Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Curse Dark As Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):
This ravishing winner of the ALA's William C. Morris YA Debut Award is a fairy tale, spun with a mystery, woven with a family story, and shot through with romance. Charlotte Miller has always scoffed at talk of a curse on her family's woolen mill, which holds her beloved small town together. But after her father's death, the bad luck piles up: departing workers, impossible debts, an overbearing uncle. Then a stranger named Jack Spinner offers a tempting proposition: He can turn straw into gold thread, for the small price of her mother's ring. As Charlotte is drawn deeper into her bargains with Spinner-and a romance with the local banker-she must unravel the truth of the curse on the mill and save the community she's always called home.

Jillian’s Review:
This was wonderfully written and riveting at times. The characters were realistic and after being submerged in this novel, the magic was believable as well. The fairytale of Rumpelstiltskin was wonderfully woven into the heart of this tale. I hadn’t realized that’s what it was about until I was 1/4 of the way through.

I appreciated how clean this one was. There was maybe one chaste kiss and barely any swearing.
I loved the relationship between the two sisters. They’re both strong willed, yet I found myself wishing the story was written from young, spit-fire Rosie’s point of view instead of the uptight Charlotte’s. It was also difficult at times to know exactly what Charlotte was feeling in each situation because Bunce doesn’t expound on Charlotte’s emotions well enough. And more frustrating that that was how blind Charlotte was and how unwilling she was to ask for help. So much of the mess she got herself into could have been prevented had she just told Rendell (you’ll find out who that is if you read it) the truth from the beginning. Another annoying aspect of this novel was that I didn’t know how old the girls were. Rosie is said to be too young to live on her own, yet her character acts as if she’s nearing her twenties and we don’t discover that she’s 14 until the second to the last page.

I found myself glued to the book the last 100 pages. Unfortunately, I didn’t want to pick it up the first 300 pages. Not that it isn’t a great story, it is. It’s just that the few happy events were far, far outweighed by all the bad and I knew it was only going to get worse before it got better. It did get better at the very end and the ending was great. I only wish there had been more uplifting parts throughout.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Redwood Bend by Robyn Carr

From Goodreads:

Katie Malone and her twin boys’ trip along the beautiful mountain roads to Virgin River is stopped short by a tire as flat as her failed romance. To make matters worse, the rain has set in, the boys are hungry and Katie doesn’t have the first clue about putting on a spare. As she stands at the side of the road pondering her next move, she hears a distinct rumble. The sight of the sexy, leather-clad bikers who pull up beside her puts her imagination into overdrive.

Dylan Childress and his buddies are on the motorcycle trip of a lifetime. But the site of a woman in distress stops them in their tracks. And while the guys are checking out her car, she and Dylan are checking out one another.

In one brief moment, the world tilts on its axis and any previous plans Katie and Dylan might have had for their futures are left at the side of the road.

From Misty:

I just reviewed Hidden Summit which is about Katie's older brother, Conner.  I said before that I didn't like that one as well I liked this one.  This is because Hidden Summit was pretty set in the groove Carr has worked herself into (which is good, I like her books, I'm not complaining), but Redwood Bend just had me smiling through the entire first half.  I just couldn't wipe the silly grin off my face. 

Dylan wasn't the best or nicest hero I've ever read.  He had flaws.  He had fears.  He had limitations.  But somehow it all worked to make him very endearing.  And in the end he stayed true to who was, found a way to be with the woman he loved despite a huge gap in their lifestyles, and got to play the part of a real hero.

Just cute, endearing, and a bit different and more memorable than the last few Carr has published.  Recommend to lovers of romance who do not require squeaky clean reads.  Carr's books are filled with morals and values of many kinds but are not squeaky.  Still uplifting overall, in my opinion, for a mature reader and worth the investment of time.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson

Part of the inside front cover:
"Before Green Gables is the story of Anne Shirley's early life, and the journey that led her to Prince Edward Island- a heartwarming tale of a precocious child whose lively imagination and relentless spirit help her overcome difficult circumstances; and of a young girl's ability to love, learn, and above all, dream."

I have always loved the Anne of Green Gables movie series. I haven't yet read the books but after reading the prequel to the series I am motivated to get the books out. I want to have the details that movies sometimes leave out.

