Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Around the Bend / The Other Wife

Around the Bend / The Other Wife
Shirley Jump
457 pages
Publisher: Harlequin
Source: eHarlequin.com

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

Around the Bend:  Hilary and her mother Rosemary don't get along at all, but when Rosemary needs to get across the country to California, the two embark on a cross country road trip with Rosemary's pet pit Reginald and a life size cutout of Hilary's father who died a few years earlier.

This book was hilarious!  I laughed the whole way through and I enjoyed the author's ability to keep serious subjects light.  I thought the whole thing was delightfully quirky and what was great about this Harlequin was the romance was not the main focus in the novel at all.  Instead it was about a mother daughter relationship and how they needed to fix it.  I definitely recommend this novel if you want a light, quick something to make you laugh.  I could definitely see this being made into a movie.

The Other Wife:  This was a bonus book included in the volume.  When Penny's husband, Dave, dies suddenly of a heat attack she finds out he had a second wife.  Soon the two of them are on a road trip with Harvey, Dave's performing dog, to find out what other secrets Dave was hiding from them.

Another great story!  I hit the jackpot with this volume.  The Other Wife was just as enjoyable as Around the Bend since, again, it could have been a heavy topic but the author kept it light.  I enjoyed Jump's use of animals in both stories, in particular in this one because of the way Harvey helped Penny heal.

Monday, May 30, 2011


Jessica Lee Anderson
198 pages
Publisher: Milkweed
Source: NetGalley.com

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

Calli is a coming of age story about a fifteen year old girl.  Calli is trying to get through high school while avoiding the teasing resulting from having two moms.  She's also trying to get along with her foster sister, Cherish, who has a penchant for stealing Calli's things, including her boyfriend.

The first thing I noticed about Calli was that the story was refreshingly realistic, though at first that meant the plot fell flat with useless details like what characters ate for breakfast.  Things picked up significantly around page seventy or so while staying realistic, and soon Calli became a real page turner for me.

I give the author major props for having a lesbian couple as the parents of Calli and reiterating a few times that having gay parents does not make the child gay.  This is a great lesson that many of our youth should be learning.  In a more general sense it was about the way people treat other people.  I think this book may have a place in classrooms in the future, or at least I hope it does.  There was also a great focus on the relationship between daughters and mothers.  Calli has a solid relationship with both her mothers, something I think any mother and yes, even their angsty teenage daughters, would envy.

I really and truly enjoyed reading this novel.  I would encourage others to read it as well.

Calli will be released September 13th.

Irresistible Forces

Irresistible Forces
Brenda Jackson
256 pages
Publisher: Kimani
Source: Free NookBook

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

Taylor wants to have a baby but doesn't want to get married.  On the same token, Dominic would also enjoy a baby, but has no plans to ever remarry.  The result: Taylor convinces Dominic to go away on a one week sex vacation in the Caribbean with the sole purpose of knocking her up.  Meanwhile, because Dominic comes from money and has a lot of interests to protect, has his lawyer draw up on a contract regarding custody and handling of the baby-to-be.

Does my summary sound a little slanted?  If so, it's because I found the premise of the book extremely strange.  Two adults who don't want to get married for some unknown reason decide to have a baby together because they both want one.  It sounds a bit selfish and off to me, but since I knew this was a romance novel, I knew before I even started they would end up married in the end, so that was enough to keep me reading instead of putting it down in disgust.  In between the contract writing and marriage there is lots and lots of steamy sex.

I think the ease the couple had in getting pregnant was not realistic at all.  As someone with reproductive issues, it kinds of bothered me, though I admit that is my personal problem with this book.  They had one week of sex and Taylor "knew" she was pregnant right away despite the fact that she had no symptoms other than "tender breasts."  (Cue me rolling my eyes).

Three stars because it was a light, really fast read that gave me something to kvetch about.

Bookmarked For Death

Bookmarked For Death
Lorna Barret
297 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Source: PaperBackSwap.com

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

I was so in the mood for a cozy and I was about to start another one when this one came in the mail.  I couldn't wait, so I started reading right away.  Bookmarked For Death is the second cozy in the Booktown Mystery series by Lorna Barrett.  I really enjoyed the first one and I think the second was even better.

