Sunday, January 30, 2011

In My Mailbox (12)

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. You aren't limited to books that you've received via mail; you can also include books you've bought or checked out at the library.

I'm sure most of you know that I've been semi-MIA the past week/two weeks. I've been busy with... (get ready for it; it's gonna shock you!) social life. I know, I know. What social life? I had no idea I had one of those things, either. I'm sure it'll dump me once school starts again, so you'll have me back full force until mid-terms. :)

Also, my sister-in-law went into labor yesterday (or last night... I forget; it's Saturday morning at 4:30AM as I type this up), so I've been busy with all the baby-stuff - baby proofing, buying clothes/cribs/whatever we didn't get from the baby shower, etc. I BARELY just got home from the hospital because my brother figured I may as well come back when she is actually in the process to give birth. When I left, they had just given her an epidural and she's barely 4cm, so the nurse told us that we'd probably have an late morning/early afternoon birth (on Saturday). So, why am I not sleeping, since I just spent almost 12 hours in the hospital, you ask? Oh, cause I didn't want to leave my blog so empty for so long. xD Plus I've never missed IMM three weeks in a row.

This week's IMM covers last week and this week. Both were SUPER AWESOME weeks. The first week, I received a package from HarperCollins and Candlewick that I had no idea was coming, because the publishers never replied to my requests. I never knew pubs send books even if they don't reply -- I just thought I was ignored/denied, so I got over it. So you can imagine my shock when my bundle came! I think I prefer it better not knowing what/when I'm getting a book! :) It makes receiving it a lot better!

ANYWAY. Enough rambling. Here's my IMM. <3

For Review:

What Comes After by Steve Watkins (Candlewick Press)
Entwined by Heather Dixon (Greenwillow)
Rival by Sara Bennet Wealer (HarperTeen)
Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin (Bloomsbury)
Mad Love by Suzanne Selfors (Bloomsbury)
Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper (Bloomsbury)

You Killed Wesley Payne by Sean Beaudoin (Little Brown)
Immortalis Carpe Noctem by Katie Salidas

From Giveaways:
I won a box of books from Danielle @ Romance Book Junkies. Thank you again, Danielle!

Angels Fall by Nora Roberts
Blue Smoke by Nora Roberts
Remember When by Nora Roberts and J. D. Robb
High Noon by Nora Roberts
Hidden Riches by Nora Roberts
Worth the Risk by Nora Roberts
Reunion by Nora Roberts
The MacKade Brothers: Rafe and Jared by Nora Roberts
Dead of Night by Nora Roberts and J. D. Robb
Black Hills by Nora Roberts
The Gift by Nora Roberts

I also won a box of books from Silver @ Penumbra.

A Desperate Journey by Debra Parmley
Secret Obsessions by Leigh Wyndfield
The Heat Chronicles by Leigh Wyndfield
Leap of Faith by Arianna Hart
No One Left To Tell by Jordan Dane
Evil Without a Face by Jordan Dane
Talk of the Town by Karen Hawkins
Lucky Charm by Carly Phillips
Lucky Streak by Carly Phillips
Catch a Mate by Gena Showalter
Out of Sight by Cherry Adair
Faerie Fate by Silver James
Christmas Delivery by Patricia Rosemoor
Dark Deceiver by Pamela Palmer

Minding Ben by Victoria Brown (Pub sweepstakes)
The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens (Randombuzzers)

From my awesometastic, amazing, coolio, hip, bombshell of a friend, Rob, whom I love very, very much:

The Lost Saint by Bree Despain (I KNOW, I can't believe he sent me it, either!)

I got my Candlewick/HarperTeen bundle and a box of books one week, and the next was the Bloomsbury bundle and the other box of books. So both were very exciting weeks. ♥

What did you all get in your mailbox this week? ♥

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Review: Leonardo the Florentine by Catherine McGrew Jaime

Leonardo the Florentine
Author: Catherine McGrew Jaime
Publisher: Self-published
Series: N/A
Pages: 158
Genre: Historical fiction
Release Date: October 18, 2010
How Received: Author

SummaryWho are the Medici brothers? And who is trying to assassinate them? Why was the Pitti Palace never completed? And what part did Leonardo play in all of this? Leonardo da Vinci is remembered as an artist and inventory. But who was he before anyone knew his name? This family-friendly novel explores the history and the legends of his early years in Florence. It also weaves a mystery of politics and power.

My Thoughts:
This story felt more like a biography in the way that it was written. The voice felt distant, as if we were just reading about Leonardo. There were hardly any feelings involved and I just didn’t connect with the characters on any level. Compared to other historical fiction I’ve read, this just felt like a slightly altered biography. The history, naturally, was my favorite part of the novel.

Reading about Leonardo, however, was absolutely riveting. Not that he did much that exciting, but to see his (historically correct) upbringing was fascinating to me. I enjoy reading stories about where people have come from – especially ones where a person goes from rags to riches (well, so to speak). The story goes from when Leonardo is first apprenticed to when he heads to Milan. There wasn’t much that drove the story forward, to be honest, so that also reinforced my feeling of how this felt more like a biography. Some events were created, but most of it was historically correct. But nevertheless, I loved the descriptions of Florence and the history behind the Medici family.