Of course, we know that Anne Shirley had a rough childhood before coming to Prince Edward Island. Before Green Gables lets us in on what actually went on. This book is not written by the Anne of Green Gables author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, but is very similar in style.

I really enjoyed this book, getting to know Anne better. There were times I was annoyed by her imagination but I am sure that is because I am older and most adults would be annoyed by such innocence at times. There are adults in her life that help her to see that not everyone is angry or mean before she comes to the Cuthbert's home.

In Before Green Gables it lets you in on how Anne came to have such a vast vocabulary. It is pretty fun to read of her yearning for knowledge. She so often had a great outlook on life, how could I complain about mine?

I give Before Green Gables four stars.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

From the publisher:  Seven half-bloods shall answer the call,
To storm or fire the world must fall.
An oath to keep with a final breath,
And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death.

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

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

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

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

From Heather:  A couple weeks ago I reviewed The Lost Hero (You can read it here...I'm sure it was fascinating!)  Anyway, THIS book is the second in the series.  AND it was fabulous!  Just as wonderful, or better, than the first.  (Because it has Percy Jackson!)

I love the new characters.  In the first book, we were introduced to Jason, Piper and Leo.  In THIS book, we are introduced to Percy (who, if you have read the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (that I reviewed HERE) you will remember, as he was the main character...obviously...) Hazel and Frank.  

This book picks up where the first one left off, but on the other side of the continent and at a different camp.  Percy and Jason were both leaders in their respective camps, and they have, against their will and without remembering anything about their past, been pulled out of their own camps and placed in the rival one.  The goal is to have both camps work together.  (One camp is for children of the Greek version of the particular Gods and one is for the Roman version)  Can they earn the trust of the enemy?

A wonderful book.  I can't wait until the next one comes out (not until this fall...ugh!  THAT is why I like reading things after they have been out a while...so I don't have to wait to finish the story!)  I give this one 5 stars.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):
Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
There is.
She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.
She's wrong.

Jillian’s Review:
I was really excited about this book when, by the first page, I was hooked. The first chapter got me even more excited and then it plummeted to the ground. Mara, who I thought would be an enjoyable character, turns out to be a foul-mouthed, annoying psycho. She’s supposedly an artist, but doesn’t think like one (meaning, she doesn’t notice colors, or shading, or the shapes of anything). She sees ghosts and hears things but doesn’t really do anything about it. [Spoiler alert] She thinks she’s able to kill things with her mind, but by the end of the book I’m still not sure if that’s what’s really happening.

This had a great plot and I assume it is well written—the story is so enthralling that I didn’t notice if the writing was good or bad, which is a really good thing. This could have easily been at least a four star book had Mara not been cussing up a storm the entire time.

And then there's the guy. Ick. First off, he doesn’t sound hygienically pleasing—wearing nasty, ratty clothes and smoking half the time, not to mention his “history” with all the girls in the school. Gross. And his mouth is just a foul as Mara’s. I couldn’t believe how many times they dropped the F-bomb in this! But the worst were the sexual innuendos. Really? Did you really have to put all that trash in what could have been a really great read?

And last, but not least, the ending was horrible. It didn’t end. There was no resolution, [spoiler alert] just Mara screaming her head off in a police station. Such a disappointment.

Despite the gorgeous cover (which actually never happens in the book—so annoying!), I have to give this one 2 ½ stars. And those stars are for the great story, if Hodkin had just kept out the filth. No teenager (nobody for that matter) needs to sift through all that garbage to get to the good stuff.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Do you love Jane Austen? You'll want to read this book if you do. So cute!

On the back cover:
"Pembrook Park, Kent, England. Enter our doors as a house guest come to stay three weeks, enjoying the country manners and hospitality- a tea visit, a dance or two, a turn in the park,an unexpected meeting with a certain gentleman, all culminating with a ball and perhaps something more...

Here, the Prince Regent still rules a carefree England. No scripts. No written endings. A Holiday no one else can offer you."

Austenland starts out with a women in her thirties still unwed and looking for the perfect guy. She has spent so much time comparing every guy she dates with Mr. Darcy that no one measures up.

Upon the death of a wealthy relative she is written into the will and given an all expenses paid vacation to an unknown place in England. Not many know of this place, Austenland. While there you are expected to play the part to perfection. All of the actors and hired hands act as if they are in the 1800's and you must play along.

