Sunday, October 31, 2010

In My Mailbox (4)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren with inspiration from Alea of Pop Culture Junkie.

The idea of IMM is to encourage blogger interaction and expose books to our readers' attention. IMM is a great way to spread the word of certain books that many readers may not have heard of. You aren't limited to books that you've received via mail; you can also include books you've bought or gotten at the library.

This is my haul for the past two weeks. I was kind of surprised - I wasn't expecting this much in the mail!

For Review:
The Riddler's Gift Part 1 & 2 Greg Hamerton

(I actually bought the last three with a giftcard I won from Ashlie @ Page Turners Gone Wild)

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Minder by Kate Kaynak
Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

From the Library:
(As you can see, the last three deal with witches. I WAS going to have a Halloween-theme -- witches, obv -- on my blog, but stupid midterms got in the way so I had to scrap that idea.)

The Body Finder by Kimerbly Derting
Firelight by Sophie Jordan
Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough
War of the Witches by Maite Carranza
Witch Season: Summer & Fall by Jeff Mariotte

From Giveaways:
(I got these six in ONE DAY. It was the most I've gotten in one day, so I was super excited and did a happy dance!).

Brisingr by Christopher Paolini [Randombuzzers]
Reckless by Cornelia Funke [Won from JL @ An Avid Reader's Musings]
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride [Won from JL @ An Avid Reader's Musings]
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson [Won from Amber @ Just Your Typical Book Blog]
Dash & Lily's Book of Dares (MY FIRST ARC!!!) by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan[Randombuzzers]
Vampire High: Sophomore Year by Douglas Rees [Randombuzzers]
A Summer Court bracelet inspired by Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely series
An exclusive soundtrack CD for Michelle Zink's Prophecy of the Sisters and Guardian Gate
A Book Depository bookmark
(all three above are from JL @ An Avid Reader's Musings)

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare [Won from Amber @ Down The Rabbit Hole]
Gamer Girl by Mari Mancusi[Won from Amber @ Down The Rabbit Hole]
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White [Won from Lisa @ Read.Write. Repeat]
In a Heartbeat by Loretta Ellsworth [Won from Cindy @ Princess Bookie]
Lovestruck Summer by [Won from Cindy @ Princess Bookie]

I've already personally thanked you all via e-mail, but I'd like to thank you again for these books! :)

From ARC Tours:
All Just Glass by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes (Not pictured because I sent it off already)
You by Charles Benoit

So what did you all get in your mailbox this week? :)

Also, I'm making a mini-announcement. After today, I won't be on my blog until Friday. Well, I'll get on to check on how everything is and to leave a few comments to blogs I follow, and to respond to e-mails and such, but I won't actually be here most of the time. The reason is that my midterm for chemistry is this Thursday and my final grade in the class is riding on how well I do on my midterm. SO, I'm going all reclusive and studying my butt off. I have scheduled reviews and posts, though. I'm trying to type up all my posts before Sunday ends so I can go crazy on caffeine and hit the books. If you absolutely NEED to reach me or just miss me too much and crave talking to me, shoot me an e-mail! :) I will be actively checking that, since I'm also constantly checking for updates with my chem. professor.

So, I'll pretty much see you all next week! (Hopefully I'll still be alive... x_o)

Have a Happy Halloween!!

Since I won't be here to post my Katniss costume and my best friend as Peeta, I'll leave you with an old costume! I was the orange witch, and no I didn't use red contacts.

And the winners are...

I just finished tallying the entries for the Do Tampons Take Your Virginity? giveaway. It was my first giveaway so I got really excited with this one! :D Thank you to everyone who entered! So without further ado, the winners are...

10. Jessi
6. Miss Bookiverse
19. Erika
18. Danna

Congratulations to the winners! I'll be notifying each of you via e-mail shortly. If I haven't heard from the winners within 48 hours, I'll choose a new winner.

To those of you who didn't win were really hoping for a copy of Do Tampons Take Your Virginity?, there's still a chance to read this book! Marie is offering free e-books to anyone who is willing to review her memoir. If you're interested, please send me an e-mail at frazzledbooknommer[at]gmail[dot]com.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Review: The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

Author: Bree Despain
Publisher: Egmont USA
Series: The Dark Divine #1
Pages: 372
Genre: Paranormal
Release Date: December 22, 2009
How Received: Library

A Prodigal Son
A Dangerous Love
A Deadly Secret

Grace Divine—daughter of the local pastor—always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared and her brother Jude came home covered in his own blood.

Now that Daniel’s returned, Grace must choose between her growing attraction to him and her loyalty to her brother.

As Grace gets closer to Daniel, she learns the truth about the mysterious night and how to save the ones she loves, but it might cost her the one thing she cherishes most: her soul. 

My Thoughts:
At first, I didn’t expect to like this book. The reason is simple: religion plays a huge part in the life of the Divines. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not slandering religion, being religious myself. But when you find religion in literature, it’s usually displayed with substantial amounts of distasteful bigotry and has made me come to dislike any books with religious portrayals. After a while into this book, though, I realized that while religion played a big part in the familial dynamics of the Divines, the book wasn’t preachy or stubborn. Grace, the main character, does some things that go against the way of her religion, and she struggles with her decisions. Her father, who is a pastor, is okay with new ideas being brought to him and tries to help anyone in need, regardless of what they do. This is the first book in a while where I could stomach the religion, so that was a plus for me.

