Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Year of Mistaken Discoveries

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

For 2014, I wanted to try posting some more memes so I'm planning to participate in at least a few WoWs a month, continuing with today's pick:

Year of Mistaken Discoveries by Eileen Cook
Published by Simon Pulse
Releases February 25, 2014
Friendship is a bond stronger than secrets in this novel from the author of The Almost Truth and Unraveling Isobel.

As first graders, Avery and Nora bonded over a special trait they shared: they were both adopted.

Years later, Avery is smart, popular, and on the cheerleading squad, while Nora spends her time on the fringes of school society, wearing black, reading esoteric poetry, and listening to obscure music. They never interact...until the night Nora approaches Avery at a party, saying it's urgent. She tells Avery that she thought she found her birth mom; but it turned out to be a cruel lie. Avery feels for Nora, but returns to her friends at the party.

Then Avery learns that Nora overdosed on pills. Left to cope with Nora's loss and questioning her own actions, Avery decides to honor her friend by launching a search for her own birth mother. Aided by Brody, a friend of Nora's who is also looking for a way to respect Nora's legacy, Avery embarks on an emotional quest. But what she's really seeking might go far deeper than just genetics...
I love YA contemporary (and I feel like almost all of my WOW posts will highlight a book from that category) and I am a big fan of stories with a focus on female friendship (rather than a romance) even though this might not be the friendliest. Adoption has been a constant theme in YA stories lately I feel so I'm interested to see what new twist this book might bring. I have a copy downloaded through Edelweiss so will post a review closer to that date. Have you heard of this one? Is it something you'd want to read?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott Giveaway

At the end of last year, I had the pleasure of reading the latest release from beloved author Elizabeth Scott titled Heartbeat. I was so impressed with this title that I decided to host a giveaway of it. Per, this title releases today January 28. However The Book Depository is currently listing a release date of February 28. Therefore this will be a preorder for an international winner while I will go through Amazon for a US winner.
1. There will be 1 winner, who must have a mailing address in a country where Book Depository ships (or it will be through Amazon if US). So this contest is international :)
2. You must be 13 years of age or older or use parental information to enter.
3. To enter, you must merely leave your email; there are extra optional entries for following, tweeting, and commenting
4. Contest ends February 11 at midnight, EST per Rafflecopter standards
5. Winner will be contacted via email by February 13 and will have 48 hours to respond with book selection and address or else I will move on to the next person. I pledge to keep your address confidential and to delete it as soon as I have shipped your book.
6. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or email me at Thanks for celebrating with me :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, January 27, 2014

ARC Review: Grandmaster

by David Klass
4/5 stars
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014
227 pages
YA Contemporary
Scheduled to release February 25

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Whew-who would have thought the world of chess could be so traumatizing and draining? I sure didn't when I picked up this book. Last week I featured Grandmaster in my Waiting on Wednesday post highlighting its unique focus on chess, something I don't remember seeing covered in a YA title before.

The plot is very simple. Daniel is a newbie in chess club who is recruited to participate at an elite Father-Son tournament with the senior captains because his father Morris is a grandmaster, completely unbeknownst to Daniel himself. The pair attends, digging up repressed memories and regrets while making new memories and bonding with each other.

As I said, I was amazed by how stressful chess can apparently be. The members of each team play five games with their rank constantly being assessed and updated, fluctuating every time as the mighty and overconfident fall and the humble and clever prevail. Daniel, despite being a virtual newbie, manages to eke out a few wins but the stress his father pushes himself through overshadows all. This was what I found so striking. It seems as if sitting and concentrating so intently are far more dangerous than I would have assumed, leading to neurotic breaks and seriously unhappy lives. Morris got out as a child and hid that side of himself from his wife, searching for a peaceful life with a spouse, children, and a steady predictable income. Playing these games against those eager for blood pushes him almost past the breaking point.

Though the father's dark journey plays an important role, it is counterbalanced by some lighter teenage moments. Daniel is a freshman and supremely awkward yet he manages to navigate a new relationship while the two older boys have challenging relationships with their own demanding fathers contrasting with Morris' more low-key approach. I'll admit that I preferred these lighter moments needing them to make it through Morris' demons.

