Friday, December 16, 2011

A Christmas break?

Guess what?!? I'm going home to San Diego for 2 1/2 weeks! YAY!!!

Okay, exclamation marks aside, the point of this post is to let you know I probably won't be stalking your blogs or posting as much on mine for the next few weeks. I might get a review in here or there, but I'm going to try spending my time with my family rather than blogging. But I do plan on catching up on my reading while I'm gone, so hopefully I'll have some good books reviewed for you when I get back.

Happy holidays, you guys!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Review: The Winter Sea

The Winter Sea, by Susana Kearsley. The summary:
In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown. Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write. But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth--the ultimate betrayal--that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her...
"The Winter Sea" is mainly historical fiction, so going into it I wasn't entirely sure how I'd like it, because I'm not always a historical fiction fan, especially adult historical fiction (***see my rant about historical fiction below). But luckily this book had some things going for it that helped me get over my prejudice:
1) Almost half of the story takes place modernly. (There's two story lines: the story of a fictional author that takes place in the modern day, and the story of the book she's writing that takes place in 1708.)

2) Two REALLY hot Scottish guys--actually, hot Scottish guys abound, but the two heroes are especially attractive. (I'm pretty much convinced I need to go to Scotland now.)

3) Two swoony love stories. (The modern-day romance is slightly less compelling than the historical one, but just look at #2 above and you'll see why I don't care.)

4) A well-suited writing style. (The tone of the writing fits the tone of the book perfectly. And the author throws in some awesome Scottish dialect.)

5) An intriguing fantasy element. (The fictional author starts writing a story about one of her ancestors but then finds out that what she thought was fiction is actually truth.)

6) A fantastically wonderful ending. (The ending to the historical storyline made my opinion of the book shoot up about a gazillion points. It was just so unexpected and . . . perfect. I may have squealed when I read it--I'm just sayin'.)
So, conclusion? Read it! And I can pretty much guarantee you'll squeal at the end too.

***My rant about historical fiction***

Historical fiction has never been my favorite genre (and by "historical fiction" I mean books that use real people from history, not just books that take place in a specific time period--those I can handle). Why, you ask? (Or maybe you didn't, but imma tell you anyway.) Three reasons:
1) The characters and storyline are limited by what actually happened. The story's never quite as exciting, because you already know how it's all going to end. The author may use interesting events and conflicts to get the character to the end, but the end always has to be the same as what happened in real life. It's like the characters aren't really free to do what they want.

2) The author makes characters do things they never did in real life. This may seem slightly contradictory to my first reason, but it isn't, I swear. For some reason, it just irks me that the author makes people who really existed have conversations and relationships that they never actually did. It's like the author's putting words in peoples' mouths and making assumptions about their motivations (which, I know, is the author's job, but still . . . these were real people we're talking about, not just characters).

3) The books always so LONG. Seriously though. I dare you to find me historical fiction that's under 500 pages.
Okay, end of rant.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Ditched, A Love Story

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we spotlight books we can't wait for.

Ditched: A Love Story
by Robin Mellom
10 January 2012

The GoodReads summary:
High school senior Justina Griffith was never the girl who dreamed of going to prom. Designer dresses and strappy heels? Not her thing. So she never expected her best friend, Ian Clark, to ask her.

Ian, who always passed her the baseball bat handle first.

Ian, who knew exactly when she needed red licorice.

Ian, who promised her the most amazing night at prom.

And then ditched her.

Now, as the sun rises over her small town, and with only the help of some opinionated ladies at the 7-Eleven, Justina must piece together — stain by stain on her thrift-store dress — exactly how she ended up dateless. A three-legged Chihuahua was involved. Along with a demolition derby-ready Cadillac. And there was that incident at the tattoo parlor. Plus the flying leap from Brian Sontag's moving car...

But to get the whole story, Justina will have to face the boy who ditched her. And discover if losing out at prom can ultimately lead to true love.

Filled with humor, charm, and romance, Ditched: A Love Story by debut novelist Robin Mellom will have readers dreaming of love on their own prom nights.

