Book Review: Codename Dancer (Dani Spevak Mystery #1) by Amanda Brice

Aspiring ballerina Dani Spevak is thrilled when hit TV show Teen Celebrity Dance Off comes to the campus of her performing arts boarding school. She trades the barre for the ballroom and gets set to cha-cha-cha to stardom with Hollywood wonderboy Nick Galliano.

At first their partnership is awkward, because Dani is in awe of her longtime teen idol crush. But soon their chemistry is heating up the dance floor and the attraction moves into real life.

Her excitement is short-lived, because someone wants her off the show. Bombs, poisoning, arson… Will Dani’s 15 minutes of fame be over before she reaches age 15? Dani and her friends are suddenly at the center of some serious sabotage. And if she doesn’t find out who is behind it, her next pirouette could be her last.

It’s like Nancy Drew in toe shoes in this light-hearted tween mystery, a finalist for Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart® Award for Best Young Adult Romance.
Release Date:  April 14, 2011

Age Group:  YA/Tween
Source:  Review copy from author

This book was a lot of fun!  It was a perfect example of YA done right.  It was a fast, light read with a good mystery and an even better message.

Dani is a 14 year-old dancer who is new to a performing arts boarding school.  She makes fast friends with some other dancers and they audition for the coveted spots on the Teen Celebrity Dance Off team.  After the team members are chosen and rehearsals begin, things start to go wrong.  Dani and her friends set out to solve the mystery of who is sabotaging the show.  In the middle of their hunt for the guilty party is a blossoming romance and Dani's struggle with her body image.  

There were hints as to Dani's body image issues throughout the book before it was expressly discussed.  Being a dancer, you can imagine the focus on weight these girls feel and Dani feels pressured to lose weight to look good on stage and fit into her costumes.  I loved how Brice used her book as an opportunity to send a great message to her readers.

Another thing I liked about Codename Dancer was Dani's voice.  She's perky and kind of sassy.  I liked Brice's references to pop culture.  I thought they were very well-done without being heavy-handed (like, say, the House of Night series).   

I would recommend Codename Dancer for a younger YA audience.  Middle grade fans especially will love it.  I liked the book much more than I thought I would and would definitely read more from Amanda Brice in the future.


My Soul to Keep (Soul Screamers #3) by Rachel Vincent


Kaylee has one addiction: her very hot, very popular boyfriend, Nash. A banshee like Kaylee, Nash understands her like no one else. Nothing can come between them.

Until something does.

Demon breath. No, not the toothpaste-challenged kind. The Netherworld kind. The kind that really can kill you. Somehow the super-addictive substance has made its way to the human world. But how? Kaylee and Nash have to cut off the source and protect their friends—one of whom is already hooked.

And so is someone else…
This was my favorite Soul Screamers book so far!  I loved the pacing---this book was full of action with no lulls in between the emotional, action-packed scenes.  I read My Soul to Keep really quickly because I just couldn't put it down.  Every time I'd get to the end of a chapter, I just had to keep reading to find out what would happen next.  The plot was more intense than My Soul to Save, with plenty of suspense and surprises.  I suspected what was really going on but was still upset for Kaylee when it came to pass.  

One of the things that sets this series apart is the writing---the writing is really clever for being a YA series.  I like Rachel Vincent's phrasing and smart metaphors.  My Soul to Keep recaptured the romance, suspense, and emotion of book one for me, and I started book four: My Soul to Steal, immediately after finishing because I just couldn't wait to find out what happens next!



Book Review: Baby Laughs: The Naked Truth About the First Year of Mommyhood by Jenny McCarthy

Jenny McCarthy's hilarious, no-holds-barred personality has made her an instantly recognizable TV personality and a bestselling author. In Baby Laughs she examines the full range of challenges that new mothers face, including: The humiliations of postnatal "numbing spray," Tucks medicated pads, and adult diapers; jelly belly, balding, and gum disease; and becoming a "five-foot puke rag" for the baby; Heart-stopping terrors, such as baby manicures, breathing checks, and burp failures; Inadequacies, such as lullaby illiteracy and the need for a "heavy rotation" of toys, videos, and mobiles; Daddy antics, such as infant wrestling, home-movie mania, sleeping like a log, and expecting sex; Dueling grandmas, germ-ridden guests, Olympic-class competitive mommies, anorexic pets; and much more. Mothers and fathers will find much-needed relief and insight in this sometimes touching, sometimes gritty, but always perceptive and outrageously funny account of what it truly means to have your very own small bundle of joy. 

