Month in Review: January 2013

I'm trying to catch the blog up to date---I had such a back-log of book reviews (over 40 old ones!), so I'm posting reviews more often and writing mini-reviews of books I've read for fun.  Once I get most of the older book reviews posted, and get current on reviewing what I've recently read, I'll start writing full reviews of each book.  

But, in the meantime, what do you think of mini-reviews?  I'm actually really liking them.  Mini reviews are easy to write and there's less pressure to come up with what to say: I can say as much or as little as I want to!

Book Reviews Posted (17):
Outpost (Razorland #2) by Ann Aguirre
Sing to Me (True Images #2) by Michelle Pennington  
The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson
Once (Eve #2) by Anna Carey
Timeless (Timeless #1) by Alexandra Monir
Creator Class by K.M. Breakey
The Girl in the Wall by Daphne Benedis-Grab
Timekeeper (Timeless #2) by Alexandra Monir
The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks
Unstrung (Unwind #1.5) by Neal Shusterman
Unwholly (Unwind #2) by Neal Shusterman
Taking Chances by Molly McAdams
Black Heart (Curse Workers #3) by Holly Black
Balthazar by Claudia Gray
As Long As We Both Shall Live: Two Novels by Lurlene McDaniel
Serpent's Kiss (The Beauchamp Family #2) by Melissa de la Cruz

Mini-Reviews Posted (7)
Flock (Stork #3) by Wendy Delsol
The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden by Jessica Sorenson 
Loving Summer by Kailin Gow
Across the Universe by Beth Revis (series review) 
Just One Day by Gayle Foreman
Wolf Pact by Melissa de la Cruz
First Drop of Crimson by Jeaniene Frost 

Books Read: (14)
Good to Myself by Heather Wardell 
The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden (The Coincidence #1) by Jessica Sorenson
Loving Summer (Loving Summer #1) by Kailin Gow
A Shade of Vampire by Bella Forrest
Nobody by Jennifer Lynn Barnes 
Rapunzel Untangled by Cindy C Bennett 
Across the Universe (Across the Universe #1) by Beth Revis
A Million Suns (Across the Universe #2) by Beth Revis
Shades of Earth (Across the Universe #3) by Beth Revis
Just One Day (Just One Day #1) by Gayle Foreman
Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer
Wolf Pact Volumes I-IV by Melissa de la Cruz 
First Drop of Crimson (Night Huntress World #1) by Jeaniene Frost
Ever After (The Hollows #11) by Kim Harrison

How was your January?


Book Review: Serpent's Kiss (The Beauchamp Family #2) by Melissa de la Cruz

The powerful Beauchamp family, introduced in the New York Times bestselling Witches of East End, returns in The Serpent's Kiss, with dizzying plot twists and the spell-binding magic that have made both Witches of East End and Melissa's Blue Bloods series such enormous successes.
 Just as things have settled down in the off-the-map Long Island town of North Hampton for the magical Beauchamp family, everything gets turned upside down once more when Freya's twin brother Fryr, or "Freddie" as he's called now, returns from Limbo with shocking news - that it was none other than Freya's fiancĂ©, Killian Gardiner, who set up his downfall.

He begs Freya to keep his presence a secret, even from their own family, but somehow the irascible Freddie is still able to conduct many affairs with the town's young lovelies from his self-imposed exile. Until he falls for the wrong girl.

While Freya tries to keep her brother from exacting revenge on the man she loves, Ingrid has her own problems. Her human boyfriend, Matt Noble, becomes entangled in a complicated investigation, and when the magical creatures at the center of it come to Ingrid for help, she has a difficult choice to make.

To top it off, a dead spirit is trying to make contact with Joanna - but does it mean to harm or warn the witches? All hell breaks loose at the family reunion over Thanksgiving, and much mayhem ensues, but when the culprit behind Freddie's imprisonment is finally revealed, it may already be too late to staunch the poison that's been released by the serpent's kiss. The spells cast by the bestselling Witches of East End continue in this bewitching follow-up that Melissa de la Cruz's many fans won't want to miss.

Release Date: June 12, 2012
Age Group: Adult
Source: Library

I liked The Witches of East End (read my review here) but I liked Serpent's Kiss so much more!  Book one had a ton of world-building, which slowed the book down for me. I was so happy to pick up Serpent's Kiss and jump right back into the Beauchamp family's world.  I loved that de la Cruz included a summary of the events of book one at the beginning of Serpent's Kiss.  It's been over a year since I read The Witches of East End, so I was quite foggy on many of the details.  The summary was concise but descriptive enough to fully recap the events of book one.  I love that!

My favorite part of Serpent's Kiss was reading about each character's love life, especially Ingrid's.  I loved watching she and Matt build their relationship.  Freya, I am not as close to---a lot of her thinking and actions felt irrational to me, but I really identify with Ingrid.  The third person narrative still felt personal and de la Cruz's characterization kept me in tune with each character's thoughts and feelings.

