Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Beastly by Alex Flinn

“A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright—a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster. You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It's no deformity, no disease. And I'll stay this way forever—ruined—unless I can break the spell. Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I'll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.” –GoodReads

This is a modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast which takes place in New York City. The story is told from the perspective of Kyle aka Beast. B&B is one of my favorite fairy tales and this modern twist was a delight to read. At the beginning Kyle is a normal teenage boy, okay maybe more like perfect (at least in his own mind). He is super hot, popular, rich, and of course dating the hottest girl in school. He has just been made Prom King and feels on top of the world. That world is soon turned upside down when a fellow class mate (real life witch) places a curse on him turning him into a beast, until he can find true love. A year later enter our Beauty…Linda, turns out Linda was once a classmate of Kyle’s, though he never gave her the time of day before. She comes to live with Kyle and friendship blooms (pun-intended). They both have a love of learning and of roses, and slowly they build a real relationship of trust, respect, and love. And I have to add, I have a bit of “library-lust” when Finn describes the library that Kyle builds for Linda!

I loved this book! It was such an entertaining read and may be one of my favorite retellings! Flinn creates new characters in a familiar story. Smart writing, moves along quickly and I LOVED the IM chats throughout the book with other fairytale characters, so creative. I’m excited to hear a movie is being made; I can’t wait to see it. If you haven’t yet, read this book!

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban

"Ten-year-old Zoe Elias dreams of playing a baby grand piano at Carnegie Hall. But when Dad ventures to the music store and ends up with a wheezy organ instead of a piano, Zoe's dreams hit a sour note. Learning the organ versions of old TV theme songs just isn't the same as mastering Beethoven on the piano. And the organ isn't the only part of Zoe's life that's off-kilter, what with Mom constantly at work, Dad afraid to leave the house, and that odd boy, Wheeler Diggs, following her home from school every day. Yet when Zoe enters the annual Perform-O-Rama organ competition, she finds that life is full of surprises--and that perfection may be even better when it's just a little off center." -GoodReads

I didn’t know what to expect when I picked this one up. I have heard rave reviews and was excited to see what all the fuss was about. I ended up loving the book just like everyone else. It’s completely original, cute, inspiring, tender, and just a very enjoyable read. Zoe is a cute 10 year-old little girl whose biggest desire is to play the piano. So, she’s a bit disappointed when her dad buys her an eletric organ instead. “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” is what kept coming to mind as I read this book. Zoe learns and has a talent for playing the organ and throughout the course of the book you fall in love with the organ as well. I loved Zoe’s parents, each is a bit neurotic, but they show their love for Zoe in their own unique way. And of course little Wheeler, what a doll! I kept thinking how fun it would be if the author wrote a sequel that takes place ten-years later and those two can fall in love and get married! I’m a hopefull romantic. A fantastic story that everyone should read!

Cover Comments: Okay, so when I was a little girl I remember the "cool girl" in school showed up wearing socks just like these! I always wanted a pair but never thought I was cool enough to pull them off, maybe I should track some down and give them a try! Anyway, just a random thought...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard

"To impress the popular girls on a high school trip to London, klutzy Callie buys real Prada heels. But trying them on, she trips…conks her head…and wakes up in the year 1815! There Callie meets Emily, who takes her in, mistaking her for a long-lost friend. As she spends time with Emily’s family, Callie warms to them—particularly to Emily’s cousin Alex, a hottie and a duke, if a tad arrogant. But can Callie save Emily from a dire engagement, and win Alex’s heart, before her time in the past is up?" -GoodReads

For our date night last night my husband and I went to Barnes and Noble (geeks, right?), while we were there I saw this and I’ve heard good things so my husband purchased it for me. Hmm, where to start? I guess I’ll begin with all the things I liked about the book. It was a pretty creative idea, sending a modern-day girl way back to 1815! Callie starts out as a totally clumsy, self-conscience girl with a deep desire to win the approval of her popular classmates. Arriving at Harksbury 1815, she soon takes on the identity of “Rebecca” and old family friend from America. As Rebecca, Callie is able to grow quite a bit and learns to stick up for herself which will hopefully remain if she makes it back to her proper time. Alex was a fun leading-man and I enjoyed the interaction between him and Callie, a.k.a. Rebecca.

Okay, the few things I didn’t like. Callie is suppose to be a pretty smart girl, so you’d think she would realize that customs and standards were obviously different back in 1815. So, it was a bit unbelievable when she would get as upset as she did with Alex for worrying about social order, and the limitations women had during that time. She almost took it as a personal insult, which in that time it really wouldn’t have been. The only other thing that bothered me was more on a personal note, the author uses the Lord’s name in vain A LOT, I hate that in books, and it was rather distracting.