I loved McCarthy's pregnancy book: Belly Laughs, so I was really looking forward to reading about her first year of motherhood.  Baby Laughs didn't have as many laugh-out-loud moments for me as Belly Laughs did, but I still really enjoyed it.

Two weeks after finishing Baby Laughs, I find myself quoting sections of it to my mom or husband, and saying things like, "it took Jenny McCarthy one year to lose her baby weight, so I shouldn't expect to lose mine in the first two months," and "Jenny McCarthy cut the tips of her baby's fingers when she cut his nails, just like I did." 

I think it's neat to know that a celebrity feels the same way I do about things.  McCarthy's honesty and tell-it-like-it-is writing style are refreshing.  Baby Laughs is set up exactly like Belly Laughs: each chapter chronicles her experience with a different challenge. 

I'm glad I waited until after I had my baby to read this book: I definitely enjoyed it more than I would have had I read it before she was born.  I would recommend this fast, fun read to all parents.

Book Review: Silver Smoke (Seven Halos #1) by Monica Leonelle


Siblings Pilot and Brie van Rossum are exiled to Honolulu after their mother's tragic death thrusts them into the paparazzi circus ring. It is there that Brie meets the Hallows, a superhuman race descended from archangels, and discovers the shocking secrets of her past that put her family's lives in jeopardy. Meanwhile, Pilot meets a mysterious girl who helps him research an ancient feud between two Hawaiian families and tries to figure out why his best friend Rykken is acting so strange lately...

The Seven Halos series consists of seven books about seven humans who are descendants of archangels and archdemons. Each of them must uncover the chilling (and sometimes sinister) mysteries of their lineage in order to save two races of superbeings from an all out war that no one can win. It's a story of love, death, heartbreak, betrayal, and the one thing that matters most--allegiance.

Release Date:  February 8, 2011
Age Group:  Young adult
Pages: 400
Source: Review copy from author

I need to preface this review by letting you know that I have some kind of mental block about books about angels and Nephilim.  Ever since Hush, Hush, I have had a prejudice about this sub-genre.  (See my first and second opinions of Hush, Hush).  I think that I unfairly compare all angel books to The Mortal Instruments series, which I absolutely love.  I just wanted you all to know that before I talk about Silver Smoke.  

Silver Smoke is the first in a new series about different races of humans who are descended from archangels and archdemons.  Some are descended from humans and demons, some from humans and angels, and some a combination of both.  The races are in constant conflict with each other, and Brie and Pilot (our sister and brother main characters) get caught up in the middle of it.  

I thought Leonelle's world building was very good.  The premise of the story was different in that there were more layers than the typical angel versus demon story.  The politics of the angel world were interesting and added depth to the story.  

I also liked that there were two blossoming romances in the story.  I always love reading about characters falling in love, so to read two love stories was a treat.  Well, actually it was one love story, and one evil seduction, but I don't want to give too much away.

Silver Smoke felt too long to me.  Leonelle has so much detail in the story (which I do like), but it makes for a long book.  I felt like the book started to drag in the middle, then it picked back up again to make a strong finish.  The other thing that I had trouble with was that there are a lot of characters.  I started to get the Hallows girls confused and had trouble keeping them straight.  Some of this may be because I have really bad 'mommy brain' and can only read a few pages at a time.  So, it takes me longer to read books and I tend to forget details along the way. 

I would recommend Silver Smoke to fans of paranormal YA.  Fans of angel books (such as Unearthly, Angelfire, Halo, and Hush, Hush) will love it!

Book to Movie Review: Water for Elephants

I loved Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants so when I found out that there would be a movie coming out I was really, really exited.  When I heard Robert Pattinson was playing the role of Jacob, I was simultaneously excited and disappointed.  Pattinson will always be Edward Cullen for me.  Just like Daniel Radcliffe will always be Harry Potter, I'll never be able to objectively view Pattinson in any other role.  I watched Remember Me, and all I could think about the whole movie was that Tyler was how I pictured Edward when he was the vigilante vampire, killing murders and rapists after he was first turned.  Even though Tyler was actually a quite sensitive guy, he was rough around the edges, like I pictured the avenging Edward to be.  