Serpent's Kiss had a much more involved plot and more action than The Witches of East End.  Now that the Beauchamp family's world is built, de la Cruz was free to really get the plot moving.  So much happened in this book, and that action kept things really interesting.

I'm really happy with The Beauchamp Family series.  It is definitely an adult series, but the adult scenes are very tastefully done.  I can't wait for book three!

Book Review: As Long As We Both Shall Live: Two Novels by Lurlene McDaniel

Summary (Book One: Till Death Do Us Part): 
A change is coming, April Lancaster’s fortune cookie reads. Be prepared. But how could she be prepared for the news that she has an inoperable brain tumor? April’s life will never be the same. Then she meets handsome Mark Gianni. Mark has cystic fibrosis, but he also has a passion for life . . . and for April. When he asks April to marry him, she’s happier than she’s ever been.

Summary (Book Two: For Better, For Worse, Forever)---contains spoilers for book one:

April thought she and Mark would be together forever. But since Mark’s death, April has never felt more alone. Then Brandon Benedict comes into her life. Brandon is lonely and angry—he and April have a lot in common. But April cannot tell Brandon about her illness. When April’s medical problems suddenly return, she must decide what to tell Brandon. Can the love she’s felt before help her now?

Release Date: October 28, 2003
Age Group: YA
Source: Library

I gravitate towards books about chronic illness...because I have one myself.  I tend to really relate to characters struggling with any kind of illness, and April's brain tumor and Mark's cystic fibrosis are what drew me towards these two books.

Book one: Till Death Do Us Part was my favorite of the two.  I loved how Mark chases April so determinedly until she falls for him.  I loved Mark's optimism and his outlook on life.  He had every reason to be depressed, having cystic fibrosis and knowing that his life span would be shortened because of it, not to mention the daily struggles he endured just to breathe.  But, he was one of the most positive characters I have ever read about.  He was a real glass-half-full type of person.  I loved that!

I didn't feel close to April in either of the books.  I think that this was due to the fact that the books were a third-person narrative.  I think a first person narrative would have been so much better.  I would have liked to be privy to April's innermost thoughts from her, not from an outside perspective.

Book two: For Better, For Worse, Forever, was just okay for me.  I never really identified with Brandon and he and Aprils' relationship was so doomed from the start, that I had a hard time cheering them on.  I did like his change at the end of the novel, and thought it was a fitting end.

Overall, I did enjoy these two novels.  They were short, fast reads (I read them both in less than three hours). They are not your typical happily-ever-after kind of book, and in fact, the ending of both books had me in tears.  They were sad, realistic, but well-written and I'm glad I read them.  Just be ready to have your tissues close by!


Book Review: Balthazar by Claudia Gray

Haunted by memories from his first days as a vampire, Balthazar has spent hundreds of years alone—without allies, without love. When he emerges from his isolation to help Skye Tierney, a human girl who once attended Evernight Academy, Balthazar has no idea how dangerous it will be. Skye’s psychic powers have caught the attention of Redgrave, the cruel master vampire responsible for murdering Balthazar and his family four centuries ago. Having learned of Skye’s powers and the remarkable effect her blood has on vampires, he plans to use her for his own evil purposes. As they stand together to fight the evil vampire, Balthazar realizes his lonely world could finally be changed by Skye...just as Redgrave realizes that he can destroy Balthazar once and for all by taking her for his own.

In a story filled with forbidden love and dark suspense, one of the most beloved characters in Claudia Gray’s New York Times bestselling Evernight series will captivate readers with his battle to overcome his past and follow his heart.

Release Date: March 6, 2012
Age Group: YA
Source: Purchased

I've had Balthazar on my Nook since it was released.  I started it months ago, but was not totally taken in by the beginning.  Skye's vision freaked me out and I put the book down.  You know I'm not good with dead people!  I'm so glad I picked it back up and finished it because it was my favorite Evernight book to date!

I have always liked Balthazar and thought he got a raw deal over losing Bianca and having such a whacked-out sister, Charity.  It's hard enough staying on good terms with some family members.  Imagine if you had to deal with a homicidal, irrational vampire sister for the rest of eternity.  And all she wants to do is get revenge on you and everyone you care about because she's so out-of-control angry regarding your role in her death! 

I really wanted Balthazar to get his own happily ever after, and that's why I was so happy with this book.  I wasn't sure if Gray could wrap up the entire storyline in one novel, but she did, and did so with aplomb. I loved the flashbacks into Balthazar's long life, and especially the parts about his human life.  They were so emotional and well-written.

Skye's special abilities added a fresh twist to the plot and kept things from feeling recycled.  I also liked that Bianca made just one cameo and was not a main character.  I felt like if she and Lucas were featured too heavily in Balthazar, it would keep the story from feeling fresh.

I loved getting to know Balthazar's history.  Knowing the circumstances surrounding his and Charity's deaths answered a lot of questions I had about why Charity was so, well, crazy.  She is totally unhinged, and now I know why.