The one thing that bothered me about this novel, however, was the passage of time. There was almost a reiteration of “Leonardo learned a lot during those months; he was enthralled with learning and absorbed anything he could be taught like a sponge. He was kept busy with a lot of projects. Months later...”. That’s a huge paraphrase, but a variation of passing the time like this was used at least 4 or 5 times.

One thing I thought was cool, however, was the incorporation of actual drawings and sketches Leonardo made inside the book. The chapters would open up with a sketch of Leonardo’s landscape drawing around Florence, and there was a map of Florence at the time Leonardo lived there. And lastly, there was also a timeline for Leonardo’s early life located at the back of the book that was awesome to reference.

Cover Musings: It’s not very eye-catching as a cover. But as a drawing? Amazing. I’ve seen this prospective study drawing for the Adoration of the Magi before (in a humanities class) and loved it.

Memorable Quotes:
As he swam among the others, his thoughts took him back to his favorite swimming place in Vinci – the pond behind Grandpa’s house. There he had been able to take in the lovely country surroundings when he was done. He had spent much time during those summer months studying the plants and the animals that flourished among his grandfather’s fields and vineyards.
Here in Florence, he had something new, something better. He had friends. (pg. 42)
Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: All in all, this story was more like a retelling of history (with some variations) than anything else. The most interesting part about the novel was that it was historically correct. However, there wasn’t much that drove the story forward, which made it seem like a retelling of someone’s life, and the middle got a bit slow. Would I recommend this book? Yes, especially if you love history. I can't wait to see where Catherine takes the story in her future novels. 

If this were required reading for an English or History class, I’d totally love it.

Rating: 3/5

**This book was provided for review by the author in exchange of an honest review.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Book Blogger Hop & Follow Friday Jan 21-24

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 says 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:

Who do you cheer for?

I'm a So. Cal kind of girl. Lakers all the way! ♥ Only basketball games I bother watching. And I love the Angels, as well. My dad was an Angels fan before he died, so we went to a LOT of home games at the Anaheim Stadium. :P

Monday, January 17, 2011

Review: Secondhand Charm by Julie Berry

Secondhand Charm
Author: Julie Berry
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Series: N/A
Pages: 352
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: October 12, 2010
How Received: Publisher

SummaryDeep in the forest, in a secluded village, a young girl has become known for her unique powers as a healer. Even gypsy charms—mere trinkets when worn by others—seem enchanted when Evie ties them around her neck. The love charm may be especially potent, since Aidan, the handsome stonemason’s apprentice, has been unusually attentive lately. But Evie wants more than a quiet village and the boy next door. She longs to travel to the city, to study at University.

When His Majesty the king pays an unexpected visit for the town’s annual feast day, Evie gets her chance. He awards her a scholarship, and suddenly—accompanied by both Aidan and her best friend, Prissy—Evie is on her way. But this story is no simple fairy tale. Her journey takes unexpected twists, from the high seas to the royal palace. And Evie will discover not just intrigue, adventure, and romance, but a most incredible legacy... a magic within herself she is only beginning to understand.

My Thoughts:
Secondhand Charm is a cute story that appealed to my love of fantasy and fairy tales. Not only was this novel cute, but it was wildly creative. I found myself unable to guess where Julie was taking us with their tale, so I had opened myself up to expect anything. The magical elements in the book were so intriguing – I found myself wondering more about the magical side of the book than of Evie’s story. For a standalone, Secondhand Charm presented its world very simply, and when you’re working in the fantasy genre, it’s always best to remain simple when presenting an entirely new world to someone.

Evie, the main character, was every bit as charming as her story. While she was a bit clueless at times and didn’t think with her head, she was a very driven and passionate character. I loved that she was so goal-oriented that she knew what she wanted from the very beginning, and even as she grew unsure of her future, she remained steadfast on wanting to help and heal people. This was also a bit frustrating, as well, because as soon as the magical element came into play, another huge door opened for Evie and she rarely thought about deviating from “the plan”. I would have jumped on the new opportunities. To add to my frustration, Evie didn’t even ask or ponder about her newfound life-mate. It was days before she even thought about inquiring about Clair. I would have been asking questions nonstop at the very moment I could have.

Clair, Evie’s leviathan (I won’t expand on that, so that’ll give you incentive to read it and see what that’s all about!), was my favorite character. He reminded me of a puppy sometimes. The way he was so happy to have found Evie was adorably sweet, and all he did was want to make her happy. I wanted to know more about him and his brethren – he grew on me that much!

The romance in the book was very sweet and cute, much like the rest of the story. In fact, the romance sort of took a back-seat to the plot, but it still reminded us it was there every few chapters or so. Evie had bought a gypsy love charm that attracted men to her, but her real interest was with Aidan, her neighbor in Maundley. Like any good romance, it had its ups and downs. Evie was never sure about Aidan’s feelings, and Aidan was never sure about Evie’s feelings. The pair had to overcome obstacle over obstacle, it seemed. But nevertheless, it was very cute watching the Evie’s relationship develop right before our eyes.

