Monday, December 24, 2012

The One I Left Behind

The One I Left Behind, by Jennifer McMahon

It scared Reggie a little - how consumed Tara had become with all of this. But deep down, she believed Tara was right - the police were not going to catch this guy. They'd had their chance and failed three times. And this time was different. This time, it was her own mother's life at stake.

The One I Left Behind, Jennifer McMahon, mysteries, killings, serial killers
I've never read any of Jennifer McMahon's books before this, but now I definitely am planning on reading the others. This novel focused on Reggie (real name is Regina), whose mother was the last in a string of murders by a serial killer in 1985 - so she thought, until her mother turns up at a homeless shelter in Boston, twenty-five years later. The book jumps between June 1985 and the present day, in 2010, and Reggie must figure out if the killer, Neptune, is still alive, and if so, if he's still a menace to society.

Official synopsis:
The summer of 1985 changed Reggie's life forever. Thirteen, awkward, and without a father, she finds herself mixed up with her school's outcasts - Charlie, the local detective's son, and Tara, a goth who harbors a dark secret. That same summer a serial killer nicknamed Neptune begins kidnapping women, leaving their severed hands on the police department steps and, five days later, publicly displaying their corpses around town. Just when Reggie needs her mother Vera, an ex-model with many "boyfriends" and a thirst for gin, the most, Vera's hand is found on the steps - but her body fails to show up five days later, and Neptune is never caught.

Now a successful architect who left her hometown behind, Reggie doesn't trust anyone and lives with few attachments. But when her aunt calls saying her mother has been found alive, Reggie must confront the ghosts of her past and find Neptune before he kills again.

I really liked how the book jumped between 1985 and 2010 each chapter, and even more so when Reggie's friends from 1985 started appearing in 2010. Reggie had a huge crush on Charlie, who had feelings for Tara (that were not reciprocated), but now he's a plump real estate agent and she can't reconcile the two. Tara is now a nurse and is hired to care for Vera, Reggie's mother, once she returns, but soon Tara is taken by Neptune and Reggie must find her before she turns into the next victim.

We also learn about a criminal act that the three friends were involved in back in 1985, and how it was covered up and labeled an accident, as well as a dangerous habit that Tara and Reggie shared back then,  that Tara introduced to Reggie.

The One I Left Behind is perfect for those who love mysteries, or really anyone that loves a good read - I enjoyed it very much, and it leaves you guessing until the very end as to the real identity of Neptune.

The One I Left Behind will be in stores on January 2, 2013. 5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Hynotist's Love Story

The Hypnotist's Love Story, by Liane Moriarty.

Afterward, they went for dinner at that Thai restaurant on the corner where he told me he loved me for the first time.

I wonder if they sat at the same table.

I wonder if he remembered, just for a second. Surely I am worth a fleeting thought.

I couldn't get a table. They must have had a reservation - she must have done it, he would never bother. So I went to a cafe and I wrote him a letter, just trying to explain, to make him see, and I left it on the windscreen of his car.

I am looking forward to my next appointment with the hypnotist.

The Hypnotist's Love Story, stalking, Liane Moriarty, pregnancy
Back in June, I read What Alice Forgot for the BlogHer Book Club, and since then I have wanted to read more of Liane Moriarty's work. Moriarty writes with a certain wit, even when the situations are serious, and it makes me laugh out loud during some pages; she's a fantastic writer.

The Hypnotist's Love Story is her newest book, and what I really loved about it is that there are two distinct parts: the chapters alternate between Ellen (the hypnotist's) story, told in third-person omniscient point of view, and Saskia (the stalker's) story, in first-person.

Ellen has recently started dating the widowed Patrick, who she met online, and on one of their early dates he tells her about his stalker, Saskia. Saskia and he dated for about three years, and she helped to raise his son, Jack; he abruptly dumped her about a month after her mother passed away, and since then she has been stalking him. She's not a violent stalker - she doesn't hit or harm - but she emails him, leaves him notes, and calls him constantly, as well as follows him and Jack when they go places. Ellen can't help but be intrigued by Saskia, probably because she's a psychiatrist of sorts, but this comes to a head when she realizes she's already met Saskia: she's been masquerading as one of Ellen's clients, though to be fair the problem she comes in for is real.

I had a lot of empathy for Saskia in this novel, because it did seem like Patrick dumped her rather harshly; he should have at least let her to continue to see Jack, who seemed like her son, almost, since she raised him while Patrick was working. That being said, she is indeed a crazy person, and Ellen and Patrick try to steer clear of her as much as possible. Some of Moriarty's humor comes through still, however - in one example, while on a plane going for a long weekend with Patrick, Ellen remembers with horror that she told Saskia where they were going (when Saskia was one of her clients), and she wonders if she's on their plane. Then Saskia's part chimes in, saying something like "I'm on the same plane as them, but tickets were expensive."

I loved this book, and am looking forward to reading Moriarty's other two novels. I've seen this book listed on "summer reads" or "beach reads" lists online, but I think it's appropriate for any season, really, or anyone looking for a good read.

5 stars out of 5.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Don't You Wish

Don't You Wish, by Roxanne St. Clair.

"So don't even think about it again," she says. "Because you are who you are meant to be. Annie Nutter, daughter of Mel and Emily Nutter."

"But you don't know, Mom. What if I were the daughter of Jim and Emily Monroe? What if you'd had a daughter with a different husband? Who knows if I would still be me?"

"That's a silly question."

Is it? Would I play the violin? Would I have my same lousy hair but pretty blue eyes? Would I still love Jolly Ranchers and SpongeBob, or would I be too rich and cool for candy and old-school cartoons? Would Lizzie be my BFF? Would Theo still gross me out? Would I still be the poster child for the website My Life is Average? Or worse? I think not.

"If you even existed," Mom says. "You'd be somebody else entirely if you had different parents."

"But wouldn't I have the same soul?"

Mom looks at me, her eyes clear now, but still mascara-smudged. "I have no idea. Nobody can answer that question."

But I think about it all the way home.

