Month in Review: August 2012

I'm trying something new this month.  Instead of just listing my reviews I posted and other blog news, I'm listing all the books I read this month.  Tell me what you think---should I keep this addition to my Month In Review or drop it?

Book Reviews Posted:
Dani's Story: A Journey from Neglect to Love by Diane and Bernie Lierow 
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry 
Changeling (Order of Darkness #1) by Philippa Gregory 
This Scarlet Cord by Joan Wolf
Before I Wake by Rachel Vincent
Tess, Terrorists and the Tiara by Terry Baldwin 
Shut Up by Anne Tibbets
52 Reasons to Hate My Father by Jessica Brody
Easy by Tammara Webber

Other Blog Events/News:
Sarah R. won a copy of Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry in the Young Adult Giveaway Hop.
Natalie started a new discussion feature called "It's Time To Talk."  The first installment gave her views on the Kristen Stewart scandal. 
Natalie has big plans for reading now that the school year has started again. 
We were part of the "52 Reasons to Love Jessica Brody" Blog Tour.  

Books Read (Look for upcoming reviews of these titles):
Once (Eve #2) by Anna Carey
Alibi Volumes I-IV: The Complete Series by Annie Miles
Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien
Tortured (Birthmarked #1.5) by Caragh M. O'Brien
Prized (Birthmarked #2) by Caragh M. O'Brien
Promised (Birthmarked #3) by Caragh M. O'Brien
Balthazar by Claudia Gray
The Enchanted Truth by Kym Petrie
Rejection, A Novel by Meagan Bridges
Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
52 Reasons to Hate My Father by Jessica Brody
Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite by Lianne Simon 
Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier
To Whisper Her Name by Tamera Alexander
UnStrung by Neal Shusterman
Everneath by Brodi Ashton 

How was your August? 


Book Review: Easy by Tammara Webber

When Jacqueline follows her longtime boyfriend to the college of his choice, the last thing she expects is a breakup. After two weeks in shock, she wakes up to her new reality: she’s single, attending a state university instead of a music conservatory, ignored by her former circle of friends, stalked by her ex’s frat brother, and failing a class for the first time in her life.

Her econ professor gives her an email address for Landon, the class tutor, who shows her that she’s still the same intelligent girl she’s always been. As Jacqueline becomes interested in more from her tutor than a better grade, his teasing responses make the feeling seem mutual. There’s just one problem—their only interactions are through email.

Meanwhile, a guy in her econ class proves his worth the first night she meets him. Nothing like her popular ex or her brainy tutor, Lucas sits on the back row, sketching in a notebook and staring at her. At a downtown club, he disappears after several dances that leave her on fire. When he asks if he can sketch her, alone in her room, she agrees—hoping for more.

Then Jacqueline discovers a withheld connection between her supportive tutor and her seductive classmate, her ex comes back into the picture, and her stalker escalates his attention by spreading rumors that they’ve hooked up. Suddenly appearances are everything, and knowing who to trust is anything but easy.

Release Date: May 25, 2012
Age Group: Mature YA
Source: Purchased

Oh, I am so in love.  I absolutely loved this book!  I saw it on under new YA releases.  It was only $3.99, and I liked the summary, so I thought, "why not?"  I am so happy I took a chance on a new author!  I could not put Easy was just one of those compulsively readable books for me.

I really felt for Jacqueline.  She wants to go to a music school to pursue a career in classical music---she plays the upright bass---but instead follows her high-school boyfriend to his college.  All to be unceremoniously dumped when Kennedy decides he needs a chance to sow his wild oats and have the freedom of sleeping around to have a 'real college experience.'  So now Jacqueline's stuck at a college she didn't want to attend, and she can't bring herself to attend the one class she and Kennedy share.  She can't stand to see him flirting with other girls while her heart is broken.  She misses the mid-term and is shocked and dismayed to learn that she is failing a class!

Jacqueline's professor sets her up with a tutor, and they begin a friendship over email.  Sometimes she thinks Landon is flirting with her, but in her fragile emotional state, she's not sure.  At the same time, she is crushing on a 'bad boy' in her economics class, Lucas.  He's the antithesis of everything she thought she wanted, but Jacqueline has a real connection to him.

