Month in Review: January 2014

Books Read:
Bring Me Home (Shattered Hearts #3) by Cassia Leo
Fearsome by S.A. Wolfe
Shattered Veil (The Diatous Veil Wars #1) by Tracy Banghart
Running On Empty by Colette Ballard
The End of the Line by Jim Power
I Want to Hold Your Hand by Stephanie Blackburn
Horde (Razorland #3) by Ann Aguirre
Twisted (Torn #2) by K.A. Robinson
The Medea Complex by Rachel Florence Roberts
Into the Deep by Missy Fleming
Unravelled by Anna Scanlon
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Wait for You (Wait for You #1) by J. Lynn
How was your January?

Book Review: I Want to Hold Your Hand by Stephanie Blackburn

On a frigid February night in New Hampshire the car Penny is riding in loses control and crashes passenger-side first into a tree. When she wakes up the next morning she can’t understand why her mother and sister are ignoring her, until she accidentally sticks her hand through her mother and remembers the night before.

A town away, Will is going about his senior year of high school on autopilot. He can’t work up the courage to tell his overbearing father that he doesn’t want to go to Boston College and study Business, his ex-girlfriend doesn’t understand the concept of being broken up, and he’s tired of feeling like his life is all an act.

Thinking she’s dead and wishing for a respite from her family’s grief, Penny is drawn to a house party where she meets Will, who miraculously can see her though no one else can. In the off-limits living room at the back of the house, with music thumping and their peers making fools of themselves nearby, Penny and Will begin a relationship that will make both of them question the decisions that have brought them to where they are and force them to jointly take a leap of faith.
Release Date: June 20, 2013
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from author
Reviewed By: Kelli
It's a well-known fact here at I'd So Rather Be Reading that I don't read stories with ghosts in them.  Not at all.  Not ever!  So, when Stephanie Blackburn contacted me for a possible review of I Want to Hold Your Hand the first question I had after reading the summary was, "Is Penny a ghost?"  She assured me that there was nothing in the story that would scare me and that it's more of a contemporary story than a paranormal fiction.  And she was right: after I got over my initial discomfort about Penny's ghost-like status, I ended up really enjoying I Want to Hold Your Hand.

I liked that Penny is such a driven person: she's a gifted athlete (she rides horses), and spends all of her free time training for her horse competitions.  One night on the way home from practice, Penny and her mom are in a wreck.  She wakes up the next day, but no one can see or hear her (except for her sister's cat and her horse, Henry).  Penny thinks she's dead and that she's a ghost.  She ends up on a private school campus, and meets Will.  The best thing about Will in the beginning is simply that he can see and hear Penny.  Then the two become friends, and while they end up having feelings for each other, their relationship is an impossibility due to the fact that they can't touch.

What I loved about this story is how Blackburn resolves the conflict.  I totally didn't see the ending coming, and I loved the surprise and the way she wrapped things up.  I loved that Penny changed throughout the story and by the end of the book, she was a different person---both literally and figuratively. 

I Want to Hold Your Hand read like a contemporary YA fiction with a twist.  I really enjoyed it, and would definitely recommend this book! 


Book Review: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Life. Death. And...Love?

Emma would give anything to talk to her mother one last time. Tell her about her slipping grades, her anger with her stepfather, and the boy with the bad reputation who might be the only one Emma can be herself with.

But Emma can't tell her mother anything. Because her mother is brain-dead and being kept alive by machines for the baby growing inside her.

Meeting bad-boy Caleb Harrison wouldn't have interested Old Emma. But New Emma-the one who exists in a fog of grief, who no longer cares about school, whose only social outlet is her best friend Olivia-New Emma is startled by the connection she and Caleb forge.

Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death-and maybe, for love?

Release Date: January 28, 2014
Age Group: YA
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli

After finishing Heartbeat (I devoured it in just a few hours), all I can say is "wow."  What an emotional journey!  I found myself tearing up a few times while reading this book, which is unusual for me.  

The summary drew me in and I knew that I simply had to read this book.  The idea of keeping a pregnant woman's body alive, so that the baby can grow and eventually be delivered, is something that crossed my mind more than once when I was pregnant.  In fact, I remember telling my husband that I would want him to save Kaitlyn (my two year old) if he could, if something were to happen to me.  So to read an entire book about this very subject really touched my heart.  

