were times when I was surprised by the violence, or maybe it was just the imagery…either way, I’m used to the suspense, I’m not so used to such graphic results. This is not a bad thing, mind you, it just took me by surprise.

After I finished Eve, I went back and read a few other reviews on what people thought of it. While the board was pretty divided between, “excellent” and “not for me” I was surprised by some of the reasons why. One in particular stuck out to me, as it claimed that the book was filled with blatant sexism. While I sort of can understand where this reviewer may have drawn those conclusions from, and by all means everyone is entitled to an opinion so I’m not trying to stir the pot or say that this person is wrong, but I do want to mention why I thought that this dystopian novel was pretty right on.

Think about our world right now. There are people who are just good people. They want to do good, help others, and just live their life the best they can. But then there are other people who view every new thing, every little action as an opportunity to get something out of it. For example; spam mail, people who want to get your password from you, people who try and con you out of money by posing as a relative who is stuck in a foreign country with no money, people who want to “give you” a million dollars because they are going to die and have no money, people who want to buy their car and then have you ship it to them in Argentina or where ever. These types of people are out to make a quick (and sometimes rather large) buck. They take advantage of the wonderful technology, the wireless transactions, the world wide access to other people and spin it around into something mean and hateful. So the fact that in this book, a setting where a large majority of the earth’s population has been wiped out by a virus and the people are left thinking, “what now?” there is for sure going to be those people who are going to take advantage of the situation for their own good. The hot commodity in this book…females. Why? Well to repopulate of course. One man can impregnate multiple women – so that makes the females more important. So yes, there are going to be people who are going to hunt girls down and sell them to the highest bidder – even if it is not to the established government based program. It is just how people (bad people, yes) are. The female shortage will also take its toll on otherwise “good” guys as well, because really – people want what they can’t have. So again, I’m not surprised that the men in this story behaved the way that they did. Does it make their behavior right, of course not. But I do think it’s fairly realistic perspective. What I think may have been the real problem with the story is, there were so few “good guys.”

I enjoyed Eve. She was so trusting and secure in her life – the life she thought she had, until she sought the truth out for herself. Even outside the walls of her school, Eve struggled between what she was taught, and what she was learning to be true; and having trouble figuring out what could be trusted. She was extremely innocent. Even after being chased, kidnapped, and attacked; it seemed like she still felt like she had no real concept of how much danger she really was in. She was a strong character regardless – and still fought for her life in the end.

I liked the strong backbone of Caleb, and the reluctant friend in Arden. I believe (or maybe it’s just hope) that in the future books we will see all three come together in to fairly strong bond. Eve is not my absolute favorite Dystopian of the year, but I did enjoy it quite a bit, and do look forward to finding out what happens next.


BOOK REVIEW: Lola and the Boy Next Door - Stephanie Perkins

GENRE: Young Adult – Fiction, Romance
FORM: Audiobook
NARRATOR: Shannon McManus

SYNOPSIS: Lola is perfectly happy, well mostly perfectly happy. She has the best boyfriend ever; the best older boyfriend, who’s in a band, and has awesome tattoos! She loves her family, which includes her two dads, and their black dog, Betsy. The only thing that could make it a bit better is if her Dads and friends would like or at least except her boyfriend, but that will come in time….

Then Lola’s world begins to be flipped upside down. The Bell twins move back into the house next door, including Cricket Graham Bell. He’s the boy Lola was in love with as a child, the boy who broke her heart two years ago, the boy she never, ever wanted to see again.

REVIEW: I have been waiting on this book since I read Anna and the French Kiss. I was/am so in love with Anna and Etienne that I just couldn’t wait to get more of Stephany Perkin’s writing. And I wasn’t disappointed.

I would not be able to sit and read her books back to back (to back – when the third is released), because her books are most certainly about a girl and a guy, and how they circle each other with heated desire. Of course the characters have their issues, but it’s all part and partial to their feeling for one another, which continues to escalate throughout the book until the moment of impact (however that may play out.) I love these books – because it is all emotion/love/romance driven, but large quantities all that the same time would probably get old.

