Book Review: All These Things I've Done (Birthright #1) by Gabrielle Zevin

In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city's most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.'s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidentally poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she's to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight—at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.

Release Date:  September 27, 2011
Age Group:  Young Adult
Publisher:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Source:  Review copy from publisher

Doesn't this sound like such a neat and unique book?  I thought the summary was really intriguing and couldn't wait to dive in to All These Things I've Done.  Seriously, a world without chocolate?  I can't make it one day without chocolate, so to read about chocolate as an illegal substance was really interesting to me.

Anya is a tough nut to crack.  She has the detached exterior and cool cunning of Katniss Everdeen.  Anya cares for her siblings and her ailing grandmother with compassion, but she doesn't allow herself the opportunity to have many of her own feelings. 

The writing was very spare, which left the book feeling almost emotionless for me.  To be fair, I didn't give this book a fighting chance, as I read only a few pages per night.  It took me over three weeks to finish the book, which gave me plenty of time to lose momentum and emotion.

I really liked the world Zevin created.  I thought the illegal substances of chocolate and caffeine was such a unique idea, and I loved the descriptions of Anya's boyfriend when he was high on chocolate.  Another thing that appealed to me was the character development.  I cared about the characters and was invested in their stories.  I especially liked how Anya grows into her emotions by the book's end.

I was pretty upset about the open ending until I learned that All These Things I've Done is the first in a series.  I will definitely read more from Gabrielle Zevin and look forward to the next book in the series.  

Book Review: Something Borrowed (Darcy and Rachel #1) by Emily Giffin

Rachel White is the consummate good girl. A hard-working attorney at a large Manhattan law firm and a diligent maid of honor to her charmed best friend Darcy, Rachel has always played by all the rules. Since grade school, she has watched Darcy shine, quietly accepting the sidekick role in their lopsided friendship. But that suddenly changes the night of her thirtieth birthday when Rachel finally confesses her feelings to Darcy's fiance, and is both horrified and thrilled to discover that he feels the same way. As the wedding date draws near, events spiral out of control, and Rachel knows she must make a choice between her heart and conscience. In so doing, she discovers that the lines between right and wrong can be blurry, endings aren't always neat, and sometimes you have to risk everything to be true to yourself.

Release Date: June 1, 2004
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Source:  Library

I decided to read Something Borrowed after seeing the previews for the movie that just came out.  I thought the premise sounded interesting and I was wondering how the story would end just based on the teaser I saw in the preview.  I love to read the book before seeing the movie so I was excited to see that my local library had a copy of Something Borrowed.

I liked Something Borrowed from the start.  Like Rachel, I have been the sidekick friend, so I really identified with her.  There are some people who shine so brightly that they leave everyone around them in shadow.  Darcy is one of those people, and Rachel has spent the last twenty or so years in Darcy's shadow.

I felt so badly for Rachel and wanted her story to end well.  I did not like Darcy at all.  I found her to be self-centered, bratty and childish.  I confess that I was secretly hoping for Rachel to "win" and Darcy to "lose."

There were several things that really stuck out for me when I think about Something Borrowed.  The first is that I loved the way the story is written.  Not all of the dialogue is written out specifically.  What I mean is that some of the tedious back and forth between characters is just summarized (example: ...Dex agreed....).  I like it when authors do this, because it makes the story flow well.  Another thing I liked is that Something Borrowed is an adult novel without a lot of bedroom scenes.  I like having those kinds of details left unspecified.  It makes things more romantic, in my opinion.  The last thing I loved was the real-world ending.  Not everything was tied up neatly, which made the ending very realistic.

I really enjoyed Something Borrowed.  The story moved quickly and I just couldn't put it down!  I'll definitely be reading the sequel, Something Blue, and looking for more from Emily Giffin.

Book Review: Generations: Wilder Times (Volume 1) by Lori Folkman

Ben Wilder never really dreamt about becoming a rockstar. It was more of a given—his throne to inherit. But the more he walks in his famous father’s footsteps, the more Ben sinks into the murky past that left his dad dead. Katrina Hayes never dreamt about becoming a rockstar either. However, she does spend plenty of time dreaming about one particular rockstar. But when she finally has the chance to meet Ben Wilder, it comes at a cost. The price? Sacrificing a friendship that’s been in place since birth. And that’s just the finder’s fee.
Release Date: April 8, 2011
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Springhill Publishing
Source: Review copy from author

Generations: Wilder Times was a sweet story.  It was a nice take on your classic 'normal girl' meets teen star story.  I enjoyed the book, although I did have a few issues with it.

