Book(s) of the Month: July 2012

I got the idea to highlight my favorite book of each month from my husband, Toby.  He was telling me that he likes to read 'top ten' lists on gaming websites, and he suggested something similar for I'd So Rather Be Reading.  I thought it was a great idea, and in addition to doing a top ten list of my favorite books of the year, I thought I'd also pick a favorite book each month.  

So, I'm making amendments right off the bat with this new feature.  I read so many great books this month that I was not able to choose just one from the list.  So, I'm changing the rules (I can do that when I set the rules, I guess) and declaring a tie.

This month was a three-way tie between Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry, Easy by Tammara Webber, and Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson.  I loved all of these books and simply cannot pick a favorite between the three of them!  All were five-star books for me, made me laugh, and made me cry (in the case of Let's Pretend This Never Happened, I laughed until I cried).  

I couldn't put any of them down.  Look for my reviews of these three excellent novels soon.

What was your favorite read (or reads) this month?

Weekly Wrap Up #2

It was a rough week for me: I was sick with the viral upper respiratory infection that Kaitlyn had last week.  This meant instead of my normal activities, I rested a lot, which equaled increased reading time.  Which was a good thing as far as I love reading.  However, now I'm behind on reviews---again.  Which I hate.  Being more than about four reviews behind makes me super nervous.  What's your threshold for being behind on reviews?

Books I Read This Week:
(Click the titles to go to the Goodreads page) 

Love Struck by Melissa Marr (super short novella)
Between the Lines (Between the Lines #1) by Tammara Webber (good but not as good as Easy)
Where You Are (Between the Lines #2) by Tammara Webber (good but was my least favorite book in the series)
Good For You (Between the Lines #3) by Tammara Webber (loved it!!) 
It's Not the End of the World by Judy Blume (more MG than I had expected, but good)
The Kill Order by James Dashner (answered all the questions I had after finishing the Maze Runner trilogy)
Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (I laughed so hard I cried---throughout the entire book!)

How was your week?


Book Review: The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson

Rose has been appointed as a healer's apprentice at Hagenheim Castle, a rare opportunity for a woodcutter's daughter like her. While she often feels uneasy at the sight of blood, Rose is determined to prove herself capable. Failure will mean returning home to marry the aging bachelor her mother has chosen for her—a bloated, disgusting merchant who makes Rose feel ill.

When Lord Hamlin, the future duke, is injured, it is Rose who must tend to him. As she works to heal his wound, she begins to understand emotions she's never felt before and wonders if he feels the same. But falling in love is forbidden, as Lord Hamlin is betrothed to a mysterious young woman in hiding. As Rose's life spins toward confusion, she must take the first steps on a journey to discover her own destiny.

Release Date:  October 10, 2010
Age Group:  Young Adult
Publisher:  Zondervan
Source: Purchased

What a sweet story!  The Healer's Apprentice is the second book I've read by Melanie Dickerson, and I've really enjoyed them both.  Dickerson's more recent book, The Merchant's Daughter (read my review here) is a historical Christian fiction retelling of Beauty and the Beast.  I loved it!  

I knew nothing of The Healer's Apprentice beyond the summary, but knew how much I liked Dickerson's work and knew it would be worth my money to buy and read this book.  And it was.  I really enjoyed it, in fact I stayed up late reading, it was so good.

Like with The Merchant's Daughter, I did not realize until I was almost at the end of the story that The Healer's Apprentice is a retelling of a classic fairy tale, in this case, Sleeping BeautyThe Healer's Apprentice was a unique take on the story, in that Dickerson added some characters and changed some things up while keeping the basic tenets of the classic fairy tale intact.  And of course, the Christian element to the story provided another layer of interest for me. 

While The Merchant's Daughter had more depth and a more layered plot to it, The Healer's Apprentice was a straightforward love story.  Actually, it was a love triangle, which was very well-handled.  Forbidden love, oh, it gets me every time.  I just love it!  I don't say this to be critical, but I could tell that The Healer's Apprentice was Dickerson's earlier work.  It had a more elementary feel to it.  The writing did not feel as mature as the writing in The Merchant's Daughter.  That's not to say I didn't enjoy the book, because I did, I'm just saying that the story was a little more simple than I expected it to be.  It turned out to be just what I was needing at the time, though.  Sometimes I need an uncomplicated story to read and relax, and The Healer's Apprentice was perfect for that.

Overall, The Healer's Apprentice is a good, clean love story with a Christian faith element to it.  I enjoyed the historical setting, the love triangle, and the emotional writing.  I am glad I read this book, would recommend it to others, and will most definitely be reading Melanie Dickerson again.