Such a cute book! A good, easy, fun read!

I give Austenland four stars.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Secret Lives of Dresses by Erin McKean

From Goodreads:  Dora has always taken the path of least resistance. She went to the college that offered her a scholarship, is majoring in "vagueness studies," and wears whatever shows the least dirt. She falls into a job at the college coffee shop, and a crush on her flirty boss, Gary.

Just when she's about to test Gary's feelings, Mimi, the grandmother who raised her, suffers a stroke. Dora rushes back home to Forsyth, NC, and finds herself running her grandmother's vintage clothing store. The store has always been a fixture in Dora's life; though she grew up more of a jeans-and-sweatshirt kind of girl, before she even knew how to write, Mimi taught her that a vintage 1920s dress could lift a woman's spirit.

While working there, Dora befriends Mimi's adorable contractor, Conrad. Is he after Dora, or is working from a different blueprint? And why did Mimi start writing down--and giving away--stories of the dresses in her shop?

When Mimi dies, Dora can't get out of town fast enough and cedes control of the store to her money-hungry aunt who wants to turn it into a t-shirt shop for tourists. But ultimately, she returns to Forsyth, willing to battle whatever may stand in the way of her staying there. Dora can trade her boring clothes for vintage glamour, but can she trade her boring life for one she actually wants?

From Heather:   Let me start out by saying I LOVE the cover of this book!  I don't know if it's the colors (probably!) or the composition or what, but the cover totally drew me to the book!  (Have I mentioned that I LOVE a well-done book cover?)  I also loved the idea that there is a story to each of the vintage dresses in the shop.  Have you ever wondered what vintage clothes have seen in their lifetimes?  Who has worn them?  What were they like?  It's an interesting idea!  I love old things, and wish that they actually DID come with background stories!

I really liked the Dora for the most part.  She starts out kind of listless - she does whatever comes along, wears whatever she has and goes to school just to go to school.  She heads back to her hometown as soon as she learns that her grandmother, who raised her after her parents died, has had a stroke.  Through her grief for her grandmother, she finds something that she is passionate about.  She also finds someONE to be passionate about as well in her grandmother's friend Con.  (One complaint about the book - where did she come up with the names?  Dora and Con are NOT my favorite names!)  I really, really liked Con.  He was compassionate and kind at a time when that was just what Dora needed. 

I loved Mimi, even though she has just had a stroke and is unresponsive throughout the book.  The things she teaches Dora, even without saying a word, are priceless.  I wish I had a grandma like Mimi!

I really, really liked this book.  I would have given it 5 stars, but one of the friends at Mimi's shop has a bit of a mouth on her and will break out in profanities for no particular reason at all.  That always kind of bothers me, especially when it comes out on nowhere and serves no purpose whatsoever.  :)  That being said, I give it a solid 4 stars.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Reckoning (Darkest Powers, Book 3) by Kelley Armstrong

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):
The explosive final part of the Darkest Powers trilogy, Kelley Armstrong's internationally bestselling YA series. [Wow, wasn’t that informative. That has to be the worst synopsis on goodreads and I just don’t have it in me to write one myself!]

Jillian’s Review:
(I just reviewed the second in this series, The Awakening, and wanted to post my review of the third.)

This is a great third book that picks up right where the last one left off. From almost the beginning of the series, I’ve been rooting for one guy to win Chloe‘s heart. I was not disappointed in this one. I love how protective, strong, and smart this said guy is (I’m not going to give it away). He’s such a likable character, even when he’s kind of a jerk. But even with him so strong, I love that he needs Chloe to help him through his most painful trials.

I was happy to see the kids finally get some grownup help, but then it turned out not to be so helpful. At least in the end they pick up some adults they could rely on.
This one is really action-packed. Even when the kids are stuck in the same house for a few chapters, things are constantly happening and their lives are always in danger.

And this had a really great ending! I finally I get the romance I wanted all along from the guy I wanted to end up with Chloe. I love it when I get my way. :) A perfect finale in a great trilogy.
Turn-offs: still too much swearing and gory stuff for me to give it a full five stars. I wasn’t too thrilled with the witch-girl who ended up tagging along. She was annoying, but she added to the story and gave another angle of opposition that would have been lacking without her.