Katrina is a high school student whose hobby is dancing.  She is a member of a local ballroom dancing team and performs with her troupe.  She also has a huge crush/obsession with Ben Wilder, a mega-popular teen rock star.  Katrina has pictures of Ben posted all over her bedroom and fantasizes about one day meeting him.  Her best friend Jackson, a budding director, wins a contest to help participate in a music video.  Guess whose video it is?  Ben Wilder---and Jackson brings Katrina on set to meet her idol.  The story really gets going once Ben and Katrina meet.

I liked Katrina.  She was a sweet, unaffected girl who kept her head in situations that would have made most teen girls insensible.  I also liked Jackson, who had the best friend role down to a tee.  I did not really like Ben, however.  He was pretty self-centered and immature at times.

My first complaint about Generations: Wilder Times was that the book ended just when things were really getting interesting.  I did not realize that there would be a sequel until I finished the book, so the abruptness of the ending made some since once I realized there would be at least one follow-up book.  I think that book two will be even better because there are some good plot points left to develop.  My second complaint is that the dream sequences included at the beginning of some chapters were never explained.  We don't know whose dreams they were or why they were included.  Maybe we'll find out more in book two, but that felt like a lot to leave open.

Overall, I did enjoy this book and would read more from Lori Folkman in the future.  Fans of contemporary YA will really like this one!

Book Review: Smokin' Seventeen (Stephanie Plum #17) by Janet Evanovich

Where there's smoke there's fire, and no one knows this better than New Jersey bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum. The bail bonds office has burned to the ground, and bodies are turning up in the empty construction lot.  To make matters worse, Stephanie is working out of a motor home she shares with a dancing bear, and Joe Morelli's old world grandmother has declared a vendetta against her.  And just when Stephanie decides it might be time to choose between the two men in her life, Morelli and Ranger, a third man from Stephanie's past moves back to Trenton...

Release Date: June 21, 2011
Age Group:  Adult
Publisher: Random House
Source: Library

I have really enjoyed the Stephanie Plum series as a whole, so I was excited to read Smokin' Seventeen.  I did have some issues with Sizzling Sixteen, namely the implausibility of the entire book, but I read this series for the humor.  I pick up a Stephanie Plum book expecting to have a light-hearted summer read with plenty of laughs.  So it was with great disappointment and unmet expectations when I closed the cover of Smokin' Seventeen, having laughed out loud only twice. This book had all the substance of cotton candy, and much like cotton candy, as soon as it was over I was asking, "What's next?"  I had none of that contented accomplishment I usually feel after finishing a good book.

Besides the humor, one of my favorite elements to this series has been Stephanie's relationship with the two men in her life: Ranger and Morelli.  I have longed for Stephanie to make a decision or at least act on some of her feelings with respect to either man.  Well, in Smokin' Seventeen there is plenty of acting on feelings, but no resolution.  After seventeen books, the indecision and Stephanie's emotional immaturity is getting old.  She goes from man to man in this installment, which felt a little trashy.  As usual, Evanovich skims over most of the romantic details but Stephanie's man-hopping did not endear her to me at all.

I guess my main problem with this book, besides the lack of humor I have come to expect from this series, is that the plot was so thin and predictable.  Frankly, the series is starting to feel milked.  The jokes and capers are feeling recycled.  Seriously, how many times are we going to read about Stephanie's cars being blown up?  And how long is Rex the hamster going to live?  It's been seventeen books and he's still going strong.  Stephanie has not grown any as a character, and that lack of growth is starting to grate.  The bottom line is that I will keep reading this series as long as I can get the books from the library, but I won't be buying them any longer.  They are just too insubstantial to justify the cost of a hardback!

Book Review: Broken Wings by Carla Stewart

Onstage, the singing duo of Gabe and Mitzi Steiner captured America's heart for more than two decades. Offstage, their own hearts have throbbed as one for sixty years. Only now, Gabe has retreated into the tangles of Alzheimer's, leaving Mitzi to ponder her future alone.

