Book Review: Awakened (The Guardian Legacy #1) by Ednah Walters

Most teens turn sixteen and get the license to drive, but Lil Falcon gets the license to kill demons. Orphaned as a child and raised by an eccentric grandfather, Lil is concerned with surviving high school and is unaware that she's a Guardian-a being with super powers charged with killing demons and protecting humanity. When she meets Bran, a mysterious boy with amazing abilities, his psi energy unlocks her latent powers. But Bran has a secret that can ruin their growing relationship, and the truth she discovers may destroy everything she believes in unless she finds the right balance between love and sacrifice.

Release Date:  August 22, 2010
Age Group:  Young Adult
Publisher: Pill Hill Press
Source:  Review copy from author

I wasn't sure what to expect from Awakened.  When I accepted it as a review request, I couldn't help but think of how I felt about PC Cast's Awakened earlier this year (read my review here).  Add to that my prejudice against angel books (formed after I read Hush, Hush) and the fact that the summary and cover didn't draw me in and I was prepared to be underwhelmed.  

So you can imagine my surprise when I started Awakened and really enjoyed it.  I quickly identified with Lil and fell for Bran right along with her.  I enjoy reading about heroines discovering hidden powers, and Walters did a great job with Lil's character development in that respect.  The world-building was complex, and at times a little hard for me to follow---bear in mind that I am a new mom with a bad case of 'mommy brain.'  But, once I got all the characters and background information straight, I really enjoyed this book.

My one complaint is that the book felt a little long.  I don't really know what could have been done differently to shorten it, but it seemed to drag a little in the middle.  

I would recommend Awakened to fans of angel books and all fans of paranormal YA.  It was very well done and I started book two in the series eager to know what happens next.

Book Review: Forever (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #3) by Maggie Stiefvater

The thrilling conclusion to #1 bestselling Shiver trilogy from Maggie Stievater.  In Maggie Stiefvater's SHIVER, Grace and Sam found each other. In LINGER, they fought to be together. Now, in FOREVER, the stakes are even higher than before. Wolves are being hunted. Lives are being threatened. And love is harder and harder to hold on to as death comes closing in.

Release Date:  July 12, 2011
Age Group:  Young Adult
Publisher:  Scholastic Press
Source:  Review copy from publisher

**This is a spoiler-free review!**

I hardly know what to say.  When Natalie got Forever in the mail one month before its release, you could have knocked us both over with a feather.  All we could think was, we're FINALLY going to know how it ends!  And boy, do I ever know.  I'm not telling, though.  Not until Forever is released.  I wouldn't even tell Natalie (who hasn't read the book yet due to the birth of her baby).  I will not be spoiling the plot for anyone!

The story we fell in love with during Shiver and Linger has finally concluded.  Stiefvater keeps us guessing up to the last minute as to what's going to happen.  Will Sam and Grace get to stay together?  Will Cole let himself love?  What about Isabel and her bloodthirsty father?  Will Grace's parents ever get a grip?  What about Beck and Sam's twisted relationship and Olivia's newfound wolf-hood?  These are all questions addressed in Forever.  Notice I said 'addressed.'  I'm not saying if they all get answered or not.

Maggie Stiefvater has such a unique writing style.  When I'm in the mood to read one of her books (which I of course was for Forever), I really enjoy it.  Her books are meant to be savored slowly.  The lyrical writing abounds, along with lots of poetry: found in Sam's chapters, of course.  Sam is the most well-read young man I have ever encountered.  I have to admit that all of the poetry Stiefvater includes in her books makes me feel like an uneducated country bumpkin.  I'm no fan of poetry, so I can't always perceive the depth Stiefvater tries to achieve with her poetry.  I do appreciate a well-read character, though, even one with a taste for poetry that I don't always understand. 

One thing that I really like about The Wolves of Mercy Falls series is the alternating points of view.  It keeps the story moving so quickly, and makes me want to keep reading long past the point I said I'd stop.  I just love a first-person narration!  Forever explores the depth of Sam and Grace's love, but even more, it explores the bond between parent and child.  I loved that!

