Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Audiobook Review: The People of Sparks by Jeanne Duprau

Buy from the Book Depository
Title: The People of Sparks
Author: Jeanne DuPrau
Narrator: Wendy Dillon
Publisher: Listening Library
Duration: 7 hours, 55 minutes
Series: Ember, Book 2
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
"It is green here and very big. Light comes from the sky...."
When Lina and Doon lead their people up from the underground city of Ember, they discover a surface world of color and life. The people of a small village called Sparks agree to help the Emberites, but the villagers have never had to share their world before. Soon differences between the two groups escalate, and it's up to Lina and Doon to find a way to avoid war!
Overall Rating: 3/5

The Ember series is about a post-apocalyptic world, where a war destroyed civilization as we know it. In the first book, we are introduced to people in an underground city who find out that they are underground and escape to the outside world. The People of Sparks continues their adventures, with Lina and Doon remaining as main characters. They come across a village called Sparks, and the people reluctantly take in the Emberites, promising to teach them how to live in the outside world. However, this strains their resources and arguments take place, gradually escalating into the beginnings of a war.

I love that DuPrau is able to depict a dystopia that middle-grade readers can understand, without losing much complexity. She doesn't hold back, and the stories of how the world became ruined are horrifying in their simplicity and realism. War. That's all it comes down to -- people engaging in war and ruining each other. Now, everyone must start from scratch and learn how to survive all over again by growing their own food, and learning how to live without modern-day conveniences such as electricity and plumbing.

Lina is still my favorite character. Unlike Doon in this book, who loses sight of his values for a little bit, Lina never forgets who she is. She's adventurous and will stop at nothing to get what she wants. I liked that she travels outside of Sparks, because seeing the destroyed cities and freeways through her eyes is at once devastating and kind of cool. I was able to get a better idea of how trashed their world really is.

The thing that prevented me from completely falling in love with this novel is that all the conflict arose from such petty arguments. Sparks people were reluctant to share food, Emberites were tired of working, etc. I really just wanted everyone to suck it up and put themselves in the others' shoes. While I understand that the pettiness was there to show readers how quickly petty arguments can escalate, what it came down to for me was how believable it all was. In a post-apocalyptic world, I would expect many more people than the two or three that were against all the bad decisions to be more intelligent and generous.

I listened to the audiobook version of this, and it has sound effects for some parts; I was not a fan of most of them. The ones with the riot scene, as well as the very last scene worked incredibly well and I really enjoyed them. As for the rest, I thought they were awkward and distracted from the scene rather than added to it. However, I usually don't like sound effects, so for pro-sound effect people, I don't think this will be a problem.

Dillon is an average narrator. Not bad, but not overly fantastic. I like narrators who make the story come to life and make me forget that it's an audiobook. That didn't happen for me in this one -- I felt like I was being read a story. This isn't a bad thing, but it's nothing that I would go out of my way to recommend. I think print may be better for this one.

I think this series is a great introduction to dystopia for young readers. It's straightforward, easy to understand, and has a good message.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Book Review: Flight of Blue by A.E. Howard

Enter the Goodreads Giveaway!
Title: Flight of Blue
Author: A.E. Howard
Publisher: Elder Tree Books
Series: Keeper of the Keys Chronicles, Book 1
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
A cursed traffic light. A rip in the fabric of the world. A possum sorcerer injured on a quest for revenge. 
Kai and Ellie embark on a journey to return the sorcerer to his home. Entangled in events that could destroy the world, Kai must choose whether to accept the role he was born to play, but isn’t sure he wants.

Overall Rating: 3/5

Flight of Blue is about a boy who finds out that his parents are both Guardians. They seal up tears that could allow the Realm of Darkness to enter and destroy the world. In a chance meeting with a talking opossum sorcerer and a messenger that can turn herself from bird to human, Kai finds himself in a world he never could have dreamed of. What's more, he finds out that they're all relying on him to help a rip in the world, because he may be the person prophecised to save the world. With his best friend Ellie and his dog Sebastian, Kai takes on the responsibility of saving the world from the Realm of Darkness.

This novel is action-packed and takes turns with being serious and funny, which I greatly appreciated. No kid's book can be great without humor. I loved the relationship between Kai and Ellie; it seemed very real to me, and I knew they always had each other's backs. I also enjoyed how Howard is able to keep an adult presence throughout the story, but leaves it to the kids to fight the major battles. In most middle-grade novels, the adults are either completely absent or too present, but the author found a balance between both.

I would have liked the pacing the be a little slower. On the one hand, I liked how things just happen one right after another, and the reader is thrown in the situation along with Kai. Like Kai, we're unable to get our bearings or think straight because crazy things keep happening. However, I do think that there should have been a few pauses during the conflicts so we can absorb the severity of the situation. It also would have been a good chance to get out of Kai's head and explore the world a little bit more. I'm also not a fan of dialogue-heavy novels where most plot points are revealed through conversation, and Flight of Blue is that. Aside from those two things, it was thoroughly enjoyable.

Regardless, this is an imaginative story that any kid will love. Talking animals, magic, and a secret society living with us in the world, protecting us from the Realm of Darkness. This is the sort of fantasy book kids live for.

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

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Blog Tour: Flight of Blue -- Author Interview and Giveaway

Please give a big welcome to A.E. Howard, who is giving a blog tour for Flight of Blue, a middle-grade fantasy that was just released on July 24th! I recently finished reading it and thought it was great (review to come tomorrow!) Here are the details for the book:

Enter the Goodreads Giveaway
Title: Flight of Blue
Author: A.E. Howard
Publisher: Elder Tree Books
Series: Keeper of the Keys Chronicles, Book 1
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
A cursed traffic light. A rip in the fabric of the world. A possum sorcerer injured on a quest for revenge. 
Kai and Ellie embark on a journey to return the sorcerer to his home. Entangled in events that could destroy the world, Kai must choose whether to accept the role he was born to play, but isn’t sure he wants.