On the other side of Tulsa, everyone believes Brooke Woodson has found the perfect man—a handsome lawyer with sights on becoming Tulsa's next District Attorney. If only Brooke felt more sure. If only her fiancĂ© could control his anger. If only love didn't come with so many scars.

When an accident lands Brooke in the hospital where Mitzi volunteers, the two women quickly develop an unlikely friendship birthed by providence and bathed in grace. And with Mitzi's help, kindness, and insight, Brooke learns how to pick up the broken pieces of her life.

Release Date:  June 3, 2011
Age Group:  Adult
Publisher:  FaithWords
Source:  NetGalley

Broken Wings was such a good book!  The tenderness of the love story, Mitzi's faith, and Mitzi's devotion to Gabe really touched me.  I finished the book feeling really happy that I read it.  

One of my favorite things is a first person narration, and when authors write in alternating points-of-view, both first-person narratives, that makes it even better.  I felt like I really got to know both Mitzi and Brooke.  Reading a first-person narrative really lets you in to a character's thoughts and makes the reading experience more powerful for me.  

There were two things that bothered me about Broken Wings.  The first is that I wanted to yell at Brooke at times.  It took her forever to see Lance for what he really was.  I do think that Stewart did a good job at portraying an abusive relationship, but it is frustrating to read about a character whom you care about making poor choices over and over again.  But, in the end, Brooke and her mother both had great character growth, which I loved.  

My second problem with Broken Wings was Mitzi and Hadley's relationship.  Actually, the relationship wasn't the problem so much as the ending paragraphs.  It felt to me like Stewart was ushering in Mitzi's next love before the first love exited stage left.  I felt that was disrespectful to Gabe and out of character for Mitzi.  

Overall, I really enjoyed this book.  Mitzi has the kind of quiet faith that I love to read about.  I enjoyed the flashbacks the most, especially how she overcame her past.  I would definitely read more from Carla Stewart in the future.  I would recommend Broken Wings to fans of contemporary fiction and Christian fiction.

Winner of Settling by Shelley Workinger

Congratulations to Mamabunny13, who won a signed copy of Settling!

We will be in touch, and you have 3 days to claim your prize.

Thank you to everyone who entered to win!

Book Review: The Shadow Club by Neal Shusterman

For Jared and Cheryl, nothing is worse than coming in second. Their idea to form a club of second-best kids seems harmless at first. But when the Shadow Club members start playing anonymous practical jokes on each other's rivals, things quickly spiral out of control, and innocent people get hurt. This chilling page-turner about the effects of underlying resentment on a high school population is more timely now than when it was first published.
I am a huge fan of Neal Shusterman, having loved Unwind and Bruiser, so I thought I'd feel the same way about The Shadow Club.  Sadly, I did not. The Shadow Club was just okay for me, nowhere nearly as good as Unwind or Bruiser.  

The Shadow Club is about two fourteen year-old friends who are tired of being second-best.  Jared and Cheryl decide to form a club comprised of kids who are always second-best.  They name the club The Shadow Club and pull seemingly harmless pranks on their rivals, pranks that seem innocent enough at first, but soon escalate into dangerous acts.  The crux of the book is how quickly things get out of control and who is ultimately responsible for the pranks.

I've noticed that Shusterman's books tend to have a central theme and message.  The Shadow Club was (sort of) about bullying.  At least that's the feeling I got from it.  I appreciate a positive message in a book, and I really enjoy that aspect of Shusterman's writing.  However, The Shadow Club had a middle-grade feel to it that left me unsatisfied.  It was written from a male point of view, which was another problem: reading YA narrated by a male never works for me.  Jared seemed very immature and I had a hard time identifying with him. 

This will in no way keep me from seeking out and reading more of Shusterman's work.  If you are new to Shusterman, don't start with The Shadow Club.  Instead, you should read Unwind.  Unwind is an excellent read, and is one of my top five favorite books of all time.  In fact, just talking about Unwind in this review has made me want to read it again!               

Giveaway Reminder: Settling by Shelley Workinger

Don't forget!  We have a signed copy of Settling by Shelley Workinger to give away.  Settling is book two in the Solid Series, which is a really sweet paranormal YA series.  This giveaway is open internationally and ends July 21st.

Click here for a summary of Settling
Click here to read my review of Settling

Leave a comment below with your email address to enter to win a signed copy of Settling. 