Book to Movie/TV Review: True Blood Season Four

Toby and I just finished watching True Blood Season Four on Netflix.  We have to watch it with subtitles with the volume turned way down, after Kaitlyn goes to bed.  I've loved the series as a whole, but I this season really stood out for me.  Maybe it was because it's been a while since I've watched a Netflix series I just love, but I was in love with this season.

There are a lot of reasons why I liked this season: Jason and Jessica, Jesus and Layfette, Sam and Luna, but my topmost reason is that Season Four is based on the events of book four in Harris' series, and that has always been my favorite book.  Getting to see the softer side of Eric just melts me...and the TV adaptation was just as good as I had hoped it would be.  Even better was the fact that when Eric's memory does come back, he remembers his time with Sookie, unlike in the books, when does not know what transpired between them.

I don't remember if Sookie ends it with both Bill and Eric in the books like she does in this season.  That part of the finale was emotional...I would have liked to see her stay with Eric but I respected her decision to go her own way for a while.

Did you catch the part where she's sitting at her kitchen table, talking with Tara, saying how some day she'd like to grow old and sit on her front porch, with her grandbabies in her lap?  That, to me, is just more foreshadowing that Sookie is going to end up with Sam. He, or another human, unlike Bill or Eric, can give her children, which she seems to desperately want.   

The ending, was as usual, a cliffhanger.  I immediately got online and read the summary of Episode 1 in Season Five.  I simply had to know if a certain character lives or dies!  Shhh, don't tell Toby I did it!  He does not know about my cheating ways...   

Book Review: Never to Sleep (Soul Screamers #5.5) by Rachel Vincent

Sophie Cavanaugh is not going to let her freak of a cousin's strange psychiatric condition ruin high school for them both. Not after all the work she's put into cultivating the right look, and friends, and reputation. But then, Sophie sees something so frightening she lets out a blood-curdling scream—and finds herself stuck in a bizarre parallel world where nothing is safe and deadly creatures lurk just out of sight, waiting for her to close her eyes and sleep...forever.

Could this world be real? Or does insanity run in the family...?

Release Date: January 1, 2012
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Harlequin
Source: Purchased

This was a fun little novella!  I enjoyed getting to know Sophie better.  She's always been such a bratty little thing, in my opinion, and a very one-dimensional character.  But, Never to Sleep changes things.  I got to see another side of Sophie, one that I respected and admired.  She's actually quite the fighter.  What she does to get herself out of a dangerous situation really surprised me.  Sophie doesn't wait to be saved, she saves herself!  Which, based on what I thought I knew about Sophie, surprised me.

I also like the intrigue of Sophie being "more than" human.  That fact is definitely piquing my interest for book six of the Soul Screamers series.  Never to Sleep also introduces a new character to the series, named Luca.  He is intriguing to say the least.  And maybe a replacement for Sophie's ex, Scott?

My one complaint about this novella (and, in fact, all of Rachel Vincent's Soul Screamers novellas, now that I think about it) is that the ending was so choppy.  Just, boom, and you're done.  I would have liked a little more to the story.

Overall, I did enjoy Never to Sleep.  I think it is a great addition to the series, and at $1.59 for Nook, a steal.  I was left wanting more of the Soul Screamers world after finishing If I Die, and Never to Sleep delivered.  I got a good story, a closer look at a main character, and a sneak peek of a new character.  I'm all ready for book six now!

Book Review: If I Die (Soul Screamers #5) by Rachel Vincent

The entire school's talking about the gorgeous new math teacher, Mr. Beck. Everyone except Kaylee Cavanaugh. After all, Kaylee's no ordinary high-school junior. She's a banshee—she screams when someone dies.

But the next scream might be for Kaylee.

Yeah—it's a shock to her, too. So to distract herself, Kaylee's going to save every girl in school. Because that hot new teacher is really an incubus who feeds on the desire of unsuspecting students. The only girls immune to his lure are Kaylee and Sabine, her boyfriend's needy ex-girlfriend. Now the unlikely allies have to get rid of Mr. Beck…before he discovers they aren't quite human, either.

But Kaylee's borrowed lifeline is nearing its end. And those who care about her will do anything to save her life.


Release Date: September 27, 2011
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Harlequin
Source: Purchased
Other Books in the Series (Click the title to read my review): My Soul to Lose, My Soul to Take, My Soul to Save, My Soul to Keep, My Soul to Steal, Reaper

I really enjoy the Soul Screamers series.  I love the writing style, pacing, and love story.  I love how these books are fast, satisfying reads.  Sure, they aren't too deep, but they are reliably good---something which I have really grown to appreciate.  I love it when authors are reliable!