After I got over my forthcomings about religion, the book got a lot better. I was driven to read it so quickly because I needed to know Daniel’s secret and what happened between him and Jude, Grace’s brother. The inquisitive stage of the book takes up the entire novel – from the very first page to the last. What was going on? What is Daniel? What’s going to happen now? Those are the questions I most wondered about as I read. The plot itself isn’t that exciting: you could pretty much guess Daniel’s secrets from the get-go. But there were plot twists! Not exactly dealing with Daniel himself but... let’s just say the “antagonist” is someone you would never expect. I for sure didn’t! I totally fell for the red herring Despain threw at me. I accused that guy from the very beginning. So un-predictability? Pretty good in some parts, but pretty predictable in others.

The characters were believable. I really enjoyed Grace as a protagonist. She still held firm with her beliefs, but she was willing to experiment and try new things – all in the favor of helping someone who she wasn’t allowed to see. I’m glad her love – for Daniel and her brother – ran as deep as it did. Daniel was also an enjoyable character: he was mysterious, cynical, and a general bad boy, but he was always so sweet and gentle to Grace when they were alone. I couldn’t help but love him, even as I questioned everything about him.

I also enjoyed that Grace’s parents were somewhat around. They – especially her father – played active roles in the book, and I enjoyed reading Grace’s interactions with them (even though she didn’t get along well with her mom, which is understandable with any teenage girl).

I thought it was pure genius that nearly everyone we’re introduced to has a unique role. Literally. Even characters we only meet for a sentence or so get a somewhat significant role in the book – from Don, to a girl with green hair, to the mysterious Gabriel. Everything interweaved amongst themselves really nicely, and I have to applaud Bree for writing her story the way she did.
 And lastly, the name meanings in this book were interesting. All of the Divine’s were given names that reflected God in some way. Daniel’s name means “God is my judge” (which makes perfect sense). Jude’s name is a bit ironic, depending on the root meaning of the name (it means praise, admired, or thanks, but also to acknowledge and confess man’s character) – and Jude is also a brother of James (baby James). I absolutely adore authors who take careful consideration into name meanings and incorporating that into their novels.

Cover Thoughts: At first, I thought it was pretty. Then I got up close to the novel and didn’t like it so much. This is just me, personally, but I can’t stand toenails. If you’re going to try to have a pretty cover, pick pretty toenails. And look at the model’s feet. Those are 25-year-old feet, not 16-year-old feet. And for a religious novel, it’s pretty racy. But maybe that was done on purpose, to show that Grace does go out of line sometimes. But ugh, the toenails. Cute idea for the purple nailpolish (it’s mentioned in the story) but... just ugh.

Memorable Quotes:
“Grace Divine.” He snorted. “Your parents must have some God complex. I bet your dad is a minister.”
“Pastor. But that’s none of your business.” (pg. 5)
The problem with promises is that once you’ve made one, it’s bound to be broken. It’s like an unspoken cosmic rule. (pg. 18)
I was used to people talking about me. Watching me. It was just part of being a Divine. Mom always said I had to be careful about the clothes I wore, how late I stayed out, or what movies I was seen going into, because people would set their own behavior by what the pastor’s kids were allowed to do—like I was some kind of walking morality barometer. (pg. 85)
He brushed the stone pendant that lingered between his defined pecs. I couldn’t help noticing the way his long, lean muscles and untamed hair made him look like a wild, powerful animal. For one small second, I wished he had pounced on me. (pg. 229
Daniel turned his head away. “What about your brother?”
“I don’t want to kiss him,” I said, and pecked my lips along Daniel’s jaw.
“He’s here, you know.” Daniel swallowed air. “I can taste him.”
“Okay, let’s put that on our ‘Top Ten Things Not to Say While Making Out’ list.” (pg. 309)
What were the odds that two werewolves had the hots for me? Like I was some gigantic monster magnet. Was there a sign on my back that said, BITE ME, I’M AVAILABLE?!  (pg. 322)

Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: I started out disliking this novel because of the religion. But a little while into it, I was completely hooked. The Dark Divine handed us a total good vs. evil cliché, but it’s served well-done. The characters were believable and it was fun rooting for Daniel (I’m still rooting for Daniel, seeing as a new love interest is being introduced in the Lost Saint – or so I think? Maybe? Not sure) and seeing how far Grace would go for love.

Rating: 4/5

Friday, October 29, 2010

Book Blogger Hop Oct. 29-Nov. 1

The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly meme hosted by Jennifer @ Crazy-for-Books. It's a chance for book bloggers to interact, make new friends, and most importantly, share their love of books!

This week's question is:

What is the one bookish thing you would love to have, no matter the cost?

Oh gosh, a bookshelf! No question or second thought about that. I don't have one and have books scattered in towering piles on the floor, on my nightstand, next to my laptop, etc. They're basically on any surface I can stick a book on. Definitely need a bookshelf. :/

Follow Friday is a weekly meme posted on Friday's that is hosted by Parajunkee @ Parajunkee's View. To join, all you have to do is follow the host and the week's featured blogger. Then put your name on the linky, grab the button, and follow, follow, follow as many people as you can! If someone comments and say they're following you, be a dear and follow back -- it's all about spreading the love during Follow Friday! :)

This week's question is:

If you have, or would have a daughter, what book would you want your daughter to read?

My answers are for when my imaginary daughters are older, in their teens. So, Speak. I would want my daughter to have as many learning materials as she can in front of her, and I'd want her to know that it's okay to tell me what's going on and to speak up. Also, Twenty Boy Summer. Not just because my mind is still on challenged books, but because it's a story of death and overcoming loss. In case something happens to someone she cares about early on in her life, like it did for me, she'd be able to connect to the issues in Twenty Boy Summer and maybe come to love it as I did. I wish I had Twenty Boy Summer when I lost my dad, so maybe it would be of some use to my daughter.