But let's step away from the book for a moment and learn more about the woman behind it all. I bring you all: A.E. Howard.

Once upon a time there was a little girl who read a book and thought, one day, I’ll find another world. Many years later, after a near death experience at a traffic light, she passed a possum dying on the side of the road. She stopped, and with its dying breaths, the possum imparted a tale so wondrously strange, she drove home realizing the new world she’d been searching for was right there all along. So she embarked on a quest of mythic proportions, traveled far and wide to the farthest corners of this world to uncover its secrets. Now she’s bringing the story to you.
Between chasing chickens off the porch and raising her son, A.E. Howard tells tales of the three Realms, and the boy who changed it all.
Visit her personal blog: wayfaringartist.com (Biography taken from A.E. Howard's author page)

1. Flight of Blue sounds like the perfect children's fantasy. Which fantasy stories were your favorites growing up? 

Define “growing up.” I’m pretty I’m still doing that most days ;-) I actually came to fantasy stories via the Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter in my late teens/early twenties. Sad, I know. But I was hooked from then on. I’ve devoured Tolkein, L’Engle, Susan Cooper, Lloyd Alexander and Ursula LeGuin among some of the more “classic” fantasy writers.

2. Magic is always a tricky thing to deal with in writing. Some writers create a sort of "Law of Magic" for themselves, treating it like physics or another science. Did you set up any rules for how magic works, or did you just go with it?

Brandon Sanderson (one of my favorite current fantasy authors) says something along the lines of, it’s as important to define what your magic can’t do, as to figure out what it can do. And this has proven to be a very useful guideline as I worked out what the various orders of sorcerers and wielders of magic can and cannot do in the world of the Keeper of the Keys Chronicles.

3. Though your characters are young, can you see yourself in any of them?

Oh definitely. I think it’s hard not to write some of yourself into your characters. I identify with Ellie’s zanyness, Kai’s insecurities, but also that overarching realization that you stick by your friends no matter what, even if you have to go into the Realm of Darkness after them.

4. If you could collaborate with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be? And what would the title of the book be called? 

Ooo. I’d love to collaborate with Madeleine L’Engle. Or Susan Cooper. But I have no idea what the book would be called. I have to get part way into writing something before I ever get a title.

5. Do you have a daily writing routine? If so, what is it? 

Well, I have a toddler, so my routine works around his routine ;-). I typically write when he naps, and then some nights after he’s gone to bed. Every night when I have a deadline looming. So other than trying to keep my desk clean so I can get to writing right off, I usually just make a hot drink, check facebook and twitter for a few minutes, and then minimize everything but my doc and dive right in.

Now for some fun facts:
6. Night owl or early bird? 

Before my son was born, definitely a night owl. Now I am unfortunately both most days, and while I like the early morning, I also like sleep, so I’d probably revert to being just a night owl if he ever decides to sleep past 7.

7. Name one food you would never eat. 

Hmm. Two things jump to mind. Beef, because it makes me sick. And then, anything insect related is probably out forever as well.

8. Finally, where is your reading (or writing) refuge? 

Reading, either in the big comfy chair in the living room, or in bed at night. Writing, at my desk in our library. Having a wall of books behind you is good writing inspiration.

Purchase Flight of Blue: Paperback | Kindle

A.E. Howard’s Author Page | Blog Tour w/ Giveaway!

And don't forget to enter this awesome giveaway hosted by A.E. Howard, herself!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday News (8)


I'm hosting a 600 followers giveaway (INT). You can enter here!

I'm hosting a giveaway (INT) for The Black Shard by Victoria Simcox. You can enter here!

I'm hosting another giveaway (INT) for a paperback copy of The Lieutenant's Whistle by Fred Stemme. You can enter here!

Books Received:

An audiobook of Macbeth, performed by Alan Cumming. Thank you Audiobook Jukebox and Simon & Schuster for this!!! :)

A signed copy of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Thank you to Lisa from The Garden of Books for this! :)

Currently Reading:
Corpalism by Arun D. Ellis - Still way too preachy. Not enough story to have this many sermons in it.

The Atlantis Complex by Eoin Colfer - Getting way better! I'm still sorry that Artemis has gone all crazy, but I'm intrigued. Butler is in trouble! He can't get to Artemis, who is also in trouble! It's basically all up to poor Holly.

The People of Sparks by Jeanne Duprau - I know it's probably supposed to be the point, but the characters are way too petty. And there aren't enough nice characters to balance out all the ridiculous ones. Seriously just wish there were some actual problems instead of little things everyone overreacts to.

Upcoming Posts:
Later today (7 AM PST) - Interview with A.E. Howard, author of Flight of Blue
Monday - Book review of Flight of Blue by A.E. Howard
TuesdayAudiobook review of The People of Sparks by Jeanne Duprau
Wednesday - Waiting on Wednesday - Hollow Earth by Carol E. Barrowman and John Barrowman
Thursday - Audiobook review of Macbeth by William Shakespeare, performed by Alan Cumming
Friday - Book review of The Atlantis Complex by Eoin Colfer
Saturday - Giveaways Spotlight - my spotlight on some cool giveaways going on in the blog world

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Giveaways Spotlight (26)

1) I'm hosting a 600 followers giveaway (INT). You can enter here!
2) I'm hosting a giveaway for The Black Shard. You can enter here!
3) I'm hosting a giveaway (INT) for a paperback copy of The Lieutenant's Whistle by Fred Stemme. You can enter here!

Previous Spotlights Still Running:
1. Dead Trees and Silver Screens
2 winners for an eARC of The Violet Fox by Clare C. Marshall
Ends July 31

2. In Which Ems Reviews Books
2 winners, 1 for complete hardback set of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
1 for gently used ARC of The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
Open to US only
Ends July 31

3. Colorimetry
3 winners for an e-copy of ANTics by Dakota Douglas
Open internationally
Ends July 30

4. Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews
1 Kindle copy of Aerenden: The Child Returns by Kristen Taber
Ends Aug 4

5. Minding Spot
No Rest for the Dead (26 different suspense writers contributed)
Open to US only
Ends July 29

6. Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews
E-copies of Open Minds and Mind Games by Susan Kaye Quinn
Ends August 4

7. Sash & Em
1 signed hardcover of Skylark by Meagan Spooner
Open to US only
Ends July 31

New ones!

1. Christina Reads YA
1 ARC of Hidden (Firelight #3) by Sophie Jordan
Open internationally. Must be a follower to enter.
Ends August 16

2. Readers Confession
Ebook of Sterling or Twist by Dannika Dark
Must be a follower to enter
Ends August 3

3. The Hollow Cupboards
Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins
Open to US and Canada only. Must be a follower to enter.
Ends August 10

4. Library Mosaic
Signed bookplate of Incarnate by Jodi Meadows (2 winners)
Open internationally
Ends August 4

5. Fictional Distraction
1 paperback copy of Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
Open to US and Canada only
Ends August 20

Good luck everyone! If you have giveaways going on, please put them in the comments. If they end after August 4, let me know and I'll add them to next week's post! :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

This is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases 
that we're eagerly anticipating

Title: Girl of Nightmares
Author: Kendare Blake
Publisher: Tor Teen
Expected Publication Date: 7 Aug 2012
Hardcover: 304 pages
Series: Anna, Book 2
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
It's been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can't move on.
His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live--not walk around half dead. He knows they're right, but in Cas's eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.
Now he's seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he's asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong...these aren't just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.
Cas doesn't know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn't deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it's time for him to return the favor.

Why Girl of Nightmares?

Plain and simple: it looks good. The cover is awesome. And I'm loving Anna Dressed in Blood (haven't finished it yet). The sequel looks like it's going to be even better. Can't wait! :)

What are you waiting for this Wednesday? 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Audiobook Review: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Buy from the Book Depository
Title: The Outsiders
Author: S.E. Hinton
Narrator: Jim Fyfe
Publisher: Listening Library
Edition: Unabridged
Duration: 5 hours, 27 minutes
Summary: (taken from Overdrive)
Ponyboy can count on his brothers. And on his friends. But no on much else besides trouble with the Socs, a vicious gang of rich kids whose idea of a good time is beating up "greasers" like Ponyboy. At least he knows what to expect - until the night someone takes things too far.

Overall Rating: 4/5

My favorite stories are ones about friendship and family. Those are two things that everyone can relate to, no matter what decade or place they may be in. Ultimately, that's what The Outsiders is about.

Ponyboy is just trying to find his place in the world. While the people who make up his family and friends are outsiders, he feels like an outsider himself. Unlike his "greaser" pals, he gets good grades and likes to read and watch sunsets. But he doesn't fit in with the other group either, since he's poor and lives a rough sort of life. The Outsiders is about Ponyboy realizing what's important to him in life. After going through some tough situations, he eventually comes to understand and appreciate his family and friends in a way he had never been able to before.

While this book has some action, it's mostly character-driven, which is what I like about it. Even though it's short, the characters are perfectly depicted, and you get to know a lot about them. I found myself relating to every single one of them and caring a lot for them by the end.

I can't even begin to tell you how awesome Jim Fyfe's narration is. While it's important that each character has his or her own voice, some of them tend to get weird if there are too many characters. Every different voice completely fits the character being portrayed. I was never confused as to who was speaking. Better yet, Fyfe isn't afraid to take his time with the narration. If the situation calls for the character to speak a slow drawl, or for the action to be taken down, he slows down the pace.

The Outsiders is such a good story, and the audiobook is well made so that I don't think it really matters which format you read it in. Hard copy works just as well as the audiobook. Either way, read it! It's intense, touching, heartfelt, and a truly great story.

 New motto for life: Stay gold.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Book Review: Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz

Buy from the Book Depository
Title: Blue Bloods
Author: Melissa De La Cruz
Publisher: Hyperion
Series: Blue Bloods, Book 1
Paperback: 336 pages
Summary: (Taken from Goodreads)
When the Mayflower set sail in 1620, it carried on board the men and women who would shape America: Miles Standish; John Alden; Constance Hopkins. But some among the Pilgrims were not pure of heart; they were not escaping religious persecution. Indeed, they were not even human. They were vampires.The vampires assimilated quickly into the New World. Rising to levels of enormous power, wealth, and influence, they were the celebrated blue bloods of American society.

The Blue Bloods vowed that their immortal status would remain a closely guarded secret. And they kept that secret for centuries. But now, in New York City, the secret is seeping out. Schuyler Van Alen is a sophomore at a prestigious private school. She prefers baggy, vintage clothes instead of the Prada and pearls worn by her classmates, and she lives with her reclusive grandmother in a dilapated mansion. Schuyler is a loner...and happy that way. Suddenly, when she turns fifteen, there is a visible mosaic of blue veins on her arm. She starts to crave raw food and she is having flashbacks to ancient times. Then a popular girl from her school is found dead... drained of all her blood. Schuyler doesn't know what to think, but she wants to find out the secrets the Blue Bloods are keeping. But is she herself in danger?