Looking forward to reading the first, The Gathering, in Armstrong's newest series, Darkness Rising.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hidden Summit by Robyn Carr

From Goodreads:
Sick of running into her cheery ex-husband and his new wife, Leslie Petruso accepts a job at the Virgin River branch of Haggerty Construction and takes the high road right out of town. Now she's got Paul Haggerty's business running like a well-oiled machine. In fact, things are so busy Paul jumps at the chance to hire an extra set of hands.

Just like Leslie, Conner Danson has been burned by love. But if Leslie was disappointed by her relationship going bad, Conner was decimated. He's got no time for women…although he spends an awful lot of time pretending not to notice Leslie. And she's pretty busy "ignoring" the chemistry between them.

According to Conner and Leslie, they have only one thing in common—they're done with love. But everyone in Virgin River can see that things are heating up at Haggerty Construction. And as far as Paul Haggerty can tell, the best thing he can do is hang on to his hard hat and watch the sparks fly!

From Misty:
Pretty par for the course for Carr's Virgin River series.  I never did get a good sense of who Conner really was, but maybe that was because Conner wasn't really sure either.  His whole life he had been taking care of his sister, and all of a sudden he didn't have to do that anymore, so yeah, I think he was in the process of rediscovering himself.  I think I liked the old Conner better (especially when I read the next book, Redwood Bend, about his sis).

I didn't have a much easier time bonding with Leslie, but she was in the same situation as Conner.  I didn't like either the old or new Leslie.  I mean, she was sweet, sort of, but her sass just seemed so uncharacteristic, even for a character who was in the process of finding her own characteristics.
All in all, a pretty good story, but another in a long line of Carr's series.  But I like that.  I like to know I'm going to like it when I pick it up.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Seers by Heather Frost

On the inside cover:
"Guardians hunt Demons. Demons hunt Humans. Seers are Haunted by both.
When Kate Bennett survived the horrific car accident that claimed her parents' lives, her world would be forever changed in ways she never could have imagined. Feeling like a freak, Kate tries to hide her unwelcome new ability to see people's auras- that is, until she meets Patrick O'Donnell, who seems to be able to disappear at will. When Kate and her family begin to be haunted by Demons, her only hope is to stay close to Patrick and other Guardians like him.
Caught up in a war she barely understands, with enemies only she can discern, Kate quickly learns that in war, everybody loses something or someone."

My review:
WOW! What an amazing debut for Heather Frost. I cannot believe how well written and intriguing this book is. From start to finish I could not put it down. The characters are believable and lovable, I felt for them the whole story through.
The romance is perfect. Not gushy and so well written!
"My eyes fell on the newcomer, standing almost awkwardly in the open doorway. A broad shoulder kept the door propped open, and a long-fingered hand curled around one strap of his bag, keeping it from sliding off his shoulder. He wore a light blue button-up shirt, sleeves rolled to the elbows. He had beautiful skin- not white, but definitely not tanned. His eyes were pure blue, and surprisingly penetrating. His jaw was perfectly sculpted, and his high cheekbones were prominent and strong. His nose was long, and dark brown hair curled onto his forehead. His pale-but-not-pale skin was covered with a very light dusting of freckles."
Our main character "Kate" notices all of this while sitting next to her boyfriend, Aaron. "I could feel Aaron's eyes on my face, though, and I knew I needed to stop openly appreciating the new guy."
Just love this book! A new favorite for sure!

I am so bummed that I just realized this book was written in 2011 which means I have no idea when the next one will come out. It is a trilogy. All I can say is, "PLEASE HURRY!"

Seers definitely gets five stars from me!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Shark and the Wolf - Predators and Prey by Daniel D Shields

*This book was given to me for review. Thanks Dan Shields for the opportunity.*

Synopsis from the back cover:

In Las Vegas, Nevada, Shaw, billionaire casino magnate and self proclaimed world's greatest showman, nears completion on the massive Serengeti, Resort & Casino. Its amphitheater, the largest man made structure ever built, seats 500,000 spectators and covers an enclosed area of 1.5 miles. The arena floor is being transformed into an authentic slice of African savanna for the show Predators and Prey which will savagely pit animal against animal in the bloodiest gladiatorial spectacle ever created for human entertainment.
In Key West, Florida, Shark, the world's only Great While pool playing shark, gets hustled by the evil animal slave trading hyena, Old Jack, who dupes Shark into believing his girlfriend, a hot fox named Vixen, is in Fiji and needs his help retrieving a treasure. Old Jack's real plan - lure Shark to Fiji, use him to retrieve the submerged treasure, and then capture Shark, and sell him to Shaw, for use as the star and main attraction in the world's most brutal show. "Come One - Come All To See - The Only Great White Shark In Captivity."
Old Jack's plan works like a charm. Shark is helpless to stop the kidnapping of his girlfriend, Vixen, is forced to watch the heartless execution of his best friend, Dog Z Boy, and is enslaved and sold to Shaw. He is forced to battle animals and his human captives before trying to rescue his girl and seeking revenge on those that have wronged him. Will he succeed?
Shark will stop at nothing to protect his friends in this exotic world where humans remain the dominate species and animals are forced to be their obedient servants.
Sit back and enjoy the wild ride!

My take on this book was a little mixed. The bad stuff first. My imagination is not so great, and I need things detailed out for me a little more than was seen in this book. The animals have all evolved into walking, talking beings with arms and legs and act like humans but apparently don't look like humans. I couldn't quite picture what they did look like. Was Shark 10 feet tall, 20 feet tall, or around 6 feet tall like an average human? Was his head the size of a normal great white sharks, or was it human sized with the skin of a shark? Not that this kind of information would change the story, it just made it really hard for me to picture what was going on when I couldn't picture the players. I thought the dialogue was sometimes very juvenile between Shark and Dog Z Boy and made me feel like I was listening to 15 year old boys (which is not my idea of a good time) but I didn't get that feeling so much with the other characters. There was also quite a bit of violence. A few characters getting severe beatings, one getting shot, and then the Predators and Prey show at the end is very bloody. It works for the book, but is not typically something I personally like to read about.
Now for the good stuff. I actually kind of liked the storyline, which I will admit surprised me a little. I thought it was well-written with something always happening. There was no down time in this book. It goes from Florida to Fiji to South America to Vegas which helped keep it interesting to have different scenery. I hated the bad guys and liked the good guys, and by the end I was really interested to see how Shark was gonna win. I liked the friendships between the characters, and also the romances (although it was hard to picture a shark and a fox being attracted to each other ... ).
Overall, I would give this book 3.8 stars. Not quite 4, but close. =) I would recommend this to just about anyone. It was good. It was fun to give something new a try.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Wait Till Helen Comes...

I am so delighted to announce that my boys have FINALLY shown an interest in reading with me. After years of forcing them to sit and listen for the "required" 20 minutes, after years of moans and groans and whines, my diligence has finally paid off. They are actually interested in reading. So the last few days we have been scrounging through my old dusty books, trying to find just the perfect story to read. They finally settled on Wait Till Helen Comes, a ghost story by Mary Downing Hahn. This book isn't normally what I review on this site, but I couldn't pass up the chance to highlight this fun YA novel. Filled with mystery, nail-biting moments, and fun, believable characters, this is just the sort of story to hold your interest. I first stumbled on Mary Downing Hahn when I was a young girl and her books quickly became my favorites.

Publisher's Notes:

Beware of Helen...
Heather is such a whiny little brat. Always getting Michael and me into trouble. But since our mother married her father, we're stuck with her...our "poor stepsister" who lost her real mother in a mysterious fire.
But now something terrible has happened. Heather has found a new friend, out in the graveyard behind our home -- a girl named Helen who died with her family in a mysterious fire over a hundred years ago. Now her ghost returns to lure children into the pond...to drown! I don't want to believe in ghosts, but I've followed Heather into the graveyard and watch her talk to Helen. And I'm terrified. Not for myself, but for Heather...

My Review: Heather makes everyone's life miserable. Always trying to get Molly and her brother Michael into trouble, she is hard to live with, but when Molly's mother and her new husband Dave announce their new family is moving to the country, Molly doesn't think things can get much worse. When the family moves into a little church in the middle of nowhere, Heather soon discovers an old tombstone hidden in the brambles near the old cemetery. Frightened by some unknown premonition, Molly does her best to keep Heather away from the strange tombstone, but when Heather starts talking to an unseen presence things begin to get scary fast. This is definitely a fun story. I thought the character's were very believable and the story-line flows at a good pace. I would recommend this book for children 8 or older. Mary Downing Hahn's knack for story-telling shows evident in this fun, short read. I give it 5 stars!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

A few months back, I reviewed a series by Rick Riordan called Percy Jackson and the Olympians.  (You can read my review of that series HERE!)  I really liked the series and was kind of sad when it ended.  But then I find ANOTHER series that kind of picks up where that one left off.  Kind of!