And for my imaginary cute little girl, The Secret Garden. I LOVED this book as a kid - I'm sure my daughter would too. If she doesn't, I'll make her read it so much until she does. :P


ONE MORE DAY to enter my giveaway! Check it out while you guys are here! It's international and ends tomorrow (10/30) at 11:59PM PST.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Review: Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin

Author: Nancy Werlin
Publisher: Dial 
Series: N/A
Pages: 393
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: September 7, 2010
How Received: Library

Summary: Phoebe finds herself drawn to Mallory, the strange and secretive new kid in school, and the two girls become as close as sisters... until Mallory’s magnetic older brother, Ryland, shows up during their junior year. Ryland has an immediate, exciting hold on Phoebe, but a dangerous hold, for she begins to question her feelings about her best friend and, worse, about herself.

Soon she’ll discover the shocking truth about Ryland and Mallory: that these two are visitors from the faerie realm who have come to collect on an age-old debt. Will she be strong enough to resist? Will she be special enough to save herself? 

My Thoughts:
The statement “Don’t judge a book by its cover” can definitely be applied here. While Extraordinary was a quick, nice read, it didn’t meet my expectations for it.

I do have to start out by applauding Werlin’s writing – it’s unbelievably gorgeous and elegant. I haven’t been that impressed by someone’s writing style for ages.

As for Extraordinary itself, it fell short for me. It started off great – we’re introduced to the faeries and Phoebe, and we’re intensely curious about this big plan the faeries need Phoebe for. But then the plan actually succeeds (sort of), and I just thought... They made a huge, huge deal about breaking someone’s spirit just for... well, pretty much nothing. I assumed, with all the fuss the faeries were making, that something monumental was going to happen. It doesn’t.

The faerie folklore in this novel was quite interesting, and I wish we had more of a chance to experience it. I found myself more interested in Mallory’s final role rather than Phoebe’s story. I also wanted to know what types of faeries there were, their “history”, rituals, etc. It was all so fascinating and aside from the glamour, it was also new (from other faerie stories I’ve read). But we never go deeper than touching the slightest basics of this books folklore.

The characters were well-written. Phoebe was... well, she was annoying at times, but she was glamoured so I couldn’t fault her. I just wished she could have used her wits more than just at the end. Mallory... now there’s a character I loved. Torn between her people/duty and her best friend. I enjoyed that she wasn’t completely heartless and that she eventually came to love Phoebe. Unlike Ryland, who was pretty much the definition of heartless. Even towards the end, I was holding on to the hope that he developed some sort of feelings (even brotherly) towards Phoebe but I was seriously stopped short.

While the plot was unique (this story is based off a real family, but the characters in the book are fictional), I thought it could have been better. I wasn’t too impressed with the plot. The only thing that kept me reading this novel was the constant question: what did the faeries want Phoebe for? I mean, sure, we get the gist of it through conversations with the Queen, but we don’t really know what is going on until the end.

Also, I have to mention... The conversations with the faerie queen are stunning. Why? On the pages where we have conversations with the faerie queen, there are vines coming down the pages. It’s really pretty. And the chapter titles? Such a pretty font. I’m a nut for aesthetics.

Cover Musings: Oh my goodness, this cover is gorgeous. I’m not exactly sure what but it just really appeals to me. The foliage, the girls’ dress and the way her hair sways, her calves, the fact she can run in heels. My list is endless – this is just a beautiful cover all around.

Memorable Quotes:
He opened his arms.
She never remembered going to him. She was simply there, standing before him, reaching out her own arms, moving—awkward, untried—onto his lap. His arms wrapped around her, a dragon whipping its muscular tail around a small prey—no, what a weird vision! Another stupid hallucination. Phoebe closed her eyes— (pg. 137)

Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: Extraordinary had a lot of promise, but it wasn’t exactly an extraordinary novel. While it was well-written and had some decent characters, the plot wasn’t all that interesting and the read was rather slow. Still, I liked it – it was a decent read. But I’d recommend checking this one out at a library rather than buying it.

Rating: 3/5

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Review: No Greater Sacrifice by John C. Stipa

No Greater Sacrifice
Author: John C. Stipa
Publisher: Self-published
Series: N/A
Pages: 394
Genre: Fiction, mystery
Release Date: September 4, 2009
How Received: Author

Summary: When terminally-ill archaeologist Renée d’Arcadia is summoned to France to take part in the reading of a will, she is plunged into a maelstrom of deceit and destruction to solve a 100-year-old mystery originating from a sinister church where nothing is as it seems. Renée joins forces with David Arturo, an ex-helicopter pilot with a troubled past, to interpret clues cleverly hidden in tombstones and classic works of literature to find artifacts scattered across Europe. Racing against time, Renée and David must overcome their inner demons to outmaneuver a network of evil bent on destroying them. What they find in each other just might provide answers to some of mankind’s oldest myths. 

My Thoughts:
No Greater Sacrifice is a cross between Indiana Jones and The Da Vinci Code (or at least these are two of the more prominent titles that is close to his work/influence). If you’re a Dan Brown lover, you’ll love this book. But at the same time, it is in no way comparable, because the concept is unique and there was so much more involved than just mystery. I took a long time to read this because I was so absorbed into solving the mystery behind Sauniére’s secret myself – I was that intensely involved in the novel!

By default, you’d expect plot twists and jaw-dropping action unfolding, but John did it in a way that caught me so off-guard. Sometimes, he’d even do it relatively bluntly and you’d be left screaming, “What?!” at the page. The pacing of the novel was fast-paced most of the time. There were slow moments where Renée and David would debate back and forth, throwing ideas at each other, but after they’d reach a conclusion, the pace would pick up again in action-packed adventure.

I didn’t expect John to be writing about dealing with deeper issues – I really only suspected mystery and adventure. So when other issues came up, like death, betrayal, incest, insecurities, conspiracy, not living up to expectations, and cancer, I was mildly pleased! I loved how these issues were incorporated in the story, yet it never took hold of the story – we could still read about depressing issues without it transforming into a novel about cancer. 

