Monday, January 31, 2011

Book Review: In the Arms of Stone Angels by Jordan Dane

Title: In the Arms of Stone Angels
Author: Jordan Dane
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: 03/22/2010
ISBN: 0373210299

I finished this a few days ago but waited to post the review because I had to stop & kind of chew over what I was going to say about this book. The reason behind that is mostly due to the fact that I had quite a few criticisms with the book but still enjoyed it as a whole. If you don't want to listen to my criticisms (which I will warn you, are a little spoilerish) & just want to know if this is a good read, then I'll just say it right here: it's a good read & I do recommend it for the most part. Now on to the more full review.

Two years ago, Brenna did the unthinkable. She witnessed the aftermath of a murder and accused her only true friend--the first boy she ever loved--of being a killer.

Now sixteen, Brenna returns to Oklahoma only to discover that Isaac "White Bird" Henry isn't in juvie. The half-breed outcast is in a mental hospital, frozen in time, locked in his mind at the worst moment of his life. And when Brenna touches him, she's pulled into his hellish vision quest, seeing terrifying demons and illusions she doesn't understand.

Feeling isolated and alone, she's up against the whole town, targeted by bullying former classmates, a bigoted small town sheriff, and a tribe who refuses to help one of their own. But when Brenna realizes she's as trapped by the past as White Bird is, this time she won't turn her back on him. She's the only one who can free them both.

Even if she has to expose her secret--a "gift" she's kept hidden her whole life.

As far as the plot goes, this had a pretty intriguing hook. This does deal with spirits & ghosts, but rather than just be another "girl sees ghosts & does some sleuthing" type of book, Dane tried to bring in elements of Native American mysticism & work slightly out of the box while still stick to the tried & true trope. (Not that there's anything wrong with the trope- being common does not equal being bad.) This part works out fairly well & Brenna's a nice spunky enough heroine in that she refuses to give up despite a lot of obstacles in her path.

That's where some of my spoiler criticisms come in. A few of the obstacles were far too underdeveloped. After turning in her friend & moving to another state, Brenna supposedly takes up cutting. This is a very huge thing, yet in the book it's very suddenly brought up & very suddenly dropped. We're pretty much given no hint that Brenna does this earlier in the book & after burying her cutting blade, that's really where the mention of the cutting stops. It's not brought up again later, something that I really found hard to believe- especially since Brenna's been given such a hard time by so many people in the town. I would have been happy with a few sentences sprinkled here & there about how Brenna had the temptation to cut or maybe more harassment by the local mean teens about it, but that's not here. For that matter, the way the local bullies discover that Brenna cuts is a pretty traumatic event. I'm not going to list what happened during or immediately after the event, but needless to say it's something that would cause many to curl up into a tiny ball & Brenna bounces back from it a little too quickly & cleanly. I also couldn't help but wish that we'd gotten a little more description about how Brenna learned about her abilities & how she'd dealt with them during her time away- it'd have made her cutting have more of an impact & given us more of an insight into her character.

Elements like these were woefully underdeveloped while other parts such as the Native American elements & her interactions with White Bird are far more fleshed out. It just made for a somewhat uneven reading experience.

I don't want you to think that this was a bad read, though. Despite my criticisms I managed to speed through the book pretty quickly & found it an addictive & easy read. It's something that I'd definitely recommend for you to read, but I'd probably suggest checking it out from the library or borrowing a friend's copy to glance through first. It's no Soul Screamers but it's still well worth reading.

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Love Like a Dog: How to help rescue our furry friends!

Hi all! This blog comes to you from a different angle today- after reading the book Love Like a Dog (which is awesome & you need to read it, BTW), I couldn't help but wonder what I could do to help out.

I've found that an incredibly easy to help out is just by spreading the word about animal rescue & letting people know that if you know of any sort of animal abuse, there's all sorts of ways you can let the authorities know. All of them are willing to work with you, even if you are afraid to give them your name!

SPCA International is a great place to start off, with this link here (ASPCA, the American branch) listing many ways for you to report any animal cruelties you witness!

Anne Calcagno (author of Love Like a Dog) is a staunch defender of animal rights & is always finding ways to help fight against forms of animal cruelty such as dog fighting. Whether it's participating in local fundraisers or donating her time, books, or money, she always tries to find ways she can help.