Tricia Miles is hosting her thirteenth books signing in her mystery book shop when the author suddenly turns up dead in the bathroom.  Soon Tricia is trying to solve two mysteries - who killed Zoe Carter and who wrote all those novels Zoe claimed to write herself, but were actually written by someone else?  Meanwhile, the town is suffering from a rather unfortunate goose infestation - can Tricia come up with a solution for that as well?

This book continued on with all the things I enjoyed in the first - a great setting, a complicated plot, and a murder that I couldn't solve until the last chapter.  I thought I'd figured it out by halfway through and Tricia felt the same way, but it turns out we were both wrong!  Bookmarked For Death was a great cozy and now I feel like I'm really into this series and I'm looking forward to reading the next three.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why
Jay Asher
288 pages
Publisher: Razorbill
Source: PaperBackSwap.com

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

When we start reading Thirteen Reasons Why we already know the main character is dead.  Hannah Baker committed suicide, but before she did she recorded thirteen sides of cassette tape and arrange for them to be mailed to thirteen different people - the people she felt most contributed to her decision to die. When Clay gets the tapes he doesn't understand why he's on the list, until he listens to all of them that night.

Fact: The shorter the suicide note, the more likely the person writing it is actually going to go through with it.  So the fact that Hannah Baker took the time to record thirteen sides of tape with her recorded suicide note makes this story highly improbable.  But once I got over that, it was an amazing story to read.  The web of characters was so well thought out, I couldn't believe the author was able to create such depth.  I enjoyed every single chapter, learning about all the factors that contributed to Hannah's depression.

How interesting, also, that the author of this novel is a man!  How does a man get into the psyche of a teenage girl so well?  Maybe I don't want to know, but you have to give him props for that.

This was obviously not a happy book, but I think any book that keeps me up until two a.m. reading straight through and then keeps me awake after to think about it is worthy of stars.  I waffled between four and five stars, five because it made me really think, and four because I feel like I didn't understand enough about Hannah's life to justify her suicide.  She goes through things that a lot of high school girls go through, so why did she feel she needed to end her life over it?  I couldn't quite grasp why - it was just out of reach.  In the end, it gets four stars from me.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sloppy Firsts

Sloppy Firsts
Megan McCafferty
280 pages
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Source: PaperBackSwap.com

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

When Jessica Darling's best friend Hope moves away she feels very alone.  She suddenly doesn't have any close friends at school and no one to make fun of the "Clueless Crew" with.  Her parents aren't helping, either, with the endless lectures, her mother whining about how difficult Jessica is and her father harping her about her running.

Sloppy Firsts was published in 2001 and I was in high school from 2001 to 2005.  I probably would have adored this book when I was in high school because I think I was a lot like the main character.  We both had best friends who moved away leaving us with a whole slew of emotions.  We both were straight A students who weren't overly attractive (let's face it, I was pretty unfortunate looking back then - thank goodness I grew out of that!) and no real chance at a boyfriend.  Well, I had no real chance, Jessica at least had a couple prospects, just as any YA heroine should.  Anyway, I thought we were pretty similar, which is why I didn't understand Jessica's motives in regards to Marcus.  He's not a boy I would have had a crush on.  At all.  Maybe that's why I was a little disenchanted with the book over all and I can't decide if I'll continue on with the series, though I did like the ending.

Basically, I liked it but I didn't love it.

I am, however, looking forward to reading McCafferty's latest book, Bumped.

And you can find Sloppy Firsts on my PBS shelf if you want to read it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Millie's Fling

Millie's Fling
Jill Mansell
410 eBook pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Source: Free NookBook

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

This book had a whole lot of plot, but basically it's this: Millie saves a random stranger from committing suicide.  The stranger turns out to be popular author Orla Hart who, eternally grateful to have had Millie save her life, decided to write a novel about Millie.  Soon Millie is reporting to Orla regularly about her life while Orla, in an attempt to make her novel more interesting, throws men in Millie's direction hoping for a fling.