Overall Rating: 4/5

I'm always up for a vampire novel, and I think Blue Bloods holds its own in the genre. This was a re-read for me, but it was still great. The idea is extremely creative and original, which is something I always look for. I like the idea of vampire reincarnation, and the connection to Plymouth and the last colony of Roanoke. For American history geeks like me, that's a huge plus. And instead of being filled with romance and angst right away (I know this comes in later books, though), this first book has a well-laid plot with intriguing mysteries.

There are some problems with this book. It does a lot of "telling" instead of showing; I wasn't ever wondering about the characters' thoughts and motivations, because it was all spelled out for me. I was also annoyed by all the designer/brand references. After the first dozen, I understood that they were rich and didn't need anything more. However, these are minor issues, I think. The story is good enough to counteract these problems, and I know the writing definitely improves later in the series.

I love the relationship between Schuyler and Oliver. They're kind of the perfect friends, and I like seeing them in more innocent times before all the big events have changed them. In fact, I enjoyed seeing all of the characters. They are all so different from where we are currently in the series, which just shows how great Melissa de la Cruz is at putting her characters in tough situations and making them grow.

Even though I've read all the books and am just waiting for the last one to be released (*excited squeal*) I still felt that rush of needing to know what happens next. Great characters, beautifully crafted story, and a lot of excitement. You can't go wrong with this book.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday News (7)


I'm hosting a 600 followers giveaway (INT). You can enter here!

I'm hosting a giveaway (INT) for The Black Shard by Victoria Simcox. You can enter here!

I'm hosting another giveaway (INT) for a paperback copy of The Lieutenant's Whistle by Fred Stemme. You can enter here!

I'm planning to host a read-along in August. You have 3 more days to vote for which book you'd like to read with me here.

Books Received:
I won a giveaway over at Bloody Bookaholic and received a box of books! It included:

Nyx in the House of Night by P.C. Cast
Teeth edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling
Evolve edited by Nancy Kilpatrick
Kiss Me Deadly edited by Trisha Telep
The Eternal Kiss edited by Trisha Telep
Steampunk! edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant.

An awesome haul! I've only read one of these (Steampunk!), so this added a lot of great books to my to-read pile!

Currently Reading:
The Stand by Stephen King - ALMOST DONE! It's gotten really crazy. (King's not one to hold back, is he?) I've cried, I've triumphed, I've rejoiced over the electricity being put back on. This is a monster of a book, but I love long books, because I can connect to the characters so much better. Anyway, regardless of its length, I suggest everyone read this. It's so good!

Corpalism by Arun D. Ellis -- Eh. I've noticed that new authors like to rush through things. I prefer it when conflict takes its time. I mean, make it exciting, but don't just keep solving problems as fast as they come. A bit heavy-handed with the ideology also, even if I do agree with it, I hate heavy-handedness.

Flight of Blue by A.E. Howard - I like this one. Cute and has a little bit of humor. I like when it's up to a kid to save the world. But, note the rushing comment from Corpalism. Seeing as it's a children's book, the rushing isn't as much of a problem, but I would like for it to slow down just a bit.

The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown by Claire Ridgway - Loving this! The format is easy to follow, and she just lays out the facts. As a Tudor fan, I'm already inclined to love this, but it really is good.

The Lieutenant's Whistle by Fred Stemme - Not very far into this, but I already like the main character. Main battle = won. I would like there to be more setting, and hopefully that comes up later. I'm definitely in a war zone, but I don't feel like I'm in France. I want to see the city, too!

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton - I'm always wary of starting a book that has so many fans. It gives me such expectations and I worry that it won't live up to it. Reading the first few chapters, I didn't see what all the fuss was about, but I read some more and I'm now in love. The characters are brilliant, and even being as old as it is, any teenager can relate to the problems and feelings the main character is going through. Beautiful coming-of-age story. I can't wait to see how it ends!

Upcoming Posts:

Monday - Book review of Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz
Tuesday - Audiobook review of The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Wednesday - Waiting on Wednesday - Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake
Thursday - Book review of The Stand by Stephen King
Friday - Announcement of August Read-along book
Saturday - A spotlight on some cool giveaways going on in the blog world.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Audiobook Review: Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook

Title: Must Love Dogs
Author: Claire Cook
Narrator: Carrington MacDuffie
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Edition: Unabridged
Duration: 7 hours, 2 minutes
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
Forty-year-old preschool teacher Sarah Hurlihy thought she'd set herself up for a great life. She'd married the man she loved. They bought a house, decorated it, and then sat, looking at each other, trying to remember why they'd gotten married in the first place. But Sarah didn't have to wonder for long; her husband took up with a younger woman, sounding the death knell for their marriage, and propelling Sarah back into singlehood -- at the same time as her newly widowed father.  
Thrown unwillingly into the suburban dating pool alongside her dad, Sarah is ambivalent about the whole process, despite her ticking clock and thoughts that she might enjoy a child of her own. But Sarah's large, loving Irish clan comes to her rescue -- her married sister placing a personal ad in her name and regularly monitoring Sarah's dating progress; and her brother, Michael, helps her feel lovable when he seeks out her comfort and advice while riding out his own rocky marriage.

Overall Rating: 2/5 

So, I really didn't like this book. I gave it two stars, because it was a quick read and I was able to finish it, but on the whole, I was disappointed. I can't remember what I thought of the movie since I watched it so long ago, but I think it may have been better. Nothing of importance really happened, I didn't find it all that funny even though it's labeled as a "humor" book, and the characters annoyed me. Granted, I'm not divorced or anything, so maybe I'm not in the target audience, but I think that other authors cover this topic much better and in a much more entertaining way.