From the publisher:  Jason has a problem. He doesn’t remember anything before waking up on a school bus holding hands with a girl. Apparently she’s his girlfriend Piper, his best friend is a kid named Leo, and they’re all students in the Wilderness School, a boarding school for “bad kids.” What he did to end up here, Jason has no idea—except that everything seems very wrong.

Piper has a secret. Her father has been missing for three days, and her vivid nightmares reveal that he’s in terrible danger. Now her boyfriend doesn’t recognize her, and when a freak storm and strange creatures attack during a school field trip, she, Jason, and Leo are whisked away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood. What is going on?

Leo has a way with tools. His new cabin at Camp Half-Blood is filled with them. Seriously, the place beats Wilderness School hands down, with its weapons training, monsters, and fine-looking girls. What’s troubling is the curse everyone keeps talking about, and that a camper’s gone missing. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist they are all—including Leo—related to a god. 

This series introduces three other main characters that we haven't seen before: Jason, Piper and Leo.  In the beginning (and through most of the book!) Jason doesn't know who he is.  Strange things start to happen and Jason, Piper and Leo end up at Camp Half-Blood (the same camp as Percy Jackson in the last series!) and learn that they are demigods.  Only Percy Jackson is missing and the camp is kind of in an uproar.  The Lost Hero is the first book in a series of four.  (I picked up the second book at the library last night and can't WAIT to read it!)  The third book will be coming out in the fall of this year and the last one in the fall of 2013. Apparently we pick back up with Percy Jackson in the next book.  Yay!

Apparently Rick Riordan (his website is HERE!) has written another series for kids, The Kane Chronicles, that is the same type of book, but with Egyptian gods instead of Greek and Roman.  He has written some of the 39 Clues books (which are fabulous too!)  And he has written an adult series, Tres Navarre.  I've never read any of those, but I just might have to try one, just for fun.

The Lost Hero was given to my daughter by her grandma for Christmas (thanks Mom!) and she devoured it in two days.  She absolutely loved it (and she hasn't even read the Percy Jackson ones yet either!)  I give it 5 stars.  It was great!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Awakening (Darkest Powers, Book 2) by Kelley Armstrong

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):
If you had met me a few weeks ago, you probably would have described me as an average teenage girl—someone normal. Now my life has changed forever and I'm as far away from normal as it gets. A living science experiment—not only can I see ghosts, but I was genetically altered by a sinister organization called the Edison Group. What does that mean? For starters, I'm a teenage necromancer whose powers are out of control; I raise the dead without even trying. Trust me, that is not a power you want to have. Ever.
Now I'm running for my life with three of my supernatural friends—a charming sorcerer, a cynical werewolf, and a disgruntled witch—and we have to find someone who can help us before the Edison Group finds us first. Or die trying.

Jillian’s Review:
I love this series. It's spooky, has ghosts and genetically altered kids, plenty of action, and some romance. It begins about the next day from where the last book ends, so I expected to be kind of lost since I've read about 90 books between the first book and this one, but Armstrong does a great job of reminding the reader of the important events of book one and jumping us right into this next phase of the adventure.

Each of the characters are realistic, the main character is likeable which is sometimes hard to come by in YA fiction (too often they are selfish brats and unrealistic). I kept have to remind myself that she's only 15 because she seems more like a 17 year old and the cover picture doesn't help. Her two boy allies are great. I'm rooting for Derek and I'm really hopeful that something will finally happen in book three, The Reckoning.

Two negatives were the swearing—there’s not a ton of it, but enough to annoy—and the gory scenes are pretty graphic, but that’s why they’re so chilling. All in all, a great read. I couldn’t put it down.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Explosive Eighteen

From Goodreads:
Before Stephanie can even step foot off Flight 127 from Hawaii to Newark, she’s knee deep in trouble. Her dream vacation turned into a nightmare, she’s flying back to New Jersey solo, and someone who sounds like Sasquatch is snoring in row 22. Worse still, her seatmate never returned to the plane after the L.A. layover. Now he’s dead, in a garbage can, waiting for curbside pickup. His killer could be anyone. The FBI, the fake FBI, and guns-for-hire are all looking for a photograph the dead man was supposed to be carrying.