Contemporary YA will forever and always be my favorite, and as much as I love the hard-hitting, make-you-think kind, I really adore the light-hearted, fun reads too. And this one promises to be so much fun--I'm in love with it just based on the summary. Also, I love the cover. Probably (okay, mostly) because of that hideous prom dress--it's just so freakin' fantastically terrible.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Review: Never Cry Werewolf

Never Cry Werewolf, by Heather Davis. The GoodReads summary:
Okay, so maybe Shelby has made a few mistakes with boys lately. But her stepmother totally overreacts when she packs Shelby off to brat camp. Suddenly, it’s good-bye, prom dress; hello, hiking boots.

Things start looking up, though, when Shelby meets fellow camper (and son of a rock star!) Austin Bridges III. But soon she realizes there’s more to Austin than crush material--his family has a dark secret, and he wants Shelby’s help guarding it. . . .
I really wasn’t expecting much from this book--I don’t know why since I hadn’t heard anything about it. I’m really not big on werewolf books in general. I’ve been slowly branching out into the different types of paranormal YAs, but werewolves just don’t do it for me. So I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a quick, fun book. Since it was a pretty light book, it didn’t create a whole werewolf mythos or anything, which I really liked, since, hey, I don’t really care about werewolves and I don’t want to waste my time learning their complete history or anything. The lack of werewolf background might bug other readers who like these things to be more explained, but I was happy with the superficial explanation.

Shelby, the main character, is fairly likeable. She was slightly annoying to me, but mostly because she kept doing things I would never do rather than for any real reason. I liked that even though the book (and the time span it takes place in) was short, Shelby’s character growth was pretty believable--she didn’t make any huge changes, but she did mature enough to satisfy me. Plus, she was pretty funny, and if a character can make me laugh, I’m willing to ignore a lot of other less great things about them.

Austin, the werewolf love interest, was likable as well. I mean, he’s British, so how can he not be? He’s maybe a little bland, but I was so happy that he wasn’t a brooding bad boy that I didn’t really care.

I was kinda confused about the fact that Shelby’s supposed to be at a brat camp, and yet only a few of the secondary characters were actually brats. It felt more like she was at a normal summer camp than a brat camp. It didn’t really bug me, except it made me wonder why the author chose to create a brat camp if she wasn’t going to follow through.

Overall, if you’re looking for a quick, light werewolf book, give this one a shot. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and there’s only one werewolf to deal with--which made it a winner in my eyes.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Follow Friday (22)

Follow My Book Blog Friday is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.

Question: Keeping with the Spirit of Giving this season, what book do you think EVERYONE should read and if you could, you would buy it for all of your family and friends?

Ooo, I love this question! It's going to be so awesome to read everyone's answers. I have the feeling I'll be adding ton of books to my TBR list today.

For YA fiction, I'd pick "Jellicoe Road," by Melina Marchetta. I love that book so freakin' much, and I've already had practically everyone I know read it. If you haven't read it yet . . . um, why the heck not!?!

For general fiction, I'd pick "To Kill a Mockingbird," by Harper Lee. It's just one of those books that EVERYONE should read. I put off reading it until college because I thought it was only going to be about racism, but it's about so much more--like growing up and thinking for yourself. Plus, I adore Scout's narrative voice.

If I got one more, I'd also pick "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society," by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. It's a book that I know I can recommend to anyone, no matter their reading preferences. It's got something to please everyone: history, romance, a touch of mystery, great characters, humor . . . I could just go on and on.

What book(s) would you give?

Review: Once Dead, Twice Shy

Once Dead, Twice Shy, by Kim Harrison. The GoodReads summary:
Madison's prom was killer—literally. For some reason she's been targeted by a dark reaper—yeah, that kind of reaper—intent on getting rid of her, body and soul. But before the reaper could finish the job, Madison was able to snag his strange, glowing amulet and get away.

Now she's stuck on Earth—dead but not gone. Somehow the amulet gives her the illusion of a body, allowing her to toe the line between life and death. She still doesn't know why the dark reaper is after her, but she's not about to just sit around and let fate take its course.

With a little ingenuity, some light-bending, and the help of a light reaper (one of the good guys! Maybe . . . ), her cute crush, and oh yeah, her guardian angel, Madison's ready to take control of her own destiny once and for all, before ittakes control of her.