Overall: An intriguing psychological novel that has several unique touches setting it apart from other titles on the shelf: the strong father-son relationship, a relatively compressed time frame as we cover just a weekend, and of course the chess angle. I would probably recommend this solely to fans of contemporary titles rather than those who lean more toward fantasy.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ramblings and the Week to Come 26JAN14

Work is ramping up and I continue to be distracted and thus having difficulty reading outside of work. So this might end up being a pretty quiet week on the blog. However I did have the chance to see another Best Picture nominee, The Wolf of Wall Street. Going in to it, I was very nervous about its running time, listed as 2 hour and 59 minutes. But I thought the pacing was well-done and I was surprised by how many comedic bits there were. While Leonardo DiCaprio carries the bulk of the film and Jonah Hill has a sizable supporting role, I was most impressed by smaller roles from Matthew McConaughey and Kyle Chandler (Dillon Forever!) as well as Margot Robbie formerly of "Pan Am." It is definitely an R-rated movie with an excess of drugs, nudity, and cursing so be aware if that's not your kind of film.

I'm also really excited for the Grammys tonight. That tends to be my least favorite of the major award shows but right now it's looking like it might have some performances I'll really enjoy. There is a rumor that Beyonce and Jay-Z will open with "Drunk in Love," a song with which I'm obsessed. As for the awards themselves, I am rooting for Taylor Swift as always and am excited about the possibility that she'll be performing "All Too Well," the standout from her Red Tour.

Week to Come:
Grandmaster review
Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott giveaway
Waiting on Wednesday post-on what am I waiting this week?

And that's it! What's going on with you?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Anyone But You

by Kim Askew and Amy Helmes
4/5 stars
Merit Press, 2014
222 pages
YA Contemporary Retelling

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Last year I had the pleasure of reviewing the first two books in the Twisted Lit series, Tempestuous and Exposure, which tackled Shakespeare's plays "The Tempest" and "Macbeth" respectively. They made me wish I was more familiar with the source material so I was pleased that this third book was inspired by "Romeo and Juliet" because that is one play I know very well and I feel like the opposing feuds can translate into a modern context well.

As I suspected, the antipathy between the two families (rendered here as the Caputos and the Montes) was strong and fairly popped off the page. However in this retelling, we get a peek at the origin of the feud in alternating flashback chapters. Personally I found those historical chapters more engaging than the contemporary love story-we get a peek at a World's Fair, Pearl Harbor, and one character manages to survive a Japanese prison camp. The origins of the feud aren't particularly engaging but the ending chapters where a participant comes to grips with his pointless anger are incredibly touching.

I found ostensible main character Gigi to be a bit dull and her romance with Roman is love at first sight with what felt like insufficient meat to justify their relationship and the drive they have to end the feud to celebrate their love openly. Maybe I would have liked it more if I hadn't been comparing it to the historical chapters, which packed more of a punch for me. The comparable Paris character is a real creep, adding a new twist to this old story and the outside confessors Gigi appeals to were incredibly appealing (I suggest Chef and Carmen are similar to Juliet's Nurse and Friar Lawrence in the original play).

What this book excelled at for me was highlighting the pointlessness of carrying a grudge. The character who does comes to regret it immensely especially the damage it has wrought on several generations. It is to be hoped that future generations can heal and bring their families together to overcome the tragic rift.

Overall: Another strong entry in the Twisted Lit series and I bet it will prove to be a popular one due to its "Romeo and Juliet" inspiration.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

ARC Review: Perfect Lies

by Kiersten White
4/5 stars
HarperTeen, 2014
232 pages
YA Paranormal Sisters
Scheduled to release February 18

Source: Received an e-ARC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Last year Mind Games won me over with its focus on a pair of sisters, its fast pace, and unusual structure. It also left me with a ton of questions that were going to require answers in this sequel in order to keep me engaged with the characters and story.

Again the sister-sister relationship is what pulled me in. As I continue to struggle with my limited attention span, it was difficult to straighten out the crazy timeline in this book (though that got simpler as more was revealed) but that connection between Fia and Annie sucks me in every time. In fact I would say that everything I like most about this book is due to that crazy connection. I'm pretty sure I relate so strongly just because I have a sister no matter how different our relationship is. I also feel pretty confident that if this relationship doesn't ring true for you, this book will be a difficult read.

Also you should definitely read Mind Games first and what you did or did not like in that book is pretty much here too. For example, the writing captures the twitchiness (for lack of a better word) of the characters and it feels like it was written in just as much of a whirlwind as Mind Games. It feels darker than White's earlier Paranormalcy trilogy due to the dark nature of the paranormal powers and how they have been directed. Furthermore there are the extremely difficult decisions the girls must face as they grapple with their "fate."