Millie's Fling was your basic chick-lit novel with a British twist.  My absolute favorite part of this novel was Millie herself.  She's such an adorable, down-to-earth character!  I want to be best friend with Millie.  She might think her life is boring, but it actually isn't - especially after she loses her job at a travel agency and finds a job with a kiss-o-gram company, dressing up as a gorilla or roller skates to surprise unsuspecting victims with cheesy poems written by their loved ones.

I got the impression that Millie's Fling was a lot of like the books Orla wrote and I wonder how much of this novel the author based off her own experiences as a writer.  The book gets three stars from me - I liked it and definitely enjoyed reading about Millie and her adventures, but overall it just another chick-lit novel with nothing extraordinary about it.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

JAG: The Novel

JAG: The Novel
Robert Tine
181 pages
Publisher: Berkley Boulevard
Source: Eagle Eye Bookshop

You can read the Goodreads summary, such as it is, here.

OK, I admit this may seem like a strange book for me to read and review.  I'm the first person to rate/review it on Goodreads and it's been out of print for some time after being published in 1998.  But here's the thing: I'm a huge, huge fan of the TV show JAG.  So when I stumbled across this book by pure accident at the Bookshop, it literally made my day.

Since you're probably not interested, I'll keep it brief: The five men of the Davey Jones Locker Club have been meeting annually since their graduation together from Annapolis.  But this year after their reunion one of them, Hawkes, is murdered and the other four become suspects, particularly Philips who was not quiet about his jealousy of Hawkes' job.  Now it's up to Harmon Rabb and his coworkers at JAG to find out who the murderer really was.

This book was pretty awesome.  The television series ended in 2005 and this novel read just like an episode, so it was great to have a new JAG "episode" to enjoy.  There is a second book but sadly it's also out of print so I think I'm going to have a difficult time finding it.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

The Wake Trilogy aka The Dream Catcher Trilogy

Wake, Fade, and Gone
Lisa McMann
210 pages, 248 pages, 214 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: Eagle Eye Bookshop
Almost ★★★★☆ overall

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

This is a review of the entire Wake Trilogy.  I read the books in order in quick succession so I could present the trilogy together.

Though the first book, Wake, had an interesting plot, it's main purpose seems to have been to set up the rest of the series.  In the first novel we meet Janie who has been slipping uncontrollably into other people's dreams since she was a young girl.  She experiences the dreams and then when the person wakes up, she's free.  It's frustrating for her to go through life becoming temporarily paralyzed and blacked out multiple times a day.  Meanwhile she meets Cabel, who at first seems like the school bad boy.  After they all in love she learns that he works for the police department as a narc.

Wake gets three stars from me.  It took me awhile to get used to the author's writing style - very short, choppy sentences in the present tense.  I can't decide if the author has this style because she's terrible at writing, or if it was on purpose.  But once I got used it, it didn't detract from the plot or story.  The book was fast moving and interesting and, my to my surprise, did not end on a cliffhanger!

In the second novel, Fade, we find Janie putting her dream hopping to good use, solving crimes!  Now there's a unique use for her talent.  The cops put Janie and Cabel on the lookout for a supposed sexual predator lurking in their high school.  When the plot started forming in the first few pages I immediately suspected Fade was going to be better than Wake.  I was right!

The story kept me on the edge of my seat as Janie makes herself bait, much to the dismay of Cabe.  That aspect of the story was riveting, but so was the rest of the novel.  It was great to learn about Janie's dream "mentor" in such a unique way and the end of the story was bittersweet.  I sound like a broken record here, but "it was also great" to see Janie and Cabe's relationship grow.  A final plus: Janie's character become less one-dimensional in this novel, as did Cabe's.  Overall, Fade gets four stars from me.

Then it was on to Gone, the final novel in the trilogy.  I'm not sure how much I can tell you without going to spoiler alert mode, but in this novel Janie discovers her long lost father and struggles with a decision to make about her future as a dream catcher.

