Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Cover Reveal: Wait For You

What do early readers have to say about WAIT FOR YOU?
“J. Lynn creates a wonderful cast of characters that will make you laugh, swoon, and cry. Cam stole my heart.” – Cora Carmack, NYTimes and USA TODAY Bestselling Author of LOSING IT
“For the love of all that is Cameron without a shirt on! Wait for You will have you laughing out loud, fanning yourself and anxiously waiting to know what will happen next.” – Molly McAdams, NYTimes and USA TODAY Bestselling Author of FROM ASHES and TAKING CHANCES
“I don't think I have ever read a NA Contemporary novel with as much depth as this one. It really moved me and by the end I was just speechless over how inspirational and uplifting it was as well as being sexy and cute and funny and emotional.” - K Books
“Wait For You is uniquely different from anything else J. Lynn's written but it might possibly be her best work yet.” – Jenuine Cupcakes
“For all of you in love with Aiden and Daemon, PREPARE YOURSELVES! Your heart will have to expand a little more for Cam.” Total Bookaholic
“For the love of all things CAM, this book deserves more than 5 stars.” – Mundie Moms
“I cannot even begin to explain how much I adored this perfectly crafted contemporary.” – Shortie Says

Excited? Ready to see the cover for WAIT FOR YOU?


Some things are worth waiting for…

Traveling thousands of miles from home to enter college is the only way nineteen-year-old Avery Morgansten can escape what happened at the Halloween party five years ago—an event that forever changed her life. All she needs to do is make it to her classes on time, make sure the bracelet on her left wrist stays in place, not draw any attention to herself, and maybe—please God—make a few friends, because surely that would be a nice change of pace. The one thing she didn’t need and never planned on was capturing the attention of the one guy who could shatter the precarious future she’s building for herself.

Some things are worth experiencing…

Cameron Hamilton is six feet and three inches of swoon-worthy hotness, complete with a pair of striking blue eyes and a remarkable ability to make her want things she believed were irrevocably stolen from her. She knows she needs to stay away from him, but Cam is freaking everywhere, with his charm, his witty banter, and that damn dimple that’s just so… so lickable. Getting involved with him is dangerous, but when ignoring the simmering tension that sparks whenever they are around each other becomes impossible, he brings out a side of her she never knew existed.

Some things should never be kept quiet…

But when Avery starts receiving threatening emails and phone calls forcing her to face a past she wants silenced, she’s has no other choice but to acknowledge that someone is refusing to allow her to let go of that night when everything changed. When the devastating truth comes out, will she resurface this time with one less scar? And can Cam be there to help her or will he be dragged down with her?

And some things are worth fighting for…

WAIT FOR YOU is available now!
Click to buy here:

Amazon    *    Barnes and Noble

J. Lynn, also known as Jennifer L. Armentrout, is the USA TODAY Bestselling author of the adult romance Gamble Brothers’ series, the young adult Lux Series and award winning Covenant Series. She pretty much writes everything—contemporary, paranormal, and fantasy. All of her books have one thing in common no matter the name or genre: kissing… and stuff. When she’s not busy writing, which is never, she’s usually hanging out with dog Loki, watching reruns of The Walking Dead, or procrastinating on the Internet. You can find out more about Jennifer by visiting the following websites:

Waiting (& Wishing) on Wednesday (13): Spellcaster

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

Wishlist Wednesday is a book blog hop, hosted by Pen to Paper, where we will post about one book per week that has been on our wishlist for some time, or just added (it's entirely up to you), that we can't wait to get off the wishlist and onto our wonderful shelves. For more info on this meme, go here.

by Claudia Gray
Publication Date: March 5, 2013


From Goodreads:

When Nadia’s family moves to Captive’s Sound, she instantly realizes there’s more to it than meets the eye. Descended from witches, Nadia senses a dark and powerful magic at work in her new town. Mateo has lived in Captive’s Sound his entire life, trying to dodge the local legend that his family is cursed - and that curse will cause him to believe he’s seeing the future … until it drives him mad. When the strange dreams Mateo has been having of rescuing a beautiful girl—Nadia—from a car accident come true, he knows he’s doomed.

Despite the forces pulling them apart, Nadia and Mateo must work together to break the chains of his family’s terrible curse, and to prevent a disaster that threatens the lives of everyone around them. Shimmering with magic and mystery, New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray’s new novel is sure to draw fans of the Hex Hall and Caster Chronicles series, and fans of the hit CW TV show The Secret Circle.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (11): Auto-Buy Authors

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
For more information and a list of past and future topics, go here.