Secondhand Charm’s predictability was a bit all over the place. For the first 3/4th’s of the book, everything about the plot was so fantastical that it was hard to be sure what to expect, so I took all the “plot twists” in stride. Highwaymen, a shipwreck, a sea serpent? Sure, why not. But then the end pulls up and plot twist after shocking plot twist was thrown at us. Everything we assumed to be true before was suddenly up in the air to guess at. I loved that while this book is a fantasy tale and I was in a mindset to pretty much accept everything that was thrown at me, Julie still was able to shock me.

The only thing that bothered me about Secondhand Charm was the spaced out scenes of the villains. At the beginning we get glimpses of a potential evil plot arousing. But then too much happens between the first glimpses of the evil plot to its actual execution. By the time that the betrayal and bad guys came out to do their thing, I almost forgot all about them. I understand why it might have been written that way – to lull us, as readers, into a false sense of security, just as Evie was – but it almost seemed like the bad guys’ story was tacked on there at the end.

Cover Musings: My very first thought was that it was a cute cover. But then I looked closer and got a bit critical. If you look closely at the cover, the snack-like trinket looks so out of place on the string. It looks like a photo that was pasted onto an entirely fairy-tale like cover – in fact, the snake isn’t even resting on the string, it looks like it’s hovering in mid-air. And the string looks fake next to the snake. But the colors, especially on the blues on the jacket flaps and the binding, were absolutely gorgeous. The pastel like feel from them was lovely. 

Memorable Quotes:
For shame, scaring me like that in the woods!
“Aren’t you going to say something?” I said. “Or are you waiting for other young ladies to pass by so you can terrify them too?”
“Not a bad idea,” he said. “I could easily make a sport of this. But seeing as you’re unprotected, I may as well walk you home. I can always come back and lurk more later.” (pg. 13-14)
He sighed and shook his head. “With my luck, if I parade you around as my wife I’ll meet a beautiful girl somewhere, one that I would have liked to court. But she’ll never have me, no matter how many times I go back and explain, because she’ll be convinced I’m a bigamist.”
I averted my face to hide my bafflement. Was he teasing me?
“I’ll take you, Wife,” he said, “as far as Chalcedon, but then I’m seeking an annulment.” (pg. 73)
So soft, so sweet, so surprising, as if all the stars in the night sky were bursting out from inside me. How could I have known?
Aidan. And me.
What are you doing, Evelyn Pomeroy? said a small, bookish schoolgirl voice in my head.
Dying, I told it. Go away. (pg. 103)
Did this creature wish to hurt me? It had seemed pleased to find me. Was that only because I was its favorite meal? (pg. 107)
I have waited so long for you, the leviathan whispered, yet you don’t know me at all.
Without looking back, it slithered into the waves and disappeared under the water. (pg. 119)
There’s no one more important than you, Mistress. Especially no man. I told you. They’re just food.
What kind of bloodthirsty brute was I stuck with? (pg. 145)
I had endured an agonizing hour of having my hair set in place by Dorothy, who took our her frustrations with life upon my scalp. (pg. 179)
“Knowledge is your initiation,” she cried. “Knowledge of what you can do, and showing the courage and faith to do it. Throw yourself into the water.”
“But I can’t swim!”
“Yes, you can.” (pg. 208)
The bench, the ground, the castle gardens fell away from under me as his warm lips drew mine in and held me. Nothing, not even riding the ocean waves, felt this thrilling, or this free.
Clair awoke in my purse. Fish? he said. Nice fish? (pg. 341)
Before we entered, though, he paused to finger the charms around my neck. “Your love charm is gone,” he said. “You never needed it, you know.”
I thought of King Leopold, and Alfonso and Rudolpho, and the lads back in Maundley. “You can’t deny that it worked.”
“Not on me.” (pg. 342)
Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: Secondhand Charm is a cute, light fantasy novel that was able to absorb me into the world and intrigue me with the magic. The concept of serpentina’s was so interesting – I almost wished there was a side novel dedicated to them solely. Evie was as charming as the novel was, and I found myself thoroughly enjoying reading her perspective. I always seem to mention this in my reviews of fantasy, but I’m a stickler for world building. While Julie’s world in Secondhand Charm isn’t as defined as other fantasy novels, it’s presented simply in a way that is easy to understand and remember.

Rating: 4/5

**This book was provided for review by the publisher, Bloomsbury, in exchange of an honest review. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

In My Mailbox (11)

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. You aren't limited to books that you've received via mail; you can also include books you've bought or checked out at the library.

I'm sure most of you (or, err, maybe some of you?) have noticed I haven't been around as much as usual. My best friend came on a spur-of-the-moment visit to California. She lives in Texas and it sucks having a bff live so far away, so I spent most of the last week and a half hanging out with her. She's leaving tomorrow so I'll be back to posting/blogging regularly until school starts. :) Sooo without further ado, this is my haul since the 2nd.