If I Die is just what the title says: what will happen if Kaylee dies?  The entire book spans one week in time, and focuses on her name coming up on the reaper list.  The focus of the book is saving Kaylee's life, well, at least for her friends (namely, Tod) and family (namely, her father).  For Kaylee, she doesn't want to trade her life for anyone else's---her mother already traded her death date for Kaylee, and she doesn't want anyone to die for her again---so she decides to make the most of the few days she has left.

But, before she can start on her bucket list, a new threat pops up.  Kaylee and her friends learn that the good-looking new teacher is actually an incubus who is trying to procreate with students at school.  This is no normal pregnancy we're talking about---babies spawned by this incubus often kill the mother.  Kaylee embarks on a mission to rid the school of Mr. Beck, with the help of Sabine.  I enjoyed getting to know Sabine a little better.  She really grew on me in this book.  I love her openness and honesty.

I said after the last book that I was through with Nash.  He is too needy, possessive, and controlling.  I could not believe how he treated Kaylee while he was on Frost!  After If I Die, I am so done with Nash, there is never any going back in my opinion. Sabine can have his bratty, immature self for all I care.

I was so happy with the ending of If I Die.  I can't wait for the next book to come out!

Weekly Wrap-Up #1

One of my 2012 blogging goals was to do a month-in-review post each month.  I have really enjoyed these posts and I like seeing how productive I was over the month.  

While my monthly posts list every review I post during the month, they don't always reflect what I read that month.  I have a lag time between when I read a book and when I actually post a review.  I decided to start the end-of-the-week posts to tell you about what I'm reading right now.   

Books I Read This Week: (click the titles to go to the Goodreads page for each book)

Easy by Tammara Webber (loved it!)
As Long As We Both Shall Live: Two Novels by Lurlene McDaniel (so sad but good)
All You Never Wanted by Adele Griffin (great contemporary YA)
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry (made me cry several times, it was so good)
'Scuse Me While I Kill This Guy by Leslie Langtry (laugh-out-loud funny)

What did you read this week?

Book Review: Bitterblue (Graceling Realm #3) by Kristin Cashore

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle—disguised and alone—to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

Release Date: May 1, 2012
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Dial
Source: Purchased

Wow, what a read!  I've had Bitterblue sitting on my shelf since it came out, but I was afraid to start it.  I was worried that it wouldn't live up to its two predecessors, Graceling (read my review here) and Fire (read my review here).  Finally, I decided to shelve my fears and jump right into Bitterblue.

I don't often do this, but sometimes, especially if it's been a while since I read the previous books, I will re-read the first books in a series before a big release.  I really, really wish I had re-read Graceling and Fire before reading Bitterblue.  I think I would have enjoyed Bitterblue even more if the events of the first two books were fresh on my mind.  I read my reviews of the first two books (which are woefully inadequate as they were some of the first reviews I ever wrote ) as well as the summaries of the books to refresh my memory.  That helped some; however, the backstory Cashore provides in Bitterblue shed the most light on the events leading up to Bitterblue's reign as Queen of Monsea.

While waiting for Bitterblue's release, I often wondered what in the world could be taking Cashore so long to write this book.  Well, now I think I know why the publication date kept being pushed back.  I could tell that Cashore did a ton of research, especially on ciphers, and that extra information added a nice layer of depth to the story.  I loved the illustrations, thought they were beautiful, and loved seeing a visual representation of Ashen's embroidery.

The plot moved quickly, and all of my favorite characters from the first two books were back in Bitterblue.  I loved that!  I loved getting to see Katsa and Po again, as well as Fire too.  The love story was so sweet and appropriate.  I loved how Cashore wrapped things up in that regard: it was so believable and realistic.  Not necessarily a happily ever after, but it really fit the story.

My one complaint about Bitterblue is that the ending left quite a few things open-ended.  I still have quite a few questions after finishing the book.  Questions like, what will happen when Po starts revealing his Grace to everyone?  Will Katsa and Po ever get married or have children?  Will she reveal the true reason why they have not conceived a child as of yet?  What will become of Giddon?  Will Bitterblue end up with him? (I kind of think she will.)  What will become of Monsea once Bitterblue's changes are in effect?  And how will the Dells figure into all of this?  All of these issues make me wonder if there is going to be another Seven Realms novel.  I sure hope so---I'd happily spend my money to read more from Kristin Cashore!


Book Review: Finding My Happy Pace by Heather Wardell

If thirty-year-old Megan were any more of a doormat, she'd have footprints on her back. She helps anyone and everyone, no matter the cost to herself, and she's always been that way. Even the thought of withholding her assistance makes her feel sick. Worse, it makes her feel like she's a bad person, selfish and unkind.