And then, things start to get tricky.  Jacqueline is torn between the two boys.  And all the while, one of Kennedy's frat buddies is stalking her, determined to finish what he started when he attempted to rape her at a frat party and Lucas came to her rescue.  And then, to make matters even more complicated, Kennedy decides he wants to get back together.  I'm not going to say any more because I don't want to give anything away, but suffice it to say that Easy is not just a simple love story.  There are major themes, such as date rape, self-defense, and even judging people by their appearance, worked into the novel.
Webber pulls all of these threads together and weaves them into a story that I just couldn't put down.  It was so, so good!  My only complaint was when the book ended.  I wanted it to be longer, just so I could stay in Jacqueline's world a little longer.  The chemistry between Jacqueline and her two guys was very well-written, and enough to satisfy readers used to more adult novels.

Easy is definitely a book that I would read again, and would recommend it to anyone looking for an excellent contemporary fiction novel.  It's one of my favorites of 2012!

Book Review: 52 Reasons to Hate My Father by Jessica Brody

Being America’s favorite heiress is a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.

Lexington Larrabee has never to work a day in her life. After all, she’s the heiress to the multi-billion-dollar Larrabee Media empire. And heiresses are not supposed to work. But then again, they’re not supposed to crash brand new Mercedes convertibles into convenience stores on Sunset Blvd either.

Which is why, on Lexi’s eighteen birthday, her ever-absent, tycoon father decides to take a more proactive approach to her wayward life. Every week for the next year, she will have to take on a different low-wage job if she ever wants to receive her beloved trust fund. But if there’s anything worse than working as a maid, a dishwasher, and a fast-food restaurant employee, it’s dealing with Luke, the arrogant, albeit moderately attractive, college intern her father has assigned to keep tabs on her.

In a hilarious “comedy of heiress” about family, forgiveness, good intentions, and best of all, second chances, Lexi learns that love can be unconditional, money can be immaterial, and, regardless of age, everyone needs a little saving. And although she might have 52 reasons to hate her father, she only needs one reason to love him.

Release Date: July 3, 2012
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from publisher

This book was such a surprise for me.  I was not expecting to like it nearly as much as I did.  For the first half of the book, I could not stand Lexington.  She's your typical heiress: spoiled, self-righteous, and bratty.  Not to mention totally unaware of how the world works or how most people (what she calls 'the other half') really live.  Feeling any empathy for her was like me feeling sorry for Paris Hilton.  Sorry, but just not going to happen.

Lexington felt like her life was so unfair, when in fact, she had everything she could have ever asked for and didn't appreciate any of it.  Things change, though, when she drives drunk and crashes her brand-new $500,000 Mercedes into a convenience store.  Her father decides to place limitations on her, instead of receiving her $25 million trust fund on the day she turns 18, as all of her older brothers have, she has to work 52 different jobs for a whole year to get a better understanding of how the world works.  Lexington, unsurprisingly, goes ballistic at this decree and throws several temper tantrums.  However, the thought of losing her trust fund is more distressing than the 52 different jobs so she gives in to her father's demand.

What follows is a lot of positive change and character growth.  That was my favorite part of the book: watching Lexington slowly evolve into a better person.  One who has compassion for others, and treats people like people, no matter how lowly their job is.  My other favorite part is how Brody handled the reconciliation between Lexi and her father.  Instead of your typical hug-it-out-and-everything-is-magically-better ending, Lexi and her dad start repairing their relationship with baby steps.  Steps that I could imagine actually happening in the real world between a previously estranged father and daughter.

While I did feel like the love story was predictable, I still enjoyed it.  I also enjoyed reading the transcripts of Lexi's video status updates reporting what happened at each of her jobs.  They were funny, quirky, and added a lot of insight into her character (which was deeper than it first appeared).

I enjoyed 52 Reasons to Hate My Father and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a light-hearted, fun read.  

Blog Tour: 52 Reasons to Love Jessica Brody

Natalie and I are honored to be part of the blog tour promoting Jessica Brody's new book: 52 Reasons to Hate My Father.  Keep reading to find out which moment in life Jessica Brody is most proud of!    

