Book Review: Crossed (Matched #2) by Allie Condie

In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky - taken by the Society to his certain death - only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.

Cassia's quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander - who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia's heart - change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever.

Release Date: November 1, 2011
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Source: Review copy from publisher

I've been looking forward to Crossed since I closed the cover to Matched last year.  It is terrible having to wait so long for the next release in a series when the story is this good!

One of my complaints about Matched was that there was not a lot of action.  It was heavy on the world-building.  I suspected that Crossed would have more action, and I was right.  There was so much going on.  I loved the action, especially after so much build-up in book one.   

My other complaint about Matched was that the story was so similar to Lois Lowry's The Giver.  Those similarities kept me from giving Matched five stars.  Crossed takes things in a different direction, a more unique direction, which I really appreciated.  Some of the things the Society did really stood out for me, especially the parts about the river and the cave.  

The story was a first person narrative, and switched from Ky and Cassia's points of view.  I really enjoy this type of narration.  I love knowing how each character feels about things, and it added a lot to the love story.  Knowing how both Cassia and Ky felt about the same events added some depth to their relationship.

I loved the surprise about Xander.  I did not see that coming, not at all, and it really served to make his character more interesting. 

The main thing that comes to mind when I think of Crossed is how beautifully it is written.  The prose is haunting and lyrical.  It reads like poetry, so full of feeling and depth.  I loved the emphasis on poetry and literature.  I loved that Cassia is a reader, and how she feels about books.  The simplicity of the writing emphasizes the emotions of the characters.  I felt everything the characters were feeling: terror, love, excitement, and most importantly, hope.

There are so many good things I could say about this series.  I would recommend it to anyone!


Book Review: Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella

Meet Emma Corrigan, a young woman with a huge heart, an irrepressible spirit, and a few little secrets: 
Secrets from her boyfriend: I’ve always thought Connor looks a bit like Ken. As in Barbie and Ken.  
Secrets from her mother: I lost my virginity in the spare bedroom with Danny Nussbaum while Mum and Dad were downstairs watching Ben-Hur. 
Secrets she wouldn’t share with anyone in the world: I have no idea what NATO stands for. Or even what it is. 
Until she spills them all to a handsome stranger on a plane. At least, she thought he was a stranger.…Until Emma comes face-to-face with Jack Harper, the company’s elusive CEO, a man who knows every single humiliating detail about her...

Release Date:  December 16, 2003
Age Group:  Adult
Publisher:  Dell
Source:  Purchased

I found this book on the Nook deals page and loved the sound of it.  I've read Sophie Kinsella before---I loved Remember Me---and devoured this book in a day.  Who doesn't keep secrets?  The idea of sharing all of your secrets with a stranger, and then having that stranger be the CEO of your company, was so appalling that I knew I had to read Can You Keep a Secret? as soon as I read the summary.

I liked Emma right from the start.  She is so believably flawed and likeable.  I loved her view on the world.  She reminded me of Bridget Jones.  I loved her accent---I could literally hear it in my head as I read the dialogue.  Emma's relationship with Jack was so much fun to read about.  The slow build of their mutual attraction was very well done and I was rooting for them to make it as a couple.

The ending was a little predictable, but that did not lessen my enjoyment.  I loved Can You Keep a Secret?  and plan to pick up another Sophie Kinsella book when I need a fast, light-hearted, and fun read.

Book Review: Private (Jack Morgan #1) by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Former Marine and CIA agent Jack Morgan inherits his father's renowned security and detective business--along with a case load that tests him to the breaking point. Getting to the bottom of an NFL gambling scandal and an unsolved LAPD investigation into 18 school girl slayings would be enough.  On top of all that, Morgan takes on solving the horrific murder of his best friend's wife.

As Morgan fights the urge to exact brutal revenge on that killer, he has to navigate a workplace imbroglio that could blow the roof off his elite agency. And it's an especially explosive situation . . . because the love affair is his own.
Release Date:  June 28, 2010
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Little, Brown, and Company
Source: Borrowed from my Mom

I borrowed this book from my Mom and decided to read it because I liked the look of the cover.  James Patterson's work is reliable entertainment, usually good for a fast---if somewhat lacking---read.  His books have such short chapters, and so many chapters, that they never take me more than an afternoon to finish.  (See my previous post about the choppy sentences and extremely short chapters here). 

There were several things that turned me off to Private.  I didn't like Jack.  Even though I empathized with his difficult childhood and experience in the military, I did not like him as a character.  I hated the way he treated women, especially the women he was in relationships with.  I don't like sports or the mob so to read about the two in combination was another major turn-off for me.  