She takes up running purely to avoid gaining weight, but as she trains with her cute but heartbroken coach Andrew she becomes more able to do things she'd never thought she could, both physically and emotionally.

The day before she runs her first marathon, though, her best friend's demands result in the biggest challenge yet to her developing assertiveness and Megan must decide: cave in as she always has before or stick to her new-found 'happy pace' in running and life.

Release Date: May 14, 2012
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: CreateSpace
Source: Review copy from author

I love Heather Wardell's contemporary women's fiction, so I was really excited when she told me that her latest book was out.  Finding My Happy Pace is about Megan, who has just turned 30.  She decides to do something big to mark the occasion, and chooses running as her new outlet.

The most remarkable thing about Megan is that she is a total doormat.  She is just too nice----nice to the point of letting people have their way over her own wants and needs.  Megan lets anyone and everyone walk all over her.  From giving up her place in line, to giving her bratty brother her share of dessert, Megan can't say no to anyone.  If she even thinks about saying no, she starts feeling so guilty that she gives in and sometimes even apologizes about her indecision!

I hate to admit it but I really identified with Megan.  I find it hard to say no, really hard.  I often say yes to things while thinking to myself, "say no...just say no, you know you don't want to do this."  So, I totally understood how Megan feels.  Sometimes it is easier to keep the peace while pushing down your own wants and needs.  But, over time, that is so bad for you.  It's not good to keep yourself down, so to speak.

With running as her new hobby, Megan starts to find some inner confidence.  She starts to stand up for herself---much to her friends' and family's annoyance.  They expect "pushover Megan" and are surprised and don't really like it when she starts saying no to them.  I wanted to stand up and cheer when Megan finally started standing up for herself!

My favorite thing about Finding My Happy Pace is that it features Andrew from Planning to Live.  That's another thing I love about Wardell's books: while they are all stand-alone novels, sometimes characters from previous novels make appearances in future books.  I love that!  I was so happy to get to know Andrew better, because I really liked him in Planning to Live, and I loved watching him grow and change along with Megan.

My one complaint about Finding My Happy Pace is that Megan felt a little one-dimensional.  Her character growth came too late for me: I wanted to see more of the "strong Megan" earlier in the book.  She stayed a doormat too long for my personal taste.

I loved the ending, especially how Wardell handles Megan's most draining relationship.  I loved reading about Megan's marathon, and how she grows closer with her sister.  I really enjoyed Finding My Happy Pace and would recommend it to anyone!

Book Review: Harvest of Rubies by Tessa Afshar

The prophet Nehemiah's cousin can speak numerous languages, keep complex accounts, write on rolls of parchment and tablets of clay, and solve great mysteries. There is only one problem: she is a woman.

In her early childhood years, Sarah experienced the death of her mother and her father's subsequent emotional distance and she came to two conclusions: that God does not care about her, and that her accomplishments are the measure of her worth - the measure of her self.

Sarah, the talented scribe and cousin to Nehemiah, is catapulted into the center of the Persian court, working too many hours, rubbing elbows with royalty, and solving intrigues for the Queen. Ironically, it isn't failure but success that causes Sarah to lose her only source of external validation.

Sarah soon learns that she has something of worth to offer beyond her ability with languages and sums - her very being proves to be a blessing to others.

Release Date:  May 1, 2012
Age Group:  Adult
Publisher:  Moody Publishers
Source:  NetGalley

Tessa Afshar has written two outstanding novels: Pearl in the Sand, and now Harvest of Rubies.  Both novels are historical Christian fiction, and are more biblical than other Christian fiction, which I really like.  Pearl in the Sand tells the story of Rahab, a Caanonite harlot who falls in love with one of Israel's leaders.  I read Pearl in the Sand back in 2010 and still think back on how good that book is!  In fact, I gave it as a gift to my mom.  Then, this Mother's Day, I gave Harvest of Rubies to my mom.  She was so excited to see that Tessa Afshar had written another book!  I didn't think that I would like Harvest of Rubies more than Pearl in the Sand, but I liked it even better (and my mom agrees).

Harvest of Rubies tells the story of Sarah, who is the prophet Nehemiah's cousin.  I am foggy on the Old Testament, but the name Nehemiah did ring a bell.  I don't remember Sarah as his cousin though, which allowed me to start Harvest of Rubies with no preconceived notions of how the story should go.  I love it when I can go into a book with no expectations!