Don't You Wish, teens, YA, Roxanne St. Clair
Although this book was fairly predictable, I definitely had a fun time reading it, and in fact devoured it in a day. Annie Nutter is a plain high school student - she wears braces and doesn't always have the best hair days - and her mom is a real estate agent and her dad is an inventor. She also has a little brother, Theo, who can be annoying at times. One day, her mom shows her an architecture magazine with a picture of an enormous, beautiful house, and the owner is Jim Monroe, a billionaire whom her mom used to date before marrying her dad. Her mom wonders if life would have been different if she was Mrs. Monroe, rich heiress; Annie does as well.

Annie is playing with her dad's latest invention one night, a mirror that helps you envision your "perfect self," and she gets electrocuted or something while doing it. When she wakes up, she's no longer Annie Nutter: she's Ayla Monroe, daughter of Jim Monroe (though she has the same mother, albeit one who is flawless-looking and 15 pounds skinnier than her "old mom" was). At first, Annie (Ayla) loves being popular, but she soon realizes that this life isn't all it's cracked up to be, and she wants to return to her old life as Annie Nutter; she just needs to find a way back.

This book has been optioned as a film, and I think it could make a great movie for teens. There are a lot of great supporting characters in the novel, like Charlie, a "nerd" that Annie meets while Ayla who tries to help her get "home" to her "real reality"; his theory is that there are multiple realities out there. Even though Annie likes a lot of the perks in Ayla's life, like the Aston Martin she drives and huge mansions she lives in, she realizes that she was happier when she had her "normal" family, which is why she wants to return to that life.

I also loved the ending - I had a feeling it would be one of those "deus ex machina" types, where it might say something like "And then she woke up and it was all a dream"; however, it definitely doesn't do that, and in fact leaves the reader wondering how much of it was real, and also how many "realities" there can be in a person's life, depending on decisions that they or others make.

4 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received an e-galley of this book from NetGalley to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Singles

The Singles, by Meredith Goldstein.

In the top right-hand corner of the board was a list of names written in bright red ink and all-capital letters: "HANNAH MARTIN, ROB NUTLEY, NANCY MACGOWAN, VICKI CLIFFORD, JOE EVANS."

Above the same, in the same crimson print, Bee had written the word "SINGLES."

They were the only guests to RSVP for Bee's nuptials without using their plus-one invites, and now they were the only names Bee hadn't yet placed on her seating chart.

The Singles, Meredith Goldstein, love, wedding, romance
This book reminded me a lot of the movie The Romantics, which wasn't that good; however, this book was excellent. Everyone is reuniting in Maryland for Bee's wedding, including her college friends, and tensions are high for everyone. Hannah is kinda looking forward to seeing her ex at the wedding, but also scared. Vicki has been depressed recently and doesn't want to go to the wedding, but feels that she has to. Rob decides to ditch the wedding at the last minute, even though his one-time love and BFF Hannah is going. Joe is Bee's uncle but didn't want to take his current girlfriend to the wedding, and Nancy ends up becoming sick and sending her son, Phil, to go in her place; after all, the places are $200 a piece, she tells him, and she doesn't want food being wasted.

The Singles end up interacting at the wedding and some interesting pairings take place. Each person has a story of their own to tell, and although the reason they are all gathered in Maryland is because of Bee, the focus of the novel is not on her, for the most part, but on her friends and the people who are at the wedding.

I could see this being a movie, too (and one of the characters, Hannah, is a casting agent, and likes to cast people as she meets them), although it might end up being a rom-com even though the source material is more serious throughout.

4 stars out of 5.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Goodbye to All That

Goodbye to All That, by Judith Arnold.

"This particular unit," the rental agent said, "gets a lot of sunlight. It's really a very bright unit."

Ruth wished she wouldn't call the apartment a "unit." It was a residence, a dwelling. A home.

Not a home like the house where her children had grown up and where Richard still lived. Not a spacious colonial with rhododendrons and daffodils and spirea that Ruth herself had planted, and ancient pines bordering the backyard and towering above the roofline. Not a house with a kitchen big enough to prepare a Thanksgiving feast or a Seder for the whole family and a finished-basement rec room with a ping-pong table, and a formal living room that always looked so pristine because it was so rarely used. Not a house with an elegant master bedroom suite, with two walk-in closets and a sleek fiberglass tub in the bathroom.

This place - this
unit - was very bright. That would be enough.

It would be perfect.

Goodbye to All That, Judith Arnold
This book was a lot funnier than I thought it would be given the subject matter. Ruth Bendel, who has been married to Richard for forty-two years, decides she doesn't want to live with him anymore, and she gets her own apartment and a clerk job at a local store. Everyone is baffled as to why she's decided to do this: her son, Doug, and daughters Melissa and Jill, and especially Richard. She gives vague reasons as to why she decided to move out - Richard's channel-surfing was annoying her, as was picking up after him each day and chin whiskers he leaves in the sink without cleaning - and the Bendel children all want her to get back together with him. But Ruth likes her independence, and likes having to think of no one but herself ... at least for now.

I really liked how this story delved into each of the main character's lives; you could even write spin-off novels about each of them. They all live in Boston except for the youngest, Melissa, who is an NYC lawyer. Jill is a housewife who writes catalog copy during the day, and Doug is an eye doctor that does Lasik and is super rich because of that. The book doesn't really talk about their childhoods much but chooses to focus on the present and the "situation," and how each of the kids (and their kids, in Jill and Doug's cases) are dealing with Ruth and Richard's separation.

4 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received an e-galley from NetGalley of this book to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Guest post: Jwan Jordan, comic book author

Affairs of The Mind: Chibi

Hello! My name is Jwan Jordan and I am the author of Affairs of the Mind: Chibi comic book! I am not like other authors out there. I am all over the place and I keep myself very busy with motivational presentations at schools and for other audiences as well as working for a gaming website online all on top of writing my comics!

What I do...

Jwan Jordan
For those new to my humble side of the independent comic book world, I have been producing comics and doing motivational seminars since 2007. I've created the Circular World: Ballad of the Broken Steel, Affairs of the Mind, and Affairs of the Mind: Chibi and contributed to various other indie comics.