The End Has Arrived! HP7

I can't believe the final installment of Harry Potter has arrived! I have been catching some of the interviews of the characters this past week and closely watching the trailer... It will be a bitter sweet ending for so many generations. My family has been faithful HP fans since the beginning, I am a faithful movie fan while my brothers were loyal book followers (my mom had several midnight release adventures with the two of them).

Kelli and I are waiting for the mass crowds to die down before we attempt the theater :) So...We want to know what you thought of the book to movie transformation? Was it true to the book and are you satisfied with the last installment? 

Book Review: Dark Parties by Sara Grant

Sixteen-year-old Neva has been trapped since birth. She was born and raised under the Protectosphere, in an isolated nation ruled by fear, lies, and xenophobia. A shield "protects" them from the outside world, but also locks the citizens inside. But there's nothing left on the outside, ever since the world collapsed from violent warfare. Or so the government says...

Neva and her best friend Sanna believe the government is lying and stage a "dark party" to recruit members for their underground rebellion. But as Neva begins to uncover the truth, she realizes she must question everything she's ever known, including the people she loves the most.

Release Date:  August 2, 2011
Age Group:  Young Adult
Publisher:  Hachette Book Group
Source:  NetGalley

I really enjoyed this dystopia.  Dystopia is one of my favorite genres, especially YA dystopia.  I looked forward to Dark Parties when I wasn't reading and found myself reading longer than I should have (like reading instead of doing laundry or housework).  I know what you're thinking: Who wants to do housework when you could be reading?  The answer is me---because I love having a clean house! 

I have a hard time not comparing books in any given genre to my favorite books in that genre.  I tend to hold books to high standards, for example I compare all paranormal YA books to Twilight.  I tend to compare all dystopian books to George Orwell's 1984 (my first-ever dystopia), Lois Lowry's The Giver series and Suzanne Collins' Gregor the Overlander series.  Dark Parties reminded me of all three of those books, in a good way.  It took me a little while to get into the story and figure out what was going on, but once I did, I really enjoyed the book. 

There are a lot of unique elements to Dark Parties.  Take Neva's name for example.  I love her name, as well the other characters' names: Senna and Braydon.  I like that in a world of same-ness, Grant's characters try to differentiate themselves by identity marks and unique jewelry.  

I also liked Neva's 'get-up-and-go' personality.  She never gave up on her dreams, and never stopped believing in the right thing.  She had a few totally natural and expected moments of weakness, but they served to fortify her character and strength of convictions.   

I did have a few complaints, although overall I liked the book as a whole.  I wish Grant would have explored the Women's Empowerment Center more.  Maybe that is something to be addressed in a sequel---wait, is there a sequel?  I don't know, but I hope so!  The plot got a little predictable.  I predicted what would happen with Neva's dad as well as the conclusion to Braydon's story.  My last complaint is that the writing felt choppy at times.  The book is a first person narrative from Neva's point of view and the writing felt like steam-of-consciousness at some points. 

Other than those myriad complaints, I thought Dark Parties was a great read.  Fans of dystopia will really like it.  If you're not a fan of dystopia, it would be a good introduction into the genre, as it is such a character-driven book.  It kind of eases the reader into the dystopian world.  I would definitely read more from Sara Grant in the future.


BlogFest 2011 Winners

It's time to announce our BlogFest 2011 Winners!

Ioana won Rippler by Cidney Swanson

Amanda won A Girl Named Willow Krimble by Giuseppe Bianco

Jenn and Ricki won Forever by Maggie Steifvater themed necklaces

Congratulations to the winners!  You have been emailed and have three days to respond with your mailing address and claim your prize.

Blog Fest 2011

PhotobucketWelcome to BlogFest 2011, hosted by Cinnamon at A Journey of Books. 

I'd So Rather Be Reading Giveaway Rules:
  1. Fill out the form to enter
  2. Winners will be announced on our blog and notified via email.  You have 72 hours to claim your prize.  Please add to your contacts list.
  3. You do not have to be a follower to enter, although followers get extra entries. 
  4. Our giveaways are open internationally.
Giveaway #1 (One winner):
Ripper by Cidney Swanson (e-book)
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Click here for a summary.

Giveaway #2 (One winner):
A Girl Named Willow Krimble by Giuseppe Bianco (paperback)
Genre: Middle Grade
Click here for a summary.