52 Days of 52 Reasons to Love Jessica Brody and Her Books

1 of the 52 Reasons to Love Jessica Brody and Her Books….for 51 other reasons, visit Teen Lit Rocks (August 26th), Reading Lark (August 28th), and Love YA Lit (August 29th), and stay tuned for more!
The moment Jessica is most proud of: Definitely selling her first novel. She quit her job as a financial analyst to focus on her writing (her friends thought she was crazy!). She said she had to take all sorts of random jobs off of Craigslist to keep herself afloat and totally downgraded her lifestyle to make ends meet. But it was totally worth it.

About 52 Reasons to Hate My Father (FSG, July 2012)
Being America’s favorite heiress is a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.
Lexington Larrabee has never to work a day in her life. After all, she’s the heiress to the multi-billion-dollar Larrabee Media empire. And heiresses are not supposed to work. But then again, they’re not supposed to crash brand new Mercedes convertibles into convenience stores on Sunset Blvd either.

Which is why, on Lexi’s eighteenth birthday, her ever-absent, tycoon father decides to take a more proactive approach to her wayward life. Every week for the next year, she will have to take on a different low-wage job if she ever wants to receive her beloved trust fund. But if there’s anything worse than working as a maid, a dishwasher, and a fast-food restaurant employee, it’s dealing with Luke, the arrogant, albeit moderately attractive, college intern her father has assigned to keep tabs on her.

In a hilarious “comedy of heiress” about family, forgiveness, good intentions, and best of all, second chances, Lexi learns that love can be unconditional, money can be immaterial, and, regardless of age, everyone needs a little saving. And although she might have 52 reasons to hate her father, she only needs one reason to love him.

Weekly Wrap-Up 8.26.12

I had a really busy week getting ready to go on vacation to Destin, Florida.  With all that packing, I didn't have much reading time and only finished one book this week, Sapphire Blue (but it was good enough to keep me from feeling like I didn't read enough!). 

Books Read:

Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier.  The second installment of the Edelstein trilogy left me wanting book three, right now!

Books Started:
To Whisper Her Name by Tamera Alexander.  So far I am really enjoying this Civil War-era novel. 

Books Dropped:
Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver.  I stopped reading after the first page.  Too many ghosts!

How was your week?

Book Review: Shut Up by Anne Tibbets

Mary's older sister, Gwen, has royally screwed up her life. Not only is Gwen pregnant at seventeen, but she's also decided to marry The Creep who knocked her up.

Now Mary is powerless to stop her family from imploding. Her parents are freaking out, and to top it off The Creep has a gross fascination with Mary while Gwen enjoys teasing her to tears for sport.

Despite her brother's advice to shut up, Mary can't keep her trap closed and manages to piss off Mom so much it comes to blows.

Mary doesn't know what to do, and all her attempts to get help are rejected. When she finally plans her escape, she fails to consider how it could destroy them all.

Release Date: April 15, 2012
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Premier Digital Publishing
Source: Review copy from author

What a great surprise!  I enjoyed this book so much!  It was a fast, engrossing read.  Sometimes it felt middle-grade to me (easily done since the main narrator is only twelve years old), but then the subject matter made it more of a young adult level.

Shut Up invoked a lot of emotions in me.  I was so sad for Mary, mad at her family, and scared of how the book would conclude.  Being a new mom, I can't even imagine treating my daughter the way Mary's mother treats her.  By no fault of her own, Mary is the black sheep of the family.  She's going through that awkward phase where everything she does seems to turn out wrong.  Instead of having a family who supports her and builds up her fragile self-esteem, she is either victimized, abused or outright ignored by every person in her family. 

Shut Up alternates between present day and the past.  In the present day, Mary is running away from home.  The beginning of each chapter gives a short passage of the events comprising Mary's escape, then the bulk of the chapter takes the reader back to the past events, all of which culminated in her decision to leave home.

I was expecting and quite afraid that there would be a Thirteen Reasons Why kind of ending, and was so happy that Tibbets did not wrap the story up with that kind of ending.  My one complaint is that the ending did feel a little 'pat' to me.  It was just a little too neat.

I liked so many things about Shut Up.  I liked the alternating dual narratives between Mary and her older brother Paul.  It was enlightening to see Mary's treatment from someone else's eyes, as well as understand how Paul felt about everything.  I loved Mary's strength and inner resolve.  I loved it when her parents finally saw the light, and took steps towards positive change.  This book read quickly and the pace was great.