As for me, I wished for more answers to my questions and I'm not sure they were as answered as they could have been. However that killer portrayal of sisters has me hooked! Between that and the twisty timeline jumping narrative, I don't even really need anything else.

Overall: I think you will like this book if you enjoyed the first but best to avoid if not.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Grandmaster

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

For 2014, I wanted to try posting some more memes so I'm planning to participate in at least a few WoWs a month, continuing with today's pick:

Grandmaster by David Klass
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Releases February 25, 2014
Freshman Daniel Pratzer gets a chance to prove himself when the chess team invites him and his father to a weekend-long parent-child tournament. Daniel, thinking that his father is a novice, can’t understand why his teammates want so badly for them to participate. Then he finds out the truth: as a teen, his father was one of the most promising young players in America, but the pressures of the game pushed him too far, and he had to give up chess to save his own life and sanity. Now, thirty years later, Mr. Pratzer returns to the game to face down an old competitor and the same dark demons that lurk in the corners of a mind stretched by the demands of the game. Daniel was looking for acceptance—but the secrets he uncovers about his father will force him to make some surprising moves himself, in Grandmaster by David Klass.
I'm a big fan of YA contemporary stories and I think chess is fascinating to read about though I don't much like playing the game myself. I have a copy downloaded through Netgalley so will post a review closer to that date. Have you heard of this one? Is it something you'd want to read?


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

ARC Review: Uninvited

by Sophie Jordan
4/5 stars
HarperTeen, 2014
384 pages
YA Dystopia
Scheduled to release January 28

Source: Received an e-ARC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Sophie Jordan came on to my radar through her Firelight trilogy, which gave me utterly addictive writing, a fascinating dragon premise, and a swoonworthy boy named Will. So obviously I was going to be interested when I heard she had a new YA series coming soon.

At its heart is a simple premise: a kill gene has been discovered (formally known as Homicidal Tendency Syndrome (HTS)) and a test is being implemented to identify who has it in their genes. A panicked populace encourages the using of this test and soon groups are being culled from the general population as the government struggles to maintain control in cities where outraged "killers" take over.

Davy seems to be the golden girl, destined for a beautiful life of music until she is identified as possessing the kill gene and her life is radically upturned as she is sent to a public school with other "killers." Some certainly seem to fit the profile, threatening to rape and/or kill Davy on first meeting while others seem more nebbish. The first half of the book deals with Davy and her family processing (or refusing to process) this information and adjusting to the new reality. Hints of the larger world indicate that the situation is escalating, which is further reinforced by snippets of interviews, government orders, etc. that are interspersed throughout the chapters.

In the second half Davy, love interest Sean (who has his own intimidation factor) and dweeby Gil are among a select group chosen to attend a government training facility where their presumed predilection for killing will be encouraged provided it falls in line with what the leaders want. This second half ends more with a whimper than a bang, setting us up for plenty of excitement in the second book of this two-book series but not leaving me panting with suspense in the interim.

I seem to really click with Jordan's writing so it is no surprise that I read through this pretty quickly. Her background is in romance so while I wasn't initially on board with Sean as love interest (being a reader who likes nice men and skips over the intimidating bad boy), he won me over as their romance deepened. Davy is a nice enough girl, one raised with a privileged life in the suburbs that has kept her away from the worst criminal element but also one in possession of deep reserves that give her strength when everything she has ever known is ripped away from her. I would have liked to have seen more of her brother Mitchell, the only family member who doesn't recoil upon her diagnosis and who would probably like to be a part of a resistance in the second book.

For a very thoughtful review discussing some of this book's shortcomings, check out Ivy Book Bindings. Keertana brought up some excellent points about world-building that I had completely blipped over through my connection to the writing.

Monday, January 20, 2014

ARC Review: Something Real

by Heather Demetrios
3.5/5 stars
Henry Holt and Co, 2014
403 pages
YA Contemporary
Scheduled to release February 4, 2014

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I believe this book caught my attention because of its unusual synopsis which had the trademark symbol after the main character's name. What was going on with that? Then there was the fact that it looked to be exploring the psychological effects of reality shows. Though the closest I get to reality TV now is watching the mocking The Soup, for some reason I find it difficult to resist books that feature them.

In this case, Bonnie Benton has grown up in front of television cameras; in fact she was born on film, the only one of her twelve siblings to be so. She has two older siblings and the rest are younger, adopted from around the world due to her mother's desire to have a baker's dozen of children and the muscle and money of corporation MetaReel who have subsequently filmed every year of Bonnie™'s life until her thirteenth year when her suicide attempt shut production down. However it has been four years and they're restarting it to Bonnie™'s intense dislike. Her struggle to cope and escape from the hell of this filming comprises the narrative of this novel.