But I digress---back to Water for Elephants.  I think Pattinson is improving as an actor, and he was very believable as Jacob Jankowski.  He and Reese Witherspoon had good chemistry and I enjoyed watching their relationship develop.  The supporting roles were flawlessly played, especially Camel, Walter and Queenie.  

My favorite thing about the movie was that it closely followed the book (or at least the book as I remember it).  There were no obvious digressions from the book's plot, something that  made me very happy.  

The stunts and choreography were excellent.  I don't remember ever going to a circus as a kid, but I when I left the theater, I felt like I'd been to the circus.  One word of warning: if you haven't read the book and you're planning on seeing the movie, it is kind of sad.  The way the circus animals are mistreated really got to me.  I think it was worse for me reading the book, but that may have just been because I was prepared for it upon entering the theater. 

Overall, Water for Elephants was a great movie and an even better book.  As always, I would recommend reading the book first.

Book Review: My Sparkling Misfortune by Laura Lond

Lord Arkus of Blackriver Castle readily admits that he is a villain and sees no reason why it should stop him from being the protagonist of this book. After all, Prince Kellemar, an aspiring hero, has defeated him in a rather questionable way. Bent on revenge, Arkus attempts to capture a powerful evil spirit who would make him nearly invincible, but a last-minute mistake leaves him with a sparkling instead a goody-goody spirit that helps heroes, watches over little children, and messes up villains plans. Bound to Lord Arkus for five years of service and sworn to act in his best interests, the sparkling is not easy to get rid of, and of course his understanding of best interests is quite different from what Lord Arkus has in mind.
Release Date:  April 28, 2010
Publisher:  Dream Books LLC
Age Group:  Young Adult
Source: Review copy from author

This book was so much fun!  Every time I sat down to read My Sparkling Misfortune, I had an anticipatory smile on my face.  Reading this light-hearted book made me happy, and now that I've finished, I smile when I think about it.

I was drawn in from the first paragraph and the book just got better from there.  Lord Arkus is a villain and the story is told from his perspective.  My Sparkling Misfortune is like a fairy tale, told from the villain's point of view instead of the princess's point of view.  I'm a fan of princesses so I didn't think I'd like this book at all, let alone enjoy it as much as I did.  

The book is just the right length---we get enough of the story to be satisfied but not so much that it drags.  The pacing was great and the character development was also very good.  There was a great amount of humor which lent a light-hearted feeling to the book as a whole.  My only questions upon finishing the book were, "Is there a sequel?" and "Has Laura Lond written anything else, because if so, I'm going to read that the next time I need a good, clean, fun book!"

Misjudging a Book by Its Cover

First of all I want to thank Kelli and Natalie for letting me take over their blog today! I quickly begged them to let me be a guest blogger when they asked for a few volunteers, but then sat at my desk for long stretches of time trying to come up with something to write that wouldn’t bore everyone to tears and result in my banishment from this blog in a gown of shame. Hopefully I came up with something that will prevent that situation from coming to fruition:-)

Since I work in the graphic design field, the cover design for books is always of particular interest to me. I thought for my guest post I might discuss just a couple of the covers for books I absolutely adored but probably wouldn’t have picked up because the design left me wanting.

Hm. Why do we just have Etienne’s shoulder and hand when we get to see Anna’s face? Are we supposed to be projecting our own dreamy thoughts onto this shoulder in order to imagine what the face of a man with such an arm would look like? If that’s the case, I really need more than a shoulder to work with. Give me a shirtless headless torso, that always gets my, um, creative juices flowing. I can say with complete sincerity that never once in my life have I ever said “what a sexy left shoulder you have sir”. But maybe I'm the only one who hasn't. Maybe cotton-covered shoulders and arms are all the rage and I’m just out of the loop. Entirely possible.