Top Ten Authors That I'd Put On My Auto-Buy List
(in alphabetical order)

Fisher Amelie
I can't help but fall in love with her amazing characters

Jennifer L. Armentrout
Sarcastic heroines and hunky heroes

Cassandra Clare
Diggin' her Shadowhunter world

Shelly Crane
The queen of falling in love & HEAs

Colleen Hoover
She's simply an amazing writer

Julie Kagawa
I love getting lost in the worlds she creates

Tahereh Mafi
The poetry of her words

Melina Marchetta
Raw, real characters & writing genius

Veronica Roth
Her gripping world of Factions

Maggie Stiefvater
Her creative writing & amazing stories keep getting better & better

Monday, February 25, 2013

Book Review: Dirty Red

Dirty Red (Love Me With Lies, #2)
Dirty Red by Tarryn Fisher
December 21, 2012
Source: Personal e-book
Genre: New Adult/Adult Contemporary
Contains Crude language, sexual situations
Goodreads Summary:

Dear Opportunist,

You thought you could take him from me, but you lost. Now, that he's mine I'll do anything to keep him. Do you doubt me? I have everything that was supposed to be yours. In case you were wondering; he doesn't ever think about you anymore. I won't let him go....ever.

Dirty Red

Leah Smith finally has everything she has ever wanted. Except she doesn't. Her marriage feels more like a loan than a lifelong commitment, and the image she has worked so hard to build is fraying before her eyes. With a new role and a past full of secrets, Leah must decide how far she is willing to go to keep what she has stolen.

My Review:

Find my review of The Opportunist by clicking this link.  

Honestly, I was very tentative getting back into this crazy world that Tarryn Fisher created. You can see from my review of The Opportunist that it was a semi-traumatic experience. It was like watching a train wreck, and in spite of not really liking any of the characters all that much, I couldn't take my eyes off of the chaos that exploded before me. So those were my feelings going into Dirty Red.

Ms. Fisher did a great job alternating back and forth between past and present. This isn't always done well in novels, and the task can be tricky. But I appreciated how each present chapter led into each past chapter, assisting the continuity and build-up of the story. The flow and pacing of the novel was good, though I did find myself really wanting to hurry up and get to the end - whether that was because I was getting bored with Leah's internal issues mid-novel or because I was just anxious to see how it all turned out, I'm not sure. Regardless, I had a difficult time putting this novel down. This did not pull at my emotions the way The Opportunist did, but really, that's okay with me since I was such a mess after the first book.

This novel is centered around Leah (Dirty Red), and is from her POV, and gives us the spectrum of who Leah is, how she was raised, what factors may have attributed to her personality and issues, her faults and nature, etc. I had a smidge of empathy for Leah from The Opportunist. I don't know if Dirty Red was supposed to evoke further empathy by painting more of the picture of who Leah is, particularly from her perspective, but by the end I still only had a smidge of empathy for her. Did I understand her better? Yes. Did she have a lousy upbringing? Definitely (but then, so do many people and they don't go Leah's route). Ms. Fisher created a multi-dimensional character in Leah, showing her many faults, but also showing her attempts at humanity once in a while, which I was happy to see. But this wasn't enough for me to actually like her. She was such an expert liar and manipulator, and admittedly did not want to analyze herself. She refused to be the truth and see the truth. Leah never took responsibility for herself, and that in itself drove me absolutely crazy. She blamed everyone but herself, and took people down with her. Nope, sorry Leah, I just can't support you.

But the beauty of Ms. Fisher's characters is that they all have internal ugliness and imperfection, some more than others, particularly her main characters. She doesn't shy away from the darker side of who people are and what lengths they will go to for what they want. Looking at Leah, Caleb, and Olivia, I still don't necessarily love them, but I am fascinated by the mess of who they are, and I really am rooting for them to become better people and learn from their mistakes (one can hope). I will say that by the end of Dirty Red I liked Caleb more than before, and even Olivia a little more (though we don't see much of her). Noah and Sam were the only genuinely likeable characters in the novel.