The number one way for me to dislike a book is if I dislike the main character. That's exactly the problem I had with Must Love Dogs. Yes, she's been through some tough times, but all she does about it is whine and watch The Brady Bunch. I couldn't relate to her, because all she does is put herself down all the time. (Honestly, the bulk of the book isn't taken up with any real plot, it's mostly Sarah whining about her life.) And though she finds some semi-decent men to date, she treats them like crap. She walks out of a guy's house without saying goodbye to him or anything, because he stops making out with her to deal with his puppy. Which is somewhat understandable, but at least say something. And she's really snarky and sarcastic for no good reason. I can see the occasional smart remark, but it was over-the-top. In short: she complains about not finding good guys, but she treats all the guys she dates like crap, so there's no one but herself to blame, really.

Secondly, nothing happened in this book. I felt like Claire didn't go through  much of a change at all. There wasn't anything of significance that could have been a major turning point. If there were a sequel, I feel we'd find her in the same situation as the beginning of this book, just older.

In terms of audiobook format, the production is great. MacDuffie is an excellent narrator, and had the content been better, this would have been a fantastic read. The thing is, there are many funnier chick lit books out there to spend your time on, in my opinion.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Audiobook Review: Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers

Buy from the Book Depository
Author: Mary Rodgers
Publisher: Listening Library
Narrator: Susannah Fellows
Duration: 3 hours 21 minutes
Summary: (Taken from Goodreads)
When I woke up this morning, I found I'd turned into my mother. There I, in my mother' bed, with my feet reaching all the way to the bottom, and my father sleeping in the other bed. I had on my mother's nightgown, and a ring on my left hand, I mean her left hand, and lumps and pins all over my head.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

I love the premise of this story. A girl wakes up to find that she has turned into her mom and has to deal with all the grown-up problems that her mom deals with. A few movies have been made of this novel, one in 1976, one in 1995, and one in 2003.

I am sad that I never realized the movies were based on a book, because had I not watched the movies beforehand, I think I would have liked this book more. Yes, this is one of those rare books where I like the movies better than the book. For one thing, in the book the switch is caused by the mother, and only Anna, the daughter, learns a lesson. I thought this was completely unfair, because a lot of times adults forget what it's like to be a kid and they don't realize what kids have to go through. I love how the movies show this. Unfortunately, the book does not go into that. Another thing I didn't like was how unrealistic it was. It may be because of a generational difference (after all, it was first published in 1972), but I was surprised how Anna could ditch school, go shopping all around town, and not once be stopped or questioned by an adult.

However, despite that, I thought it was a funny book. There were times I laughed out loud because everything was so ridiculous. It's a fun, quick read that keeps you interested the entire time. It is somewhat dated, but I think it's still very relevant to teens and moms today. If anything, it's interesting to see where this famous story originated.

I loved the narration in this audiobook. Susannah Fellows is extremely talented and switches between characters' voices effortlessly. I was never confused as to who was talking. Also, I love how she adds just the right kind of emotion to mirror the characters' thoughts and actions. Simply fantastic.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

This is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating

Pre-order from the Book Depository
Title: Paper Valentine
Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Publisher: Razorbill
Expected Publication Date: 8 Jan 2013
Hardcover: 368 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
PAPER VALENTINE, in which a girl haunted by the troubled ghost of her best friend finds herself sucked into a darkly mesmerizing string of murders, in which a serial killer who leaves a paper-heart 'valentine' on his victims' bodies draws ever closer.

Why Paper Valentine
It just sounds so good! A girl haunted by a ghost? Which happens to be her best friend? Plus, there's a serial killer on the loose?! Yes, please! Sounds like a good, fun read, if a little bit scary. :P
What are you waiting for this Wednesday?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Book Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Pre-order from the Book Depository
Title: Pushing the Limits
Author: Katie McGarry
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Hardcover: 384 pages
Expected Publication: July 31, 2012
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
"I won't tell anyone, Echo. I promise." Noah tucked a curl behind my ear. It had been so long since someone touched me like he did. Why did it have to be Noah Hutchins? His dark brown eyes shifted to my covered arms. "You didn't do that-did you? It was done to you?" No one ever asked that question. They stared. They whispered. They laughed. But they never asked. 
So wrong for each other...and yet so right. 
No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again

Overall Rating: 4/5 

A book about two troubled teens trying to work through their issues and figure out their futures? Yes, please. Pushing the Limits is filled with drama, serious issues, and some very touching moments. Dealing with themes such as friendship and family, this is something that I think everyone can relate to.

What Katie McGarry does is perfectly set up a situation with two characters that are impossible not to like. Told from both of their perspectives, I rooted for Echo and Noah from the very beginning (individually and as a couple). What I liked about them is that they are two responsible teenagers in very bad situations. These weren't even situations they brought upon themselves, but things that just happened and made a major impact on their lives, forcing them to deal with horrible things. I hate when authors portray teenagers as shallow and whiny; McGarry gives her characters something real to be troubled about and has them fight for what they want instead of sulking in their misery.

And my goodness, does McGarry know how to craft an un-put-downable story! Don't even try to stop reading at the end of a chapter, because it won't happen. I would promise myself to only read a few chapters, only to find a few hours later that I've read a quarter of the book. It's a fast read that goes by even faster, because you won't want to stop reading. The characters sucked me in, and I found myself always needing to know what happened next.

There were some problems with this novel. For one, the adults didn't seem very realistic to me. They were too over-the-top, not willing to listen to the teenagers or talk the problems out with them. While I'm sure this happens, I would have liked there to be a better balance. For most of the novel, it seems like the only two adults that really care are the therapist, Mrs. Collins, and Echo's former art teacher. Also, the connection between Echo and Noah got too strong too fast. I did like that the relationship took some time to develop, but it only took a couple of short meetings for Noah to start obsess about Echo. And there are some incredibly cheesy moments, but they are interspersed with some really sweet ones, so there is a balance, at least.

