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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review: The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often—violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.

 Imagine that your life is like a book, each day a page, each year a chapter. When you die, the "book" gets copied or cloned into what looks like a person with bones and flesh (but not blood) and kept in a drawer to sleep (sort of like you would see in the morgue). These dead, soulless copies are called Histories. The Histories are housed in a special place called The Archive, which is like a library (or a huge morgue), and the workers in the Archive are called Librarians. But... sometimes Histories wake up, become confused, escape the Archive, and end up in an "in between" space called the Narrows. That's where Keepers like Mackenzie come in. Their job is to capture escaped Histories and put them back into the Archive before they figure out how to leave the Narrows. This is important because if they do manage to leave the Narrows and get into the real world, then BAD things happen. Confusing? YES.

I have to admit that I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the concept of The Archive and the Histories at first. I kept trying to draw these parallels between what I know of ghosts, the afterlife and religion, thinking that Schwab had just renamed it all to give her story a twist. And in a way she did because the Histories are just spooky and crazy enough to make you think that they are ghosts. But at the same time, the concept is completely different and there really isn't much mention of what happens to a person's soul when they die. Or, is a person's soul their history and life experiences? Interesting question that I will have to ponder. Another question that I ponder is the whole "why" of it. Heaven has a purpose; Hell has a purpose. For a while, I thought the Archive had a purpose, but near the end of the story I was beginning to have my doubts. Spoiler: In the end we find out that Librarians are actually Histories as well,  woken to take care of other Histories whether they want to or not. I started to ask myself, who runs this joint? Why? What is the purpose of it all? And I hope that the next book gives me some answers. Anyway, despite the fact that it took a while for the whole concept to come together for me, I still enjoyed the story throughout. There are great characters and a mystery to solve and heart-wrenching emotions as Mac deals with the loss of her brother.

A little more about Mac -- she reminded me a bit of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I know may sound strange because the story does not have the same tone as Buffy AT ALL. There are no vampires, and Mac, for the most part, doesn't go around staking people (or Histories). But Mac does have this really insane, tough, and at times dangerous job which she has to keep a secret from her family and friends. It consumes her life to the point where she wishes she were just an ordinary girl who could go out on dates. And like Buffy, Mac is a bit kickass, with fighting abilities and a cool head. The way she commits herself to a job that asks too much of her gives her a maturity that I admired. Schwab does a great job of making Mac into a strong character who feels "real", who has real emotions, makes mistakes, and still perseveres. At times, my heart really went out to her, and I felt her fears as well as her heartache.

Schwab's writing is also just lovely with great descriptions and numerous details that made me feel like I was right there. As the summary states, the book is haunting, not unlike Schwab's first book, The Near Witch. Overall, it lacks that little umph that would push it into my top faves for the year, but I feel bad giving it just 4 stars because it is so very very close. Hence my 5 star rating, and hence my recommendation that you check it out.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Review: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer.

She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street. Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.

With characters as captivating as those in her internationally bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.

I'm gonna tell you, reading this book I felt like I was at a smorgasbord where all my favorites were being served. First, this book is by an author who wrote one of the best books I read last year: Ruta Sepetys. Second, it's an historical young adult that takes place in my absolute favorite decade of the 20th century: the fifties. Finally, it's set in one of the cities I love best in the United States: New Orleans, or as natives would say, Nawlins.  I gotta tell you, I was in hog heaven for three days reading this one. 

The story starts out where you least expect it to. Well, for a young adult novel that is -- in a brothel. The main character, Josie, is introduced and even as a child, she shines so bright it's like you KNOW this book is just going to get better and better. And it does. Josie is a tough cookie, but at the same time she's sweet as pudding. She has high morals and just wants to escape the sordid life her mother has put her in, but to do that she has to play the game of manipulation herself. And she's good at it. There were moments where you feel soooo bad for Josie (like when we're told that her mother came a parent's night dressed in a fur coat with nothing under neath!), and you want her to win and get out of her situation more than anything. And then things just get worse -- all due to her mother. I hated her mom, I truly did, but what struck me about Josie's character is that she doesn't let herself feel that hate. It makes you scratch your head while thinking to yourself, well, that's actually quite admirable. Because hate makes people ugly, and although Josie's desperation drives her to do some unexpected things, her character is anything but ugly.

But Sepetys didn't stop at Josie's character. No, there are a whole cast of colorful and loving and unexpected characters. Confession time: back when I was in high school I came across a book packed away in my mom's closet, a book entitled *get ready to gasp* The Happy Hooker, written by then New York madam, Xavier Hollander. Oh, how I devoured that book! (okay, you can stop gasping now). The thing that struck me about The Happy Hooker was how the prostitutes were portrayed as...well, as happy. And like... well, like a family. It was eye-opening, and I mention it because reading Out of the Easy and watching all of the brothel characters in this book reminded me of The Happy Hooker, minus the erotic aspects of course. First we have Willie, the brothel madam, who seems like this hard-hearted beast at first but who we come to learn is really a caring woman, almost like a mother to Josie. Then there are the prostitutes. They all have their own quirky personalities. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but at all times just like a family. We're not made to forget that they're prostitutes though - there are plenty of fun descriptions of their patrons and green feather boas and what not -- but at the same time you get a sense of empowerment through them. These women had life throw them a curve, and they learned to roll with it and not let it roll them over. It was well done, and I give Sepetys huge kudos for portraying the women this way. It also kind of makes me wonder if she ever read The Happy Hooker herself. :)

Touching a bit on themes: one that stands out in this story is that monetary worth and societal position does not make a person what they are. We see this again and again as we wade through the story. The prostitutes in the brothel are not bad people. Willie is not a heartless old crone. Cokie is not just a poor cab driver, but a good friend. And on the flipside, a rich businessman has more creep to him than respectability. All of these people have helped to shape Josie's character and personality. They've given her hope and dreams and love that she otherwise wouldn't have had. Warning: spoiler!!!! : I really thought that this was set up for Josie to come to the realization that New Orleans isn't a beast afterall, but her home, as Willie tries to convince her. However, Sepetys doesn't seem to take the lesson that far. She never brings Josie to the conclusion that she can love New Orleans, with all its faults, because its the people who make a place home. When Josie leaves it does indeed seem as though she's leaving everyone and everything behind.