I found Gone to be much less exciting than Fade.  There wasn't much to the plot as a whole and I found the way the book ended to be a bit strange and vague.  I would have liked to have seen Janie's mother get help for her alcoholism, instead of Janie going to her own Al Anon support group to deal with her mother.  Even though Janie certainly deserved to get her own help on the issue, I couldn't help but think the wrong person was getting help.  Gone gets three stars.

Overall, it was refreshing to read a trilogy that contained three unique story lines in each book and did not contain cliffhangers!  That combined with a decided lack of love triangle made this one of the least cliched YA series I've read in a long time.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Someone Like You

Someone Like You
Sarah Dessen
281 pages
Publisher: Speak
Source: PaperBackSwap.com

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

Halley and her mother have a perfect mother-daughter relationship... at least until the end of the summer when things start changing.  A class mate, Michael, dies tragically two weeks before school starts again.  Halley's best friend Scarlett then discovers she's pregnant with Michael's baby and she's determined to have it and keep it.  Halley supports Scarlett 100% but in the meantime gets herself a boyfriend, Macon, who is, for a lack of a better term, a bit of a loser.

There was nothing remarkable about the plot, but for some reason I really enjoyed this book.  I don't know how Sarah Dessen does it - she writes books that I love but I don't really know why I love them!
Scarlett was a great character, probably the best in the book.  She knew what she wanted and even though her pregnancy was causing her grief after grief, she stuck to her guns. Overall, Someone Like You was quick and very enjoyable read for me.  Still, for the unremarkable plot and huge cliche ending, this book gets four instead of five stars from me.

PS:  My PaperBackSwap copy was an RWAP because of some water damage.  It's free on my shelf with any other order.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ape House

Ape House
Sara Gruen
300 pages
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Source: library

You can read the Goodreads summary.

I love, love, loved this novel.

Isabel has worked with the bonobos so long they feel like her family.  When the compound is bombed, leaving her seriously injured, her life is turned upside as is the life of the bonobos who are thrust into the public spotlight on a reality show.  Their safety is soon called into question as the show's producers try to keep the show operating and Isabel and her crew try desperately to save them.

When I started the novel I knew it would be about apes, but that's about all I knew.  I was not expecting this book to be so depressing.  It really opened my eyes to the mistreatment of apes and I found it loathsome that someone could "free" the bonobos and then sell them to someone to use for a reality show.  That's pretty sick, but it made for more moving and compelling reading.  Sara Gruen is a great author with a real ability for the written word.  Her characters are so rich, their emotions became my emotions as a I read.

I enjoyed the animal rights aspect of the novel and it's clear that Gruen has a passion for animals.  Aside from the bonobos, I enjoyed the treatment she gave the pit bull in the story.  Far too many people these days have the wrong impression of pit bulls and it was great to see Gruen's characters have confidence in Booger.  I was happy to see him get a second chance at life.

I don't really know what else to say without writing some spoilers, so I'll just reiterate that I loved this book and I think it's worth reading.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Awesome Meg Cabot news!

Meg Cabot is one of my favorite authors and her Heather Wells series is one of my all-time favorite series.  Well, today Meg is chatting on Goodreads.com (clicky for chat group) and here's what I found out: 

"I know I keep saying I have two more coming out, but I DO! The next one will be out next year (2012) around Xmas time! I feel so badly because Heather has been trapped in a dressing trying on wedding dresses (even though she's not supposed to be, as you know if you've read Big Boned) for nearly a year now (in the first chapter of the manuscript for Book 4). It's time to get her out!"

So Heather's been stuck in chapter one of the fourth book for sometime, but at least we have a release time: the end of 2012.  Um, that's over a year away, Meg!  Get her out!

"And no, the next Heather Wells is NOT done. I wrote in an earlier message I feel bad about where I've left Heather in the incomplete manuscript: stranded in a JCrew dressing room, trying on cheap wedding dresses (you know those on sale ones). I have to get her out of there! She's supposed to be eloping! She's in so much trouble!

But I have to finish UNDERWORLD, the sequel to ABANDON. Poor Heather."

So, it looks like Heather is going to be stuck in that dressing room for some time (and can't you just picture her in that situation?) but at least she's still alive!  The manuscript is due in February.  

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Host

The Host
Stephenie Meyer
619 pages
Publisher: Little Brown
Source: library

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

So, true story, I own a copy of this novel.  I bought it the weekend it came out in 2008 and never read more than the first chapter.  I just couldn't get into it even though I really wanted to.  The years passed, we moved, it didn't follow us, and I decided I needed to read it once and for all - so I got it from the library.  So instead of reading my pristine copy I read one where the binding was falling apart and it smelled strongly of vinegar.

This book is, obviously, by the Stephenie Meyer of the Twilight variety, so I assumed that I would automatically love the book.  But I didn't love it as much as I thought I would, though her premise is pretty awesome: Wanderer is an alien from another planet whose species has invaded earth and has mostly eliminated the human race by implanting themselves inside humans and taking over their bodies.  But when Wanderer (Wanda for short) acquires Melanie's body, Melanie is not willing to give up without a fight.

It sounds like a five star plot to me, but here's why I didn't rate The Hose five stars: it was slow and there wasn't a lot of action.  I expected for a 600+ page novel there to be action, but I guess instead it was 600+ pages because the plot moved slowly.  Towards the end my interest picked up, but the action still didn't.  There were a few occasions that I felt there was potential for a lot of action, high speed chases or intense interrogations or something, but that never happened.  Wanda/Melanie had no problems at all executing there illegal activities - it was almost too easy.  Still, it was a good novel and I'm glad to have finally read it.

Husband Read Vol. II

You can check out my husband's review of The Jefferson Key in his tab up above.  Sounds like it was a good book; one that I'll get around to eventually.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Promise of an Angel

The Promise of an Angel
Ruth Reid
320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Source: NetGalley.com

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

In Ruth Reid's debut novel we find Judith Fisher soon to be betrothed to Levi.  At a picnic with her Amish community Judith discovers her younger sister, Martha, flirting with Levi.  While paying attention to them, her little brother, Samuel, wanders off and a tragic accident occurs.  Soon Judith is seeing visions, but no one believes her; instead the community thinks she's making them up for attention.  Only her friend Andrew believes her and soon a love triangle (or, really, a love square) is formed while they anxiously await to see if Samuel will get better.

I truly enjoyed this novel.  The more I read it and more I got into the story and enjoyed what I was reading.  Reid has a great talent for writing and telling a story.  The descriptions of Tobias, the angel and the scenery were beautiful, as was the plot itself.  The characters were multi-demensional and it was great to see how Judith and Andrew remained true to their faiths even when life and family made it difficult for them to do so.  I couldn't help but love the ending, too.  I really wanted the community to realize where they were going wrong in regards to two of their youth and I was glad to see them vindicated in the end.

Overall, this was a great piece of Amish fiction and I think Ms. Reid has a successful future ahead of her writing about the Amish.  I will definitely be checking out her next book in the "Heaven on Earth" series, Brush of Angel's Wings, when it comes out April 2012.  As for The Promise of an Angel, it is scheduled to be published June 14, 2011.

Book Store Haul and Rave!

I don't normally post about my books haul's; I usually get a couple books a week through PaperBackSwap and it's not really anything special to post about, especially since I end up reviewing most of those books anyway so you hear about them eventually, but today was special.  My husband I went out to get some lunch and run some errands this afternoon before we head out to the PBR tonight (woot!) and one stop was at the Eagle Eye Book Shop, which I've been wanting to go to since we moved down here in January.  There was a whole thing on the Internet after Borders starting closing stores that readers should patronize independent book shops more often and I sort of agreed with that.  I googled for shops in my area and Eagle Eye was not only the closest to where I live, but also had really high ratings.

I'd never been to an independent bookstore before, so I wasn't sure what to expect, though I was hoping to find some good deals.  And did I!  First of all, the ambience was great.  The shelves were literally packed with books and stacks were piled on top of the shelves, too.  There was a great mix of new books, selling at regular price, and used books, selling at good discounts.  The staff was really friendly and we signed up for their rewards program, which apparently will get us sales during the year and five dollars off after every fifty we spend (I think).  Second, they have a store dog.  How great is that?  She was sleep when we were there, but looked happy to be hanging out with the books.

Here's what I got:

1.  JAG: The Novel by Robert Tine.  I didn't even know there was a JAG novel!  JAG is my all time favorite television show, thanks to the hotness of David James Elliot and his chemistry with Catherine Bell.  I just stumbled across this thing, for under two bucks, and it totally made my day!  It's out of print, so I think I was lucky to find it.

2.  The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith.  This book is pretty popular and I've been meaning to get a copy for a few weeks.  Can't go wrong for three bucks.

3.  Wake, Fade, and Gone by Lisa McMann.  A YA trilogy about a girl who gets stuck in other people's dreams.  I needed more YA to review for my blog and was thrilled to pick up the whole trilogy for a price less than the cost of one hardcover book.

My husband also got two (autographed!) books by his new favorite author, Steve Berry.  That was pretty exciting for him.  Those sold at list price and I think our whole haul came to about forty dollars, which is a lot less than we would have paid if we'd gone to Barnes & Noble, that's for sure.  So, the savings were great but I think in the long run that's going to be a problem for our budget, if you know what I mean!  I you live in the Decatur/Atlanta area, definitely go check these guys out.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Like Water for Chocolate

Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies
Laura Esquivel
246 pages
Publisher: Anchor
Source: Dekalb County Library

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

Tita is the youngest girl in her family and according to family tradition, she can never marry and instead must take care of her mother until she dies.  When it comes out that she is in love with Pedro and he wants to marry her, her family won’t allow her to marry, so he instead marries her sister.  The rest of the book is filled with the story of how they love each other but cannot really be together.

What I enjoyed most about this novel was how it was set up – into monthly installments that stretched one year from January to December.  If I had the patience, I think it would be fun to read this book over the course of a year to follow the journey of the characters in real time.  Maybe then I would have had more of an appreciation for what they were going through.  There was a lot of dramatic crying and dying in this novel that I started to roll my eyes at.  I also thought the including of recipes was a good idea on the author’s part; it really helped break up the novel into readable parts.  On the other hand, I’m not sure how many of these recipes would work if the reader actually tried to cook them.

Overall, I just couldn't get into this book.  I read it while I sat near my laptop and instead of closing the laptop and reading I found myself reading some paragraphs, surfing the Internet, reading some more, checking Facebook, reading some more, checking the Nest message boards, well, you get the idea.  Some of the time I couldn't understand the emotions the characters were having.  If my hypothetical sister married the man I was in love with I certainly wouldn't be living under the same roof as them.  Either he and I would run away together, or if he insisted on going through with the marriage, I would be running away alone.  Unfortunately, it was the second book this year that has felt like "required reading" to me.  I will gladly return it to the library even though the librarian indicated to me there would be no fines if the book were never returned (I know, weird, right?).

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Good news for cozy fans!

E.J.Copperman's website has announced that he has been contracted to write a fourth and fifth novel in his Haunted Guesthouse series (my favorite cozy series!) and that the third book, Old Haunts, will be out in February 2012.  That's about nine months from now, which I suppose is a good gestational period.  I'm super excited to read it, since the second book, An Uninvited Ghost, turned out to be even better than the first, Night of the Living Deed.  You know I'll try to get my greedy hands on an ARC, but if not I'll be going to the bookstore on release day to pick it up!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Blue Bloods

Blue Bloods
Melissa De La Cruz
302 pages
Publisher: Hyperion
Source: PaperBackSwap.com

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

Schuyler is a student at one of New York City's most prestigious schools, but she doesn't exactly fit in with her peers.  Then, when she discovers that she is a Blue Blood, a vampire that has been reincarnated over and over since the time of the Mayflower, she and her other classmates are suddenly in the same group.  And there's a problem: there's something out to get the young Blue Bloods.  It's already killed one of the classmates and now it's out for Schuyler.  Who or what is it and what does it want?

You would think a novel would be terrible when the premise is that everyone who came over on the Mayflower were vampires, but I thoroughly enjoyed this novel!  It was vampires done right for several reasons.  First, the plot line wasn't forced.  It didn't start out in a science class where the two main characters immediately fell in love.  There was ample build up before we even learn that everyone is a vampire.  Second, there are lots of characters to learn about, not just a focus on two main characters and third in the love triangle.  In fact, a love triangle was conspicuously absent for this novel.  There wasn't a lot of romance, either, though I'm sure we'll see some in future books.  Third, the characters had lives outside of their vampire-hood.  It wasn't like they learned they were vampires and that was all they thought about or did.  They still had parties and burgeoning modeling careers and family issues to deal with.

Naturally the book ended on a cliffhanger and I've already got the second book in the series on it's way. I'm delighted to learn there are five in the series, plus an extra novella.  What fun!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Something Borrowed

Something Borrowed
Emily Giffin
388 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's
Source: Target

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

With the movie coming out I decided I finally had to read this book, despite the fact that a lot of readers seem to have been disappointed by it.  Still, the movie-tie in paperback was 25% off at Target, so I picked it up to finally decide for myself.  I thought it would be a cute, chick-lit-y read.  I was half right; it was chick-lit.

Darcy and Rachel have been friends since they were kids and they have what I would consider a toxic friendship.  Darcy and Dex are engaged to be married, but Rachel likes Dex and they start up an affair all while Darcy is still planning the wedding.  Throw in a little Marcus, a potential love interest Rachel's friends throw at her, and you've got your plot.

I'm not so sure about this book.  For one, you've got the main character, Rachel, who I assume we're supposed to like and have compassion for, cheating with her best friends fiancé.  Second, the author tries to play it off like the best friend, Darcy, had it coming because in the fifth grade she stole the crush of the main character and has been stealing the thunder of Rachel all along.  Um, what?  I don't care how mean you best friend was to you in middle school, it's never okay to sleep with her fiancé.  Not to mention the age old phrase, "Once a cheater, always a cheater."  You steal your best friends fiancé and start a legitimate relationship, the question becomes, which one of you is going to cheat again first?

So for that I found that I didn't have much compassion for any of the characters.  The book didn't make me laugh like it claimed it would, either.  When I was done reading, I felt a little blah, and I doubt I'll ever read the next in the series, Something Blue, unless I find it for free at a garage sale or something.  I think Emily Giffin is one of those authors you either love or hate, but I'm not giving up on Emily Giffin altogether.  I will try reading one of her other novels that isn't in this series and see how that goes, because this time around I only objected to her plot, not to her writing skills.

PS:  It's on my PaperBackSwap bookshelf!  It's a wish listed book, but I had to post without an ISBN because the formats didn't match.  So it is available.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Check out this giveaway!

They're doing a giveaway over at Once Upon a Twilight... of twenty books!  Twenty books!  That would last me a few weeks, to be sure.  Go check it out and enter.  You can either opt for the YA giveaway or the Adult giveaway.

Teen Idol

Teen Idol
Meg Cabot
293 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: PaperBackSwap.com

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

Am I the only one who thinks it's strange when teenagers call themselves "teens?"  It sounds kind of square and fake to me, but I didn't let that influence my opinion of this novel.

High schooler Jenny Greenly is just going about her life, being the mayonnaise on the sandwich they call high school, writing for her school paper and singing in the show choir, when her life is turned upside down by teen heartthrob Luke Striker, who has come to her school undercover to prepare for a movie role. And the school wants her to show him around!

Aw, this was such a cute novel!  I enjoyed every minute of it.  It's definitely not realistic, but it's what every girl in high school daydreams of - having good friends, affecting positive change, and not to mention a hot, male, teenage celebrity dropping into their high school.  On the other hand, it wasn't entirely predictable either.  You might be thinking that Jenny and Luke fall in love and have a romance, but that's actually not the case at all.  There's really not much else to say except Meg Cabot has done it again, er, she did it in 2004 when she wrote this book.  Which is probably why she mentions Lindsay Lohan as taking on an acting role, because we all know that doesn't happen so much anymore...