Giveaway #3 (Two winners):
Forever by Maggie Stiefvater themed necklace
This necklace is the size of a Scrabble tile and is hung on a white ribbon.  It's really cute!

Be sure to visit these blogs next to enter their giveaways:

See the BlogFest master list at A Journey of Books

Guest Post: Shelley Workinger

Today I am honored to welcome Shelley Workinger to I'd So Rather Be Reading.  Shelley is the author of the Solid series, a paranormal YA series that I just love.  Click on the book titles to read my reviews of Solid (book one) and Settling (book two).  I asked Shelley to tell us about her favorite books.  Please join me in welcoming Shelley Workinger!

 Top Ten Favorite Books 

When I sat down to write this post, I realized that composing a list of favorites is kind of like making a time capsule. 5 or 10 or 20 years from now when you look at it again, you’ll find some things that’ve changed and some that are still the same – that Red Sox ball cap may no longer fit, but you’re still fan; you’ve stopped dating that boy in the prom picture, but you still see him around town (or on Facebook) and he’s still sporting that awful haircut. The bottom line is: you stay you, but it’s fun to compare the yous of different points in time.

So here are my top 10 books at this moment. (I had a hard time classifying “favorite” – favorite mystery? adventure? – so I eventually went with 10 books I would happily pick up and reread right now, knowing that I probably wouldn’t move until I finished.) And, let me tell you, this list actually would’ve been different if I’d done it last week! I don’t think even time can push Peeta Mellark and Harry Potter off the pedestal I’ve put them on, but just this week I discovered a new series: the Resurrection of Magic series, which – to me – actually is “Harry Potter meets The Hunger Games.” Who knew?

I also realized when I looked over my list that I’d chosen both popular fiction and non-fiction, along with a good dose of YA, but no love stories. That really surprised me, because I love a great romance as much as the next girl. Maybe an irresistible dark horse will charge in sometime between now and the next time I do this; or maybe that future me will be looking for something different.


“The Book Thief” – Marcus Zusak
“The Gift of Fear” – Gavin de Becker
“A Time To Kill” – John Grisham
The Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling
“Catching Fire” (Hunger Games #2) – Suzanne Collins
“The Great Train Robbery” – Michael Crichton
“Rock This!” – Chris Rock
“The Spellman Files” – Lisa Lutz
“Alive” – Piers Paul Read
“Skin Hunger” (Resurrection of Magic #1) – Kathleen Duey

I see some of my own personal favorites on this list, as well as some new authors to try.  Thank you again for visiting, Shelley!

Visit Shelley Workinger on the web:
But What Are They Eating? Blog (my personal favorite, this blog is about the food in books)  How cool!

**Leave a comment with your email address below to enter to win a signed copy of Settling.  This giveaway is open internationally and ends July 21.

Book Review: Settling (Solid #2) by Shelley Workinger


**This summary contains spoilers for Solid, book one in the series**
At the beginning of the summer, Clio Kaid was one of a hundred teens brought to a secret Army installation. But it was no ordinary camp and they weren’t ordinary kids…

Soon after learning they were the products of a secret genetic experiment, the teens began developing super-abilities ranging from bounding lightness to blocking heaviness; blinding brilliance and the ability to vanish. These same gifts made them targets of a psychopath in officer’s clothing, and they found themselves fighting for their lives.

Picking up where Solid left off, Clio and her friends realize that they aren’t ready to go home; they’re determined to stay on campus and continue their journey of self- discovery. But someone doesn’t feel the same way and will do anything to drive them away – even kill.

Friendships will be tested, abilities will evolve, and more secrets will come out as the teens race to stop the killer before he sets his sights on one of them…
Release Date: July 4, 2011
Publisher:  CreateSpace
Age Group:  Young Adult
Source:  Review copy from author

I really enjoyed Solid (read my review here), so I was looking forward to another great read by Workinger.  I knew Settling would be just as good as Solid, if not better, so I waited a while to read it, using it as motivation to get some things done around my house that I'd been putting off.  When I finally awarded myself the privilege of reading Settling, all of my expectations were met---and more.  