For Review:
Dorris Bridge by Clive Riddle
Talisman of Elam by Jim Mastro
The Dragon of Cripple Creek by Troy Howell

From Giveaways:
Fallen by Lauren Kate
Torment by Lauren Kate
A Highlander Christmas by Dawn Halliday, Cindy Miles, Sophie Renwick [from The Bookish Snob]
Knight of Angels: Book of Love by Abra Ebner [from Katie's Book Blog]
Knight of Angels: Book of Revenge by Abra Ebner [from Katie's Book Blog]
The Tranquillity Initiative by Joan Meijer + super cute green caterpillar bookmark [from Lisa is a Bookworm]

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

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Across the Universe
Author: Beth Revis
Publisher: Razorbill
Series: ??
Pages: 398
Genre: Science Fiction
Release Date: January 11, 2011
How Received: Publisher

SummaryA love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone—one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship—tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

My Thoughts:
The science part of the book was absolutely fascinating and riveting. I’ve watched a ton of movies and read tons of books dealing with space travel, so I decided that I had to read this book.

Across the Universe is a slow book. By slow, I mean pacing-wise. The first 250 pages or so are pretty much leading up to the conclusion (which is about 50 pages or so). There was no intensity or action from start to finish. It was just slow, which isn’t a totally bad thing – the pacing left a lot of room open for development and for the reader to get to know Godspeed.

As far as predictability goes, I had guessed everything from the moment we were presented with the facts. From the murderer to the big reveal, I already knew what was going to happen. I’m actually pretty pleased with myself that I guessed correctly. But at the same time, while I had guessed what was going to happen, Beth would sort of lean the story a different way and I kept second-guessing myself. So even though I knew what happened, I was still a bit unsure and that’s why I wasn’t so disappointed by the easy predictability.

The narrative switches from Amy’s point-of-view to Elder’s point-of-view. I have never been so upset with this point-of-view style until this book. All the scenes that would have involved feelings or more insight to a situation were in the other person’s perspective.

Amy was not really a pleasure to read about. Her character seemed stagnant throughout the entire book – she doesn’t grow, she doesn’t change, she’s just Amy. She came off as really dependent and whiny. I realize that it’s a scary thing to wake up completely alone after however many centuries, but it’s something that already happened and that she can’t change. Instead of having attitude and being petulant, she could have worked to at least assimilate into her new situation. Elder was a bit more fascinating to read about than Amy because he’s learning that he basically lived an entire lie. He at least strives to better himself, for the good of his ship and his people. He realizes how tyrannical Eldest and decides that’s not how he wants to rule. And while Elder remained somewhat stagnant as well, his perspective was more interesting.

For being a proclaimed love story, I came into this book expecting a sweet romance or at least development of feelings. However, I didn’t feel any chemistry between Elder and Amy. Besides the fact that Elder was obsessing over Amy’s difference, I just didn’t see it. There was more romance involving Amy and the boyfriend she left behind on Earth, Jason. In the middle of the book, there was one scene where the two kiss. But I couldn’t see why Amy would kiss Elder – she hadn’t had any prior feelings for him.

I’m not entirely sure if this is a standalone or a series – I’ve heard differing sources say one thing or the other – but if it were a standalone, then I’d have to say the ending disappointed me. I had expected the ending to feel more conclusive, but I was just left feeling empty.

Cover MusingsIt’s really, really pretty. I absolutely adore astronomy, so I was more interested in the stars than on the models.

Memorable Quotes:
My eyes slid to the exit, past all the cyro equipment on the other side of the room. Beyond that door were my aunt and uncle, who I loved, who I could be happy living with. And beyond them was Jason. And Rebecca and Heather and Robyn and all my friends. And the mountains, the flowers, the sky. Beyond that door was Earth. And life.
But my eyes drifted to the little doors on the wall. Beyond those doors were my momma and daddy. (pg. 8)
“The builders of the ship knew this; that’s why they named her Godspeed.”
I mouth the name with him, tasting it like metal on my tongue.
“It’s an old Sol-Earth expression for good luck.” Eldest snorts. “They shot our ancestors into the sky, wished them all good luck, and forgot about us. They can’t help us. We lost com with Sol-Earth during the Plague, and have never been able to regain communication. We can’t go back. All the people on Sol-Earth could give us was Godspeed.” (pg. 29)
I have been frozen in ice for centuries. And yet, I never have felt more alone than I do right now, at this moment when I realize that I am alive and aware and awake, and they [her parents] are not. (pg. 90)
She starts crying. Not soft, sad tears, but the angry sort, like she hates the whole world, at at least the ship that’s now her world. So, I do what any reasonable person would do when faced with a crying girl.
I get the frex out of there. (pg. 91)
I don’t realize I’m crying until the tears splash on the coffin. “Daddy, I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t get up, Daddy. They were too strong. If it wasn’t for Harley—” My voice cracks. “Daddy, you said you’d protect me! You said you’d always be there for me! I need you now, Daddy, I need you!”
I pound my fists against the cold hard glass surrounding the ice. My hands crack and bleed, smearing crimson across the glass. (pg. 234)
And even though there are so many stars and they look so close together, I know they are light years apart. The glitter in the sky looks as if I could scoop it all up in my hands and let the stars swirl and touch one another, but they are so distant, so very far apart, that they cannot feel the warmth of each other, even though they are made of burning.
This is the secret of the stars, I tell myself. In the end, we are alone. No matter how close you seem, no one else can touch you. (pg. 390)
Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: Across the Universe was a good, decent read. It satisfied my love for the science fiction genre. If this were a series, I could easily see myself becoming to like it more than I did. As it is, though, it was a bit too predictable and had stagnant characters with a flat romance. It’s saving point is the intrigue it inspired in me. I love science and I love astronomy, and I found myself wanting to unlock more and more of Godspeeds secrets. I would definitely recommend this book, especially to young adult lovers, but it wasn’t OMGamazing.

