Sunday, April 28, 2013

Book Review: Hammer of Witches

TITLE: Hammer of Witches
AUTHOR: Shana Mlawski
PUBLISHED: April 2013 (review the same month it came out! Go me!)
CATEGORY: Middle-Grade/YA (kind of somewhere in between, but it's marketed as middle-grade from what I see)
GENRE: Historical Fantasy, adventure
PREMISE: Baltasar always thought the stories his grandfather told about demons were just that: stories. But when he gets thrown into the path of the Spanish Inquisition, he learns the stories are very real.
MY REVIEW: Hammer of Witches is one of those books that will appeal to some people, but probably to others. It's a historical fantasy quest story basically. The book takes place during the Spanish Inquisition and it goes into a lot of the history during this period. You can really tell, the author did her research and it helps make the book all the more vivid. I'm telling you people: research matters. Don't let anyone try and tell you it doesn't matter in YA. It totally does.
I will say, some of the dialogue confused me. I felt the characters sounded way to modern for people living in the 1400s but considering the way they did speak it's probably just as well. If you're a fan of romance, this probably won't appeal to you. Other then flirting with a girl, most of it is focused on Baltasar's quest, which it should be because it is a pretty big quest.
If you're in the mood for something different with your historical fantasy, I definitely suggest that you try this one. This book is an example of why I hang my head whenever people try to say YA/Middle-grade fantasy is all the same.
WHO SHOULD READ: Historical Fantasy fans, boys, historical fiction fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five demons

Many thanks to the publisher for providing me with the eARC on Net Galley.

Book Review: Also Known As

TITLE: Also Known As
Book 1 in a series?
AUTHOR: Robin Benway
PUBLISHED: February 2013
GENRE: Realistic Fiction, Adventure, Drama
PREMISE: Maggie is a safe-cracker. Best in the business. Finally the agency her parents work for, give her a mission. Only this mission is to go undercover in a high school...
MY REVIEW: I'll be honest, I have never heard of Robin Benway before. I thought this was a debut, till I looked her up after reading this. My bad. I will say, the idea was somewhat silly. But like Gallagher Girls/Heist Society the ludicrous idea of a teen spy is lifted by being just plain enjoyable. I would have liked more focus on the mission part but honestly, even the drama part was fun because the author made her characters likable.
The best part was by far Roux. Seriously, she was fabulous. One of the best YA sidekicks to come along in contemporary fiction in awhile. I also loved the commentary on how ridiculous high school can be. Particularly drama in high school. Even as I wanted the story to move along, I was laughing and there's a lot that can be said about a book that can just put a grin on your face.
So, is it the most creative/challenging? No. But this book was definitely fun. I don't know if it'll be a series. Benway seems to do mostly standalone books. But I think it certainly left the door open for a series and I wouldn't be opposed to one. If you're looking for a fun read to tide you over till the next Gallagher Girls book comes out (seriously, do not get me started on how long a wait we have), this might do the trick for you.
WHO SHOULD READ: Gallagher Girls fans, Meg Cabot fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five awesome YA best friends

Friday, April 26, 2013

Book Review: Scorch

TITLE: Scorch
Book 2 in the Cloaked series
AUTHOR: Gina Damico
GENRE: Paranormal, adventure
PREMISE: Lex's life as a reaper becomes difficult as Zara escaping and causing mayhem has far reaching consequences...
MY REVIEW: If anyone were to ask me to describe the Cloaked series I think I would say part Percy Jackson series and part Dead Like Me and part its own thing. What this series definitely is, is fun. Cloaked was a total surprise for me last year. I got it on Net Galley, not really expecting much because no one had really talked about it (and that usually means dud or just not marketed well) and it turned out to be really fun and surprising.
Sure, there are really familiar tropes in it. But the author is smart in the way that she makes the characters likable enough that you want to spend time with them (I adore Lex) and she keeps things happening with twists and turns that will keep you coming back for more.
This one really surprised me with the direction the author took it. I honestly wasn't expecting it to go this way and frankly, I like it. Bring on book three which comes out in September so you guys have plenty of time to check out the first two if you happened to miss them.
WHO SHOULD READ: fans of Cloaked, Dead Like Me fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five sassy reapers

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book Review: Clockwork Prince

TITLE: Clockwork Prince
Book 2 in the Infernal Devices series
AUTHOR: Cassandra Clare
GENRE: Historical Fantasy, spin-off
PREMISE: Tessa continues her life at the institute while growing closer to Jem despite her lingering feelings for Will.
MY REVIEW: My feelings for this universe are honestly sort of complicated right now. I think you could say I'm growing dis-enchanted with it? Luckily, I at least still enjoy Infernal Devices.
I don't think this installment brings anything really huge to the table. Most of it really is pretty much reveling in showing us what the Shadowhunter world was like in the Victorian Era. I do like this and that is why I am still reading the series and will pick up Clockwork Princess whenever I can. This one was pretty much more of the series. No huge revelations that shocked really, most of it was focused on the love triangle drama. At least Tessa/Will/Jem have a far more interesting dynamic then Jace/Clary/Simon.
Honestly nowadays these books pretty much sell themselves. I don't think anything I say will discourage or encourage people from buying/not buying this because likely you've probably already have made up your mind if you want to continue. Despite getting annoyed with how much Clare is dragging this series out (well, Mortal Instruments anyway, no word yet on if there will be more historical books but give it time. I bet there'll be some), I will probably keep reading them. I do this thing where I don't give up on series until they get just downright horrible or just utterly unreadable or I just plain lose interest. I may not be as excited for these books as I originally was, but I still at least get some enjoyment out of it so I guess that's the important thing here. I also will be seeing the movie by the way. It looks like they actually did a decent job on it.
WHO SHOULD READ: MI fans not tired of the series
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five Magnus Banes being sassy