Settling picks up right where Solid left off.  Clio has made some close friends at the Army school and is in a relationship with the near-perfect Jack.  All of the students are growing in their powers---except for Jack, who remains ability-free.  Each student in Clio's group of friends has a job to do for the school, whether it be security, welcoming new students, or setting up a curriculum, which is Clio's job.  Colonel Clark is out of commission, recovering from injuries sustained at the end of Solid, and in his place is Lieutenant Graham, a young officer who reports to Clark.  Clio and Lieutenant Graham work together daily to set up the school's curriculum, and Clio finds herself warming to her job and making a new friend in the process.  

However, things start to go wrong when someone is murdered on the campus. Clio and her friends are not satisfied with the way the school authorities are handling the investigation, and decide to do some investigating of their own.  Relationships are tested, suspense mounts, and everyone is a suspect as the team attempts to find the person responsible.  

Settling's plot moves at a quick clip for the entire book. Workinger's dysptopian world was built to perfection in Solid, leaving Settling's plot to take off from the first page.  The characterization was so precise and complex.  I loved that!  But, my favorite thing about Settling, besides the mystery behind the murders, was the chemistry between the couples.  There are some really sweet love stories woven into the plot, along with a surprise attraction that takes you totally by surprise.  

I would recommend Solid and Settling to fans of dystopia and paranormal YA.  The characters are complex enough to make it a good choice for contemporary YA fans as well.  I'm really looking forward to book three in the series!

**Leave a comment with your email address below to enter to win a signed copy of Settling.  This giveaway is open internationally and will run for one week.

Book Review: A Life That Fits by Heather Wardell

Twenty-eight-year-old Andrea returns home from a business trip to find Alex, her boyfriend of fourteen years, nervously waiting for her. Assuming he's finally going to propose, Andrea's instead horrified to learn he's been cheating on her and is leaving to be with the other woman, who he calls Andrea's opposite.

At first Andrea's paralyzed by shock and sadness, but the business analyst soon forms a plan: change every last detail of her life and become her opposite so Alex will come back to her.

It's a challenge at first, but soon Andrea's loving the changes she's making, the new activities she's doing, and the new people in her life. But will she change enough to get Alex back? And if she does, will he fit into the wonderful new life she's creating for herself?

Release Date:  June 1, 2011
Age Group:  Adult

Source: Review copy from author

Heather Wardell has the distinction of being the only author I've emailed to ask if she has any new books for me to read.  And, wonder of wonders, she wrote me back!  I've read and loved all of Heather's previous books, so I was thrilled to hear that A Life That Fits was ready for me to dive into.  

Every time I sit down to read one of Heather's books, I am completely engrossed.  Everything in my world stops when I start reading one of her books.  That feeling of total immersion happens so rarely for me now, that I really enjoy it when I do feel that way about a book.

My favorite thing about Wardell's work is her characterization.  I relate so well to her heroines, I feel like I'm reading about myself or someone who could be my friend.  Her stories feature women who are struggling to balance it all:  love, career, personal dreams, and family drama.  Each story is different but some of themes are similar.  Her books are women's fiction without being full of bedroom scenes.  I really don't like it when romance authors substitute relationship development with sex scenes.  I want to know why two characters are in love, and read about them falling in love, not just falling into bed with each other.

I sped through A Life That Fits in one day because I just couldn't wait to find out how the story ended.  I just had to know what happened with Andrea and Alex.  And I was 100% happy with the conclusion.   I closed my Nook cover feeling totally satisfied, with my only complaint being that the book was over.  It was a great ride, and now I'm on pins and needles until Wardell's next book come out.  If you haven't read anything by Heather Wardell before, check out her books here.  Her first novel, Life, Love, and a Polar Bear Tatoo, is free on her website.  Free!!  Go there now and jump right in!

Author Interview: Cyndi Tefft (Between)

Today I'm so excited to have Cyndi Tefft, the author of the YA paranormal romance novel Between here to answer some questions.  I loved Between and encourage any fan of YA, especially fans of paranormal YA and romance, as well as Christian fiction fans to check it out.  Read my review of Between here.  Please join me in welcoming Cyndi!
What inspired you to write Between?
I wanted to write a good-versus-evil story but I felt that angels and demons had already been done quite a bit. The grim reaper is a well-known concept, but hasn’t shown up much in romance novels. I figured that I could do whatever I wanted in the afterlife, since there are no set rules. The hero is Scottish because I was reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series at the time and was completely enamored with Scotland. Still am!

There is a Christian element to Between.  Does your own faith influence your writing?
Absolutely! Still, I want to be sure no one believes I am painting a true picture of the afterlife. I don't honestly know what I'll encounter after I leave this world, but I would be perfectly happy to meet a hunky Scottish Highlander on the other side!

Faith is an important aspect of my life. I wanted to portray characters in an honest way, people who struggle with belief while still reaching out to God in times of trouble. Each one of us is at a different place spiritually but death levels the playing field, bringing the question front and center. That's what I enjoyed about starting the book at the end!

Are you a reader?  What are your favorite types of books to read? 
I love reading, though I've really only taken it up in the last few years. My TV watching has suffered terribly as a result. :) I enjoy love stories most of all, whether that be a YA book or a romance novel (so few of which, sadly, are "romantic" in my opinion). Historical romance is probably my favorite because I enjoy the tension of sensuality and desire when cultural mores require you to keep it buttoned down.

What's next for you?
Now that Between is out (yay!), I am working on the sequel called Hell Transporter. Aiden’s job is to transport souls from earth to heaven, and the second book has to do with his counterpart. I’ve got a cover in mind that is similar to Between’s, but with a red flame instead of blue smoke. I think it’s going to complement the first book beautifully.

I am about one-third of the way through the first draft of Hell Transporter. I can't tell you much about it because I don't want to spoil anything, but let me just say, the ending… oh, you’ll like that!

Where can readers find your books to purchase?
Between is available in both print and ebook format from a variety of online retailers:
Ebook only: Smashwords, Apple
Print only: Createspace, My website (signed copy)
Print and ebook: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Do you have online social network pages and/or web sites? If so, what are they?
There are a variety of ways to connect with me online: My blog, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Shelfari, and LibraryThing. I love to interact with readers so stop on over and say hi.

Thanks for having me on the site. I had a great time!

Thank YOU, Cyndi.  I feel the same way about historical fiction!  I look forward to Hell Transporter (Between #2)!

Book Review: City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments #4) by Cassandra Clare

City of Fallen Angels takes place two months after the events of City of Glass. In it, a mysterious someone’s killing the Shadowhunters who used to be in Valentine’s Circle and displaying their bodies around New York City in a manner designed to provoke hostility between Downworlders and Shadowhunters, leaving tensions running high in the city and disrupting Clary’s plan to lead as normal a life as she can — training to be a Shadowhunter, and pursuing her relationship with Jace. As Jace and Clary delve into the issue of the murdered Shadowhunters, they discover a mystery that has deeply personal consequences for them — consequences that may strengthen their relationship, or rip it apart forever.

Meanwhile, internecine warfare among vampires is tearing the Downworld community apart, and only Simon — the Daylighter who everyone wants on their side — can decide the outcome; too bad he wants nothing to do with Downworld politics. Love, blood, betrayal and revenge: the stakes are higher than ever in
City of Fallen Angels.

I feel like City of Fallen Angels is going to be another polarizing book, like Mockingjay.  I've read several negative reviews on Goodreads, which has made me feel conflicted about my own opinion of City of Fallen Angels.  I usually don't read any other reviews of a book until I've written my own review, so that may be part of the problem.

My initial feelings after finishing City of Fallen Angels were that the book was great, except for the cliffhanger ending.  I was fully prepared for a cliffhanger ending and a transition-y feeling book because this is the first book in the second half of the series.  I knew that the new story line would start and that Clare would probably leave us hanging as to Jace and Clary's relationship.  So, I wasn't too upset at how the book ended because I was ready for it.

However, the more I thought about the actual content of the book, the more I realized that City of Fallen Angels has fallen short of the other books in the series.  There was a lot of teen relationship angst, especially with Clary and Jace.  It got to the point where the plot took a back seat to Jace's martyr complex.  There were some great plot points that Clare could have built an excellent book on, but instead the focus was on relationship drama between all of the characters.  That got old for me!

What has always stood out for me in The Mortal Instruments series is the world-building and imagery, and City of Fallen Angels was no exception.  Clare sets the scenes so that you get lost in the Shadowhunter world.  I love feeling swept away like that.

All in all, I'd say that City of Fallen Angels is a good read, but not on the same level as the first three books in the series.  I'm definitely still excited about the series as a whole but I'm hungry for a better plot and less angst in book five.