I recommend Shut Up for fans of YA, contemporary fiction, and especially to parents of teens and pre-teens.  It would be a great book to read with your child and then discuss the powerful lesson together.


Welcome Back to the GRIND! 2012/13 School Year

It's that time again... SCHOOL! Can I get a HIP HIP HOORAY for all the moms who survived the summer and a mini violin for all the returning students (both grade school and college)! 

So the question I have is: 

What is on your reading line-up for... 

  • the Moms with your renewed free-time...
  • college students who need a good story to get you through all the crap classes you are subjected to in your pursuit of higher education... 
  • the vibrant Junior High to High School students eager to reclaim their social stature and school spirit...
For myself, I am going to bask in several YA reads I have put off for FAR too long! Beginning with Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead then I am going to dive into Unwind by Neil Shusterman and then off to visit my shadow hunter friends in Cassandra Clare's City of Lost Souls... and I am just getting warmed up!

Book Review: Tess, Terrorists, and the Tiara by Terry Baldwin

Thirteen-year old Tess has never been able to compete with her “perfect” older sister, but now she must—if she wants to inherit her grandmother’s priceless tiara. The two girls have been invited to their grandparent’s lake house for the summer to help take care of Grandma who’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The sister who earns the most “helpful points” wins the former beauty queen’s crown.
It’s not easy for Tess, who seems to always get things wrong despite best intentions. And who is that mysterious stranger who’s just moved next door to their grandparents’ summer cottage? 

Does he know that Tess’ grandmother was once the winner of a famous patriotic beauty contest? Or that she keeps her tiara where anyone can steal it? And why doesn’t he have a face?

Release Date: April 1, 2012
Age Group: Middle Grade
Publisher: Middleton Books
Source: Review copy from publisher

This was a sweet story!  It is very much a middle grade book, appropriate for ages 10 and up.  I found it to be a little too young for my personal taste, but it was still a great read.

Tess and her sister are staying with her grandparents at their lake house.  They are competing to win her grandmother's tiara, won at a beauty pageant.  The tiara has real diamonds and is valued at over $100,000.  The girls do chores around the house to earn "helpful points." Whoever has the most helpful points at the end of the two weeks will end the tiara.

Upon rowing around the lake, Tess spies something very mysterious going on at the neighbor's house.  She sees a figure dressed in a burka---but she doesn't know what a burka is and thinks it is a criminal disguise---and sets off to figure out what's going on.  Her misapprehensions land her into a world of trouble, and actually bring some trouble down on the neighbors too.

Tess, Terrorists and the Tiara had a great message about acceptance of people who are different.  Not only the burka-wearing neighbors, but also people with disabilities and people with Alzheimer's.  I liked how Baldwin weaves this positive message into a fast-paced, age-appropriate story.

Overall, I would recommend this book to a middle-grade audience.  It's definitely something I would let my daughter read when she is old enough.  It was too young for me personally, but still a great book.

Weekly Wrap-Up 8.19.12

I had a busy reading week and also caught up on reviews---yay! 

Books I read this week:
Rejection by Kym Petrie.  Great contemporary women's fiction.
Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier.  Neat time-travel YA.
52 Reasons to Hate My Father by Jessica Brody.  Surprisingly good!
Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite by Lianne Simon. So emotional and well-written. 

How was your week?

Book Review: Before I Wake (Soul Screamers #6) by Rachel Vincent

I died on a Thursday-killed by a monster intent on stealing my soul. The good news? He didn't get it. The bad news? Turns out not even death will get you out of high school...  Covering up her own murder was one thing, but faking life is much harder than Kaylee Cavanaugh expected. After weeks spent "recovering," she's back in school, fighting to stay visible to the human world, struggling to fit in with her friends and planning time alone with her new reaper boyfriend. But to earn her keep in the human world, Kaylee must reclaim stolen souls, and when her first assignment brings her face-to-face with an old foe, she knows the game has changed. Her immortal status won't keep her safe. And this time Kaylee isn't just gambling with her own life....

Release Date: June 26, 2012
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Harper Teen
Source: Purchased

This was my favorite Soul Screamers book to date!  I liked If I Die a lot, especially the ending, but Before I Wake was even better.