The book actually opens with Bonnie™incognito as Chloe tense over something as seemingly simple as getting a yearbook photo taken because of her years in the spotlight. This anxiety only increases when she discovers that the reality show is starting up again much to the delight of her mother, stepfather, fame-seeking older sister, and the younger kids. The only one who seems to understand is her beloved older brother Benton™who has his own reasons for wanting to stay off camera (underaged Benny drinks and smokes and is gay with a very much in the closet boyfriend.) Adding to her angst is a blossoming romance with Patrick, her long-time crush who she doesn't think will want to be a part of the media frenzy that is her life.

One element I thought was handled very well was the growing up as one of thirteen children. Because most of them are so young, we really only get to see Benton™, Lexie™, and Bonnie™(all seniors) express themselves and I could not name the rest of the children but the chaos of such a life is well conveyed. At one point Chloe/Bonnie™remarks that such an upbringing is excellent birth control and I must agree. I was also pleased with how Chloe and Lexie™bond and move toward rapprochement after years of tension. I guess in general I just loved the relationships between the siblings.

I also appreciated the exploration of growing up on camera (particularly apt as I just saw the People magazine about Kate Gosselin and her twin daughters-what is life going to be like for them as they get older?) I highly value my privacy (notice how I don't tend to share that much about my life? Of course I'm also pretty dull so there's that too :) and can't imagine being on camera that much in addition to having it broadcast for millions of people to see. 

In the end, I feel like I should be rating this book higher but I'm just not passionate about it. There are so many great points: beyond the aforementioned investigation into a highly relevant issue and the complex family relationships explored, there are two great romances, some strong friendships, and some plot twists. But I am not left with the urge to push it on people. You can't click with everything you read and that is the case for me with this book.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Ramblings and the Week to Come 19JAN14

One week back at work and it is getting crazy! This is our busiest time and it seems that every time I think I might have a second to rest, something else is popping up. However that's pretty much how I like it. It actually kind of sucks that we have tomorrow off as I know my department would put it to good use. But it also means some more reading time so that's good!

I had the chance to see "American Hustle" yesterday which I was incredibly excited about seeing because I enjoyed the director's "Silver Linings Playbook" so much. Well this one did not live up to my expectations at all. I thought it was pretty boring except for Jennifer Lawrence's part-she electrified the screen whenever she was on it. Was anyone else underwhelmed? I know the critics have heaped it with praise but my family and I were disappointed.

Week to Come:
Uninvited by Sophie Jordan, author of my beloved "Firelight" trilogy
Something Real by Heather Demetrios
Anyone But You by Kim Askew and Amy Helmes, third in their "Twisted Lit" series which I've enjoyed so much so far.

I have more titles potentially for review but we'll see just how much reading I can get done!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

ARC Review: Five Came Back

by Mark Harris
5/5 stars
The Penguin Press, 2014
444 pages
Adult Non-Fiction Cinema History
Scheduled to release February 27

Source: Received an ARC through Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.

Some years ago I spotted an interesting sounding book in Entertainment Weekly and promptly put it on hold. When it came in at the library, I devoured it and got my parents to read it as well with them both loving it as well. What book was this? Well as you might have guessed, it was by Mr Mark Harris called Pictures at a Revolution about the five Best Picture nominees of 1967 and it inspired me to attempt to watch all five (still haven't managed as some are boring *ahemdoctordoolittle*) as well as sparking an interest in classic Hollywood. Thus it was a no-brainer to request his next book about cinematic history. While I recognized the five director's names (John Ford, George Stevens, John Huston, William Wyler, and Frank Capra) that are the focus of this book, I didn't know that much about any of them and certainly next to nothing about their experiences during World War II.

The book opens in 1938 following the five men in their Hollywood careers, some at the height of their popularity while others were just beginning their career until the United States entered the war and all five joined up, bringing their knowledge of film making to aid in the production of films about the war for both a military and civilian audience. Harris skillfully weaves in a discussion of propaganda and the impact of war while tracing the activities of the men.

As I shared, I didn't know much about the personal lives of these men so everything in this book was revelatory. My personal favorite sections did relate to actual movies I knew (such as a look at the excellent postwar film The Best Years of Our Lives) bringing back my enjoyment of Harris' previous book but I liked all of the other sections too. The five men had such experiences journeying to the Pacific and the European theaters and serving in different branches. But they also knew each other and were united by a Hollywood background and similar challenges while in the military that help keep the thread of the story moving.

Overall: I just click with his writing-now I want him to explore the anti-Communist movement in Hollywood during the fifties as we get hints of that in this book!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Diamonds and Deceit

by Leila Rasheed
4/5 stars
Hyperion, 2014
424 pages
YA Historical Drama

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Who had forgotten almost everything that happened in Cinders and Sapphires? This girl! What I remembered most vividly was Lady Ada and her affection for Indian Ravi, a love rendered impossible by their vastly different stations in life. I personally found it baffling as I never thought the reader got enough insight into their relationship to care about them but apparently something about the romance made it stick in my brain (probably my irritation at it.)

Thus I opened this book and panicked over my inability to remember the important characters, let alone their complicated relationships to each other. Luckily as I kept reading most everything came back and was further elaborated upon. As before Ada and Rose are our protagonists, navigating a difficult season with romantic complications. Ada continues to be in love with someone who would be deemed unsuitable (and who I think is dull) and Rose struggles with prejudice against her background. Meanwhile we also jump around to peek at the various other characters, both upper-class and servant, that surround these young women. Disappointingly we don't get very much about Sebastian and his romantic travails nor did I feel that women's suffrage played the role it did in Cinders and Sapphires. Furthermore I didn't really like any of the characters tending to find most of them petty; however this was balanced by the writing which completely sparked with me and found me flying through the pages.

I think the ending was my favorite part as it really got my heart pounding because (finally) England has declared war on Germany, meaning that book three is going to reveal a huge shake-up. I don't know what characters will be sent to fight, who might volunteer to nurse or what but it's going to bring big changes to daily life for the lords, ladies, and servants.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Ask Again Later

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

For 2014, I wanted to try posting some more memes so I'm planning to participate in at least a few WoWs a month, starting with today's pick:

Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas
Published by Harper Teen
Releases March 11, 2014
Despite what her name might suggest, Heart has zero interest in complicated romance. So when her brilliant plan to go to prom with a group of friends is disrupted by two surprise invites, Heart knows there's only one drama-free solution: flip a coin.

Heads: The jock. He might spend all night staring at his ex or throw up in the limo, but how bad can her brother's best friend really be?

Tails: The theater geek...with a secret. What could be better than a guy who shares all Heart's interests--even if he wants to share all his feelings?

Heart's simple coin flip has somehow given her the chance to live out both dates. But where her prom night ends up might be the most surprising thing of all...
I love YA contemporary romance so obviously this book got my interest because it fits into that category. I also adore books following two possible outcomes like last year's Pivot Point. I have a copy downloaded through Edelweiss so will post a review closer to that date. Have you heard of this one? Is it something you'd want to read?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Taste of Darkness

by Maria V. Snyder
4/5 stars
Harlequin Mira, 2013
458 pages
Adult Fantasy Romance

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I've eagerly followed Snyder across many worlds including the one of this Healer series and while I adore her introductions and the exciting worlds they set up, I've tended to have problems with the second book and especially with the conclusion. Thus it was no surprise that I adored Touch of Power and had some reservations about Scent of Magic. I hoped this finale would be the one to prove me wrong though. And happily it was as I felt this was a very strong conclusion to the Healer trilogy.

At first I worried. I didn't really remember what had happened at the end of the second book and basically the only two people I remembered were main character healer Avry and her lover Kerrick. Many of the other names mentioned flustered me but thankfully as I kept reading, most of the characters came back to me especially the lovable jokers who have been present in this series from the start.

I can't go too in-depth for fear of spoilers so I will just mention some elements that seem notable. For instance I think I can reference two moments that had a big impression on me. One is when Avry sets out to do something small and ends up doing something much bigger that has huge repercussions on Prince Ryne's mission. The other is Avry getting entangled with cannibals. The former was more of a fist-pumping moment while the latter horrified me for obvious reasons.

One of the biggest threads for the book has been Avry's connection with the evil Tohon. I'm not sure I liked the way it was handled as I have been consistently uncomfortable with the manipulations he performs on her, making it difficult for me to read some sections. In this case I thought the final confrontation with him was a bit easy though the very last pages made up for it presenting me with just the ending I wanted.

Another point to mention is that Scent of Magic left me disappointed with the separation of Avry and Kerrick. These two certainly do not live in easy times so it is certainly no surprise that they don't get to spend nearly enough time together in this book but what parts they did were intensely romantic. I really wanted them to get a happy ending :)

Overall I think this has been Snyder's strongest trilogy throughout and I am eager to see what she has in store for us next!

Monday, January 13, 2014

ARC Review: Going Rogue

by Robin Benway
3.5/5 stars
Walker Childrens, 2014
320 pages
YA Contemporary Caper
Scheduled to release January 14

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was absolutely enchanted by last year's Also Known As and was thrilled to continue the series with this sequel. There are two big changes for this go-around: Maggie's best friend Roux and boyfriend Jesse know about her life as a spy and the Collective are no longer the good guys Maggie always thought they were with everyone becoming a potential enemy.

For me this book was split in to two parts though not formally. In the first half, Maggie is learning about the threat to her way of life and continuing to adjust to outsiders knowing about her and in the second half, everyone is on the run. I far preferred the second half as things actually were happening. The first part still had the same engaging writing that I expected in this series but it took so long to build to anything. Instead Maggie is having arguments with Jesse and Roux as well as her parents and though Angelo is positioned as a good guy, I was getting some sketchy vibes from him. Previously people who were thought to be trustworthy were proved otherwise and I didn't want that to be the case for Angelo (I'm not going to spoil you about where his loyalties lie.) There were some great moments when Maggie dives back into the spy's life including having to stay frozen for hours in a bad guy's apartment but mostly I was waiting for something exciting to happen.

The second part seemed significantly shorter though I didn't keep track of the page count. This is when Maggie, Roux, and Jesse go on the run, ending up in Paris and falling in with a whole new crew. We did not get to spend much time with these people so I don't really have an opinion about them at this time. They seemed okay but I liked Maggie's high school hijinks more and wasn't interested in meeting so many new people this late in the game. Also I may be a bit paranoid but I kept suspecting them of nefarious motives as well.

Overall I didn't feel the two parts cohered well together as each gave me a fairly different tone. I am definitely less enthusiastic about this second installment than I was about its predecessor. This book just seemed a bit on the slow side for me and I wanted more excitement throughout.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Ramblings and the Week to Come 12JAN14

Just got back from vacation today so I'm going to be spending time catching up on everything in real life. I need to unpack, run some errands, and prep for work but I also want to ensure I have some time to watch the Chargers take on the Broncos and check out the Golden Globes because they kick off award show season (aka the best time of the year!) Other fun things include planning my outfits for the work week and hopefully getting some reading done.

While on vacation, I was able to catch up on some of my comments and reading (though I still have a ways to go). Partly I was responding to comments from November (!) which reminded me of some of the great books I read during that time. Partly I managed to read a few books and have reviews up for them. I also ended up downloading 25 (!) e-ARCs from Edelweiss getting me very excited about making up some Waiting on Wednesday posts. I still am working on my 2013 wrap-up posts (favorites and some stats hopefully to post this Saturday).

Week to Come: A week of continuing series as I review several second and third books.
  • A review of Going Rogue, Robin Benway's sequel to Also Known As
  • Taste of Darkness, the conclusion to Maria V Snyder's Healer trilogy
  • Diamonds and Deceit by Leila Rasheed, sequel to the enchanting Cinders & Sapphires
How is your weekend going? What are your plans? Happy reading!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Luminaries

by Eleanor Catton
4/5 stars
Little, Brown and Company, 2013
834 pages
Adult Historical Mystery Award-Winning

Source: Library

When perusing the shortlist for the Man Booker prize, this one immediately captured my attention and once it won, I requested it from the library, saving it for my trip when I could devote my attention to it. I think that was a good decision because I enjoyed myself immensely though I don't know that I necessarily understood the astrology underpinning the undertaking.

The book begins with a massive character list. I skipped over this as I usually do though I referenced it a bit as I started. I think my experience reading War and Peace was very helpful at the beginning as, instead of trying to commit every name and description to memory, I let them flow over me and as they were repeated, they got stuck in my head regardless.

In 1866 New Zealand, twelve men have gathered to discuss several mysterious possibly related circumstances when they are interrupted by a new man to town whose presence invites them to share their stories. The twelve men are of disparate circumstances with their own unique perspective on the events leading up to that night. They are concerned to varying degrees about the incidents: a wealthy man has disappeared, an opium-addict prostitute attempted suicide, and a fortune was discovered at the home of a dead man. If I tried to explain more, you'd lose the opportunity for it to unfold for you.

As you can see from the page count, this is a monstrous book and it definitely took me a while to get situated, to feel that I had any sort of grasp on the characters and setting. But it's also an enchanting book. Once I had committed to reading it, I was committed and I had to keep frantically turning the pages to reach the end. Though I'm not well-read in late nineteenth century literature, I noticed some tropes from the time such as the immoral woman and the abuse of opium. Everything seemed very grounded in the time period and I, an American, enjoyed the feeling of the Wild West as prospecting for gold is the common employment for many men in the story.

I don't feel very qualified to delve into the literary qualities of this book but suffice it to say that I found it pretty approachable if one takes one's time. It would be hard to read all in one day unless that was literally all you had to do that day. But it is certainly worth curling up with for several evenings and puzzling out its intricate plot along with the characters. I did feel that the ending could have been more concrete but I am a reader who likes every loose thread tied up; enough answers are provided to bring the story to a satisfying close and to keep me interested in reading more of Catton's work.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Being Sloane Jacobs

by Lauren Morrill
3.5/5 stars
Delacorte BFYR, 2014
352 pages
YA Contemporary Comedy

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Honestly I was not that into Morrill's debut Meant to Be because while the cover was gorgeous, I found the male love interest unbelievably annoying and the plot pushed situations so far beyond the point of believability. Though I suspected the latter would be the case here, I still had to give it a try because I'm such a sucker for switching places books.

And I was not disappointed! Though many of the events of this book struck me as ridiculously implausible, within the context of this book everything seemed to flow. What we have are two young women sharing the same name and skills in ice-skating who coincidentally meet and spontaneously decide to switch places until circumstances catch up and they have to face the music.

Our first Sloane (Emily) Jacobs is extraordinarily privileged with a senator father, a mother committed to maintaining their picture perfect lifestyle, and an older brother who has laid the groundwork for rebellion. She is attempting to rejoin the world of competitive figure skating after a humiliating failure years earlier and is on her way to train more. Her life is not as perfect as it would seem though and she jumps at the chance to be someone else.

The second Sloane (Devon) Jacobs was raised under more financially straitened circumstances with most of the family's money going toward her alcoholic mother's rehab, enhancing the need for a hockey scholarship that may be difficult to achieve when she can't force herself to take a shot at the goal. She also has anger management problems that get her sent to a hockey camp for the summer allowing her to meet Sloane Emily and for them to switch places.

I don't know much about ice skating but I suspect that there's a lot more to both sports than could be easily learned in the time frame they have. Still I went with the premise that many skills were transferable and I liked the moments of panic each girl had when faced with something she wasn't expecting. In neat moments, the girls encounter parallel experiences, each facing a competitor, falling for a new love interest, and running up against challenges at the same time. These mirrored experiences nicely reflect each other as we alternate between the girls' narration.

Though I didn't anticipate being surprised, I was at how early their charade was discovered and enjoyed seeing them wrap everything up. The consequences for their deceit are rather minor in my opinion but I was so charmed by the basic plot and getting to read about their ice skating abilities and travails that I can overlook that.

Overall I would recommend this book to fans of movies like "The Parent Trap" and "The Cutting Edge" as it seems to owe a bit of a debt to both while still bringing its own modern edge and twist.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

ARC Review: Fake ID

by Lamar Giles
4/5 stars
HarperCollins, 2014
320 pages
YA Contemporary
Scheduled to release January 21

Source: Received an e-ARC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

I wasn't really sure why I requested this book other than the contemporary setting because it is a bit more on the thriller side than I typically read. The plot summary didn't really grab me either but luckily as I read, I found myself drawn to the characters and the writing.

The book opens in a confusing matter with main character Nick referencing items that made no sense to me as someone just entering his world. However I soon found myself grounded in Nick's life in the Witness Protection Program due to his father. They have moved around the country because of the father's inability to live a low profile law-abiding life and this is their last chance. These tensions are fraying Nick's family with his mother especially sensitive to all of the changes. On top of that, Nick's first friend at his new school Eli is murdered and Nick finds himself drawn to solve that mystery, compelled partly by Nick's gorgeous and fiery twin sister Reya.

I can't see how anyone would unravel the complete mystery behind Eli's death as the threads upon threads strained plausibility to me. However the motives at the heart ring all too true and Nick is a diligent detective to track down all the pieces. He is also pretty funny and oddly relatable considering I am not in the Witness Protection Program (or am I?) I also liked Reya who is filled with personality and especially Nick's mother and her difficult predicament though other characters seemed more surface-level to me.