I liked Sarah from the very beginning.  She is a reader---which is very unusual for a woman in 457 B.C.---and I love to read about fellow readers.  Sarah's father is a scribe and teaches her to read and write in several languages.  Sarah's cousin is Nehemiah, who is King Artaxerxes' cupbearer.  The cupbearer is the person who tastes all of the king's food and beverages before the king, to make sure they are not poisoned.  I had thought this position to be a somewhat lowly one, but the cupbearer was actually a person of great influence and respect, due to how much time he spends in the king's presence.  Nehemiah speaks on Sarah's behalf to the queen, and as a result, Sarah becomes the chief scribe to queen Damaspia.

Sarah is a workaholic, and finds her happiness and validation in her work.  She believes in God but does not turn to Him with her problems, as she is holding a grudge of sorts for her mother's untimely death and subsequent feelings of abandonment by her father.  Her father loved her, but did not know how to raise a young girl, and his treatment of her (which pretty much consisted of leaving her to figure things out for herself) left Sarah feeling unloved and unwanted.  She has struggled with these feelings for her entire life, and thus throws herself into her work to suppress the pain of her past.  Sarah soon rises to be a highly respected and valued member of the court and it is her work ethic that ends up getting her in trouble.  Queen Damaspia rewards Sarah's loyalty and  hard work by giving Sarah an aristocratic husband.  But the last thing Sarah wants is to be taken away from her job as a scribe and to be married, especially to an aristrocrat.

But her feelings are not taken into account---how could she defy the queen?---and Sarah is married to Darius.  By her own thoughtless actions and focus on her work, she bungles the marriage right from the start, earning Darius' disdain and becoming the laughingstock of the court.  Sarah is at the lowest point in her life, having lost her work, which was her only source of validation, and has to make a choice: wallow in despair or ask God for help and try to turn the situation around.  She chooses the latter, and most of the book is about her journey to becoming a different person: a person who relies on God for validation and self-worth.  Her husband may not love her, but God does, and that has to be enough for Sarah.

What I loved so much about Harvest of Rubies was Sarah's journey.  Afshar seamlessly weaves Sarah's tale of personal growth into the setting of biblical times.  I felt like I was learning something about history and about the Scriptures as I was reading, but without feeling "preached to."  I loved watching Sarah grow and change.  I especially loved how she quotes the psalms of David for strength and guidance.  One of my favorite passages in Harvest of Rubies is:
"David knew how to walk the path of affliction while being settled firmly in the joy of God's presence.  I wanted to learn to be like David, to have eyes that saw the loving hand of the Lord even in the midst of unfulfilled dreams" (Afshar 327).
Isn't that so beautifully written?  So many times while reading, I thought, "Yes, this is exactly how I feel!"  I love that.  I felt like Afshar was really speaking to me personally.  I felt encouraged and lifted up after reading Harvest of Rubies.

Until I realized there was going to be a sequel, I was not totally thrilled with the ending.  There were certain things that were left unfinished, things I wanted to see finished.  But, I will have to wait until the next book for Sarah and Darius' story to be completed.  I can't wait to read more from Tessa Afshar.  I highly recommend Harvest of Rubies.

Rafflecopter, how I love thee

I have recently discovered Rafflecopter.  I know, I'm behind the times---as usual.  But isn't it just awesome?  

There are a lot of things I love about Rafflecopter, such as the witty dialogue boxes on the site (Boosh!  Copied to your clipboard!), but what I love the most is how EASY it is to use.  I can't believe I used to manually count up my entries on my Google forms for giveaways.  It would take me about an hour and it was something I dreaded.  Now that we're using Rafflecopter, Natalie and I are going to be offering a lot more giveaways.

The last few months, we've had one or more giveaways per month.  Stay tuned for our next giveaway!  And, if you haven't started using Rafflecopter yet, check the site out and sign up.  It's free, and so easy and fun to use!


Giveaway Winner: Summer Reads Giveaway Hop

Giedre S.

Won an e-copy of Yesterday's News by Kajsa Ingemarsson in the Summer Reads Giveaway Hop.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by and entered the giveaway! 

Book Review: Endure (Need #4) by Carrie Jones

Zara is at the center of an impending apocalypse. True, she’s successfully rescued Nick from Valhalla, but it simply isn’t enough. Evil pixies are ravaging Bedford, and they need much more than one great warrior; they need an army. Zara isn’t sure what her role is anymore. She’s not just fighting for her friends; she’s also a pixie queen. And to align her team of pixies with the humans she loves will be one of her greatest battles yet. Especially since she can’t even reconcile her growing feelings for her pixie king . . .

Unexpected turns, surprising revelations, and one utterly satisfying romantic finale make Endure a thrilling end to this series of bestsellers.