I knew to expect something at the end of the novel, considering there's still one more book to come. I tried to predict it, and I can honestly say, I did not see that one coming. I give props to Ms. Fisher for the element of surprise. I don't know what to anticipate in THIEF, the next book, which is from Caleb's POV. It makes me very nervous and excited and I expect Ms. Fisher may take us on the wildest ride yet. Well done, Ms. Fisher!


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Audiobook Review: Beautiful Redemption

Beautiful Redemption (Caster Chronicles, #4)
Beautiful Redemption
(Caster Chronicles #4)
By Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
October 23, 2012
Little, Brown Books
451 pages
Source: Personal Purchase
Goodreads Summary:
Is death the end . . . or only the beginning?

Ethan Wate has spent most of his life longing to escape the stiflingly small Southern town of Gatlin. He never thought he would meet the girl of his dreams, Lena Duchannes, who unveiled a secretive, powerful, and cursed side of Gatlin, hidden in plain sight. And he never could have expected that he would be forced to leave behind everyone and everything he cares about. So when Ethan awakes after the chilling events of the Eighteenth Moon, he has only one goal: to find a way to return to Lena and the ones he loves.

Back in Gatlin, Lena is making her own bargains for Ethan's return, vowing to do whatever it takes -- even if that means trusting old enemies or risking the lives of the family and friends Ethan left to protect.

Worlds apart, Ethan and Lena must once again work together to rewrite their
fate, in this stunning finale to the Beautiful Creatures series.
My Review:
For my Beautiful Creatures review - click here
For my Beautiful Darkness review - click here
For my Beautiful Chaos review - click here
Narrator Review:
This series continued with the same narrator, Kevin T. Collins, for Ethan throughout all the books, which I really liked. I enjoyed his voices for most of the characters, and liked how he represented Ethan in this final installment. He wasn't quite as whiny as the last book. The narrator for Lena, Khristine Hvam, was good and had a lovely voice, though her pauses between segments were a bit more abrupt than the other narrator. I was also used to his voices for Link, and others, so it took some adjusting. But she still did a good job, and overall I'm very glad I chose to listen to the entire series on audio.

Book Review:
I liked that the authors approached this with both Ethan's and Lena's POV. If you remember where Beautiful Chaos left off, then you can see how the division of Beautiful Redemption makes complete sense. I am glad we were finally able to be in Lena's mind and see how she truly felt about Ethan, and that it wasn't just his one-sided feelings continuing their relationship. Throughout this final novel we are able to see how strongly Ethan and Lena feel toward one another and how great their characters truly are together. The authors also did a great job giving us the sense of urgency and need the characters had with solving the Ethan dilemma...if this dilemma could even be solved.

I continued to love all the amazing characters that Garcia and Stohl created. We get to see a more vulnerable side to Link, a slightly softer side to Ridley, a heroic side to John Breed, a sensitive side to Liv, a vulnerable side to Amma, and the continuing protective side to Macon. We are even introduced to a few new characters, one of which was Xavier who really grabbed at my heart.

One thing I liked about this book is that it didn't have the repetitiveness found in the first two books in particular. We are put right into the action and thick of things from the start. This is a journey with a time limit, and the flow and pace of the storyline reflected that urgency. But the pace of the story did not detract from the beautiful writing that Garcia and Stohl have developed together. As we find ourselves in different scenes and situations, their words are able to paint a graphic picture of what is going on and what the scene looks like, pulling the reader right in. I think I expected a little more action than we received, but the action that did happen was well played.

The ending was touching and well thought out. It wasn't the perfect HEA. There was still loss. This wouldn't be the Caster world without consequences. But it was a satisfactory ending for me. I felt emotionally attached to Ethan and Lena's story and appreciated how the authors brought things together for me in the end.

Bottomline: The is a great series, with beautiful writing and amazing characters. Beautiful Redemption proved itself as a terrific final chapter that did not disappoint me. I definitely recommend this series.

4 1/2 STARS

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cover Reveal: Beneath

Are you ready for it?
The lovely cover for BENEATH, the upcoming newest novella from the Heven and Hell series by Cambria Hebert is...