If you are part of a local animal rescue group that takes in large or bully breeds, Anne wants you to not only give you a huge pat on the back (you deserve it!) but also donate copies of her book to help with fundraising purposes. You can contact her at anne (at) if you have any questions.

For those who have rescued an animal, she also wants your stories so she can post them on her blog & give you the recognition you deserve for helping out our furry friends! Contact her at lovelikeadogstories (at) to have your story told!

If you're just curious about the book & want to use it for your book group, you can contact her for group discounts. (How cool would it be for your book group to read this book, then work together to help out your local animal rescue or shelter?)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Book Review: The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa

Title: The Iron Queen (Iron Fey #3)
Author: Julie Kagawa
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: 01/25/2011
ISBN: 0373210183

This is not an ending. I just want to say this straight out at the beginning of this review. While this book does bring an end to a trilogy, there's still lots of story left to tell & Kagawa is going to be continuing it in the next book in the series, The Iron Knight. I honestly can't wait for that one because this one (Iron Queen) was so awesome.

My name is Meghan Chase.

I thought it was over. That my time with the fey, the impossible choices I had to make, the sacrifices of those I loved, was behind me. But a storm is approaching, an army of Iron fey that will drag me back, kicking and screaming. Drag me away from the banished prince who's sworn to stand by my side. Drag me into the core of conflict so powerful, I'm not sure anyone can survive it.

This time, there will be no turning back.

Words cannot say how cool this book was. Harlequin seems to have a great nose for talent & Kagawa is no exception. Lots of things happen in this battle- we finally get the huge drag out battle between the seasonal & iron fey. We get to see more of Meghan's non-bio father. There's more development in the Ash/Meghan relationship. And of course, there's more Grimalkin- my favorite character in the series. (Note to Kagawa if she somehow finds this review- I want a spin off novel or series following him around!)

I'll give you fair warning that this ending will be both surprising & not surprising to you. I expected a lot of what happened at the end, but some of the stuff took me by surprise. I actually liked how it ended but I know that there will be some who won't, so hopefully me posting this non-spoiler spoiler alert will prepare some people for the ending of this book. An ending that was sort of bittersweet. (Now I know I'm being way too spoilery!)

If you've read the previous two books then you have to read this one. I'll warn you though, it'll only make you that much keener to read the next book in the series!

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Funnies: YA book cover generator (and other fake book covers)

While the first part of this post isn't a laugh out loud funny thing, part of today's funny is sure to be entertaining. Ever want to write a YA novel but couldn't get past the all important task of the cover? This is for you then.

While this takes up several steps, 100 Scope Notes posted steps on how to make a fake YA book cover. Here's mine:

The second part to this blog post also deals with fake book covers, but these are obviously fake. (Although coming from is pretty much an obvious.) These are the 40 Most Inappropriate Book Covers. I'm not posting all of them (would be too long), so definitely check out the full list here: 40 Most Inappropriate Book Covers Just to warn you, these covers are very NSFW & if you're easily offended you might want to skip the link. (I'm posting the safest one here.)

This last one I pulled from a random website, but unfortunately I didn't remember to link to the blog. (So if you recognize this from your blog, I'm really sorry! Please post a comment below so I can give you proper credit!)

Monday, January 24, 2011

January Giveaway: 10th Anniversary by James Patterson

Hi all! It's time again for another book giveaway!

This time I'm excited to give away an advance reader's copy of the upcoming 10th book in the Women's Murder Club series, 10th Anniversary!

For every secret

Detective Lindsay Boxer's long-awaited wedding celebration becomes a distant memory when she is called to investigate a horrendous crime: a badly injured teenage girl is left for dead, and her newborn baby is nowhere to be found. Lindsay discovers that not only is there no trace of the criminals--but that the victim may be keeping secrets as well.

For every lie

At the same time, Assistant District Attorney Yuki Castellano is prosecuting the biggest case of her life--a woman who has been accused of murdering her husband in front of her two young children. Yuki's career rests on a guilty verdict, so when Lindsay finds evidence that could save the defendant, she is forced to choose. Should she trust her best friend or follow her instinct?

There's a different way to die

Lindsay's every move is watched by her new boss, Lieutenant Jackson Brady, and when the pressure to find the baby begins interfering with her new marriage to Joe, she wonders if she'll ever be able to start a family. With James Patterson's white-hot speed and unquenchable action, 10th Anniversary is the most deliciously chilling Women's Murder Club book ever.