There was more action in Balthazar than I had expected.  Also, the love story really stood out to me, more so than even Bianca and Lucas's, I think.  I think that was because I have always liked Balthazar and I just loved getting to know him even better.

I would highly recommend Balthazar.  Just be warned, it does contain spoilers for the Evernight series, so if you plan to read both, start with Evernight first.  

Weekly Wrap-Up/Mini-Reviews 1.27.13

Books I Read This Week:

Just One Day by Gayle Foreman.  Mini Review: First off, I have to say that I love Gayle Foreman, so I started Just One Day expecting a great read.  And I was not disappointed.  But, I hated the ending---such a huge cliffhanger---and while If I Stay and Where She Went could stand alone, Just One Day cannot.  It is meant to be part of a duet or series and I really wish I would have waited until book two is out to read this one.  I still loved it, loved the writing and the plot, but hate being left hanging like that.  4/5 stars.

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer.  A little slow to start, but ended up really liking it.  Review to come.

Wolf Pact: Volumes I-IV by Melissa de la Cruz.  Mini Review: I'm so glad I waited to read this series of novellas until all four were out.  I was able to read them back-to-back and the result was a near-full length novel.  I thought this was a great addition to the series and a good spin-off in its own right.  I loved reading about Bliss as she has always been one of my favorite Blue Bloods characters.  I hope de la Cruz writes more from the wolves' perspective.  Wolf Pact was the perfect read to get me back in the mood for reading the Blue Bloods series.  4/5 stars.

First Drop of Crimson (Night Huntress World #1) by Jeaniene FrostMini Review: I loved this book!  I have been meaning to pick it up for a while now, so unfortunately I already knew the ultimate outcome, but I still enjoyed the story so much.  I loved getting to know both Spade and Denise better.  I've read reviews saying this spinoff series is not as good as the Cat and Bones books, but I really like how Frost features a different protagonist in each installment.  I love Cat and Bones but their relationship is getting a little boring for me.  Highly recommended for fans of the paranormal genre!  4.5/5 stars.

How was your week?

Book Review: Black Heart (Curse Workers #3) by Holly Black

In a world where Magic is illegal, Cassel Sharpe has the most deadly ability of all. With one touch, he can transform any object - including a person - into something else entirely. And that makes him a wanted man. The Feds are willing to forgive all his past crimes if he'll only leave his con artist family behind and go straight. But why does going straight feel so crooked?

For one thing, it means being on the opposite side of the law from Lila, the girl he loves. She's the daughter of a mob boss and getting ready to join the family business herself. Though Cassel is pretty sure she can never love him back, he can't stop obsessing over her. Which would be bad enough, even if her father wasn't keeping Cassel's mother prisoner in a posh apartment and threatening not to let her leave until she returns the priceless diamond she scammed off him years ago. Too bad she can't remember where she put it.

The Feds say they need Cassel to get rid of a powerful man who is spinning dangerously out of control. But if they want Cassel to use his unique talent to hurt people, what separates the good guys from the bad ones? Or is everyone just out to con him?

Time is running out, and all Cassel's magic and cleverness might not be enough to save him. With no easy answers and no one he can trust, love might be the most dangerous gamble of all.

Release Date: April 3, 2012
Age Group: YA
Source: Library

What a perfect ending to such a unique, well-executed series!  I could not be happier with Black Heart.  Everything that I hoped would happen, happened.  I so wanted Cassel to get a happily ever after, and he did, just not the exact way I was expecting.  I love the way Holly Black brought everything together for the conclusion.

There was a lot of action in Black Heart, which I loved.  I loved the way Black wrote Cassel.  Usually, I don't love a male first person POV, but I really liked knowing everything Cassel was thinking and feeling.  

If you haven't read the Curse Workers series, I highly recommend it.  It is so unlike anything else I've ever read.  I loved the unique world and the characters continually surprised me.  I can't wait to see what Holly Black comes up with next!


Book Review: Taking Chances by Molly McAdams

Eighteen year old Harper has grown up under her career Marine of a father's thumb. Ready to live life her own way and experience things she's only ever heard of from the jarheads in her father's unit; she's on her way to college at San Diego State University.

Thanks to her new roommate, Harper is introduced to a world of parties, gorgeous guys, family and emotions. Some she wasn't expecting yet, and others she never knew she was missing.

She finds herself being torn in two as she quickly falls in love with her boyfriend Brandon, and her roommate's brother Chase. Covered in tattoos, known for fighting in the Underground and ridiculously muscled...they're exactly what she was always warned to stay away from, but just what she needs. Despite their dangerous looks and histories, both adore and would do anything for Harper, including stepping back if it means she's happy.

Her first year away is turning out to be near perfect, but one weekend of giving in to heated passion will change everything.

Release Date: September 1, 2012
Age Group: Mature YA
Source: Purchased

I have really mixed feelings about this book. I loved the story and the plot. I stayed up late reading, because I had to know how things were going to end. I loved the way McAdams writes emotions and her character development, but I had some major problems with the book. By the last third of the story, I was just skimming the pages, to know how things were going to end up.  I was emotionally 'done' with the story, because there were huge inconsistencies throughout the story which really detracted from my enjoyment of the writing. 

First, McAdams mixes the past and present tense, sometimes in the same sentence, which was really distracting for me. Second, the labor and delivery part of the story was really unrealistic. Especially the part where Harper's stomach is totally flat ONE WEEK after giving birth. I don't care if she was a teenage mom, that is totally unrealistic and happens to no one. Thirdly, the length of the baby was inappropriate. 14" long for what the characters repeatedly referred to as a 'big' baby? That is just unreal. 14" long is a preemie, not a 'big baby.' Lastly, the conflict resolution was just too neat. It was also unrealistic. Things were just wrapped up way too easily and neatly to feel real to me.

Overall, I would not recommend this book. I liked some things about it, but the problems I had are keeping me from recommending this one.  I can't even say that I'm glad I read it.  I definitely wish I hadn't bought it. 

Book Review: UnWholly (Unwind #2) by Neal Shusterman

Thanks to Connor, Lev, and Risa—and their high-profile revolt at Happy Jack Harvest Camp—people can no longer turn a blind eye to unwinding. Ridding society of troublesome teens while simltaneously providing much-needed tissues for transplant might be convenient, but its morality has finally been brought into question. However, unwinding has become big business, and there are powerful political and corporate interests that want to see it not only continue, but also expand to the unwinding of prisoners and the impoverished.

Cam is a product of unwinding; made entirely out of the parts of other unwinds, he is a teen who does not technically exist. A futuristic Frankenstein, Cam struggles with a search for identity and meaning and wonders if a rewound being can have a soul. And when the actions of a sadistic bounty hunter cause Cam’s fate to become inextricably bound with the fates of Connor, Risa, and Lev, he’ll have to question humanity itself.

Rife with action and suspense, this riveting companion to the perennially popular Unwind challenges assumptions about where life begins and ends—and what it means to live.

Release Date: August 28, 2012
Age Group: YA
Source: Purchased

Few authors can reduce me to giddy fan-girl type reactions like Neal Shusterman can.  He continually surprises me and his writing consistently exceeds my expectations.  I really didn't think I could love UnWholly as much as I did.  I think Unwind was still my favorite between the two books, just because of the raw shock of the concept's uniqueness, but it's a very close call for me.

Let's start at the beginning.  The cover of UnWholly is pretty freaky.  When I first saw it, I thought that the guy's face looked like patchwork.  Like he was pieced together, and his skin was not his own.  Oh, how right I was...but in a way I never expected.  The guy on the cover is Cam, and he is a new addition to the cast of characters.  At first, I wanted to hate him, and I really thought I would, but I ended up really caring about him and feeling a lot of emotions for him.  I'm really looking forward to seeing what Cam does in book three.

Another new character was Miracolina.  She is a tithe, like Lev was, except she wants to be tithed.  She wants nothing more than to be unwound: she thinks it is her gift to God and the universe.  Miracolina seemed to be a flat character at first, until she started to grow and change.  I loved seeing that transformation in her.

And, then we got to catch back up with the characters in book one.  I loved getting to know Connor, Risa and Lev even better than before.  I especially loved Lev's story.  He really turned out to be a different character than what I thought him to be in Unwind.  

I really can't say enough good things about this series.  Shusterman's plot is masterful.  His pacing is spot-on...the alternating points of view in each chapter really serve to keep the story moving quickly.  The characters are so well-developed, and the world-building was just right.  If you haven't picked up Unwind, don't wait!  It's exceptional!


Book Review: UnStrung (Unwind #1.5) by Neal Shusterman

How did Lev Calder move from an unwillingly escaped Tithe to a clapper?

In this new ebook original short story, author Neal Shusterman opens a window on Lev's adventures between the time he left CyFi and when he showed up at the Graveyard.

Lev's experiences on a Hi-Rez, an extraordinarily wealthy Native American Reservation introduce him to a teen with remarkable musical talent... and whose gifts are destined to end up in the hands of another. And it is this teen's heart-breaking story that inspired Lev to choose the clapper's path.

Pulling elements from Neal Shusterman's critically acclaimed Unwind and giving hints about what is to come in the long-awaited sequel, UnWholly, this short story is a must for fans of the series.

Release Date: July 24, 2012
Age Group: YA
Source: Purchased

Unwind is one of my most favorite books of all time, so I just about went through the roof when I found out Shusterman was making Unwind into a trilogy.  I got even more excited when I saw that there was a novella between books one and two.

UnStrung was the perfect appetizer to tide me over until UnWholly was released.  It was a great short story in its own right, but I loved having the sneak peak at UnWholly at the end.

What I liked best about UnStrung was the look into Lev's life.  Many facts were revealed which gave me a lot of insight into his character.  I loved that it takes place in a different setting than the first book, and the look into the lives of the People of Chance.

The sacrifice at the end was heartbreaking, but not entirely unpredictable.  UnStrung is a must-read for fans of Unwind!

Weekly Wrap-Up/Mini-Review 1.20.13

Books I Read This Week:

Across the Universe (Across the Universe #1) by Beth Revis

A Million Suns (Across the Universe #2) by Beth Revis.  

Shades of Earth (Across the Universe #3) by Beth Revis.

Across the Universe Series Mini-Review:  I have heard great things about this series for a while now, and I always meant to read book one, but never got around to it.  My library had book one as an ebook, so I decided to give it a try.  What I didn't expect was to fall so completely in love with this unique, compelling series!  As soon as I finished book one, I immediately bought book two.  Then, after finishing book two, I had to wait several days for book three to be released---torture!  I am so glad I waited to read the series so that I could read the books back-to-back.  There is such a detailed storyline that I'm sure I would have forgotten many details had I read the books as they were released.  I loved the imagery, the uniqueness of the premise, the fact that this series was a little bit dystopia, a little bit sci-fi, and romance too.  Revis wove all the elements together and it made for a perfect series, in my opinion.  Highly recommended!  5/5 stars.

Book Review: The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks

When U.S. Marine Logan Thibault finds a photograph of a smiling young woman half-buried in the dirt during his third tour of duty in Iraq, his first instinct is to toss it aside. Instead, he brings it back to the base for someone to claim, but when no one does, he finds himself always carrying the photo in his pocket. Soon Thibault experiences a sudden streak of luck—winning poker games and even surviving deadly combat that kills two of his closest buddies. Only his best friend, Victor, seems to have an explanation for his good fortune: the photograph—his lucky charm.

Back home in Colorado, Thibault can’t seem to get the photo—and the woman in it—out of his mind. Believing that she somehow holds the key to his destiny, he sets out on a journey across the country to find her, never expecting the strong but vulnerable woman he encounters in Hampton, North Carolina—Elizabeth, a divorced mother with a young son—to be the girl he’s been waiting his whole life to meet. Caught off guard by the attraction he feels, Thibault keeps the story of the photo, and his luck, a secret. As he and Elizabeth embark upon a passionate and all-consuming love affair, the secret he is keeping will soon threaten to tear them apart—destroying not only their love, but also their lives.

Filled with tender romance and terrific suspense, The Lucky One is Nicholas Sparks at his best—an unforgettable story about the surprising paths our lives often take and the power of fate to guide us to true and everlasting love.

Release Date: September 30, 2008
Age Group: Adult
Source: Borrowed from my mom

Nicholas Sparks' books have been hit and miss for me for a few years now, with more misses than hits.  They are just all so similar, I feel like I'm reading the same story over and over again! My mom saw The Lucky One in Wal-Mart, and because it has a new cover, she thought it was a new release and bought it.  And then she let me read it first so I could tell her if she would like it or not.

The funny thing is that this was my second time reading The Lucky One, but I didn't realize I'd read the book before until the very end of the story.  The scene where all three main characters are running through the woods in the rain is what made me remember that I had actually already read The Lucky One, closer to its original release dateFor me, the fact that I couldn't even remember that I'd already read The Lucky One tells me that this book is easily forgotten.

The setting felt recycled to me, and the characters behaved predictably.  Elizabeth and Logan fell in love too fast for my liking.   My other main complaint was the epilogue.  It felt forced to me, like Sparks was trying to be suspenseful but the not knowing who had actually died made me mad.  I sped my way through the epilogue, trying to figure out if this was going to be a HEA or one of Sparks' few sad endings.

I liked The Lucky One, but didn't love it.  I'm not sorry that I read it, but I am glad that I didn't buy it.  I enjoy the writing style and the emotions but Sparks needs to start changing things up as far as plots and settings.  

Book Review: The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

I live in a world without magic or miracles. A place where there are no clairvoyants or shapeshifters, no angels or superhuman boys to save you. A place where people die and music disintegrates and things suck. I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk.

Full of rage and without a purpose, former pianist Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone discovering her past and to make the boy who took everything from her pay.

All 17 year-old Josh Bennett wants is to build furniture and be left alone, and everyone allows it because it’s easier to pretend he doesn’t exist. When your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.

Everyone except Nastya, a hot mess of a girl who starts showing up and won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. The more he gets to know her, the more of a mystery she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he may ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding or if he even wants to.

The Sea of Tranquility is a slow-building, character-driven romance about a lonely boy, an emotionally fragile girl, and the miracle of second chances.

Release Date: September 5, 2012
Age Group: Mature YA
Source: NetGalley

The Sea of Tranquility was the best contemporary YA I read in 2012.  And that's saying a lot, because I've been on quite the contemporary kick lately.  It was an outstanding novel, and I really can't believe that it's Millay's debut work.  Millay writes like a seasoned author, weaving the plot, character growth and emotion so deftly that the pages literally flew by.  The Sea of Tranquility was a one-sitting read for me, it was that good.  I could not stop until I knew how Nastya and Josh's stories concluded. 