Well, if she believed in that stuff.
This book was kinda meh, but more of a good meh than a bad one. It wasn’t a terrible book by any means, but it didn’t exactly wow me either. And honestly, I only had 5 pages left, but I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything by not being able to finish it until 2 days later.

The main thing I noticed about the book is its simplicity. It’s only 232 pages, so there wasn’t time for a whole lot of development. That was partly a good thing because I feel like if the book had been much longer I would’ve started to get bored, but it was also a bit of a negative because there’s a lot about the world of timekeepers/reapers/seraphs that doesn’t get explained. So I came away with only vague sense of how all those different parts connect. I’m assuming more will get explained in the second book, but I would’ve liked to have it explained in this one.

The length also meant that the relationship between Madison and Josh is fairly shallow. It’s not insta-love, but it is . . . insta-friends-with-potential? I just think that they go from not knowing each other to being BFFs pretty quick. I did really like that although there’s another male character, Barnabas, there isn’t a love triangle.

Madison is pretty likeable. I don’t think we would be friends in real life, but I certainly didn’t mind reading about her. I did like her sense of style though—purple tights and shoes with skulls and crossbones? I vote yes!

Overall, I think the book was pretty okay. I mean, if you see it on sale or at the library, pick it up. Otherwise, I don’t think there’s any need to rush out and buy it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: For Darkness Shows the Stars

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we spotlight books we can't wait for.

For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund
12 June 2012

The GoodReads summary:
Generations ago, a genetic experiment gone wrong—the Reduction—decimated humanity, giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Eighteen-year-old Luddite Elliot North has always known her place in this caste system. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. But now the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress and threatening Luddite control; Elliot’s estate is floundering; and she’s forced to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth—an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliott wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she abandoned him.

But Elliot soon discovers her childhood friend carries a secret—-one that could change the society in which they live…or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she has lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen’s PERSUASION, FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

Um . . . a sci-fi/dystopian retelling of Jane Austen's "Persuasion" by DIANA freakin' PETERFREUND?!?! It's practically too perfect to be true! I absolutely CANNOT wait.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Review: When the Stars Go Blue

When the Stars Go Blue, by Caridad Ferrer. The GoodReads summary:
A dancer driven to succeed.

A musical prodigy attempting to escape his past.

The summer they share.

And the moment it all goes wrong.

Dance is Soledad Reyes’s life. About to graduate from Miami’s Biscayne High School for the Performing Arts, she plans on spending her last summer at home teaching in a dance studio, saving money, and eventually auditioning for dance companies. That is, until fate intervenes in the form of fellow student Jonathan Crandall who has what sounds like an outrageous proposition: Forget teaching. Why not spend the summer performing in the intense environment of the competitive drum and bugle corps? The corps is going to be performing Carmen, and the opportunity to portray the character of the sultry gypsy proves too tempting for Soledad to pass up, as well as the opportunity to spend more time with Jonathan, who intrigues her in a way no boy ever has before.

But in an uncanny echo of the story they perform every evening, an unexpected competitor for Soledad's affections appears: Taz, a member of an all-star Spanish soccer team. One explosive encounter later Soledad finds not only her relationship with Jonathan threatened, but her entire future as a professional dancer.
I can’t even begin to express how happy it makes me when a book is better than I’m expecting it to be. It’s one of the few circumstances where I LIKE being wrong. And this book was just so much better than I thought it would be. I mean, it’s not like it’s my new favorite book or anything, but I really, really enjoyed it.

Two things that this book had going for it before I even got very far into it were dance and Spanish. I adore dance movies, and this book pretty much read like a movie, so I was hooked on that aspect pretty much from the start. And Spanish…I don’t even know why, but I love that language. It just makes me happy. And since Soledad and her grandmother are Cuban, there was plenty of Spanish thrown in--not so much that people who don’t speak it would be confused, but enough to spice up the dialog.

I really liked Soledad. There’s something to be said for strong main characters who know what they want. And Soledad wants to dance--it’s her life and her passion. Soledad is just so strong and awesome. She doesn’t let anyone walk all over her, and even in the midst of her semi-obsession with Jonathan, she keeps a firm sense of self.