Since I'm only giving away one book this month, there's two ways to enter:

Following me on my blog gives you one entry.
Posting in the linky list below gives you another entry.

The contest will be a week long & at the end of it I'll run this through one of those randomizer website thingies (gee, I'm so technological sounding there) in order to pick a winner! I'll then try to contact the winner through either their e-mail address (if the winner is chosen through the linky list) or through this blog. If the winner doesn't contact me back within a week after the contest's end, I'll choose another winner to get the book instead.

Good luck!

Additional: I forgot to mention that the contest ends at midnight on 02/01/2011!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday Funnies: Hyperbole & a Half

Hi all! Today's Friday funny is about another blog I've come across, one that makes me laugh my butt off. I'm sure many of you guys have already heard of this site, but if you haven't then you're in for a treat. It's called Hyperbole and a Half.

The blog is run by a girl who blogs about occurrences in her life (past & present) & uses illustrations to further her point. I don't know if all of the stories are true or if they're stretched a little to make them funnier, but the most important part of everything is that the stories are funny & entertaining.

My personal favorite has to be the one called "How a Fish Almost Destroyed My Childhood". I'm stealing a pic from her site in order to show you what to expect: (all pics are property of the artist)

Needless to say, you need to read this blog.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Catching up!

Hi all! I'm sorry for the length between postings! I decided to try to catch up on my reading for reviews, which ended up being more books than I'd realized. I also didn't realize that for some of them I'd have to read previous books- it didn't really hit me until I actually queued them in my 'currently reading' section in Goodreads. If you're curious as to what I'm currently reading, I've got two biggies that I'm trying to get through right now. I'll admit that one of them is not my favored reading style, but is pretty readable- Pirates & Politics by Joeseph Rinaldo.

It's a political thriller, which is sort of out of my normal scope, but is pretty decent. I think it'll be a great read for those of you who like the Grisham-esque stuff. (If you're curious, click on the picture- it'll take you to the goodreads page.)

I'm also working my way through the Iron Fey series, which is pretty darn good. I'm trying to be good & work off all of my current pile since my school semester started back up again & I want to have a clean slate before piling on more books. Strangely enough, I've found that I do more reading when school is in session. It's probably because of the wait inbetween classes. It's kind of become my New Year's resolution, not letting my pile of review books get too big. (These are the books that people have either asked me specifically to review or I've asked for in exchange for a review.)

Well, enough of my prattling! Hopefully everyone is doing well & you'll all find some great stuff to read this year!

Book Review: Glimmerglass by Jenna Black

Title: Glimmerglass (Faeriewalker #1)
Author: Jenna Black
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: 03/25/10
ISBN: 0312575939

On first glance this book might just seem to be more of the same stuff that's been coming out ever since Melissa Marr & Holly Black started becoming the golden standard of urban fantasy faerie stories. (I know I always say that, but it's true- they're what you want your books to be like, at least in my opinion.) Black does one thing with this book that I have to say I sort of like: none of the characters are the type you instantly like. Everyone's shades of grey here- there's no definite black or white.

It’s all she’s ever wanted to be, but it couldn’t be further from her grasp…

Dana Hathaway doesn’t know it yet, but she’s in big trouble. When her alcoholic mom shows up at her voice recital drunk, again, Dana decides she’s had enough and runs away to find her mysterious father in Avalon: the only place on Earth where the regular, everyday world and the captivating, magical world of Faerie intersect. But from the moment Dana sets foot in Avalon, everything goes wrong, for it turns out she isn't just an ordinary teenage girl—she's a Faeriewalker, a rare individual who can travel between both worlds, and the only person who can bring magic into the human world and technology into Faerie.

Soon, Dana finds herself tangled up in a cutthroat game of Fae politics. Someone's trying to kill her, and everyone seems to want something from her, from her newfound friends and family to Ethan, the hot Fae guy Dana figures she’ll never have a chance with… until she does. Caught between two worlds, Dana isn’t sure where she’ll ever fit in and who can be trusted, not to mention if her world will ever be normal again...

Right off the bat, I'm going to be honest & say that this isn't the deepest of books. Much of the plot involves Dana getting yanked from one location to another with everyone telling her it's "for her own safety". I kind of got irritated at that because here's a location that Black goes out of her way to say is beautiful & intricate, but we get to see very little of it. Even when Dana has one of her rare opportunities to walk about freely, there's very little description of this world or the people in it. I know there's more books yet to come, but it's very frustrating that it isn't here in the first book.

However, the book is incredibly easy to read & readers will find themselves quickly falling under Black's spell. There are also two different guys who are potential love interests for Dana & while one of them is (in my opinion) incredibly sleazy, the guy is interesting enough to keep reading about. That brings me to something I want to mention- that none of the characters are particularly likable. Just about everyone has something wrong with them to where many readers might find themselves saying something disparaging about them. These will be things such as Dana being an idiot (she does call herself out on it later, though), Ethan being a sleaze ball in a bucket of slime (he better not end up with Dana...), & so on. Everyone is cast in shades of grey, which is nice- lots of books tend to identify one side as good, one as bad, & don't really change that overly much. Black doesn't do that here. This does have some downfalls as it makes the villain a little less imposing later on in the book, though.

Overall this isn't a bad book. It's not going to make it onto my "absolutely most favorite series" list, but it's something that I wouldn't mind reading the next book of.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Book Review: Love Like a Dog by Anne Calcagno

Title: Love Like A Dog
Author: Anne Calcagno
Publisher: CreateSpace
Release Date: 06/10/2010
ISBN: 1452834989

Once in a while you'll read a book that you just breeze right on through, something that you can't stop reading because it's so addicting. This is one of those books & I'm honestly surprised that this is only released through CreateSpace, Amazon's self-publishing branch. This is a book that not only deserves to be picked up by a major house but also deserves to be on the bestseller lists.

This debut novel is a page-turning drama about familial devotion. Set in contemporary Chicago, it is the harrowing story of Dirk, a young motherless man starved for his self-centered father's approval. A rescued pit bull alters their lives irrevocably, embroiling them in the terrible misuses to which the breed is prey. As Dirk's father becomes entangled in criminal activity, Dirk must quickly come to terms with a series of legal and moral crises and determine for himself what it truly means to be a man.

This book was just awesome & I honestly can't say enough great things about it. I'm a sucker for stories where dogs are rescued or saved from the streets & I got both of these in this book. The characters in this book are wonderfully fleshed out, causing you (the reader) to really understand how events in the book unfolded & why some things happened the way they did.

You'll really root for Dirk & his best friend Bull's Eye because Calcagno really shows the loving friendship these two have for each other. She didn't make Bull's Eye into just "a dog owned by a boy"- she made him into a true companion, which is how our relationships with our animal friends really is (or at least should be). As the book comes to its conclusion you'll be ripping through the pages at lightening speed to find out exactly what happens- it's just that good.

If you love books about dogs, books about true strength & heroics, or just great books in general, you need to read this book. Not should, NEED.

(Reader copy provided by author.)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Check out this blog: Candy Apples

I recently discovered this blog (Candy Apples) while I was looking around for interesting photos on the net. (Hey, it's fun to see what you can find!) It's written by a 21 year old university student named Ai that's living in Tokyo.

In any case, I stumbled across the Christmas entry for her blog, which goes into detail about Okonomiyaki & Japanese Christmas cake. Yummy stuff.

The blog isn't about books, but about her life in general & I found it pretty interesting to see what life was like for her in Japan. (Especially since she's in Tokyo, one of the bigger cities of the country.) Ai takes lots of pictures, so it's fascinating to see what might show up next! (I stole one of her images just so I could show you the quality of her photographs as well as the yumminess of the dessert!)

She's got a great writing style, so I wanted to promote her blog here!

Monday, January 10, 2011

It's a good time for book adaptations!

Hi all!

I just wanted to gush about two upcoming adaptations that are highly anticipated. One is Game of Thrones, a historical high fantasy that's heavy on the plot as well as full of awesome.

It's full of just about everything- love, hate, revenge, power plays... it's even got dragons! (Well, not in the first season maybe, but soon in the series!) The only drawback is that the author hasn't finished the series, but hopefully the April release date for the HBO series will help speed him along!

The other one is a book that I've yet to read, Hunger Games. This movie adaptation pits teenagers against each other, something that those familiar with the Japanese book/movie/manga Battle Royale will be highly familiar with. It's an intriguing idea & I'm really looking forward to seeing it!

Book Review: The Order of Ethyrea by Danica Fontaine

The Order of Ethyrea: Code of the Bretheren
Author: Danica Fontaine
Publisher: Old Line Publishing, LLC
Release Date: 07/28/2010
ISBN: 0984614311

Have you ever had that book where you liked it, but you felt it fell short of its potential a little? A book that kind of reminded you of the awkward teenager that you knew would grow up to be President? If so, then you'll understand how I felt while I was reading this book.

Outside of the astral planes that parallel fate and the undead, lies a glorious realm known only as Ethyrea. This majestic land is home to a brave and courageous race of mystic elemental warriors known for their unmatched mastery of sorcery and might. Once a world filled with peace and prosperity, Ethyrea is besieged by an evil queen and her army of nightmares. The Royal Houses of the land of Ethyrea will send their finest warriors to undertake a perilous quest that will lead into a long, destroyed realm of horrors. There is an honor amongst these Noble Knights....a code. They are the "Brethren." Sweeping in like a fog that rolls across as myst on the cold, barren moorlands that once thrived with light, they struggle to lead the charge out of the crimson darkness. Destined to overthrow those that threaten their way of life, they must track down the pieces of remembrance and reunite the armor with its lost heir. Ethyrea; a powerful realm that has crossed the plane of the undead and chances across time and space, time and time again. Only the strongest of hearts, and Knights most noble of character dare face the unknown hardships and untold challenges of a world forgotten. Will the Brethren realign fate and reunite the worlds that lay beyond the borders of known existence? Are you of the Brethren?

The plot in this book is interesting & there's a rich world here to be explored. There's a wide cast of characters as well as a slew of powers to be used & revealed. Fontaine does utilize the idea of lovers doomed to be forever without each other (an often used idea), but she manages to put an interesting spin on it that keeps it fresh.

The only difficulty? The book jumps a little too quickly into action & as such, we're left without any really solid definitions of the characters or the world, which is a pity. As said above, there's a rich world here waiting to be explored & we get to glimpse so little of it before the book moves into another action filled scene or another talk that keeps the plot moving at its breakneck pace.

This is definitely a series to watch, but this just needed a little more time to simmer & be fleshed out. I would recommend this as a nice followup to some of the YA fantasy series out there, though. There's so much promise here that I just know this series is going to be big. It needs a little work, but trust me- once you pick up this book you'll see why I think it's got a lot of potential to it.

(Reader Copy provided by author)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Book Review: Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer by Maureen McGowan

Title: Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer
Author: Maureen McGowan
Publisher: Silver Dolphin Books
Release Date: 04/01/2011
ISBN: 1607102560

Remember those old "Pick Your Path" books from the 90s & before? Those were awesome, right? This book manages to bring back some of that old retro feel in a story that's following the trend of "classic story with supernatural beasties".

In this thrilling story full of adventure and romance, Sleeping Beauty is more than just a lonely princess waiting for her prince—she's a brave, tenacious girl who never backs down from a challenge. With vampire-slaying talents that she practices in secret, Sleeping Beauty puts her courage to the test in the dark of night, fighting evil as she searches for a way to break the spell that has cut her off from her family. In a special twist, readers have the opportunity to make key decisions for Sleeping Beauty and decide where she goes next—but no matter the choice; the result is a story unlike any fairy tale you've ever read!
Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer is an entirely new type of fairy tale–one that will keep today's kids guessing and offer them hours of magical fun.

I'll admit, the story isn't as inspired as some of the other stuff out there but then, a huge chunk of the appeal is being able to make your own choices & see what happens. I'll admit, I kind of cheated with this, searching to see which ending I liked the most. (Hey- I'm keeping a tradition alive! I did this with the older books too!) If you're curious about the other paths, there's a list in the back where you can go through all of the various different story paths. Unfortunately no matter what you choose, you always get the same ending (according to the answer key). That's a little bit disappointing since part of the fun of the older books was being able to get drastically different endings or even bad ones.

Even so, Lucette makes for a perky little heroine & this is a decent book for the most part. It's not going to take the place of Melissa Marr or Seth Grahame-Smith, but then it really doesn't try to. It's sure to gain a pretty good audience & I can see a friend of mine really getting into the idea of being able to interact with the book more than some of the other series she's got.

(ARC provided by NetGalley)

Book Review: A Shore Thing by Snooki

Title: A Shore Thing
Author: Snooki
Publisher: Gallery
Release Date: 01/04/2011
ISBN: 1451623747

When I heard that Snooki wrote a book, I couldn't help but think "Gee, I didn't know they made enough crayons to write a book with." Of course I had to check it out, even though I got both horribly teased & lectured by various coworkers. (One actually gave me a half hour lecture on how Snooki shames the Italian-American population. She was very intense.)

The plotline? Well... with any other person I'd say that it was a parody of Jersey Shore expectations & old beach flicks. I mean, one of the characters *is* named Frankie, after all. Maybe the writing team (yes, this was ghostwritten) turned it into a parody? It's hard to take this book seriously with some of the stuff that goes on in it. Dry humping a guy after 1 drink? Mother/daughter urine bonding? Tripping over a shark? A date that ends with one person whizzing on the other's foot? (OK, so that was because of a jellyfish sting, but still...) It's really awful. Like "feel your IQ decrease about 20 points" awful. It's painfully obvious that the only reason this was published was due to Snooki's infamy. And no, Gia teaching everyone to do some weird dry humping tree hug dance movie doesn't really redeem the book much.

No seriously, the plot of this was bad. It was not only full of stereotypes & awkward scenes, but the plot was paper thin. It's like Crossroads, only Snooki doesn't sing. (Yet.) I can't fault the ghostwriter for this- you can only do so much with what you're given. (Maybe we should take up a collection to help with the mental breakdown she might've had while collaborating.) There isn't a lot of imagination here, what with the thinly veiled Snooki self-insert.

Yet somehow the book still has a large amount of entertainment value. True, it's not on purpose but it was honestly fun to regale my coworkers with the escapades of Gia (the thinly veiled Snooki self-insert) & her cousin Bella. That brings me to another thing that made the book so funny. Two of the characters are named Bella & Edward, making it near impossible to read the book without imagining the famous Twilight couple. There's also someone called Bender, which makes me think of the Futurama robot. It makes the scenes a little more tolerable & a lot funnier.

Is this a must buy? Nah. I'd recommend it as a library rental, though. In the end I can't really dislike this book enough to give it 1 star. I might not really watch Jersey Shore, but I know enough about it & Snooki to the point where I know not to have expected Tolstoy or even something on par with the Hillary Duff book.

Although if we're lucky, Snooki won't put out a new book. Unfortunately knowing MTV, we'll probably soon have to suffer through a movie adaptation of this book sometime in the future.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Shore Thing tweet party

Now I have the book in hand & am tweeting as I read it. I'll probably take a break in about an hour so I can get some sleep for tonight (where I'll continue tweeting).

So far the book is about what I expected it to be. Not particularly good, even with a ghostwriter helping out. But... is this really supposed to be good or did Team Snooki deliberately make this book horrible in order to feed into people's expectations?

Who knows? Either way, this book is hilarious in a "so bad it's good" sort of way.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Book Review: 666 Park Avenue by Gabriella Pierce

Title: 666 Park Avenue
Author: Gabriella Pierce
Publisher: Avon A
Release Date: 02/01/2011

If The Devil Wears Prada married Rosemary's Baby and had their way with Cate Tiernan's Sweep series, then I think the resulting offspring would probably come out a little bit like this.

What if your mother-in-law turned out to be an evil, cold-blooded witch . . . literally?

Ever since fabulously wealthy Malcolm Doran walked into her life and swept her off her feet, fledgling architect Jane Boyle has been living a fairy tale. When he proposes with a stunning diamond to seal the deal, Jane can't believe her incredible luck and decides to leave her Paris-based job to make a new start with Malcolm in New York.

But when Malcolm introduces Jane to the esteemed Doran clan, one of Manhattan's most feared and revered families, Jane's fairy tale takes a darker turn. Soon everything she thought she knew about the world—and herself—is upended. Now Jane must struggle with newfound magical abilities and the threat of those who will stop at nothing to get them.

Before I get started with my review, I have to stress that this is more chick lit than urban fantasy. To be honest, this is really more of a new genre- not quite chick lit but not quite urban fantasy or supernatural/horror thriller. It doesn't even really fit into the paranormal romance genre either. As such, there's going to be a few who will probably be a little weirded out by this book. That's OK as long as they don't completely dismiss it because this book is a very easy & interesting read.

The premise of the book (boy meets girl then discovers wicked mother in law) isn't very new, nor is the addition of magic, yet Pierce does a pretty good job of mixing it all into something that's a little new. Jane's a little bit of an average girl in the heroine category, but she's got gumption. Despite being overwhelmed by everything, she refuses to play the victim but doesn't go the "spunky/happy/gritty" route that other heroines tend to be in magic related fiction. Readers will really love the description of magic in this world, but some might get frustrated that we only get to see a brief glimpse of it here.