Because of those problems, though, I had a hard time deciding what to rate this novel. While I was bothered by some things, I liked the characters, the themes, and how nicely the story unfolded. What it came down to was the fact that I enjoyed every second of reading Pushing the Limits, and I couldn't put it down. In the end, that's all that matters for me.

*I received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.*

Other Reviews
Miss Remmers' Reviews - 4.5/5
Reading under the Willow Tree - 2.5/5
Ladybug Storytime - Positive review

Monday, July 16, 2012

Giveaway: The Lieutenant's Whistle by Fred Stemme

Title: The Lieutenant's Whistle
Author: Fred Stemme
Publisher: Amber Quill Press
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
Before America's entry into World War I, The American Field Service organized to help bleeding France. In thankfulness for France's aid during the Revolutionary War, young American males volunteered as ambulance drivers to repay their country's debt. Henry "Hoop" Braddock is one such man. He and the boys of Section Two drive Model T ambulances, and are "En Repos," a unit awaiting assignment. 
One day, in a crowded, smoke-filled canteen in Bar-le-Duc, Hoop meets Kyla Laurens, a Scottish nurse. Her violet-colored eyes burn into his heart, branding him. As fate would have it, Hoop and Kyla end up serving at the same chateau-turned-hospital while the bloody battle to save Verdun ensues. 
At first, Hoop has precious little time to spend with Kyla due to the German attack. Instead, his time is spent driving his ambulance, all the while hearing the gruesome and touching detailed accounts of the fighting from injured soldiers riding in his cab. But later, once the pressure is off, a romance between Hoop and Kyla begins to flourish. Yet will experiences from Kyla's past prove fatal to their relationship?

I am a huge fan of historical fiction (especially those set in France during war-time). I've already started reading this and am loving it! To share the love, the author has generously offered a paperback copy of his book to giveaway. Thanks Fred!

- Open internationally!
- Must be 13+ to enter
- Ends August 6, 2012 at 12:01 AM EST
- Winner has 72 hours to respond to my e-mail. No response, I choose another winner.

Fill out the Rafflecopter form below! Good luck!

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sunday News (6)


First of all, I'm hosting a 600 followers giveaway (INT). You can enter here!
Second of all, I'm hosting a giveaway (INT) for The Black Shard. You can enter here!

I'm planning to host a read-along in August. Vote for which book you'd like to read with me here.

Books Received:

For Review: Giving up the Ghost by Eric Nuzum (Thank you LibraryThing Early Reviewers and Random House!)

Currently Reading:
The Stand by Stephen King - What is wrong with these people? Can't you see that those weirdos you have doubts about are going to GO OVER TO THE DARK SIDE! (Also, why is it that people who disagree with the main characters have to be "evil" and on the verge of turning to the dark man. Just saying. Good people disagree all the time.) Just shows you that people living in a post-plague world that got rid of 99% of the population still don't become smarter and more observant, despite the fact that they need to survive. Side note: I love some of the relationship pairings in here. :)

Look Again by Lisa Scottoline - Maybe it's just me, and since I read The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney, I may be more informed about this, but if you see someone who looks suspiciously like your ADOPTED son on a "missing persons" card, you should maybe do more than go "hmm....strange." You should, like, call the police or something. I mean, it's a sticky situation, but I was going for a stronger reaction from the main character. Only 20 pages in, though. I hope her intelligence level rises. :/

The Canterbury Tales (Modern Library edition) by Geoffrey Chaucer, translated by Burton Raffell - This is one of the most beautiful, readable translations I have yet to see of The Canterbury Tales. Seriously. The poetry is phenomenal and best of all -- I can understand it without spending hours deciphering and guessing! Already in love.

Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook - This is only okay so far. For those who don't know the story, it's a typical middle-aged woman divorced her husband, tries dating, and "finds herself" story. I like it better when there's more humor involved in these types of stories, but I don't dislike it, so that's something.

Upcoming Posts:

Monday - International giveaway of for a paperback copy of a historical fiction novel, The Lieutenant's Whistle by Fred Stemme
Tuesday - Book review of Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
Wednesday - Waiting on Wednesday - Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff
Thursday - Audiobook review of Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers
Friday - Audiobook review of Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook
Saturday - My spotlight on some awesome giveaways going on in the blog world

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Giveaways Spotlight (24)

First of all, I'm hosting a 600 followers giveaway (INT). You can enter here!
Second of all, I'm hosting a giveaway for The Black Shard. You can enter here!

Previous Spotlights Still Running:
1. Colorimetry
1 (Size small or XL) inspired by Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen (text: Don't get on the wrong side of a lady thief.)
Open internationally
Ends July 18

2. Dead Trees and Silver Screens
2 winners for an eARC of The Violet Fox by Clare C. Marshall
Ends July 31

3. Bookworm 1858
Your choice of a book from the Princess for Hire series by Lindsey Leavitt
Open to wherever the Book Depository ships
Ends July 15

4. BookHounds YA
1 copy of Spider Brains by Susan Wingate
Open to US only
Ends July 19

New ones!
1. In Which Ems Reviews Books
2 winners, 1 for complete hardback set of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
1 for gently used ARC of The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
Open to US only
Ends July 31

2. Colorimetry
3 winners for an e-copy of ANTics by Dakota Douglas
Open internationally
Ends July 30

3. Hope, Faith & Books
1 paperback copy of Shine by Jeri Smith-Ready
Open to wherever the Book Depository ships
Ends July 23

4. Emily's Reading Room
3 winners for Maximum Ride: The Final Warning by James Patterson
Open to US only
Ends July 16

5. Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews
1 Kindle copy of Aerenden: The Child Returns by Kristen Taber
Ends Aug 4