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Thought I'd Like More/Less Than I Did

This is a weekly meme hosted by the girls over at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week: Books I Thought I'd Like More/Less Than I Did

Generally, I try not to have any expectations about books/movies/TV etc so I go into it with a open mind/not expecting anything so I can give it a fair chance. However, there are always those books you hear about constantly/get buzzed about/hear lots of opinions about that sometimes...I can't help but get expectations/impressions about it. These are just some of the instances where this happened to either fail me, or help me.

Books I Thought I Would Like Less Than I Did:

1) The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling-I resisted this one as long as I could. In fact, I didn't even read it until a few months before the fourth book came out and just a little bit after it was announced there would be movies. I'm naturally suspicious of bestsellers because I've had far too many be disappointing. Luckily, HP turned out to be one of the few times the public got it right.

2) The Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia and Margeret Stohl-Everyone kept calling this one Twilight with witches and I was all "yeah, no thanks" and that summery and the way they marketed it for Twihards particularly did not help matters. But I bought the first and read it with low expectations. Luckily it turned out to be ten times better then what people were pitching it to me as.

3) The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare-Another I had low expectations for but wound up enjoying despite the fact that I do agree it's rather cliche (and for the love of God, it needs to END) and Clare herself I don't have a particularly high opinion of (I don't detest her like I've seen some on the internet do, but I don't absolutely love her either. I'm actually rather indifferent towards her).

4) The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan-Books billed as perfect for reluctant readers can be a double-edged sword for those of us that actually like to read and while the PJ series is another that has its issues, they did surprise me with how enjoyable they managed to be even if they aren't the most difficult books in the world.

5) Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead-C'mon, with a name like Vampire Academy can you really blame me for avoiding this series? The blah Twilightish covers and comparisons to House of Night did NOT help matters either. But it wound up being much better then I thought it would and now I'm hopelessly addicted.

Books I Thought I'd Like More (aka hello, disappointment, old friend. I know you well)

6) A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness-People kept going on about this series to me and said "it's a intellectual Twilight! You'll love it!" Just because something is set in Oxford and has professors doesn't mean it's intellectual. This books is an example of how to be utterly pretentious. Because yeah, the author tried to give her characters brains, but somehow they still wound up being as utterly irritating as Bella Swan and Edward Cullen but more so because they were adults and kept going on about how smart they were, while doing dumb things.

7) The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin-Basically this was a case of deja vu feeling story and unlikable characters who annoyed me too much to continue. People keep telling me to give it another chance but no, if I want to reach in and smack somebody three times and it's only chapter's time to stop reading.

8) Maze Runner Trilogy books 2 and 3 by James Dashner-Maze Runner started off so well. There were some great concepts in here and I have no doubt the upcoming movie will be cool. But I'm sorry that ending was unsatisfying and kind of annoying. It answered NOTHING. It was Lost all over again but ten times more annoying then the ending of Lost because even the Lost finale sort of told you stuff and let you decide what the ending meant. This one...yeah, hardly any answers. Oh and the fact that the female character who was constantly questioning the male lead was pushed aside/killed off in favor of a more docile/whatever you want honey female side character at the end? Yeah, I loved that (yes, this is sarcasm).

9) Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black-Such a awesome concept. Could have been great. But the author was stuck in clicheville and it wound up being disappointing.

10) The Selection by Kiera Cass-Another one that could have been awesome but the author got stuck on so many tropes that it wound up being annoying instead. Sloppy world building that made no sense, did not help matters.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Book Review: The Mirrored Shard

TITLE: The Mirrored Shard
Book 3 in the Iron Codex Trilogy
AUTHOR: Caitlin Kittredge
PUBLISHED: February 2013
GENRE: Steampunk, Faeries
PREMISE: Aoife journeys to the underworld to bring back Dean.
MY REVIEW: Okay, technically there is nothing really wrong with The Mirrored Shard. It continues the story and brings it to it's conclusion in a fairly believeable way. It has resolutions.
But...I've read this ending before. It is almost a mirrored version (ha ha) of the ending of Beautiful Creatures and have to say Beautiful Creatures? Kind of did it better. Part of the problem is that I still don't get the Dean/Aoife relationship in the first place. I certainly didn't believe in it enough to buy that Aoife would be willing to do a greek myth worthy quest to bring him back. Then the rest of it was just so...predictable.
Honestly, it just sort of felt ho hum which is surprising to me, considering the first two books. I mean the way the second one ended I was expecting tons more stuff then this. It's like all the other plots just fell by the wayside and were solved half hazardly in comparison to bring Dean back from the dead. It sort of left me disappointed, I'm sorry to say. It's an okay conclusion that gets the job done, but I've read much better and more satisfying endings.
WHO SHOULD READ: fans of the first two books, steampunk fans
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five graveyards