The characters were extremely realistic and were very easy to connect with. There’s Renée, who is an archeologist and was always pushed hard by her father. She’s fierce, assertive, stubborn, resilient, and will never say no to an adventure. She’s battling with leukemia and her imminent death from it looms over most of the actions she takes, and she’s more reckless because of it. Then there is David, an ex-army man turned college professor who has inner demons and insecurities. He’s chivalrous, humorous, and so-darn-cute sometimes!

The romance in the novel (because yes, there’s romance, as well!) was outstanding. It was executed in such a way that it didn’t take the spotlight away from the original plot. Of course, it was still present and sometimes entire chapters were devoted to the romance, but ultimately, everything would come back to the mission. And wow, John wrote some romance scenes like a woman! That is not an insult – it’s a huge compliment. The romantic elements were tender, yet steamy; subtle, yet intense. I suppose I just assumed a man couldn’t write passages that radiated with such warmth and love... until I read this book.

The amount of work and research that went into this novel was amazing. There was so much detail of archaeology, mythology, religion, famous landmarks – it was easily overwhelming. I could practically see all the hard work and sweat that went into developing this novel. I have to give John mad props for weaving this tale and connecting all the dots so seamlessly that they made sense (to an otherwise slow person who can’t make connections, like myself!). The man is ingenious for all the debates and clue-work he did!

My only complaints are that John doesn’t name what foods are in the book – they sounded so delicious! I was ready to go out and order half of the things that were mentioned in the novel, but I didn’t have names to go with the delectable foods he was describing! I also didn’t like the alternating point of views within the same paragraph, but you get accustomed to it after the first 50 or so pages. Very, very small dislikes compared to an otherwise amazing novel.

Cover Musings: Okay so I didn’t think much of it at the beginning. I thought it was cool, but not great. Then I finished the story, took another look at the cover, and loved it. I didn’t even realize the clues in the novel were incorporated onto the cover until I finished the book! I was actively trying to figure things out on my own while reading, and I never had the idea to look at the cover. I won’t say what they are or what they mean, but it was cool. There’s even the Tower Magdala in the background if you squint closely enough! And turn the book upside down. Awesomeee!

Memorable Quotes:
Why anyone would want to be an archaeologist, Renée d’Arcadia could not fathom. If raw fingers, stinging sunburn, and swear weren’t enough to chase away the hopefuls, mosquito bites the size of a quarter would do the trick. Interested in chapped lips of a leper? Come to archaeology. Modern plumbing? Forget it. There was also the danger of dehydration, being bitten by something poisonous, or getting trapped by a cave-in, along with the mental torture of isolation and claustrophobia. Not to mention the constant doubt that one was even digging in the right place. Those were enough to test anyone’s mettle. (pg. 14) 
“The Greek government doesn’t know that I found anything that day in the temple,” Renée said. “And they for sure wouldn’t want to know about the little mess I left behind.” She grimaced.
Little mess? You started a freakin’ cave in, you moron. Nice work by the way. Way to keep up international relations. ‘Uh, yeah, hi, I’m Renée, I’m an American. I’m here to, you know, like, drink all your wine, trash the joint, steal all your valuable shit and then bolt the country.’ Why didn’t you just drop your shorts and pee on the Parthenon?” (pg. 25) 
“What’s the story behind the place? Why were you researching it?”
“I thought every conspiracy theorist and treasure hunter knew the tale.”
“Sorry, must have cut the class the day my conspiracy teacher went over that one.” (pg. 46)
Figuring that he would want a friend to do the same for him, David took off the man’s boots and began stripping him down. David grimaced as he pulled Meehutch’s pants down to reveal shiny cheetah-print briefs. (pg. 116) 
Her lips against his ear sent volts of electricity through his whole body. The sensation was exhilarating, and his heart pounded as adrenaline surged through his veins. Heat built up on his scalp. His right hand began moving, seemingly beyond his control. Where do you think you’re going? Come back here. It sneaked its way to Renée’s waist. Stop. Hooked in a belt loop. Oh my God. He hooked on with the other hand. You’re insane. He pulled her close, and felt her hips angle toward him. (pg. 120)
“The true measure of a person’s character is revealed when they learn of another’s darkest fears. It is in that moment the listener either displays grace or the ugly head of apathy.” (pg. 154)
“Do you cook, David?”
“I’m Italian, remember? Take a blood sample and you’ll get marinara.” (pg. 199)
“What are you waiting for? Someone with your beauty won’t remain single for very long in France.”
“I’m taking my time, waiting for the right man to come along.”
At that moment, they both looked up at the house where David and Voison were gaing out the window. A warmness radiated through Renée’s chest. Turning back to Clothilde, Renée was startled by the intense gray eyes boring into her.
“Taking your time? If I had that hunk of a man, my foot would be through the floor on the accelerator.”(pg. 274) 
Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: No Greater Sacrifice is a complex novel about intriguing mystery and exhilarating adventure. This book was crafted on a highly intellectual level, incorporating endless mysteries and well-thought out debates. Plot twists and betrayals are around each corner. There were so many things incorporated into the book – mystery, adventure, mythology, religion, romance, archaeology, history, symbolism, social issues, disease, humor... You name it, this book has it! Plus, there are illustrations in the novel. That was way cool and definitely enhanced my reading experience (because I used them to try to solve things out before reading what Renée and David would come up with!). Not to mention the illustrations were drawn by his daughter! How cool is that?

I highly, highly recommend this book to anyone, really.