After finishing this book, I read through the acknowledgments, which I tend to do these days just for fun. I was surprised, and quite happy, to find that Anne Rice inspired Sepetys's writing of the New Orleans setting. I won't say that I felt quite as immersed as I always feel when reading Anne Rice, but I do think she did a decent job. The details were there - the descriptive architecture, the food, the sounds of the French Quarter, the smell of the streets after a night of partying. It gave me a little tug that whispered, "let's go there again!" and at the same time made me want to revisit some of Rice's stories. 

Overall, I'd give this book 5 stars. Great characters, wonderful setting, excellent writing. Thoroughly enjoyed it!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another.

Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

I'm slowly getting into more fantasy novels, and when several friends started talking about the second book in this series (and raving about it), I felt like I had to jump on the bandwagon. My impressions? A decent read, but not as good as some on my list (like the Lumatere Chronicles, Graceling, and Girl of Fire and Thorns). Which isn't to say that I didn't enjoy it and won't read the next one in the series, just that there were some things that I thought could be done better.

The premise here was enticing enough. Jailed assassin competes in a contest against other assassins and thieves. If she succeeds in winning, then she'll become the King's personal lackey for four years, after which she'll be granted her freedom.  I don't know about you, but once I see the words contest along with assassins and thieves, I'm thinking this'll be like what Hunger Games would have been like if every character were as bad as Clove and Cato. In other words, action, blood, death! And yes, people did die, but not the way you would expect them to with that set of circumstances. I guess what I'm saying is that I really expected more sinister fight-for-your-life stuff to occur. And behind the scenes plotting against each other (more than there was). AND I expected Celaena to be showing off her skills with more vigor than merely winning an archery contest. We're told again and again that Celaena is the best assassin ever, and I think the author lost something by not showing the reader this. Granted there were one or two scenes where she showed "some" of her skills, but they happened MUCH later in the story, and were for the most part kind of "quiet" skills, if you will.

While Throne of Glass may not have excelled at giving me a Hunger Games type feel, it did present a nice mystery. Maas does a good job of introducing a number of suspects, and she manages to throw a surprise into the mix, which threw me off. There was also definitely some gore involved, some nifty symbols, and even some ghosts! All pluses in my book. However the mystery didn't exactly keep me on my toes because the suspense had a habit of dying before it was able to really sink it's claws into me. As I said above, I really wanted to see Celaena showing off her stuff, and sending her to the library intermixed with billiards games with the prince just didn't cut it for me.

But all of that aside, I think the thing that puzzled me most about this story was Celaena's character. We get an early indication that she hates the king. She's appalled by the slavery of the conquered nations and there are of course some hints that he was responsible for the death of her parents (although the backstory on this wasn't entirely clear to me). When an evil force is mentioned that she must defeat, she immediately thinks that the evil force is in fact him, and there is no question that he is evil. YET, throughout the story we're made to believe that Celaena is willing to kill for him if she wins the contest. I get that she wanted out of prison and maybe early on she had no choice but to participate, but at some point in the story she does have a choice. Yet instead of taking her chances and leaving, she decides to stay and continue with the contest and even to commit herself as his assassin. Commence head scratching. Celaena's character was also puzzling to me because I felt as if the author didn't go into much  backstory (there was a love interest in her past that isn't given nearly enough attention), and she didn't explore how Celaena felt about the people she had killed. We have a good indication that she has a heart; she hates the thought of slavery and all the people she left behind in the prison. Yet we don't see how becoming a killer has affected her. The author doesn't delve deep enough into this to me. When all is said and done though, I did enjoy Celaena's character. She's tough, witty, and even though she's a killer and knows how to wield a knife, she still likes to dress up and party. I thought that was kind of a neat way to round out her character; there's nothing that says a warrior  can't enjoy the girly stuff too.

The romance/love triangle: as one might expect, the romance takes up the bulk of the story. On the one side of this triangle, we have Celaena with Prince Dorian, and I did really enjoy the banter between the two. However, I think that I liked Dorian's character more for his flaws than for how handsome he was or how he paid attention to her. I can really see him growing in the next book, and I look forward to this more than I do any romance between the two. On the other side of the triangle we have Celaena with Captain Westfall, and this was a more slow-burning, barely there type of romance that doesn't really get off the ground until the very end of the story. I'm sure there will be more development between these two in the next book, but it seemed like it was almost too subtle. Not in the sense that I didn't see the hint of of what was coming, just that I didn't really sigh with elation when it finally happened. 

Again, overall I enjoyed the story and would recommend it, just not as much as I had hoped. 4 stars

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review - A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

Madeleine Tully lives in Cambridge, England, the World – a city of spires, Isaac Newton and Auntie’s Tea Shop.

Elliot Baranski lives in Bonfire, the Farms, the Kingdom of Cello – where seasons roam, the Butterfly Child sleeps in a glass jar, and bells warn of attacks from dangerous Colours.

They are worlds apart – until a crack opens up between them; a corner of white – the slim seam of a letter.

A mesmerising story of two worlds; the cracks between them, the science that binds them and the colours that infuse them.

My thoughts when I saw that Netgalley was offering this book: JACLYN MORIARTY!!!! AND A SPARKLY COVER THAT SCREAMS "OMG CUTENESS"!!!!! So I signed up for the e-arc with absolutely no idea what the book was about because hey, I'm like that when it's an author that I love. Did Moriarty disappoint? NOOOOOO. Is A Corner of White at the top of my JM love list? Well, not quite, but it's up there.