 Beneath (Heven and Hell #3.5)
By Cambria Hebert
Genre: Young Adult paranormal/fantasy
Release Date: March 29, 2013
Format: Ebook only
Cover designer: Regina Wamba at Mae I Design
Book Trailer Link:
Where I came from everything is perfect. Everything is beautiful and predictable. Life isn’t measured by days, but by infinite joy that never ends. But it did. When I fell in love with a man who was perfectly imperfect. The price for forbidden affection was steep and my beautiful white wings withered and died around me. I was fallen. I am fallen. Years have passed, and I’ve learned the true meaning of time. I’ve learned to build a wall around myself and exist alone. Yet, when he looks at me… the heart beneath my armor trembles. But I must remember. I must remember that I might not have anything left to lose, but he certainly  does. And risking him is something I won’t do. So I lock my feelings where they belong. Beneath.
Haven't started this series yet?

Well, you're just in time to check it out. Here is the order of the Heven and Hell series.
(Just click on the book titles for their link):

About the Author:
Cambria Hebert is the author of the young adult paranormal Heven and Hell series and the Death Escorts series. She loves a caramel latte, hates math and is afraid of chickens (yes, chickens). She went to college for a bachelor’s degree, couldn’t pick a major and ended up with a degree in cosmetology. So rest assured her characters will always have good hair. She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and children (both human and furry) where she is plotting her next book.

You can find out more about Cambria and her work by visiting:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Book Review: That Boy & That Wedding

That Boy (That Boy, #1)
That Boy by Jillian Dodd
May 16, 2011
330 pages
Source: Personal kindle purchase
Genre: New Adult
(includes sexual situations, sexual references, language)
Goodreads Summary:
That Boy is a contemporary romance about falling in love with the boys next door.

You know, being friends with two cute boys does have its benefits.

There's Danny. Danny is a golden boy in every way. He has dreamy blue eyes and blonde hair that always looks perfect, even when it’s windblown or been stuck under a football helmet. He’s the boy every girl crushes on. The boy I get into trouble with, the boy I fight with, the hot quarterback no girl can resist, not even me. Being with Danny is like being on an adventure. He has a bright, contagious smile and abs to die for. He’s pretty much irresistible.
Equally crush worthy is Phillip. Adorable, sweet Phillip, who I have known since birth.  Phillip has dark hair, a perfect smile, brown eyes, and the sexiest voice I have ever heard. He’s the boy I talk to every night before I go to sleep. The boy who rescues me, the boy who can read my mind, the boy who is always there for me, the boy who tries to keep me out of trouble, the boy who irritatingly keeps getting hotter, and whose strong arms always seem to find their way around me.  And when he gives me that grin, I can never say no.

One boy will give me my very first kiss.
One boy will teach me to make out.
One boy will take me to prom.
And finally, one boy will ask me to marry him.
They will both be my best friends.
But only one of them will be the boy I fall in love with.
Only one of them is That Boy.
My Review:

I wanted to like That Boy more than I did. I love the concept of discovering that the boy you've grown up with as just friends turns out to be the boy you are madly in love with. Plus, That Boy has the twist that there are two boys. JJ is a bit of a tomboy, and her two best friends are Phillip and Danny. Both boys are sweet to her, treat her also as a best friend, and the threesome are practically inseparable. But Phillip and Danny are very different, personality-wise. The three are really cute as they grow up together and become adults together. I really liked their unconditional friendship with each other, as well as between their families.

The friendships between JJ, Phillip, and Danny. While obviously there are two guys and one girl, I never felt like this was one of those strained, tedious love triangles. The feelings growing throughout the book felt legitimate. I liked that JJ was a bit of a tomboy and could hold her own around guys, especially with sports. Again, I liked the friendships throughout the book, not just the main three characters, but the parents and other students as well. There are also some very funny scenes (like strip football), and some very touching scenes that were very well-written. The author knows how to weave a story and a history.

Just Okay:
The book spans many years, from age 12 to 22 (although even birth is referred to as Phillip and JJ have known each other since infancy). This lengthiness and filler years affected the pacing for me. While I liked the build-up of the relationships and getting the full background on why these kids were so close, there were definitely moments in the book that dragged for me and I found myself skimming.

I could only read JJ's constant inner-dialogue for so long before I was skimming scenes. Her inner ramblings were kind of cute to start with (at age 12, for instance), but as she is entering adulthood, she never quite breaks out of that mindset. Maybe she had ADHD or something, but I found her mental bouncing distracting. I'm a lover of dialogue, verbal dialogue with others, and I would have liked more dialogue between the characters. There was dialogue, but replacing the inner dialogue with more outer would have been my preference. Of course, this is my preference. For someone else, they may love inner dialogue and ramblings and this would be their cup of tea. I also didn't love JJ's character. Her immaturity at times really grated on me, and I hope she grows up more in That Wedding (see below for my feelings on that...)