Rating: 5/5

You can read an excerpt of No Greater Sacrifice at the bottom of John’s interview at theindiespotlight here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Review: Captivate by Carrie Jones

Author: Carrie Jones
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Series: Need #2
Pages: 273
Genre: Paranormal
Release Date: January 5, 2010
How Received: Library

Summary: Zara and her friends knew they hadn’t solved the pixie problem for good. Far from it. The king’s needs grow deeper every day he’s stuck in captivity, while his control over his people gets weaker. It’s made him vulnerable. And now there’s a new king in town.

A turf war is imminent, since the new pixie king, Astley, is moving in quickly. Nick nearly killed him in the woods on day one, but Zara came to his rescue. Astley swears that he and Zara are destined to be together, that he’s one of the good guys. Nick isn’t buying it, though Zara isn’t as sure – despite herself, she wants to trust the new king. But it’s a lot more than her relationship that is at stake. It’s her life – and his. 

My Thoughts:
After reading this book, I was left wondering what the heck happened. The writing went down a notch, the characters morphed into one-dimensional fillers, and the romance was not that believable. There was a drastic change from Need to Captivate, one I absolutely didn’t like.

Captivate picks up a few months after where we’re left off with Need. Captivate didn’t transition well from its predecessor – we’re pretty much thrust back into the story without character descriptions or at least a little synopsis of what happened before. I couldn’t even remember how Zara’s, Devyn’s, or Issie’s appearances looked like.

The writing style was just atrocious. Sentences were short and fragmented, and there were barely any worthwhile descriptions. Sometimes even mundane aspects would be written into the book – do we really need to know that Devyn grabs a drink of water, or that Zara goes pee? What does that really bring to the storyline other than filler? All of the characters sounded the same – if there hadn’t been “Zara said” or “Issie said”, etc, I wouldn’t have even been able to tell who was talking. Even their personalities were inconsistent – Astley has a certain way of talking, and after a while Zara started talking the same way. Uhh, I was pretty sure she had never spoken the way Astley did throughout any of the novels.

I think Carrie was trying to portray “out-casts” and minorities in this novel. Everyone had dreadlocks or cornrow’s or hair dyed green in Mohawks. Okay, I get that she wants diversity in her town, but it was never like that in the previous novel. I had to roll my eyes after yet another person was introduced that had dreadlocks.

Zara pissed me off this time. Every time she spoke, I wanted to either strangle her or throw the book across the room. I mentioned this in my review of Need, but good GOD is she stupid. She gets so many warnings from the pixie kings but she ignores them. If she had only paid heed to them, none of the stuff that happened would have happened, and a bunch of people wouldn’t have gotten killed just because of her sheer stupidity. The best part? She has the gall to blame the pixies for what happened, but hot damn was it her fault. She’s so dang self-absorbed and whiny; if she could have sacrificed one person or herself, none of the innocents would have died. She’s all about protecting people from the pixies, but what she did endangered them. She never thinks about her actions. All she does is “research” that comes up inconclusive or just gets solved by Devyn. I couldn’t even feel sorry for her after what happened to Nick. And her reaction to losing Nick? Oh, I’ll just grab a sword and try to take out as many pixies as I can, but get swarmed in the process and only really inflict ONE minor injury and then have to get rescued. URGH.

The other characters pissed me off too. It was like Carrie had a list: Nick – protective, “macho”; Devyn – “nerdy guy who researches a lot”; Issie – “eccentric who loves bunnies but is clumsy and weak”. They were so one-dimensional this time. What happened to my vivacious Issie from Need? The only two characters I liked were new: Cassidy and Astley. I couldn’t not like Astley, but if I say why I might spoil something. Same with Cassidy. But in both cases, they were refreshing next to the gang of four.

I was definitely not emotionally connected to any of the characters this time around, aside from Astley.

The plot was okay, but sort of dull. Nothing too twisty this time – the only “twist” happened with Cassidy. Need was suspenseful – Captivate just wasn’t. Pacing was alright – not too action-packed, and only lagged in the beginning. I have to admit that the read got better after Zara finally agrees to Astley’s suggestions, so I’m still holding on to hope that the third novel will be better than this one.

Cover Musings: As with Need, I think this cover is gorgeous. That teardrop is definite foreshadow.

Memorable Quotes:
"My skin starts to feel like thousands of spiders are crawling on it, doing an Irish step dance." (pg. 55)
Pixie Tip
Pixies do not look like Tinker Bell. Although they occasionally wear tutus. Seriously, who doesn’t? (pg. 10)
Pixie Tip
A pixie’s true skin color is blue. Cookie Monster, Grover, and other lovable Muppets are also blue. Do not confuse the two. Muppets don’t kill you. Usually. (pg. 71)

Overall Thoughts/Final Musings: If I could describe this novel in one word, it would be “Bleh”. I’ve always heard people complain about sequels not living up to their predecessors – this book is definitely one of those sequels. Captivate definitely went downhill from Need. The characters were downright annoying, especially the main character (who did stupid and unnecessary things that just got her in trouble), and the romance was totally... unbelievable. I can safely say I’m more Team Astley, but in the sense that I want Zara to die and Astley to get his happily ever after. The read was so monotonous – I had to force myself to keep reading in hopes that it would get better, which it did the last third of the book. That was the book’s saving point, or I definitely would have rated this a 2. This book definitely had a lot more potential and just fell short.

Rating: 3/5

Friday, October 22, 2010

Book Blogger Hop Oct. 22-25

The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly meme hosted by Jennifer @ Crazy-for-Books. It's a chance for book bloggers to interact, make new friends, and most importantly, share their love of books!

This week's question is:
Where is your favorite place to read? Curled up on the sofa, in bed, in the garden?

I love reading in bed. But that has its downsides -- sometimes I fall asleep while reading! I also have this really awesome bean bag chair (that's in the shape of an actual chair!) that's way too comfortable for words that I'll read in.