I really like Lola and I think I want to marry Cricket – they are amazing for each other. They are completely funky and crazy. To see them walking down the street together would probably be a lot like watching a rainbow, or a cartoon, or something else equally as bright and magnificent. I think I just have a small problem with Lola. While she dresses crazy and makes amazing costumes, I was a little frustrated with her lying and deception of everyone around her. I did not blame Max, her older boyfriend, for being upset and hurt (however his selfish anger was a little annoying, and his rudeness a bit unredeemable), because Lola was really, really unfair to him. She does see this about herself, and admits this, and talks about “proving herself” or “redeeming herself,” but the amount of time given in the book for what it would have taken to gain trust and respect back was not adequate. Though, I don’t know how else it could have been written. I just found her rather immature and it that was hard for me, as a reader, to really love her.

EVERYTHING about Cricket was perfect though. Like I said, if I wasn’t already married to the one perfect guy of my dreams, I’d want to marry him. I wanted to touch his hair and have him help me pick out my clothes. I am a tinsy bit of a sucker for the slight nerd/hipster combination. He was so open and honest and just naked with his emotions. There was a scene near the end – that I won’t elaborate too much on – but his “anguish” was the most amazingly hot, and sweetest thing I’ve read in a book in a very long time.

I had read about Lola and the Boy Next Door a few times, and I knew that Anna and Etienne would be in the book, but it did not prevent my heart from giving that little leap of excitement when I “heard” Etienne speak for the first time. Thank goodness for consistent narrators!! I finished listening to Anna again a bit over a week ago, so I guess I wasn’t expecting to hear from them again so soon. They are, of course, as amazingly cute and perfect as ever.


BOOK REVIEW: Saving June - Hannah Harrington

GENRE: Young Adult Fiction, Romance
FORM: eBook, ARC – NetGalley

While I was granted permission to read this book by a NetGalley affiliate publisher, HarlequinTEEN, I have received no compensation for this review other than the joy of reading!

SYNOPSIS: Feeling upset at her inability to mourn her sister and trapped by the walls of her house as well her mother’s own mourning process and her over bearing and over religious aunt, Harper convinces her best friend, Laney, to take a road trip from Michigan to California in order to take June to the one place she always longed to go. They are joined by, well actually relying on the car and financial services of, the mysterious Jake. The music obsessed, slightly strange, and a little bit troubled guy who June tutored just before deciding to take her own life.

REVIEW: First of all, the idea of setting off on a long road trip with friends and no agenda is extremely appealing to me. My husband is NOT one for road travel, and with three kids, something like that is just not a possibility…right now at least. So living these experiences through a book is always entertaining – (See my reviews for Amy & Rogers Epic Detour, 13 Little Blue Envelopes, and Wanderlove). In Saving Grace, I enjoyed the element of healing that was taking place in Harper’s life. As a teenager, it is easy to imagine her inwardly needing this release. At this point, she can do nothing right; she’s selfish and only thinking about herself. Never mind that Harper is trying to manage her own feelings and life. So this escape, and this last ditch effort to do what she can for her sister, I actually found it honorable – alarming, a little bit immature and disrespectful too – but she was honorable in the fact that she was doing for June what June could not do for herself.

I loved the gradual growing (and – hello it’s a book where that thing always happens) predictable relationship with Jake. The fact that they had time to get to know each other, and their affection for one another was something that grew was nice – but it was also enjoyable that they were constantly teasing or challenging one another. It wasn’t a cheesy or sappy romance, but a sarcastic, exasperating one that turned into a very hot encounter. As a little teaser into the romance – I pulled the following passage, because I just thought it summed everything up about the Harper/Jake duo pretty nicely:

“But I also enjoy him, erratic behavioral patterns and all. I like that he isn’t too cool to openly geek out over ABBA, and that he is so passionate about music, that he gives as good as he gets and doesn’t back down from a good argument. He makes me feel safe, without being overbearing, and at the same time totally stripped bare, forcing me to confront the things I want to keep locked up inside.” Pg 268

To sum it up, while not original, nor unpredictable, Saving June is absolutely enjoyable. A road trip of bickering, complaining, of laughter and love, of tears and healing. It’s a trip that was worth taking and a book I highly suggest picking up!


BOOK REVIEW: The Name of the Star - Maureen Johnson

GENRE: Young Adult - Fantasy
FORM: Audiobook
NARRATOR: Nicola Barber
SERIES: Shades of London - Book 1

SYNOPSIS (from Goodreads):
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 Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.

Soon "Rippermania" takes hold of 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 saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat 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.

REVIEW:  So I have concluded that this book would have been a lot better had I not read reviews/synopsis/blogs prior to reading this book.  I'm thinking that the plot line and twists would have been a lot more exciting and impacting had I not already known the basic premise.  So instead of taking it all in, I'm listening to this audio and dysecting the foreshadowing that I may or may not have picked up on and everything else under the sun.

So the book reminds me a lot of Harry Potter in it's description of the school, and how the school ran, however; I am not from England and may be oblivious...this really might be how schools in England are run, and that is why.  I didn't not like this part of the book, I just noticed the similarities.  And I'm sure I'm about the millionth person to point this out.  So yeah.  

That's okay, though.  I really enjoyed this book.  The idea behind it, the mystery unraveling.  It did feel a little bit Scooby-Doo when the villain revealed every detail of his story.  Not that I didn't want to know the whens and whys, but it is a teensy bit stereotypical villain-esk character trait to have the entire thing unraveled by the sociopathic assumption that everything is going to happen just as said villain envisioned?!  BUT, somehow, from what I know of Maureen Johnson via blog/twitter stalking - this was intended and what would be right for her I think. 

I like Rory...a lot.  She was just pretty awesome, a risk taker, but she also has a respect for authorities and doing what is right as well.  However, her small romance - I'm not sure how I feel about her and Jerome.  The relationship seemed very - on the sidelines, or almost non-existent.  I wasn't feeling the chemistry at all.  I was actually hoping she'd drop him and go after the young hottie police guy who's name is slipping my memory at the moment...but alas I suppose there IS an age difference there, huh?  Character relationship between Rory and all of her friends would be something I'd like to see better established in future books, because that sort of fell short in my opinion...which is a bit surprising to me after reading the Blue Envelope Series.


BOOK REVIEW: Scorpio Races - Maggie Stiefvater

GENRE: Young Adult - Fantasy
FORM: Audiobook

SYNOPSIS (from Goodreads):
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.
REVIEW: I have been thinking about this review for well over a week now. I think that part of my problem is that after all the waiting and the secret hints and the grand cover reveal and the trailer…I was left feeling a bit underwhelmed with this book. I really, really wanted to love it. I was prepared to have another favorite to add to my list. I’m not sure if it was the hype, or if it was my current frame of mind, but I just wasn’t feeling it this time around. This is not to say that I do not love Maggie Stiefvater though, and will not continue to read her books. I really enjoyed her fae books, and of course I loved The Wolves of Mercy Falls Series; The Scorpio Races must just not have been my kind of book.

The book was filled with Stiefvater’s typical poetic imagery of course. There was so much about the island, and details about the horses and water horses, and daily life for Puck; I think I sort of just started to get lost. I started wondering – “where exactly are we?” Judging by Sean’s name – I’m assuming this is some kind of Irish setting…but I can’t really remember if it was said. (Audiobook – it’s a bit harder to go back and find information you might have missed.) Then I started wondering…why Puck? How did she get this nickname?  I don't think this was answered, which seemed unusual to me.  Usually in a book, all of these things are eventually revealed.  Perhaps I missed it?   Then the next question was “Why are we racing? What is the purpose, especially if so many people die each year?” The answer to this last question I have deduced; they race for the sport of it. No real reason is laid out, and given all the crazy American sports (hello, rodeo bull riders) really there isn’t any other reason necessary. I just wanted one I guess.

The entire book was very melancholy, which is another of Stiefvater’s writing traits, but usually she offers a pretty good balance of the fun, bright and happy to go with it. I wasn’t feeling it this time around. Even if the sun was shining and the sky was beautiful, I had this image of an oppressed small town caught in a bubble of constant drizzle. Perhaps it’s all the tragedy that follow the characters around, and their own oppressed lives that encouraged this image in my head, and we are seeing the world through their eyes.