I really felt for Emma, the main character.  She was so consumed by her anger towards her stepfather, for keeping her mother's body alive.  I knew that Emma's anger was really misdirected grief over her mother's death.  She could not really mourn her mother when her mother's body was still technically alive.  Although there was no hope of recovery, since her mother was declared brain dead, I got the feeling a small part of Emma longed for a miracle.  

Emma's endless anger was the focus of the first quarter of the book.  Just when her actions towards her stepfather, and really everyone in her life, started to grate on me, she started to change.  Seeing Emma come to terms with the situation, and with Dan (her stepfather) was the best part of the book.  Emma's acceptance of the loss of her mother, and her forgiveness towards Dan, provided a great deal of character growth.  I liked getting to know the reasons (besides the obvious) behind Dan's decision.  I really felt for him, as well as Emma.

In the midst of all this heartache, Emma befriends a boy at school.  Caleb is known for being a trouble-maker, and in the past Emma wouldn't have given him a second thought.  However, their paths cross at the hospital, and they find that they have some things in common: namely grief over the loss of their family members.  The love story between Caleb and Emma was secondary to the main plot, but it was such a great addition to the book.  It was very tender and well-written, and added to the story without overshadowing the real issue.

Scott has a great writing style, with perfect pacing.  She depicts emotions flawlessly, which made the book have an even greater emotional impact.  I really can't say enough good things about Heartbeat.  It's a story that I won't ever forget, and I would recommend it to anyone.    


Book Review: No Surrender Soldier by Christine Kohler

Growing up on Guam in 1972, fifteen-year-old Kiko is beset by worries: He's never kissed a girl, the popular guys get all the attention at school--but the worst part is the serious problems at home. His older brother is missing in Vietnam, his grandfather is losing it to dementia, and he just learned that his mother was raped by a Japanese soldier during World War II. It all comes together when he discovers an old man, a Japanese soldier, hiding in the jungle behind his house. It's not the same man who raped his mother, but, in his rage, Kiko cares only about protecting his family and avenging his mom--no matter what it takes. And so, a shy, peaceable boy begins to plan a murder. But how far will Kiko go to prove to himself that he's a man? Based on a true incident in history, No Surrender Soldier is the story of a boy grappling with ancient questions of courage and manhood before he can move on.
Release Date: January 1, 2013
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed By: Madi B
My thoughts on this book are more...complicated than they are with most books. I'm usually either YAY or NAY but i'm more in the middle with this one. I thought it was a slow beginning (I carted it around for days just trying to get into it) I didn't get sucked in like I do most books, I was painfully conscious of my surroundings until the very end. (The whole reason we read is to ESCAPE! not to be in the limbo between book and real life!!! #nerdgirlprobs) But I think the best way to sort my thoughts is through a list so...
1. I really liked watching Kiko's character development mainly because I really hated Kiko's bloodthirsty streak (Which luckily I did NOT relate to!) and was glad to see it character-develop OUT of that boy!
2. I LOVED LOVED LOVED LOVED LOVED Kiko's crush on Daphne!!! SO FREAKIN CUTE! Call that my teenage but it was my favorite part of the book! He was so shy and she was shy... it.was..ADORABLE
3. I liked Tomas! he was a great bestie to Kiko
1. I think the plot is good but hard for anyone to relate to, let alone the YA group! To kill or not to kill?? Then venn diagram of people who relate to that and people I don't want to meet IS A CIRCLE!
2. Either the plot needed to be sped up or the summary needed to include less. Page 154 is when I stopped reading stuff that was mentioned in the summary. PAGE 154 OUT OF 200! THAT'S A NO-NO!
3. The book is set in Guam so it has the foreign-book-feel to it. (I'm not being dumb there is  a certain feeling you get when you read books that take place in a foreign place) I can never put my finger on it! BUT IT EXISTS! man I sound like a lunatic. It may be because of the lifestyle difference between us and the characters. But then books like Divergent would technically qualify...but I don't get the feeling then...what if I don't get the feeling because our society is more like theirs than we know... 
My brain is done now.
Overall this was a good book. No Surrender Soldier is not a lighthearted read. Christine Kohler promised a deep read and gosh dang it she delivered one.

Book Review: The Art of Falling by Kathryn Craft

One wrong step could send her over the edge.

All Penny has ever wanted to do is dance—and when that chance is taken from her, it pushes her to the brink of despair, from which she might never return. When she wakes up after a traumatic fall, bruised and battered but miraculously alive, Penny must confront the memories that have haunted her for years, using her love of movement to pick up the pieces of her shattered life.

Kathryn Craft’s lyrical debut novel is a masterful portrayal of a young woman trying to come to terms with her body and the artistic world that has repeatedly rejected her.
The Art of Falling expresses the beauty of movement, the stasis of despair, and the unlimited possibilities that come with a new beginning.
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Age Group: Adult
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli
The Art of Falling was very different from my usual reads.  It read like literary fiction to me: the prose was very lyrical, full of meaning, and I often had to stop and think after reading a sentence to divine its true meaning.  I enjoyed that aspect of the book, but it made for a slower, more cerebral read.

I used to take dance (just for fun, I was never anywhere near good enough to consider competing) so I always enjoy reading about dancers.  Penny is a professional dancer, yet her body type (tall, broader than most dancers) keeps her from many of the roles she's qualified for.  Her larger stature sticks out when in a group of petite dancers.  Because of this, she has had body image issues her entire life.  She restricts her eating just to the point where she does not meet the criteria for an eating disorder, but her eating habits are far from healthy.

The book begins with Penny waking up in a hospital room, having survived a fall.  She has no memory of the events leading up to the fall, or if she actually jumped (like many people think).  Penny's hospital roommate is a girl named Angela, who is in the end stages of cystic fibrosis.  Penny and Angela slowly become friends, and that friendship is the defining relationship of Penny's life.  Penny starts to view what she previously considered to be weaknesses as strengths, having a different perspective after spending time with Angela, who is a strong spirit trapped in a weak body. 

There were so many things I liked about The Art of Falling, but I think my favorite element of the book was the extensive character growth (displayed in all of the major characters).  Penny went from a one-dimensional person to someone completely different.  I loved watching her transformation!  The Art of Falling is Penny's story, for sure, but Angela, Marty and Penny's mother all played vital roles and had their own interesting story arcs as well. 

I should know better than to expect a completely happy ending out of emotional books like these, so I wasn't completely taken aback when the inevitable happened.  I was sad, and even shed a tear, yet I applauded Craft for keeping the book realistic and true to the storyline. 

I really enjoyed The Art of Falling and would recommend it to fans of contemporary fiction, literary fiction, and anyone looking for an intelligently-written, moving read. 

Giveaway: Win a copy of The Art of Falling

We and the staff at Sourcebooks are giving away one hard copy of The Art of Falling (US and Canada only) to the first person who comments with the correct answer to this trivia question:

Which African-American choreographer created Revelations, one of the most popular modern dance pieces ever performed?

Leave your answer in the comments below!

Book Review: Wrecked (Wrecked #1) by Priscilla West

Two years ago, Lorrie’s mother was murdered. But that wasn’t the end of it. Reeling from the tragedy, Lorrie’s father spiraled into alcohol, depression, and finally suicide.

The two most important people in Lorrie’s life are both gone but she’s still alive.

Trying to recover from the tragedy, Lorrie returns to campus, ready to pick up the pieces of her life. All Lorrie wants is to get back to “normal.”

Then she meets Hunter. The man, the legend, “the Hammer.”

Hunter is a cage fighter who takes on every fight like he’s got nothing to lose. His life is a tangled mess of girls, booze, and fist fights. And while it may seem like he’s got a devil-may-care attitude, he’s fighting a private cage-match with a monster he can’t defeat.

Lorrie knows that Hunter is the exact type of guy she should stay away from, especially in her fragile state, but Hunter has other ideas.

As Hunter and Lorrie grow closer together, will they be able to overcome their pain and heal each other? Or will they both end up wrecked?

Release Date: December 11, 2013
Age Group: New Adult
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli
Contemporary New Adult fiction is my latest obsession.  I can't seem to get enough of this genre: the books are easy, fast reads and great escapist fiction for me.  Wrecked was a good read, but not a favorite of mine.

I liked the premise of Lorrie's family situation and Hunter's history.  I really felt for Lorrie, losing both of her parents, and feeling so alone in the world.  Hunter was more of an enigma to me.  I simply couldn't figure him out...and while that was intriguing, much of his behavior was outright baffling and infuriating to me.

Wrecked was full of indecision and games between Hunter and Lorrie.  I didn't like that.  And I didn't like Hunter's causal treatment of his sexual encounters.  I won't go into details, but he was very cavalier about his sex life and that didn't sit well with me.  Hunter and Lorrie's relationship progression was unrealistic and at times, unhealthy in how obsessive and consuming it was.  They made their declarations to each other way too quickly. 

I thought the conflict was appropriate to the story and the conflict resolution was good too.  Several times throughout Wrecked, I found myself thinking that the writing just didn't flow well.  I'll still read book two, but I'm not on pins and needles waiting for it, like I am with other contemporary fiction books.



Book Review: The Iron Traitor (The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten #2) by Julie Kagawa

In the real world, when you vanish into thin air for a week, people tend to notice.

After his unexpected journey into the lands of the fey, Ethan Chase just wants to get back to normal. Well, as "normal" as you can be when you see faeries every day of your life. Suddenly the former loner with the bad reputation has someone to try for-his girlfriend, Kenzie. Never mind that he's forbidden to see her again.

But when your name is Ethan Chase and your sister is one of the most powerful faeries in the Nevernever, "normal" simply isn't to be. For Ethan's nephew, Keirran, is missing, and may be on the verge of doing something unthinkable in the name of saving his own love. Something that will fracture the human and faery worlds forever, and give rise to the dangerous fey known as the Forgotten. As Ethan's and Keirran's fates entwine and Keirran slips further into darkness, Ethan's next choice may decide the fate of them all.

Release Date: October 29, 2013
Age Group: YA
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli

I've been a fan of Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series from the start.  I loved the first two books: The Iron King and The Iron Daughter.  The last two books: The Iron Queen and The Iron Knight were great but not "love" books for me.  I missed Meghan as a narrator and I'm finding that I'm missing Meghan in this spin-off series as well.  I like Ethan as a narrator well enough, as much as I can like a male narrator, but I really miss Meghan.  It's impossible for me to not compare the two series, and this series is great but just not as good as the original series for me. 

What sets Julie Kagawa's books apart is the imagery.  Her descriptive prose is outstanding, and she excels in making me feel like I'm living in the story right beside her characters.  Some of my favorite characters are back: Grimalkin and Puck.  I love both of them and think they add a lot of humor and interest to the story.

I feel like The Iron Traitor was a little bit transitional.  It set up a new storyline, which I hope will be developed more during the next books in the series.  I'm interested in the direction of the story, but all of the setting up that happened in this book made for a slower read.  The Iron Traitor just didn't 'grab me' like Julie's other books have.  

I was surprised at how Kagawa ended this book.  To say she ended it with a cliffhanger would be putting it mildly.  I excited to see where she takes the story next.  If you haven't read Julie Kagawa yet, I highly recommend her for fans of fantasy.   


Book Review: Believe (True Believers #3) by Erin McCarthy

Robin used to be a party girl… until she got black out drunk and woke up in bed with her best friend’s boyfriend. Now she’s faced with being THAT girl, and couldn’t be more disgusted with herself. She can’t even tell her friends the reason for her sudden sobriety and she avoids everyone until she meets Phoenix—quiet, tattooed, and different in every way that’s good and oh, so bad…

Phoenix is two days out of jail when he meets Robin at his cousin’s house, and he knows that he has no business talking to her, but he’s drawn to her quiet demeanor, sweet smile, and artistic talent. She doesn’t care that he’s done time, or that he only has five bucks to his name, and she supports his goal to be a tattoo artist.

But Phoenix knows Robin has a secret, and that it’s a na├»ve dream to believe that his record won’t catch up with them at some point. Though neither is prepared for the explosive result when the past collides with the present…

Release Date: January 21, 2014
Age Group: New Adult
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli

I've enjoyed Erin McCarthy's True Believers series (read my reviews of book one: True and book two: Sweet).  I've found this series to be reliably entertaining, if a bit predictable.  But Believe was the strongest book in the series to date, and I found myself really affected by this story!
I loved both main characters: Robin and Phoenix.  They were honest both with themselves and each other.  I really admire that.  I will not read a book full of games and/or deceit between characters; it just drives me nuts.  So when characters have authentic relationships built on a foundation of trust, friendship, and honesty, I want to stand up and cheer!
In keeping with the other books in the True Believers series, Robin and Phoenix had great chemistry together.  McCarthy always keeps her love scenes realistic but tasteful, and the level of "adultness" is just right for the New Adult genre.
I love that the books in the True Believers series are stand-alone novels.  This means there are no big cliffhangers----seriously, thank you, Erin McCarthy----so I'm not left hanging for months and months while I wait for the next release.  While the novels in this series can stand alone, the characters from previous books still play important roles in each story.  I like this for two reasons: one, I love getting a glimpse of my favorite characters from previous novels living out their HEAs, and two, I feel really connected to the characters since I already know many of them.
The one thing I didn't like about Believe was that the relationship moved really fast.  There was a huge level of commitment displayed very early on in the relationship (I'm not going to say what exactly happened because I hate spoilers) and that felt unrealistic to me.
Other than that one complaint, Believe was a great read.  This series is emotional, realistic and has a rawness to the realism: it feels like the characters could be people I know.  McCarthy's emotions jump off the page and her characterization is perfect.  I recommend this series and look forward to the next release!

Book Review: The End of the Line by Jim Power

Latesha Thomas is a beautiful, young African-American woman who lives with her handicapped father. She is in her final year of university and they are having a hard time making ends meet. She decides to start a matchmaking service to make a little extra money, though she has no experience and it turns out to be a disaster. She does, however, meet a client, a handsome white man named Peter Elsworth. The sparks fly immediately, but there’s a huge problem. Her father, and his mother, are vehemently opposed to an interracial relationship. This leads to tremendous conflict, but their love will not be denied. They grow closer, yet the closer they become, the more the tension rises. In time a secret connection between their two worlds become clear and this adds another dimension of conflict and complexity. But love is color blind and they are irresistibly drawn to one another.
Release Date: October 27, 2013
Age Group: Adult
Source: Review copy from author
Reviewed By: Kelli
I don't think I've ever read a book quite like The End of the Line.  And I mean that in a good way.  The End of the Line was a good, clean read with a great message.  I really enjoyed it!

Latesha is a university student who lives with her wheelchair-bound father.  She is an intelligent, compassionate, good-hearted young woman who is considered the princess of Beechwood (the community where she lives).  Peter is an electrician who comes from a rich white family.  Both families have a history of racist thinking: when Peter and Latesha become interested in each other, they each get a lot of pushback from their parents.  Despite their parents' disapproval, their relationship grows and they can't deny their attraction to each other.

At first, I thought The End of the Line was slow and that it was going to be a book that I had to push myself to finish.  But then, I got accustomed to the pace of the story and appreciated that Power uses each small detail to perfection in furthering the plot.  The End of the Line is a faith-based story, which I loved, with many scenes occurring in Latesha's church, or with her church members. 

This book was full of history and emotional impact.  There were references to the Underground Railroad, and black history was also a major theme.  I really enjoyed that aspect of The End of the Line as it made the book more interesting and meaningful.  I loved that Latesha's family history was a big part of the story, and the way she brings her family's history up with her father, making her case for dating a white man, was really powerful.  I found myself tearing up at several key points, because the story was emotional and so meaningful. 

It's rare to find an adult read that is as romantically pure as The End of the Line without the book feeling "holier-than-thou" or preachy.  Jim Power keeps the romance deep-feeling, but the characters do no more than kiss.  I really liked that: sometimes clean reads feel lacking in emotion, but not with this story.  When an author keeps the story clean, everything takes on more importance: holding hands is a big deal, looks passed between characters are full of passion, and love can be declared with a kiss.  I appreciated that aspect of this story, and I love the fact that it's a book anyone of any age group could read.  The one thing I didn't like about this book is that the phrase "the end of the line" was used too often.  It's a pet peeve of mine, when the title of a book is mentioned often in the story.  It's distracting for me.  Others probably would never notice it, but I'm picky that way.

The conflict resolution was perfect and really touching.  The End of the Line starts off as a simple story, but it had a great emotional impact on me.  I recommend it and look forward to reading more from Jim Power!

Book Review: Anyone But You: A Modern-Day Spin on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (Twisted Lit #3) by Kim Askew and Amy Helmes

The Montes love Italian food. And they hate the Caputos, That's how it is. It's been that way for sixty years. Every time the Caputos start to get a reputation for great pizza (and who knows? It could be better than the Montes!) there's "an accident" and Cap's is knocked back on its knees. What nobody knows is that the family teenagers are sick of their parents acting like schoolyard bullies, when nobody even remembers why the fight started! Gigi Caputo and Roman Monte, the son and daughter, are secretly in love. Determined to put a stop to their parents' vicious feud, they risk their parents' livelihood and their own lives. In this nod to Romeo and Juliet, will love win? Or vendetta?

Release Date: January 18, 2014
Age Group: YA
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli

Anyone But You was a fun read.  I liked that it's a modern-day retelling of Romeo and Juliet.  The story was engaging and had a few great surprises along the way.  

I liked the alternating points-of-view: at first, I thought the narrators would be Gigi and Roman, but instead they were Gigi and Dominick Monte.  Dominick's story occurs during the time of WWII, so the chapters alternated between present-day Chicago and flashbacks.  I loved that!  I love historical fiction and to read about the start of the two restaurants, set in the years of WWII, made the story more interesting to me.  

I found Anyone But You to feel a little predictable.  I think it would be impossible for it not to feel predictable, as everyone knows how the story of Romeo  and Juliet goes.  But, the authors changed some things up and the book ended much differently than I had expected.  

The conflict resolution was perfect for the story and led to a great ending.  I finished this book with a smile on my face.  I would definitely read this series and these two authors again. 


Fanfiction and all the Extras

When I come down from a book high and realize that I either have to wait a year to continue the story OR that it is o.v.e.r., I always want need more! In rare cases, I become a fictional stalker and start looking for novellas I might have missed or author extras. So, for this reason I love Cassandra Clare, Richelle Mead and the latest, Neal Shusterman. I have almost come to the point where I expect a novella to hold me over. #booksnob

Now, I am a proud Book Snob and I have to say I am even a Fanfiction Snob too. I will only read the extras written by the authors themselves. Why? Because I have to stay true to my fictional investment. I can't be wasting my precious time with the "what should have happened" or the "I bet this is how their HEA went" written by just anyone. Simply, NO. I need it to come straight from the creative genius who lured me in. If the author didn't type it, it didn't happen.

So, if you are planning to read these series, also plan to include the novellas and excerpts. It makes the world building so much better! And if there is a movie made and it's not up to standards you will be a little more forgiving because you have such a vivid world already mentally built OR you could just hate Hollywood even more... #rollingthedice

The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. Click HERE for TONS of excerpts. Clare really is the queen of extras and teasers!

Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman. UNSTRUNG is the novella. This short story about Lev really helped to flesh out some of the chain of events that takes place in Unsouled.
Unstrung is only available as an e-reader download.

Vampire Academy & Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead. 
Fans were so invested in the romance and HEA of Rose & Dimitri in The Vampire Academy series that Mead went on to write a short story about the weeks that followed the close of the series. Visit HERE for the details of Homecoming.

Click HERE for Adrian's POV from the very start of the series (just one chapter, I WILL TAKE WHAT I CAN GET AT THIS POINT).

                                                                                                                                          Releases July 2014

Now I will be diving into the world Veronica Roth has created in the Divergent series. I was pumped when I found all the extra goodies to add to the series!


 So for all you Divergent lovers (*cough, MadiB*), hang on because Veronica Roth is not finished just yet!

How do you find excerpts and novellas?
I always search Goodreads first: they usually have all the extras listed. And occasionally the author's website (I usually only do this if I see a teaser tweeted or some form of social media that directs me that way).
*image sources: &

Book Review: The Fright Before Christmas or A Visit From Santa Clops by Gig Wailgum

"Naughty or nice? Better think twice!" 'Cuz Santa Clops is coming to town! 'Twas the fright before Christmas and all through the home, Not a critter was creeping, not even a gnome. The stockings were hung by the chimney with fear, In the hopes that Santa Clops would not come near. And thus begins this monstrous take on the holiday classic "The Night Before Christmas."
In the story "A Visit From Santa Clops or The Fright Before Christmas" the one-eyed cousin of Kris Kringle, stops by a sleeping family's house on Christmas Eve. The startled and frightened father must confront Santa Clops and save Christmas for his children.
Release Date: February 21, 2012
Age Group: Children
Source: Review copy from author
Reviewed By: Kelli
This was such a cute book!  I love the concept: Santa Clops is Santa Claus' cousin.  Santa Clops is a Cyclops from the South Pole.  He brings coal to kids who have been bad all year, while Santa Claus brings presents. 
Santa Clops comes in a sled pulled by flying penguins (cute!).  He loads up kids' stockings with coal, according to his list.  This story is based on the Night Before Christmas rhyme, except it's about Santa Clops instead of Santa Claus.  It centers on one family, with two kids asleep in their beds on Christmas Eve.  Their dad hears "a ruckus" outside and checks the window, and lo and behold, Santa Clops is coming to their house!  He comes down the chimney and starts to put coal in the stockings.  But the dad pleads with Clops on his kids' behalf, telling him that they've been good all year and he must have the wrong house. 
The illustrations are what made this book so neat.  They are perfect for the story: so full of action and emotion that a reader could glean the theme of the story without reading the text.  And speaking of the text, the entire story is told in rhyme, along the theme of The Night Before Christmas.  The one thing I didn't love about this book is that it contains the word "jerk" in it.  If you're careful about what you read to your kids, or what your kids read on their own, that would be worth noting.
Overall, I really had such a good time reading this fun, imaginative story!  I ended up not reading it to my two year-old because I was afraid Santa Clops might scare her at such a young age, but I think this book would be enjoyed by ages four and up.  Recommended!

Book Review: Perfect Ruin (Internment Chronicles #1) by Lauren DeStefano

On Internment, the floating island in the clouds where 16-year-old Morgan Stockhour lives, getting too close to the edge can lead to madness. Even though Morgan's older brother, Lex, was a Jumper, Morgan vows never to end up like him. She tries her best not to mind that her life is orderly and boring, and if she ever wonders about the ground, and why it is forbidden, she takes solace in best friend Pen and her betrothed, Basil.

Then a murder, the first in a generation, rocks the city. With whispers swirling and fear on the wind, Morgan can no longer stop herself from investigating, especially when she meets Judas. He is the boy being blamed for the murder — betrothed to the victim — but Morgan is convinced of his innocence. Secrets lay at the heart of Internment, but nothing can prepare Morgan for what she will find — or who she will lose.

Release Date: October 1, 2013
Age Group: YA
Source: Purchased

I fell in love with Lauren DeStefano's writing with her Chemical Garden trilogy.  I absolutely loved those books, and so I was so excited to read her latest release.  And while Perfect Ruin was a good read, a really good read, it just didn't live up to my expectations.  I would have expected less out of any other author, but I expected Perfect Ruin to be a stalker-worthy read, and it just wasn't for me.

The premise is unique, and intriguing.  I liked the mix of mythology and technology, and even a little bit of magic.  The premise reminded me of Beth Revis' Across the Universe series, not in a copying kind of way, but in a set-in-space and trying to escape kind of way.  I liked that.  As always, DeStefano's imagery was outstanding.  I love the way she writes emotion, the characters' feelings just jump off the page, and the emotions in her books are tangible things for me.  

The characters are young in this book, 15 and 16 years old, and felt a little immature to me.  The romance was definitely tame, and just didn't thrill me like her other books.  I know I expected too much out of Perfect Ruin.  

There was a lot of world-building in Perfect Ruin.  I think now that the world of Internment has been created and described, book two will be more exciting.  The book ended at a high point, and left me anticipating what would happen next.  I felt like Perfect Ruin was an emotional thriller as opposed to an action-packed read.

I liked Perfect Ruin, but didn't love it.  The intensity just wasn't there for me.  It was a good read, but not an all-consuming, can't-put-it-down kind of book.  I will most definitely read book two, and look forward to it.  But, I'm going to lower my expectations a little, so hopefully I'll enjoy this series on its own merit, not continually hoping for a repeat of the Chemical Garden Trilogy.


Book Review: Elect (Eagle Elite #2) by Rachel Van Dyken

Would you die for the one you love?
Nixon Abandonato made his choice. And now he has to pay the price. Tracey is the love of his life, but being with him has made her a target of his family's enemies. The only way to keep Trace alive is convince the world she means nothing to him. 

Trace Rooks has fallen irrevocably in love with the son of her family's sworn rival, and she knows in her bones nothing can tear them apart. Until Nix suddenly pushes her away and into the arms of his best friend... But Trace isn't ready to give up on a future with Nix--and if he won't fight for them, she will. 

In the end, a sacrifice must be made. A life for a life. For what better way to cover a multitude of sins than with the blood of a sinner . . .

Release Date: December 10, 2013
Age Group: New Adult
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli

I enjoyed book one in this series, Elite (read my review here).  I wasn't totally sure about Nixon as Tracey's love interest: I thought he ran hot and cold towards her and that bugged me to no end.  I did not understand his motives for the way he treated Tracey.  I really got to know Nixon better in Elect and I do like him for Tracey.  I liked him a lot more as a character as well.

I wasn't expecting a love triangle in this story, but there definitely was one.  I was just as torn up as Tracey was regarding the two men in her life.  In the end, I respected her choice and found myself wishing for the couple to be happy together.

This series is compulsively readable; once I start one of these books I can hardly put it down.  I wasn't really in love with this book, yet, I could not stop reading it.  There's something about the premise that doesn't sit well with me.  It just feels a little contrived: how could such young adults wield so much power with money, family, and even people's very lives?  It just felt really unrealistic to me.  That's what kept me from loving Elect.  My other problem with this story is how Tracey lost some of herself in her relationships.  She actually says at one point: "he owns my soul" and I didn't like that.  I like tough, strong, independent female leads, not ones who submit to a man so easily.   

The writing style and pacing were perfect for this story.  I liked that Van Dyken used the alternating first person narrative, especially since it allows the reader to get to know Nixon and Chase better.

In the end, I did enjoy Elect.  I would recommend it to fans of contemporary fiction.  It's certainly unique in the new adult genre and is a nice change of pace from the typical contemporary story.

Book Review: Neptune's Tears by Susan Waggoner

London, 2218 A.D. Seventeen-year old Zee is intern empath. She’s focused on her job, poised for a great career-until one day an attractive patient undoes her hard-earned calm. As an empath, she cannot afford such distractions, but neither can she stay away from David, even when she discovers he’s one of the mysterious alien race. London comes under attack by anarchist bombings, and as Zee struggles to get a handle on her unusually strong physic abilities, David starts pulling away. Although Zee’s sure he’s attracted to her, David has secrets he cannot share. But it’s too late for Zee. She’s losing her heart to the gray-eyed alien boy, and she’s determined to follow him-no matter how far it may take her.

Release Date: June 25, 2013
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed by: Madi B

I am full of shame writing this review. Why? Because I MADE FUN OF THIS BOOK SO MUCH! Like so much! Just from the summary!! First the author starts talking about empaths. And I’m just thinking, “What the heck is an empath?” At first I thought it was one of those words that everyone else in the world knows besides me…but not even SPELLCHECK knows!
Then Susan Waggoner starts talking about an alien named David. David? WHO NAMES AN ALIEN DAVID? Well I guess no one really knows…but if anyone knows of an alien named David, please contact me. 
Then, BOOM, Zee’s physic too! Where did that come from? And finally I read, “But it’s too late for Zee. She’s losing her heart to the gray-eyed alien boy,” and I lose it. How can you not make fun of a phrase like that? GAHHH IT’S TOO MUCH!!!
So as you can see, I was not very kind to this book. But here’s the part that fills me with shame…I LIKED THE BOOK!!! I AM SUCH A HYPOCRITE! I liked Zee, I liked her physic powers, and, are you ready for this, I EVEN LIKED DAVID!!! I AM OVERWHELMED WITH HYPOCRITE-NESS!

By the way, empath is a pyshic medical job thing. That’s my best guess anyway.

As much as I liked the book, I was right about some things.

“She’s losing her heart to the gray-eyed alien boy, and she’s determined to follow him-no matter how far it may take her.”

She has to chase after him!! Because he thought she couldn’t handle his secrets!! Do you see that underlined part? I HATE that in books! HATE HATE HATE!!! Why? Because the whole “Leaving for their own good” thing NEVER WORKS!!! Have you read New Moon? The readers hate it; the characters hate it so why do authors keep using it? Here the thing, if you really love someone and they really love you back, then whatever happens you go through it TOGETHER! None of this leaving because it would be too hard! LOAD OF CRAP! (I mean not that I’ve been in love but if you look at all the books I’ve ever read, almost ALL of them have love stories! That’s A LOT of research. That makes love my life study.)
That’s really the only thing that bugged me. I really liked the characters, yes, even the alien named David, the setting, and her powers were AWESOME!