Good luck everyone! If you have giveaways going on, please put them in the comments. If they end after July 21, let me know and I'll add them to next week's post! :)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Audiobook Review: The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Buy from the Book Depository
Title: The Prince of Mist
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Publisher: BBC Audiobooks America
Narrator: Jonathan Davis
Duration: 5 hours 6 minutes
Summary: (Taken from Goodreads)
A mysterious house harbors an unimaginable secret . . .
It’s wartime, and the Carver family decides to leave the capital where they live and move to a small coastal village where they’ve recently bought a home. But from the minute they cross the threshold, strange things begin to happen. In that mysterious house there still lurks the spirit of Jacob, the previous owners’ son, who died by drowning.
With the help of their new friend Roland, Max and Alicia Carver begin to explore the suspicious circumstances of that death and discover the existence of a mysterious being called The Prince of Mist— a diabolical character who has returned from the shadows to collect on a debt from the past. Soon the three friends will find themselves caught up in an adventure of sunken ships and an enchanted stone garden, which will change their lives forever.
Overall Rating: 3/5

This book isn't bad. It's certainly very creepy and the storyline was enough to keep me wanting to know more. However, readers (or listeners!) should be aware that this is no Shadow of the Wind. You can definitely tell that this is his first book. The setting is somewhat vague and there are far too many coincidences in the book. Max's parents just happen to be gone for most of the novel, and of course that's exactly when trouble arises. I think it would have been much more interesting if they had been there, but that's just me. Also, there are a lot of issues left unresolved and many points in the story when I was confused because things just weren't explained very well.

However, it is undoubtedly a creepy, chilling book. With evil clowns, clocks and watches that freak out and start going backwards, a haunted garden, and a sunken ship, there are plenty of things to give you a chill. The storyline is also interesting and I liked the characters. I didn't relate to them as completely as I could have, but I did relate to them. There is also a lot of mystery involved, and I was certainly surprised when a certain mystery was revealed (I'm not telling!).

I've mentioned before that I don't like music in my audiobooks. This one wasn't too bad. I felt better about the music because it's mentioned that the author himself composed and performed it. However, the sound effects (yes, sound effects!) were a bit too much. Some people may like it, but it's just not for me. When the narrator mentions the door opening, I don't need the sound of an opening door to amplify the words -- it kind of interrupts the story, in my opinion. However, Jonathan Davis is a BRILLIANT narrator and I would gladly listen to another book narrated by him.

Conclusion: It's an okay book. Not a necessary read, but one that's fairly enjoyable.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Breed by Chase Novak

This is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating

Title: Breed
Author: Chase Novak (pseudonym for Scott Spencer)
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Expected Publishing Date: 4 Sep 2012
Hardcover: 320 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
Alex and Leslie Twisden lead charmed lives-fabulous jobs, a luxurious town house on Manhattan's Upper East Side, a passionate marriage. What they don't have is a child, and as they try one infertility treatment after the next, yearning turns into obsession. As a last-ditch attempt to make their dream of parenthood come true, Alex and Leslie travel deep into Slovenia, where they submit to a painful and terrifying procedure that finally gives them what they so fervently desire . . . but with awful consequences. 
Ten years later, cosseted and adored but living in a house of secrets, the twins Adam and Alice find themselves locked into their rooms every night, with sounds coming from their parents' bedroom getting progressively louder, more violent, and more disturbing. 
Driven to a desperate search for answers, Adam and Alice set out on a quest to learn the true nature of the man and woman who raised them. Their discovery will upend everything they thought they knew about their parents and will reveal a threat so horrible that it must be escaped, at any cost.

Why Breed?
It just sounds so interesting! A secret, painful, terrifying procedure that gives a couple children? (Twins, at that. Everyone knows that in fiction, twins are inherently suspicious and spooky. Note The Shining.)  And the children take charge to find out what's up with all the craziness going on -- as a Doctor Who/Torchwood fan, I'm hoping for aliens, but I'm not sure that will be the case. Aliens can't be the answer to everything, I guess.
What are you waiting for this Wednesday?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Audiobook Review: Nightwalker by Heather Graham

Title: Nightwalker
Author: Heather Graham
Narrators: Tanya Eby and Fred Stella
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Series: Harrison Investigation, Book 8
Length: 9 hours, 8 minutes
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
Jessy Sparhawk has seen firsthand how gambling can ruin people's lives. But one night, desperate for money, she places the bet that will change her life forever. Just as she's collecting her winnings, a man stumbles through the crowd, a knife protruding from his back, and crashes into her, pinning her to the craps table.
Hired to investigate the murder, private detective Dillon Wolf finds himself fascinated by the gorgeous redhead who'd been trapped beneath the victim--and by the single word the dying man had whispered in her ear. "Indigo."
What neither of them realizes is that the nightmare is only just beginning. Because bodyguard Tanner Green may have been killed by that knife, but his angry ghost isn't going anywhere--not without vengeance. Now, literally caught between the living and the dead, Dillon and Jessy have no choice but to forge ahead together. Their investigation will take them from the glitz of the Vegas strip into the dealings of casino magnate Emil Landon, the man who signs both their paychecks, and out into the desert to a ghost town called Indigo, where past and present come together in a search for gold.
Years ago, blood was shed on that very ground, and now it looks as if history is about to repeat itself, with the living and the dead facing off for possession of a fortune, and Dillon and Jessy fighting not only to stay alive but for the chance to build a future.
Overall Rating: 3/5

I always love when mystery stories have a paranormal element to them. In this case, Nightwalker deals with a woman named Jessy Sparhawk who finds out she can see ghosts after a man dies on top of her in a Las Vegas casino. Private investigator Dillon Wolf is a Nightwalker himself (someone who can see ghosts), and finds himself drawn to Jessy. They team up and together try to solve the mystery of the death of Tanner Green and the mysterious word he said to Jessy.