I have long been anticipating the end of Kaylee and Nash.  He was on my last nerve the last couple of books, so when Kaylee finally ended things with him in book five, I wanted to stand up and cheer!  Simultaneously, she discovers Tod's true feelings for her, and realizes her feelings for him.  This kind of a rebound relationship usually bothers me, but it really worked here.  I liked that Tod and Kaylee were already friends and had a long-standing mutual respect for each other.  Nash and Kaylee weren't friends before they started dating, and I think that was a contributing factor to the demise of their relationship.

Beyond my happiness over Kaylee's love life, Before I Wake had a great plot.  Like the other books in the series, it took a little while to get moving, but once it did, it was a real page turner.  I loved Kaylee's strength and focus in this book.  She is really coming into her own, and I love that.

The ending, oh the ending!  I could not believe what happens!  The final book is going to be great, and although I hate having to wait for it, I think it will definitely be worth the wait.

It's Time to Talk... Trampire Edition

Well, well, well, What do we have here my dear Snow White? I'll tell you what we have here, a dirty little cheater! Yes, the supposedly awkward, PRIVATE Kristen Stewart has made a big fool of herself and was caught cheating on her boyfriend, Robert Pattinson with a MARRIED man!

Now listen, normally I could care less what these Hollywood celebs do in their personal lives because letss face it... they have a really hard time finding lasting happiness. But I must admit I was really surprised and shocked when this little scandals' pictures were plastered all over the news, magazine stands and probably even on the moon. 

Now, here is why I am so bugged... I could care less about the whole Bella and Edward Twihard crapola but the YouTube videos are hilarious! I am so bothered by the fact that this public affair was with a married man/father! Both are guilty as charged!!! I hate hearing the justifications for adultery on both sides. He (Rupert) is just a creep, low-life for cheating on his wife. But here is what is the buggy'est of all... "She is only 22 years old and people make mistakes"... yes, we all make mistakes. With mistakes come consequences and this particular mistake comes with heavy criticism! 

Listen, when I was 22 years old I had been married for two years and was pregnant with my first child. I can't think of a single, descent excuse for acting like a "trampire" other than maybe she wasn't taught to value herself and to have integrity. I hate seeing crap like this on TV because it sends such mixed signals to teenagers and young adults. 

Everyone is entitled to make their own judgements and values... and here are mine...
  • There is never a good reason for infidelity/adultery. You're in "it" to win it, so make it work.
  • YOU are worth the world and don't let the world make you forget it.

You can't be Right by Doing Wrong
You can't be Wrong by Doing Right 
Thomas S. Monson

*the linked YouTube video is racy with lots of references to $ex*

Young Adult Giveaway Hop Winner

Congratulations to 

Sarah R.

Who won a copy of Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry!

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

Book Review: This Scarlet Cord by Joan Wolf

A chasm lies between Rahab and her beloved Sala that can never be crossed.  Though Sala rescues young Rahab from slave bandits, he knows he can never fall in love with a Canaanite. His belief in the One True God prevents them from a future together. Rahab's beauty gains royal notice, and she is selected to entice the King during the annual sacred marriage reenactment praising their pagan god, Baal. But when the King suffers a heart attack and dies, Rahab is saved from the humiliating act. Her despair drives her curiosity about Sala's One True God. Could He accept her . . . even love her? Deceit and pride stand in the way of Rahab's happy ending. Only God can use these events to tell the larger story of forgiveness and redemption.

Release Date: July 10, 2012
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Source: NetGalley

This is my second time reading a retelling of Rahab's story and I absolutely loved it!  My first "Rahab book" was Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar.  Pearl in the Sand featured Rahab as an adult.  This Scarlet Cord featured Rahab as a young girl, and then a few years later, a teen.  I loved that aspect of this book, getting to watch Rahab grow up.

This Scarlet Cord is both a love story and a story of faith.  Rahab and her family are Canaanites, a group of people who do not believe in God.  They believe in many pagan gods, and participate in rituals to honor them.  Acts of prostitution are carried out in sight of everyone at the Canaanite temples, and are in fact considered to be a form of worship.  Rahab grows up thinking that all of these things are normal and right.