A Corner of White is the story of a boy and a girl from two very different worlds who have a lot in common. Fifteen year old Madeleine is from The World - Cambridge, England to be exact. She and her mother are runaways from a life of luxury. Currently living in a flat where her mother sews and tries unsuccessfully to enter a quiz show, Madeline is home schooled by some quirky neighbors along with two other kids, the very ordinary Belle and Jack.  Madeline, as observed from Belle and Jack's point of view, is full of colors, but she's really a sad girl who is attempting to understand why she and her mother ran away from their old life. 

Sixteen year old Eliot Baranski comes from a parallel world called Cello. He's described as a top athlete, the town's favorite. He often sets things right with a single swoop of his hand. He refuses to give up his search for his father who went missing after a "color" attack. In him, we see a sort of hero, the kind who always catches the ball (or the butterfly child as the case may be), and we truly expect him to save Madeleine as well. 

Through the exchange of letters, Madeleine and Eliot's worlds come together. They learn from each other -- about themselves, about their parents, and about how two very different worlds can be similar. As far as characters go, I thought that both were well done. Madeleine is portrayed as rather naive (yet she's smart) and that totally worked for me; I tend to know a few people like that. She seems much the type to go about doing her own thing, the rest of the world be damned. Yet it seems to come from an inner sense of confusion and loneliness and as the book progresses we see why this is. I think many teens could relate to her in that sense. Eliot also seemed rather independent,though in a much more mature way. I flipped back and forth between liking him and thinking he was too much of everything. Which again, I can see as being the truth for some kids with that sort of personality.

I really enjoyed the whimsical quirkiness of this book, and the lack of a solid plot didn't bother me in the least. I'll admit that I wanted to be in Cello more than Cambridge most of the time because it's when we're in Cello (either in Eliot's POV or looking at it through one of the many townspeople's) that the creativity of this book really shines. I mean who would ever think that colors could be sort of like sentient beings that attack and sometimes make people do weird things? Certainly colors can affect our moods, but this was like taking that idea and stepping off a cliff with it. And I applaud Moriarty for that. There was a great sense of setting and atmosphere throughout, though I did often wonder what the purpose of some passages were. Like the random newspaper column written by the Cello Princesses and the scenes in the police station. I suppose that I should have trusted Moriarty to pull it all together in the end because she did, but at the time I was kind of scratching my head wondering why those things were important. They were a bit boring to me, tbh, and tragically slowed the pace of the story.  

Overall, this book leaves the reader with a sense of hope and positive feelings (sort of like a belief in magic). Since I tend to gravitate toward books/endings like that, it sat well with me despite the slow pace. Final verdict - 5 stars.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Books of June

Why hello July, when did you sneak up on me? Once again I am late with the monthly reading list. I should just make it a habit of planning to post in the middle of the month instead of the first of the month. Then when I do post early, I can surprise myself! I got a lot of reading done this month, and I hope that you guys see something here that might tickle your fancy.

33. Fury by Shirley Marr** Excellent book with a lot of voice and sass. You really kind of want to hate the MC for her bitchy, selfish, rich girl attitude, but in the end you just can't. Loved the relationships between the girls and how in the end they all looked out for each other. A great example of a dislikeable character made likeable by voice and circumstances. Highly recommended!

34. Obsidian Mirror by Catherine Fisher* I really wanted to love this, but in the end it just felt like too much. Too many subplots. Too many characters. Too much of not knowing what the heck was happening until about 3/4 of the way in. I like some mystery in my books, but I don't like being confused. This was confusing. I think I'm pretty much done trying to read Fisher. I didn't get into Incarceron for much the same reason.

35. If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin** Bought on a rec from my good friend, Nomes. I read this very quickly and stayed up late to finish it (which hasn't happened for me in while). While I concede that there was a lot of telling, I really loved how well developed the romance was in this one. The characters were best friends since childhood and the author does a great job giving us peeks into what that was like and how things came to be the way they were. I was a bit disheartened by the ending (and not for the obvious reasons), but it was very true to life. Looking forward to reading more from this author.

36. No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman* This is an instance of oops, I goofed, but it turned out really, really well. See, when I picked this up, I mistook Gordon Korman for Robert Cormier. Now if you've read Cormier (The Chocolate War and I Am the Cheese) you know that his stories tend to be rather depressing. So when I saw this and mistook the author, I was curious if his middle grade books were just as gray. Well, I loved the book (more on that in a bit), but then I got curious and looked up Korman--and discovered that he's written TONS of middle grade stuff (like parts of the 39 Clues, and Everest just to name a few), but of course, no Chocolate War. My goof! But like I said, the book is a great find. No More Dead Dogs is about a kid named Wallace Wallace who has vowed to never tell a lie. He's kind of like those pre-schoolers who haven't quite figured out that when Uncle Vern asks you if you notice anything different he's looking for a compliment on his new hairpiece, not that there's a dead animal on his head. In this story, Wallace tells it like it is when he reviews the book, Old Shep, My Pal, and ends up in detention. Since his teacher is the director of the drama club, Wallace ends up participating in a production of Old Shep, My Pal, and he... changes it a bit. It's a fun read with a lot of great characters. What I particularly liked about it were the alternating points of view. We've got Wallace (of course) but Korman also includes the voice of the leading lady and the teacher who started it all. By doing so, he creates a book that will appeal to both boys and girls.

37. The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey* I'm having a thinky-think back to all of the YA books I've read in the past three years, and to be honest I think this is the very first "legitimate" YA horror book that I've read. Horror as in grotesque, blood-and-guts-in-your-face horror that makes you cringe, look away and then peek back moments later. I did not expect this based on the Rick Yancey book I read last month (his new release, The 5th Wave), but it was a pleasant surprise. I used to be a huge horror fan, as in I read ALL of Stephen King's 80's (and about half of his 90's) novels. One thing that I really enjoyed about this one was how Yancey completely changed my opinion of the monstrumologist, Dr. Warthrope, half way through the book. At first, I thought he was a horrible, horrible person and shouldn't be allowed anywhere near children, but then as time went on, I actually grew to understand and like him. That's an authorial talent I need to learn in my writing. 

38. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly** I enjoyed this book so very very much, but I do think part of that comes from the fact that I'm a scientist. Not that non-scientists wouldn't enjoy it, but I think that young girls (which is the intended audience) may find it a tad on the slow side. In short, I think there are some middle grade books which seem to be written more for adults and this one fits that category.

39. Five Parts Dead by Tim Pegler Eh? I found this book to be a tad on the boring side, mainly because I didn't feel like there was enough connection with the characters. Maybe there was just too much telling instead of showing in the story. Or maybe it was all the lighthouse "log" entries that got to be a little too much. I mean, every time the author cited the wind speed and direction my eyes glazed over and I found myself skimming. I did like the voice, but overall I was very neutral about this one.

40. Shadows:The Rephaim by Paula Weston* There was a little too much about this story that felt cliche (erased memory, girl discovers she has "abilities", hot guy who is questionably on her side). Still, I found myself reading it fairly quickly anyway and will go on to read the next one in the series. I DO appreciate that this book fit well into the NA category, and in that respect was a bit sexier than some other YA angel books. Also love the new cover!  Pssst - this one is available on netgalley right now!

41.Don't Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala* What I enjoyed most about this book was the way the author illustrated that boyfriend abuse isn't always physical, it can be mental as well, and just as damaging. This book also has much darker themes - drugs and prostitution - that reminded me a lot of the book Smack by Melvin Burgess, though it just wasn't "quite" to that level. Looking forward to seeing what this author comes up with next.

42. Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey* Okay, I was a little shocked when after reading this for about 50 pages 
I finally realized that it's historical. No clues whatsoever until the author starts talking about the war in Vietnam. The book itself wasn't what I expected, as in I expected much more mystery, the MC trying to figure out who the murderer really was, etc. Instead it was mostly introspection and a bit of romance (cute romance though); it fits well into the literary category. The book was very well written though, and the sidekick character was a gas!  I loved the casual references to all the Australian animals. Aussies might laugh, but I got a kick every time the author would say that a kangaroo was hopping by.

38. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly** 
39. Five Parts Dead by Tim  Pegler
40. Shadows:The Rephaim by Paula Weston* 
41.Don't Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala* 
42. Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey*  - See more at:

38. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly** 
39. Five Parts Dead by Tim  Pegler
40. Shadows:The Rephaim by Paula Weston* 
41.Don't Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala* 
42. Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey*  - See more at:

38. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly** 
39. Five Parts Dead by Tim  Pegler
40. Shadows:The Rephaim by Paula Weston* 
41.Don't Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala* 
42. Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey*  - See more at:

Monday, June 3, 2013

Books of May (not so late this time)

I have no idea what happened to May. I look at what I read and think to myself, is that ALL?? Then I look at how much I accomplished on my various WsIP and I ask myself, is that ALL?? I hope to get more done this coming month, including a review or two. In the meantime, here's my book list for May...

29. Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling** Obviously this is a re-read for me, but it was one of the most fun re-reads I've ever done because I read it OUT LOUD to my daughter. I put that in bold because reading out loud has never been my cuppa. I don't think I have a good reading voice and doing Hagrid's accent was rather challenging. But why this was so much fun was seeing my daughter's reaction when things would happen (even though she's seen the movie) and how excited she would get knowing that certain characters were coming up. We're currently on book 2 and I hope to keep going with her, and re-read the whole series that way. Though by the time we get to book 5, I may be pulling my hair out because those later books get loooong.

30. Mila 2.0 by Debra Dizra* This one had a very teenage-ry voice and a cool premise that I think will resonate really well with the younger set. For me, I usually like my romance to be a bit more in depth and not quite so instantaneous, if you will. I guess I was kind of hoping for less on the romance side of things and more on the action side (because it is supposed to be a sci-fi story about an android and evil government scientists and all). That's not to say that there wasn't some action and some very tense scenes, but I think that I just wanted... more? In all it was entertaining, just maybe not what I expected.

31. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey** I'd heard so many good things about this book, including that it could be the next Hunger Games. I'm not sure if I'd go that far, although I wasn't as crazy about the first Hunger Games book as I was by the others, so you never know. At any rate this was still a 5 star read for me. I loved the characters and I thought the premise was outstanding. I also really appreciated that for an apocalyptic book, the author didn't go into many of the cliche things that happen during an apocalypse (people stockpiling, jumping off buildings, religious fanatics, etc). There were a few parts that seemed a bit too convenient, but I overlooked them because of the other things that stood out for me--Cassie's voice, the prose, etc. I highly recommend this one and look forward to the next.

32. Blood Promise by Richelle Mead* I was just so-so with this 4th installment of Vampire Academy. I actually enjoyed the first half of it, but when she gets to the point where Dimtrius is trying to lure Rose into changing into a Strigoi, I sort of lost interest. I think part of it was that there was too much telling of how Rose was feeling and not enough showing. The idea of Rose being an addict just didn't worked very well for me, though that's not to say that I don't appreciate her trying to show Rose making more mistakes. It just didn't work, again because I think there was too much telling and I wasn't feeling the emotions of what an addict is truly like. Also, I'm getting the impression that this series is stealing a lot from Buffy at this point, and I feel like I know too well where this is going. I do have the 5th book and decided to start it already because I do want to finish up the series. If I wait as long as I did with this one I'm unlikely to ever get back to it. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Books of April (again a bit late)

But better late than never right? I have so many books on my TBR list now that I cry a little every time I see how much I actually read as opposed to how much I want to read. Why do we have 5 day work weeks instead of 4? Why can't we all retire at age 35? Mysteries of the universe, right? Or maybe the musings of a wanna be lottery winner (hey, I'm not nearly as bad as my husband). I did manage to read a bit more this month, but not nearly as much as I wanted. And I tried once again to expand into the middle grade and lower middle grade areas. Take what you will from this list...

 The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes #1 ** LMG This was a super cute book for girls age 7-8, told in alternating journal form and with a 3rd person narrator. I loved Abby's personality. She's a determined girl who doesn't realize just how special she is. And she's a writer! I've told my daughter she needs to read this one. 