How it began...

My fascination with creating in terms of art/comics began at Walt Disney Studios. My father was a stuntman and worked at the studio and I was able to spend a lot of time watching some of Disney's greatest characters get drawn right before my eyes. It was at that moment that the creative bug hit me like a ton of bricks.

Where did the idea for Affairs of the Mind series come from?

I've lead, what I consider, a very good life but despite that I've always struggled with depression. I use to frequently talk to my Grandmother, Jerry Jordan, about my depression and she said something that stuck with me till this day..."All the affairs of life come from your state of mind." Around the year 2007 I began writing comics and I decided to create a book that I felt would show an old philosophy I personally hold dear while being entertaining enough for all ages to enjoy. Hence, Affairs of the Mind was born!

What is my dream...

My true dream is have a Saturday morning cartoon for kids. Similar to Ben 10 and cartoon network series that are fun to watch and I would like to add an education message at the end of each cartoon like back in the 80′s when cartoons were really good and wholesome. I am also in the progress of starting a Kickstarter Campaign for an AFTM video game! More details on that coming soon.

More about Jwan Jordan:

Jwan Jordan is the author and creator of the Affairs of the Mind: Chibi comic. He also performs motivational seminars at school and serves as a life coach to all ages and walks of life.

For those interested, you can chat or keep in contact with him via his Facebook motivational/comic page at Jwan Jordan Comics.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Heads in Beds

Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality, by Jacob Tomsky.

These were my first glimpses into the lives of strangers, something I was coming to realize was a side effect of this business (or perk, depending on the predominance of your voyeuristic tendencies). Want to know what people are really like? What their strange habits are? How they treat people when no one they deem important is watching? Ask their desk agent. Basically, ask their servants: because that is what we are, an army of servants, included with the price of the room.

Heads in Beds, Jacob Tomsky, hotels, nonfiction
I don't usually read nonfiction. If there's a topic I'm particularly interested in, then I might seek out a book, but otherwise, I avoid it; usually the genre doesn't interest me for 'pleasure' reading. When I saw this book on NetGalley, however, it sounded interesting, so I put in a 'read request' for it and was approved. And I am definitely glad I did!

Official synopsis:
Jacob Tomsky never intended to go into the hotel business. As a new college graduate, armed only with a philosophy degree and a singular lack of career direction, he became a valet parker for a large luxury hotel in New Orleans. Yet, rising fast through the ranks, he ended up working in “hospitality” for more than a decade, doing everything from supervising the housekeeping department to manning the front desk at an upscale Manhattan hotel. He’s checked you in, checked you out, separated your white panties from the white bed sheets, parked your car, tasted your room-service meals, cleaned your toilet, denied you a late checkout, given you a wake-up call, eaten M&M's out of your minibar, laughed at your jokes, and taken your money. In Heads in Beds he pulls back the curtain to expose the crazy and compelling reality of a multi-billion-dollar industry we think we know.

First off, everyone has pseudonyms in this book - even the author. Instead of going by Jacob Tomsky, he decides to call his character Tommy Jacobs (get it?). He starts off in the hotel business kind of by accident: he graduated from college with a degree in Philosophy, only to find (surprise!) that there's practically no jobs suited for that major, so he takes a valet job at a New Orleans hotel to pay the bills. He eventually graduates to the front desk, then to a manager of housekeeping job, and then later moves to NYC, since he has always had the "travel bug" was surprised he lasted in New Orleans so long.

Many years into his career, he starts to become a "hustler," as he calls it - being able to make money from tips while also providing good service to the hotel customers. But he also begins to get sick of the hotel game, yet doesn't know what else he can do with his life - he's worked too hard to start at a new hotel and get the crappy work shifts, but he's getting sick of the hotel he's currently at also.

This book was funny. I seriously don't remember the last time I laughed so much during a fiction book, even if it was a comedy. I would love to see this made into a movie, though I'd have to think a bit to 'cast' it. When Tommy (Jacob, the author) starts it he's around 22 and when the book ends he's in his early 30s, I believe, so it spans about ten years of time. Some of the tips he reveals I already knew about - if you grease a front desk man's palm and say "Anything you do for me would be appreciated," you have a good chance of getting a better room than you maybe were initially assigned - but some of the other tips and insights I did not know about.

I would recommend this book to anyone that has ever stayed in a hotel, really, or anyone that wants a hilarious, smart read.

5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book from NetGalley to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Orders from Berlin

Orders from Berlin, by Simon Tolkien.

All that remained now was to watch the final act of the drama that he'd set in motion. Seaforth looked to the right and saw the dapper, rotund figure of Bertram Brive coming into view. There was a jauntiness in his step that made Seaforth think Bertram had got what he wanted down at the Probate Office. It was strange to watch him strutting up the road, blissfully ignorant of the fate that awaited him, moments away, inside his flat. He stopped in front of the building, took out his key, and opened the door. And two minutes later came back out in handcuffs.

Simon Tolkien is the grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien (yes, that Tolkien - of Lord of the Rings fame) but his writing couldn't be more different. This Tolkien writes "half Christie and half Grisham" thrillers (L.A. Times) rather than those stories set in magical lands, and although I enjoy historical novels, I couldn't really get into Order from Berlin, though I will admit that the book did lure me in the more I read of it.

Official synopsis, from
It’s September of 1940. France has fallen and London is being bombed day and night. Almost single-handedly Winston Churchill maintains the country’s morale. Britain’s fate hangs in the balance and the intelligence agencies on both sides of the Channel are desperate for anything that could give them the edge.

Albert Morrison, ex-chief of MI6, is pushed over the banister outside his London apartment. He falls to his death at the feet of his daughter, Ava, but it is too dark for her to see the attacker before he escapes. Two Scotland Yard detectives attend the crime scene: Inspector Quaid and his junior assistant, Detective Trave. Quaid is convinced that this is a simple open-and-shut case involving a family dispute. But Trave is not so sure. Following a mysterious note in the dead man’s pocket, Trave discovers that Morrison was visited by Alec Thorn, deputy head of MI6, on the day of his death. Could Thorn—who is clearly carrying a flame for Morrison's daughter—be involved in a plot to betray his country that Morrison tried to halt, and if so, can Trave stop it in time in this gripping and intelligent thriller?