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Book Review: Unremembered

TITLE: Unremembered
Book 1 in a new series
AUTHOR: Jessica Brody
PUBLISHED: March 2013
GENRE: Science fictionish, Romance, Drama, Mystery
PREMISE: A girl is found after a violent plane crash with no memory. As she starts to relearn things, she starts to wonder who exactly she was...
MY REVIEW: Ah the amnesia trope. Amnesia stories are tricky beasts and can be either rather good or just cliche. Now, I've never read any of Brody's previous work so I have no clue if this book is her best or just average for her. Personally, I think it wavered between average to intriguing.
Things I liked in it included the mystery part. Brody did a good job in building suspense without making things too obvious. The twist at the end while good...kind of made me raise my eyebrow but I'm hoping that more comes from it in the second one. I did appreciate that for once, a author researched amnesia and thought about what amnesia does to a person and didn't make Violet getting her memories back easy, nor did her getting them back solve everything. Also Cody in this book was perfect. I hope we see him in book two, he was the best.
So a bit of a shaky start but this series intrigues me. I'm hoping more is explained/revealed/explored in the second book.
WHO SHOULD READ: Mystery fans
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five amnesiac girls

Friday, April 19, 2013

Book Review: Mind Games

TITLE: Mind Games
Book 1 in the Sister Assassins series
AUTHOR: Kiersten White
PUBLISHED: February 2013
GENRE: Paranormal, action/adventure, mystery
PREMISE: Fia and her sister Annie work for a corporation that uses their unique abilities for personal gain.
MY REVIEW: There have been mixed reviews for this one. Some have hated it, complaining how it's nothing like Paranormalcy, yadda yadda yadda. First, no it's not Paranormalcy and I'm okay with that (and I'm someone who fangirled HARD over that trilogy). Fia and Annie are totally different characters then Evie and are honestly kind of harder to like than Evie was. So I'm not surprised that people didn't love this as much as Paranormalcy.
But personally? I liked it. I do hear and kind of agree with people on the complaints about the writing style of this one. The flashbacking was good but kind of annoying. I've said before and I'll say it again: the Lost style of writing is risky in books because it doesn't work as well in print as it does on TV. Also, the romance with Adam, while cute, was insta love. White, I know you can do better.
But I don't think this book was horrible. Some things need to be worked out but that's why it's a series. I do hope we get more info on the people Fia and Annie work for in the next one because that's where I'm a little fuzzy. But for me personally, I think it was a good book. It's not as good as Paranormalcy but it's not god awful either. The author is trying new things and I'd much rather she do new things myself. I look forward to the next one but I can understand how this series wouldn't be people's thing.
WHO SHOULD READ: Fans of Paranormalcy (who are willing to let Evie go and embrace new characters), Alias fans, Lost fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five kick ass girls with guns

Book Review: Dualed

TITLE: Dualed
Book 1 in a new series
AUTHOR: Elsie Chapman
PUBLISHED: February 2013
GENRE: Dystopianish, action
PREMISE: In a world where survival means knowing you'll have to kill someone before you're twenty, West is given her first assignment: kill her alt or be killed herself.
MY REVIEW: This book is one of the many YA books I've read recently that has the following problem: awesome concept but bad execution. This is a problem that has plagued YA over and over again. I feel like we need to sit authors down and tell them hey: don't publish a book till you've gone through it with a fine-toothed comb and plothole detector device. Also publishers, for gods sake, make your authors really sit there and read through their book. Because I bet, if more authors did that, we'd be having less books like this one.
Yes, technically it does have good writing style. The author is fabulous at action no doubt, she has a plot of sorts, and there is character in there somewhere. But once more: this makes no sense. I WANT to like this more but I'm constantly bothered by details that make no sense. I'm sorry, just who would even choose a society like this? How would pitting your citizens against each other in a battle to the death even ensure survival? Because...yeah, it doesn't make sense. At all. The more I think about it, the more confused I feel. Doesn't help that West is a extremely flat heroine.
So once again: great idea....bad execution. I am sad that I keep running into this problem with YA dystopians over and over again.
WHO SHOULD READ: Hunger Games fans, Enders Game fans
MY RATING: Three out of Five this doesn't make sense worlds

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Book Review: The Madman's Daughter

TITLE: The Madman's Daughter
Book 1 in The Madman's Daughter Trilogy
AUTHOR: Megan Shepherd
PUBLISHED: January 2013
GENRE: Retelling/Continuation, Experiments
PREMISE: Juliet Moreau has lived under the shadow of her father's reputation her whole life. After running into his servant, she finally gets to go meet him on his mysterious island...
MY REVIEW: The Island of Dr. Moreau is one of those lesser known classics. It's not nearly as popular as say, Treasure's Island or H. G. Wells more popular books such as the Time Machine. This one took a classic and basically expanded on the ending of it without trodding all over the original book to suit the author's purpose which is a bad habit a lot of classic retellings have.
Now the downside to this book is that a large chunk of it does stall. Far too much time is devoted to the forced love triangle drama that was totally unnecessary and the middle of the book is mostly just that. The great parts of the book really come in the last few chapters. But the author does actually get that the point of Dr. Moreau was not romance, it was to talk about ethical science and she does talk about in this. As someone who has a hard time finding classic book retellings that get the point of the original and do keep that idea going in their own version...this was nice to see.
A few usual amateur flaws aside, this was a rather good debut. I can't wait to see what comes of this trilogy, especially after that cliffhanger. Word is, this has been optioned for movie rights. We'll see what comes of that.
WHO SHOULD READ: Island of Dr. Moreau fans, classic book retelling fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five experiments gone wrong

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Top Ten Book to Movie Adaptations

This is a weekly meme hosted by the girls over at The Broke and the Bookish .