As a young girl, Rahab is kidnapped and her kidnappers plan to sell her as a slave.  Sala and his father rescue Rahab as she is running through the streets away from her kidnappers.  Sala's father returns Rahab to her family, but in the few days while she waits for her family to come to her, she and Sala become friends.  In part two of the book, we find out that both she and Sala never forget each other.  Rahab is now young woman, and it is time for her to be married.  She wishes she could marry someone like Sala, and not the man her father has chosen for her.  Rahab's father takes her into Jericho, in the hopes of finding a wealthy husband for her there, and she happens upon Sala and his father (who are in Jericho as spies for the Israelite army).  The friendship between Sala and Rahab is quickly renewed, along with some romantic feelings as well.

But there are huge obstacles in the way of their love: first, the fact that Rahab does not believe in God, as Sala does.  He knows that his family would never accept his marriage to a Canaanite woman, and her family does not accept Sala's faith either.  But the biggest obstacle is that Rahab is selected to participate in a pagan ritual with the king, which involves a marriage reenactment.  Rahab despairs at this, while the rest of her family is excited that she has been chosen for such an honor.  Sala also despairs, as the marriage reenactment will defile Rahab and further cements her inappropriateness in the eyes of his father.

In the midst of all these events, the Israelite army is planning to conquer Jericho.  I remember a song from Vacation Bible School that went something like, "Joshua took the battle of Jericho and the walls came tumbling down...,"  and this song played through my head every time Joshua was mentioned. Joshua and his army plan to storm the city and take Jericho back from the Canaanites.  It is the land promised to them by God, and they plan to reclaim it after forty years spent wandering in the desert.  The actual event of the invasion was my favorite part of the book.  I loved reading about the army and how the indomitable city walls were breached.

I loved the way Rahab comes to believe in God.  Her faith is absolute once she begins to pray and believe, and I loved that part of the story.  In fact, her entire family is affected by her decision.  But my favorite part of This Scarlet Cord was the love story.  It was so sweet, pure, and well-written.  Although I enjoyed reading about the battle of Jericho much more than I thought I would, I loved This Scarlet Cord for the faith and the love story.  I would recommend This Scarlet Cord to fans of Christian fiction and fans of historical fiction.  It is more Biblical than other Christian fiction novels, which I loved. 

Weekly Wrap-Up #4

It was a slow reading week for me.  I started and stopped reading four different books...all review requests, which I hate to do.  

But, I figure it's better to stop reading if I'm not loving a book then to force myself to finish it and end up with nothing positive to say about it.  I do feel badly about accepting a book for review and then having to tell the author or publisher that I did not finish it and won't be reviewing it.  

What do you think?  Do you keep reading even if you're not loving a book?

Books I Read This Week:
Promised (Birthmarked #3) by Caragh M. O'Brien.  LOVED IT! 
Balthazar by Claudia Gray.  SO glad Balthazar finally got his HEA.
The Enchanted Truth by Kym Petrie.  Cute but super short novella.


Book Review: Changeling (Order of Darkness #1) by Philippa Gregory

Italy, 1453. Seventeen-year-old Luca Vero is brilliant, gorgeous—and accused of heresy. Cast out of his religious order for using the new science to question old superstitious beliefs, Luca is recruited into a secret sect: The Order of the Dragon, commissioned by Pope Nicholas V to investigate evil and danger in its many forms, and strange occurrences across Europe, in this year—the end of days.

Isolde is a seventeen-year-old girl shut up in a nunnery so she can’t inherit any of her father’s estate. As the nuns walk in their sleep and see strange visions, Isolde is accused of witchcraft—and Luca is sent to investigate her, but finds himself plotting her escape.    

Despite their vows, despite themselves, love grows between Luca and Isolde as they travel across Europe with their faithful companions, Freize and Ishraq. The four young people encounter werewolves, alchemists, witches, and death-dancers as they head toward a real-life historical figure who holds the boundaries of Christendom and the secrets of the Order of the Dragon.     

The first in a series, this epic and richly detailed drama is grounded in historical communities and their mythic beliefs. It includes a medieval map of Europe that will track their journey; and the interior will include relevant decorative elements as well as an interior line illustration. And look for a QR code that links to a note from the author with additional, detailed information about the setting and the history that informed the writing. With Philippa Gregory’s trademark touch, this novel deftly brings the past—and its salacious scandals—vividly and disturbingly to life.

Release Date: May 24, 2012
Age Group:  Young Adult
Publisher:  Simon Pulse
Source: Purchased

As soon as I saw that Philippa Gregory started a YA series, I bought the first book.  I didn't even read the summary---I just knew I had to read Changeling.  By the way, that kind of impulse buying is exactly the kind of behavior that gets me in trouble with my husband.