One last note is that the ending caught me off-guard because I was expecting something more conclusive whereas this leads up to something big that might happen in a sequel. However as of yet there does not seem to be a sequel definitively planned, which makes the abruptness of this ending awkward to me. I would feel more pumped about this book knowing that the ending would be resolved in a second book.

Cover: Yay for accurately showing an African-American young man on the cover (diversity is good!) though I wish you could see his face more clearly.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


by Ann Redisch Stampler
4/5 stars
Simon Pulse, 2013
398 pages
YA Contemporary

Source: Received an e-ARC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Last year I read this author's debut Where It Began and found the writing incredibly engaging; however I struggled to connect with the main character Gabby. When I picked up Afterparty, I hoped to find more great writing in addition to a main character I adored. Alas it was the same old story. The writing was compulsively readable but narrator Emma is baffling and eventually incredibly annoying to me.

Starting from the beginning, Emma lives with her very overprotective father under the burden of her mother's poor decisions that have led to his strict regime of rules over Emma's life. All she wants is to be "normal," which makes sense to me. However her normal is so far away from mine. She gets caught up in the life of very rich people involving hooking up and a lot of drugs, especially at the culmination of their yearly social scene the Afterparty (at least this is my understanding; I don't party and do not understand the appeal.) While I sympathized with Emma's desire to break out from her dad who is extraordinarily strict, I thought she went so far in the other direction and made so many poor decisions.

Among those decisions is befriending the wild Siobhan who pushes Emma out of her comfort zone, sometimes with exciting fun result but more often with extremely negative consequences. Their dangerous relationship is at the heart of this book. Like Emma, I initially found Siobhan exhilarating too. My life is pretty dull (basically I work and read-I'm not going out partying ever) and I can see how she would be enticing. However as an adult, I read the writing on the wall about Siobhan who goes full-on psycho near the end before Emma, putting me in the position of waiting for Emma to figure out what I already knew. Unsurprisingly there are also a few boys, namely Dylan, the big crush for Emma. I was initially on her side in pursuing this boy but he wore out his welcome. Her continued profession of affection for him was another reason we didn't quite click.

In the end, though I liked the writing of this book well enough, I found the characters and their motivation exasperating, meaning this was not a perfect read for me nor one I'll necessarily be recommending to all.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Ramblings and Week to Come 05JAN14

Ramblings from Vacation:
I had hoped I would have more time online this weekend but my first hotel in Florida (the Hard Rock Cafe Hotel) had the worst wi-fi and it was expensive! Quite frankly they should be ashamed of themselves! Fortunately I am now on Disney property with wi-fi included in the room cost that is of quality. It has been surprisingly cold here

Because of the lack of internet access, I had not been on Feedly since January 1 and logged on today to discover 400+ posts-people have been busy! I'm only commenting on a few and I expect that will continue to be sporadic until I'm back home.

Week to Come:
I have three reviews pending: two for YA books, Afterparty by Ann Redisch Stampler and Fake ID by Lamar Giles in addition to the 2013 Man Booker Prize winner The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, a massive doorstop of a book and my first read of 2014. I don't know if those reviews will go up this week but if not, then next. I also hope to do some more reading and get going on my 2014 reading goal!

How was your weekend?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy 2014!

Good morning! I just wanted to post a quick update as I'm not sure when I'll be posting again due to my vacation. I do still have two reviews pending and if I can write them today, then you'll see them later this week. However because I am slightly crazy I volunteered to go into work for a few hours today which means I'll have less time for writing reviews since I still have to go over my packing and prep for my flight tomorrow.
Less than 24 hours til we go!
Happily I did meet my 2013 reading goal of 300 books read (just barely-I finished #300 a little before 11.) For 2014, I'm going to be much more moderate, shooting for 15 books a month or 180 total. This is the smallest amount I've ever tried to read since I started keeping track in 2010 but I think it is more realistic for my life now. 

Then, I'm not sure what book I want to read first so I thought I'd poll you all.

Taste of Darkness by Maria V Snyder
Going Rogue by Robin Benway
Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill
Diamonds and Deceit by Leila Rasheed
Uninvited by Sophie Jordan

Have you read any of these yet? I intend to read all five soon enough but what should get the privilege of being FIRST?

Something else I'm working on is a wrap-up post with my stats. Inspired by Jen Ryland/YA Romantics, I want to look at where I got the books I read, genre (for the YA books), and publisher/imprint. I have a lot of data to go through but I'm really excited to see what publishers put out my favorite reads of 2013.

Until next time, have a safe and happy day and keep reading!

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