It's a rewind week and I chose book to movie adaptations. I'm not sure if I've done this one before, but I've seen many more adaptations since then I'm sure. So maybe it'll be new. Now before we go into this, I'm going to tell you my criteria for a good book to movie adaptation: 1) Follows the book. Doesn't have to have every little scene, but it should follow the basic plot structure/not change characters entirely etc. Therefore movies like Life of Pi, gorgeous and well acted  as it was, will not be on here because yeah, that ending was totally different and kind of annoyed me. 2) Pretty much it. That is honestly all I ask from movie adaptations: that characters are like the characters in the book and that it follows the book. I'm not hugely picky about this. But it is amazing how hard it is to find adaptations that do that.

1) Holes based on Holes by Louis Sachar-This was a fabulous movie. I think mostly, because the screenplay was actually written by the author. I've noticed when movie screenplays are written by the author, it tends to be better. It expertly weaves in the tales and is wonderfully acted. There's even good music in it.

2) The Hunger Games based on The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins-Speaking of examples of movies adapted from screenplays written by the original author...this was well done. Sure, didn't have every little thing. But considering HG, it could have been ten times worse ;cough; Percy Jackson ;cough; In case you guys have been living under a rock, the Catching Fire teaser trailer has just been released and OMG, it looks EPIC. Possibly better then the first.

3) The Princess Bride based on The Princess Bride by William Goldman-Also written by original author and very close to the book, a few things aside (it ignored a lot of the footnotes which is just as well even though the footnotes were my favorite part of the book).

4) Harry Potter and the Sorcerors Stone based on the first HP book by JK Rowling-Fabulous adaptation, and still one of the most accurate, aside from the two final HP movies and Chamber of Secrets.

5) Jane Eyre (2011 or was it 2010?) starring Michael Fassbender, Judi Dench-Love or hate Jane Eyre, this was a good adaptation period. It was also one of the few adaptations of Jane Eyre I've seen that hasn't tried to excuse away Rochester's shitty way of treating his ill wife.

6) Pride and Prejudice starring Kiera Knightley-Look, I do this crazy thing where I like both the Knightley  version AND the BBC version. Both are good. But we're talking movies here, not TV. So this one makes the list.

7) The Secret Garden starring Maggie Smith-1990s saw a whole bunch of awesome kid movie adaptations and this was one of them. Most accurate, and Smith was flawless as always as was the little girl they found to play Mary.

8) A Little Princess directed by M. Night Shamylan-This was one of the early Shamylan movies and was done before he became a big joke. Again, most accurate and fabulously acted. I know most people know the Shirley Temple one and yes, that has great music. But I much prefer this one.

9) The Fellowship of the Ring directed by Peter Jackson-I like all the trilogy (and I LOVED The Hobbit and can't wait for the sequels) but this one was to me the most faithful of all the movies.

10) To Kill a Mockingbird starring Gregory Peck-Yeah I'm pretty sure my crush on Atticus Finch was mostly because I happened to see the movie first (we saw it in school in my defense). There was talk of doing a new Mockingbird movie and I'm sorry...but no. You don't need any other version then this one.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Book Review: A Conspiracy of Alchemists

TITLE: A Conspiracy of Alchemists
Book 1 in The Chronicles of Light and Shadow series
AUTHOR: Liesel Schwarz
PUBLISHED: March 2013 (in the US)
CATEGORY: Adult Fiction
GENRE: Steampunk, Mystery, Urban Fantasy, Vampires
PREMISE: When Elle agrees to a job she meets Marsh and is given more than she bargained for.
MY REVIEW: Sometimes books are written for pure entertainment purposes. Especially nowadays with books being such the large market they've become. And you know what? I have no problem with this. I know some have lamented about the decline in good books and have blamed this, but really good books have always been hard to come by and there have always been things that were written just for entertainment long before Fifty Shades of Gray came along or genre fiction became popular.
A Conspiracy of Alchemists is one of those books that was written mainly to entertain and it does indeed do that. Elle is a fun character and I really do love this world Schwarz created. It's large and creative. Could the story be more original? Sure. But the author isn't trying to write the best book in the world here and that's perfectly fine. There are some things that could be worked on (Marsh's sexism I didn't particularly care for even if I get that it's 1903).
But for the most part, this was a fun book that did it's main job: to entertain. If you are into the steampunk genre/vampire urban fantasy stuff. This book will be fun for you as it was for me. Look forward to the next adventure which is scheduled for a August release in the US.
WHO SHOULD READ: Steampunk fans, Paranormal Protectorate fans
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five durigibles

Many thanks to Del Ray for the Netgalley ebook ARC.