The love story was such a slow, sweet build, that it made it that much better when things started progressing between the two main characters.  The mystery of Nastya's attacker added a lot more intrigue to the story than I would have expected.  I loved the way she grows and changes throughout the book, and the way she handles her grief and pain.  So often, characters seem to magically 'snap out' of their problems when they fall in love, so I was really happy to see that Nastya works through her emotions in a realistic, healthy way.  

I could gush for paragraphs about how good this book is, but I won't waste your time.  If the summary intrigues you even the least bit, seek this book out and read it!  You won't be disappointed. I can't wait to see what Millay comes up with next!

Book Review: Timekeeper (Timeless #2) by Alexandra Monir

When Philip Walker appears as a new student in Michele Windsor's high school class, she is floored. He is the love she thought she lost forever when they said goodbye during her time travels last century. Overjoyed that they can resume the relationship they had a lifetime ago, Michele eagerly approaches him and discovers the unthinkable: he doesn't remember her. In fact, he doesn't seem to remember anything about the Philip Walker of 1910.

Michele then finds her father's journals, which tell stories of his time-traveling past. As she digs deeper, she learns about his entanglement with a mysterious and powerful organization called the Time Society and his dealings with a vengeful Windsor ancestor. Michele soon finds herself at the center of a rift over 120 years in the making, one whose resolution will have life-or-death consequences.

Alexandra Monir's Timekeeper combines breathtaking romance with a tale of complex magic in a sequel that will have every reader believing in the transcendent power of love.

Release Date: January 8, 2012
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from publisher

I loved Timeless, book one in the series, and dove right into Timekeeper immediately after closing the cover on Timeless.  With that huge cliffhanger ending, I just had to know what would happen next.  And I'm  happy to say that I loved Timekeeper just as much as Timeless.  There was definitely no second-in-a-series syndrome with this book! 

I was expecting a sweet love story and a nice fast-paced plot, based on how Timeless read for me.  But Timekeeper had a much more intense plot than book one.  With all the world-building complete, Monir really took off with the story, making for a great read.  I was surprised and pleased at the plot's intricacy.  I loved everything about this book!  

The love story was so well-done.  Monir hit the perfect note, keeping things clean enough for YA but emotional enough to satisfy the reader.  Michele and Phillip have to work hard to find their love and to get back together----which was a nice change of pace.  I like it when things don't just magically fall into place in characters' lives just because they are in love.  The fact that Michele and Phillip had serious obstacles to overcome made their relationship that much stronger and sweeter.

The villian was a nice surprise and definitely kept things interesting.  The conflict resolution was really well-handled and added a lot to the story.  I can't wait for book three...I highly recommend this series!  

My toddler hid my book

I've been reading Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer for a while now.  I can read hard copies of books only when Kaitlyn (my 21 month-old) is asleep.  She loves to rip my books apart---just mine, not hers.  She ripped up a signed copy of Gabi Stevens' Wishful Thinking and I about went into orbit!  If I read anything while she's awake, it has to be on my Kindle.

Anyway, I have been slowly working my way through Scarlet.  Earlier this week, I went in search for it at Kaitlyn's nap time, thinking I could get a good bit of reading in while she napped.  I could not find Scarlet anywhere!  I went through every spot I could have put it, and still, no Scarlet.  I panicked.  I never lose things.  Especially books.  Especially ARCs.  Especially ARCs that I really want to read!  

I turned my house upside down for days looking for that book.  I could not find Scarlet anywhere!  Finally, I started going through our nightstands.  I don't keep anything in drawers that Kaitlyn can get into, hence both nightstands in my master bedroom are empty.  I found Scarlet in the second drawer of my nightstand (all by itself).  I didn't put it there, Toby (hubby) didn't put it there, so it had to be Kaitlyn.  When she saw it on the bar later I swear she got this look on her face and I just knew she hid it from me on purpose!

Has anything like this ever happened to you? 

Book Review: The Girl in the Wall by Daphne Benedis-Grab

Ariel's birthday weekend looks to be the event of the season, with a private concert by rock star Hudson Winters on the grounds of her family's east coast estate, and all of Ariel's elite prep school friends in attendance. The only person who's dreading the party is Sera, Ariel's former best friend, whose father is forcing her to go. Sera has been the school pariah since she betrayed Ariel, and she now avoids Ariel and their former friends. Thrown together, Ariel and Sera can agree on one thing: this could be one very long night.

They have no idea just how right they are.

Only moments after the concert begins and the lights go down, thugs open fire on parents and schoolmates alike, in a plot against Ariel's father that quickly spins out of control. As the entire party is taken hostage, the girls are forced apart. Ariel escapes into the hidden tunnels in the family mansion, where she and Sera played as children. Only Sera, who forges an unlikely alliance with Hudson Winters, knows where her friend could be. As the industrial terrorist plot unravels and the death toll climbs, Ariel and Sera must recall the sisterhood that once sustained them as they try to save themselves and each other on the longest night of their lives.