All in all, it was an enjoyable read, fun for a Sunday afternoon.

A Dream to Call My Own by Tracie Peterson

"Lacy Gallatin, the youngest of the Gallatin sisters, is a woman with a mission: to find her father's killer. Haunted by the belief that she's failed him, Lacy is also battling a desire to have something more than just revenge, something she can't quite figure out. Enter Dave Shepard, deputy sheriff for the area. Dave has been fervently trying to find the man who killed George Gallatin, but he always feels inadequate when it comes to the beautiful Lacy. When they are together, the tension crackles between them--both when they argue and when they kiss. Lacy finds him frustratingly irresistible...but is it truly love?" -GoodReads

This was probably my favorite of the Brides of Gallatin trilogy. This book picks up pretty much where the last one left off, following the story of the youngest sister Lacy. Lacy has been my favorite character from the beginning, so it was fun to finally have a book mainly devoted to her story. Although, like the other two books this one was told by many different points-of-view. It’s nice in a way to hear what is going on with everyone, yet it also distracted from Lacy and Dave’s story. In this installment we finally learn a little more about our lovely villain, Rafe. We begin to see how he became so bad, and I felt a lot more compassion for him. This book moved along at a quicker pace and seemed like a lot more was going on. I love the setting of late 1800 Montana, I’ve traveled there a few times and it’s a beautiful part of the country. Everything came together nicely and it was a good conclusion to the trilogy.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Love to Last Forever by Tracie Peterson

"All Beth Gallatin has really wanted out of life is to settle down in one town, with one man, and raise a family. But with her father's roaming ways, she's always been denied that dream; instead, she found solace in reading romantic books. With her father's passing, she can, for the first time, dare to claim the rugged Montana frontier as her home. Nick Lassiter has loved Beth since she first came to town, but she's always seemed to think of him more as a brother. Just when he finally gets Beth to consider him, however, a challenger threatens the affection growing between them. But neither Nick nor Beth is prepared when they must face the consequences of Nick's complicated past. As a past fraught with unwise choices and guilt invades their world, can Nick and Beth find a love that will last forever?" -GoodReads

This one was just okay for me. The first half just felt a bit too preachy and Gwen and Beth just come across a little too goody-goody for me. Although they are obviously very Christian, they come across too judgmental for me. It felt too much like I was getting a sermon instead of a story. Not to mention all the romance novel talk from Beth, that got old rather quickly. About halfway or maybe a little more, it kind of changed pace and felt more like the first book. I am glad how things worked out for Beth, but the storyline itself was predictable and didn’t really hold a lot of excitement.

Lacy, the youngest Gallatin sister, has always been my favorite. She seems the most normal, down-to-earth character, full of sass and I love the encounters she has with Dave. They have the most chemistry out of all the characters. I’m excited to read her story in “A Dream to Call My Own,” and hope that Peterson keeps Lacy true to character and lightens up on the preaching aspect. You can tell a clean, motivating story without all the preachy stuff, just my opinion

Book One: A Promise to Believe in
Book Two: A Love to Last Forever
Book Three: A Dream to Call My Own

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Struggle by L.J. Smith

"Damon: Determined to make Elena his queen of darkness, he'd kill his own brother to possess her. Stefan: Desperate for the power to destroy Damon, he succumbs to his thirst for human blood. Elena: Irresistibly drawn to both brothers, her choice will decide their fate. The terrifying story of two vampire brothers and the beautiful girl torn between them." -GoodReads

This book literally picks up right where book one leaves us. In this installment we get to see a lot more of Damon. I know Damon is evil and everything, but there is just something very alluring about him. I’m still rooting for Stefan of course, but Damon started to entice me with his bad-boy self! Maybe his “power” is able to captivate the reader as well as the intended characters? I enjoyed this story a little more than the first book. Elena is a lot more approachable now and her character is really growing on me. I was frustrated that she was keeping so much from Stefan, but I can understand why she was doing it. Stefan wasn’t around as much in this one, but when he and Elena were together I felt better chemistry from them then in the first book. He also seems more in love with Elena now, as opposed to just loving the memory of Katherine, which was good to see.

I was very frustrated with the ending, if you could call it that. It ends right at a total climax with absolutely no closure! I suppose the first book did as well, but I already had the second book on hand so it didn’t bother me as much. The only other thing that is disturbing is all the blood-swapping that goes on in this one, pretty disturbing! I guess since we’re dealing with vampires it’s going to be expected.