Rating: 4/5

*This review was submitted in the 2011 Debut Author Challenge!
**This book was provided for review by the publisher, Razorbill, in exchange of an honest review. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (9): Chime

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:

Chime by Franny Billingsley
Releases March 17, 2011

Before Briony's stepmother died, she made sure Briony blamed herself for all the family's hardships. Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it's become a second skin. She often escapes to the swamp, where she tells stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. But only witches can see the Old Ones, and in her village, witches are sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the worst kind of punishment. 

Then Eldric comes along with his golden lion eyes and mane of tawny hair. He's as natural as the sun, and treats her as if she's extraordinary. And everything starts to change. As many secrets as Briony has been holding, there are secrets even she doesn't know. 
Why I'm waiting on Chime:

Uhh, hello, cover love! Not only that, but doesn't that blurb sound interesting? Very mysterious and intriguing. What are these secrets?! Looks like it's gonna be good. Have I mentioned that cover is gorgeous?

What are YOU waiting on this Wednesday? :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Review: Entice by Carrie Jones

Author: Carrie Jones
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Series: Need #3
Pages: 264
Genre: Paranormal
Release Date: December 14, 2010
How Received: Publisher

SummaryZara and Nick are soul mates, meant to be together forever. But that’s not quite how things have worked out.

For starters, well, Nick is dead.
Supposedly, he’s been taken to a mythic place for warriors known as Valhalla, so Zara and her friends might be able to get him back. But it’s taking time, and meanwhile a group of evil pixies is devastating Bedford, with more teens going missing every day. An all-out war seems imminent, and the good guys need all the warriors they can find. But how to get to Valhalla?

And even if Zara and her friends discover the way, there’s that other small problem: Zara’s been pixie kissed. When she finds Nick, will he even want to go with her? Especially since she hasn’t just turned... she’s Astley’s queen.

My Thoughts:
I was almost tempted to quit the series after how disappointed I was with the second book, Captivate. But I am so glad I decided to stick with it. Entice’s saving point was its plot. Zara is trying to save Nick, but at the same time also has to transition from turning into a pixie.

One thing Entice did that Need and Captivate did not was keep me hooked. In Need and Captivate, I had to put the book down several times to fume or just go do something else. I only did that once for Entice, at the end when Zara reunites with Nick. Is it a coincidence that the only time I disliked Entice was when Nick was around? I think not. Anyway, back to the being hooked thing... I was surprised to be really absorbed into the story. I kept wondering what was going to happen, and turned the pages fervently, and the next thing I knew I was done!

Zara, as with the rest of the books, pissed me off again. I go into reading these books knowing I’ll be pissed off whenever Zara or Devyn are talking. However, I was able to stomach Zara this time, which I couldn’t in Need or Captivate. She made some sound decisions and she didn’t completely piss me off. That made me wonder... perhaps she is changing right before my eyes. Maturing. I mean, I naturally can’t see it because she still does a lot of stupid things, but the number of stupid things she’s done has dwindled a lot. One thing, though, was that I hated her one-track mind with saving Nick. I understood that it was important to her, but at what cost?! I had to agree with her mother, when she said, “No boy is worth this,” in regards to all of the people that died trying to get one person back.

Astley was a huge reason that I loved this book so much. He went from being an extra to being a forerunner as one of the leading secondary characters. He’s so charming and sweet. The best thing about Astley? He is not one dimensional. He has depths to him – he can put up a strong, sweet, caring front, but inside he’s also very sorrowful. He has a history of sadness and knows what it feels like to lose someone. But he doesn’t let it get him down. While he can easily break down, there’s another part of him that will just as easily rush to protect everything he believes in.

Not only does Astley bring life to the book, but he also delivers the standard love-triangle in paranormal romance. Zara is tied – bound – to Astley, because she is his Queen. Yet she loves Nick. But she also has conflicting feelings about Astley. I hate love triangles – I despise them – but this was one that I could handle. This is a triangle that both frustrates and excites me. It frustrates me because Zara is so set on Nick, yet it excites me because Astley has a chance. Nick and Zara can’t be together, not completely, anymore because Zara is a queen, and she needs a king.