Despite my mediocre feelings about the book, I still really wanted to get to the end and see who JJ ended up with. I liked many parts of the ending and felt swept off of my feet by "that boy"'s proposal. But I still wanted to shake JJ over her continued immaturity and whiny inner ramblings. Girlfriend just needs to see what's in front of her already.

Bottomline: This was just an okay read for me. I won't be revisiting this book.


That Wedding (That Boy, #2)
That Wedding by Jillian Dodd
February 10, 2012
381 pages
Source: Personal kindle purchase
Genre: New Adult
(includes sexual situations, sexual references, language)

My Review (spoiler-free):

I'm adding this onto my That Boy review because I didn't actually finish the book, and likely won't. Without including spoilers, I can say that this book revolves around JJ's wedding planning to her beau from That Boy. That Wedding also involves JJ facing that traumatic situation that happened in That Boy. Through much skimming, struggle, and determination, I was able to reach the 50% mark on my kindle before I finally gave up on That Wedding.

My Issues
I just don't like how superficial, shallow, and immature JJ is. I like her less here than in That Boy.  Between JJ not wanting marriage counseling, to her thinking she knows everything about being married when she's never been, to the constant sex but no relationship throughout the book, the constant sex jokes but no depth to the characters - her immaturity and shallowness just became too much for me and was not enjoyable to read. I assume (or hope) she'll mature as the story progresses, but honestly, I'm a little bored and the scenes seem to be too redundant and repetitive (although I did laugh a few times). Oh, and she also continues with the inner ramblings and limited verbal dialogue. The guys are just as superficial, so I won't lay all blame on JJ. There are a few very nice scenes (like JJ's interaction with some of the parents), and there was potential for more depth, but it was never enough for me, unfortunately.

I also planned a wedding in four months when I was 22 and can relate to a lot of the planning, minus the unrealistic bottomless budget they had. But everything just seems to go too easily and perfectly for them. For 22 year olds fresh out of college, they have no difficulties and no problems, outside of JJ's personality and her resistance to counseling. I'm not one to give up on books, but this book just could not hold my attention. As much as I was curious about the eventual outcomes and if JJ would finally humble out and listen to the counselor, I decided that I just didn't care anymore. It's too bad, because I'd hoped to like this one better than That Boy.

Of course, take my thoughts with a grain of salt. There have been others who have loved and raved about this book and series. We all like what we like.

1-1/2 STARS (DNF)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Book Review: California Man

California Man
California Man by EC Sheedy
December 7, 2011
168 pages
Source: Personal e-book purchase
(currently free on Amazon Prime)
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance

Goodreads Summary: 
Too shy to love. 
Quinn Ramsay is facing the biggest decision of his life, whether or not to sell his hugely successful sports conglomerate. His schedule has been insane for years, an endless series of trains, planes and automobiles. Even so he’s not so sure he wants to give it up. For what, he keeps asking himself. Where would he go from here? What would be his next step?
With those questions in mind, he heads to a friend’s house on Salt Spring, a small island in the Pacific Northwest that promises solitude and uninterrupted time to think and plan.
Not in his plan is meeting Emily Welland, the shy owner of the local bookstore. She intrigues him as no woman has in years—more so when he sees how determined she is to avoid him.
Emily is timid, insecure, and introspective—and she has her reasons. She’s read about Quinn Ramsay, the brilliant and handsome celebrity entrepreneur with the Midas touch, and she’s seen pictures of him in the tabloids, always with a beautiful model or actress on his arm. She knows he walks red carpets with the same ease that he hosts charity sporting events and fund raisers. His glittering California life is the polar opposite to her quiet, safe, and reclusive life on Salt Spring Island. And when he starts to show an interest in her, her initial reactions are disbelief, fear—and panic attacks. None of which she can control. 
All of which makes Quinn more interested than ever.
 My Review:

This is a sweet romance between two opposites. Where Quinn is outgoing and athletic, Emily is shy and reclusive. Yet circumstances have brought them together, meeting on the small island of Salt Spring. Quinn is at a turning point in his life, trying to make big decisions that will affect his future, and he's not quite sure where his future is headed. Emily is living her reclusive life, with her few friends, contended to let her past heartbreak continue to play on her currently and too fearful to let go. Neither are looking for a relationship, and neither is what the other would expect to be someone they would attract or pursue, and yet, on this small island, fate has brought them together. They will either help and love each other, or leave each other more heartbroken than ever.

I liked both Quinn and Emily's characters. Quinn is a persistent, yet gentle and sensitive, guy. He is starting to realize what he wants and he sees Emily for who she is, not the wall she hides behind. I like his persistence and confidence, yet I also appreciate how the author keeps him humble. His past with women was easy. His new relationship with Emily is anything but. I could also relate to Emily's shyness. It can be such a crippling feeling, plus the added past hurts she suffered made her insecurities that much worse. I appreciate how the author tried to show Emily working out of the inhibitions, yet also showed how easy it was to slip back into her old self. But I will also say that there came a point when Emily was very frustrating. But the author also had some great secondary characters, one of which told Emily exactly what she needed to hear. There were also other elements thrown into the story, showing not only the personalities of the characters, but also their interests and humanity, and it helped to demonstrate how these two initial opposites were really well suited for each other, if they allowed themselves to be.

This is a sweet romance, and a quick, well-edited read, that I really enjoyed. There was one steamy love scene, but otherwise the sexual situations were fairly mild and not overdone. I look forward to reading the next book with Paul and Lynn.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Book Review: Splintered

Splintered by A.G. Howard
January 1, 2013
Amulet Books
384 pages
Source: Personal Purchase
Genre: Young Adult

Goodreads Summary:
This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now. 
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, he hear gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.
My Review:
I really enjoyed this retelling of Alice in Wonderland. I'm a huge AiW fan, and I felt that the author's interesting spin on it was well done, adding in her own imagination, yet staying true to many elements already in the original story. The combination of original and new imaginings was quite fascinating and beautifully presented. The vivid descriptions of the world, the characters, and the situations, allowed me to feel fully immersed in this world, and inside Alyssa's head. The twist with the Liddell family was unique and creative, and I had no difficulty transitioning into the exciting and mesmerizing storyline.

As for the characters, I liked Alyssa and her tenacity to seek help for her mother. I loved how the author slowly revealed pieces of Alyssa's past and her different quirks (and where they came from). The bug artwork was fascinatingly creepy. Jeb, her friend and secret crush, was a bit more frustrating for me. His revelations throughout the book seemed to contradict his earlier actions, particularly with Alyssa. While I liked him and could feel the connection between him and Alyssa, I didn't love some of the choices he made (one being, I could never really get behind the justification of why he chose his other girlfriend). He's not at the top of my list of great male heroes, but I did love his loyalty and protectiveness, and how he gradually was able to see how strong Alyssa really was on her own. Morpheus was intriguing, and I loved how throughout the entire book I never really knew whether to trust him or not, or what his true motives were. I feel like the author did a great job with the mysteriousness of his character.

The ending was mixed for me - I liked how the author forced Alyssa's choices in Wonderland and how things eventually turned out there. Ms. Howard created many unique twists that I really liked. I had mixed feelings, however, toward the ending in the "real" world. The ending made sense to me, but I felt the timing was off and insensitive to some of the other parties (vague, I know, but I don't want to be spoilery).

Bottomline: This is a highly enjoyable and creative retelling of AiW, taking the reader back to Wonderland. There are so many new revelations and twists, though, that you'll feel like you are in the same story, yet looking at it with new eyes and in a way you probably wouldn't have imagined before. Well done, Ms. Howard!

4-1/2 STARS

Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Tour, Review & Giveaway: Open Heart

Open Heart (Farsighted, #2)
Open Heart by Emlyn Chand
(Farsighted - Book #2)
May 24, 2012
Blue Crown Press
Source: Review copy (for honest review)

Goodreads Summary:
Simmi Shergill's life is a mess. Her powers of psychic feeling are on the fritz, and Grandon Township's sudden population boom has brought quite a few unsavory characters to town. She also looks like an over-blown balloon in her size 14 pants, but not even starving herself seems to be helping.

At least she has Alex, the boyfriend who loves her so much he'd do anything for her. Last summer, he even risked his life to protect her from the mysterious boy everyone was convinced wanted to kill her.