I did like the plot twists and the way the book was resolved.  It looks like Jack Morgan will be a feature character in Patterson's new series, so some things were left open-ended but the main plot points were resolved.

In the future, I'm going to stick to Patterson's softer books---books like Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas and Sam's Letters to Jennifer.  His thrillers just don't do it for me any more.

Book to Movie Update: World Without End

One of my most favorite books of all time, Ken Follett's World Without End, is being adapted into a mini-series! World Without End is the sequel to Follett's Pillars of the Earth (another top five favorite of mine).  The Pillars mini-series was released earlier this year, and boy was it good.  

The first thing I think about when I find out that a book is being adapted into film is the casting.  The cast makes or breaks a film for me---and I'm happy to say that I think World Without End has a great cast!  Click here for a list (including pictures) of the World Without End cast members.

I spent some time browsing the official World Without End series site, and the stills are beautiful!  The series is filming in Hungary, and filming will last five months (it started on July 11). 

I will definitely be on pins and needles waiting for this series to be released! 

Fun Links:
My review of World Without End
My review of The Pillars of the Earth
My review of The Pillars of the Earth mini-series  
The official World Without End series site
The cast

Book Review: If I Tell by Janet Gurtler

Jasmine Evans knows one thing for sure... people make mistakes. After all, she is one. Jaz is the result of a one-night stand between a black football player and a blonde princess. Having a young mother who didn't raise her, a father who wants nothing to do with her and living in a small-minded town where she's never fit in hasn't been easy. But she's been surviving. Until she sees her mom's new boyfriend making out with her own best friend. When do you forgive people for being human or give up on them forever?

Release Date: October 1, 2011
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source: NetGalley

This was a really unique read.  It focuses very heavily on race: with Jasmine being of mixed race in a small town, she feels like she doesn't fit in anywhere.  Her mother is white and her father is black, and Jasmine was raised by her grandmother since her mother was just a teen when Jasmine was born.  Jasmine is doing okay until she sees her mother's black boyfriend kissing one of her 20-something friends.  Jasmine decides to tell her mother the truth, but finds out her mother is pregnant the very next day.  The joy of becoming a big sister is overshadowed by the burden Jasmine carries.

If I Tell centers on Jasmine's dilemma---should she tell her mom the truth or let her stay blissfully ignorant?  Jasmine goes back and forth on this issue throughout the story.  Which made me think: What would I do?  What's the right thing to do in this situation?  Is there even a right answer?  I tend to think not.  And then there are some other issues: Jasmine's attraction to a new guy in town who has a history of drug dealing, an attempted date rape, and severe postpartum depression/psychosis.  This is a lot to fit into one book, especially a YA book, and it felt a little overwhelming at times.  

I enjoyed the writing, especially the way Jasmine grows up throughout the story.  I thought the attention to detail was great, as well as the resolution of the main issue.  I just thought there were a few too many issues which distracted from the main event of Jasmine becoming a young adult.

Breaking Dawn or BUST!

Source: LettersToTwilight
Shirts are made, Teams have been chosen (of course we know who wins, Edward baby!) and parties are in the making... Breaking Dawn Part 1 is finally here! And theaters all around the world are filled with TwiHards anxiously awaiting the midnight release. 

And you guessed it... Kelli and I are right in the mix of all this hysteria, just not at the midnight release. I have been planning my Breaking Dawn party for weeks and my husband can't wait for all "this Twilight crap" to end... NEVER, I say. I have planned a Breaking Dawn Bunko party for tomorrow night with a load of my girlfriends... lots of pictures to come...

So what we want to know is WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS and did you RE-READ Breaking Dawn in preparation for the movie?

Book Review: Beautiful Days (Bright Young Things #2) by Anna Godbersen

For the bright young things of 1929, the beautiful days seem endless, filled with romance and heartbreak, adventure and intrigue, friendship and rivalry. 

After a month in New York, Cordelia Grey and Letty Larkspur are small-town girls no longer. They spend their afternoons with Astrid Donal at the Greys’ lush Long Island estate and their nights in Manhattan’s bustling metropolis. But Letty’s not content to be a mere socialite. She is ready at last to chase her Broadway dreams—no matter the cost. 

Cordelia is still reeling from the death of her father at the hands of Thom Hale, the man she thought she loved. Now she is set to honor Darius Grey’s legacy . . . and take her revenge. 

Promised to Cordelia’s half brother, Astrid is caught up in a world of dazzling jewels and glittering nights—and the sparkle is blinding. Charlie Grey is a gangster playing a dangerous game; and for Astrid, Cordelia, and Letty, the stakes could be deadly. 

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Luxe comes the second book in an epic series set in the dizzying last summer of the Jazz Age.

Release Date: September 20, 2011
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Harper Collins
Source: Purchased

What a treat!  I loved Beautiful Days just as much as Bright Young Things, the first in the series.  There is something about Anna Godbersen's writing.  Maybe it's the historical element to her books, or the way she describes everything so that you feel like you're actually there, but her books are so engrossing.  I think a big part of the appeal of Godbersen's writing is how she makes me care about characters whom I don't really like.  I have never been a big fan of Astrid--she seems vapid.  Spoiled rotten.  Careless.  But, I started to really care about her and hoped for the best for her.  I really think it was because of the way Godbersen wrote her story.

I liked Cordelia just as much as I did in the first book.  Letty too.  I liked that they were small-town girls who came to New York to follow their dreams.  I liked that they don't exactly get everything they want, but they learn to make their own happiness.

I thought that Beautiful Days was a little bit of a slow starter, but about halfway through the book I got so into the story that I could not put it down.  I enjoyed it even more than Bright Young Things, and recommend this series to anyone.  I have yet to read any "duds" from Anna Godbersen!

Book Review: 31 Dates in 31 Days by Tamara Duricka Johnson

On the eve of her 31st birthday, after yet another painful breakup, Tamara Duricka Johnson decides it’s time to overhaul her dating habits. When a friend jokingly suggests that she embark on a “dating project,” inspiration strikes: in honor of turning 31, she'll go on 31 dates in 31 days — and resist the urge to turn each date into her next relationship. Instead, she’ll have to wait until the 31st date to pick one of the 30 men to go out with a second time. With each date, Johnson learns something about herself. Some experiences are awful, but others are amazing — and all of them help change her attitude about not just dating but people in general. In the end, though, she realizes there’s only one man of the entire 30 that she can see herself marrying — and one year later, she does. Chatty, fun, and confessional,31 Dates in 31 Daysis an entertaining journey that offers astute insights into the modern dating scene.

Release Date:  September 27, 2011
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Seal Press
Source: Review copy from publisher
Visit the author's website here.

I am a tough sell with nonfiction.  I tend to have a very short attention span when it comes to nonfiction.  I should have considered this issue of mine when I agreed to review 31 Dates in 31 Days, but I thought that the premise sounded so interesting that I would be able to overcome my nonfiction qualms.

And, in large part, I did enjoy 31 Dates in 31 Days.  I really admired Tamara for undergoing the challenge to date a new guy every day for a month.  I would never have that kind of nerve!  I always found dating to be so difficult, and am so glad to be happily married.

Admiration for the author aside, I did have one problem with the book.  The book is set up with each chapter describing one of the 31 dates.  The date is described, followed by some introspection as to what Tamara has learned from the experience.  That was great for the first few dates, but the "lessons learned" parts started to feel repetitive.  And heavily written.  It kept the book from feeling light and fun for me.  I appreciated Tamara's growth and experience, but I was looking for a light-hearted read.  I enjoyed reading about the dates, and the guys, and guessing as to who would be date 31.  I could have done without the deep thinking at the end of each chapter.

With that said, I would still recommend 31 Dates in 31 Days.  Just be aware that it is not a "fluffy" read.  It makes you think and reflect on your own personal choices---which is great, it was just not what I was expecting.  If I were a single girl, I probably would have liked this book even more than I did.  But, being a happily married new mom, it probably wasn't the most appropriate choice for my current situation.

Book Review: Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.  
Release Date: January 3, 2012
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Source: Review copy from publisher

This was such a different read.  I started the book having no idea what was going on, and to be perfectly honest, the beginning of the book did not wow me.  It took about 50 pages for me to really get interested in the story, but once I did I really enjoyed the book.  

I don't know much about robots: I admit that I had to ask my husband what a cyborg was.  If you know what a cyborg is (see the Wikipedia page here) going into the story, you'll enjoy the story more.  I had to figure out over time that Cinder was actually born completely human, but was made part robot during a surgery in her childhood.  She is despised by her stepmother and one of her stepsisters.  They consider Cinder to be a lower-class citizen because of her cyborg status.  Cinder works as a mechanic and has to turn all of her money over to her greedy, lazy stepmother.  Her other stepsister--Peony--is her only human friend.  

If you haven't figured it out by now, Cinder is a retelling of Cinderella.  I've read several retelling of classic fairy tales lately and have really enjoyed them, and the genre as a whole.  Something about Cinder, maybe it was the fact that it is set in Asia (or what was once Asia) and the technology of the book, reminded me of Scott Westerfeld's Extras.  Which is not a bad thing---Westerfeld's Uglies series is outstanding work.  

My favorite thing about Cinder was Cinder herself.  She is strong and so persistent.  She never gives up, despite everything that goes wrong around her.  I liked how she slowly developed feelings for Kai---their relationship was very sweet.  I especially liked the Lunar people and their "magic".  That element of the story added a lot of depth and interest to the book.  The drama surrounding Kai and Queen Levana kept me guessing as to how the story would end, and it has me really looking forward to the second book in the series.  

Overall, I enjoyed Cinder.  The slow start made way for a strong finish, and I will definitely be looking forward to the next book in the series.


Book Review: Always the Wedding Planner, Never the Bride by Sandra Brickman

As a wedding planner, you'd think she would have the perfect wedding experience... 
Sherilyn Caine has left Chicago behind to marry Andrew Drummond IV, an Atlanta native with a family name that tops all the social registers. Landing the job as The Tanglewood’s wedding planner is a piece of cake for someone with a Type A personality; she’s the perfect fit for a wedding destination hotel known for its attention to even the tiniest details. 

But when everything else is going along swimmingly, why are her own wedding plans drowning right before her eyes? One way or the other, Sherilyn is determined to make this wedding work—until the latest development threatens to call the whole thing off. Is it possible that Sherilyn is allergic to her fiance?

Release Date:October 28, 2011
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Source: NetGalley

When I saw this book available on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to read Sandra Bricker again.  I really enjoyed the first book in this series: Always the Baker, Never the Bride---read my review here, and knew that Always the Wedding Planner, Never the Bride would be just as good.

I liked Sherilyn from the start.  I love reading about characters who are believable.  And reading about someone with body insecurities and who struggles with her weight makes for a believable character.  I hate, absolutely hate, to read about effortlessly skinny women who eat everything they want and don't exercise, all with no discernible consequences to their appearance.  It's a real pet peeve of mine and is a major factor in the demise of my feelings towards a certain bestselling book series.

I think being a wedding planner sounds like such a fun job.  I love everything associated with weddings, so to have an entire series focused around a wedding destination hotel is a real treat for me.  Sherilyn is a perfect wedding planner because she is very focused on details.  She is engaged to a wonderful man---however, her own wedding plans have started to falter.  Her fiance starts to get cold feet and Sherilyn is forced to reevaluate everything in her life.

One of the things I appreciate the most about Sandra Bricker's writing is her attention to detail.  Her books are so well-written.  The characters are very well-rounded, and the faith element is subtle.  No one falls in love at first sight in her novels, instead the relationships are based on mutual respect and admiration for each other.  I love that---I am not a fan of love-at-first sight relationships as they all feel so shallow.

Overall, I enjoyed this book just as much as its predecessor.  I'm looking forward to the next in the series!


Q&A with
Sandra D. Bricker

1. How did you decide on a wedding destination hotel as the setting for your books?
 As a former publicist, a lot of event planning went into that job. I used to wish all the time that there were more venues that offered everything in the same place, and that led me to this idea of one location that offered everything from engagement party through honeymoon...and The Tanglewood was born!

2. How did you "meet" the character of Sherilyn?
 I looked in the mirror. LOL. Well, then I squinted my eyes and made her a natural redhead with awesome features! Sherilyn is very much a reflection of myself. She battles a weight problem, she's uber-organized to the point that she makes the people around her a little crazy, and she has a wilder side that she has worked very hard to divert.

3. Is there any part of your personality in Sherilyn or the other characters?
 I think there's a little piece of me in all of my characters. From the first book, Emma was a diabetic with a penchant for cake. [Check!] In The Big 5-OH!, Olivia was an ovarian cancer survivor in search of what comes next after an experience like that. [Check!] Sherilyn, of course ... [Check! and Check!]

4. While doing the research for this book, did you come across any interesting stories of weddings gone awry?
 I did! A disappointing wedding, I have come to believe, is the most traumatic thing a bride can experience. She's been building up to that one moment and that one day, often since childhood. I came across several stories that made me cringe, and even cry. One bride with an outdoor wedding wasn't just rained out; it was a monsoon! Another bride I read about broke the heel of her SIX INCH shoes and fell into her cake before they even cut it. Like any other carefully-planned event, a wedding is pretty likely to have something go wrong. But sometimes things go "wronger" than others.

5. Do you think you would make a good wedding planner?
 I think I would. I used to love that part of my job as a publicist. My clients were all actors, and they had their fan club gatherings and pet charity fundraisers, all of which required event planning skills. But on occasion, I've been asked by my less-organized friends to help out with planning their weddings, and it has been a real kick for me. In fact, my friend Dianne (the most UN-romantic or ceremonial person I know!) told me she and her fiance had decided to go downtown that week to get married at the courthouse. "Dianne," I objected. "You can NOT call your friend the romance writer and say something like that!" A month later, they went to St. Augustine and were married in a beautiful destination wedding planned by ME.

6. What type of environment is best for your writing?
 I write best with a large block of time (no less than four hours) to be alone and play my inspiration music and really get into my story. I usually have a cold bottle of water, a cup of coffee or tea, or even a soda nearby, and a bowl of munchies like nuts or pretzels nearby.

7. What do you hope readers will take away from your stories?
 Before I turn it in to the publisher, I pray over every manuscript I complete and ask that God's hand would be upon it, and that every person who reads what I've written would be blessed in some way and draw closer to Him.

8. What's next for you?
I've just completed the third book in the Emma Creation series (Always the Designer, Never the Bride), and I'm just about to start on book four, the final one in the series (Always the Baker, FINALLY the Bride). I'm really excited about the opportunity to give Emma and Jackson their happily-ever-after ending at last. Emma's been a good friend to me, after all! I want to see her blessed and happy.

Second Opinion: Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols

I loved Going Too Far the first time I read it, and have been thinking of re-reading it for a while now.  (Read my original review here).  

But it wasn't until I read Jennifer Echols' new release, Love Story, that I knew I had to re-read Going Too Far right away.  As soon as I closed the cover of Love Story, I went straight to my bookshelf to pick up Going Too Far.  And I dove right back into Meg and John's story. 

I have to say that I enjoyed Going Too Far even more the second time around.  Since I already knew what was going to happen, I was able to enjoy the nuances of the book more.  I liked Meg more this time, knowing what I knew about her history and her true self.  And, of course, I loved John.  He was just...perfect.  I loved the development of their relationship.  I also liked that Echols leaves most of the romance to our imagination.  The parts she did describe were very well done---the tension between Meg and John was palpable.

In my opinion, Going Too Far is Echols' best book.  If you are new to Jennifer Echols, start with Going Too Far, then read Forget You, and if you are totally in love with her writing, read Love StoryGoing Too Far far outshines Love Story and is most definitely worth a buy.  

Second Opinion score:


Book Review: One Grave at a Time (Night Huntress #6) by Jeaniene Frost

Having narrowly averted an (under)world war, Cat Crawfield wants nothing more than a little downtime with her vampire husband, Bones. Unfortunately, her gift from New Orleans' voodoo queen just keeps on giving--leading to a personal favor that sends them into battle once again, this time against a villainous spirit.

Centuries ago, Heinrich Kramer was a witch hunter. Now, every All Hallows Eve, he takes physical form to torture innocent women before burning them alive. This year, however, a determined Cat and Bones must risk all to send him back to the other side of eternity--forever. But how do you kill a killer who's already long dead?

Release Date: August 30, 2011
Age Group:  Adult
Publisher: Avon Books
Source: Purchased

I am continually surprised by how much I enjoy this series.  Looking back on my reading choices of the past year, I realized how little adult fiction I really read any more.  And for the most part, I don't miss it.  I enjoy pretty "clean" reads, which you find more of in YA literature---unless you're reading The House of Night series!  Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series is most definitely not "clean" (with at least one hot and heavy bedroom scene per book), but the superb plot, fast pace and great writing make this series an auto-buy for me.

One Grave at a Time felt like it was missing something, though.  It was still a great read, but not excellent like its predecessors.  I don't know if it was the plot, or the fact that Bones wasn't as involved in this book.  I think that the real reason, though, is that this book felt like a filler.  It did not get us any closer to resolving any major plot points:  Don is still a ghost, we don't know how he'll ever cross over.  Cat still absorbs the powers of anyone she drinks.  Madigan has taken over in Tate's place, but things there are at a stalemate.  And Justina (who is my favorite character) is still hating her vampire self and pining over Rodney.

I think the other thing that kept me from loving this book is the development of Bones' new telekinesis.  That coupled with Cat's borrowed powers makes Cat and Bones' combined power too unbelievable.  It's like they are too strong, too tough, too powerful.  It's just too much, in my opinion.