22. Just One Day by Gayle Forman** I heard a lot of friends comment that this book just didn't do it for them, but I really loved it. It reminded me a lot of Wanderlove by Kirstin Hubbard, with the main character finding independence and confidence by going out and exploring the world. I did think the ending had an unexpected turn that wasn't particularly satisfying. Though I do love Gayle Forman's writing, and I found myself reminiscing about my college days and wishing I could experience some of that again. Looking forward to the sequel.

23. A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty** Intriguing! Unusual! Though just a bit all over the place. I found A Corner of White difficult to traverse in places because I kept asking myself, now why is this important? And isn't this a YA book, why am I being given such an in depth look at what's going on in the sheriff's office? And what's with this newspaper-style column written by the princesses? It does all come together in the end, and I felt satisfied overall. It's a unique premise, and I really enjoyed the creativity that went into describing the colors. I guess it would lean more toward 4.5 stars for me though because I felt a bit lost at times and all of the non-YA stuff didn't keep me engaged in the story. I will most likely read the sequel. Got to say that I do love that cover though!

24. Splintered by AG Howard** A very cool take on Alice In Wonderland that really shows it's YA flavor, unlike Frank Beddor's The Looking Glass Wars (where you really have to search for it). The author did a particularly good job making me like the bad guy because there was just the right amount of good in him. If you like Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you'll probably fall in love with Morpheus (even though  he's a fairy, not a vamp. Or maybe he's a caterpillar. Hmm....)

25. Quintana of Charyn  by Melina Marchetta** OMG DIES!!!!!! Review is here. READ IT!!!

26. The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan* Rick Riordan's books are beginning to be one of those where you feel like you want to read the next one by the time you get to the end, but then once you start the next one you feel like you've been fooled into reading something you've read before. I still love The Lightning Thief, and I find myself wishing that I would have thought of the idea of teenage demi-gods, but... I'm getting tired of them. I guess I'll wait to see if my son wants the next one in the series, or... well, dang it Percy and Annabeth are stuck in the underworld so maybe I will have to find out what happens to next. *sigh* See what I mean?

27. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta** After finishing Quintana, I had to go back and re-acquaint myself with the first book. I marched through it in two days and plan to read Froi again too. I just love this series so much. The characters and humor give me that optimistic, "feel good" feeling, despite the darker moments that drive the story forward. I want everyone to read this series. Won't you, please?

28. The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch* My 5th grader bought this last year at the book fair and since he hadn't read it yet, I decided to pick it up (because you know how I hate to feel like my money has been wasted). I did enjoy the story, but the first half was a bit hard for me. I could understand the main character's motivations, but relating to him was difficult. If I hadn't know that this was a MG read and therefore that the character would have to undergo some major change, I probably would have put the book down. I did end up really loving the second half of the book. I even shed a few sprinkles of tears. Not sure how the author managed to do that in just 250 pages, but he did and so I give him a kudos for that.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Review - Quintana of Charyn

Separated from the girl he loves and has sworn to protect, Froi must travel through Charyn to search for Quintana, the mother of Charyn's unborn king, and protect her against those who will do anything to gain power. But what happens when loyalty to family and country conflict? When the forces marshalled in Charyn's war gather and threaten to involve the whole of the land, including Lumatere, only Froi can set things right, with the help of those he loves.

Since finishing Quintana 4 days ago, I've been trying to think of a way to explain why this book resonates with me so well. Little did I know that Marchetta explains it herself in the back of the first book in the series, Finnikin of the Rock. She writes:
"I was told often that I couldn't write fantasy unless I had read all the greats and knew the conventions well, but I think the first step to writing good fantasy is knowing this world we live in well. I wanted to look closely at that world-- where loss of faith, loss of homeland and identity, displacement of spirit, and breakdown of community are common-- because these are the scenes in today's media that affect me the most."

Her words are spot on. The story told in the Lumatere chronicles feels so familiar and real because to a certain extent it is real. We only need to turn on the news to see it. But this story also has something which I think gets lost in real life. Hope. And heroism. Combining those two elements -- a real world reflection and heroic "feel good" fantasy elements-- are what make this series stand out for me.

Plotwise: With the second book in the series, it seemed as though some of the subplots were getting in the way of the main story. Not the case here. In the third book, Quintana, queen of Charyn, is in hiding and pregnant with Charyn's prophesized "little prince". Bestiano, the man after the crown, will execute her if he finds her. Meanwhile, Froi is also desperate to find Quintana. Worried for her safety, he's trying to find an army who will fight for her and bring her back to her homeland, knowing that even if he succeeds, he'll never be allowed to raise his son himself. Marchetta moves back and forth between Quintana's story and Froi's story with ease. But in addition, several subplots weave amongst these two points of view. Queen Isaboe can't let go of her hatred for the Charyn empire, and Lucien is embroiled in a complex love story as well. Somehow Marchetta manages to tie both subplots into the main plot so that by the end everything comes together. Seen as a whole, I'd say there wasn't much to the story that was unexpected. It followed a well laid and satisfying path. Individual scenes however were unique. There were definite moments when the reader is thinking, how is Froi (or insert name) going to get out of this one? The expectation is always there that he/she will, but seeing how they do it was always exciting.

Characters: By the third book we're well acquainted with most of them, but I think one of Marchetta's talents is that she lets us see "new" sides to these characters that we don't expect, like in the case of Queen Isaboe. It's hard to see Isaboe treating Quintana so unsympathetically -- we love both our heroines! But Marchetta makes a great effort to help us understand why, and then even more spectacularly, she lets Isaboe's character grow in such a way that she becomes a hero all over again (as said above, it was expected, but how it was done was truly masterful). Other characters are explored with more depth as well. With Froi, we see more of his tender side. With Finnikin, we see more of his insecurity. With Lucien, we see his stubbornness but also his willingness to admit he made a mistake. With all of them, we see a passion for life and love and kinship that endears them to us. Fifty pages into the book, I sat back and just thought, wow, to have such passion for the world, for country, for my kinsmen, for family, what would that be like? Not that I'm a cold and unfeeling person, but in modern society with friendships that come and go, a busy work life that doesn't leave much time for family, and moving around to other countries with relative ease, it's easy to feel disconnected. Marchetta's characters reminded me of how things ought to be, and how I want them to be.

Dialogue: I can't convey enough how the dialogue and humor in this story affected me. Reading along, I smiled to myself. I grinned. I even laughed out loud from time to time. My romantic bone was tickled and I sighed with contentment. So, so many good lines are present in this book, one only needs to open to any of the five hundred pages to find one. In many respects it reminded me of the movie Robin Hood in the way that the story combined high adventure with slapstick humor (in a medieval sort way of course). This series NEEDS to be made into a movie. 

Overall verdict: 10 out of 5 stars.  Even when I love a series, it is rare that I will finish the last book and eagerly grab for the first one again so that I can read it all over. With Quintana, I did. I actually finished Finnikin of the Rock two days ago and plan to move back through Froi in another week. And then, I think I'll do one more read of Quintana. There are a lot of characters in this series, and I admit that I lost track of who all of them were. A thorough read-through of the whole series is warranted. Then, maybe I'll have gotten enough. Maybe I'll be satisfied until some Hollywood movie producer gets off his butt and starts casting. Or... maybe I won't.

Final note: Special thanks to Erika Denn and Candlewick Press for providing me with an Advanced Reader Copy of this book!! :)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Review - No Ordinary Hero

The world is set to explode in three months.

The source: a lonely girl with an extreme superpower fueled by the negative emotions inside her.

The solution: send fourteen year old superhero-in-training Kale Zenith to be her friend and give her a reason to smile.

The problem? The girl trusts no one.

With the fate of the world in Kale’s hands, quitting is not an option. Perseverance is key to knocking down the many walls around her, and soon he gets to know Lindsay as more than just the girl who will destroy the planet.

But there’s trouble back home. A secret plot is brewing inside his superhero League, and it’s up to Kale to expose the traitor. But that takes time away from Lindsay when she needs him most. Can he save her and the world before it’s too late?

If you're a fan of superheroes like the X-men, Spider, Iron Men (and judging by how huge these types of shows are in the box office then I think many of you probably are) then you'll love No Ordinary Hero, particularly because Kale is no ordinary hero. What the summary fails to mention (and what we discover in the first few chapters) is that Kale really doesn't have super powers like his father and friends, and that's exactly why they need him to save the world. Neat twist, huh? The emotions that such a kid would encounter in this situation are spot on. Kale wants so badly to succeed, to show everyone that he can save them. At the same time, he's just a kid. An ORDINARY kid. No pressure there, right? He's scared and he makes some mistakes, but he learns from them and his character grows. I loved Kale, and I enjoyed all of the supporting characters too. Some of them have powers that we've seen before in DC comics, but Stone manages to give these characters unique personalities -- teen personalities -- so that they come alive and we find ourselves wishing we had friends like that.

I did think the plot went a little astray with the troubles that were brewing in the background. It seemed like they became the main focus of the book, and the story would have been a bit tighter if Stone had kept the problem with Lindsey in the forefront. At the same time, I think the subplot kept my attention and made me want to keep reading. It's just that I was often thinking to myself, but what about Lindsey? When do we get back to her (and some cute kissy scenes). :) That said, it all came together in the end, and  I really loved the last few chapters, in particular a scene with the main character's mom.

Overall, this was a fun read that I think would appeal particularly to boys (age 9 and up), though it's also fun for adults. Can't wait for the sequel!

Books of March (a little late)

OYYYYY!!!!! So I think this is my shortest list ever. Just two books. I would love to be able to say that I got a lot of writing done this month, but I can't really say that either! What's going on, you ask? Well, I've been doing a lot of therapy for the soul, writing down my thoughts and trying to deconstruct them (cognitive behavior therapy, in case you're wondering) and then I'm exercising more, and making lists to organize my life better. It's all rather time consuming, as you can see because I'm writing this six days late! Oh, and I did do a couple of amazing beta reads for friends this month, so there's that. I'm hoping to get back on the ball with my reading and writing soon, and start posting more. In the meantime, here's my list for this month.

1. We Were Here by Matt de la Pena**  This is an amazing book, and I'm surprised that I hadn't heard of this author until a friend pointed him out. His writing is very raw and very real. Most of characters are Latino. I cried in the middle. I cried in the end. I snickered sometimes and felt the most awful flush of embarrassment for the main character. Oh, and then there's Lenny. I mean, Rondell. I mean Lenny. You remember Lenny, right? The character from John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men? Matt de la Pena's version of this character is Rondell, a huge black kid with a baby afro who becomes the main character's best friend. Sometimes you really wonder if the guy should be locked up. Yet, you don't want him to be because that would just be...sad. Five stars for this one, I particularly recommend it if you're looking for contemporary books with minority characters.

2. The Kill Order by James Dashner. This is the prequel to the Maze Runner series, which I really loved. This one was... meh?? It explains all about the sun flares and why the virus was released in the first place, which I think was probably already mentioned in book 3, only this one goes into more detail. The characters we've come to know in the other books are barely in this one, and the terrifying techno-monsters that really made book 1 and 2 come alive aren't there at all. Basically, it's an apocalyptic thriller about how a virus takes over the world, with the type of crazy stuff that you would expect to see in such a story. They encounter people, there's fighting, they barely escape, they encounter more people, wash, rinse repeat until the end. I can't really give this one a recommendation because it was so stinking cliche. You're better off stopping at book 3.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Cover Reveal for Jennifer Walkup's SECOND VERSE - with Epic Giveaway Contest!

SQUEEEE!!!! I am so glad to be a part of Jennifer Walkup's cover reveal for Second Verse because I have been dying to say something about this book. It's got mystery. It's got ghosts. But most of all, it's got swoonworthy musicians. All the things I like in a YA thriller. I've been anxiously waiting to see what the cover would look like. Well, probably not as much as Jenn, but definitely sitting on pins and needles. It's beautiful, don't you think? But wait! You get more than just a cover reveal today. There's a contest involved too!!

Click below to enter the Epic Cover Reveal Contest over at Me, My Shelf and I - she's giving away signed ARCs, signed bookmarks and an Amazon gift card! You won't want to miss it!!

Bad things come in threes. In Shady Springs, that includes murder.

Murder Now

Lange Crawford’s move to Shady Springs, Pennsylvania, lands her a group of awesome friends, a major crush on songwriter Vaughn, and life in a haunted, 200-year-old farmhouse. It also brings The Hunt: an infamous murder mystery festival where students solve a fake, gruesome murder scheme during the week of Halloween. Well, supposedly fake. 

Murder Then
Weeks before The Hunt, Lange and her friends hold a séance in the farmhouse’s eerie barn. When a voice rushes through, whispering haunting words that only she and Vaughn can hear, Lange realizes it's begging for help. The mysterious voice leads Lange and Vaughn to uncover letters and photos left behind by a murdered girl, Ginny, and they become obsessed with her story and the horrifying threats that led to her murder.

Murder Yet to Come
But someone doesn’t like their snooping, and Lange and Vaughn begin receiving the same threats that Ginny once did. The mysterious words from the barn become crucial to figuring out Ginny's past and their own, and how closely the two are connected. They must work fast to uncover the truth or risk finding out if history really does repeat itself.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Books of February

Only a couple days late! But hey, at least I'm consistent about my one monthly blog post. Sometimes it's all I manage, but at least it's keeping the blog going.

I've turned to reading a lot of middle grade books this month, for research purposes. And well, I really love being able to share favorite books with my kids. It's the best way to get them interested in reading. This list is LONG - I didn't realize how long until I started writing it. If you want to skim, the YA books are highlighted in red. Hope there's a few here that will tickle your reading bone.

7. The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer** MG I LOVED this book. So well written and such complex characters. I had a great conversation with my son about the bad guy, Olaf, who even though he's a killer (as the Vikings often were), was still able to touch the reader's heart. How did the author do that, he asked! There's a bit of history in this one too, and it was fascinating how Farmer weaved the old nursery rhyme of Jack and Jill into the story. This is a must read for anyone who likes middle grade adventure stories, particularly those middle graders!
8. Speechless by Hannah Harrington * I went into this book hoping to find what was missing when I read Harrington's debut novel, Saving June, last year. I liked SJ, but it just felt a bit old and tired. And well, I got the same feeling from this book as well. Many of the characters were one dimensional and even though the premise was kind of neat, I felt like it lacked something. It was... predictable. 

9. Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo* Oh my, how I've been dying to read this one. Ever since my Aussie friend, Nomes, reviewed it over two years ago, I've been itching to get my hands on it. Well, it finally came out in the US with a brand new title and cover! I really enjoyed it. The characters were so true to life, and the prose is to die for. I wish that I could give it 5 stars, but there were just certain things about the male main character that made me dislike him to the point of no return. It was true to life, to be certain, but I wanted "more" from him, if that makes sense? Overall, it'd be 4.5 stars for me.

10. Shades of Earth by Beth Revis* This is another book I was anxiously waiting for. I was kind of so-so about Across the Universe, but Beth Revis had redeemed herself in book 2, A Million Suns. I was so ready to like Shades of Earth, and early on I did. I really did. But then, the light went out. I think it was probably about 1/2 way or 3/4 of the way through when I figured out where it was all going. Once the big reveal came, as I was expecting, then I started to pick apart the very unrealistic science and every other annoying detail that I had been ignoring up to that point. And got irritated. So, lesson learned I guess. Will be leery about what she puts out next.

11. If I Lie by Corrine Jackson** This book should be on everyone's must read list!! I admit that going into it I didn't really "see" the whole why of it. Like why doesn't the main character just get herself out of the situation? Why doesn't she just tell?? But as I got further into the story, I saw the connections the author was making with the character's past and present and why she wouldn't do that. And at that point, I started to love the plot, prose, and ALL of the characters (even the ones I was irritated with). This is a fantastic book and I look forward to reading Jackson's next.

12. Ivy and Bean #1 by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall* LMG About mid-February, I picked up working on my lower middle grade book and decided that I had better do some research so that I wasn't "reaching" too far with my own writing. So I started to peruse my daughter's shelves and picked up the first Ivy and Bean book. I really enjoyed it! Two young girls who are as different as night and day become fast friends and have some adventures in their own back yards. I think the only reason I didn't rate this a five-star is because I'm not the target age. I couldn't stretch my imagination far to put myself at that age where I would have seen things the way the characters do. It was kind of like when you pick up a barbie doll as an adult and you just can't place yourself back at that age where it's "fun". I do think that young girls (age 6-8) would really enjoy it though. My daughter loves this series. And fortunately for my writing purposes, this is a little younger than my own target audience. :)

13. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli* MG The characters here are actually in high school, but they are so tame that I think this book would fit really well as middle grade. The premise of Stargirl should have resonated with me - about a girl who is very unusual (calls herself Stargirl, cheers on the other team's players, gives gifts to people she doesn't even know) and how she tries to change herself just to please others. I "should" have enjoyed it tremendously, but there was just something about it that had me snoring at times. 

14. Reached by Ally Condie* This is NOT an exciting conclusion to the Matched series. I was expecting a rebellion with lots of suspense and blood, ala Hunger Games, (or at least a bit of that), but instead I got... poetry.  A lot of poetry. Granted, there was poetry in the first two books so it followed the same theme, but I was just expecting there to be something "more" in this last book because, well, it's supposed to be about an uprising! Anyway, it wasn't a total miss because Condie does get kudos for doing her research. If you've already read the first two I think it's worth it to finish off the series. 

15. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren** LMG Ah, Pippi. What more can I say? Except for one bit of confusion. I originally read this when I was about 10 or 11, and for some reason this one scene sticks in my head. Pippi goes trick or treating, but instead of asking for candy at every house, she asks for a glass of water. The adults feel so sorry for her because she's so pitiful that they fill her pillowcase with candy and by the end of the night she has to haul it around in a wagon. Well, suffice it to say, that scene was not in this book, so either it was in another of Pippi's books or I'm thinking of a completely different character. Anyone care to straighten me out?

16. Raw Blue by Kirsty Eager ** Re-read. I am so so glad that I took the time to re-read this one because I fell in love all over again and picked up on so much that I missed the first time around. Carly's story and character just resonate with me. I don't know the why of it all, but I know that I'm going to read this again in a couple years.

17. The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall **LMG  So cute and sweet! This story reminded me of everything that is innocent and precious about childhood. In the first few pages it was hard to keep the characters straight, but soon they each take on their own unique personality and you just fall in love with the whole family, even the Latin- speaking dad and Hound, their dog. Love this story and so deserving of the awards it's gotten. 

18. No Ordinary Hero by Dee Stone* MG This book is a little like reading the early adventures of the X-men, when they were teens. Some of the characters were a bit cookie-cutter-ish; they've been done by Marvel over and over again. BUT the plot is engaging, and I found myself eagerly turning the pages to see what was going to happen. LOVED the scene at the end with the mother. Recommended for any 9-12 year old who is into super heroes. 
7. The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer** MG
8. Speechless by Hannah Harrington *
9. Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo*
10. Shades of Earth by Beth Revis*
11. If I Lie by Corrine Jackson**
12. Ivy and Bean #1 by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall* LMG
13. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli* MG
14. Reached by Ally Condie* 
15. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren** LMG 
16. Raw Blue by Kirsty Eager **
17. The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall **LMG  
18. No Ordinary Hero by Dee Stone* MG - See more at:

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Books of January

Well, I'm already behind on my reading schedule, but I hope to pick up a bit in February as I just bought a few books that I've been dying for (and hopefully they're a bit shorter than some of these).

1. Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead** I think this is my favorite VA book so far. The other two were good, but man oh man the ending on this one (it's like one of those season finales of Buffy, only like, better). I really need to keep moving with this series, but I've bought them all out of order. Like I accidently bought 2 of this book and then I skipped one and then I have #5. Really need to get on this.

2. Crushed by Dawn Rae Miller* If you like unlikeable characters who turn around then you'd really like this book. I had a bit of trouble getting through the first half, but I think that teens would enjoy it. Very sexy. LOVE the cover (and so appropriate for February).

3. Jules the Bounty Hunter by Krista Ashe* Fun, kickass main character. I liked the "southern" feel to this book and the light-hearted plot. Fans of Ally Carter might really enjoy this one.

4. City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare** Is it bad that I really liked Jace when he was "bad"? haha... I'm glad that I finally got around to reading this one, though I admit that I feel like the storyline is dragging at this point.

5. Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor* Another OMG ending. I did get a bit lost in the world building though because there are so many minor character mentioned. Sometimes I had to read back to figure out who somebody was, and I don't like having to do that with my novels. Also there were parts where I was just outright confused. I am enjoying the series and I will definitely read book 3, but it's just not hitting 5 stars for me.

6. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld* MG I loved the descriptions in this one and the alternative history angle. I didn't care much for the action scenes because they were very confusing to follow, which is bad because it's an action adventure series. I'm torn as to whether I should continue. I've heard that the second book is slow but that the third book is really great. Guess I'll wait and see.

So what have you been reading? Any good recs? Please post!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Books of December and what not

December was a slow month for me, both reading and writing-wise. I only read 3 books *weeps* and I did NO writing *double weeps*. I'm planning to pick myself back up in January. It is, afterall, the month for having a gung ho attitude about everything, right? But until then, I didn't want to leave you with just 3 little book re-caps, so I thought that I'd share what else I did in December, which is not at all writerly related. Scrapbooking!!! Yes, I caught the bug for digital scrapbooking in December and spent a LOT of time making pages of our Disney trip this fall. It was fun. I figured out all those neat little tricks on photoshop,  learned how to make my own papers, downloaded a ton of stuff onto my computer (which is now so overloaded that it'll probably crash any day), and in the end I made a cute photobook for the kids for xmas. It still hasn't arrived, but the pages are all done and so I thought that I'd share a few of them after my book blurbs. So, what did you read in December? Or were you like me and totally slacked off? Share!

86. The Death Cure by James Dashner** The third installment of The Maze Runner series had a different sort of flare than the first two (pun intended). There were fewer crazy robots/killing machines and more of your general, run of the mill, end of the world sort of stuff going on. I still liked the ending, and I highly recommend it, but I guess I just wasn't as pumped and breathless as I was after similar types of series (Hunger Games for instance). I do plan to read the prequel when I get a chance.

87. Second Verse by Jennifer Walkup* This was my friend's book that I read in order to beta her sequel. It's due out sometime later this year, I believe, so I guess you could call it an ARC. It's got themes of reincarnation, ghosts, and a bit of a thriller/mystery. It's also got a great swoony male LI that I've been seriously crushing over the since I read it. I'll give more deets as the book comes out!

88. Laced In Malice by Riley Gray** Another book from a good writer friend. This one is out already and should most definitely be on everyone's reading list. I reviewed it just the other day HERE and plan to do a giveaway soon.

And now to impress you all with my mad photoshop skills.

The cover photo:

 We spent 2 days at Daytona Beach

The kids drinking butter beer at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

And of course Disneyworld

Cinderella's Castle with my own little princess in the top corner


Tom Sawyer Island

Disney's Hollywood Studios

and Disney's animal Kingdom

another at Animal Kingdom

 We didn't do a whole lot at Epcot, but they really loved the ride, Soaring

 and I could add more, but I'm sure that I'm boring everyone now.
Thanks for visiting!



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