Just one problem: she's not so sure she feels the same way. Is Alex really the man of her dreams? Why can't she stop fixating on her would-be killer, Dax? Part of her wants to run screaming in the other direction whenever Dax is around, while the other part longs to run into his embrace, no matter whom she'd hurt or what she'd risk.

Simmi's loyalty is on the line. Whom will she choose—the blind seer who loves her, or the charming telekinetic with "bad idea" written all over him? Emotions run high in the tension-packed book two of the Farsighted series.
My Review:

My review of Farsighted, Book #1, can be found by clicking here.

Open Heart picks up where Farsighted left off, a few months later. Alex and Simmi are still dating, and are getting ready to start the next school year. Dax has been living with Alex and his family. Alex, despite most everyone's acceptance of Dax and Alex's father's reassurances that Dax is being honest, still doesn't like or trust him and has been keeping Simmi away from him. Whereas Farsighted was from Alex's POV, Open Heart is from Simmi's. I like that the author decided to change the POV for each of the books in this series. This really gives us great insight into each character that we would not have gotten if the books remained solely from Alex's POV.

Open Heart is really Simmi's journey of understanding herself, or at least trying to. Despite being loved by Alex, having a best friend in Shapri, being safe from the doom she feared in Farsighted, and the opportunity to enhance her "gift," Simmi really struggles throughout the entire book.  This struggle centers initially around her poor body image and control issues, developing into an eating disorder. It is a bit difficult to say where these struggles actually began. Was it when her life was in jeopardy? Or was it before that, when she started dating Alex and "stole" him from Shapri? Regardless, Ms. Chand does a great job showing Simmi's internal struggles, her insecurities, her fears, her doubts, and going so far as to show her justifications and excuses when the choices she makes not only affect her, but those around her. She shows us the depth of Simmi's disorder. Her issues get out of control, while she is trying to keep control of herself. But an eating disorder isn't her only issue. She's looking at Dax, and he's looking back. Her choices begin to not only affect her, but those around her, some in haunting, irreparable ways.

I continue to appreciate that Ms. Chand has written a series that brings together characters of multiple ethnicities, and even disabilities. These are not cookie-cutter characters and she does not baby them. They are imperfect people and make good, as well as poor, choices. They may be "gifted" but that does not mean they necessarily have the wisdom, nor the maturity, to handle their lives. These are still teenagers, and Ms. Chand writes their flaws, as well as their humanity, well.

With that said, I will also say that I still waiver in my feelings toward some of these characters. I had mixed feelings with Alex throughout Farsighted (though I've developed a fondness for him in this book), and I have mixed feelings with Simmi in Open Heart. Although, honestly, even by the end of the novel, and in spite of her struggles, I can't say that I like Simmi all that much yet. I empathize with her certainly. I remember having body image issues and insecurities. But her actions as the book progressed and the choices that she made that affected others were really what bothered me. She tried to justify herself, and waivered in her feelings toward Alex, but I really felt like she was dishonest and was using him and I could not get behind her actions. I also continue to question her motives by the end and look forward to seeing what she does in the next book, especially with her "gift" and her relationship. Dax made poor choices as well, and I didn't appreciate all his actions, though it appears he attempted to make better decisions than Simmi, which I could appreciate.

While I liked this book, there were, however, a few things missing for me: 1) Simmi's lack of personality - While we had a lot of her internal dialogue and could understand what she was going through, I didn't see much of her dialogue between other characters that would have built the depth of those relationships, and especially any potential love interest. While I can understand her physical beauty and musical talent, I would have liked more actual verbal interaction to justify some of the things going on later in the book. I had a hard time seeing the appeal of her personality; 2) The ending felt a bit rushed and I was disappointed that the characters did not have a big enough reaction over the very sad outcome; 3) Lack of consequences to Simmi's choices (outside of one major outcome), though I don't know if that's because of her "gift" or because the consequences just weren't severe enough for my liking. I would have thought her friendships would have been affected more.  

Bottomline: I really like the direction of this series. I love seeing the diversity of these characters. They feel real and flawed, having these "gifts" without the maturity to always be able to handle them right, yet also dealing with normal teenage issues. Ms. Chand creates a great voice for her characters and takes the reader on a unique journey, not only with the character development, but with the intense supernatural situations around them. I look forward to continuing this series. I'm particularly looking forward to Shapri's book, PITCH, which is next, because she's my favorite character so far.


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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Book Signing Fun!!