And can we just talk about the fact that they match? Why do they have to be wearing matching white shirts? It’s all a little too-cutesy for the broad spectrum of emotions we as readers go through when following Anna and Etienne’s story. I must have passed by this one dozens of times in the bookstore, discounting it due to the weird shoulder action, but continuing to ignore it would have been a huge mistake as what’s behind the cover is full of win.

Okay. This cover is certainly not ugly by any stretch, I just have one problem. I feel like I’m looking straight up her nose. First I see the bright blue eyes, then the tear guides my eye down to the giant cavernous space that is her right nostril. Good heaven. There could be things living in there it’s so large. I keep finding myself leaning closer to it as though proximity will reveal something hidden in that great expansive space, and my curiosity is undeniably piqued. I’m not sure what I think I’ll find if I look closer, but I half expect something to leap out at me from its hiding place up her nose.

I’ve got you all staring up her nose now don’t I? Well done me, now we’re all attempting to find meaning in the nostril of some unnamed cover model. Awesome.

I know, I know. Many of you are going to disagree with me, but I’m not overly impressed with this cover design, and let me tell you why. First, there’s a little too much going on with the type treatment for me. We have huge flourishes off some of the letters but then we also have an image running through all the type, so things combine and blur together until my feeble designer mind short-circuits and I just stare blankly at nothing. I think perhaps if just the word “Delirium” had the image and the flourishes and Lauren’s name was given a different treatment, then this cover would have been met with more success.
I will say the printed version is much prettier with the metallic sheen to it, but all I see when I look at this is a swirl of flesh tones and random facial features that don’t actually tell me anything about the book itself. And I can’t help it, but the little offshoots on the flourishes (like the horizontal squiggles on the top swirl above the “r” and “e” in Lauren) look like tiny mustaches to me. Now that that thought is in my head, I can’t escape it. They’re taunting me with their mustache-ness. I see little curved pieces of facial hair all over the type and it just makes me giggle. I am clearly very mature and adult-like.

What about you guys, are there books you wouldn’t have picked up as a result of the cover but are so glad you did?

A BIG THANK YOU to Jenny from Supernatural Snark! I love to visit and read her blog, it is always so well written and in line with what I am feeling :) 

Be sure to visit Supernatural Snark

Supernatural Snark

Book Review: My Soul to Save (Soul Screamers #2) by Rachel Vincent

When Kaylee Cavanaugh screams, someone dies.

So when teen pop star Eden croaks onstage and Kaylee doesn't wail, she knows something is dead wrong. She can't cry for someone who has no soul.

The last thing Kaylee needs right now is to be skipping school, breaking her dad's ironclad curfew and putting her too-hot-to-be-real boyfriend's loyalty to the test. But starry-eyed teens are trading their souls: a flickering lifetime of fame and fortune in exchange for eternity in the Netherworld—a consequence they can't possibly understand.

Kaylee can't let that happen, even if trying to save their souls means putting her own at risk….

I really enjoyed the first Soul Screamers book, My Soul to Take.  I read book two, My Soul to Save nine months later, even though I meant to keep reading the series right away.  I was saved from the dreaded "what happened in the last book?" thoughts by a neat and concise summary at the beginning of My Soul to Save.

Something about this book fell flat for me.  Part of the problem may have been that I took too long to read it---almost a week.  Taking that long to read a book always makes the book feel choppy for me.  

There were some scary elements to My Soul to Save: the Netherworld, the hellions, and the blank eyes really gave me the creeps.  Of course, being a scaredy-cat and reading alone in the middle of the night probably didn't help things much!  

Rachel Vincent has done a great job creating a unique YA series.  I will definitely be back for more of the Soul Screamers!

Thinking of You

Do you ever find yourself thinking about characters long after you've finished a book?  Yesterday I was driving and heard the song "Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba.  I immediately thought of Mac from Karen Marie Moning's Fever series.  I was remembering how she and Barrons danced to "Tubthumping", and I got emotional thinking about them.  Admittedly, I'm still very emotional only three weeks after giving birth, but I confess that a tear came to my eye when I thought about their love. 