Tolkien's other novels, which I have not read, include Detective Trave, and therefore Orders from Berlin is almost a prequel novel of sorts for Trave's fans. The novel begins in Germany, with "the Fuhrer" (Hitler) having a conversation with one of his trusted minions, and I was confused as to how that conversation tied in to the rest of the book until the novel began to weave all of the threads together. I do like novels set in past time periods, and I'm especially interested in those occurring during World War II; this book did a good job of making sure most of the main European characters were included, such as Hitler and Churchill.

Once the thriller/mystery part of the novel gets started, the pacing starts to pick up, and I enjoyed the novel more. I think that anyone who enjoys historical books combined with mysteries/thrillers might enjoy this, though I can't say that with certainty because I should have enjoyed it more, using that logic; the novel took me a while to get through.

Orders from Berlin will be in stores on December 11th. 3 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Book Giveaway: Choose one!

I haven't read any of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, but I've heard a lot about them. They were made into movies in 2010, 2011, and 2012, and the seventh book in the series, The Third Wheel, was recently released - check back soon for my review of it.

Meanwhile, however, I have one Wimpy Kid book to give away to my readers - and the best part is, you can choose any book in the series!

That includes:
#1: Diary of a Wimpy Kid
#2: Rodrick Rules
#3: The Last Straw
#4: Dog Days
#5: The Ugly Truth
#6: Cabin Fever
#7: The Third Wheel

Enter your information in the Rafflecopter form below. This contest will end next Friday, November 30th at 11:59pm EST, and the winner will have 24 hours to respond to my email or an alternate winner will be chosen.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Dualed, by Elsie Chapman.

From the moment you get your assignment and you make the decision to run, life changes int he most momentous of ways. It's no longer a question of what you're going to do that day, what you're going to eat, who you're going to see. It's how you're going to survive until the next day comes. That you were stressing out about some exam or essay means nothing. Instead you learn how to be paranoid. You learn how to distinguish between the echoes behind you. You learn how to beg and sneak and how to move in the dark.

You learn that you can never go home again. At least, not until you're complete.

This book was a combination of The Hunger Games and Matched, and was definitely fascinating. I also thought it seemed like one stand-alone book, but the second book in the series, Divided, will be in stores in February 2014.

Dualed, Elsie Chapman, dystopia, murdersIn West Grayer's world, random killings occur on the street each day - except they aren't so random. Every person in the world is born with an Alt (an Alternate), and sometime between the age of 10 to 19, each person will receive an assignment: they must kill their Alt. The reasoning behind this is that the stronger Alt will survive, and that person will be more fit to live in their city, the city of Kersh. For a price, however, people can be hired to kill your Alt: people more highly trained and effective than you. West decides to become one of these people, so that she can learn the art of the kill, but a few months after she starts, she receives her Alt assignment, and must kill her Alt - or else both of them will die within thirty days.

Official synopsis:
The Hunger Games meets Matched in this thrilling high-concept YA where citizens must prove their worth by killing their Alts—twins raised by other families. You or your Alt? Only one will survive.

The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life. But then a tragic misstep shakes West's confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she's no longer certain that she's the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.

Just like in Matched, there's a "higher power" that mandates the rules in this dystopia - in this case, they are called The Board, and they are the ones who show up at your house to give you your Alt assignment. Once you receive your assignment, your eye pupils have a number on it. You and your Alt have thirty days to kill or be killed, and if neither of you are dead by that time, then both of you die.

I thought West's world was definitely fascinating. She was raised with brothers and sisters, all of whom die before her - not necessarily by Alts, but by accidents too - and it turns out that before she was born, her parents actually met her Alt's parents, by accident; they were placed together in the same waiting room at the fertility place where they went in order to "request" a child.

The ideas in this book are crazy to think about, because if this how real life was, there would be random sanctioned killings in the street, yet people would be accustomed to it; in one scene, a barista at a coffee shop sees West stalking her Alt, and tells her to take "that" away from there because it's "bad for business." I also thought Dualed wrapped up everything pretty nicely so I am interested in seeing what Divided will have in store for West and the people she loves.

Dualed will be in stores on February 26, 2013. 4 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book from NetGalley to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made

Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made, by Alan Eisenstock, with Eric Zala and Chris Strompolos.

With only a few props gathered, no costumes - thanks to Chris's fedora and leather jacket spray-paint disaster - the boulder demolished, and hundreds of storyboards to go, the boys decide to concentrate on the one area they know they can handle: stunts. Chris, showing off his practiced Indiana Jones swagger, approaches each day as if it's the day that they might somehow get hold of a camera and actually film this thing. He vows to be ready. He sets his sights on the pit scene, where Indy leaps over and open pit to escape the collapsing temple cave by swinging from tree branch to tree branch. The boys find the perfect tree right outside Gus and Irene's house - a sturdy white pine in a neighbor's front yard - climb it, and prepare to "rehearse." That's the word they use. Because every thought, every action, every play date, every trip to the mall, every conversation, every nickel they save or spend goes into what will be their Raiders.

Raiders The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made, Chris Strompolos, Eric ZalaI had never heard of this movie before reading this book, but apparently it's quite famous - Spielberg himself even wrote the filmmakers a letter when he did eventually see it. The book focuses on two kids who, in the 1980s, decided to make an adaptation of Raiders of the Lost Ark, scene for scene. They didn't anticipate at the time that it would take them seven years to finish, or that during the process their friendship would eventually destruct; however, they continued to work at the movie until it was completely finished: editing, music, and all.

Official synopsis:

In 1981, in a small town in Mississippi, ten-year-old Chris Strompolos and eleven-year-old Eric Zala met on a school bus. They discovered they shared a passion for comic books and the film Raiders of the Lost Ark, and a friendship was born. They decided to re-make Raiders - every scene, every shot, every stunt - even though they had no camera, no money, and no clue how to make a movie. But what they did have was a vision, sheer will, limitless imagination, and each other.