Book One: The Awakening
Book Two: The Struggle
Book Three: The Fury
Book Four: Dark Reunion
Book Five: Nightfall
Book Six: Shadow Souls
Book Seven: Midnight

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Awakening by L.J. Smith

"Elena: Searching for the ultimate thrill, she vowed to have Stefan. Stefan: Haunted by his tragic past, he struggled to resist her passion. Damon: Driven by revenge, he hunted the brother who betrayed him. The terrifying story of two vampire brothers and the beautiful girl torn between them."
-Good Reads

Oh dear! What was I thinking reading another vampire series? I just want to say that this book was published in 1991, long before Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. There are quite a few similarities; it’s odd that Meyer’s hadn’t read these books before. Just wanted to get that out of the way before I got to my review.

Elena is starting her senior year in high school. She lost her parents in an accident a few years before and hasn’t quite been the same since. She is gorgeous, popular, and use to getting whatever she wants. So, when the new guy in school, Stefan, totally snubs her multiple times, she makes it her life mission to win his heart. Stefan on the other hand has just moved to Fells Church, VA for a little peace and quiet as he tries to outrun the memories of his long-lost love, Katherine. Besides his memories of Katherine, are his equally painful memories of his elder brother Damon who tried to woo Katherine away and it now appears he has set his sights on Elena.

Elena and Stefan have okay chemistry for me. It kind of felt like Katherine was this annoying third-wheel. From his memories, I couldn’t really gather what was so great about her, besides her looks. She knew how Damon and Stefan felt about one another and made matters worse by choosing to be selfish.

Elena comes across as a snob at first, she gets a little better as the book moves on, but still I’m wondering what they like in each other besides looks. There wasn’t as much relationship development between them before they confess their love for each other to really feel legitimate. At this point it just feels like Elena has a really deep attraction, and for Stefan a remembrance of Katherine (again, the awkward third-wheel), and nothing really substantial…yet.

Having said that it was still a very captivating read, I finished it in one sitting and am eager to get my hands on the rest of the series. I hate to say it since it’s really not the same, but if you like Twilight then you will enjoy this darker variation.

Book One: The Awakening
Book Two: The Struggle
Book Three: The Fury
Book Four: Dark Reunion
Book Five: Nightfall
Book Six: Shadow Souls
Sook Seven: Midnight

Below is what actually made me notice and want to read these books. The CW is starting a new show this fall based on this series. The preview looks amazing (although in the book Elena has blonde hair, I like it better dark.).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Promise to Believe In by Tracie Peterson

"After years spent following their father and his wanderlust, the three Gallatin sisters begin to fashion a life for themselves in the Montana wilds, operating a roadhouse at the crossroads of two stage lines. When their father is accidently killed, however, the oldest sister, Gwen, reasons that she's cursed. Death seems to haunt her every step. As the sisters work to maintain the roadhouse, an unexpected visitor arrives, sending Gwen into turmoil. Is he whom he claims to be? And can she dare to hope that love might again be hers?" -GoodReads

The story begins with the tragic death of Gwen, Beth and Lacy’s father. Each sister handles the passing in her own way but for Lacy she is set on vengeance. A great deal of the story focused on Lacy and her need for uncovering what really happened. I had a few suspicions but ended up being kind of disappointed with the whole thing. I understand the need to forgive, but for story purposes it would be been more interesting if it had been handled a bit differently. The relationship with Gwen and Hank was fun to watch unfold. Hank starts off as a pompous and mean. By the end he has grown a lot and become a much better person.

Throughout the story we were continually being switched around from multiple points of view. I can usually handle this when its each chapter, but when it sometimes switches 3 or so times in one chapter it can be a bit distracting. After awhile I got use to it and it and it didn’t bother me as much, but I would have preferred it if Peterson had just focused on Hank and Gwen, since this was their story in the first place.

Although in parts it moved a little slow or felt a little too drawn-out, I still became attached to the sisters and am curious to find out what happens with them in the other books in the trilogy.

Book One: A Promise to Believe in
Book Two: A Love to Last Forever
Book Three: A Dream to Call My Own (June 2009)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Loser's Guide to Life and Love by A. E. Cannon

“Ordinary, boring Ed works a loser summer job at Reel Life Movies, where he doesn't even have his own name tag. He's stuck with "Sergio." Ed's only consolations are his two best friends. Shelving DVDs isn't so mind-numbingly dull with Scout cracking jokes, and after hours Ed hangs out with the super brain, Quark. Life starts to look up when the girl of his dreams saunters into Reel Life. Ed knows he doesn't stand a chance . . . but maybe, just maybe Sergio does. All he has to do is pretend to be a smoldering Brazilian stud for the rest of his life. Simple, right? But . . . Ed's new dream girl has her own secrets, Scout wants to be more than Ed's best friend, and his buddy Quark wants Scout for himself.” –GoodReads

What a fun, original story. This is a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s Midsummer’s Nights Dream. It follows the story of our four main characters: Ed (Sergio), Scout, Quark and Ellie as they fall in and out of love and test their friendships along the way. It was enjoyable reading from each perspective and just how they actually view on another. It moves along at an entertaining pace and keeps you wanting more. I was entertaining seeing the different relationships evolve and I was wondering and hoping certain people would end up together. Again, a very fun read and I think everyone would enjoy this cute story.

Side note…it takes place in Salt Lake City, where I was born and raised, so it was fun to hear references to many places that I’ve been and even my favorite restaurant Rodizio’s which added a nice familiar element to the story.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Rekindled by Tamera Alexander

"When her husband disappears into a mountain snowstorm one morning, Kathryn Jennings is flung into the world of ranching, banking, and business. Penniless and pregnant, Kathryn is determined to keep her land as a legacy for her child. The man who offers her a job seems to have an awful lot of secrets, but she is desperate. Most disconcerting of all is the uncanny familiarity she feels toward the badly scarred ranch hand who works in the dark shadows of the horse stables." -BookReads

I’m not sure if I can really give this one a fair review. I enjoyed the overall story, but I did skim or skip over a lot of the book. I think the book was just too long and boring. The book was written by a Christian author, so overall it was pretty clean. However, these type books just take on such a serious note, and it’s like the authors try and throw in all the horrible things that can go on in the world just to eventually prove the point of God’s love and forgiveness. In a lot of ways it reminded me of the book Redeeming Love. I did like this one a bit more it wasn’t as descriptive or depressing.

It’s a nice love story and I enjoyed the times when Kathryn and Larson are actually together. Overall it was an okay read; some may really enjoy the nice slow pace. This is the first in a trilogy, not sure if I will read the others.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman

"Julie's best friend, Ashleigh, is an enthusiast. Julie never knows what new obsession will catch Ashleigh's fancy, but she does know she's likely to be drawn into the madness. Ashleigh's latest craze is Julie's own passion, Pride and Prejudice. But Ashleigh can't just appreciate it as a great read; she insists on emulating the novel's heroines, in speech, dress, and the most important element of all—finding True Love. And so Julie finds herself with Ashleigh, dressed in vintage frocks, sneaking into a dance at the local all-boys prep school, where they discover some likely candidates. The problem with Ashleigh's craze this time, however, is that there is only one Mr. Darcy. So when the girls get a part in the boys' school musical, what follows is naturally equal parts comedy and romance, as a series of misinterpreted—and missed—signals, dating mishaps, and awkward incidents make Julie wonder if she has the heart for True Love." -GoodReads

Charming. This was defiantly a pleasant treat! I thought it was a fun story mixed with a lot of Jane Austen references. As the book progressed there was less and less talk of Austen, and although that was such a main part at the beginning it didn’t lessen the enjoyment as it faded into the background.

Julia (Julie) is a fun character, unlucky to have fallen in love with the same guy as her best friend Ashleigh. Ashleigh can be a bit irksome, but also very lovable. It would be fun to have a friend like her, who is so passionate about everything and eager to try new things. She is a loyal friend and a fun character to read about. The men in the book were also very entertaining. Our dear Mr. Darcy aka Charles Grandison Parr or Parr for short was the perfect gentleman. It was easy to see why both Julie and Ashleigh fell for him. It was a nice clean read, that kept me going and I was sad to have it end.

Update (August 18): I've decided to add this to my Everything Austen Challenge. This a great book for teens that mixes Austen with modern-day life. I really enjoyed this story and loved all the Austen references throughout.

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Rule #3: Don't stare at invisible faeries. Aislinn has always seen faeries. Powerful and dangerous, they walk hidden in the mortal world. Aislinn fears their cruelty-especially if they learn of her Sight-and wishes she were as blind to their presence as other teens.

Rule #2: Don't speak to invisible faeries. Now faeries are stalking her. One of them, Keenan, who is equal parts terrifying and alluring, is trying to talk to her, asking questions Aislinn is afraid to answer.

Rule #1: Don't ever attract their attention. But it's too late. Keenan is the Summer King, who has sought his queen for nine centuries. Without her, summer itself will perish. His is determined that Aislinn will become the Summer Queen at any cost-regardless of her plans or desires.

Suddenly none of the rules that have kept Aislinn safe are working anymore, and everything is on the line: her freedom; her best friend, Seth; everything. Faery intrigue, mortal love, and the clash of ancient rules and modern expectations swirl together in Melissa Marr's stunning twenty-first-century faery tale.

I admit I was pretty much hooked from the very beginning. I had a hard time putting this one down and was constantly wondering what Aislinn was going to do. Aislinn was a pretty likable character, she was a good combination of strong and vulnerable. There is a nice love-square going on (Aislinn, Seth, Donia and Keenan), which made for some interesting reading. Aislinn and Seth had great chemistry together (although, the more I think about it I'm not sure what there is to like about Seth? The fact that his is pierced from head to toe? Or the fact that he sleeps around A LOT? But hey, at least he gets tests regularly, thats just great!) , as well as Donia and Keenan (who come to think of it, sleeps around a lot as well. What is it with Marr and liking immoral men?), but towards the end I was kind of hoping Donia and Seth would kind of fade away and allow Keenan and Aislinn to be together. It seemed as though Aislinn was the one to fade throughout the story, by the end we were hearing more from Donia and Keenan than from Aislinn.

However, I might sound like a prude but there were a lot of themes in this book that I just couldn’t agree with, mainly all the sex. It is a sad message the author is pushing on teens that it is okay to have sex as long as you’ve both been tested and are in “love” regardless of no commitment. I was proud of Aislinn for trying to hold on to her virginity but then turns around and gives it up so easily, too sad. I also thought it was sad that the couple who finally end up married each have a lover on the side, again not the best morals we should be teaching our teens.

It’s really quite sad, the book had a lot of potential, it’s a pretty original story and there was enough tension that all the free-love could have been left out.

Book One: Wicked Lovely
Book Two: Ink Exchange
Book Three: Fragile Eternity

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner

Wow! I just saw this on Someone's Read It Already and I am SO excited. This is one of my very favortie fantasy series. I loved Sophos in the first book, The Thief, and am excited to reunite with him in this fourth installment. I just hope there are many books to come! Enjoy!

Sophos, heir to the throne, has never wanted to be a prince, much less a king. He would rather continue his studies than learn swordplay or combat. But Sophos is his uncle’s only heir, so he has no choice—until he is kidnapped. Sold into slavery, set to work building walls on the estate of one of his uncle’s enemies, Sophos could remain anonymous for the rest of his life. But his country would crumble under the mounting conspiracy, and Sophos realizes that he cannot abandon his people. So he fights back. Battling his way out of slavery, battling through the conspirators’ army, Sophos turns to the only person he knows will help him. His friend—Eugenides, former Thief of Eddis and now king of Attolia.

An exhilarating companion to Megan Whalen Turner’s lauded The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia, A Conspiracy of Kingsis an action-packed, heart-stopping adventure. Finally, longtime fans will discover what happened to Sophos while Eugenides was winning his throne and the queen of Attolia’s heart. Old and new fans alike will be left breathless by the battles of sword and wit that the two friends mount against the traitors, in which nothing is what it seems. Sophos, the shy, dreamy scholar, is no longer someone to be disdained or overlooked. He is a force to be reckoned with. He is a king.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Northlander by Meg Burden

"When sixteen-year-old Ellin Fisher and her father travel to the Northlands on a secret, illegal mission to heal the ailing king, Ellin wishes they'd never come. She longs to go home to the Southland, where her red hair is like everyone else's, and where the practice of healing isn't called witchcraft, punishable by death. When Ellin heals the king herself, however, breaking the law is the least of her worries. She also accidentally awakens the mental powers of her Southling heritage--forbidden abilities that brand her an outsider even among her own people.Soon, Ellin finds herself a wanted fugitive in the Northlands and hunted at home by a mysterious group called the Guardians. And though she is welcomed by a band of Southling outlaws with abilities like hers, she sorely misses the Northlander princes she befriended and fears for them when the outlaws reveal their plan to invade the Northlands. Torn between two worlds, Ellin must make the most difficult decisions of her life: what she's willing to do, and who she's willing to betray, to belong somewhere again.

I've been super busy this past week and was only able to read a few chapters at a time. It has been a while since I've spent so much time on just one book. Overall I enjoyed the story; it was unique in some ways, and a bit predictable in others. The story starts with our heroine, the young healer Ellin, getting locked out of the city for being out after curfew. Through a series of events she is eventually let into the castle to attempt to help heal the ailing King. In the Northlands it is illegal for Southlings to use their healing powers. Despite this law, Ellin decides she will do whatever she can to save the king. Eventually reunited with her father, they are able to bring him back from the brink of death. As he continues to heal she soon becomes close friends with the five princes. I enjoyed this part of the story; I really fell for all five princes. I wonder who, if any, young Ellin will end up with (I’m rooting for Alaric). Unfortunately, there isn’t much romance in the book, some things are barely hinted at, but I was left a little disappointed on that. This is the first in a trilogy; I look forward to reading the others, but am a little unsure where things will go. The first book ended as almost a stand-alone book would, so I’ll be curious to see what happens with Ellin in the next one.

Book One: Northlander
Book Two: The King Commands (Winter 2009)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Christy by Catherine Marshall

When Christy Huddleston leaves a life of privilege and ease to teach in the impoverished Smokey Mountains, her faith is severely tested by her pupils, the love of two men, and the curious customs of the mountain people in her community. Yet she grows to love these people and the simple, fulfilling lifestyle to be found in the heart of God's country. First released in 1967, Christy is based on the life of author Catherine Marshall's mother and was the inspiration for the CBS television series of the same name.

This book is unlike most books that I chose to read. While I was reading Christy it reminded me of all the times that my Grandmother has told me stories about her life and how it is interesting simply because I love her and it is amazing that life was like that not so long ago. While the book does have some very slow parts, particularly in the middle, I found that if I just slowed down and enjoyed the journey and the descriptions that I really enjoyed reading this book. Through the course of the story Christy comes to recognize God's hand in his children's life and begins to realize that he cares for each of us whether we are wealthy and educated or smelly and poor. Life in the mountains of North Carolina at the turn of the 20th century was to this city girl very shocking and in some cases truly turned my stomach. The book is rich with colorful characters and they all become really inspirational in their own way. The love story is neither obvious or compelling and was really the one disappointment for me. The book also ends rather abruptly and left me looking for the last chapter or an epilogue or something to tie it all together. All in all though it was an uplifting read and I feel better for having read it.

*reviewed by Jessica

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Persuasion by Jane Austen

The past couple books I’ve read were a bit of a disappointment. So, I decided the best way to get out of a slump would be to read something by Jane Austen. I hadn’t read Persuasion in a very long time and thought it would be a perfect Sunday read. I love the story of Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth. When they were young they fell in love and were soon engaged, but Anne’s family was not happy with the engagement and persuaded her to call it off. For the next eight years both Frederick and Anne lived their separate lives, always thinking of the other and thinking they would never be together. Then through a series of events their paths cross once more and are thrown into one another’s company. Anne is unsure of herself and feels that he must resent her, and he probably feeling the same way. I love toward the end when Anne is speaking with Captain Harville and Frederick is overhearing her, and he realizes that she may still have feelings for him and so he hurrys and writes her a letter to confess his love. Ah, so rewarding when they are able to reunite and this time around not let anything stand in their way. Great love story and one of my favorite Austen novels.

On a side note, I was a little distracted with how many different characters had the name Charles; I counted 3-4 at least.

Update (August 18): I dediced to use this as one of my Everything Austen Challenge. Persuasion has also been one of my favorite Austen novels. I recently watched the movie version as well, which was okay. I wish they would do a modern remake (like Pride & Prejudice).

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Jackaroo by Cynthia Voigt

“Gwyn is not easily led. When she hears talk of Jackaroo, the legendary masked outlaw who comes to the aid of those in need, she shrugs it off, she has no use for myths. But Gwyn makes a startling discover, and she begins to believe that there may be truth in those takes. And when Gwyn’s faith starts to fail, it is Jackaroo she calls to her side. And it is Jackaroo who brings her strength, in a most unusual way.”