Book Review: Rippler (The Ripple Series #1) by Cidney Swanson

Samantha Ruiz has a freak gene that turns her invisible. She can’t control it, and it’s getting worse. Afraid of becoming a lab-rat, Sam keeps her ability secret, until fellow runner Will Baker sees her vanish into thin air. Will promises secrecy and help, and Sam begins to fall in love.

Together, the two discover there are worse things than being a scientific curiosity. Someone’s been killing people who possess Sam's gene. A mysterious man from France sends letters that offer hope for safety, but also reveal a sinister connection with Nazi experiments.

The more time Sam spends with Will, the less she can imagine life without him.  When Sam uncovers secrets from her past, she must choose between keeping Will in her life or keeping Will safe.
Release Date:  May 26, 2011
Age Group:  Young Adult
Publisher:  Williams Press
Source:  Review copy from author

Do you ever start a book and know, just know, from the very first line that you're going to love it?  That's how I felt about Rippler.  It drew me in from the very beginning and that great first impression extended through the whole book for me. 

Besides the beautiful cover, there's a lot to like about Rippler.  Sam is just a regular girl until she starts turning invisible.  She has no idea what's going on, or the cause of her new invisibility, until her cross county friend Will witnesses one of her "spells".  Will covers for her to keep Sam out of trouble, and the two become fast friends.  The story takes off from there as Sam discovers more about her new talent as well as threats from people looking to exploit her.

Rippler has great characterization.  I loved Swanson's character development, and especially the way she writes emotion.  The world-building was also very intricate, which I loved.  I liked how the communication between the "mysterious man from France" was included in the beginnings of the chapters.  It added some great depth.   

One thing I really liked about Rippler was that it touches on depression.  So often, mental illness is overlooked or made out to be a character flaw in literature, especially YA literature.  Swanson brings depression and its far-reaching effects out into the open.  I like reading about characters with real issues.  When someone goes through a traumatic event, I like when they have a realistic response to it, instead of just bouncing back like nothing happened. 

Rippler was a great start to a promising new series.  I have to note that Cidney Swanson is such a nice person.  She has been so friendly, understanding and gracious in our email communications.  Don't you just love it when you like an author personally as well as enjoy their work?  I'm really looking forward to the next book in the series!

Happy Fourth of July!

We're busy celebrating Independence Day with our families, but wanted to wish all of you Happy 4th of July!

Book Review: Betrayed (The Guardian Legacy #2) by Ednah Walters

Summary (This summary contains spoilers for Awakened---book one in the series):
Lil has come to terms with her life as a Guardian/demon hunter and the wielder of the Nephilim's most powerful weapon. She trains everyday to master her growing powers, gets along with her Guardian trainee friends (most of the time) and cherishes her moments with her human friends.

Just when she feels she belongs, her nature-bender father contacts her and warns her about a betrayal by someone close to her. Then Bran, the guy she loves, starts to act strange and one of her human friends acquires a supernatural ability. While Lil struggles find a connection between these three things, she begins to realize that someone is manipulating her and Bran, and will stop at nothing (including hurting those she loves) to lure them to the dark side.

Release Date:  August 1, 2011
Age Group:  Young Adult
Publisher:  Pill Hill Press
Source:  Review copy from author

I just love a spunky heroine so I was excited to keep reading about Lil, the demon hunter I got to know in Awakened (book one of The Guardian Legacy series).  Walters takes the story and world she built so well in Awakened and adds in an intense plot with lots of twists to make for a strong sequel.

One of my favorite things about this series is the character development.  Walters does a great job with her characters, making them seem very believable.  One thing I've noticed a lot in YA is that the minor characters are not well-developed, which was not the case here.  When a book has as many characters as this series does, it's good to know enough details about each one so that you can keep them straight.

Another thing I really liked about Betrayed was the chemistry between Lil and Bran.  Their relationship was so sweet and innocent, then it "grew up" through the hardships they faced together. 

I did have some issues with this book, however, which kept me from giving it more stars.  First, there were multiple grammatical errors, something that I have a hard time overlooking.  Secondly, the writing style was not one of my favorites.  The book felt a little long as well.

Overall, I enjoyed Betrayed and would read more from Ednah Walters.