Book Review: Shades of Earth

TITLE: Shades of Earth
Book 3 in the Across the Universe Trilogy
AUTHOR: Beth Revis
PUBLISHED: January 2013
GENRE: Science Fiction
PREMISE: Amy and Elder have brought the ship to the new planet but landing there is only part of the problem. It's after the landing that they have to worry about...
MY REVIEW: Across the Universe started out just okay for me but by the second book became kind of awesome. Which as far as I'm concerned is the best way to do a trilogy. End on a high note, you know? Revis definitely did that.
The third book went in a way I totally wasn't expecting and I love that. True, I don't think every thing was solved and I feel the ending was kind of purposely left open-ended so the author could do more books if she wanted. I have no problem with that. This is one of the few times where if a spin-off series is done, it might actually be necessary because I really want to know what happens on this new planet.
Revis explored so many ideas in this final book and I loved where she took it. If there never is another book, that's fine. But again, I would totally be on board if there's a continuation somehow. Either way, I look forward to whatever Revis has in store for us next.
WHO SHOULD READ: Those that read books 1 and 2, science fiction fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five crash landing spaceships

Book Review: Beta

Book 1 in the Beta series
AUTHOR: Rachel Cohn
GENRE: Dystopian, clones, experiments
PREMISE: Elysia is a clone in a paradise world where clones are for working all the small jobs that humans don't care for.
MY REVIEW: I have never read anything that Rachel Cohn has written on her own. I read Nick and Norah back in the day but she co-wrote that with David Levithan and while I found Nick and Norah enjoyable (and totally rec the movie which is adorable, though mostly because of Kat Dennings) I didn't think it was the be all end all of books so I was never really interested in reading anything else by her (or Levithan, though I have read Boy Meets Boy which was cute as well). After this...I probably won't be reading anything by her again.
Honestly, this is probably one of those cases where there's nothing really WRONG with the book story-wise/writing wise. It gets the job done, and I suppose for the more willing-to-let-things-go reader, it could be entertaining. But this book just had all the things that tends to annoy me. For one, it's amazingly dull. Like there's literally nothing happening till maybe the middle and I'm not sure if I can even count her and her honey declaring true love as something happening. Then the world building just...makes no sense. I understand suspension of disbelief is a thing that is helpful and usually I can let it go. I mean I love Hunger Games but come on, that world will never happen. But Collins gives me enough info and does things logically enough that I'm able to believe it for the duration of reading it. This one just utterly failed to make me believe any of this. It just didn't make any sense. On top of THAT, Elysia was a dull heroine who was passive to the point of ridiculousness, rape was used as a plot point and later the result of the rape (a baby) turned into a anti-abortion message (yes, I'm Pro-Choice. I have no problem with people who are Pro-Life but I have a HUGE problem with forcing a woman who was raped to have her rapist's baby because "it's special"), there's insta-love, slut-shaming, and did I mention it was dull for the first half of the book?
Again, some readers may enjoy this more then I do. I'm sure it's been established that I can be picky with books and especially with Dystopians. But this was definitely not for me.
WHO SHOULD READ: Rachel Cohn fans, those not bothered by sloppy world building in dystopians
MY RATING: Two out of Five eye-twitching induced plots

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Book Review: Size 12 and Ready to Rock

TITLE: Size 12 and Ready to Rock
Book 4 in the Heather Wells series
AUTHOR: Meg Cabot
CATEGORY: Adult Fiction
GENRE: Cozy Mystery, Chick-litish
PREMISE: Heather is drawn against her will back into the Cartwright Family Drama when Tania's life is threatened and she hosts a summer camp at Heather's dorm.
MY REVIEW: I have a utter fondness for the Heather Wells series (and Meg Cabot books in general but you all already know that). They are unashamed chick-lit cozy mysteries and don't try to be anything else which is fine because they are just utter fun. Formulaic fun, yes. But fun nonetheless.
Most of the enjoyment comes from Heather herself. In particular, Heather's inner commentary. Seriously, some of her commentary on the things that are going on are pure comedy gold. There were also several great rants that had me going "preach girl, preach!" such as her commentary on people who sniff at pop music without actually realizing what pop music actually IS.
This series, is one of those that are just almost always going to put a smile on my face. It is proof that chick-lit doesn't have to be annoying and can be fun without villainizing women in order to make your heroine look great (lots of chick lit do this all the time which is why I tend to avoid the genre). If you just want a fun pick-me-up I highly suggest this series.
WHO SHOULD READ: Those that have read books 1-3, Cozy Mystery fans, Cabot fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five snarky sleuths

Book Review: Out of the Easy

TITLE: Out of the Easy
AUTHOR: Ruta Sepetys
PUBLISHED: February 2013
GENRE: Historical Fiction
PREMISE: In 1950s New Orleans, Josie is doing her best to make a future for herself despite several obstacles in her way.
MY REVIEW: I actually have never read Between Shades of Gray. It's been one of those that I've made a note of and said "oh yeah, need to read that one" but have never gotten around too. After this read, I think I'll definitely get around to it this year. Sepetys is a great writer.
For one it's great reading a book set in a time period not often written about. Most YA fiction does the Victorian era, or the thirties, and occasionally you'll see a book in the medieval times and quite often during war periods. Never during quiet times (by history standards anyway) like the nineteen fifties. Sepetys's research shows brilliantly here and it's woven into a great story about a girl trying to get out of the lot in life that she was thrown into. I'm sucker for stories like these. Josie is a underdog and you root for her.
If you love historical fiction of any kind, this is a great read. True, there are some tropes in here that kind of make me roll my eyes (forced love triangle is forced) but for the most part, this was a nice and solid historical fiction read. Between Shades of Gray is definitely on the list now.
WHO SHOULD READ: Fans of Between Shades of Grey, historical fiction fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five sassy Madams