It's on my shelf if you want it!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Husband Reads Vol. I

Remember when I said I was going to have a guest blogger?  It's my husband!  You can find his first review under the tab up top that says "Husband Reads" and stay tuned for the occasional review from him in the future.  He doesn't read enough to have his own blog, so I told him he could post a few on here if he wanted.  He reads different genres than I do, but there might be something he reviews that piques your interest.  Check it out!

A Courtesan's Guide to Getting Your Man

A Courtesan's Guide to Getting Your Man
Celeste Bradley & Susan Donovan
368 pages
Source: Goodreads win!

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

Whew, I knew by the title of this book that it was going to be steamy, but holy cow.  It was the steamiest romance novel I ever read.  Not for children, that's to be sure.  Rated R for all kinds of... well, you know.  Piper is a geeky museum curator in Boston, working on a new exhibit about Ophelia Harrington, one of America's greatest abolitionists and women's rights supporter.  While researching one evening she finds Ophelia's secret journals and by doing so discovers Ophelia had a torrid past as a courtesan in London.  Risking her job, Piper decides she needs to reveal this secret to the public and make it the focus of her upcoming exhibit.

What I loved about this novel were the parallel plots.  Piper was trying to find herself just like the young Ophelia was and what was so great was that Piper had Ophelia's diaries to help guide herself, not just sexually but emotionally.  In the end, both women grew and got what they really wanted.  It was beautiful.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this novel!  I mistakenly thought it was going to be "just another romance novel," but instead I ended up really liking it as I tore through it.  If you're looking for steam, you'll definitely find it here, but it was also much more than that.  It was about discovering yourself and finding true happiness in your personal freedom.

Disclaimer: Even though I won this ARC through Goodreads and it was free, that didn't influence my review.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

April Recap

April was an exciting month for me and blog!  I got my own URL, www.pandareads.com, and I finally tackled Gone with the Wind.  I also listed my blog in the Book Blogger Directory and was accepted into the site New Books for New Bloggers, which got me about four new followers.  This month I read 23 books, bringing my yearly total to 72.  Here's a list of everything I read in April, whether I reviewed it here on my blog or not.

Murder is Binding by Lorna Barrett
The Rancher's Dance by Allison Leigh
A Bride Until Midnight by Sandra Steffen
The Shunning by Beverly Lewis
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
The Journey by Wanda E. Brunstetter
Princess in the Spotlight by Meg Cabot
Princess in Love by Meg Cabot
Three Cups of Deceit by Jon Krakauer
Wings by Aprilynne Pike
The Devil's Gold by Steve Berry
1898: The Birth of the American Century by David Traxel
The Shack by William P. Young
Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot
Sheltering Hearts by Robyn Carr
Broken Flower by V.C. Andrews
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
The Bride Plan by Kasey Michales
The Suicide Club by Gayle Wilson

The Suicide Club

The Suicide Club
Gayle Wilson
358 pages
Publisher: MIRA
Source: PaperBackSwap

You can read the Goodreads summary of this novel here.

So I thought this was going to be a YA novel, but once I got to the graphic seksi time about halfway though I realized it wasn't.  What it was, though, was a very good and well thought out novel.  High school teacher Lindsey Sloan's small Alabama town was rocked when three local churches were burned to the ground and the town's new detective, Jace, is trying to convince her that one her her students committed the crimes.  Meanwhile, the school is having a rough time, grieving through multiple student suicides.  The whole thing culminates in something horrific at the end of the novel.

This book was dark, no doubt about that, but it was also timely.  One of the suicides was committed by a high schooler who had come out to his father that he was gay.  When his classmates found out, they hounded him with e-mail harassments until he decided he had no other course of action but to take his own life.  It's a tragedy that hits close to home for a lot of young people these days.

While the characters were a bit one-dimensional, the excitement from the plot more than made up for it.  It was definitely a page-turner from the first chapter, not only because I was trying to figure out who had committed these crimes and how they were all related, but also because it was obvious Lindsey and Jace were attracted to each other.  While the plot was heavy, the romance aspect of the novel helped it from getting too heavy.