Release Date: December 18, 2012
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from publisher

I don't think I've ever enjoyed a YA thriller as much as I enjoyed The Girl in the Wall.  What an intense read!  I sped through this book in one sitting, staying up really late to finishi it, because I just could not put it down.  I kept telling myself, "just one more chapter," only to realize that there was no way I could sleep until I knew what happened with the characters I grew to really care about.
Ariel and Sera were once best-friends, but are now estranged.  Sera goes to Ariel's birthday party, with serious misgivings about how she'll be treated there.  Little does she know what she's really walking into.  I felt so badly for both girls, given that they were both very hurt by the events of the past, and enjoyed the way Benedis-Grab resolved the conflict between them as the book progressed. 

I was not expecting The Girl in the Wall to have any kind of a love story, but to my delight, there was a sweet romance that blossomed between two of the characters.  It was nicely done and did not detract from the thrilling plot, instead it just added some emotional lightness to the story.  

I was so surprised by the ending to The Girl in the Wall.  I could not believe the way things ended!  I really, really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to an older YA audience, due to the violence.  I will definitely be reading more from Daphne Benedis-Grab!

Weekly Wrap-Up/Mini Review 1.13.13

My reading binge continues...I just can't get enough of reading on my new Kindle.  And I seem to be reading much faster on it compared to my Nook---maybe it's because the Kindle is so much lighter and easier to use, I find myself picking it up more often to read a few pages here and there.  

Books I Read This Week:

Loving Summer (Loving Summer #1) by Kailin GowMini Review: I liked Loving Summer but did have a few problems with it.  The writing style felt choppy, with very short sentences.  The characters' internal dialogue didn't feel authentic, and I could not really identify with any of the characters.  Especially Summer, who has three guys after her and goes back and forth between all three.  I would read book two if I could get it for free, but I won't be buying it.  Rating: 3/5 stars.

A Shade of Vampire by Bella Forrest.  What a nice surprise!  I really liked this YA paranormal romance and can't wait for the next book in the series.  Full review to come.

Nobody by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.  This was a haunting, unique read.  It's still on my mind, days later.  I really enjoyed it! 

Rapunzel Untangled by Cindy C. Bennett.  What a fun, modern-day retelling of a classic fairy tale!

How was your reading week?

Check out the Valentine's signature Natalie made me---super cute, right?

Book Review: Creator Class by K.M. Breakey

Decades have elapsed since The Creators inflicted their vision on the planet. The population menace is tamed, resources are plentiful, and climate concerns abate. A sustainable world order has been achieved.

But the rigid restrictions of P-Class torment Shawn Lowe. Movements are tracked, conversations scrutinized, conformity enforced. It’s wrong. The Laws of Earthism are wrong. When a treasonous outburst cements Shawn’s fate, an unexpected communication from Creator Class sparks changes he could never have imagined.

A new life. A new family. Boundless opportunity. Destiny, it seems, has been rewritten. But an evil nemesis emerges, and a lust for vengeance points Shawn down a treacherous path.
Creator Class is the first book in The Creator Class Series.

Release Date: October 15, 2012
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from author

Creator Class was a unique, well-executed story.  I loved Breakey's vision of Earth's future, as the world he created was eerily believable and easily imagined.  

I'm not usually a huge fan of having a male for the main character (especially when he does not fall in love in the course of the story) but I liked Shawn a lot.  He was different from his peers; not content to live a pre-determined life of school, marriage and career, but instead questioned why things were the way they were.  He had a lot of smarts and gumption, which I admired.  

One day, Shawn is abruptly brought from his home in P-Class up to Creator Class.  He had no idea Creator Class even exsisted until he's brought to live there.  His wildest dreams come true upon his arrival in Creator Class: he can do anything, be anything he wants.  But, again, Shawn is not content to just sit back and relax.  He starts to question the differences between the two classes.  The dispartiy between the lives of those in the lower-class P-class and the elite upper crust, C-class, is huge.  Imagine how our movie stars live versus how the middle class lives.  Houses, cars, servants, schools, food, everything is better in C-class.

Shawn has an ulterior motive once he's moved to C-class.  He plots revenge against a man who's responsible for hurting his family (this is a mild understatement but I don't want to give any plot points away).  Shawn tracks his enemy, and his plans against him consume his thoughts and time.  In the midst of all of this, Shawn himself becomes a target.  I liked the way this part of the story was handled.  It was very cleverly done and the way Breakey resolved the conflict was a surprise.  

My favorite part of Creator Class was finding out the answers to the questions I'd had for the entire book.  Shawn finally gets his questions answered (and the reader does too, vicariously) during the very last chapter.  To finally get those answers was very satisfying!  Plus, it left me wanting to read the next book in the series.

I would recommend Creator Class to fans of dystopia.  I will definitely be reading the next book in the series!

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Perfect Misfits by Lawna Mackie

Today we're part of the blog tour for Lawna Mackie's fantasy romance, Perfect Misfits.  And one lucky reader will receive an e-copy of Perfect Misfits! 