Release Date: May 8, 2012
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Source: NetGalley
Other Books in the Series: Need, Captivate, Entice

This was the strongest book in the Need series by far.  I enjoyed it much more than the first two books in the series, and just as much as book three, Entice.  The last half of the book was where all the action was, and I loved the plot twists.  Endure was a slow starter, and somewhat repetitive: so Zara's a pixie now, get over it, Nick!  She turned pixie to save his life, and all he can focus on is that she's not entirely human anymore!  All remaining feelings I had for Nick quickly evaporated in the light of his treatment towards Zara.  I was leaning towards Team Astley for the last two books, and I was so ready for he and Zara to get together by the time I was halfway through Endure.  

The minor characters have always been my favorite part of this series, and Endure was no exception.  I loved the character development Jones provides for each of the characters, as well as the character growth.  But my favorite part of the book was Zara's personal growth.  She really shines in Endure, rising to the challenge of defeating the evil pixies, and becomes a real leader.  I loved that!

While I found parts of this book to be predictable, I still enjoyed it.  The imagery was outstanding, especially when the gang travels to Iceland, and then, Hel.  The scenes with Zara's two fathers brought me to tears.  I loved how she gets closure with each of them, and really starts to understand her biological father better.

Overall, I would recommend this series.  It wasn't one of my all-time favorite series, but I did enjoy it, and would most definitely read Carrie Jones again.

Book Review: Deadlocked (Sookie Stackhouse #12) by Charlaine Harris

With Felipe de Castro, the Vampire King of Louisiana (and Arkansas and Nevada), in town, it’s the worst possible time for a body to show up in Eric Northman’s front yard—especially the body of a woman whose blood he just drank.
Now, it’s up to Sookie and Bill, the official Area Five investigator, to solve the murder. Sookie thinks that, at least this time, the dead girl’s fate has nothing to do with her. But she is wrong. She has an enemy, one far more devious than she would ever suspect, who’s out to make Sookie’s world come crashing down.

Release Date: May 1, 2012
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Victor Gollancz Limited
Source: Purchased

Thank you, Charlaine Harris!  You have officially redeemed yourself with Deadlocked.  I am back in love with the Sookie Stackhouse series and can't wait to find out what happens next!

The last two books (books 10 and 11) were semi-duds for me.  Dead Reckoning (read my review here) was sad and flat for me.  Dead in the Family (read my review here) was so, so dark.  I missed sunny, light-hearted Sookie.  In Deadlocked, Sookie is more like her old self.  Except she has grown up quite a bit.  After everything she's been through: all the deaths, loving and losing, the torture at the hands of the evil fairies, she has a different take on the world.  She's more guarded and careful.  She really thinks things through, and thinks about how they will affect her life, before she acts.  She stands up for herself, and stops being a doormat with regard to her relationship with Eric.

Spoiler alert---highlight the text below if you want to read a spoiler for Deadlocked:
I've said it before here and here and I was kind of smug to see some foreshadowing in Deadlocked as to how Sookie's love life will end up.  And I have to say, I'm ready for it.  I am sick of Eric.  I'm sick of his high-handedness, his selfishness, and the way he leaves Sookie out of decisions.  Him being a good-looking, sexy vampire is not enough for me anymore.  I have emotionally distanced myself from Eric, starting in Dead Reckoning, and now the distance between me and Eric is complete.  I am surprised at how much I don't want Sookie to end up with him, especially considering how much I liked Eric at the beginning of the series.  I'm just done with him.  I want Sookie to end up with Sam.  I want her to be with a warm-blooded human who is more like her.  I want her to be happy and removed from vampire politics as much as she can be.  I want her to have a family----and I think she wants that too.
End spoiler alert

I loved the action in Deadlocked.  I enjoy the addition of the fairies to the plot, and thought she wrapped up that storyline very well.  I enjoyed seeing more of Mr. Cataliades and Diantha.  I read on Harris' website that the series will end with book 13.  I could tell that she is starting to wrap things up.  Plot points are being resolved, and no new ones are being opened.  All in all, I think 13 books is more than adequate for a series and I'm glad that she's finishing it up on a high note.  I can't wait for next May to read book 13!


Book Review: Barefoot Girls by Tara McTiernan

When her hometown newspaper reviews Hannah O’Brien’s newly released novel, the nature of her book is called into question when the reviewer suggests it is a memoir depicting her neglectful alcoholic mother – Keeley O’Brien Cohen, the most beloved of the Barefoot Girls - a little too accurately for fiction, citing rumors rather than sources.

Deeply hurt and betrayed, Keeley cuts Hannah out of her life. Desperate, Hannah does everything she can to apologize and explain, but her pleas fall on deaf ears. Meanwhile, the rest of Hannah’s life starts to unravel, pushing her to risk her engagement to Daniel, the one man who had been able to scale the high walls around her heart. At the eleventh hour, the Barefoot Girls are able to convince Keeley to send Hannah the keys to the Barefooter house, the home and heart of their friendship. Barred from their clubhouse since she was twelve, Hannah grabs the chance to visit the little shack filled with memories and perched at the tip of Captain’s Island in the Great South Bay on Long Island, New York.

As Hannah battles to come to terms with her equally blessed and troubled childhood and understand her mother and her sister-close friends, she’s confronted with the power of forgiveness and the dangers of holding on to the past.

Release Date: February 11, 2012
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Bramblevine Press
Source: Review copy from author

Oh, this was a good book!  I love reading women's fiction, especially women's contemporary fiction.  And Barefoot Girls fit the bill perfectly.  I was in the mood for a story about love and relationships, and that's what I got, in spades. 

One of my favorite things to read about is a story within a story.  Barefoot Girls had that on several levels: Hannah is an author who has written a (mostly) fiction novel, so that's one aspect, but then, there is the story of Hannah's past, as well as the Barefoot Girls' past.  The story alternated from Hannah's present day life to her childhood.  This was done through Hannah's memories.  Then, the reader gets more information on the Barefoot Girls' childhood and histories through their own memories. This sounds like it could be confusing, but it's not.  McTiernan handles the transitions well, and the story just flows.  The memories just added so much depth to the story, and I found myself hoping for more flashbacks at the beginning of each chapter.

I loved the imagery of Barefoot Girls.  I felt like I was right there in Hannah's carriage house and on Captain's Island with her.  I also loved the character development and the complexity of the relationships between Hannah and her mother, and all of the Barefoot Girls (who, if you haven't figured it out yet, are four best friends).  I was so happy when Hannah and her mother finally start having a more honest relationship.  That was when the healing began for them.

My only problem with Barefoot Girls was the conflict resolution.  There were parts of it that felt too contrived.  I won't go into details, to avoid spoilers, but there were major problems which felt summarily dismissed.  One example is one character's alcoholism.  She is basically a barely-functioning alcoholic for much of the book, and this issue is resolved with one sentence.  She doesn't go to rehab or complete any kind of treatment, she just switches from wine to Perrier.  I didn't like that.  It did not feel realistic at all to me.

Overall, I did really enjoy Barefoot Girls.  I loved reading about four best friends, and their friendship from childhood to adulthood.  I loved reading about Hannah and Daniel's relationship, and watching them grow.  I would definitely read Tara McTiernan again.


Book Review: Yesterday's News by Kajsa Ingemarsson

Yesterday’s News begins with Agnes, a small-town girl lost in a sea of woe in big city Stockholm. She’s been fired by an abusive boss, dumped by an unfaithful boyfriend and victimized by her own optimism. Agnes is depressed, despondent and ready for a change. But as the nature of change dictates, Agnes has no idea how wild a ride she’s in for – nor how complete her transformation will be.

Having already touched the hearts and minds of over 800,000 Scandinavian readers, “Yesterday’s News is ultimately a feel-good story that is about following and nourishing your dreams,” says Ingemarsson.  And with a feature film based on Yesterday’s News currently in production, what better time for this sensational Swedish story to become accessible to North American readers?

Release Date: May 2012 (for North America)
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Stockholm Text
Source: Review copy from publisher

Having read and enjoyed Stieg Larsson's The Millenium trilogy, I was intrigued by an email asking for a review of Swenden's #1 non-crime writer, Kajsa Ingemarsson.  Yesterday's News sounded like the antithesis of Stieg Larsson's work (I believe it is classified as contemporary women's fiction) and, intrigued by the summary, I happily accepted the book for review.

I really enjoyed Yesterday's News!  One of my complaints about The Millenium trilogy was the fact that it was set in Sweden, thus making the reference points hard to follow.  I had a hard time following the geographical location of the towns in Larsson's books, and such mundane things as subway stops and street names became confusing.  He constantly referenced events in Sweden's past which I had no knowledge of, and in fact, I had to constantly flip back and forth from reading the book to the appendix to better understand what was going on.

Happily for me, none of that was a concern with Yesterday's News.  I was able to completely understand everything that was going on.  Ingemarsson's writing style flowed and was easy to follow, and most importantly, fun to read.  I just love it when I look forward between reading stints to when I can pick a book back up!  

I really liked Agnes.  She was something of a mystery to me: I could never predict her actions or decisions.  I like that in a character. I think unpredictability keeps things interesting.  Agnes was one of those characters that I could really relate to.  She constantly sees the good in people, and that leaves her open to heartache.  She is surprised at people when they don't treat her the way she would treat them, and, consequently, is hurt by some of the people in her life.  Agnes doesn't let those circumstances define her, though.  She is always able to pick herself up and start afresh, whether in her career or her love life.