I have read two Philippa Gregory books in the past, The White Queen, and The Red Queen, but I haven't picked up any of her other books in a while.  At the time I read her first two books, I told myself I was going to read everything by her that I could get my hands on, but life happened and I started going for fast, easy reads.  Can you blame me: I got pregnant and had pregnancy-brain, and then the baby came and I had (and still have) mommy-brain!

Anyway, I was really excited about Changeling, excited that I could enjoy Philippa Gregory's writing in a faster, easier read.  Overall, I really enjoyed Changeling.  I loved getting to know both Luca and Isolde.  The character development was great, especially the minor characters.  They really added a lot to the story.  I loved the plot and how Luca figures things out at the end.  And my favorite part of the story was Isolde and Ishraq's friendship.  They are more like sisters, and Ishraq is completely devoted to Isolde (in a platonic way).  I loved that!

My complaint about Changeling is that the story seemed to jump around.  I felt like Gregory didn't have enough material to make the convent-based part of the story into a full-length novel, so she added the part about the wolf in the next town just as filler.  It didn't seem to flow with the rest of the story to me.  I enjoyed both parts of the book, but thought there should have been more transition from one part to the next.  The ending was choppy as well, which left me feeling pretty unsatisfied.

Overall, I would definitely still recommend Changeling.  The story was engrossing, the characters were well-developed, and the romance was forbidden.  I look forward to the next book in the series, and will be buying it as soon as it's released!

Young Adult Giveaway Hop

Thank you to I am a Reader, Not a Writer, and Reading Teen for hosting the Young Adult Giveaway Hop!  

Our giveaway: 
A hard copy of Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry 
(Giveaway is open to US and Canada residents)

Book Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

"I won't tell anyone, Echo. I promise." Noah tucked a curl behind my ear. It had been so long since someone touched me like he did. Why did it have to be Noah Hutchins? His dark brown eyes shifted to my covered arms. "You didn't do that-did you? It was done to you?" No one ever asked that question. They stared. They whispered. They laughed. But they never asked.

So wrong for each other...and yet so right.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

Release Date: July 31, 2012
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from publisher

Pushing the Limits was one of my favorite reads of 2012.  I simply loved everything about it!  Reading the summary, I was afraid that the book was going to be nothing more than the tried-and-true formula of good girl and loner guy falling in love---a formula which works well and I do enjoy reading---but it was a lot more than that.   

Pushing the Limits touched on so many important issues: death of immediate family members, divorce, remarriage (a somewhat scandalous one at that), bullying, friendship, therapy, mental health issues and the foster care system.  That is a lot for an author to cover in one book, but McGarry hit the nail on the head with this one.  She struck the perfect balance between these heavy issues and a sweet and tender love story.

Pushing the Limits is told in alternating first-person point-of-view, with Noah and Echo as the narrators.  I love that kind of narrative!  I love getting to know both main characters so well, knowing everything they are thinking and feeling.  It adds so much to the story when I can see how both characters internalize the same events.

Both Noah and Echo have had very traumatic events occur in their past.  They have dealt with these events in different ways.  Echo is still trying to fit in with her old friends in the popular crowd, and doing whatever it takes to feel normal, even though she is dying inside.  Noah has earned a reputation as a 'bad boy' and decides to live up, or rather down, to what everyone expects of him.  Noah and Echo are thrown together by the school's new clinical social worker, whom they both see privately, when Noah needs help with calculus.  Echo is his tutor and they form a grudging friendship, and then, more.

One of my favorite components of Pushing the Limits was the fact that both of the main characters attend therapy for their issues. I can't stand it when authors 'solve' these kinds of major problems in a few lines, or with an unrealistic solution (like when love conquers all).  Both Echo and Noah work hard in therapy, and eventually really open up to Mrs. Collins, the therapist, and work through their problems in a positive way.  And all of this was handled in a non-preachy way.

The conflict resolution was my favorite part of the book.  There were several things that I really didn't see coming.  All of the characters grew throughout the book, as Noah and Echo grew.  As they changed, their relationships with everyone around them changed for the better too.       