As I started reading this I realized I had started it before and never finished. I suppose that is what kept me at it this time. My expectations were a bit too high, I had heard this compared to Robin Hood or even Scarlet Pimpernel, so as I read I was a little disappointed in the story. I think it had a lot of promise, but it was a little lacking for me. Gwyn was a pretty good heroin, and she grows a lot throughout the story. I think Burl (her good friend, and father’s servant) was under used and although it’s clear what his intentions are, Gwyn hardly notices him throughout the story. Maybe if there had been more interaction with them and the chemistry built up I would have enjoyed the story more. I was confused in some places, but that was probably because I tended to skim more than I should have. It was a little boring for me, but okay overall. I don't think I'll be reading the rest of the series.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Conjurer Princess by Vivian Vande Velde

"Some girls grow up fast. Especially princesses. One day Lylene was a bridesmaid, all dressed up for her older sister's wedding to a neighboring prince. Six months later, Lylene was a wizard's apprentice, determined to gain the power to rescue her sister from the armed kinghts who had kidnapped her at the alter. The wizard gave Lylene the power to conjure a "fetch," a temporary copy of anything--a sword, a horse, even a person. And now Lylene is on the road to revenge, armed with nothing but her new magical power, and a couple of outlaw companions. Handsome outlaws, to be sure. But outlaws nonetheless." -Book cover

I don't even remember putting this on my to-read list, but it was waiting with the rest of my books at the library so I went ahead and checked it out. This was just okay for me, and was luckily a pretty short read. The plot idea was pretty good, the execution not so much. It felt like there was too much going on and at the same time not a lot of actual character development. It moved along a bit too quickly. I liked Weiland and Shile much more than I liked Lylene. The "aging" she goes through was odd and I could have done without that. I'll stop complaining, overall just an okay read.

Warrior Princess by Frewin Jones

“It takes just a moment for fifteen-year-old Branwen’s life to change forever. In the blink of an eye the Saxons attack and her brother is killed. Almost as quickly, she is sent away from her home to a neighboring stronghold where she’ll be safe from harm. Now Branwen lives as a princess should—surrounded by exquisite things and lavish quarters. But deep down remains the soul of a warrior. Just when Branwen is sure she has been pushed to her limits, a chance encounter with a mystical woman in white forces her to question everything—and everyone—around her. With no time to lose, Branwen must make a choice: continue in the path her parents intended for her…or step into the role of true Warrior Princess.” -Book Cover

The word that comes to mind when I think of Branwen is gumption. Her character is full of guts and I love it. When placed in an awkward situation she faces it and says what’s on her mind, instead of quietly internalizing everything and not taking action. I especially love when she confronts Iwan on her first night in Doeth Palas. Anyway, I really enjoyed this book and finished it in one sitting. The story had everything, adventure, bullies, a strange falcon-friend, mystical creatures, powerful gods and a terrific young heroin. It was only lacking in one area, romance. I guess I’m a sap, but I love a little romance in my stories. I suppose there are a few possible suitors for Branwen. Iwan, although arrogant and a jerk, there is some possibility there. Rhodri, the lovable side-kick, and of course her long-time betrothed Hywel. So, I’m hopefully that one of these guys will play a more romantic role in the upcoming books. Other than that, it was a very enjoyable read.

Book One: Warrior Princess
Book Two: Desitiny's Path (November 2009)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Made My Day

Okay, so my friend Jessica and I started Bookworm Nation because we love to read and thought it would be a fun hobby to write reviews when we finish a book. Yesterday I was thinking about stopping, who reads it anyway? So, I was pleasantly surprised when I got home from class last night and found I had a comment on a review of “Nine Coaches Waiting”. As I clicked on the comment I was surprised to see if came from Nancy Campbell Allen, one of my favorite authors. I re-read her name a couple times before it sunk in that she had actually read our blog and also left a comment. After reading her comment I did a little searching and found that she also has a blog, and come to find out she has listed Bookworm Nation as a review blog that she follows! Wow, pretty flattering. Thanks Nancy, it was so much fun reading your comment, it really made my day!

If you haven’t read or heard of Nancy Campbell Allen she is a great author. She has published nine books so far (I own all of them), and has recently started a new series. I look forward to reading everything she comes out with and would totally recommend her books to anyone. Below is a list of her books.

Faith of our Fathers: This series takes place during the civil war. It really was a fun way to learn about the civil war and I fell in love with the characters. I read this series when I was first married living in North Dakota. I still remember curling up with a cozy blanket, while it was -40 outside. I plan on re-reading this series soon; it has been way to long.

A House Divided, To Make Men Free, Through the Perilous Fight, One Nation Under God

Love Beyond Time: This was a fun series. Each book kind of follows different characters that you meet throughout the series. They are all kind of time travel books; they are part mystery part romance. I also read these awhile ago and should probably re-read them as well.

Love Beyond Time, No Time for Love, A Time for the Heart, Echoes

Isabelle Webb: This is her newest series. I still remember visiting my parents in North Carolina and seeing Legend of the Jewel in a local bookstore. I didn’t know Allen had written another book and had to buy it immediately. Isabelle Webb is actually a character out of the Faith of our Fathers series. This takes place after the civil war, but instead of America it takes place in India. I really enjoyed reading about India and learned a lot about their culture that I didn’t know. It is also mystery, romance and a lot of fun.

Legend of the Jewel

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart

“When lovely Linda Martin first arrives at Château Valmy as an English governess to the nine-year-old Count Philippe de Valmy, the opulence and history surrounding her seems like a wondrous, ecstatic dream. But a palpable terror is crouching in the shadows. Philippe's uncle, Leon de Valmy, is the epitome of charm, yet dynamic and arrogant—his paralysis little hindrance as he moves noiselessly in his wheelchair from room to room. Only his son Raoul, a handsome, sardonic man who drives himself and his car with equally reckless abandon, seems able to stand up to him. To Linda, Raoul is an enigma—though irresistibly attracted to him, she senses some dark twist in his nature. When an accident deep in the woods nearly kills Linda's innocent charge, she begins to wonder if someone has deadly plans for the young count.”

As I started reading this book I wondered “when is it going to suck me in?” and before I knew it I was already sucked in and couldn’t put it down. In fact, I almost missed a friend’s baby shower just so I could stay home and read it! Linda is a great heroine, she is smart, kind, clever, cautious, and a bit whimsical. She was very easy to relate to and you were on her side from the very beginning. I kept thinking throughout how the book reminded me so much of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte with a mix of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Linda is a young governess, raised in an orphanage for most of her life, and seizes the opportunity to flee the life she has known to escape to the beautiful Valmy estate. Once there she starts to fall for the mysterious Raoul. You’re never quite sure what Raoul’s motives are, but you can’t help but fall for him anyway. What a great lead, he totally gave me chills and I was rooting for the two of them to figure things out the whole time. The young Philippe is a sad little character, who you can’t help but love. He soon falls for Linda, as I’m sure everyone does, and it’s a sweet relationship of love and trust. I stayed up late into the night to finish the story and was pleased with how everything turned out. It’s a fun, clean mystery with a perfect touch of romance.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

“In a world where people born with an extreme skill—called a Grace—are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of a skill even she despises: the Grace of Killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him. When she first meets Prince Po, who is Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away…a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.”

I was sucked into the story right from the start and at the end of each chapter I wanted to keep reading to find out what would happen next. Although our main hero “Po” was stuck with a kind of lame name, I still found myself totally liking him. The chemistry between him and Katsa was fantastic (at least in the beginning). I liked Katsa’s character, I felt bad that she was graced with killing and had to perform some pretty horrible things as a young girl, but now at eighteen she finally stands on her own and breaks away, creating a better life for herself.

About halfway through the story everything sort of fell apart. It seemed that Cashore really wanted to push the “free love” and anti-marriage agenda. I can understand how Katsa would want her “freedom” after having served her Uncle for ten years, but marriage isn’t a negative thing, it doesn’t take away any freedom. So other than the supposed loss of freedom, there was really no reason why Katsa would be so against marriage or children. Another reason things changed was that Katsa and Po came together too quickly, once they decided they “loved” each other the chemistry soon left. Maybe it was the fact that they decided they would just be lovers and have absolutely no commitment (I want to add, I felt too much discription was used for the intended audience)? Or, maybe it was the morning-after pill that Katsa took? Or, maybe their whole situation just became too pathetic to really relate to? I think it was a combination of all three. Their relationship turned from having potential of true love to one of lust and selfishness and of course no consequences for their actions. Its sad that something that had so much potential turned into something so pathetic.

The whole story was covered with violence, and the more I thought about it the more disturbing it became. Of course the evil villain was the most disturbing of all. Although he is barely in the book, he is pretty much a pedophile and has a sick obsession with his daughter, Bitterblue (isn’t that the dumbest character name ever?). The relationship between them was disgusting and totally unnecessary for the story. Although she doesn’t go into too much detail, enough is eluded to that we know what is going on. There was enough mystery and “evilness” in his character I don’t think Cashore needed to add incest to the mix. And ultimately, the outcome was kind of rapped up too quickly and was a bit too predictable.

Overall, I would say the book had a ton of potential and about half-way through it just fell apart. I wouldn’t recommend this book to young adults, unless you want to promote anti-marriage, abortion pills and your typical women-lib agenda.

Official New Moon Trailer!

Wow, I am so excited to see New Moon this November. Check out this fantastic official movie trialer. I have always loved Edward, but this preview has me wondering about Jacob...hmmm. Please enjoy and let me know what you think!!

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