Reading over this review, I have complained a lot.  What I have not done is tell you how much I really did enjoy the book.  The writing continues to be excellent, with a fast pace that keeps me reading and keeps me in happy anticipation.  The romance between Cat and Bones still feels fresh after six books.  I especially like the minor characters, most of all Justina.  Tyler provided some comic relief, and I found myself looking forward to what he would say or do next.

If you have not read any of the Night Huntress series, I would highly recommend them.  Jeaniene Frost is at the top of her game!

Book Review: The Merchant's Daughter by Melanie Dickerson

An unthinkable danger. An unexpected choice.  Annabel, once the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is trapped in indentured servitude to Lord Ranulf, a recluse who is rumored to be both terrifying and beastly. Her circumstances are made even worse by the proximity of Lord Ranulf's bailiff---a revolting man who has made unwelcome advances on Annabel in the past. Believing that life in a nunnery is the best way to escape the escalation of the bailiff's vile behavior and to preserve the faith that sustains her, Annabel is surprised to discover a sense of security and joy in her encounters with Lord Ranulf. As Annabel struggles to confront her feelings, she is involved in a situation that could place Ranulf in grave danger. Ranulf's future, and possibly his heart, may rest in her hands, and Annabel must decide whether to follow the plans she has cherished or the calling God has placed on her heart.

Release Date: November 29, 2011
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Zondervan
Source: NetGalley

I did not realize until I was about two-thirds of the way through this book, but The Merchant's Daughter is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast.  Not only that, it is a Christian, historical retelling of Beauty and the Beast.  I am a huge fan of historical fiction---which is what drew me to the book in the first place---but I am also a big fan of retelling of fairy tales and Christian fiction.  To have all of those elements together in one book made for a great read for me!

It's been a couple of weeks since I finished The Merchant's Daughter (I was on a huge reading binge and got very behind on my book reviews) but I still think back upon the book and sigh in contentment.  It was such a sweet story, tender without being too mushy.  One element of Christian fiction that I sometimes have problems with is the Christian element to the story being too forced. That was not the case here---Annabel's desire to read the Bible and serve God was a natural part of her personality.

What I really liked about The Merchant's Daughter was slowly getting to know Ranulf.  We are first presented with him when he almost runs Annabel down in the street.  He comes across as a gruff man, even mean.  What we don't yet realize is that his gruff exterior covers a tender heart, a heart that is still recovering from betrayal and loss.  Ranulf and Annabel slowly get to know each other, and their relationship grows from there.

The story moves slowly, but the detail and character development were more than enough to keep me interested.  I felt like there was a lot more to this story, especially with the added interest of the Christian and historical elements to the story, than other retellings of classic fairy tales.  I liked it so much that I plan to buy Melanie Dickerson's previous book, The Healer's Apprentice.    

Book Review: Minder (Ganzfield #1) by Kate Kaynak

Sixteen-year-old Maddie Dunn is special, but she needs to figure out how to use her new abilities before somebody else gets hurt. Ganzfield is a secret training facility full of people like her, but it's not exactly a nurturing place.

Every social interaction carries the threat of mind-control.

A stray thought can burn a building to the ground.

And people's nightmares don't always stay in their own heads. But it's still better than New Jersey. Especially once she meets the man of her dreams...
Release Date: June 18, 2010
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Source: Purchased

I've been hearing good things about the Ganzfield series for a while now, most notably from my best blogging friend The Book Vixen.  Her continued praise of the series as a whole prompted me to buy Minder and give it a try.  But, sadly, Minder was a classic case of building a book up too much in my mind, to where it cannot possibly meet my expectations.

There were definitely some things I liked about Minder.  I liked that it was paranormal but was not about vampires or werewolves.  The paranormal element of the story was very well done and was a unique, interesting premise.  I liked the ending, that there were no major cliffhangers despite this being a first in the series book.  I liked that there was not a lot of world-building---Kaynak jumps right into the action from the very first page.  I liked the idea of not getting to fully know each of the characters in book one.  There were several characters, most notably Seth, who I feel we're going to learn a lot more about in later novels. 

What I didn't like was how quickly Maddie falls in love with Trevor.  It was just too fast for me.  Their relationship felt too good to be true, and I kept waiting for things to start going badlyI am no believer in love at first sight and I guess that I just don't really like to read about it.

In the end, I did enjoy Minder, just not as much as I thought I would.  I will read the rest of the series eventually.