The Wolves of Mercy Falls series has long been one of Natalie and I's few points of disagreement where books are concerned.  She gives Shiver and Linger five stars, while I thought they were 3 star and 4.5 star books, respectively.   Forever loses stars for two reasons.  The first is that the ending felt rushed and the second I will reveal after the book's release.  Once I got over the red print (seriously, WHY?) I really enjoyed the book.  However, my complaints were too great for me to give Forever five stars.  Upon closing the cover, I felt simultaneously happy and sad.  I'll say more after July 12!


Book to Movie Review: Never Let Me Go

I saw the trailer for Never Let Me Go and it reminded me of one of my favorite books: Neal Shusterman's UnwindThe concepts of "donations" and "completion" were similar to the "unwinding" in Unwind, and since I loved that concept in Unwind, I decided to watch Never Let Me Go.  

I know that Never Let Me Go is based on a book of the same name; however, I have not read the book.  I almost always prefer to read the book before seeing the movie, but in this case, due to lack of reading time, I made an exception.

My first problem with Never Let Me Go was that I had a really hard time understanding the dialogue.  All of the characters have British accents (something I usually enjoy), but they spoke very quickly and were all "low talkers."  I couldn't turn the volume up high enough to hear everything properly without blasting my husband and baby out of the house, so, about 15 minutes in, I ended up turning on the subtitles.    
So, subtitles on, I settled in to watch the rest of the movie.  I will admit that I knew the premise of the story because I read the plot on IMDB.  I know, I know, I broke all of my rules with this movie!  I don't think I would have known what was going on had I not read the plot, though, so I'm glad I did.  

Never Let Me Go is an emotional thriller.  There is not a lot of excitement, just sadness.  The characters are steeped in a pervasive desperation, enveloped in quiet despair.  One thing that bothered me was how skinny the characters are.  You'd think that a boarding school devoted to keeping its students in perfect health would have fed them more!  

The entire movie mad me so sad that when the credits started rolling I told my husband I would have been better off watching Parks and Recreation (which was my other available choice).  Never Let Me Go had the emotional impact of Unwind, but without the hopeful ending.  I would recommend it for people looking for a movie that makes you think.  If you want to be entertained and uplifted (like me), then try something else. 

Book Review: My Life Undecided by Jessica Brody


Okay, maybe that was a bit melodramatic, but I’m sorry, I’m feeling a bit melodramatic at the moment.

Here’s the deal. My name is Brooklyn Pierce, I’m fifteen years old, and I am decisionally challenged. Seriously, I can’t remember the last good decision I made. I can remember plenty of crappy ones though. Including that party I threw when my parents were out of town that accidentally burned down a model home. Yeah, not my finest moment, for sure.

But see, that’s why I started a blog. To enlist readers to make my decisions for me. That’s right. I’m gave up. Threw in the towel. I let someone else be the one to decide which book I read for English. Or whether or not I accepted an invitation to join the debate team from that cute-in-a-dorky-sort-of-way guy who gave me the Heimlich Maneuver in the cafeteria. (Note to self: Chew the melon before swallowing it.) I even let them decide who I dated!

Well, it turns out there are some things in life you simply can’t choose or have chosen for you—like who you fall in love with. And now everything’s more screwed up than ever.

But don’t take my word for it, read the book and decide for yourself. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll scream in frustration. Or maybe that’s just me. After all, it’s my life.

Release Date:  June 7, 2011
Age Group:  Young Adult
Publisher:  Farrar, Straus, Giroux 
Source:  Review copy from publisher

My Life Undecided was so much fun!  It was exactly what I needed: a light-hearted, quick read with a good message.  I'm really enjoying contemporary YA lately! 

Brooklyn is a fifteen-year old high school student who has been making some bad decisions lately.  Things in her life come to a head when she gets arrested for accidentally burning down a model home---and to make matters worse, her mother is the model home developer.  Brooklyn starts court-ordered community service at a local nursing home.  Her best friend, who is the most popular girl in school, shuns her in front of the entire school.  Brooklyn is left friendless and grounded.  She decides to stop making her own decisions and starts a blog to let her readers tell her what to do.  Every time she is forced to make a decision (such as join the debate team, go to a party with a cute guy, or which book to read for English) she writes a post about it and takes a poll of her readers.  Things quickly escalate when the blog followers vote for Brooklyn to do things she doesn't want to do.

I liked so much about this book: reading about someone who writes a blog, Brooklyn's character growth, Jessica Brody's excellent characterization, and the dynamics of the 'mean girl' clique.  But my favorite part of the book was the question of who Brooklyn will end up with.  That was the crux of the book for me, and that was what kept me reading long past the time I said I'd stop reading and go to bed.  The ending scene was my favorite---it reminded me of a movie, but in a sweet way, not a cliched way.

I would recommend My Life Undecided for fans of contemporary fiction and chick lit, especially YA chick lit.  It was a great read and I'm looking forward to reading more from Jessica Brody!

Book Review: Between by Cyndi Tefft

It just figures that the love of Lindsey Water's life isn't alive at all, but the grim reaper, complete with a dimpled smile and Scottish accent.

After transporting souls to heaven for the last 300 years, Aiden MacRae has all but given up on finding the one whose love will redeem him and allow him entry through the pearly gates.

Torn between her growing attraction to Aiden and heaven's siren song, Lindsey must learn the hard way whether love really can transcend all boundaries.
Release Date:  April 21, 2011
Publisher:  CreateSpace
Age Group:  Young Adult
Source:  Review copy from author

What a hidden gem!  I loved Between!  I have to admit that the (very short) summary did not reel me in, but boy, was it a great read.  

Lindsey is a college student riding home with her sort-of boyfriend Raji when they get into a wreck.  She wakes up in a meadow, but she is not alone.  There is a very good-looking Scottish guy in the meadow with her.  Lindsey doesn't have any idea what's going on or who he is, but they become fast friends.  Soon, that friendship develops into something more---but the relationship is doomed because Aiden is there to guide Lindsey to heaven, and they cannot stay together.

Between is a love story, pure and simple.  I loved that about this book!  It's not a heavy story and there's no elaborate world-building to figure out and remember along the way.  Sometimes it's so nice to have a mental break with a book.  It makes the book a true escape, which is the main reason why I read.  When I have to actively work to remember plot points and other details, I can't enjoy a book as much as when I can just relax and enjoy the story.  

I loved the chemistry between Aiden and Lindsey.  It was so sweet without getting overbearing.  I loved the plot twists, which were totally unexpected and a great surprise.  

But my favorite thing about Between was that there were Christian elements to the book.  By that, I mean that Lindsey prayed to God from time to time.  Her prayers were part of her internal dialogue and they were totally natural.  One of my problems with a lot of Christian fiction is that the Christian elements often feel forced.  The book becomes about flowery prayers instead of highlighting the protagonists' relationship with God.  Lindsey is a Christian and believes in heaven, and prays for help when things get rough.  If you don't feel the same personally, don't let it keep you from reading Between.  There was just the right amount of a religious theme without being overbearing.

I loved Between so much.  I found myself looking forward to my reading time even more than usual.  I kept telling my mom and husband, "I can't wait to sit and read a while.  I'm reading the best book!"  I will definitely be on the lookout for another great read by Cyndi Tefft! 

Maternity Blog Leave for Natalie

Baby Update: It's Natalie's turn to be on maternity blog leave!

Natalie delivered a beautiful, healthy baby boy at 7:53 am on June 14, 2011.  Mom and baby are doing great!  Looking at sweet baby Thomas just makes you melt.  Donny and Natalie are blessed with a wonderful family of five now!

Thomas Hayes
7 lbs 11 oz and 19 inches long

Both Natalie and I had rough pregnancies and have not gotten to spend as much time on our blog as we would like.  Please continue to excuse our absences and know that we look forward to rejoining our blogging buddies soon.  In the meantime, you can find us changing diapers, feeding hungry babies (and families) and making fools out of ourselves to make our babies smile!

Pregnancy Update: Natalie

Today is my last day as a Mother of Two! Tomorrow at 8 am I will be the Mother of Three!! Woohoo! So, I thought I better give a quick update since I have been MIA from my blogging routine. 

The last few weeks have been spent nesting... which for me translates to lots of sewing, cleaning/purging, A LOT of pool time with my kids and of course reading at all hours of the night. 

You see here in Southeast Texas the Weather Gods have been awful to me... the temperature has been around 101 degrees without any sign of rain. I just got my light bill in the mail today and this was my reaction *smile*, little giggles and then out loud (to myself) "Yep, it was worth every stinkin' penny!" The upside to all the pool time is two-fold 1.) Really tired kids = great nap time and 2.) I have always said it... Tan Fat is prettier than White Fat :)

As far as reading goes I just finished a Christian-Fiction book, The Brothers by Chris Stewart. Let me just say it was FABULOUS! I love a book that makes you think about it days after you are done and to add that it made me think and reflect on spiritual aspects of my life made it even better. There are several more in this series and I have them on order, I can't wait!

Now for the big bomb shell... I did go into labor Saturday morning with contractions 7 minutes apart. But the on call doctor apparently thought Tuesday wasn't "that far away" and I could wait to have my c-section then, so he gave me a shot to stop my contractions!!!!............IDIOT! I came home miserable and ready to bark at anyone who looked my way. Then I checked the mailbox. And there was a package from Scholastic inside... my thoughts "I don't have any books ordered or requested that should be here." I open it up and it is an ARC of FOREVER by Maggie Stiefvater! OH MY FIDDLE STICKS ALL IS RIGHT IN THE WORLD! I (almost) skip into the house, totally forget I was just in pain and about to have a baby and yelled to my husband "COME HERE". He comes running thinking I was having a baby, then I hold up the book and his grimace is replaced with a big 'ol smile. He has read the series and knew exactly why I was so excited. So we got some ice cream and I have been supper happy since (minus the uncomfort of being 39 weeks prego). I plan to finish Matched by Ally Condie tomorrow night and then I will devour Forever during the rest of my hospital stay! 

So until Baby Thomas arrives tomorrow I will be in the pool (surprise, surprise) and playing with my kiddos! 

Book Review: My Soul to Steal (Soul Screamers #4) by Rachel Vincent

Trying to work things out with Nash—her maybe boyfriend—is hard enough for Kaylee Cavanaugh. She can't just pretend nothing happened. But "complicated" doesn't even begin to describe their relationship when his ex-girlfriend transfers to their school, determined to take Nash back.

See, Sabine isn't just an ordinary girl. She's a mara, the living personification of a nightmare. She can read people's fears—and craft them into nightmares while her victims sleep. Feeding from human fear is how she survives.

And Sabine isn't above scaring Kaylee and the entire school to death to get whatever—and whoever—she wants.

This was the best Soul Screamers book yet!  I loved the addition of Sabine to the story.  She brought another layer of intrigue to the series.

Like the other books in the series, the main appeal of My Soul to Steal was the pacing and the plot twists.  The book moved really quickly and I had a hard time putting it down.  I couldn't wait to see how Vincent would resolve the multiple layers of conflict.

One of my favorite things to read about, especially in YA literature, is character growth.  I loved that Kaylee had some growth in this book.  Also, I've always liked him (especially after reading his novella), but I'm now a member of Team Tod!

If you haven't read the Soul Screamers series yet, I would recommend it to fans of paranormal fiction and fans of YA.  It's a great series!

Breaking Dawn Part 1 Trailer

Breaking Dawn Part 1 trailer has been released and and I got "Twilight Goosebumps" all over again! 

Enjoy, I know I did!


Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets Étienne St. Claire: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna—and readers—have long awaited?

I've read nothing but glowing reviews of Anna and the French Kiss, so I was really excited to see that my library had a copy and I anxiously awaited my turn to borrow it.  Once I had the book in my hands, I dove right in, expecting to be blown away.  However, my expectations were a little too high.  

Remember that movie, Ten Things I Hate About You?  Do you remember when Bianca tells her friend, "I know the difference between like and love.  I like my Skechers, but I love my Prada backpack?"  That's exactly how I felt reading this book.  While I did like Anna and the French Kiss, I didn't love it.

I just realized what the problem may have been.  I have a hard time giving over-hyped books a fair chance.  I prefer to read a book and decide for myself how I feel before I read a lot of other reviews about it.  I prefer a kind of a 'blank-slate' effect.  When I've read too many positive reviews, I build the book up so much in my mind, thinking I'm in store for another stalker-worthy read, that the book can never meet my expectations.  That's what happened here.  Anna and the French Kiss has been out almost six months, meaning I've read six months of glowing reviews, fully expecting to finish the book and rave about it along with everyone else.

Anyway, back to Anna and the French Kiss.  I loved the chemistry between Etienne and Anna, but the middle of the book was repetitive.  There was just so much back and forth between them, it got old for me.  Also, Anna felt immature to me---and by that, I mean more immature than other YA heroines.  She held others to a high standard of behavior but relaxed that standard when it got in the way of what she wanted.  Another problem was the fact that the book is written in the present tense.  I don't like reading books in the present tense.  The writing feels awkward and doesn't flow for me.  The conflict resolution came too quickly.  I would have liked to have a more fully fleshed-out ending.

On to what I liked.  I loved reading about Paris (although I got sick of Anna complaining about being there).  Etienne's tour of Paris was one of my favorite parts of the book.  I liked the writing style, the characterization, and the chemistry between Anna and Etienne.  I liked that there was some (much-needed) character growth.  I closed the cover liking the book okay, but not loving it and not wanting to ever read it again.  I promptly forgot about the characters---the hallmark of a less-than-stellar book for me, and am left feeling mildly disappointed.


Book Review: Bruiser by Neal Shusterman

Don't get me started on the Bruiser. He was voted "Most Likely to Get the Death Penalty" by the entire school. He's the kid no one knows, no one talks to, and everyone hears disturbing rumors about. So why is my sister, Brontë, dating him? One of these days she's going to take in the wrong stray dog, and it's not going to end well.

My brother has no right to talk about Brewster that way—no right to threaten him. There's a reason why Brewster can't have friends—why he can't care about too many people. Because when he cares about you, things start to happen. Impossible things that can't be explained. I know, because they're happening to me.

Award-winning author Neal Shusterman has crafted a chilling and unforgettable novel about the power of unconditional friendship, the complex gear workings of a family, and the sacrifices we endure for the people we love.

I was at the library, perusing the "new in YA" shelf and saw Bruiser.  Having read and loved, loved, loved Neal Shusterman's Unwind (see my review here), I decided to give Bruiser a try, despite being completely underwhelmed by the summary.  First off, two of the main character's names are Tennyson and Bronte.  Yes, seriously.  They are brother and sister and have college professors for parents.  The second thing that bothered me about the summary was that it sounded like Brewster is violent with Bronte.  I was thinking domestic violence after reading the summary, which is not what this book is about.  Bronte befriends Brewster, who is a loner.  Tennyson soon joins in on the friendship and things get weird from there.  By weird, I mean really interesting and unique.  

Bruiser is written from four points of view, with the narration alternating between Tennyson, Bronte, Brewster, and Brewster's little brother Cody.  Alternating POV's can get choppy are not something that I usually like; however, it works here.  As with Unwind, Shusterman has a unique premise, lots of emotion, a plot full of twists and turns, character growth, and a surprising ending.  

The pacing was excellent, and I had a really hard time putting this book down.  The alternating POV's made the book read really quickly.  The reader is in on Brewster's secret before any of the other characters---I love it when that happens!  Many of Brewster's chapters are written in prose.  I am no lover of poetry---it's usually way over my head and I don't read to enlighten myself, I read to be entertained---but Brewster's poetry chapters added a lot of depth to the story, which I really enjoyed.  

I would recommend Bruiser to fans of YA, especially fans of contemporary YA.  I absolutely loved it and look forward to reading more from  Neal Shusterman!