Follow Friday is a weekly meme posted on Friday's that is hosted by Parajukee @ Parajunkee's View. To join, all you have to do is follow the host and the week's featured blogger. Then put your name on the linky, grab the button, and follow, follow, follow as many people as you can! If someone comments and say they're following you, be a dear and follow back -- it's all about spreading the love during Follow Friday! :)

This week's question is:
What are you currently reading?

I'm currently reading No Greater Sacrifice by John Stipa. It's a cross between Indiana Jones and The Da Vinci Code. After that, Beautiful Creatures.


While you guys are here, check out my giveaway! It's international and ends 10/30! :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Review: The Adventures of Annie Marmalade: Quest for the Ronji Crystal

The Adventures of Annie Marmalade: Quest for the Ronji Crystal
Author: Julian Vaughan Hampton
Publisher: Vaughanworks
Series: N/A
Pages: 140 (approx.)
Genre: Children’s fiction
Release Date: Mid-December 2010
How Received: Author

Summary: When the sacred Ronji Crystal is taken to the Giants of the dark mountains, a little girl with a special gift is the only one who can return it.

The sacred Ronji Crystal has been taken from the magical town of Goodhaven. The Crystal holds a curse that prevents the Giants of the dark mountains from attacking the town. The king of Goodhaven sends his son, Prince Marion, to retrieve it. His request, take neither man, woman, nor boy with him. Prince Marion finds his solution in a small girl with a special gift. Annie Marmalade has the power to turn any item into a dessert. Prince Marion simply wants Annie to open the entrance to Debor. When the door slams shut, Annie Marmalade and Prince Marion are forced to work together to retrieve the crystal from the depths of Debor. Journeying through the tunnels of the dark mountains, they learn the secrets of Debor. Annie uses her gift to create desserts to battle King Ontross and his minions. She creates rivers of caramel, licorice lassos, and even gummy bears to help Prince Marion return the Ronji Crystal to Goodhaven. This, however, is just the beginning.

Follow this magical adventure as a little girl stands between hope and the threat from the dark mountains. 

My Thoughts:
The Adventures of Annie Marmalade was a delightfully charming tale of a young girl, Annie, who lives in Goodhaven. She feels left out because her gift – the ability to make delicious desserts – isn’t as conventional in society as her peers’ are. But when tragedy befalls Goodhaven and the Ronji Crystal is stolen, Annie steps up in the face of adversity to save her beloved Goodhaven and rescue the Ronji Crystal.

My first thought about this book was that it was cute, remarkable, unique, and innovative.
For being a children’s book, The Adventures of Annie Marmalade was wonderfully descriptive. I was a bit surprised at how flawlessly Julian weaved a tale of fantasy that was easy to grasp and be immersed in. The pacing was great and filled with action packed scenes and tons of adventure. There were hidden depths and themes in the novel, despite how relatively short it was. I loved the theme in which even the least remarkable person could be a hero.

Annie’s gift, and the way she uses it, is completely unique. It was fun seeing what different ways Annie would get out of a situation – I would have never thought up some of the innovative things that Julian thought up for her! For example, she uses taffy lasso to use as a rope and turns water into caramel to slow down the hounds that were hunting them. She used gummy bears to get rid of some giants that caught them in a tricky situation and bubble gum as a balloon. One thing is for sure: this book will get your sweet tooth craving some dessert!

The characters were enjoyable to read about and believable. Annie was charming and oh-so-cute. I absolutely loved it when she would shimmy and shake to make ordinary objects into desserts. She had a different outlook to life – where others were afraid, Annie was fearless; where others were wound up, Annie was carefree. Her way of thinking was so unique and definitely stood out. There was also the Prince, who is a great military leader but doubts his abilities on facing problems by himself. He’s a bit of a scaredy-cat, but learns to be brave in the face of danger.

My only complaint/wish is that it were longer – I didn’t want to stop reading about Annie’s adventures!

Cover Musings: Note- this isn’t the finished cover. I love the incorporation of the gummy bears! I hope the finished cover will include more of the delicious desserts Annie thought up of.

Memorable Quotes:
“Thanks... Dander. You saved my life. I owe you.”
“I know how you can repay me. No more calling me Fool.”
“No problem,” Lugo replied.
“You can call me by my secret name. I’ve always wanted to be called Dander the Daring.”
“I think I’ll find another way to pay you back.” (pg. 30)
The water turned into a river of caramel. The hounds pace slowed from running to walking. Soon, they sticky caramel held them in place. They tried to pull away, but weren’t able to. One hound tried to eat it, but his face became stuck in the caramel. (pg. 75)
“You don’t look fine,” said Annie.
“I’ve never seen anything come at me so fast. Those teeth... those eyes...”
She softly patted the prince on his back.
“It’s going to be ok. They’re just angry puppies.”
“Puppies? Is that what you think they are? Puppies? They are vicious animals. I didn’t think we would make it.” (pg. 76)
Looking at one another, the giants gave each other a sly smile. Moving slowly around the room, they surrounded the two intruders.
“Well, now we know what stinks. They need bath-time.” (pg. 85)
“Do something, Prince Marion!”
Prince Marion gently walked toward the giants.
“Excuse me, ah... giants. If we could just slide through you, we’ll leave you to your grunting and pillaging or whatever.” (pg. 85)
“I wish you no harm. I only wish to speak to you,” said the giant figure.
“Speak quickly, giant, or feel the wrath of my sword.”
Prince Marion’s sword slipped from his hand, clanging to the floor. (pg. 88)
Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: The Adventures of Annie Marmalade was definitely an enjoyable tale that would be loved by the entire family. It’s full of action and it’s interesting to see what unique ways Annie will come up with to pull Prince Marion and herself out of danger. I would recommend to this to anyone, really – children, adults, fantasy-lovers. I can't wait to read this to my niece!