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Read Before I Was a Blogger

This is a weekly meme hosted by the girls over at The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Books I Read Before I Was a Blogger

1) The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling-No, I am not one of those people who Harry Potter made a reader (though HP is wonderful for that). I actually was a reader long before HP came out. But at the time it became huge I was in what you would call a reading slump and had sort of let go of reading. It was partly because of me. I was in middle school at the time and so busy and had just moved from the East Coast to the Midwest and was going through so many transitions that I sort of let reading go. It was also because at that time the YA fantasy section was small, and I'd pretty much read everything good that the section had to offer, and was moving onto adult books but having trouble finding adult fantasy books that appealed to me as well (adult fantasy was also tiny compared to what it is now and certainly not geared towards teen girls or women in general) so I was reading sparingly. Then I found HP and as a consequence of HP YA started getting bigger (I still say Twilight wouldn't have gotten published if HP hadn't created need for more YA for growing up HP fans) and you could say HP really just jump started my reading habit again.

2) The Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce-Also the Tortall series but we can only have so many books on this list and I love the Circle of Magic more then I do Tortall (even though I really like Tortall as well). These books are basically what hooked me onto fantasy in the first place.

3) The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi-This was my favorite Newberry book as a kid. I really wish more people knew about it. Alas, it's never become a huge thing. Word on the street is there is a film in the works but it's been some time since I've heard news so I'm afraid it's not likely to happen. Probably just as well since I have a feeling Hollywood would destroy it because I've noticed they don't seem to know what to do with books that don't have a big epic love story in it or bittersweet endings like this one does. This one is largely responsible for my addiction to historical fiction.

4) His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillup Pullman-I will always love this series. Haters gonna hate.

5) The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot-Really I was addicted to all Cabot's stuff (Mediator and 1-800-WHERE-R-U in particular) but I will always be fond of this series, it was my first Cabot series as well as my introduction to YA contemporary. Sadly at the time this started, YA contemporary was also not quite as it was now so I didn't get into that genre as much because you didn't have authors like Maureen Johnson or John Green (they came later). Basically the good contemporaries were Cabot, Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Judy Blume and that was pretty much it aside from sappy romance formula books. Times really have changed the YA section and I think it's great. I always have to stop myself from going all grandmother and telling teens nowadays how good they have it with reading options nowadays.

6) Young Wizards series by Diane Duane-Young Wizards was a great blend of science fiction/fantasy that sadly also never made it as big as say His Dark Materials. I loved it though. The humor was great. I'm sad that we will never get movies/tv shows from it because it would seriously make a great movie or TV show.

7) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee-Once upon a time, I was like many people and didn't think classics were for me/was also intimidated by them. It didn't help that my English teachers constantly chose the boring stuff that didn't appeal to me. My Grandmother (former English teacher) was not having this and basically started pushing classics into my hand whenever I visited her and To Kill a Mockingbird was one of those classics. Now I tend to read one classic every other month or so (I don't review them here because I figure I'd just be repeating everything that has already been said about classics and you guys probably already know if you want to read said classics or not).

8) Beauty by Robin McKinley-AKA the book that got me into fairytale retellings.

9) Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones-AKA the book that helped me discover Jones as well as British fantasy.

10) The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede-If you have a tween who is into dragons/fantasy/princesses seriously give her these books. I swear she'll love them.

Runners up seriously considered for this list: The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, The Diary of Anne Frank, Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, Chronicles of Narnia, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, The Mediator series, 1-800-WHERE-R-U series, Tortall series, The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Book Review: The Madness Underneath

TITLE: The Madness Underneath
Book 2 in the Shades of London series
AUTHOR: Maureen Johnson
PUBLISHED: February 2013
GENRE: Paranormal, Mystery
PREMISE: Rory returns to London the minute she can and soon finds herself drawn into another mystery.
MY REVIEW: So I loved In the Name of the Star. It wasn't at all what I was expecting and it was a bit of a departure for Johnson who normally does contemporary works. But it was huge fun so I was looking forward to this sequel a lot.
Thankfully Johnson delivered a just as good sequel here. Characters are enjoyable still but don't just stay the same. Rory deals with consequences from the first book and even manages to grow as a character. I can tell you from most experience, character growth doesn't show till the last book. So this was nice to see.
Basically, if you loved the first book, you will love this one just as much. I can't wait for the third, especially after evil cliffhanger that is evil.
WHO SHOULD READ: Maureen Johnson fans, fans of In the Name of the Star, Paranormal fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five creeptastic ghosts

Is blogger being finicky for everyone else, or is that just me? Might be just me....

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Stacking the Shelves: April 7th

This is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga at Tynga's Reviews that tells people what new books we've gotten over the week.