Ryder, commander of the Levarian legion of gargoyles, has a problem. He keeps dreaming on duty…and falling…neither of which gargoyles ever do. Every dream is of the same woman, and every time it brings on red-hot, searing pain in the crescent-shaped scar on his palm. Driven to find the woman and the reason for his bizarre dreams, he lets himself fall…

He lands in a place he never knew existed and face to face with the woman of his dreams.

Labeled a misfit, Tempest was snatched away as a child and imprisoned in the hidden realm of Misfit Mountain. Locked up by Fedor, the ruler of the kingdom who intends to take her as his bride, Tempest has no choice but to brave the dangerous snow and ice of the mountain to escape. Faced with the impossible choice of Fedor or death, love is the last thing on her mind until Ryder snatches her from the air and into a whole new realm of feeling.

Can Ryder find the key to freeing her and save them both?

Interested?  The giveaway for one e-copy of Perfect Misfits is open internationally.  Fill out the form below to enter!


Book Review: Timeless (Timeless #1) by Alexandra Monir

When tragedy strikes Michele Windsor’s world, she is forced to uproot her life and move across the country to New York City, to live with the wealthy, aristocratic grandparents she’s never met. In their old Fifth Avenue mansion filled with a century’s worth of family secrets, Michele discovers a diary that hurtles her back in time to the year 1910. There, in the midst of the glamorous Gilded Age, Michele meets the young man with striking blue eyes who has haunted her dreams all her life – a man she always wished was real, but never imagined could actually exist. And she finds herself falling for him, into an otherworldly, time-crossed romance.

Michele is soon leading a double life, struggling to balance her contemporary high school world with her escapes into the past. But when she stumbles upon a terrible discovery, she is propelled on a race through history to save the boy she loves – a quest that will determine the fate of both of their lives.

Release Date: January 11, 2011
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from publisher

I've been wanting to read Timeless for a while now, and when the publisher emailed me to offer me copies of both Timeless and Timekeeper, I jumped at the chance to read and review these popular books.  

I was suprised at how much I enjoyed Timeless.  It was a book about two characters falling in love, which I love.  First love with its intense emotions is my favorite thing to read about.  And Michele and Phillip were so sweet and perfect together.  But, Timeless was much more than just a love story.  Timeless had a great mystery aspect and a fast-paced plot.  

I liked the time travel aspect of the book, much more so than other YA time-travel novels I've read.  I think what appealed to me was that the time-traveling components of the novel made it read like historical fiction (my favorite genre).  I loved getting to see New York in the past, especially the early 1900s which is my favorite era to read about.  

I am so, so glad that I already had Timekeeper in hand.  Because with the cliffhanger ending Monir gave us, I would have had a really hard time waiting months on end to see what happened next!  

I highly recommend Timeless and look forward to seeing where Monir takes this series!   


Book Review: Once (Eve #2) by Anna Carey

When you're being hunted, who can you trust?

For the first time since she escaped from her school many months ago, Eve can sleep soundly. She's living in Califia, a haven for women, protected from the terrifying fate that awaits orphaned girls in The New America.

But her safety came at a price: She was forced to abandon Caleb, the boy she loves, wounded and alone at the city gates. When Eve gets word that Caleb is in trouble, she sets out into the wild again to rescue him, only to be captured and brought to the City of Sand, the capital of The New America.

Trapped inside the City walls, Eve uncovers a shocking secret about her past--and is forced to confront the harsh reality of her future. When she discovers Caleb is alive, Eve attempts to flee her prison so they can be together--but the consequences could be deadly. She must make a desperate choice to save the ones she loves . . . or risk losing Caleb forever.

In this breathless sequel to "Eve," Anna Carey returns to her tale of romance, adventure, and sacrifice in a world that is both wonderfully strange and chillingly familiar.

Release Date: July 3, 2012
Age Group: YA
Source: Purchased

I liked Eve but didn't love it.  Read my review hereIn fact, when I just now went back and read my original review, I'm surprised that I purchased OnceEve was a good book, but not as good as other dystopian novels.  However, Carey really took the story in a good and new direction in Once.  I liked Once much more than Eve, and feel that the third book will be even better.

I wasn't really crazy about Eve as a character in the first book.  But, she really grew on me in Once.  She had a lot more gumption and concern for others.  I loved watching her fall in love with Caleb, and their sweet relationship was a high point of the book for me.

Eve's journey to the City of Sand, and her adventures there, were what made this book so good for me.  I loved getting to know the motivation behind the King's actions.  The imagery was outstanding...especially how lavish The City of Sand is, being in the middle of the desert, and built on the backs of slaves.  There was such a discrepancy between the classes, one that Eve is now fully aware of, and wants to change.  

The ending was a real "DREAMS SHATTERED" moment for me, and I'm hopeful for a resurrection of sorts in book three.  I really liked Once and I'm excited for the final book in the trilogy!