Rating: 5/5

*I received a copy of The Adventures of Annie Marmalade from the author in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (3)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I'm waiting on:

Pegasus by Robin McKinley
Releases November 2, 2010
Because of a thousand-year-old alliance between humans and pegasi, Princess Sylviianel is ceremonially bound to Ebon, her own pegasus, on her twelfth birthday. The two species coexist peacefully, despite the language barriers separating them. Humans and pegasi both rely on specially-trained Speaker magicians as the only means of real communication.

But it's different for Sylvi and Ebon. They can understand each other. They quickly grow close--so close that their bond becomes a threat to the status quo--and possibly to the future safety of their two nations. 

Why I'm waiting on Pegasus:
The summary really caught my attention because the bonding between a Pegasus and a human was reminiscent of the bond between dragons in my favorite series, Dragonriders of Pern. I'm excited to see whether or not it'll be similar or completely opposite of it! And anyway, I'm a total fantasy nut - this book seems right up my alley!

What are YOU waiting on this Wednesday? :)

Also, while you guys are here, check out my current giveaway! It's open internationally and ends 10/30!

Interview and Giveaway with Marie Simas

Marie Simas is the author of Do Tampons Take Your Virginity?, which is a chick-lit memoir. It's an emotionally intense memoir with comic relief sprinkled on top. You can read my review of it here and read more about Marie at her personal site. Marie was kind enough to stop by Frazzled Book Nommer and answer a few questions!

Was it more difficult writing a memoir as opposed to a piece of fiction?

Yes. Writing this memoir was exhausting. I went through dozens of drafts and three editors. The first few drafts were a lot angrier and less humorous. I got feedback that it was too raw and needed to be toned down, so I did it. I don't want my readers to feel beat up-- I want them to enjoy the book. That's hard when the topic includes a downer like child abuse. It takes a lot of effort to make the entire manuscript an enjoyable read. I'm happier with the final product because I got input from many different writing pros. Sometimes it takes a village.

Were there any reservations or qualms you had about publishing a memoir?

Yes, lots. All the names have been changed, of course. At first, I wasn't going to publish it. I was just writing during the NaNoWriMo, and this is what came out. Even after I showed the manuscript to people who raved about it, I still wasn't planning to publish it.

You might laugh, but the real reason I finally decided to publish this story is because of a random episode of Oprah. I'm not a fan of the show, but I happened to be home one day in the middle of the afternoon. I was flipping the channels and it was the episode with Mo'Nique's brother, who had sexually assaulted her as a child, and now was "speaking out" about it. Mo'Nique had just been awarded an Oscar for her blistering performance in the movie Precious. She was not present at the interview.

All of her family members were out there supporting the brother, (the molester). I just couldn't believe it. The impression I got was that they were all mad because Mo'Nique went public about the rapes and didn't shut her mouth-- they were all embarrassed that everyone had to find out about their dirty little secret. Oprah was trying to keep her composure, but she looked like she wanted to crawl out of her skin, sitting next to him while he defended the molestation of his little sister. I wanted to throttle them ALL.

I thought about it, then-- so, this is how it is everywhere. Every family has dirty secrets. No one talks about it. They just want to bury it under the rug. 

After that, I decided to publish. Sunlight is the best antiseptic, after all.

Does your family know you’ve written a memoir, or have any of them read Do Tampons Take Your Virginity?

No one in my family has read it, as far as I know. I didn't exactly ask anyone for permssion. I doubt that anyone would have agreed.

I know some of the chapters aren’t chronological, so how did you go about writing and putting together your memoir?

I relied heavily on my editors to help figure the best order for the chapters. They were all written in random order, and then my editors created an outline based on their reading of the material.

How long was the writing process for Do Tampons Take Your Virginity?

About 16 months, from start to finish. I had to put it down at least twice for an extended period because I was losing my objectivity. That happens sometimes. But I picked it back up after a month or so and started working again.

In the book, you mentioned that you wanted to major in art. Have you ever picked up art again, even as an enjoyable past-time?

I've tried. Sometimes I go into art stores, and it's still really emotional for me. In my city, there's a shop downtown called "Universal Art," with all kinds of fine art supplies, really high-end. Last time I went in there, I walked through the aisles and started touching everything. Then I picked up some handmade paper and smelled it, and I started sobbing uncontrollably and I had to leave. I haven't gone back.

It's hard for me to talk about, because my artwork used to win awards. I've never been able to get it back. I don't know if I ever will. In some ways, this was more depressing for me than any of the abuse. It's like a candle was blown out.

If there was one piece of advice you could say to a little girl in a similar situation as yours when you were young, what would you say to them?

It gets better. Don't kill yourself. Don't cut yourself. Look into the mirror, and tell yourself that you are beautiful, smart, and that you're going to make it. If no one in your house is saying anything positive to you, go into the bathroom, look into the mirror, and say something positive to yourself. I'm not bullshitting. I used to do it. I remember the first time I went into the bathroom, and looked into the mirror, and said "I love you" to my own reflection. No one ever said it to me, and one day I just decided that I deserved to hear it from someone. Self-love is a powerful love. It makes you strong. It can help you survive your darkest moments. Create your own beacon of hope. It will sustain you, I promise.

Do you have any future works planned?

Yes, I'm entering the NaNo again this year. I don't have any ideas yet, but they always appear when I'm ready.

A huge, huge thank you to Marie for agreeing to do an interview with me! And now, onto the giveaway! :)

Marie is offering 3 SIGNED copies of Do Tampons Take Your Virginity?

- Ends October 30 11:59PM PST.
- Open Internationally! 
- Only one entry per person; there are chances for extra entries, though!