Incredibly, they realized their dream, though it took them a staggering seven years to complete their movie. By then, they had grown up - and almost burned down the family home, nearly killed Eric, and stopped speaking to each other. Twenty-nine years later, today Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation has an obsessive and devoted following of millions and is considered the best and most successful fan film ever created.

What I really loved about this book is that by the end of it, you felt like you knew both Eric and Chris - almost like they were friends of yours - since the novel follows them from early childhood until 2005, when Katrina hits Mississippi and Chris comes home to help Eric and his family. I've watched a clip from the beginning of the film, too (see below), and it's pretty good for kids on a "shoestring" budget. The novel shows how much love and work they put into this movie, too, and how they were obsessive about capturing every last detail from the original, as well as how a twist of fate put a copy of their film into the "right hands" and how it eventually ended up becoming a cult favorite.

Raiders! will be in bookstores on November 13th. 4 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Reflected in You

Reflected in You (Crossfire series, #2) by Sylvia Day.

The starkness of his gaze bled away, replaced by sexual heat. "Oh? Planning on pacifying me with sex, angel?"

"Yes," I admitted shamelessly. "Lots of it. After all, the tactic seems to work quite well for you."

His mouth curved, but his gaze had a sharpness that quickened my breath. The dark look he gave me reminded me - as if I could forget - that Gideon wasn't a man who could be managed or tamed.

"Ah, Eva," he purred, sprawled against the seat with the predatory insouciance of a sleek panther who'd nearly trapped a mouse in his den.

A delicious shiver moved through me. When it came to Gideon, I was more than willing to be devoured.

Reflected in You, Sylvia Day, Crossfire series
I am reviewing this book for the BlogHer Book Club, and they and Penguin were kind enough to send both this novel and Bared to You, the first book in the Crossfire series. I read both of them and it's definitely good that I did, because this book picks up almost instantly after BTY ends.

Gideon Cross is a billionaire who, in the first book, notices Eva on her first day working at his office building, at a PR firm. He actually backtracks so that they can cross paths, and soon afterwards propositions her in a rather crude manner. Eva normally wouldn't go for such things, but Gideon is ridiculously hot, and soon she finds herself spending all of her time outside work with him.

The first book mostly consists of them having mindblowing sex and also learning a little bit about their pasts. In this novel, it's less sex (but still intense sex when had) and more past-exploring, specifically as to why Gideon is keeping secrets from Eva. Eva also runs in to one of her exes, who is now the frontrunner of a band she goes to see with Gideon and a friend, which causes some problems between her and Gideon, as he tends to get jealous very easily (as does Eva, of Gideon's exes).

Normally I give books I review an overall rating, but with this book it is hard to do that. The story is very interesting, and I hope to read the third book, Reflected in You, when it comes to stores in May 2013. This series also is not a BDSM series like Fifty Shades of Grey, though there's definitely the suggestion of BDSM at times; Eva says over and over that she's an independent woman, yet she lets Gideon be very controlling over her, both in life and in the bedroom. However, I saw many similarities to Christian and Ana in this book - Gideon/Christian are billionaires and they both meet the main woman characters at the office (though Ana meets Christian when she goes to interview him for an article, and Gideon pretty much stalks Eva once he first sees her to ensure that they meet).

The main difference between this and other similar books I have read is that the writing flows very easily and is enjoyable to read, and also both Gideon and Eva have very complicated backgrounds. Eva is definitely not a virgin, and she's not really into BDSM, though she has no problem giving herself completely to Gideon. Gideon has a past as well, which involves his stepfamily (stepbrother & stepsister) and also his mother. Eva comes from money, kind of, since her mother is a "serial trophy wife," as she puts it - she's currently married to her fourth husband, and it's the reason that Eva and her roommate, Carey (who is bisexual but who has a platonic relationship with Eva), live in a huge apartment in NYC. Eva's mother is also very paranoid and even goes so far as to track her cell phone so she can know Eva's whereabouts, and this is partly the reason why Eva has trust issues.

This series is definitely worth reading, just be aware that although the story is great, there's definitely similarities to other romances I have read. Also be aware that although the second book (this book) does stand out on its own, it's extremely helpful to read Bared to You beforehand, to get the Gideon and Eva's full backstories before they are delved into in greater detail in Reflected in You.

Story: 4 stars out of 5
Originality: 2 stars out of 5
Series' rating (so far): 3.5 stars out of 5

*Disclosure: I was compensated for reviewing this novel. However, this opinions expressed here are my own.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Tilt, by Ellen Hopkins.

Tilt, Ellen Hopkins, teenagers, crises
I have no excerpt to share from this book, because it's written in poetry-form. Usually I hate those types of books but this one was interesting in that it focused on three or four different teenage characters, and they all have drama going on in their lives. Tilt is actually a companion book to Triangles, which I now want to read, and Triangles focused on the adult characters in Tilt; the teenagers in this book can be found as minor characters in Triangles.

Official synopsis:
Caught in the midst of their parents' midlife crises as told in Triangles, three teens are left to fend for themselves as their once secure and familiar worlds are turned upside down. Mikayla is sure she has found the love her parents seem to have lost, but is suddenly weighing nearly impossible choices with an unplanned pregnancy. Shane, having come out about his sexuality, is unwilling to lie anymore about who he is, but finds himself struggling to keep it all under control in the face of first love and a horrific loss. Harley is a good girl who just wants to experience what it means to be a young adult, yet she finds herself compromising her values as she sets on a path of self-destruction.

Intense, gripping, and thought-provoking, Tilt explores the different ways we find the strength we need to hold on when our world's been tilted completely off its axis. It's an intimate look at the deepest feelings of these fully rendered young characters and is certain to inspire genuine communications between young adults and their parents.

I also liked how all of the stories are intertwined. Mikayla thinks she's found the love of her life, Dylan, but when she finds out she's pregnant he dumps her. Shane has found his first boyfriend, Alex, but he learns Alex is HIV-positive; Shane is also dealing with his 4-year-old sister not doing well, as she has SMA (spinal muscular atrophy). Almost-14-year-old Harley has started running with a "fast crowd," and soon finds herself "going farther" than she thought she would at this age. A few of these characters are cousins, too, so their parents know each other. Their friends all get to weigh in as well - they get a page between each character's sections so we get to see inside their heads - which is interesting to read.

I'd like to now read Triangles and see what was going on inside the heads of these characters' parents at the time, as the time frames of the two stories are the same - originally I thought Tilt was a sequel to Triangles, but the stories occur parallel to each other.

3.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

In the Pink

In the Pink: How I Met the Perfect (Younger) Man, Survived Breast Cancer, and Found True Happiness After 40, by Susan McBride.

Ed wasn't yet home from work, and I didn't want to call and tell him something so serious over the phone. So I called my mom and burst into tears. "I'll be right over," she said, and appeared on my doorstep within minutes. When I let her in, she gave me a bear hug, crying as I cried, telling me, "If I could take the cancer from you and give it to myself, I would do it in a heartbeat."

I wished someone would take the cancer from me, too, but I didn't want to give it to her. I just wanted it gone.

Susan McBride is the author of Little Black Dress, which I reviewed here in 2011, and I also got to do an email interview with her then. Now she has released In the Pink, a novella which details her fight with breast cancer while she was writing LBD and some of her other novels as well.

McBride has a history of breast cancer in her family - her aunt had breast cancer, and later another relative is diagnosed with it too - and her doctor almost didn't catch it at first, which is scary. A year or so previously, she met Ed, who turns out to be the love of her life (she in fact has a child with him, at age 47!), and she worried that he wouldn't stay with her through this, since they weren't yet married - but he did, and they go on to get married and have a daughter.

The book itself is very short, clocking in at 87 pages including a few Q&As in the end, and then readers also get a sneak peek of The Truth about Love and Lightning, McBride's next novel which will be in stores in February 2013.

3.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gone Girl

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn.

"I don't know. She's not a never-met-a-stranger kind of person, but she's not - not abrasive enough to make someone ... hurt her."

This was my eleventh lie. The Amy of today was abrasive enough to want to hurt, sometimes. I speak specifically of the Amy of today, who was only remotely like the woman I fell in love with. It had been an awful fairy-tale reverse transformation. Over just a few years, the old Amy, the girl of the big laugh and the easy ways, literally shed herself, a pile of skin and soul on the floor, and out stepped this new, brittle, bitter Amy. My wife was no longer my wife but a razor-wire knot daring me to unloop her, and I was not up to the job with my thick, numb, nervous fingers. Country fingers. Flyover fingers untrained in the intricate, delicate work of
solving Amy. When I'd hold up the bloody stumps, she'd sigh and turn to her secret mental notebook on which she tallied all my deficiencies, forever noting disappointments, frailties, shortcomings. My old Amy, damn, she was fun. She was funny. She made me laugh. I'd forgotten that. And she laughed. From the bottom of her throat, from right behind that small finger-shaped hollow, which is the best place to laugh from. She released her grievances like handfuls of birdseed: They are there, and they are gone.

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
I stayed up until 1am last night to finish this book, and today I am tired but it was worth it. This was the book everyone was talking about this past summer, and I put my name on the hold list for it at my local library and just now was able to read it; however, it is definitely worth the wait.

The story opens on Nick and Amy's fifth anniversary. She makes him crepes, and then he heads out to the beach to relax for a bit - alone. He goes to The Bar, the bar that he and his twin sister Go (Margo) own, and gets a strange call from a neighbor: his house's door is wide open. Nick goes to check and finds his living room smashed to bits and Amy gone. The police come and investigate, and eventually they find some disturbing things: blood, mopped up, all over the kitchen floor; the struggle in the living room looks posed as well. All signs point to Nick, but Nick, even though he has a 23-year-old mistress, didn't do it; eventually, he and Go figure out something disturbing about Amy that has to do with the case, and they start investigating it themselves.

The first half of this book is told in alternating chapters, between Amy Elliott's diary (soon to be Amy Elliott Dunne after marrying Nick) and Nick's recollections from the present. After the first half, there's a VERY interesting twist, and we end up with not one but TWO unreliable narrators. Nick is an unreliable narrator because about 1/4 of the way through the book, he confesses that he has a mistress - Andi, 23 (he is 34, Amy is 38) - and says something to the effect of "I am guessing you like me less now." His wife, Amy, was the subject of the book series Amazing Amy, that her parents, who studied psychology like her, wrote when she was a little girl. We later find out that she has always held a grudge against them for this, because any decision that they thought she made poorly gets written into the book the way they would have wanted it to happen.

Amy is extremely smart, and after the first half of the book when we learn that her diary entries were "unreliable," so to speak, things really pick up, and we begin to see her in a completely different light.

I definitely recommend this book for anyone that likes mysteries, and also anyone that likes a good story in general; it has a ton of twists and turns that will keep you hooked.

4.5 stars out of 5.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling.

Together they rattled through the conventional aspects of the tragedy: the widow ("she'll be lost, she lived for Barry"); the children ("four teenagers, what a burden without a father"); the relative youth of the dead man ("he wasn't much older than Miles, was he?"); and then, at least, they reached the real point of departure, beside which all else was aimless meandering.

"What'll happen?" Maureen asked Howard greedily.

"Ah," said Howard. "Well, now. That's the question, isn't it? We've got ourselves a casual vacancy, Mo, and it could make all the difference."

"We've got a...?" asked Maureen, frightened that she might have missed something crucial.

"Casual vacancy," repeated Howard. "What you call it when a council seat becomes vacant through a death. Proper term," he said pedagogically.

So let's get something straight first off: this book is not Harry Potter by any means. It's Rowling's first book for adults, and you can definitely tell it's for adults: it has a lot of swearing, sex, and other debauchery in it. That being said, Rowling is an exceptional storyteller, and this book is no different, though it clocks in at a rather lengthy 503 pages.