I will say that I felt very positive about Puck and Sean's relationship.  It was a very realisitic view of what falling into what might be love might actually look like.  Both are timid in their admiration and their feelings.  A friendship is formed, and with that comes...more.  This I adored, and believe it or not, I did not long for anymore than what was given.  Both Puck and Sean had so much going on in their lives, adding a bunch of passion and lovesickness to the mix would probably have been a bit over the top, yes?

I feel like I’m being unfair, but in the end I was just not crazy about this book at all. I have this crazy impulse to wait 6 months or a year and reread it – THAT is how much I wanted to enjoy this book, and how much I typically love Maggie Stiefvater's writing.


REVIEW: Forever Mine - Elizabeth Reyes

GENRE: Young Adult
FORM:  eBook
SERIES: The Moreno Brothers

SYNOPSIS:  Sarah has been forced to move to California with her Aunt, and cousin Valerie, while her mom mom goes to jail.  She is leaving behind the only place she has known as a steady home, Flagstaff AZ, as well as her very best friend Sydney.   Upon arriving at her new home and new school, Sarah immediately is taken with the ever popular and mega-hot Angel Moreno, and to her surprise he is taken by her as well.  As things heat up between Sarah and Angel, Sarah is aware that there is one part of her life that Angel is just not going to understand; Sydney, Sarah's best friend.  Bestfriend, who is a guy.

REVIEW:  For a free book on Amazon.com, this is an awesome read. The characters are captivating, and make you want to finish the book in one sitting.  I cannot say, however, I am in love with this book, as I have heard many say recently.  Angel was just a bit too, unapologetically, overbearing for my taste.  Yes, we all love an Edward, the mega jealous and overprotective character, but Angel took that a little too far in my opinion.

I was also a little put off by all the casual sex talk in this book.  I don't care how "current" or "real to life" this might be, even for teenagers today, I just find it sad if it's the truth.  I find it disappointing that we, as adults cannot be better examples of what love and sex should look like - and that throwing ourselves out there for anyone to have a taste of is not just emotionally damaging to girls, but to guys too.  It's a bad example of how anyone should behave.  Sarah, herself was not this bad example, but it seemed as though many of the other characters were.  Love does not equal sex.  Sex does not equal love, but I do hold the strong opinion that the former should not exist without the latter.

In the end, I enjoyed the characters, and the writing was great.  I was really sucked in from the point that Angel found out about Sydney until the very end, which is when most of the entertaining action happened.  The characters were well written, and mostly consistent.  I cannot say I'm overly enthused with picking up the next book in the series, mostly because I have met the characters, and I don't care for them that much.  I understand they likely change in their book - but I don't think I can sit through it.


AUTHOR Q & A: Because of You by Cathy Maxwell

I have received this book, Because of You, and am anxious to start reading it.  Trouble is, I have a few other things in progress right now, so it will have to wait... just a little bit.  However, I wanted to share this Q & A with author Cathy Maxwell with you, as well as a press release of her new book!!


Do you remember the first Regency historical you read?  What was it?
Faro’s Daughter by Georgette Heyer. I was hooked. Heyer is still one of my favorite writers.

Do you have favorite historical literary devices (forced marriage, heroine posing as boy...? What are they? Can you link any of them to novels you have written?  
I use the marriage of convenience quite often.  First, a book doesn’t have the time to go through a whole courtship, but also how many of us truly “know” the person we marry?  You can date someone for years, even live with that person—and discover you don’t know each other at all once you marry. I haven’t figured out why, but marriage really does change everything.  Sometimes it is perspective, sometimes expectations.  All I know is that after I married, I started cooking casseroles—something I’d never done before marriage!

What do you most want readers to take away from BECAUSE OF YOU? 
BECAUSE OF YOU is my take of the Prodigal Son.  The Biblical Son was lucky his father was alive when he returned.  Yale was not so fortunate.  I marvel at how easily we assume others will be there for when we need them.  The truth is, we only pass this way once and must treat each day as unique.  There is no time for grudges or misunderstandings.  What Yale must learn over the course of the book is to forgive himself for not reconciling with his father. 

Besides all being Regency era historicals, are there aspects of your books that repeat themselves?  Besides, of course, strong relationships, great dialogue and a happy ending.
My female characters share a common trait—they are not happy with their lives and they realize if there is to be change, it is up to them.  I believe each of us has the power to make our lives better if we are willing to toss expectations to the wind and seize living with everything we have.