Jonathan--he’s a mixed bag. I knew going in that this book was a modernization of “Carmen,” so I knew things with Jonathan probably weren’t going to end well. But I thought the author did a great job making Jonathan a real person--he’s got weaknesses and insecurities, but he’s also got good qualities.

And Taz…he just made me want a hot Spanish lover. That boy is FINE.

Overall, I really liked this book. It sucked me in pretty much from the first chapter because the writing was good and Soledad was just so likeable. And of course because of the dancing. But the story itself is what kept me reading--I thought it was a fantastic adaptation of “Carmen.” So yep, I for sure recommend this one. Especially if you like your heroines and your dancing passionate and strong.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Follow Friday (21)

Follow My Book Blog Friday is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.

Question: What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to books? Maybe you don't like love triangles or thin plots? Tell us about it!

I actually posted about this subject not too long ago. But I think my biggest pet peeve is actually annoying heroines. Which I realize is a broad category. So if I had to pick the most annoying kind of heroine to me, it would be girls who are that terrible combination of headstrong, impulsive, and naive. Which inevitably leads them to constantly do crazy/stupid/incomprehensible things for no good/clear reason. You know, when they keep doing things that have you going, "WHY?!?! For the love. Just please stop and think for 30 seconds! I beg you." Like Pamela in "Dearly, Departed." Ug.

Anywho, enough of that, what's your pet peeve?

Review: Cold Kiss

Cold Kiss, by Amy Garvey. The GoodReads summary:
It was a beautiful, warm summer day, the day Danny died.

Suddenly Wren was alone and shattered. In a heartbroken fury, armed with dark incantations and a secret power, Wren decides that what she wants--what she must do--is to bring Danny back.

But the Danny who returns is just a shell of the boy Wren fell in love with. His touch is icy; his skin, smooth and stiff as marble; his chest, cruelly silent when Wren rests her head against it.

Wren must keep Danny a secret, hiding him away, visiting him at night, while her life slowly unravels around her. Then Gabriel DeMarnes transfers to her school, and Wren realizes that somehow, inexplicably, he can sense the powers that lie within her--and that he knows what she has done. And now Gabriel wants to help make things right.

But Wren alone has to undo what she has wrought--even if it means breaking her heart all over again.
This book was almost really good. With an emphasis on almost. It had so much going for it, but it just didn’t take advantage of it.

I really liked the premise of the book: girl brings dead boyfriend back to life--only “life” is a relative terms since the boy is a pale, cold reflection of who he used to be. I loved this version of zombies--Danny isn’t the brain-eating kind at all. And I appreciated that this book starts with Wren already having brought Danny back to life and realizing she’s made a mistake. That cut out what would potentially have been a lot of unnecessary plot.

I also really liked the second story line about Wren’s family and her/their magical powers. Her family is pretty messed up, but I loved them anyway. Considering they weren’t in the story that much, I thought the author did a fantastic job making them seem real and building the tension between various members.

Ditto to liking Gabriel, the love interest. I never really thought I’d see a love triangle where one of the boys is dead, but this one worked for me. Gabriel wasn’t my favorite lover boy of all time or anything, but he was pretty likeable. And he doesn’t push Wren--he gives her the space she wants and lets her do things by herself. Both things I can appreciate.

But . . . like I said, there were some things holding this book back, in my opinion:

One, Wren’s whole “I need to solve this problem completely on my own with absolutely no help from anyone” got REALLY tiring after a while. I mean, she has a mom and an aunt who could totally have helped her out with the whole magic thing, but Wren refuses to ask for their help. I’m all for people cleaning up their own messes and taking responsibility, but I though Wren took it way too far.

Two, I thought the resolution was WAAAAY too easy. It was, like, three pages long. Plus, how does Wren, who doesn't really know how to control her magic, turn into such a magic savant at the end?

Three, there’s so much about her family that isn’t explained. Namely, what’s the deal with Wren’s dad? And her aunt? There better be a sequel to this book--otherwise those are some giant, gaping loose ends the author left behind. And even if there is going to be another book, I still feel like there should’ve been a little more explanation going on in this book.

Overall, I did like the book, but I’m kinda disappointed in it because I think it could’ve been so much better. I’d still recommend it, I think, but it’s maybe not one to push to the top of your TBR pile.
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