Lastly, I think it’s safe to say I’m Team Astley. I have been since Captivate, and will probably remain so for the remainder of the series. Screw Nick. :P I said it before, and I’ll say it again: Astley is probably the reason why I wasn’t so annoyed with this book/why I loved it so much.

Cover Musings: Soooo... I think we’ve already established that all of the covers for the Need series are absolutely gorgeous and breathtaking and can grab attention while on the shelf from a mile away.

Memorable Quotes:
He swoops me into his arms before I finish my sentence. He dances formally, gracefully, not like a high school guy at all, but I guess that’s the pixie king in him. He’s more like a professional dancer on one of those dance competition reality shows. His posture is straight and his movements are fluid. He is nothing like Nick, who dances like a big goofy dog, really. Dancing with Astley is easy. It feels like I’ve been doing it forever. (pg. 14)
We stand there a moment, staring down each other as the rest of the people in the cafeteria swirl and swoon and fall in love. We are at a stalemate. His eyes soften. He lets me go, dropping his arms away, and I feel suddenly, terribly alone. I almost kind of want to dance with him again, which is so wrong, I know. (pg. 15)
We are all silent. We drive through the darkness on crazy roads, bumping from potholes and frost heaves. Roads are meant to be smooth paths, straight lanes to destinations, but they aren’t like that at all, are they? Life isn’t like that either. (pg. 28)
He continues talking. “Do you know how hard it is to be king? To always have to try to be good, to be perfect? Do you have any idea how hard it is to help you go after your stupid idiot of a were, all the while thinking you should just be satisfied with me, because that is how it is supposed to—” (pg. 52)
“I will find your wolf. I want you to want me because you want me, not because of grief, not because he is not here. I want you to love me for me. I want you to kiss me first and not because you need me to help you, but because you need to kiss me.” He lifts he eyebrows just a little bit and his lips open. I drop my head, reach for him, but he steps back and whisks away, dodging behind cars before I have a chance to say that I don’t want to lose him too. (pg. 201)
“I have arranged a meeting of our pixies so that—”
“In the graveyard again?” I interrupt.
“No. I think that was a bit—”
“Emo? Melodramatic?” I suggest.
Tilting his head, he smirks at me and makes eye contact. “As a species we have a weakness for drama. Thank you for reminding me,” he teases. (pg. 201)
Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: Out of all the books so far in this series, I have loved Entice the most. It was infinitely better than the previous two novels. I think its saving grace was the newest addition to our cast of characters, Astley. Astley took a major role in this book and that really made listening to Zara and her human friends a lot better. He added more depth to the novel than any of the other characters. And while I disliked the plot to save Nick (I seriously think he should be killed off and done with, but that’s just me being bitter), I appreciated it because it spoke volumes for Astley’s character. How many guys do you know that will go to such lengths to save the “other guy” in a love triangle? I have so much Astley love that it hurts. :P

Rating: 4/5

**I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange of an honest review! 

Want to see what I thought about the first two books in the Need series? Check out my reviews of Need and Captivate.

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Entice's Book Trailer: I'm seriously digging on the song in the background. What IS it?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Review: Solid by Shelley Workinger

Author: Shelley Workinger
Publisher: Self-pubbed
Series: Solid #1
Pages: 222
Genre: Paranormal
Release Date: July 9, 2010
How Received: Author

SummaryEighteen years ago, a rogue Army doctor secretly experimented with a chromosomal drug on unknowing pregnant women. When he was killed not long after the children were born, any knowledge and evidence seemed to die with him – except the living, breathing, human products of his work.

Almost two decades later, the newly self-proclaimed “open-book” military unearths the truth about the experiment, bringing Clio Kaid and the other affected teens to a state-of-the-art, isolated campus where they soon discover that C9x did indeed alter their chromosomes – its mutations presenting as super-human abilities. The military kids, who come from across the nation and all walks of life, come into their own as light-than-air “athletes”; “indies” as solid as stone walls; teens who can make themselves invisible and others who can blind with their brilliance.

While exploring her own special ability, forging new friendships and embarking on first love, Clio also stumbles onto information indicating that the military may not have been entirely forthcoming with them and that all may not be as it seems...

My Thoughts:
The premise for this novel was very interesting. Teenagers with superhuman abilities? Sounds pretty awesome. While there wasn’t too much development with that premise – the book is essentially about finding out what the adults weren’t telling them – I’d truly love to explore the quirks to these abilities the teenagers have. We know so far that Clio and Miranda have disappearing abilities, Bliss can shine like a blinding light, Garrett has high athletic talent, and Jack is... well, we don’t know what Jack can do. But I’d really like to see these areas be explored more in the next novel.

There was a connection that was lacking with the characters. The main character, Clio, had a somewhat indistinct voice – we hardly ever heard her opinions or feelings in things. Since Solid was presented in first person, I would have expected more connection between the reader and main character, but it truly just felt like Clio retelling a story she was observing.