Bought books:

Finishing School Book 1: Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger-I'm off my book buying ban! I managed to whittle down my bought books pile to two books. To celebrate I bought another book. This can't go wrong, right?

Library haul:

Unremembered Trilogy Book 1: Unremembered by Jessica Brody-New mystery trilogy about a girl with amnesia. I can't resist the amnesia trope.

Beta series Book 1: Beta by Rachel Cohn-leftover read from 2012 I meant to read. Currently reading and so far...reminds me an awful lot of AI. Hopefully it's not as dull as AI was.

Notes From Ghost Town by Kate Ellison-I was honestly not that into Butterfly Clues but I really liked Ellison's writing style so I'm giving this one a shot. But if I discover it's not for me either, then I'm afraid Ellison and I will have to part ways.

The Iron Codex Trilogy Book 3: The Mirrored Shard by Caitlin Kittredge-I seem to be the only one who has actually read this trilogy...I think I've seen a grand total of one review among book bloggers for it. This makes me sad.

Across the Universe Book 3: Shades of Earth by Beth Revis-FINALLY off of reserve! Only took three tries.

Madman's Daughter Trilogy Book 1: The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepard-2013 debut based on The Island of Dr. Moreau.

Mind Games Book 1: Mind Games by Kiersten White-Heard mixed reviews about this one but it's by the author of my favorite the Paranormalcy Trilogy so I'm still reading it.

Notes: Normally I would have links for you all so you can read info from Amazon but for some reason my computer is suddenly being a pain in the ass about copying links and is consequently messing up html on Blogger. Sorry.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Book Review: Breaking Point

TITLE: Breaking Point
Book 2 in the Article 5 series
AUTHOR: Kristen Simmons
PUBLISHED: February 2013
GENRE: Dystopian, Drama
PREMISE: Ember and Chase join the resistance. Basically.
MY REVIEW: It is truth, universally acknowledged, that writing second books in a series is hard. That goes double if your series happens to be a trilogy because more often then not the second one is usually just setting up events for the climax to take place in the third and most people get bored with that. So I try not to be too harsh on lackluster second books because I realize this fact.
And sadly, this was a bit lackluster. It had action for sure. But honestly I just kind of yawned my way through it. There wasn't much here that was unexpected except for maybe a death or two. I won't reveal who for the sake of those that haven't read it yet, but they were actually the most surprising thing in here.
As a book, it was okay. It continued the plot and everything. I just wasn't as into it as I was the first Article 5 book. That may have been my own doing though because at the time I was distracted by shiny new books and Doctor Who/Game of Thrones returning last weekend.
WHO SHOULD READ: fans of Article 5, Divergent fans, Legend fans
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five second book syndromes

Book Review: Pivot Point

TITLE: Pivot Point
Book 1 in the Pivot Point series
AUTHOR: Kasie West
PUBLISHED: February 2013
GENRE: Paranormal gifts, Mystery, Urban Fantasy
PREMISE: Addie is a searcher. She can see multiple futures and lets that guide her through the choices she makes. But when her parents get divorced, she is given a difficult one: move with her father to where the Normals live, or stay with her mother? Both lead to complications she couldn't imagine.
MY REVIEW: So far I've been pretty happy with the class of 2013 debuts. With the exception of one or two (oh Dance of Shadows, you could have been SO GOOD) most have been interesting and rather creative. This one is an example of how they are taking usual ideas like paranormal gifts and giving it a facelift for something new and fun.
True, much of this did revolve around a love triangle where the outcome was obvious but the central idea of Addie and the mystery that she has to solve is pretty good. Addie was a okay character. Nothing special, but nothing great either. There were one or two moments that made me roll my eyes (like was villianizing the girl who liked Addie's new guy really necessary? I don't think it was). But for the most part, this was a fun paranormal mystery.
So if you like books about people with unusual gifts, I'd give this one a look. A few usual tropes aside, it was rather interesting. The writing is also pretty decent which is a nice change of pace.
WHO SHOULD READ: fans of paranormal gifts
MY RATING: Four out of Five ParaNormals

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Book Review: Dance of Shadows

TITLE: Dance of Shadows
Book 1 in the Dance of Shadows Trilogy
AUTHOR: Yelena Black
PUBLISHED: February 2013
GENRE: Paranormal, Romance
PREMISE: Vanessa attends the New York City Ballet school to dance..and to find out what happened to her sister who mysteriously disappeared the year before.
MY REVIEW: From the premise of this and the tone of the book, I have a feeling the author was aiming for a combination of Twilight/Center Stage/Black Swan. Unfortunately the Twilight part kind of took over. For the record, I love Center Stage and Black Swan. They are ridiculous dance films (especially Center Stage which is so corny but so fun) and if you ever just want a movie with great dancing, I highly rec them. If Black had managed to do just a combination of those two...I probably would have dug this.
To be fair I never got the sense that the author was trying to write the most epic thing ever. She really was clearly just trying to entertain. In the minimalist sense...I suppose she succeeded. There is a rather interesting mystery with the sister going on that may (MAY) cause me to actually read the next one. But honestly, that's really the only interesting thing in this. The rest is all the usual YA tropes thrown in one. Flowery, trying too hard writing? Check. Love triangle with insta romance on both sides? Check. Stereotyped insta friends? Check. Plot holes galore? Check. Dull heroine? Check. Romance eclipsing all the actual interesting plot points? Check. There's even the stereotyped bitchy girl who of course is villainized even though the main character is not exactly a saint and basically stole said girl's boyfriend.
So really this was a business as usual sort of book. There's nothing really new here to set it apart from any other YA paranormal, aside from the fact that it's about ballet. I did like the description of the dance. But honestly there's not much here for me to say go read it now. Check it out of the library if you must, but don't bother otherwise.
WHO SHOULD READ: ballet fans, Twilight fans
MY RATING: Two out of Five this could have been better plots