If you've ever lived in a small town, you will relate to the people of Pagford, England, who are constantly in each other's business. When Barry Fairbrother dies, a "casual vacancy" on the town's parish council is created, and a few Pagford citizens take it upon themselves to run for his seat. These people all know each other, and their teenagers know each other, some of whom who hate their parents ... and that's when things start to get interesting.

Official synopsis:
When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled marked square and an ancient abbey, but what lies beneath the pretty facade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils ... Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

The Casual Vacancy book J.K. Rowling
It was a little hard to keep track of all of the characters in this book because there were so many of them, and they all know each other. The Mollison family (Shirley and Howard, and their adult son, Miles, whose wife is Samantha) are one of the most respected families in town, and so it makes sense for Miles to run for the council. Colin Wall is the headmaster at the local school, and his adopted son, Stu "Fats" Wall, hates him; his mother, Tessa, always tries to be the peacemaker. Gavin Hughes likes to stay above town politics, but his girlfriend, Kay, and her daughter Gaia have just moved from London to be with him, and Kay (a social worker) ends up getting involved with some of the poorer families in Pagford.

There's also the only Indian family in town, Dr. Parminder Jawanda and her family, including Sukvinder who is constantly made fun of by Fats for having hair over her lip. Sukvinder is friends with Gaia, who is currently being adored by afar by Andrew Price, son of Simon Price, who also wants to run for council ... that is, until Andrew hacks into the council website and writes a piece about Simon's various indiscretions.

And we can't forget 16-year-old Krystal Weedon, whose mother Terri is a drug addict; Krystal inevitably ends up taking care of Robbie, her toddler brother, when Terri is unable to do so. Fats strikes up a relationship with Krystal, but one day when they aren't paying attention, something awful happens to Robbie.

What I liked most about this novel was that all of the stories were intertwined, and at the end of the book we notice this more than ever. The actions of the teenagers and of the people running for council, as well as their families, all end up combusting in the end for a rather interesting finale, and a "hot topic" that everyone in the town has an opinion on ends up causing strife throughout as well.

4 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Diary of a Submissive

Diary of a Submissive: A Modern True Tale of Sexual Awakening, by Sophie Morgan.

His grip is solicitous as he helps me to my feet. We walk past you, arm in arm. He smiles. Nods. You half nod back before you catch yourself and wonder what on earth you're doing. I am looking studiously at the ground, my head down.

You can see I am shaking. But what you can't see his how aroused this whole experience has made me. How hard my nipples are in the confines of my bra. How my trembling is as much from the adrenaline high of everything that has just played out in front of you as it is from the cold and humiliation. How I thrive on this. How it completes me in a way that I can't fully explain. How I hate it yet love it. Yearn for it. Crave it.

You can't see any of that. All you can see is a trembling woman with dirty knees, walking away on wobbly legs.

This is my story.

The tagline for this novel is "Everyone's waiting for the real life Fifty Shades of Grey ... Sophie Morgan's tantalizing tale does not disappoint." Sophie Morgan's name is also a pseudonym, for reasons that will become obvious from the very beginning of the book. I have read the Fifty Shades series, and if those were considered R-rated, this novel would be NC-17 ... let's just say that when I was reading it in public, I may have tilted the cover down just a little, so people couldn't see what I was reading!

I read this for the BlogHer Book Club, too, which was rather interesting, since it walks a fine line between porn and an autobiography. It's more like a well-written 50 Shades, which I definitely appreciated (since the writing in that series was AWFUL), but everything that happened in this novel was/is true, according to our narrator, though I noticed a lot of similarities to 50 in terms of situations. About the author:

Sophie Morgan is the pseudonym for a journalist in her early 30s. While working hard at a career she loves, she is surrounded by friends and amused and exasperated by her family in about equal measure. She loves animals and Marmite (the British food spread), hates people who stop abruptly when walking down the street so you walk into them, and spends too much money on books, DVDs, and handbags, mostly in that order. The one thing missing in her life is someone with whom to share it - someone who will dominate her sexually, as well as help sort out the recycling.

I almost wrote "this novel takes place in England" just now, because at times it felt like a novel - it was extremely detailed, but not "fictionally so" - no "sexy" adjectives added or whatnot - and it almost felt like fiction, even though I knew I was reading an autobiography. Sophie lives in England (hence the Marmite references) and has a hectic career as a journalist. In her free time, she likes to have crazy sex, though most of her "inner circle" doesn't know about the "submissive" side of her personality.

While she was at university, she met her first lover, Ryan, with whom she started a Dominant/submissive relationship with (capital "D," lower-case "s" is the proper grammar, as she explains in the book). After college, she has a few more "vanilla" relationships, and then she starts a D/s relationship with her best friend at the time, Thomas, experimenting with him and one of his friends, Catherine. The middle and end of the book details her tumultuous relationship with James, whom she meets when she interviews him for a story - very similar to how Ana and Christian meet in 50 Shades.

This book was interesting because it gives us an insight into Sophie's psyche; she knows that something's a little wrong with her for getting beaten up and liking it, as well as letting herself be ordered around, but at the same time it also gets her excited. She talks about her relationships with her family and friends, and how she first discovered she was in to D/s relations, or how the inkling was there during her childhood. I could have done without the almost-pornographic sex and D/s scene descriptions, but if they weren't there then this book would probably not have been as interesting, I will admit, and definitely wouldn't be compared to 50 Shades, though I'm not sure if the author was aiming for that or not.

3.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I was compensated for writing this review for the BlogHer Book Club. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

In Need of Therapy

In Need of Therapy, by Tracie Banister.

"Maybe Victor keeps coming back because your rejections lack conviction? Maybe there's some part of you that enjoys all the attention?" Ford posited.

I arched an eyebrow. "Are you psychoanalyzing me, Dr. Fordham?"

"Just some food for thought, Dr. Alvarez."

"And here's some food for our stomachs," I said as the waiter approached our table with two burger and fries-filled plates. His timing couldn't have been more perfect. While I enjoyed shrinking other people's heads, it made me nervous when the same was done to mine.