The dynamics between the characters didn’t seem all too realistic. There was no real depth to the relationship Clio and Jack had. I didn’t even see what Clio liked about Jack, other than he was good looking, he could juggle, and he made a constellation out of lights for her in his room. I expected more development and quite frankly, there didn’t feel like there was any. Clio and Bliss were best friends within a week, but there were hardly any scenes of them talking together. Miranda especially befuddled me. She’s a very blunt and outspoken character, but I don’t see why she would suddenly make friends with Clio’s group.

I think this novel could have been a lot longer. It’s only around 200 pages, and the events that transpire only occur in a week (or two). Maybe it’s just me with my trust issues, but I don’t make friends, with hardly any mishaps, or best friends that easily. This book has a lot of great potential – it was absolutely fascinating reading about the chromosomal experiments (science degree, hello =)). If there were more development (with the abilities, characters, and relationships), this would have been even better than it was. It was, however, a good start to the series, and I’m eagerly anticipating what will happen in Settled!

Cover Musings: If I wasn’t pursuing a science degree, I probably would have thought the cover was bacteria or that the book was about a virus. But that’s chromosome 9 (I believe, if I recount one of Shelley’s interviews correctly). It doesn’t stand out, but it isn’t bad, either.

Memorable Quotes:
The one thing in the room surely not mine was the black plastic monstrosity on the side of my roll-top desk. I had to do a double-take to confirm that yes, indeed, it was a retro dial-up phone, tethered down by a curly cord. (pg. 42)
“I’m just missing you sweetheart. It’s hard to let go, like waiting out your first sleepover all over again.”
“Yeah, the one where you dug some night-vision goggles out of Dad’s old gear and paid the guy next door to watch the house I was staying at? I wouldn’t call that letting go.” It was pretty funny in retrospect, although it hadn’t been to the mortified eleven-year-old-me. (pg. 44)
Speaking of Miranda, the girl was quick to prove she could get us out of a bad situation like nobody’s business. “This party is phat, Colonel C – we’ve gotta get in there ASAP or we’ll miss something.” She flashed him her pageant-sweet smile as she pulled Bliss and I away with her. She really was starting to grow on me – in a fungal kind of way, but not poisonous at least. (pg. 87)
His kiss was powerful, confident with feelings and want, but without the intent to capture my mouth, to claim it. All I felt was the pull of him – a call to my heart to come out and join him at a mutual center. (pg. 123)
“Failure is not an option,” Garrett admonished her in his most ominous tone. “Come on!” He addressed the table when he didn’t get the desired reaction. “Apollo 13?” Guys, you gotta work with me here. I swear it’s like I’m all alone half the time...” (pg. 159)
Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: Solid was a very quick, fun read. The premise was interesting and was able to draw me in to want more. However, it was short. That was probably its downfall. I feel a lot of things could have been described and expanded more – explanations, character development, relationships, etc. There was tons of potential, though. The end left off on a somewhat happy/hopeful note, so I’m intrigued by where Shelley plans to go on with Settled!

Rating: 3/5

**I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Book Blogger Hop & Follow Friday Jan. 7-10

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 book influenced or changed your life? How did it influence/change you?

I have a list. I want to say Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, or Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler, or Entangled by Cat Clarke, but then I'd be talking to you guys for the length of an essay, and I'm sure you don't want that.

So I'm going to go with a few I've read recently: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. Sense a theme? Haha. I'm sure you all know this already, but I'm depressed. Not so severely now, of course, but when I was younger it was really, really bad. I read these two books in high school, and they spoke volumes to my teenager self (they still do). I don't want to get too personal on how these books changed my life, but they gave me hope for the future. They made me realize I needed to not keep things bottled up inside. They made me realize that I wasn't the only person hurting (you know teenagers, self-absorbed). I ended up living a life similar to Susanna's in Girl, Interrupted, and having read it before I was in that situation made me feel more... you know, not crazy.

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 says 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 book(s) have you discovered lately from someone's book blog?

Well, since Waiting on Wednesday was just two days ago... a lot. :P Like Mercy by Rebecca Lim and Evenfall by Liz Michalski and Burn Bright by Marianna de Pierres. And then there's the Dark Elite series by Chloe Neill. I could go on, seriously. :P Y'all have great taste in books!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Author: Cynthia Hand
Publisher: HarperTeen
Series: Unearthly #1
Pages: 435
Genre: Paranormal
Release Date: January 4, 2011
How Received: Netgalley

SummaryIn the beginning, there’s a boy standing in the trees...

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she’s part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn’t easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there’s another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara’s less angelic side.

As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she’d have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

My Thoughts:
Unearthly is my first angel novel, and I have to say that I picked a really good angel novel to come into.

Most of the book involves Clara’s day to day life, and her questions of the angel blood that resides within her. I loved that Unearthly blended in the normal with the paranormal so seamlessly. It added much more realism to the story overall. I, for one, was able to enjoy the scenes in school and in the cafeteria.