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Book Review: The Lost Prince

TITLE: The Lost Prince
Book 1 in the Call of the Forgotten series (or Iron Fey series book 5)
AUTHOR: Julie Kagawa
GENRE: Faeries, Fantasy, adventure
PREMISE: Meghan's little brother Ethan is all grown up and resentful of his lot in life. Then a half fey he mildly befriends disappears and he has to wander into the Nevernever in order to help him and a girl he's just met.
MY REVIEW: I'm sort of torn here. Part of me thinks this series should have ended in book 3. I'm not a huge fan of authors who play the "Oh no, here's one more book. Oh but wait! Here's a spin-off series!" game. Seriously authors. Just stop. But this is an example of how if you do the spin-off/continuation route to at least do it in a decent way.
Kagawa was smart to leave Meghan alone for this one because honestly her story was done. It was done in book three but what can you do? Ethan is vastly different from his sister, and we get to see all the changes that have come about from the Iron Fey. I will say a lot of this felt like a redo of the first Iron Fey book but with male main character instead but like the previous Iron Fey books enjoyment outweighs the rather formulaic feeling of it. Most of my enjoyment honestly came from Kenzie. Gosh, I loved her. I sort of wish the book had been in her point of view instead of Ethan's because I'm really curious about her back story. I feel we didn't get everything. Maybe in the next one?
So was this really necessary? Probably not. But at least Kagawa managed to make it an enjoyable continuation that doesn't make me regret getting into this series. I will say I'm looking forward to Eternity Cure more then the next one of this though.
WHO SHOULD READ: Iron Fey fans, Faerie fans, Labyrinth fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five how long is this going to go on series?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Fictional Crushes

This is a weekly meme hosted by the girls over at The Broke and the Bookish

My Top Ten Characters I'd Have a Crush On If I Were a Fictional Character

1) Neville Longbottom from the Harry Potter series by J K Rowling-I have a thing for shy, nerdy guys who are secretly badass. You'll see a lot of this on the list.

2) Ethan Wate from the Caster Chronicles series by Kami Garcia and Margeret Stohl-He respects Lena and doesn't feel threatened by the fact that his girlfriend is basically stronger than he is and never tries the controlling/you only belong with me crap. Edward Cullen should take a leaf out of Ethan's book.

3) Hale from the Heist Society series by Ally Carter-Well, he's maybe not my top ten, but I've just read Perfect Scoundrels so he's in the forfront of my mind right now.

4) Magnus Bane from Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare-It would be hopeless on my end of course, but that wouldn't stop me from crushing on him. I'd at least have a fifty percent chance since Magnus is bi.

5) Numair from the Tortall series by Tamora Pierce-Because of reasons.

6) Briar from the Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce-Actually if I'm remembering correctly, Briar was in fact my first book crush as I first read those books when I was like 12.

7) Samwise Gamgee from the Lord of the Rings series by J. R. R. Tolkien-He cooks, he gardens, he's endlessly loyal and also badass. The perfect man. Or Hobbit in his case.

8) Jesse de Silva from The Mediator series by Meg Cabot-If Briar wasn't my first crush, then Jesse definitely was.

9) Edmund from Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis-My nine year old self had a thing for Edmund and to this day I have a soft spot for him.

10) Frank Hardy from the Hardy Boys series-Again, childhood thing. I'm still bitter he and Nancy Drew never got together.

Book Review: Perfect Scoundrels

TITLE: Perfect Scoundrels
Book 3 in the Heist Society series
AUTHOR: Ally Carter
PUBLISHED: February 2013
GENRE: Adventure, mystery, drama
PREMISE: Kat gets drawn into Hale's world of business when she is asked to find a will his grandmother left behind.
MY REVIEW: I have a deep fondness for Ally Carter's books. They are just FUN. She doesn't try too hard with edgyness, she gets that a lot of this is camp and runs with it, and she doesn't rely on drama alone to make things interesting. There literally is something for everyone in these books.
This one is even better because it goes more into much needed Hale/Kat backstory and we get to learn more about Hale himself. We get to see the whole team pull together and it's fabulous. A lot of times authors will have the characters say they're family but not back it up, in this one, Carter backs up the claim that Kat and her crew are friends/family and have each others back. In a YA world where friends and family tend to take a backseat to romantic drama this is really nice to see.
As always with Carter's books this one is fast-paced, fun, with likable characters who you want to spend time with. I don't know if there's going to be another Heist Society novel (the ending of this one led me to believe this may be the last book) but if there is I certainly welcome it.
WHO SHOULD READ: Those that have read books 1 and 2, Gallagher Girls fans, Oceans Eleven fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five sunglasses