Some might get a little discouraged that much of the action doesn't really happen until the later part of the book or that there's not a huge amount of chemistry between Jane & her fiancee. Stick with it guys- there's a reason for the chemistry & while Jane does take a while to really get rolling with her magic, it does help make it a little more realistic. (After all, the average person would probably take that long to get started, being so overwhelmed.) When the stuff does start going down, I promise that you'll be hooked.

This is definitely a first novel, but Pierce already has an easy style of writing that will be appealing to many & there's room for more novels in this series (please?), so we're sure to see some top notch writing in the next book in the series. (Pretty please?)

(ARC provided by NetGalley)

Book Review: Vesper by Jeff Sampson

Vesper (Vesper#1)
Author: Jeff Sampson
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: 01/25/2011
ISBN: 0061992763

Once in a while you'll come across a book that really keeps you reading. Not your average page turner, but something that really excites you & keeps you reading. This is one of those books.

Emily Webb is a geek. And she’s happy that way. Content hiding under hoodies and curling up to watch old horror flicks, she’s never been the kind of girl who sneaks out for midnight parties. And she’s definitely
not the kind of girl who starts fights or flirts with other girls’ boyfriends. Until one night Emily finds herself doing exactly that . . . the same night one of her classmates—also named Emily—is found mysteriously murdered.

The thing is, Emily doesn’t know why she’s doing any of this. By day, she’s the same old boring Emily, but by night, she turns into a thrill seeker. With every nightfall, Emily gets wilder until it’s no longer just her personality that changes. Her body can do things it never could before: Emily is now strong, fast, and utterly fearless. And soon Emily realizes that she’s not just coming out of her shell . . . there’s something much bigger going on. Is she bewitched by the soul of the other, murdered Emily? Or is Emily Webb becoming something else entirely— something not human?

As Emily hunts for answers, she finds out that she’s not the only one this is happening to—some of her classmates are changing as well. Who is turning these teens into monsters—and how many people will they kill to get what they want?

Where to start? First off, I love how realistic the characters are. Emily doesn't have some unrealistic quirk to her & while she's definitely not one of the "beautiful people" she's not the specific target of anyone's ridicule. (Her friend Megan did have that dubious honor at one point in her past, though.) She could literally be one of any thousands of average teenage girls out there. That's what makes her nocturnal changes into the wild child Emily all that more potent. Another thing worth crowing about is that there's no romance in this book. Sure, Emily has hormones but those take a back seat to her fright over how she's been acting & how it's been impacting her daytime life. Again, another touch of realism. (There will probably be romance in the next book, though.)

The only thing about it I could say kept me from enjoying it as much as I'd like is that when we DO discover what's going on with Emily, it kind of comes a little out of left field. Sampson does a good job of trying to blend it into the story but when the discovery is revealed it's kind of "huh... that's a surprise- doesn't entirely make sense, but I'll run with it". It's not anything that will ruin the book for you but it might make you step out of the story for a minute.

Overall this really was well worth reading & I can tell that this series is going to be pretty popular, up there with greats such as Soul Screamers & Wicked Lovely.

(ARC provided by Amazon Vine)

Dear merciful literary muses, I have to read Snooki's new book...

I know, I know... there's far better things for me to read. Like the phonebook. Or the directions to my local insane asylum. However, from the excerpts I've read on the internet (like this one here) I've come to the conclusion that I must read this & poke fun at it.

If someone posts later that I've clawed my own eyes out & can never post again, this is probably the reason why.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Book Review: Can You Get Hooked on Lip Balm? by Perry Romanowski

Title: Can You Get Hooked on Lip Balm?
Author: Perry Romanowski
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: 02/15/2011
ISBN: 0373892349

My friends will all vouch for me when I say that I'm not all that much of a fashionista or into makeup. That's why I usually am not interested in some of the must have tomes such as Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me. I do, however, have an interest in lip balm & that's what ultimately made me curious about this book. (Much like Napoleon Dynamite, my lips chap "real bad" & I'm always on the lookout for awesome lip balm.)

Why does my shampoo stop working?
Are my cosmetics poisoning me?
What does hypoallergenic mean?
Are organic products better?

Every day thousands of people turn to the scientists at the popular blog THEBEAUTYBRAINS.COM for answers to their most pressing beauty questions. In Can You Get Hooked on Lip Balm? * you’ll learn how cosmetic products work, what advertising claims actually mean, and how to make smarter buying decisions.