Only one other person has seen the missing photograph—Stephanie Plum. Now she’s the target, and she doesn’t intend to end up in a garbage can. With the help of an FBI sketch artist Stephanie re-creates the person in the photo. Unfortunately the first sketch turns out to look like Tom Cruise, and the second sketch like Ashton Kutcher. Until Stephanie can improve her descriptive skills, she’ll need to watch her back.

Over at the Bail Bonds Agency it’s business as usual—until the bonds bus serving as Vinnie’s temporary HQ goes up in smoke, Stephanie’s wheelman, Lula, falls in love with their “largest” FTA yet, lifetime arch nemesis Joyce Barnhardt moves into Stephanie’s apartment, and everyone wants to know what happened in Hawaii?!
Morelli, Trenton’s hottest cop, isn’t talking about Hawaii. Ranger, the man of mystery, isn’t talking about Hawaii.  And all Stephanie is willing to say about her Hawaiian vacation is . . . It’s complicated.

From Misty:

SUCH a disappointment.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Bear with me.  (Did I really just use the term bear with me? Yikes.)

I thought maybe Laura had reviewed this already, but I didn't see it on quick scroll through, and I thought, well, we have different opinions on pretty much everything anyway, so I will review it since it was pretty much the only new thing I read this week (sucks in a breath). 
As a stand-alone, this novel is fine.  It is even somewhat funny and moderately interesting.  Evanovich has the formula down pat by now, and E. Eighteen--no, no, let's call it Explosive E.--is a fun, one-day read for those who don't mind a kind of trashy protagonist with loosy goosy morals. 

Yes, Stephanie crossed the line over to trashy in this one, and what's worse, we didn't even get to see it.  The first scene is Stephanie flying home alone from a vacation that was supposed to involve Morelli, turned into a working vacation with Ranger, and ended up in a fistfight, which again, we did not get to see (described in detail or at all, I mean) between Morelli and Ranger.  Finally, Morelli takes a stand, and we don't get to see it!  Newflash, Morelli and Ranger are carrying this series and nobody gives a flying patoot about any of the other characters, and that's starting to include Stephanie.  The mysteries are not that mysterious and the FTAs are recycled FTAs from previous novels.  Nothing new has happened since book five and nothing funny has happened since book twelve.  Grow up, Stephanie!  In the words of a wise one, "Nobody wants to see a fifty year old Fonzie hitting on chicks."

So, as the eighteenth novel in a series that is not going anywhere (I mean, after nearly twenty years, the economy hasn't changed enough for Stephanie to find a new job?), this book is a flop.  The romance, which as I stated before is 100 percent carrying this series, is still going nowhere, and Stephanie has become such a twit that she is finally the loser she always thought she was. 

That said, I liked this book and I am dying to see the movie which comes out this month. Girl's night anyone?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

On the inside front cover:
"Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. Our world has been invaded by an unseen enemy. Humans become hosts for these invaders, their minds taken over while their bodies remain intact and continue their lives apparently unchanged. Most of humanity has succumbed.
When Melanie, one of the few remaining "wild" humans, is captured, she is certain it is her end. Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, was warned about the challenges of living inside a human; the overwhelming emotions, the glut of senses, the too-vivid memories. but there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect; the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.
Wanderer probes Melanie's thoughts, hoping to discover the whereabouts of the remaining human resistance. Instead, Melanie fills Wanderer's mind with visions of the man Melanie loves- Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she has been tasked with exposing. When outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off on a dangerous and uncertain search for the man they both love."

I picked this up not knowing what it was about. Didn't even read the inside flap. The beginning was very confusing and I thought about setting it aside but was too curious and kept on. I found that the beginning is supposed to be confusing. lol I really enjoyed the story and even have my twelve year old reading it.

One thing I love about this book is the lack of profanity and inappropriate sexual content. You can get a great story line without adding the ick.

I really did like this story but I am not sure what to share from the book without giving anything away. Everything is perfectly intertwined. The characters are endearing and the description of the settings is just enough. I don't like it when an author goes on and on about the setting instead of just telling the story.