Clara was such an amazing character. She has one of the few first person perspectives that doesn’t make me want to rip my hair out. Not only is she logical and sound in most of her decisions, but she’s loyal to her friends and family, and she learns how to form her own opinions on things. She’s a believable teenager – she makes mistakes a couple of times, but she learns through them, and she has her own insecurities and doubts. She stood up to her fears, miniscule and big things alike, and constantly rose up to meet the taunts Tucker threw at her. Her character development was so exponential, and I found myself really enjoying reading about her.

The romance... Oh boy, the romance. The only other romance that had me feeling so sweet, giggly, and excited was Violet and Jay’s romance form The Body Finder. Coming from me, that is such huge praise. Clara and Tucker start off indifferent to each other. They mostly stay out of each others’ way. But then Tucker starts being “mean” to her, laying on the sarcasm very hard – typical grade school, poking-you-in-the-back boyish fashion. But Tucker himself wasn’t mean. He’s charming, witty, sarcastic, kind, loyal, and very gentlemanly. It was so easy to spot Tucker’s attraction to her, even though Clara couldn’t. Their romance developed over the course of the summer. It was sweet, it was languid, and it was amazing. I found myself falling in love with Tucker.

The writing in Unearthly was superb. I’m not even sure how to describe it as. It was easy to follow, very fluid, and had a conversational tone to it. It had a plethora of description, but that didn’t take away from the pacing of the plot. I’d turn a couple of pages and realize how much just actually transpired. The pacing was great – hardly anything lulled, and it kept my attention and before I knew it, I was finished!

That ending at the end seriously made me want more... now. It isn’t that cliffhangery, but there are a lot of questions posed and a blank slate in front of Clara now, so I’m curious to see where the next book goes with that! I’m eager to see what Clara does now, and to learn more about the angels Cynthia’s concocted for us.

Cover MusingsG-o-r-g-e-o-u-s. ‘Nuff said.

Memorable Quotes:
I also recorded my experiments, like the time I cut my forearm with a knife just to see if I would bleed (which I did, a lot) and carefully noted how long it took to heal (about twenty four hours, from when I made the cut to when the little pink line completely disappeared), the time I spoke Swahili to a man in the San Francisco airport (imagine the surprise for both of us), or how I could do twenty-five grand jetés back and foth across the floor of the ballet studio without getting winded. (pg. 16)
I stare at her in dismay. Mom has tried to teach me to fly exactly two times, and both were complete disasters. In fact, I’ve essentially given up on the idea of flight altogether and accepted that I’m going to be an angel-blood who stays earthbound, a flightless bird, like an ostrich maybe, or, in this weather, a penguin. (pg. 25)
I hope there aren’t any, oh I don’t know, forest fires before he gets back. But there can’t be, can there? The fire can’t take place unless he’s there, right? Is it possible to miss my purpose because my subject won’t cooperate? (pg. 158)
He shakes his head. “Your eyebrows. They’re, like, dark gold.”
“You’re staring at my eyebrows now?”
“I’m looking at you. Why are you always trying to hide how pretty you are?” (pg. 182)
“What do you see in a guy like Christian Prescott?” he asked me that night when he dropped me off from prom. And what he was really saying then, what would have come through loud and clear if I hadn’t been so blind was, Why don’t you see me? (pg. 183)
I sit up. Maybe I should have figured this out a long time ago. I shouldn’t have needed to read his heart in order to see it. But when I felt all that love rising up in him, I didn’t know I was inside his head. I didn’t notice that the feelings weren’t mine. And why is that?
It’s all me, the human part, the angel part. I love [him]. (pg. 200)
“Not red,” I say with a shrug.
“I always felt like there was something off about your hair.”
“So you thought you’d torture me by calling me Carrots?”
“I still thought I’d never seen anyone as beautiful as you.” He drops his head and rubs the back of his neck, embarrassed. He’s blushing. (pg. 205)
I love how he sometimes gets embarrassed by all the mushy stuff between us and then his voice gets all gruff and he tickles me or kisses me to shut us both up. Boy, do we ever kiss. We make out like champions. (pg. 206)
What can I say? Sorry, I know it seemed like I was crazy about you before, but that was before. I have a boyfriend now? You snooze you lose? (pg. 214)
Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: I had a hard time reviewing Unearthly because truly, how can I even begin to convey how amazing this book is? I don’t think I can; I don’t think I did. For a while, the “my thoughts” section only had “OMG THIS BOOK WAS SO AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”. No joke. But I figured none of you would appreciate such a short review, so I tried to get my act together. :P The characters in this book were great – I’d love having Clara, Angela, or Wendy as my friends – and the romance totally made me swoon. Almost as much as Violet and Jay’s romance in The Body Finder (again, that is HIGH praise, coming from me). It was addicting and just oh so good! I’m kind of upset that we have to wait so long for the second book. =(

Rating: 5/5

*This review was submitted in the 2011 Debut Author Challenge!
**I received a digital copy of Unearthly from the publisher via Netgalley. Thank you HarperTeen and Netgalley!