Weekly Wrap-Up 9.30.12

It was a slow reading week for me.  I finally started feeling better and caught up on a lot of things around the house spent all my free time shopping for Kaitlyn's fall wardrobe.  Aren't baby clothes simply delicious?  And the best thing is, unlike grown-up clothes, they almost always fit! 

Books I Read This Week:
Fly Into Fire (Extrahumans #2) by Susan J. Bigelow. I got a copy of The Spark (Extrahumans #3) for review, and had to catch up on the series, having read book one: Broken, pre-baby (which means I completely forgot most of it).  I enjoyed Fly Into Fire even more than Broken, and that's saying a lot, because I really liked BrokenRead my mini-review of Fly Into Fire on Goodreads. 

How was your week?

Giveaway: BlogFest 2012


We are so excited to be a part of BlogFest 2012!  We look forward to BlogFest all year long, and can't believe it's finally here!

Our prize this year is international, and will be sent via email to the winner. Our winner will be announced on October 1st and will receive a:

$15 Amazon Gift Card

(This e-gift card can be used for anything on Amazon.com.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The next five blogs on the BlogFest list are:

Havan's Heavenly Haven 
The Cozy Reader
Reviews By Molly
Nuts and Crisps

Click the button above or visit A Journey Of Books to see all the blogs participating in this great event!  And thank you for stopping by I'd So Rather Be Reading!

Book Review: What I Didn't Say by Keary Taylor

Getting drunk homecoming night your senior year is never a good idea, but Jake Hayes never expected it all to end with a car crash and a t-post embedded in his throat.

His biggest regret about it all? What he never said to Samantha Shay. He's been in love with her for years and never had the guts to tell her. Now it's too late. Because after that night, Jake will never be able to talk again.

When Jake returns to his small island home, population 5,000, he'll have to learn how to deal with being mute. He also finds that his family isn't limited to his six brothers and sisters, that sometimes an entire island is watching out for you. And when he gets the chance to spend more time with Samantha, she'll help him learn that not being able to talk isn’t the worst thing that could ever happen to you. Maybe, if she'll let him, Jake will finally tell her what he didn't say before, even if he can't actually say it.

Release Date: April 30, 2012
Age Group: YA
Source: NetGalley

What a great read!  It's rare that I like a book with a male narrator as much as I liked What I Didn't Say.  There were so many things I loved about this book.  Starting with the premise: can you imagine going from being a healthy teen to someone who will never speak again?  That is what happens to Jake.  He and his friends are in a drunk-driving accident (they were the ones driving drunk) and all of them are injured; however, Jake's injuries are the most severe and life-changing.  Jake will be mute for the rest of his life, and he has to come to terms with that.

Jake comes from a large family, and they were so supportive of him and each other.  It was great to read about a family with positive, open, and truly kind relationships in a YA book.  So often, the families are dysfunctional, often with absentee parents, so it was nice to have Jake's home life be so healthy, especially in light of the emotional upheaval he sustains after the accident.

Jake has had a crush on Samantha for years but never had the nerve to tell her how he felt.  Now he literally can't tell her how he feels, and he is so frustrated by that.  He and Sam start spending time together, at first because Sam is his tutor in ASL (American Sign Language) at school, and then because they start to become friends.  I loved the sweet buildup to their relationship.  They were so tender together, so tentative.  Watching Jake and Sam fall in love reminded me of watching a baby deer stand up and walk for the first time: faltering steps at first, then more sure-footed.  I loved that Sam had a mind of her own and stood up to Jake when he needed a reality check.

Jake cycles through the five stages of grief after his accident, and it was great to read about him growing and changing in a healthy way.  He teeters on the edge of despair a few times, but always had someone there to pull him back from the ledge, whether it be Sam or a member of his family.

My favorite thing about What I Didn't Say was the writing style.  The emotions just jumped off the page and into my heart.  Taylor writes her emotions so tenderly, and I was moved to tears at several points during the book.  There were some special touches in Jake and Sam's relationship, like their dinner date and the notebook pages that made the book stand out from others in the genre.  The slightly open ending was appropriate, but I would have loved an epilogue.  I love getting a glimpse of my favorite characters living out their HEA's in the future.

I would highly recommend What I Didn't Say.  It has a unique premise, and is excellently written.  I was so happy that it was a stand-alone novel, and that I got a solid conclusion to the story.  I will definitely read Keary Taylor again!


Book Review: The Kill Order (The Maze Runner Prequel) by James Dashner

Before WICKED was formed, before the Glade was built, before Thomas entered the Maze, sun flares hit the earth and mankind fell to disease.

Mark and Trina were there when it happened, and they survived. But surviving the sun flares was easy compared to what came next. Now a disease of rage and lunacy races across the eastern United States, and there’s something suspicious about its origin. Worse yet, it’s mutating, and all evidence suggests that it will bring humanity to its knees.

Mark and Trina are convinced there’s a way to save those left living from descending into madness. And they’re determined to find it—if they can stay alive. Because in this new, devastated world, every life has a price. And to some, you’re worth more dead than alive.

Release Date: August 14, 2012
Age Group: YA
Source: NetGalley

The Maze Runner trilogy was hit-and-miss for me:  The Maze Runner (book one) was just okay, The Scorch Trials (book two) was excellent, and The Death Cure (book three) was good but not great.  I had a lot of questions after finishing The Death Cure, so I was really excited to see that Dashner has written a prequel to the series.  Finally, a chance to get my questions answered!

The Kill Order starts with Teresa (I still don't really know how I feel about that sneaky girl) watching Thomas go through the procedure to have his memories wiped. She is watching Thomas, the boy she loves, go through the procedure, all the while knowing she will also go through it the next day, and be delivered to The Maze all in the quest for a cure for The Flare.  The prologue ends with Thomas being delivered into the Glade.

The majority of the book takes place 13 years prior, a year after the sun flares damaged the earth.  Mark and Trina are the main characters, both losing their entire family to the sun flares. They stick together, and meet up with Alec and Lana, who are middle-aged former military members.  Their military backgrounds are what save Mark and Trina from certain death in the aftermath of the sun flares.  The group, along with a couple of other members, escape to the mountains, somewhere near North Carolina.

They form a settlement and are beginning to feel some hope that the world can survive...only to have something even more outrageous than the sun flares happen: people in gas masks and hazard suits come to their camp, from a Berg (like a futuristic helicopter) and shoot members of the camp with darts.  Mark and Trina soon discover that the darts contain a virus, which kills most of their friends.  The virus is called The Flare, and it is mutating as it spreads, causing insanity to the people it infects.  Mark, Trina, Alec and Lana go on a mission to find the people spreading the virus to try to stop it.

My main complaint about The Death Cure was that there was a lot of fighting.  It was a gritty novel, and The Kill Order was very similar in that regard.  There were so many fight scenes that they were beginning to feel recycled by the end of the book.  I'm sure a male reader would feel differently and appreciate the fighting more than I did, but all that violence got old for me.

My favorite part of The Kill Order was finding out the answers as to how and why The Flare was released.  I got exactly what I wanted out of the book: answers and closure.  I am glad that I read The Kill Order, because it completely finished out the series for me.  I also liked the relationships between Alec and Mark and Mark and Trina.  The other Maze Runner books did not have that level of emotional intimacy between characters, and I appreciated the softer side of Dashner's writing.  The ending was bittersweet, and wholly appropriate to the series.  I loved the epilogue at the end, with Thomas and his mother.  It was really touching, and provided some extra warmth to the book.

If you're new to the Maze Runner series, I would start with The Kill Order.  It will help the rest of the books make sense, and you'll get more out of them, having understood what happened in the past to cause the present events. 

I really enjoy James Dashner's writing and would definitely read him again.  His books are more action-packed and grittier than my usual reads, but they are very unique and well-executed.

Weekly Wrap Up 9.23.12

So, Kaitlyn is completely recovered from last week's virus, but I am still feeling bad with strep throat!  I read a lot, but am not up to reviewing anything.  Which means that I am, once again, very behind on returning emails and writing reviews!

Books I Read This Week:
Serpent's Kiss (The Beauchamp Family #2) by Melissa de la Cruz.  So much better than book one, I really liked this one!
Where We Belong by Emily Giffin.  I was really happy to get this one from the library. Click the title to read my mini-review.

How was your week?


Book Review: Blink Once by Cylin Busby

West is a high school senior who has everything going for him until an accident leaves him paralyzed. Strapped down in his hospital bed, slipping in and out of consciousness, West is terrified and alone. Until he meets Olivia. She’s the girl next door—sort of. A patient in the room next to his, only Olivia can tell what West is thinking, and only Olivia seems to know that the terrible dreams he’s been having are not just a result of his medication. Yet as West comes to rely on Olivia—to love her, even—certain questions pull at him: Why has Olivia been in the hospital for so long? And what does it mean that she is at the center of his nightmares? But the biggest question of all comes when West begins to recover and learns that the mysterious girl he’s fallen in love with has a secret he could never have seen coming.

Release Date: September 4, 2012
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Source: NetGalley

What a haunting story!  Reading the summary, I loved the idea of a secret connection between Olivia and West.  And that is exactly what they had.  Something about being in an accident or similar health crisis kind of strips people down to their core.  Suddenly, the things you thought were so important are suddenly not.  I like reading about characters who are going through these kinds of situations.  These kinds of stories are just so compelling to me.

Once I started Blink Once, I knew there was no way I could go to bed without knowing what was going to happen to West.  I am usually not a fan of a male first-person narrative, but I really liked West.  He was so open and raw, and I appreciate that in a character.  I sped through Blink Once in just a few hours.  The narrative was written beautifully, and the plot was paced so well, that I just could not stop reading.

The only thing that bothered me about this book, and this was a big thing for me, is that is was almost a ghost story.  And if you know me, you know that I don't do ghost stories.  Not even if they are friendly ghosts.  There was a thriller-type element to Blink Once, almost a ghostly kind of thing, that freaked me out.  The combination of this book and being up late got me kind of scared.  I am such a ninny, I know.  But I wanted to warn others---if you scare easily, this one may not be for you.

The ending was not quite the happily-ever-after I was hoping for, but it was very appropriate and moving.  I loved watching West grow and change throughout the story, for me that was the best part of the book.  I would definitely read Cylin Busby again.  I loved her writing style and her emotional plot.  Overall, I would recommend Blink Once.

Book Review: Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Mass

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men—thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the kings council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Release Date: August 7, 2012
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Source: NetGalley

What a thrilling debut!  I have been on a fantasy binge lately, and Throne of Glass served to remind me of everything I love about the genre.  The fantasy world, the plot, the magic, and the characters were all so well done.  I liked how Mass's world was not so intricate that I had a hard time following things.  I've still got the 'Mommy brain,' in fact it seems to be getting worse (how can that be?) so I appreciated the fact that I could easily follow the story and understand the world.   

I liked how Mass weaves the world building into the story.  Sometimes, with fantasy, when the world building is at the beginning of the book, the story drags.  I get bored, and need action.  Mass delivers, providing action from the very beginning of the story.  The plot moves at a steady pace throughout the entire book. 

Celaena is a study in contradictions.  She is as tough as nails, but at the same time, feminine and loves pretty dresses and jewelry.  She loves to dance and attend balls, but can kill a man in seconds.  I love characters that are nuanced and more than they appear to be.  I loved that Celaena is tough but is still very much a woman.  She had a great sense of humor, and her witty comebacks made me smile.  I love how she stands up for herself without being too pushy, and how she doesn't take anything lying down.  Celaena's friendship with Nehemia really softened her, and also furthered the magic element of the plot, which I really enjoyed.

There were several good surprises throughout Throne of Glass.  One being Cain, one the ending, and lastly, the final duel.  I really liked how Captain Westfall 'saves' Celaena during the duel.  His quiet strength, and steady belief in her was really heart-warming.  I liked how he starts off despising Celaena, moves to grudging respect, then an eventual genuine friendship and attraction for her.  I love a slow burn to relationships, and Throne of Glass had that in spades.

The magic part of the story was trending towards ghosts and I was starting to get freaked out.  You know how I'm not a fan of ghost stories.  But, Mass reined it in just in time for me to keep reading without being afraid.  I thought that part of the story really added a lot of depth and mystery to the book, especially considering the king's involvement.  

I loved everything about this book.  I couldn't read it fast enough!  I highly recommend Throne of Glass.  It reminds me of Kristin Cashore's work, in the best of ways.  I cannot wait for the sequel!


Book Review: Candid (True Images #1) by Michelle Pennington

Life is simple for high school senior, Sienna Whitfield. With a few good friends, a camera, and a dream, she has everything she needs to be happy. But when Jordan Rubio, the most popular girl at Haskins High, makes her mad, she decides to use the power of photography to right a few social wrongs. As if that doesn’t cause enough drama in her life, she realizes she’s falling for the new guy, Lee Franklin. Strong and protective, he’s just what she needs to survive the craziness she’s stirred up at school. If only she didn’t have to keep her feelings for Lee a secret from her mom…

Release Date: April 17, 2012
Age Group: Young Adult
Source: Review copy from author

What a well-written contemporary young adult novel!  I really enjoyed Candid.  I was intrigued by the summary, especially this part:
"she decides to use the power of photography to right a few social wrongs."  
I would have loved to have the gumption and means to do that during high school.  I was not one of the popular kids...I was in Advanced Placement classes and the band (guess that makes me a nerd), although I was also a twirler so that helped balance things out.  However, I was very, very far from the group of popular students.  And, freshman year, I was a target for a group of popular kids in my biology class.  I'll never forget what being bullied and taunted felt like.   

So, I totally understood Sienna's frustration with the 'mean girls.'  For no apparent reason, the most popular girl in school, Jordan, decides to start making fun of Sienna.  Instead of just sitting back and taking the abuse, Sienna decides to fight back.  She takes photos at school events, namely football games, for the school paper and yearbook committee.  Sienna constantly has her camera with her.  She starts posting some attention-worthy pictures, snapped candidly, on her blog.  These pictures place the popular kids in a new light, not a favorable light, like they expect.  Soon, word about Sienna's blog gets out, and Sienna's influence brings some students into popularity, and takes others, like Jordan, down a few notches.

In the midst of all of this, Sienna starts a friendship and then something more with the new guy at school, Lee.  Only problem is, one, she's not allowed to date, and two, Jordan wants Lee for herself.

There were a lot of things I really liked about Candid.  I liked the premise, and Sienna's strength of character.  I liked how she stood up for herself.  I loved the tension between Sienna and Lee.  Things as simple as walking to class together and holding hands were thrilling for them, and the emotions were very sweetly written.  That falling-in-love feeling really took me back to my teen years.  I thought the way Sienna's mother's past was written into the story was very well-handled and the conflict and eventual resolution between Sienna and her mother was a great addition to the story.

I had two problems with Candid.  The ending felt pretty abrupt to me, and the events at the end of the book were too predictable.  I would have liked a little more of a surprise.  Sienna was brave but sometimes just too trusting and impulsive.  I would have liked to see more foresight from her with regards to her social experiment.

Other than that, I really enjoyed Candid.  It's a fun, fast read.  I will definitely be reading the next book in the True Images series!  

Weekly Wrap-Up 9.16.12

Kaitlyn and I were both sick (she had a virus and I had strep throat) this week.  I had a lot of reading time, because I felt too bad to get out and do anything!

Books I Read This Week:
Click the titles to go to each books' Goodreads page.

Sound by Shelley Workinger.  Really enjoyed it!  Look for my review soon.  
I'm Not Her by Janet Gurtler.  Read my mini-review on Goodreads here
All At Sea by Heather Wardell.  Another great, emotional read by Wardell---her tenth book and I've yet to read one of hers that I haven't loved!
Black Heart by Holly Black.  Excellent conclusion to a really unique, well-done series.
Taking Chances by Molly McAdams.  I have really mixed feelings about this one.  Look for my review soon.

How was your week?


Book Review: 'Scuse Me While I Kill This Guy (Bombay Assassins #1) by Leslie Langtry


Death by Chocolate is her favorite dessert. And those knitting needles aren't just for craft projects. To most people, Gin Bombay is an ordinary single mom. Then again, they don't know she's from a family of top secret assassins. Somewhere between leading a Girl Scout troop for her kindergartner--would nooses count for a knot badge?--and keeping their puppy from destroying the furniture, Gin now has to take out a new target. 

Except this target has an incredibly hot Australian bodyguard who knows just how to make her weak in the knees. But with a mole threatening to expose everything, Gin doesn't have much time to let her hormones do the happy dance. She's got to find the leak and clear her assignment...or she'll end up next on the Bombay family hit list.

Release Date: July 31, 2007
Age Group: Adult
Source: Review copy from author

I started this book not knowing what to expect.  I knew that I liked the summary but felt that the execution would be tricky.  I felt like it would be hard to strike the right balance between a chick-lit feeling book and a serious book about a family of assassins.  I'm happy to say that Leslie Langtry got this one right.  'Scuse Me While I Kill This Guy was light-hearted, laugh-out-loud funny but still just serious enough for its subject matter, and left me with a smile on my face.

I love a first-person narrative, and I love it even more when I actually like the main character.  Sometimes, I just don't like them, you know?  But I liked Ginny.  She had a no-nonsense personality, which I really appreciate in a female lead, and I also appreciated her attention to detail with regards to her work as an assassin.  I loved reading about her hidden lab! 

The funniest parts of this book were Ginny's interaction with Diego.  She has not had a relationship since her husband died of cancer five years ago, and her hormones wake up with a vengeance when she meets Diego in a bookstore.  On that note, I love to read about characters who love to read!

Anyway, Ginny and Diego have an instant attraction and she's not shy about telling him how she feels.  My favorite part of the book was when they were declaring their feelings for each other and she does a happy dance: she thinks she doing it in her head, but she is actually doing the dance and accompanying squeals of happiness out loud.  Diego's reaction to her reaction was hilarious!

I guess what I'm trying to say about Ginny is that she is very genuine.  There's no faking anything with her: what you see is what you get, and I loved her for that.  She says what she thinks, without being mean, but is always honest.

The mystery component of this book was well-handled.  There was definitely a surprise at the end: Langtry took the book in a direction I wasn't expecting, which made things interesting.

Overall, I really enjoyed 'Scuse Me While I Kill This Guy.  I was really excited to see that it is part of a series and plan on reading more from Leslie Langtry. 

Book Review: Love Struck by Melissa Marr

When Alana gets more or less accidentally entrapped by a selchie she is forced to revise all of her previous rules.

Release Date: July 12, 2011
Age Group: YA
Source: Library

If you haven't read the summary yet, please do so now.  It's the shortest summary I've ever seen on Goodreads. It will take a maximum of five seconds and I'll wait for you.  

Now, how I feel about Love Struck can be summed up like this: when Kelli got entrapped by the thought of a new book by Melissa Marr, she was forced to be satisfied with an estimated less than twenty pages of new material, coupled with excerpts from the Wicked Lovely books.  This reinforced my preconceived notions of not liking novellas due to their brevity...and the packaging of a super-short story with previously published material made me feel gypped.

And that is my problem with Love Struck: I really enjoyed Alana and Murrin's story, although it was so short.  I love the way Marr writes with such descriptive imagery and emotions that jump off the page.  I would have much, much preferred to have the entire novella encompass their story instead of the chapters from Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange.  

I am so glad I didn't buy this one, because I would have been mad.  The story took me maybe twenty minutes to read...not worth a buy but still worth a read if you can get it from your library.


Book Review: Camp by Elaine Wolf

Every secret has a price.

Going to sleep-away camp can be one of the most wonderful experiences for a young girl. But for Amy Becker, it's a nightmare. Amy, whose home life is in turmoil, is sent away to summer camp for the first time as a teenager. Though she swears she hates her mother, who is unduly harsh with Amy's autistic younger brother, Amy is less than thrilled to be leaving home. When she arrives at camp, she is subjected to a horrifying initiation and bullying by Rory, the ringleader of the girls in her cabin. Then a cousin reveals dark secrets about Amy's mother, setting in motion a tragic event that changes Amy and her family forever.

CAMP is a compelling coming-of-age novel about bullying, mothers and daughters, and the collateral damage of family secrets. It's a powerful mother-daughter story for mothers and daughters to share.

Release Date: June 15, 2012
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Source: Review copy from publisher

What a well-written coming-of-age story!  I do so love a first-person narrative, especially in this kind of novel.  Camp is set in the 1960's, something that I really enjoyed.  It was neat to get a glimpse of family life back then.  The family dynamics were intriguing, especially considering Amy's mother's immigrant history.  

I really felt for Amy.  She feels responsible for her younger brother, Charlie, who is autistic.  Their parents are not exactly models of the best way to care for and treat an autistic child.  Often, they escalate Charlie's tantrums simply by their own inappropriate reactions to his behavior.  Mrs. Becker is the worst.  I sometimes got the feeling that she didn't love Charlie, or Amy at all.  In an era where children were supposed to be seen and not heard, having an autistic child was terribly hard, I'm sure.  Especially one who throws fits and screams out, thus drawing unwanted attention every time the family is in public.  Amy is the only member of the family who can calm Charlie down, and he really depends on her.

Amy's mother is so hard on her: she is constantly wanting Amy to be perfect.  She won't let her eat dessert, for fear that Amy will become overweight.  She makes Amy dress up, more than other girls her age, and that makes Amy stand out (which she hates).  Nothing Amy does seems to be good enough: not her friends, her grades, her posture, even the way she eats is criticized by her mother.  Her mother even makes Amy account for her use of toiletries!  She was just a tough cookie.  I could tell that there was something more going on with Mrs. Becker, but I didn't learn exactly what until the end of the story.

Amy only thought her life was tough before camp.  She is set apart from the other girls before they even get on the bus to leave for camp.  The other girls laugh at Charlie and the way he clings to Amy, not wanting her to leave.  The ringleader, Rory, is the worst, and sets out to make Amy's eight weeks of summer camp miserable.  Amy's cousin Robin is at camp, but she quickly takes sides with Rory, thus leaving Amy all to herself.  Amy does make a few friends, and they develop a plan to get Rory's behavior discovered by the camp owner (who also happens to be Amy's uncle) and have Rory sent home.

I really liked the interwoven stories in Camp.  Not only do you have Amy's story, but there are bits and pieces of the other girls' lives that I really enjoyed.  And Mrs. Becker's history was my favorite part of the novel.  All of this intrigue kept me interested and in fact, led me to finish the book in a day.

My one problem with Camp was the pacing.  There was a lull in the middle of the story, then in the last fourth of the book, or so, everything seemed to happen at once.  I would have liked to see more of Amy's years between camp and high school.  I think that would have really fleshed out the story, and shown change and character growth.

Overall, I really enjoyed Camp.  I think it would be an excellent book for mothers and daughters to read together.  It covers the relationship between mothers and daughters, relationships between siblings, and the effects of grief and bullying.  I would definitely read Elaine Wolf again!


Weekly Wrap Up 9.9.12

It was a somewhat slow reading week for me.  I started and dropped two books for review (I hate it when I do that, but I feel like it's better to give authors a chance) but ended up reading two great Emily Giffin novels.  I love her writing!  I've read all of her full-length novels now except for Where We Belong, which is next on my list.

Books I Read This Week:
Baby Proof by Emily Giffin.  See my mini-review on Goodreads
The Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin.  

How was your week?

Cover Issues

Yesterday, I told you about my four favorite non-book blogs.  Read about them here.  Jenny of The Bloggess has written a book, called Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir).  She is so laugh-out-loud funny that I knew I had to read her book.  I decided to buy it as a hardback because I like having hard copies of my non-fiction books.  It makes it easier for me to pick them up and read a few chapters when the mood strikes me.  

I am a loyal Amazon Prime member, and they had the cheapest price, so I ordered Let's Pretend This Never Happened from Amazon.  I had two problems with this order: first, Amazon sent me my book included with a gift I ordered for Natalie's older son's birthday.  That's usually not a problem, except the book was on top of the gift in the box, and there was no padding around the book.  When I went to open the box, my letter opener scratched the cover of my book, since it was pressed up against the opening of the box.  Ugh, problem number one.  

Problem number two is that, because there was no bubble wrap or any type of padding in the box, and the gift was larger than the book, that the book shifted around during transit and the dust jacket got crumpled on the edges.  You know how I am about my books, especially dust jackets.  I can't stand them to be damaged in any way.  Picky, I know, but I can't help it.  I left the book out for two days, looking at it, trying to decide if it was worth my effort to return it.  I couldn't decide on my own so I decided to ask Toby (my husband) about it.  Here's a recounting of our conversation:

Me:  "I ordered this book from Amazon and they didn't package it correctly so the jacket is crumpled."

Toby: "What book?"  (the book was right in front of him but he was watching TV)

Me: "This one right here."

Toby: "Why did you order such a weird-a$% book?"  (Admittedly, the cover is kooky but that is part of Jenny's charm).

Me:  "One of my favorite bloggers wrote it and I wanted to read it.  It's on my budget in case you were wondering."  (I have a monthly allowance for clothes, books, shoes, etc).

Toby:  "Okay, so what's the problem?"

Me: "The jacket, the jacket is crumpled.  See?"

Toby: "I guess it is...I never would have noticed it if you hadn't pointed it out to me.  Return it if it's bothering you that much."

Me: *sighs* "I think I will have to."

I was too upset to take a picture of my damaged book.  I ended up returning it for a replacement from Amazon.  I will let you know in what condition my replacement book arrives.   


Fun Blogs

I have several non-book blogs that I love to read and wanted to share them with you.  They are parenting blogs, written by women.  The first three are funny and the last one is more emotional and inspirational.  

In no particular order, my four favorite non-book blogs are:

People I Want to Punch in the Throat (thank you to The Book Vixen for telling me about this blog!)

Jenny of The Bloggess and Jen from People I Want to Punch in the Throat post almost daily.  I love that!  I love pulling their blogs up every evening and knowing that I'll have something funny and witty to read.  Allison of Motherhood, WTF and Glennon of Momastery post less often, usually once to twice per week.  While I do prefer it when bloggers post more regularly, both of these women provide such well-written, thought-provoking posts that I don't mind waiting a few days between posts.  

What about you?  What are your favorite non-book blogs?  And do you prefer blogs with daily posts?


Book Review: Alibi Volumes I-IV: The Complete Series by Annie Miles, John Byrne, Isabel Eckersley, Sorrel Provola

Abigail Shelton is dead.

Spring Valley's golden girl is found floating face-down in her boyfriend’s pool, hands bound behind her back, head bleeding, drugs and alcohol in her system. Her friends are the only suspects – and they all have reasons to want her dead. Everyone has an alibi, but no one is innocent.

ALIBI is a 4-part young adult e-book series. Each one-hundred page installment reveals the perspective of a different character: the secret love, the nemesis, the boyfriend, the best friend. As their tales unfold, we learn that Abby is not as perfect as everyone believes, but she’s not the only one with secrets to hide. This page-turning tale of suspense, betrayal, murder, and lust will keep fans of Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars up and reading well past curfew.

Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from publisher

This was a really neat concept, and very well-executed!  I was kind of leery going into Alibi, because I'm not one for short stories, and Alibi consists of four 100-page installments or volumes.  Each installment is told from a different main character's perspective.  But, the story flowed well, and getting a better understanding of each character was really neat.  I found Alibi to be compulsively readable.  During each volume, I was absolutely convinced as to who the killer was.  Then, I'd start a new volume and the tables would turn again, and I'd have to start over with figuring out who killed Abigail. 

I really liked the different voices of each character.  I didn't realize until after I'd finished the book, that a different author wrote each volume.  I think that is part of what makes each volume feel so fresh.  I found it so ironic how each character came across differently from volume to volume.  It's all about perspective, and that whole "in the eyes of the beholder" business.

Because Alibi consists of four volumes, many of the same events are told from different perspectives.  While this really helped me to get an understanding of why people behaved the way they did, some of the retelling started to get old for me.  It made me want to skim through certain parts, especially the parts that reiterated the same dialogue from before.

Overall, I enjoyed Alibi much more than I thought I would.  I would definitely read a compilation like this again. 

Book Review: A Duke's Promise (Forgotten Castles #3) by Jamie Carie

Award-winning writer Jamie Caries concludes her most epic storyline with a wonderful twist in A Duke’s Promise , the final Forgotten Castles novel.

From the Land of Fire and Ice back to England’s shores, Alexandria Featherstone finds herself the new Duchess of St. Easton. Her husband has promised a wedding trip to take them to the place where her imperiled parents were last seen -- Italy and the marble caves of Carrara -- but a powerful Italian duke plots against Alex and her treasure-hunting parents.

Hoping to save them, Alex and Gabriel travel to Italy by balloon. Fraught with danger on all sides and pressured by Gabriel’s affliction to the breaking point, they must learn to work and fight together. The mysterious key is within their grasp, but they have yet to recognize it. This journey will require steadfast faith in God and each other -- a risk that will win them everything they want or lose them everything they have.

Release Date: September 2012
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: B&H Books
Source: NetGalley
Other Books in the Series (Click the title to read my review): The Guardian Duke, The Forgiven Duke

What a great series this has turned out to be!  If you can read the three books in a row, I greatly recommend that.  Book one, The Guardian Duke, has such an open ending that you will be left screaming in frustration if you don't have book two immediately available to you.  Book two, The Forgiven Duke, has more closure but still some openness, setting things up perfectly for book three.

The Forgotten Castles series kept getting better and better with each book!  I was totally in love with Gabriel by the beginning of book two, and by the end of the series, he is one of my favorite leading men.  I love reading about a healthy, faith-based relationship like Gabriel and Alex's.  They are so united in their quest to find Alex's parents, and I love how Gabriel makes the promise to her that he will not stop looking for them until they are found.

There was a lot of character growth in this book, which I love.  I love watching characters grow personally and grow in their faith.  The Christian element to this book is subtly handled, and should not be a deterrent to those who don't usually read Christian fiction.

I loved the ending, especially the epilogue.  I absolutely adore getting a glimpse into favorite characters' happily ever afters and Carie provided this with aplomb.  It was exactly the kind of ending I had hoped for, and it was so gratifying to see my hopes and dreams for Alex and Gabriel to come to pass.

I am so happy to have found Jamie Carie.  Her writing is smart, emotional, and fast-paced.  I love how she can create a powerful love story without a bunch of smut.  I especially love the historical aspect to her work.  Highly recommended! 

Weekly Wrap Up 9.2.12

What a week! Thanks to Hurricane Issac, we traveled home from Destin Sunday night (6 days early) after the Destin sheriff's office called a mandatory evacuation.  So, we got home Monday morning, exhausted and with tons of unpacking and laundry to do.  It was really sad and frustrating!

I did get some good reading time in the car, while Kaitlyn slept.  So that was something, I guess!

Books I Read This Week:
To Whisper Her Name by Tamera Alexander.  What a great historical Christian fiction!  I loved this one!
UnStrung (Unwind Trilogy #1.5) by Neal Shusterman.  This novella between Unwind and Unwholly was just what I needed to get me ready to read Unwholly. 
Everneath by Brodi Ashton.  I liked it but I didn't love it.  I'm glad I got this one from the library instead of buying it.
Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult.  I saw this one at the library and could not resist Picoult's first foray into YA.  It was really neat and a good, fun, fresh read. 
Love the One You're With by Emily Giffin.  Just as much as a page turner as Giffin's other books were for me.  I love her writing style and her emotions!

How was your week?


Book Review: Mother of Pearl by Kellie Coates Gilbert

Barrie Graeber has two great kids, a loving husband, and a respected job as the high school counselor in her close-knit community. Without warning everything unravels when her teenage daughter, Pearl, is betrayed by friends and lashes out.

Nothing prepares this mother for the helplessness that follows when her attempts to steer her daughter back on course fail and Pearl shuts her out...or when she discovers the unthinkable about her nemesis, the football coach.

Emotionally riveting and profoundly moving, MOTHER OF PEARL brings us into the heart of a mother bound by an incredible burden, who ultimately finds she must recognize her own vulnerability and learn to trust in something much bigger.

Release Date: September 1, 2012
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Source: NetGalley

Oh, I loved this book!  Just as the summary says, it is emotionally riveting and profoundly moving.  I cried and cried while reading Mother of Pearl (outright crying while reading is a rare thing for me).  I was sitting on my couch during my baby's nap time, with a box of tissues next to me.  The book was just so moving, I could not hold the tears in.  I don't think I would have been so affected, but for the fact that I am a mother now and could really identify with Barrie.  That's not to say that Mother of Pearl was a depressing book.  There were sad events, to be sure, but ultimately the book was uplifting and ended on a positive note.    

Mother of Pearl is written from Barrie's perspective---which I loved.  I've read so many coming-of-age stories written from the teen's point-of-view, it was nice to read one from the mother's perspective.  Except that Mother of Pearl was much more than a coming-of-age story.  It was about so many things: the relationships within a family and extended family, people dealing with overwhelming loss, and people growing in faith (or coming to faith for the first time).  Gilbert writes about a messy situation---one that is becoming all too common in our society, and how it affects one family, and the community as a whole.

I loved reading about all of the relationships in Barrie's life.  From her relationship with her husband and children, to her interactions and troubled past with her own mother, to her friendships with her coworkers, every interaction served to enlighten the reader to Barrie's character.  She changes so much throughout the novel, and grows in ways she never thought possible.  I loved how she transformed from someone who shied away from Christians and inwardly groaned whenever someone brought up God or faith, to someone who comes to lean on God in all things.  By the end of the book, Barrie's view on the world is totally transformed, through events which are horrifying but ultimately strengthen her and mold her into a new person.

Gilbert's pacing was excellent.  Mother of Pearl covers about a year in time (I'm approximating here) without feeling like the story jumped around or moved too fast or too slow.  The story moved at just the right pace, which kept me reading long past the time I thought I would stop.   

I was so, so happy with the ending of this book.  I loved the way Gilbert handled the events that concluded the story.  She turned the focus towards inner change, and ultimately, activism on Barrie's part.  I loved seeing the glimpse into the future and how Barrie becomes an advocate for troubled teens.  I'm trying hard not to say too much because I don't want to give the story away.

If you're a fan of contemporary fiction, women's fiction, or Christian fiction, this book's for you.  If you typically shy away from Christian fiction, be advised that the faith element is subtle enough for those new to the genre to like the book.  I absolutely loved it and cannot wait to read more from Kellie Coates Gilbert!