The medicines of these invaders is pretty amazing. Just heals you right up and takes any scar away. Wouldn't that be nice! :) Each person that has been taken over still goes on with their normal life, with the same emotions and knowledge. You wouldn't know who is human and who is not unless you shine a light into their eyes and see brightly reflected light. Such a great imagination!

I give this book four stars.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Huckleberry Murders by Patrick F. McManus

It's been a crazy couple of weeks, what with the holidays and all.  As much as I love Christmas and all that goes with it, I'm awfully glad that the tree is down and my life (and house!) are just about back to normal.  Which is to say they are quite chaotic, but it's a chaos that I'm used to!  =]  Speaking of Christmas, my husband and girls bought me a new book for Christmas.  It's called, you guessed it,  The Huckleberry Murders by Patrick F. McManus!  So because that's what I've read this week, that's what I'm going to review.

Blogger is having problems (probably user error!) this morning, so I will just add my comments instead of a summary, which you can read HERE.  I'm not exactly sure how I felt about this book.  I have nothing to complain about (well, except the womanizing sheriff and his corrupt father and a host of other odd characters).  I have read other things by Patrick McManus, usually in the back of Field and Stream, and have found his writing funny and dryly humorous.  But the book was a little different than his short stories.  I don't know if it was better or worse, just different.  =]  After I read the book, I found out that this one, The Huckleberry Murders, is actually the fourth in the series.  Maybe I would like this one better if I had read the other three.  I'm off to the library to find out!  Three and a half stars.  (I'm out of room or there would be a picture!)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Enduring Light by Carla Kelly

From Goodreads:
She leaned toward him and rested her elbows on the brass rail at the foot of her bed. “All right, cowboy, just when did you fall in love with me? I’m definitely curious now.”
He regarded her in the moonlight. “I knew I was a no-hoping goner when I caught that ridiculous hat of yours on the platform at Gun Barrel.”
Julia sucked in her breath. She tried to be severe. “Mr. Otto, nobody falls in love that fast!”
“I did,” he said simply, as he left her room.

Julia Darling is finally able to marry Paul Otto for eternity. But it’s a harsh world for a rancher in turn-of-the-century Wyoming, especially a Mormon rancher. When alienation and threats begin, Julia must prove she’s her husband’s equal in strength and endurance as she learns to let go of scars on the outside and inside.

Bestselling author Carla Kelly has woven a new story of a determined rancher, his wife, and how they discover the depths of love.

From Misty:
If you've read Borrowed Light, and I recommend you do before opening up Enduring Light, you will find the blurb above an inadequate summation of what happens to Paul and Julia, starting with the nit-picky distinction that this book is not about a rancher and his wife, but is about Julia and her rancher husband, Paul.

Now that we have that clarified, I will tell you I liked this book.  I like Kelly's writing style and recommend, if you want to experience it in microcosm, checking out her blog, Random Natterings.  I liked the first book, Borrowed Light, and though the term "really long epilogue" kept running through my mind while reading Enduring Light, that was pretty much all I was looking for when I finished Borrowed Light.  What happens to them?  Well, Enduring effectively answers that question and after the first five or seven or ten chapters turns into a pretty good story.  Not that the first 1/3 of the book wasn't good.  It was, and despite Julia's father and her then fiance having the exact same sense of humor, and Julia being, well, whiny, self-involved and still immature, I still loved reading about Julia and Paul's wedding and the preparation for it.

In the following chapters, everyone evolves into big ballbabies, but it's kind of sweet.  There are some real heroes in this book.  There is some real sacrifice.  Some real conversion.  And you guessed it, some real enduring.  Though still a clean read, the references to sex may be offputting to some LDS readers.  I have to admit that at times it was even offputting to me, but I came around to the right way of thinking.  Kelly is a really fresh voice (was that a pun?) in LDS romance, and if you like to read Romance at all, I think you'll enjoy her books. 

Kelly has the gift.  She is completely able to create events that manipulate your emotions and make you care about her characters.  Both books are worth the investment of your time.  They are educational (as a historian, Kelly really does her homework), enlightening, and uplifting.  Not to mention, there is a great recipe for Cowboy Oysters in the back of the book (if you don't know what that is, ask your mom).