Overall, I would highly recommend Pushing the Limits.  It's one of those books that made me cry, but in a good way, and left me smiling and feeling uplifted.  It really renewed my faith in the strength and goodness of the human spirit.  I know it was fiction, but I like to think that this kind of happy ending can and does happen in real life.  I think back on the book, days later, and a smile comes to my face.  It's not often that I can say that about a book, and so I tend to celebrate it when I read a book that is this good.

Weekly Wrap-Up #3

It was another busy reading week for me.  I am really on a reading binge lately!  I read some great books this week...finally got around to starting the Birthmarked trilogy and now I understand what all the fuss is about!  

Books I read this week:

The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks 
Alibi: Volumes I-IV by Annie Miles, John Byrne, Isabel Eckersley, Sorrel Provola
Once (Eve Trilogy, #2) by Anna Carey
Birthmarked (Birthmarked #1) by Caragh M. O'Brien
Tortured (Birthmarked #1.5) by Caragh M. O'Brien

How was your week?


Book Review: Dani's Story: A Journey from Neglect to Love by Diane and Bernie Lierow

In July 2005, a little girl named Danielle was removed from her Florida home after authorities found her living in bug-ridden squalor, subjected to horrific neglect and so damaged by her own mother that recovery seemed hopeless. Danielle spoke only in grunts and yelps, walked on her tiptoes, was not toilet-trained and drank from a bottle. She was almost seven years old. But hope and help were waiting for this little girl. In October 2007, Bernie and Diane Lierow, a hard-working couple with five boys of their own, adopted her and utterly transformed her life. This book tells the moving story of how the Lierows rescued Dani and helped her recover to the point where she can not only communicate, something once thought impossible, but can say of herself, "I pretty." Dani's Story was featured on Oprah and the subject of a Pulitzer Prize-winning article published by the St. Petersburg Times. The Lierows describe their struggle to adopt Dani, how they bonded with her and made a home for her, how they satisfied her craving for contact and stimuli, how Dani began to overcome her severe learning disabilities, how she learned she no longer had to steal food, and how their son Willie may be the greatest brother ever. Charting a perilous journey from hardship to hope, a new family, and a second chance at life, Dani's Story is a book you cannot put down and will never forget.

Release Date: June 21, 2011
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: John Wiley and Sons
Source: Borrowed from my mom

My mom heard about Dani's Story, and knew that she had to read about Dani's transformation from a neglected, abused child to one with a family that adores her.  I was lucky enough to borrow my mom's copy of the book after she finished it.  Having just read the David Pelzer books (A Child Called It, The Lost Boy, and A Man Named Dave), I was ready for another moving story.  

Dani's Story is heartbreaking, but ultimately uplifting.  It is told from the adoptive parents' point of view, so it was a little less personal than the first-person narrative in the David Pelzer books.  I have to say that I did miss the personal narrative I loved in David Pelzer's books.

The Lierows take the reader through their journey to adopt, starting with their decision to adopt a child, ending after they have finally welcomed Dani into their home.  Some of the bureaucratic red tape regarding the adoption process got repetitive and slowed down the story.  But, I understand why it was included---that's really how things work in the process of adoption.

What Dani endures for her first seven years was horrific.  The Lierows learn the details of her abuse from Dani's case worker.  They are stunned at how she lived until she was finally rescued from her birth mother's home.  It really was unbelievable, to think that a mother could do that to her child.  Being a new mother myself, this part of the story really hit home with me. 

Much of the story focuses on Dani's growth and acceptance of the Lierow family.  The things they did for her were heroic, in my opinion.  They truly saved Dani, and she in return, has enriched their lives in ways they did not think possible.

Overall, I enjoyed Dani's Story.  It is definitely worth your time, and I would recommend it to anyone.

Month in Review: July 2012

July was a great reading month for me...I read a ton of books, more than I could review.  I'm hoping to get caught up on reviews in August.

Book Reviews Posted: 
Knee Deep by Jolene Perry 
Yesterday's News by Kajsa Ingemarsson  

Barefoot Girls by Tara McTiernan

Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris

Endure by Carrie Jones
Harvest of Rubies by Tessa Afshar
Finding My Happy Pace by Heather Wardell
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
If I Die by Rachel Vincent
Never to Sleep by Rachel Vincent
The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson

Other Blog News/Events: