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June Books (3)

This month was all about time management.  Unfortunately, reading got muscled out of the way for some more important things.
City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments #4) by Cassandra Clare

Goodreads’ synopsis:

City of Fallen Angels takes place two months after the events of City of Glass. In it, a mysterious someone’s killing the Shadowhunters who used to be in Valentine’s Circle and displaying their bodies around New York City in a manner designed to provoke hostility between Downworlders and Shadowhunters, leaving tensions running high in the city and disrupting Clary’s plan to lead as normal a life as she can — training to be a Shadowhunter, and pursuing her relationship with Jace. As Jace and Clary delve into the issue of the murdered Shadowhunters, they discover a mystery that has deeply personal consequences for them — consequences that may strengthen their relationship, or rip it apart forever.

Meanwhile, internecine warfare among vampires is tearing the Downworld community apart, and only Simon — the Daylighter who everyone wants on their side — can decide the outcome; too bad he wants nothing to do with Downworld politics. Love, blood, betrayal and revenge: the stakes are higher than ever in City of Fallen Angels.

We all know that TMI was originally going to be a trilogy, but then–after massive success with the first few books–Cassandra Clare decided to extend the series. Which was a move we TMI fans weren’t really complaining about, right?

Don’t get me wrong–I’m still not complaining, I enjoyed CoFA, and I’ll continue to love CC and TMI. BUT. CoFA is 4th on my list of fav TMI books, mostly because it just didn’t have that “can’t put it down” quality that the first three books possessed. I love me some Jace and Clary, but in CoFA a bunch of secondary characters became a whole lot more likeable and/or interesting than Mr. & Mrs. Broody McBrooderson. Simon was (unsurprisingly) central to the plot and I’m sure we’re going to see him continue to gain importance. Sullen Alec became downright sweet and come on, you gotta feel for the guy! And of course I still enjoy some Luke here and there throughout the story. He’s just such a GOOD guy, you know?

I eagerly await City of Lost Souls, due 5.1.12, and hope it lives up to the standard set by the first three TMI books.

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali

Forced by her father to marry a man three times her age, young Nujood Ali was sent away from her parents and beloved sisters and made to live with her husband and his family in an isolated village in rural Yemen. There she suffered daily from physical and emotional abuse by her mother-in-law and nightly at the rough hands of her spouse. Flouting his oath to wait to have sexual relations with Nujood until she was no longer a child, he took her virginity on their wedding night. She was only ten years old.

Unable to endure the pain and distress any longer, Nujood fled—not for home, but to the courthouse of the capital, paying for a taxi ride with a few precious coins of bread money. When a renowned Yemeni lawyer heard about the young victim, she took on Nujood’s case and fought the archaic system in a country where almost half the girls are married while still under the legal age. Since their unprecedented victory in April 2008, Nujood’s courageous defiance of both Yemeni customs and her own family has attracted a storm of international attention. Her story even incited change in Yemen and other Middle Eastern countries, where underage marriage laws are being increasingly enforced and other child brides have been granted divorces.

Recently honored alongside Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice as one of Glamour magazine’s women of the year, Nujood now tells her full story for the first time. As she guides us from the magical, fragrant streets of the Old City of Sana’a to the cement-block slums and rural villages of this ancient land, her unflinching look at an injustice suffered by all too many girls around the world is at once shocking, inspiring, and utterly unforgettable.

At under 200 pages, this is one of those simple, yet emotionally charged reads that every woman should pick up at some point in her life. Facing the injustices Nujood experienced is painful, but her quiet determination is awe-inspiring. This 10-year-old Muslim girl has a better sense of self than most 20-something American women I know, including myself.

Like a few other reviewers, I had a problem with the narrative. Nujood–who had painfully little education prior to her saga–told her story to journalist Delphine Minoui, who then penned the book. It feels like Minoui tried to keep her writing style authentic to the 10-year-old’s first person narrative; however, at times it seems that Minoui couldn’t help injecting adult and/or Western ideas and phrases into the story. This discord detracts from the simplicity of Nujood’s account.

Overall, I highly, highly recommend I Am Nujood.

The Dark and Hollow Places (The Forest of Hands and Teeth #3) by Carrie Ryan

Goodreads’ synopsis:

There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister’s face before Annah left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the Horde as they swarmed the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.  
Annah’s world stopped that day, and she’s been waiting for Elias to come home ever since. Somehow, without him, her life doesn’t feel much different than the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Until she meets Catcher, and everything feels alive again.
But Catcher has his own secrets. Dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah has longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it’s up to Annah: can she continue to live in a world covered in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return’s destruction?

Fantastic final book in the series!! I heart me some Carrie Ryan and want a boxed set of the trilogy for my bookshelf–the best compliment I can give any book or series! I highly recommend THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH trilogy to just about anyone.

~

Tried and failed:

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Just not my kind of book.  I gave it 50 pages, but it wasn’t growing on me in the least.

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

I couldn’t get around the futuristic language.  I also gave this one until page 50, but couldn’t go any further.

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~Yesterday was the 4th of July.  Holy mackerel, where did summer come from so fast?  Although I’m looking forward to vacation next month, I’m so NOT ready for summer to speed along out of control like this.  This being my favorite season of the year, I’d like to enjoy it a bit.  Please?

~Both my horses have been sold in he past few weeks, each to fantastic homes with wonderful people.  Selling Pea and Beau was necessary to allow me to go back to school, but it still hurts my heart.  Saying it’s bittersweet doesn’t even begin to cover the range of emotions.  I feel like a little piece of me has been ripped away.  But, as a horsey friend so wisely said, I’ll always be a horsewoman–it’s in my blood.  And when horses come into my life in the future, I’ll appreciate them that much more.

~Two very dear women to me have gotten engaged in the past few weeks, my cousin and one of my closest friends.  Add that to my brother and his girlfriend (now fiance)–who got engaged in January–and it seems like everyone I know who wasn’t hitched is about to take the plunge!  I’m honored and excited that A asked me to be in her wedding.  It’ll be my first stint as a bridesmaid!  (Girliness I didn’t know I had is popping up!)

~Since it rained here from March through May, I didn’t plant a garden for the first time in years.  I feel a little rotten about it, actually.  (Hehe)  To make up for it, I’m planting my own hanging baskets.  More on that project later…

~Salsa, corn on the cob, peaches, sangria, and grilling out may just be the very best parts about summer time.

~Poison Ivy is the very worst part about summer.  Especially when you have it in areas that it’s typically socially unacceptable to scratch in public.  (Yes, I know you’re not supposed to scratch it anyway, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do!)

~This summer is all about home improvements for us.  Currently, my kitchen ceiling is down to the bare bones…which means EVERYTHING from the kitchen is chillin’ in the dining room.  (Have I mentioned how I loath clutter, chaos, messes, things in the wrong place, etc?)  This is going to be an exercise in being a little less OCD…

~Work is all about change, change, change these days.  I’m being reminded that first impressions are usually spot on, but being open-minded is golden, on a daily basis.  Also, pre-conceived notions are just plain worthless.  (We have a new hire from Richmond, VA and–since I love what I’ve seen of Richmond and have a fab friend who lives there–I got this notion that  New Girl A would be T’s clone.  Of course, the reality is that the city doesn’t make the person, just as the person doesn’t make the city.) 

~I up and decided to creatively fill my tragically boring wardrobe and have had a blast doing it!  Plato’s Closet and the thrift store have been my best buds, with a trip to Kohl’s, another to Old Navy, and an e-trip to Victoria’s Secret’s semi-annual sale thrown in for good measure.  I can now say that I’m (finally) happy with my summer closet!  Winter clothes are coming along, but I *may* need to do a little more tweaking to get it just right.  (I plan on posting pics some day!)

~I started college (again) two weeks ago.  (Yay!)  Class has been…interesting.  It’s a 5 credit hour class that meets once a week–which works fabulously for me, but makes Tuesday a long day.  Class is supposed to be 5:30-10pm, but our prof moved our start time to 6.  We’re talking about psychology during the life span–so from birth to death–which is fascinating.  What major theme have I learned so far?  That it’s very, very easy to screw up your kids.  Definitely enough to make me think twice about ever wanting any!

~I read an amazing book a few weeks ago.  It’s called I Am Nujood: Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali.  It’s a short, easy read, but emotionally draining.  Definitely worth reading, though.  That girl has more cojones than just about anyone I know.

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This Side of the Grave (Night Huntress #5) by Jeaniene Frost

Goodreads’ synopsis:

Danger waits on both sides of the grave.

Half-vampire Cat Crawfield and her vampire husband Bones have fought for their lives, as well as for their relationship. But just when they’ve triumphed over the latest battle, Cat’s new and unexpected abilities threaten to upset a long-standing balance . . .

With the mysterious disappearance of vampires, rumors abound that a species war is brewing. A zealot is inciting tensions between the vampires and ghouls, and if these two powerful groups clash, innocent mortals could become collateral damage. Now Cat and Bones are forced to seek help from a dangerous “ally”—the ghoul queen of New Orleans herself. But the price of her assistance may prove more treacherous than even the threat of a supernatural war . . . to say nothing of the repercussions Cat never imagined.

I wrote a nice review of this book, but then internet-land ate it. Grrrr!

Suffice to say, This Side of the Grave renewed my love of Jeaniene’s sarcastic wit, ability to craft passionate, yet epic love scenes, and write a damn good story. I love Cat and Bones and am always impressed at their growth as a couple. Jeaniene proves that there’s much, much more story to tell even after the tension and build-up of the “lets get together” stage is over. In This Side of the Grave, Cat and Bones learn more about each other, meet some spooky supes (teehee), and the supporting characters just get better and better.

Hex Hall (Hex Hall #1) by Rachel Hawkins

 Goodreads’ synopsis:

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father–an elusive European warlock–only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

Eh, I gotta say Hex Hall didn’t do that much for me. It reminded me a lot of Marked (House of Night series by P.C. and Kristin Cast) and Fallen (by Lauren Kate) and Need (by Carrie Jones). I obviously dig YA fantasy books, but this formula (high-school-chick-gets-into-trouble-and-gets-sent-to-boarding/far-away-school-and-doesn’t-fit-in-with-popular-girls-but-falls-for-hottie-boy(s)-and-then-gets-wrapped-up-in-some-sort-of-supernatural-danger) is so stinkin’ overdone it’s just not even funny anymore. I wanted something unusual to happen so badly that I finished the book, but–seeing as nothing particularly unique occured–I won’t be reading the sequel.

As a total aside–and just to prove how neurotic I am–it also really bothers me that there’s a cat sitting next to Sophie on the cover when the author made a point to say Sophie is allergic to felines. Also, wouldn’t that mean she’s allergic to the mountain lion shifter girl, too?

Nightshade (Nightshade #1) by Andrea Cremer

Goodreads’ synopsis:

Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she’ll be the mate of alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers.

But when she violates her masters’ laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything— including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?

Nightshade is an intriguing read that draws you in and becomes very difficult to put down. Especially now that the YA fantasy genre is being flooded with new books as fast as they can be written and published, Andrea Cremer’s book is refreshingly original and well-written.

Calla, the heroine, is both unique and complex, while the supporting characters are well-fleshed out and multi-dimensional. The love triangle is frustratingly well done. And by that I just mean that Calla doesn’t know whom she prefers and neither did I as the reader. Both boys have a lot going for them, so there’s no clear front runner. Since her relationship with each boy develops simultaneously, there’s also no “timeline advantage” given to either one.

I found the first few chapters slightly confusing, because Cremer drops you in the middle of Calla’s world and you have to figure out the details as you go. Thus, it takes a little while to figure out what’s going on. (It was actually a little refreshing to have to figure details out on my own. I’m tired of YA lit “writing down” to the reader. I’m a big girl, I can think for myself!) Overall, I thought Nightshade was a captivating story and am looking forward to getting my hands on the sequel, Wolfsbane.

As an aside, I’m pretty sure I have cover-lust…and whoever designed Nightshade‘s cover deserves a serious end-of-the-year bonus.

Magic in the Blood (Allie Beckstrom #2) by Devon Monk
Working as a Hound-tracing illegal spells back to their casters-has taken its toll on Allison Beckstrom. But even though magic has given her migraines and stolen her recent memory, Allie isn’t about to quit. Then the police’s magic enforcement division asks her to consult on a missing persons case. But what seems to be a straightforward job turns out to be anything but, as Allie finds herself drawn into the underworld of criminals, ghosts, and blood magic.
Perfect beach reading, Magic in the Blood was a fun, enjoyable read. The issues I had with the first book (constant use of the expletives “good loves” and “sweet hells” and problematic memory loss) are toned down a bit in the second book. We learn a little more about Mr. Jones, Allie’s father, and the world of magic/Hounds that Allie moves in.
Wither (Chemical Garden #1) by Lauren DeStefano

 Goodreads’ synopsis:

What if you knew exactly when you would die?
Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb — males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.
When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden’s genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape — to find her twin brother and go home.
But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden’s eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.

If Cassia of Matched and Katniss of The Hunger Games had a love child, it would be Rhine of Wither. (Yes, I dig the YA dystopian fantasy scene.) I pretty much read Wither in one sitting, and was sad to see the last page.

DeStefano’s strongest skills are her character building and character relationships. Her weakness is in her world building. Let’s face it, she doesn’t appear to have put a whole lot of time and effort into developing her dystopian society, or the cause of said society’s downfall. That said, she is mighty good at the things she does well. It’s Rhine’s relationships that drive the story. And DeStefano’s prose is fantastic. She uses the pages of her book to create and shape her readers’ emotions, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Magic in the Shadows (Allie Beckstrom #3) by Devon Monk

 Goodreads’ synopsis:

Allison Beckstrom’s magic has taken its toll on her, physically marking her and erasing her memories-including those of the man she supposedly loves. But lost memories aren’t the only things preying on Allie’s thoughts.

Her late father, the prominent businessman-and sorcerer-Daniel Beckstrom, has somehow channeled himself into her very mind. With the help of The Authority, a secret organization of magic users, she hopes to gain better control over her own abilities-and find a way to deal with her father…

Magic to the Bone and Magic in the Blood (books 1 and 2 of the Allie Beckstrom series) were just OK for me. Enjoyable reads, but nothing to write home about.

Book #3, Magic in the Shadows, is the one that hooked me. Loved it! I have some others at the top of my TBR pile, but once I’m done with them I’ll definitely be back for books 4-7 of the series.

Where She Went (sequel to If I Stay) by Gayle Foreman

 Goodreads’ synopsis:

It’s been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam’s life forever.

Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard’s rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia’s home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future–and each other.

Told from Adam’s point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.

I’m torn over how to describe my feelings about Where She Went. It wasn’t If I Stay, and I didn’t connect with the characters in the same way as with the first book. Perhaps it was the change in narrator, or maybe it was just that Adam experiences a different kind of agony than Mia did. Regardless, I didn’t feel the same awe I felt for If I Stay after reading Where She Went. That said, it’s still an amazing and well-written story. I highly recommend both books!

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Crescendo (Hush, Hush #2) by Becca Fitzpatrick

Goodreads’ synopsis:

Nora Grey’s life is still far from perfect. Surviving an attempt on her life wasn’t pleasant, but atleast she got a guardian angel out of it: a mysterious, magnetic, gorgeous guardian angel. But, despite his role in her life, Patch has been acting anything but angelic. He’s more elusive than ever and even worse, he’s started spending time with Nora’s arch-enemy, Marcie Millar.

Nora would have hardly noticed Scott Parnell, an old family friend who has moved back to town, if Path hadnt been acting so distant. Even with Scott’s totally infuriating attitude Nora finds herself drawn to him – despite her lingering feeling that he’s hiding something.

Haunted by images of her murdered father, and questioning whether her nephilim bloodline has anything to do with his death, Nora puts herself increasingly in dangerous situations as she desperatly searches for answers. But maybe some things are better left buried, because the truth could destroy everything – and everyone – she trusts.

Oh lordy, where to begin? See I have this thing about writing negative reviews. I just feel rotten…like I’m backstabbing the author. I know they worked hard on the book and it’s their baby and…and…and.

Here it goes…

Cons:
~I understand that most YA books are written to a 4th grade reading level (give or take). That said, Ms. Fitzpatrick seems to be writing for your average 4-year-old. Seriously.
~I guess because your average 4-year-old is entertained by detailed descriptions of how to make spaghetti in the microwave, and what shoes go with what outfit, and how to apply make-up in a manner that hides dark circles, Ms. Fitzpatrick includes them.
~But then you get to the end of the book where the angel lineage is explained and Ms. Fitzpatrick goes all whack-a-doozy on us. Just how were we supposed to keep that all straight? Who’s related to whom, who’s baby-daddy disowned them, who’s didn’t, blah, blah, blah. I was going a little cross-eyed trying to keep it all straight. Not because it was THAT difficult to understand, but rather because it really didn’t add up to the rest of the story.
~Besides constantly thinking about making out, Nora’s mental age is pretty close to the targeted reading age. Actually, I might have to take that back–I’ve known a few 4-year-old girls who were all about making out with boys.
~The only times Nora goes to the library are when she’s about to be attacked in the dark. I’m not kidding, it’s literally every time. You’d think she’s learn. I think even a 4-year-old could put two-and-two together.
~Nora’s BFF Vee is a major pet peeve of mine. Not her personality (which, believe it or not, actually kind of works for me), but the whole fat issue. So not cool to keep bringing it up, Becca. In the last book, you should give her a smokin’ hot, intelligent, non-homicidal boyfriend to make it up to her. Also, everyone in the book should compliment her at some point.
~After reading Hush, Hush, I so wanted to like Patch. But he seemed like such a pushover in this book. Bad boy + pushover does not equal hotness. And then he started invading Nora’s dreams and I’m sorry but that’s just creepy.
~Nora really needs to learn some boundaries when it comes to sneaking around at night. Breaking into people’s houses isn’t cool. And someone should give that girl some mace for her birthday!
~Speaking of parental duties, where the heck is Nora’s mom? It seems the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, but after 17 years of parenthood, you’d think she could keep better track of her kid.
~Paragraphs like this: “I hung up and did a quick inventory of my closet. I decided on a pale pink cami, a miniskirt, opaque tights, and ballet flats. I sprayed perfume in the air and walked through it for a light, grapefruity scent. In the back of my mind, I wondered why I was spending the time to clean up for Scott. He was going nowhere in life, we had nothing in common, and most of our brief conversations included flipping insults at each other. Not only that, but Patch had told me to say away from him. And that’s when it hit me. Chanced were, I was drawn to Scott because of some deep-rooted psychological reason involving defiance and revenge. And it all pointed back to Patch.”

Pros:
~If I had liked this book for anything more than mild entertainment, I would have been PISSED OFF at the cliffhanger ending. As it was? I said, “Oh noes, she didn’t!” and then went to go find myself some lunch.
~After finishing Crescendo (and finding some lunch), I read a few of the Goodreads reviews and laughed more than I have in a month. Dude, funny shiznit! It’s worth reading the book just to enjoy the utter hilarity of the reviews!
~Yes, I will be reading the final installment. Why? Hey, it’s entertaining and will make good beach reading. And then I can read snarky reviews and laugh some more.

 

If I Stay: a novel by Gayle Foreman

Goodreads’ synopsis:

In a single moment, everythingchanges. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck…

A sophisticated, layered, and heartachingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make—and the ultimate choice Mia commands.

If I Stay is a heartfelt, genuine exploration of family, relationships, music, life, death, and love. Since I am admittedly uncomfortable with the subject of death, particularly unexpected deaths, I began If I Stay a little hesitantly. My trepidation , however, slowly eased as Mia’s story unfolded.

One of the things I loved most about this book was Gayle Forman’s characters. They are written so exquisitely, I felt as if I knew them personally by the last page. Some spoke to me so distinctly as to remind me of my own nearest and dearest.

Examples:

We met…Dad at the birthing center, which was nothing like a doctor’s office. It was the ground floor of a house, the inside decked out with beds and Jacuzzi tubs, the medical equipment discreetly tucked away. The hippie midwife led Mom inside and Dad asked me if I wanted to come, too.” [My mom is a midwife who runs a birth center on the ground floor of her house…and she was a bit of a hippie back in the day.]

“…Mom was ferociously protective of the people she loved, so much that she took insults upon them personally. Her friends sometimes called her Mama Bear for this reason.” [This is totally my friend Terra.]

“…She was another tough-as-nails, tender-as-kittens, feminist bitch.” [If someone described ME this way, I would be honored.]

~

Sure, If I Stay is a tearjerker–that’s a given. But it’s so much more. I’ll definitely be re-reading it and would love to add a copy to my bookshelf–which is the ultimate compliment I can extend to any book.

 

The Dead Tossed Waves (The Forest of Hands and Teeth #2) by Carrie Ryan

Goodreads’ synopsis:

Gabry lives a quiet life. As safe a life as is possible in a town trapped between a forest and the ocean, in a world teeming with the dead, who constantly hunger for those still living. She’s content on her side of the Barrier, happy to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. But there are threats the Barrier cannot hold back. Threats like the secrets Gabry’s mother thought she left behind when she escaped from the Sisterhood and the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Like the cult of religious zealots who worship the dead. Like the stranger from the forest who seems to know Gabry. And suddenly, everything is changing. One reckless moment, and half of Gabry’s generation is dead, the other half imprisoned. Now Gabry only knows one thing: she must face the forest of her mother’s past in order to save herself and the one she loves.

As another reviewer put it, The Dead Tossed Waves completely owned me. All I can say is thank God I started it on a Saturday, because I couldn’t put it down and ended up reading it straight through in one sitting. It’s been a while since a book has done that to me! I thoroughly enjoyed this one and cannot wait to bring my requested copy of The Dark and Hollow Places home from the library.

 

Need (Need #1) by Carrie Jones

Goodreads’ synopsis:

Zara White suspects there’s a freaky guy semi-stalking her. She’s also obsessed with phobias. And it’s true, she hasn’t exactly been herself since her stepfather died. But exiling her to shivery Maine to live with her grandmother? That seems a bit extreme. The move is supposed to help her stay sane…but Zara’s pretty sure her mom just can’t deal with her right now.

She couldn’t be more wrong. Turns out the semi-stalker is not a figment of Zara’s overactive imagination. In fact, he’s still following her, leaving behind an eerie trail of gold dust. There’s something not right – not human – in this sleepy Maine town, and all signs point to Zara.

In this creepy, compelling breakout novel, Carrie Jones delivers romance, suspense, and a creature you never thought you’d have to fear.

How about a little pixie urban fantasy? Keep in mind that we’re talking about the nasty, blood-sucking kind of pixies here, not cute little Tinkerbell pixies. In genre and style, Carrie Jones reminds me a little of Holly Black. However, the characters and plot have more in common with Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, though the comparison should end there in my opinion. While I won’t rave about Need, it was a quick, enjoyable read.

My overall impressions:

Pros:
~Glitter
~Hunky werewolf hotness (a la Jacob Black)
~Girl with a conscience crusading against the world’s evil
~Spunky girl-power grandma
~Nasty pixies with silver eyes and pointy teeth who want to either poison you with their kiss or suck your blood

Cons:
~Predictable plot
~Silly inaccuracies (i.e. Ian is described as being tall with LONG legs, yet in the next sentence it’s noted that he’s the point guard on the basketball team.)
~Character inconsistencies (i.e. Nick goes all serious and decides that he and Zara must proactively leave the relative safety of the house to hunt the pixies down. Yet as soon as they get in the scary woods–where the pixies hide out–they abandon all pretense of pixie-hunting in favor of a makeout session. WTF!?)
~The world’s most devoted puppy dog. It would make me feel claustrophobic more than turn me on.  Just sayin’. 

It’s time for me to genre hop for a bit, as I’m getting a little burnt out on the YA fantasy stuff. But when I come back I’m looking forward to picking up the sequel, Captivate.

 

Magic to the Bone (Allie Beckstrom #1) by Devon Monk

Goodreads’ synopsis:

Using magic meant it used you back. Forget the fairy-tale, hocus-pocus, wave a wand and bling-o, sparkles and pixie dust crap. Magic, like booze, sex, and drugs, gave as good as it got.

Everything has a cost. And every act of magic exacts a price from its user – maybe a two-day migraine, or losing the memory of your first kiss. But some people want to use magic without paying, and they Offload the cost onto innocents. When that happens, it falls to a Hound to identify the spell’s caster – and Allison Beckstrom’s the best there is.

Daughter of a prominent Portland businessman, Allie would rather moonlight as a Hound than accept the family fortune – and the strings that come with it. But when she discovers a little boy dying from a magic Offload that has her father’s signature all over it, Allie is thrown into the high-stakes world of corporate espionage and black magic.

Now Allie’s out for the truth – and must call upon forces that will challenge everything she knows, change her in ways she could never imagine … and make her capable of things that powerful people will do anything to control.

I found Devon Monk’s Allie Beckstrom books by accident via one of my favorite urban fantasy authors, Ilona Andrews. I’m head-over-heels in love with Kate Daniels, Ilona’s strong female protagonist, and I was hoping for a similarly fun, adventurous character to tide me through until the next Kate Daniels book came out. (I know, it’s not really fair to evaluate one book/character against another, but I can’t help myself!)

While Allie doesn’t compare to Kate in terms of character development and all-round awesomeness, Devon’s world building is intriguing and nicely done. In my opinion, it’s the best part of the story. Allie has some trademark expletives–“good loves” and “sweet hells”–that quickly go from quirky to annoying. And her memory loss, while essential to the plot, became frustrating at times.

Overall, Magic to the Bone was a fun, light read but didn’t have that “can’t put it down” quality I’m always searching for in a book.

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YA author Susane Colasanti has a book giveaway going on over at her blog

Make sure to check out her post on Screen-Free Week 2011, too!

 

Screen-Free Week 2011

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Author Devon Monk is giving away a copy of Magic to the Bone, a copy of Magic on the Hunt (which was released yesterday), and a knitted gargoyle named Stone who is absolutely adorable! 

Author Jackie Kessler is giving away a copy each of her books Hunger and Rage, and a signed poster of Rage.

Visit The Deadline Dames to enter!

Stone

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Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Goodreads’ synopsis:

Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski’s ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell.

Jacob was there because his luck had run out – orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive ‘ship of fools’. It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn’t have an act – in fact, she couldn’t even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

Water for Elephants starts out a little slow, but quickly builds into a great story. I enjoyed the book and am looking forward to seeing the movie later this month!
~

Movie news: The movie will be out in theaters 4.22.11 and stars Robert Pattinson as Jacob and Reese Witherspoon as Marlena.

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The Demon Trapper's Daughter by Jana Oliver

Goodreads’ synopsis:

Riley Blackthorne just needs a chance to prove herself – and that’s exactly what the demons are counting on…

Seventeen-year-old Riley, the only daughter of legendary Demon Trapper, Paul Blackthorne, has always dreamed of following in her father’s footsteps.  The good news is, with human society seriously disrupted by economic upheaval and Lucifer increasing the number of demons in all major cities, Atlanta’s local Trappers’ Guild needs all the help they can get – even from a girl. When she’s not keeping up with her homework or trying to manage her growing crush on fellow apprentice, Simon, Riley’s out saving distressed citizens from foul-mouthed little devils – Grade One Hellspawn only, of course, per the strict rules of the Guild. Life’s about as normal as can be for the average demon-trapping teen.

But then a Grade Five Geo-Fiend crashes Riley’s routine assignment at a library, jeopardizing her life and her chosen livelihood.  And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, sudden tragedy strikes the Trappers’ Guild, spinning Riley down a more dangerous path than she ever could have imagined. As her whole world crashes down around her, who can Riley trust with her heart – and her life?

See my review here.

~

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Goodreads’ synopsis:

Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie is navigating through the strange worlds of love, drugs, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, and dealing with the loss of a good friend and his favorite aunt.
To those that say The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a modern adaptation of The Catcher in the Rye (including Stephen Chbosky), I ask why, then, did I enjoy it so much? I felt so cheated after reading The Catcher in the Rye–I just didn’t get it. Not so with Perks. I loved it & I highly recommend reading it to just about everyone! It has all the makings of a classic piece of literature.
~

Movie news: According to IMDB, the movie is expected to be released in 2012.  Stephen Chbosky wrote the screenplay and will be directing the movie.  Emma Watson (as Sam) and Logan Lerman (as Charlie) will star.

~

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Goodreads’ synopsis:

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

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

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

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

Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart.

 Unearthly is a captivating, well-written story featuring intriguing angel mythology, strong heroines, a healthy romantic relationship, and a natural mother-daughter bond. The next book in the series, Hallowed, is due out Jan. ’12 and it’s already on my TBR list!

Regarding the angel mythology, I won’t discuss it enough to give spoilers, but I love glory, I found the wing color aspect unique, and I think the Black Wings are fascinating.

One of my favorite quotes from the book comes after a less than stellar prom night: “I won’t be that girl who lets the guy treat her like crap and still fawns all over him.”

I highly recommend Unearthly–you won’t be able to put it down!

~

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Goodreads’ synopsis:

Jay Asher’s brilliant first novel is a moving, highly original story that focuses on a set of audiotapes made by a girl before she committed suicide, and which explain to 13 people the reasons why she decided to end her life. Told in a highly effective duel narrative — alternating between the girl s voice and the thoughts of a boy who is listening — this honest, poignant story reveals how other people’s actions shape, and by extension can ruin, an individual’s faith in people. Intensely powerful and painfully real, Thirteen Reasons Why reveals how brutal high school can be, the consequences of spreading rumors, and the lasting effects of suicide on those left behind!

A wonderfully eye-opening novel, Thirteen Reasons Why is all about how our actions–and inactions–affect others. The prose is often poetic, the messages are clear without coming off as “preachy”, and the characters will draw you in. I highly recommend this book!  That said, it is an emotionally draining read.

~

Movie news: Universal bought the rights to the movie (expected out in 2012), and Selena Gomez has been cast as Hannah Baker.

~

Fallen by Lauren Kate

Goodreads’ synopsis:

  There’s something achingly familiar about Daniel Grigori.

Mysterious and aloof, he captures Luce Price’s attention from the moment she sees him on her first day at the Sword & Cross boarding school in sultry Savannah, Georgia. He’s the one bright spot in a place where cell phones are forbidden, the other students are all screw-ups, and security cameras watch every move.

Even though Daniel wants nothing to do with Luce—and goes out of his way to make that very clear—she can’t let it go. Drawn to him like a moth to a flame, she has to find out what Daniel is so desperate to keep secret . . . even if it kills her.

Dangerously exciting and darkly romantic, Fallen is a page turning thriller and the ultimate love story.

Meh. I have to admit, Fallen wasn’t that great for me. It reminded me a lot of Marked (House of Night series by P.C. and Kristin Cast). Same “mildly-popular-and-pretty-high-school-chick-goes-to-boarding-school-and-meets-lots-of-supernatural-hotties” theme. That said, there were enough mildly intriguing loose ends at the end of the book that I might pick up the sequel (Torment) someday, just to find out what happens.

~

Movie news: According to Reelz, Disney has optioned the rights to a Fallen movie.

~

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Goodreads’ synopsis:

In Mary’s world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future—between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

Truth #1: I don’t do zombies. NO zombie books, no zombie movies.

Truth #2: As a general rule, I stear clear of the horror genre.

Truth #3: I read the majority of this book late at night while home alone. Bad idea.

Truth #4: In spite of truths 1-3, LOVED IT!

Carrie Ryan is amazing. She’s written a book that’s a mash-up of YA fantasy, horror, futuristic dystopia, romance, and adventure. I’ve read a few reviews that criticize Ryan for genre jumping, but for me it just worked. The writing is simple and elegant, the characters are relatable, and the story is just plain gripping. I love the main character, Mary. Love her curiosity, her tenaciousness, her drive, her ability to love. Yes, she is a flawed character, and she goes a little insane toward the end of the book, but in my mind that makes her that much more likeable.

My one complaint with FoHaT is that the end is a bit abrupt. Not even really a cliffhanger. I mean, it is a clifhanger of sorts, but that wasn’t my gripe with it. I feel like the end only answered 1 of the story’s major questions. There are SO many more that went unanswered.

Questions like:
What kind of secret knowledge did the Sisters possess?
What was in the other rooms in the wine cellar?
Where did the zombies originally come from?
Why was Gabrielle the fast one?
Who were the past fast ones?
Did Mary consummate her relationship with either Harry or Travis?

BTW, I think the hardback cover (a downcast Mary in front of a misty, gray forest) is genuis. Not a huge fan of the paperback cover, which is a photo of “Mary” (NOT the way I had imagined her–what’s with the makeup?) behind a “fence” of tree branches. And the UK/Australian cover (red flower on black background) is just WAAAY too Twilight-esq for my taste. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is not Twilight, and that’s a good thing.

~

Movie news: Seven Star Pictures has picked up the movie rights and there is a rumor flying around that an un-named star has been cast as Mary. 

~

TMI #3: City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

Goodreads’ synopsis:

To save her mother’s life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters — never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight.
As Clary uncovers more about her family’s past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadow-hunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadow-hunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he’s willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her new found powers to help save the Glass City — whatever the cost?
Love is a mortal sin and the secrets of the past prove deadly as Clary and Jace face down Valentine in the final installment of the New York Times bestselling trilogy The Mortal Instruments.

It’s a rare thing when I find a series that makes me fall more in love with the characters and story with each consecutive book. City of Glass accomplished it…I am offically head over heals for CC (who is a genius story-teller) and TMI! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, what are you waiting for? Seriously, go get a copy of City of Bones today!

[**Spoiler Alert**]

I particularly loved the messages of this final book. Standing up for what you believe in? Check. Knowing that one person (you) can make a difference? Check. Falling in love with the boy who makes you feel like a strong woman? Check. The RIGHT kind of love makes you stronger rather than weaker? Check. It’s OK for boys to cry? Check. Your real parent(s) can be whoever loves you the most, not necessarily whoever’s genes you carry? Check. And so on…

As much as I love a certain YA novel/series that shall not be named (because I’m NOT comparing it to TMI), there are some disturbing themes and relationships in that particular story. TMI, on the other hand, is a series I could hand my daughter or son without reservations.

~

Movie news: A movie adaptation of City of Bones (TMI #1) is on its way and we can look for it sometime next year.  Lily Collins has been cast as Clary and casting for Jace just closed, though no one has been named to play his character yet.  Cassandra Clare posts updates on her website as she gets them.

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