There were quite a few things I liked about this novel. First of all, the mystery going on in the present-day has a distinct connection to past events. Though I thought the whole unraveling of connections that happened near the climax was boring, I still enjoyed seeing the parts fit together. Secondly, there are ghosts. Ringo, a ghost Dillon hangs out with, is by far my favorite character. He added a lot of humor to the book, which I appreciated. Thirdly, it's just a good story. A man dying on top of one of the main characters near the beginning of the novel sets a great pace and an interesting situation to follow.

However, these good things were overshadowed by the lack of development. Everything seemed a little shallow for me: the plot, the characters, even the setting. It was all pretty much stereotypical, and surprisingly, not much conflict from a mystery. Though everyone kept stressing how much "danger" Jessy was in, only two dangerous things happened to her before the climax hit. And they weren't all that bad. Considering everyone's obsessive concern and the length of the novel, there could have been quite serious threats before Graham took off with the climax. I wanted the stakes to be amped up; especially since a supposed fortune in gold was on the line. I also wanted to see the characters go through tough situations and change and grow, but that didn't happen at all. There's a bit of romance, which helped a little, but not much.

Honestly, if I read this in print, I probably would have rated it far lower. I enjoyed this much more in audiobook format. I was able to relax or do productive things while listening to it, which is always nice, because I don't feel as if I wasted my time. I also really liked having the two narrators to do the differing male and female parts. Sometimes the dialogue was awkward when offstage narrator had to jump in real quick, but it did become smoother as the book went on. So, either I got used to it or the editing became better. Maybe a little bit of both.

I would recommend Nightwalker as a beach read, or as something to put on in the background when you don't really want to be invested in something too complicated. It's easy to follow along, and there's a decent story behind it. It's something worth thinking about for mystery lovers.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Author Interview & Giveaway: The Black Shard by Victoria Simcox

About the Author

Victoria was born in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, to an Austrian immigrant mother, and a Dutch immigrant father. She now lives in Western Washington with her husband, Russ and their three children, Toby, Kristina, and William. Her other family members are a Chihuahua, named Pipsy and two cats, named Frodo and Fritz. Besides being an author, Victoria is a home-schooling mother of twelve years and an elementary school art teacher of eleven years. In her spare time, Victoria enjoys managing her two older children's Celtic band. She also loves writing, reading, painting watercolors, hiking, good movies, and just simply hanging out with her family and friends. 


Have you ever gotten an idea for a book or part of one of your novels from something or somewhere unexpected?

I would have to say that most of my ideas are unexpected. I rarely plan too far in advance what I'm going to write. My ideas come to me as I write.

Did you always know you would write a novel? Why did you finally decide to write one and when?

Though I've always been creative, mostly in painting watercolors, I didn't think I would be a writer. It was actually a vision of my story I had while sitting in a movie theater watching a flick the inspired me to start. I only saw the first scene of my story, probably half a page of writing.  Then when I started writing the story, it just started flowing to me.

What are five things that are must haves when you are writing?

 My computer or lap top, peace and quiet, contentment, relaxation, and sometimes a cup of coffee. Though I've written with a lack of all of these at times, these are what make writing most enjoyable.

Is there one book that has had an impact on not only your writing, but on you personally?

C.S. Lewis's The Magician's Nephew and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. As a preteen these stories were so magical to me, and I used to wish I could go to Narnia like the Pevensie siblings did.

What is the hardest emotion for you to convey?

 Hmm ... that's a tricky one. Probably being too serious; I love humor in all situations, so I have to be careful with that.

Tell us something most people don’t know about you!

I'm blessed with an awesome family. My three children are very talented. The oldest two are musicians and the youngest a dancer. Also, my only daughter and I are pretty much best friends.

Which came first for you--the characters, the idea for the setting, or the plot?

… Another tricky one; I'll go with the characters. But even though I think of them before I write about them, I don't put too much thought into them until I actually start writing about them. Then they come to life on their own. Actually, that's why I love to write; I feel like I'm being led by my characters, getting to know their personalities as I'm writing. Seeing them doing what they’re doing as they do it. Though of course there are times I'll say "Nah … that isn't working," and then I edit. :)

Check out Victoria's personal blog @ www.victoriasimcox.blogspot.com

Victoria has kindly offered to give away 3 e-book copies of her book, The Black Shard on my blog. (Thank you, Victoria!) Here's some information on the book:

Title: The Black Shard
Author: Victoria Simcox
Publisher: Two Harbors Press
Length: 255 pages (with 1-2 pictures per chapter)
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
Kristina's stay at summer horse camp is horrible to say the least, and it's all because Hester and Davina are there as well, making her life miserable. When Hester's cruel prank goes terribly wrong, it's actually what sends the three girls back to the magical land of Bernovem. In Bernovem, Kristina is very excited to see her former friend, Prince Werrien. When he invites her to sail with him on his ship to his homeland Tezerel, putting it simply, Kristina can't refuse.
Reunited with her gnome, dwarf, animal, fairy friends ... and best of all, Werrien, things seem like they couldn't get any better for Kristina. But when Werrien becomes fascinated with an unusual seeing stone, the "Black Shard," Kristina is haunted by a ghostlike old hag. Struggling against suspicion, guilt, illness, and ultimately the one who wants to possess her soul, Kristina will see it's in her weakest moment that she will encounter more strength than she has ever known.

The giveaway ends on July 30 at 12 AM EST. Good luck!

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