One of my favorite things about Yesterday's News was the fact that much of the book centers around the start-up of a restaurant.  I love food, love eating, and therefore, love reading about restaurants.  Agnes is a head waitress and after losing her job at a prominent high-end restaurant, she works with an old colleague who is starting up his own restaurant.  Agnes is involved in many of the decisions, including the name and decor of the new restaurant, and I loved watching the dream of the new restaurant come to pass.

I loved the ending of Yesterday's News.  It was a great ending, without being too sappy, and left some things open to the reader's imagination.  I like that in a book!

I would say that Kajsa Ingemarsson's writing style reminds me a lot of one of my favorite author's writing: Heather Wardell (an American women's fiction author).  That fact only served to increase my enjoyment of Yesterday's News.

I would recommend this book to fans of contemporary fiction, and fans of women's fiction.  I would definitely read Kajsa Ingemarsson again!


Month in Review: June 2012

June sure flew by for me.  It was a busy reading and reviewing month.  I finally caught up on reviews, only to go on a reading binge and get behind again!  I can't believe it's already July and that 2012 is half over!  

Book Reviews Posted:

Blog News/Events:
So that was June at I'd So Rather Be Reading.  Check back next week: we've got another great giveaway planned, starting July 5th!  

How was your June?


Book Review: Knee Deep by Jolene Perry

Shawn is the guy Ronnie Bird promised her life to at the age of fourteen. He's her soul mate. He's more uptight every day, but it's not his fault. His family life is stressful, and she's adding to it. She just needs to be more understanding, and he'll start to be the boy she fell in love with. She won’t give up on someone she’s loved for so long.

Luke is her best friend, and the guy she hangs with to watch girlie movies in her large blanketopias. He's the guy she can confide in before she even goes to her girlfriends, and the guy who she's playing opposite in Romeo and Juliet. Now her chest flutters every time he gets too close. This is new. Is Ronnie falling for him? Or is Juliet? The lines are getting blurry, but leaving one guy for another is not something that a girl like Ronnie does.

Shawn’s outbursts are starting to give her bruises, and Luke’s heart breaks as Ronnie remains torn. While her thoughts and feelings swirl around the lines between friendship and forever, she’s about to lose them both.

Release Date: May 1, 2012
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Tribute Books
Source: Review copy from publisher

This is my second time reading Jolene Perry, and it definitely won't be my last.  I really enjoy her contemporary YA.  I love her writing style and the emotion her books impart.  I also like how she handles important issues (in this case, domestic violence) without being preachy about it.

I am not usually a fan of love triangles, but the relationship between Luke, Ronnie and Shawn really worked.  They have all been best friends for years.  Shawn and Ronnie are together, and Ronnie considers Luke her best friend.  They all live close together, as well.  Sometimes Ronnie's secret nighttime visits to Shawn's house are preceded by a stop at Luke's house just to chat.  I could tell right away that Luke and Ronnie had a good, positive relationship.  I liked Luke a lot, and knew that there was a lot more depth to him than met the eye.

Shawn, on the other hand, was a different story.  I knew he was trouble from the start.  As soon as he said something about Ronnie not wearing heels around him (since they are the same height) I knew there was going to be trouble with him.  I'm not knocking short guys, not at all, but dictating which shoes your girlfriend can wear around you is just not cool.  And Ronnie just stood for it.  She changes everything for Shawn (another bad sign).

But Luke, she can just be herself with.  It's easy and uplifting to be around him.  When Ronnie is cast as Juliet in the school play, playing alongside Luke as Romeo, things start to heat up.  Shawn can't handle the competition, platonic though it may be, and he and Ronnie start fighting.  Except these aren't your normal arguments.  Shawn starts getting physical, and Ronnie is torn.  She doesn't want to give up on someone she promised to love forever, but in her heart she knows that true love doesn't look like this. In the end, she has to make a decision, and that decision changes several lives irrevocably.

I loved, loved, loved how Perry handled the conclusion to the love story.  (I won't say who it's between).  It was a true The Notebook-style ending, and I loved it.  I was really happy how she resolved the violence issue, and described the consequences to everyone involved.  It did not feel contrived, it felt natural and right.

I think that Knee Deep would be a great book for parents and teens to read and discuss together.  It's a good portrait of violence in a teen relationship, and its' effects on the family.  Fans of contemporary YA will love this one.  As for me, I see on Goodreads that Perry has written quite a few books, and I will definitely be seeking out more of her work.