• Salon products are not necessarily better than products you can buy in the store.
• Some of the most expensive cosmetics are made by the same companies that make the less expensive brands, and often the same formulas are used in both.
• You do not need to spend hundreds of dollars to look and feel good.

• 4 ways to tell if your cosmetic has expired
• 5 home beauty gadgets that really work
• 4 easy tips to longer, stronger nails
• and much, much more!
* You can! See chapter 6.

The book covers a wide variety of subjects (one of which is the titular lip balm question), which runs from hair care to makeup to pore strips. While I'll admit that some of the information such as the listing of ingredients occasionally went over my head (some of them I'd never heard of before & had no idea what they were), the questions & answers in the book were always interesting to read. Even better, there's always a 'Bottom Line' at the end of each question that gives a brief synopsis & say-so for the ones that aren't as savvy on all of the lingo unleashed in the answer.

Is this a must buy? Well... maybe not for everyone. People who are intrigued by what goes on in your personal care items will want it, as will those who are interested in going into the beauty industry. Those who are just getting into makeup & such will find it helpful. Everyone else might not be swayed by it, but I've no doubt that they'll find it interesting enough for at least one read. This was just a really easy book to read, so there's no fear of getting lost in professional jargon.

(ARC provided by NetGalley)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Book Review: Aztec Gold by Caridad Piñeiro

Title: Aztec Gold
Author: Caridad Piñeiro
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: 01/03/2011

Sometimes you get those stories that really work well in novella format, despite the large amount of detail & plot that's held within it. This book is one of those tales.

Six months ago, Cynthia Guerrera's lover and fellow archaeologist Rafael Santiago trekked into the Mexican jungle in search of one of the fabled Cities of Gold—and never emerged. Guilty over their parting, Cynthia won't rest until she knows what happened. When the discovery of a conquistador's journal corroborates Rafe's intended path, Cynthia is determined to finally leave the safety of the museum to rescue him, despite the conquistador's dire warnings, and her own traumatic past.

Arriving at a remote village deep in the jungle, Cynthia is both elated and angered to find Rafe alive. But he is far from well, having watched his team be decimated by a bloodthirsty demon-goddess. When Rafe reveals he has been gifted with supernatural powers—powers he plans to use to kill the beast and save his brother, still held captive in the temple—Cynthia must face her own inner demons to fight alongside the man she loves.

One of the best things about this story was the detail that Piñeiro put into it. She really put in her fair share of research when it came to both the location as well as the mythology in this tale. It's lovingly poured over & the history of the demon-goddess is incredibly well done. Also something to crow about are the love scenes between Cynthia & Rafe. With the story being so short & the two of them being apart for a good chunk of the first half, it's very important to try to show their chemistry, which I believe that the author did.

Some readers, however, might feel that the story is a bit slow to start off. My advice is to keep going- the story really begins to shine once Cynthia leaves to find Rafe. I will admit that I wish there had been a little more detail as far as Rafe's powers go (maybe a bit more about him gaining them), but the length of this story really does work well. Any more & it would lose the edge that it has.

The book has a definite conclusion, but there's enough here for a sequel & I'll admit, I'm curious about it. (Especially since it could include Machu Picchu in some way, a place that has more than its own fair share of mystery surrounding it.)

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Win a copy of The Paris Secret by Angela Henry!

Hey guys- want to win a copy of The Paris Secret by Angela Henry?

The answer is simple: go click on the image above & it'll send you to the author's personal blog. All you have to do is comment on that blog & you're entered in the drawing! Easy peasy.

If you're curious as to what the book is about, here's the synopsis:

Less than twenty-four hours after fleeing to Paris, Maya Sinclair is the prime suspect in a brutal murder—and targeted by the real killer. When she's viciously attacked in the gardens of Versailles, Maya barely escapes with her life thanks to sexy French journalist Simon Girard.

Simon has been investigating the mysterious death of his brother, an art forger with ties to the woman Maya is suspected of killing. Still healing from heartbreak of his own, Simon reluctantly joins forces with Maya, who has awakened feelings within him he thought long dead.

Their search for answers uncovers the existence of a secret society, and puts them on a quest to find a missing crucifix rumored to hold the key to everlasting life. Together, Maya and Simon race through Paris one step ahead of a killer who will do anything to ensure some secrets remain buried forever...