Extra Entries: (these are NOT required)
+1 for tweeting about the giveaway
+1 for commenting on my review of Do Tampons Take Your Virginity?

To enter, fill out the form HERE

Aside from the giveaway, Marie is also offering e-book copies of Do Tampons Take Your Virginity? to anyone who is interested in reading and reviewing her memoir. If you're interested in reviewing her work, e-mail me at frazzledbooknommer[at]gmail[dot]com and I'll forward your e-mail to her. :) This offer is only available for the next 30 days. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Review: Do Tampons Take Your Virginity? by Marie Simas

Do Tampons Take Your Virginity?
Author: Marie Simas
Publisher: Deviant Troll Press
Series: N/A
Pages: 161
Genre: Non-fiction, chick-lit
Release Date: September 25, 2010
How Received: Author

Summary: Do Tampons Take Your Virginity? is a powerful, gut-wrenching memoir about what happens when you grow up in an insane Catholic family. Often surprisingly funny, the author's candid writing exposes the endurance it takes to survive a stifling, oppressive upbringing. It's an emotional roller coaster from start to finish, fiercely honest and sincere. Each memory is written in sharp episodic chapters to mimic the author's real experiences, which range from brutal to hilarious, and everything in between. This memoir shouldn't be missed! 

My Thoughts:
From the very first page, Marie exudes brazen, blatant honesty. Do Tampons Take Your Virginity? starts off with an ass/face towel anecdote – I kid you not – and it only delves deeper from there. I applaud Marie for being audacious enough to publicly write about these stories. I’d personally be too afraid of who from my past would read the stories. Marie, however, exposes every raw moment of her childhood – from abuse, to rape, to sexual encounters. This memoir was so full of honesty that I was mildly surprised at first; it takes some getting used to (my jaw dropped at least 10 times while I was reading).

This memoir was a complete emotional roller coaster. There were times when I cried, there were times when I laughed. I personally guarantee you will laugh at the first page of this memoir. But despite the wit and humor present in Marie’s memoir, there was also her father present – an ever looming figure of fear. Every time a scene with her father came up, I wanted to personally run over to Marie and give her a big hug. However, she doesn’t let us linger in the sadness for long. She seamlessly provides sporadic comic relief throughout the entire novel so that the oppression her father brings isn’t too overwhelming.

Not only is she bold enough to “come out” with her story, but she’s strong enough to withstand her father’s oppressions and the hurts she’s suffered. She could have easily succumbed and taken her abuse silently, or even become depressed, but that never happened. Her head was still held high and she took her life into her own hands once she hit college. I was very impressed with the strength that she had.

And I have to mention her grandmother Amalia, who I fell in love with. Any old grandma that chases a perverted old uncle up the street, screaming obscenities in Portuguese, is definitely okay in my book. She was always a constant beacon of hope, at least from my perspective. Every time her grandma was mentioned, everything would get slightly better – not completely, but marginally.

Lastly, I love the fact that Marie tried to go back and reconcile with a few people from her past that she had wronged, such as Randall Johnson. I gained so much respect for her for writing an apology to him, and even more-so for Randall, for graciously forgiving her.

Cover Musings: I was shocked when I first saw it, haha! I did a double-take, and was like, “Is that REALLY a tampon on the cover?” I just suppose it shows you how blunt this memoir is!

Memorable Quotes:
No one can hold a grudge like an old Catholic grandmother. (pg. 22)
Catholics have a love-hate relationship with sex. In most European and Latin American countries, it goes like this: the women are discouraged from having sex until marriage. The men, however, are encouraged to get laid as much as possible. This creates a real conundrum because, if all the women are waiting for marriage, how are the men going to get laid? (pg. 60)
When my period finally arrived, I was fourteen. To my mother’s horror, I bought tampons and never bothered using pads. Mother was convinced that I would lose my virginity to the tampons and that no man would want me if I was going to stick things in there. (pg. 70)
Rules of a Catholic Grandma
3. If your waitress puts little jams and jellies in foil packets on your table, it is perfectly all right to stuff them all in your purse and take them home. The same is true for ketchup and mayonnaise packets and any “free” bread that is put on the table. If you are lucky enough to be eating at a buffet, bring along the biggest purse you own. (pg. 92)
When I left that office, I thought I was hot shit. Less than five minutes later, I was a spectacle. Fired, sitting in the street with bloody knees and a broken ten-speed. God was good at teaching me some humility. (pg. 126)
Somehow, all of my husband’s cousins are named Juan.
Juan Carlos, Juan Antonio, Juan Horacio... and Oscar got a little pissy with me when I couldn’t tell them apart.
Catholics need a middle ground. People need to believe in a place like Purgatory. It gives assholes some hope. (Pg. 151)
All those years of happy memories had been forgotten. I had chosen to remember only the hate and anger. The proof was there; there were happy times, too. Years filled with laughter and joy. Was there a point where our lives made a dark turn, or had I ignored the positive aspects of my life for so many years that I no longer believed they had existed? I created a reality where there was nothing but darkness. (pg. 159)

Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: Do Tampons Take Your Virginity? is one hell of an emotional roller-coaster. One moment you could be crying, and the next, you’ll be laughing your head off. This novel is honestly intense, and intensely honest. It takes readers through the past to where Marie is today, and the conclusions that she’s drawn from her experiences in life. This novel is definitely thought-provoking, strong, and crazy. It deals with abuse, rape, forgiveness, mistakes, religion, stereotypes, and personal growth. I don’t normally read memoirs, but I’m glad I chose to read this one – I definitely recommend it to anyone out there (especially Catholics, such as myself).

Rating: 5/5

* I received this novel for review from the author (thank you Marie!) in exchange for an honest review.