I love book signings. There's just something special about meeting authors and hearing their thoughts and stories, whatever they want to share. I've learned about their insight into their books and characters, their journeys to writing, their inspirations, their hang-ups, their advice, their jokes, and so much more. My eldest son loves attending with me, even though he hasn't read most of the books of the authors we meet. He's my book signing buddy and has already met lots of authors. My younger two sons usually only attend children's author events.

The last two weeks provided us with the opportunity to attend three book signings, with a total of nine authors. Here's a little glimpse at our fun. I realize I'm fortunate to live near a large metropolis with many opportunities, but if you get a chance to attend a signing and meet some authors, I highly recommend it. And bring your kids along, too.

Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, Tahereh Mafi, & Veronica Rossi.
Both Tahereh & Veronica remembered me from a year ago, and Veronica remembered my son. They were so nice and friendly.

Tahereh Mafi - She is just stunning.

Andrea Cremer, Marie Lu, Brenna Yovanoff, & Jessica Khoury.
We learned that Brenna & Jessica were homeschooled, which is of particular interest to me, since I homeschool my kids. All these ladies were very entertaining.

Ally Carter with my son. She was so sweet to him. And she had wonderful audience interaction.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Book Review: Double Crossed

Double Crossed: A Spies and Thieves Story (Gallagher Girls, #5.5; Heist Society, #2.5)
Double Crossed by Ally Carter
(Heist Society #2.5)
January 22, 2013
Disney Hyperion
Source: Free on Amazon
Goodreads Summary:
Macey McHenry—Glamorous society girl or spy-in-training?

W.W. Hale V—Heir to an American dynasty or master thief?

There are two sides to every coin. Whether these two can work together is a tossup.

Born into privilege, Macey and Hale are experts at mingling with the upper class. But even if they’ve never raised an eyebrow at the glitz, neither teenager has ever felt at home with the glamour.

When Macey and Hale meet at a society gala, the party takes a dangerous turn. Suddenly they’re at the center of a hostage situation, and it’s up to them to stop the thugs from becoming hostile. Will Macey’s spy skills and Hale’s con-man ways be enough to outsmart a ruthless gang? Or will they have to seek out the ultimate inside girl to help?

The worlds of Heist Society and the Gallagher Girls collide in Ally Carter’s fast-paced, high-stakes and tantalizing new story. Get a behind the scenes glimpse as Ally delivers an irresistible thriller that is full of her signature style and savvy twists.

My Review:

I loved this free little novella from Ally Carter, crisscrossing the characters from Gallagher Girls and Heist Society. I've only read the first two Heist Society books, and none of the Gallagher books (yet). But the great thing about this little novella is that you can read it without having read either series, if you just want to glimpse at who these characters are and how they may act in their series, and not feel as though you've read any spoilers that would ruin the other books for you. Or, as in my case, I got a glimpse at a couple of Gallagher Girls, and this novella makes me want to start that series because I liked what I read and I'm certainly intrigued to read more about spies (and of course, continue the heist books).

In Double Crossed, we get to see little glimpses into Hale and Kat from Heist Society, and Macey and Abby from the Gallagher Girls. Ms. Carter did a great job intertwining and blending the characters and their interactions with each other, making the storyline flow and not feel forced. Actually, I can picture many more of these interactions in the future if Ms. Carter feels so inclined to write more novellas. The story, though short, still flowed very well and felt very cohesive. This was a great treat. I especially liked that we got peaks at each of the characters' POV, even though this was written in 3rd person. For instance, I felt like I was getting some insight into Hale's mind and how he felt about Kat. Well done, Ms. Carter! Thank you for this little treat!

Memorable Quotes:

"I'm sorry if I'm not flirting with you. I'm kind of spoken for." (Hale)

"Who is that?" Macey asked. "The reason I wasn't flirting with you," Hale told her.

"You know Macey McHenry. And you love her - there's someone you love in there. Well" - Kat drew a breath - "you're not the only one."

"Maybe I don't know much about boys..." Kat shook her head. "Doesn't mean I don't know about safes."

"What kind of Plan B?" Hale asked. He was almost holding his breath when a voice answered, "My kind." Macey tried to read the look on his face then, but it was gone in a flash. It had been a simple moment of peace and joy and pure happiness. That voice made Hale happy. It kept him calm. It was his backup and his conscience. Macey couldn't help herself; she envied him.