This happens to me a lot---not the crying---but thinking of a book's characters at the oddest times.  I'll be the first to tell you that I thought about Edward Cullen obsessively after finishing the Twilight Saga.  I didn't think I'd love any character like I loved him---until I fell for Dimitri from Vampire Academy.  Edward was my first fictitious boyfriend, and I've had several since him: Eric from the Sookie Stackhouse novels, Jared from The Host, all of the Brothers from the Black Dagger Brotherhood, and Bones from the Night Huntress series.  I'm going to stop here, but you get my drift.  

But it's not just the guys that I remember...when I really connect with a character, I think about them for long after the book is over.  I'm still in awe of Carys from Ken Follet's World Without End, and Hadassah of Francine Rivers' Mark of the Lion trilogy.  My husband thinks I'm weird: characters stay fictitious for him and when he finishes a book, he can't even tell you any of the characters names or anything about the plot, while I can sometimes quote specific lines from the book!

When you finish a book, do you still think of the characters later?  Or, once the book is over, is your relationship with the characters over?  

Book Review: Lover Unleashed (Black Dagger Brotherhood #9) by JR Ward

Payne, twin sister of Vishous, is cut from the same dark, warrior cloth as her brother: A fighter by nature, and a maverick when it comes to the traditional role of Chosen females, there is no place for her on the Far Side… and no role for her on the front lines of the war, either.

When she suffers a paralyzing injury, human surgeon Dr. Manuel Manello is called in to treat her as only he can- and he soon gets sucked into her dangerous, secret world. Although he never before believed in things that go bump in the night- like vampires- he finds himself more than willing to be seduced by the powerful female who marks both his body and his soul.

As the two find so much more than an erotic connection, the human and vampire worlds collide … just as a centuries old score catches up with Payne and puts both her love and her life in deadly jeopardy.


It's not often that I'll pay $12.99 for an e-book without complaint, but boy, I don't mind paying more for books like this one!  I liked Lover Unleashed even more than Lover Mine.  In fact, I liked it more than Lover Avenged and Lover Enshrined.  It is now my second favorite book in the series.

When I started Lover Unleashed, I was prepared for disappointment because I didn't care about Manny or Payne at the end of Lover Mine.  I didn't want to read about them---I wanted to read about Qhuinn and Blay.  I still want the Qhuay love, but Manny and Payne really grew on me.  I liked Manny's take-no-prisoners attitude.  I liked that he wasn't afraid to stand up to the Brothers.  I also liked Payne.  She was tough without being too tough (like Xhex---Xhex is so tough I had a hard time liking her).  Payne is the kind of girl to save herself with her brains instead of just fighting.  

One of my complaints about Lover Mine was  that there was too much of Lash, the Lessers, and the Omega.  It made the book as a whole so dark, gory, and violent.  I'm not crazy about that part of the series---it's too much like a battle between Heaven and Hell, and reading about Hell gives me the creeps.  There was a lot less of the Lessening Society in Lover Unleashed, and the Omega made no appearances at all---I was happy about that!

One of my favorite things about this book was the inclusion of other storylines.  I love parallel stories and we had a lot of that here.  Lover Unleashed was almost an extension of Vishous' story, as well as Butch.  I love following multiple characters and Ward weaves the plot together without the transition from character to character feeling choppy.
Only one thing kept me from giving this book five stars.  Payne's "cure" is totally nonsensical.  I just couldn't believe that that's what cured her and I thought it was preposterous. 
Lover Unleashed is for Black Dagger Brotherhood fans only.  This is not a stand-alone book: please don't read these books out of order because you'll spoil the series for yourself.  If you have not read the series, and you like paranormal fiction, you're in for a treat.  Start with Dark Lover and then let us know what you think! 


Spring Blog Carnival

Spring Blog Carnival

**Giveaway Closed**
Congrats to Maria (pronounced Mariah)
We are happy to be participating in this virtual blog carnival! Since I'm big, round and pregnant this is the ONLY carnival you are going to catch me at this summer! Up for your "carny" little eyes is... 

Afterlife (ARC) by Claudia Gray.

Giveaway rules:
Follow us on GFC, Twitter, or Facebook
Comment on ANY book review for multiple entries (1 extra entry for every comment)
Total your points, leave a comment and email!
Giveaway is open for US residents only.  

Click here to read Kelli's review or here for our interview with Claudia!

Be sure and visit all the blog "booths" participating in this carnival, for a complete linky list click HERE.