What kind of research do you do for your novels? I have a super research library that I rely on and that I delve into again and again. However, the point of a romance is not the history. It’s the dynamic between two people who are falling in love—and that has never changed whether we are talking about ancient Rome or light years into the future.

All the talk about ebooks and the end of the mass market paperback makes it hard to know what to    expect to happen within the romance genre. What do you think?  
I think romance is in a heyday. So many choices. So many wonderful reads. And with many authors releasing their backlist titles as ebooks, there’s even more opportunity to enjoy favorite writers.

What are you working on?   I’m working on a trilogy involving an ancient curse and the family it is determined to destroy.

Can you tell us what we should look for from you in stores in 2012?  
The first book of the trilogy LYON’S BRIDE will be out in May.  The second book in November.  I’m so excited about these characters and their stories.  Also, Avon Books will re-release one of my classics, When Dreams Come True on March 27. Please check in at www.cathymaxwell.com for updates.

Please recommend a few books for my winter reading list?
Grab a copy of Princess Charming by Nicole Jordan.  Wonderful read!  It will be out February 2012.  You can’t go wrong with a book by any of my fellow Avon authors.  I did break down and buy The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan that has been on the bestseller lists for so long.  It’s an e-book and a good read.

How will you be celebrating this Thanksgiving?
Cooking and writing!  Two of my children, the Coast Guard officer and her husband, and my son the college   student, will be here along with their friends.  Should be a grand time and exactly the sort of day Thanksgiving was meant to be.


BECAUSE OF YOU Hits Shelves October 25th with New Mass Market Cover Art
“Lively dialogue, concise writing, and an unusual slant on the traditional forced-marriage plot make this story of a tormented hero and a determined heroine one that Maxwell's fans will cheer.”
Library Journal

   “I was immediately engrossed… the tone of the writing strikes a rare balance between seriousness and humor…a charming story with delightful characters… you won’t want to put it down.”
—The Romance Reader

“Cathy Maxwell brings both a luscious sense of humor and a special poignancy to her romances that allow readers to laugh and cry simultaneously. You’ll savor BECAUSE OF YOU.”
RT Book Reviews (4 1/2 stars)

Cathy Maxwell, whose national bestseller, The Seduction of Scandal, was published in September as part of Avon Books’ K.I.S.S. and Teal campaign marking National Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, has set all of her novels during the Regency period, including one of readers’ favorites, 1999’s BECAUSE OF YOU. The novel has just been republished in paperback with new art and updated author information and is ready to be discovered—and rediscovered—in stores and online.
In BECAUSE OF YOU, Cathy calls upon well-loved traditions of historical romance, bringing readers a vicar’s daughter, a disinherited rakehell son of a duke and a forced marriage in the story of Samantha Northrup, a young woman alone in the world.  After her father’s death, Samantha leads a simple, orderly life in the Village of Sproule. A seductive stranger arrives at her door one stormy night and, suddenly, her world is turned upside down. Discovered in a compromising position, she is forced to marry Lord Yale, a man she barely knows, who has returned to England after being banished by his father.  Married to an outcast of society, Samantha must abandon the life she’s known for a loveless marriage and a husband who may never be able to change his ways.

       Born in Olathe, Kansas, Cathy Maxwell’s family roots go back to the Mayflower and the Revolutionary War. She has long called Virginia home, noting she is “a Virginian by choice, but a Kansan by nature.” She worked in television news as a broadcaster before spending six years in the Navy. She attended Air Force intelligence school, worked in the Pentagon and did a tour with Naval Intelligence.          
Cathy began her writing career in 1991 while her children were still small.  “It wasn’t easy,” she says.  “I worked full time, my husband travelled, we had three kids, I volunteered and I was writing from four until seven every morning.” Now, twenty years later, she is the author of seventeen national bestsellers and her novels appear regularly on The New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists.  A rarity in the book world, Cathy has published every one of her novels with the same publisher, Harper Collins/Avon Books.
BECAUSE OF YOU by Cathy Maxwell
An Avon Books Mass Market Reprint/Fiction
November 2011/On Sale: 10-25-11/$7.99 (Canada $9.50)/978-0380797103 ● 0380797100