In Need of Therapy is about Pilar and her crazy Cuban-American family. Pilar is a psychologist who just started a practice in South Beach, and she has two sisters - one of whom is married with kids, and the other who is much younger (23), currently unemployed, and living with Pilar. Pilar's mother worries about her "becoming an old maid," as Pilar is almost 30 and has no romantic prospects - not counting her persistent ex, Victor, who declares his love for her every time he stalks bumps into her. One day, however, a cute new psychologist moves in to the suite across the hall in Pilar's office building. Slight problem, though: he's married.

Official synopsis:

While working hard to make a success of her recently-opened practice in trendy South Beach, Pilar must also find time to cater to the demands of her boisterous Cuban family, which includes younger sister Izzy, an unemployed, navel-pierced wild child who can't stay out of trouble, and their mother, a beauty queen turned drama queen who’s equally obsessed with her fading looks and getting Pilar married before it’s “too late.” Although she’d like to oblige her mother and make a permanent love connection, Pilar’s romantic prospects look grim. Her cheating ex, who swears that he’s reformed, is stalking her. A hunky, but strictly off-limits, patient with bad-boy appeal and intimacy issues is making passes. And the sexy shrink in the suite across the hall has a gold band on his left ring finger.

When a series of personal and professional disasters lead Pilar into the arms of one of her unsuitable suitors, she's left shaken, confused, and full of self-doubt. With time running out, she must make sense of her feelings and learn to trust herself again so that she can save her business, her family, and most importantly, her heart.

Overall I enjoyed this book. The parts with Victor and others in the book made me laugh, and Pilar has a good sense of humor. At times I thought the writing was almost too descriptive - ie, "Ford posited," in the excerpt I posted at top - but in general it had a good flow to it. Another blogger described this book as "My Big Fat Greek Wedding but Cuban-style" and I would definitely agree with that; I was surprised to learn the author is not Spanish, since there are many Spanish words sprinkled throughout the novel, and Pilar's big family seemed authentically Cuban.

I also really liked the ending of this novel. Although parts were predictable, Victor's fate ended up surprising me, though it actually made perfect sense. It would also be interesting to learn more about Pilar and her family, maybe in a series of books, but the ending seemed rather finite overall.

3 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Author Interview: Melissa de la Cruz

I have been a huge fan for a while now of Melissa de la Cruz's books. Lately she has been focusing on supernatural themes, but she's also the author of The Au Pairs series as well as a few non-series books, like Girl Stays in the Picture. She's the author of the highly acclaimed Blue Bloods series, two of which I have reviewed, and her newest two novels are Serpent's Kiss, the second book in the Witches of East End series, and the Wolf Pact series, which will be released in four parts in e-book format only. I was recently lucky enough to have the chance to interview her about her books via email; here's what she had to say.

Melissa de la Cruz
photo credit: Denise Bovee
What is the significance of the title Serpent's Kiss? I may have missed something, but I couldn't figure it out.

I just liked the title, and for me it meant there was a serpent in their midst and they had to find out who it was. The Serpent's Kiss is the Kiss of Death after all! :)

Why did you choose to publish Wolf Pact as an e-book in four parts, and when do parts 2, 3, and 4 come out?

My publisher and I thought it was integral to readers having a richer experience of Gates of Paradise, the Blue Bloods finale, and the speed of publishing it was very convenient. The parts come out every two or three weeks or so leading up to the publication of Gates of Paradise.

Why do characters from some of your series (i.e., Blue Bloods) pop up in other book series of yours? I love this - always fun to see Blue Bloods cameos in other books, like Witches of East End.

For me, to write about a paranormal world, it just made sense that they all inhabited the same world. They're all connected somehow. I always liked the Marvel Team-Ups (see The Avengers) so for me it's a little like that.

What authors have or currently influence you and your writing?

I would say very early on I loved Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace and really wanted to write books that were about society and relationships in the way that he did, and I also wanted to write paranormal, so definitely Stephen King and Anne Rice, and I love the scope of epic fantasy and I loved Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Right now I would say I'm really interested in structuring a book like Gone Girl, I thought Gillian Flynn did such a great job craft-wise and I want to try that out.

If you could pick any of your books or book series to be made into a movie, which would you choose?

Witches of East End IS becoming a TV series. We're shooting the pilot next week! :)

I would love for Blue Bloods to get made one day, and my new series co-written with my husband, FROZEN, a post-apocalyptic fantasy, is perfect for cinema. We would love to see that on the big screen.

What are you currently working on?

Right now, Witches 3: Winds of Salem.

Keep an eye out for Wolf Pact part II, which will be released on October 23rd, and Melissa's newest Blue Bloods and Witches of East End books, to be released in 2013. And if you've never read any of Melissa's books, make sure to check out her other series' as well - they're all great reads!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Serpent's Kiss

Serpent's Kiss, by Melissa de la Cruz.

Hanging was less violent than burning, but neither could be called humane, and now the memories of Salem and her own girls' hangings returned, as much as she tried to push them away: the townspeople jeering and celebrating, couples kissing and groping as the hangman fit the nooses around each of their necks. Some in the crowd were raising their fists, while others cried out in ecstasy or with smiles on their faces as the condemned swung off the platform. This was a part of humanity that Joanna would rather not have witnessed. It was the wrong way around; those with blackened hearts were in the crowd, not on the gallows. She wiped away a tear, remembering Freya's defiant stare and Ingrid's broken sobs. Joanna loosened the red scarf at her neck, because she suddenly felt as if she was being choked herself.

Serpent's Kiss is the second novel in de la Cruz's Witches of East End series, and I reviewed the title book in the series in August 2011. I am a big fan of de la Cruz's books, and I especially like how characters in some of her other series tend to pop up in different series of hers; in the first Witches book, some of the Blue Bloods vampires showed up in East Hampton. In Wolf Pact part 1, which I also recently read, Freya and Ingrid's uncle, Arthur, has a small role as well.

In the second book in the series, things appear to be settling down in the Beauchamp family's life - at first, anyway. Life in North Hampton has become a little less complicated, at least until Freya's twin, Freddie (or the god Fryr,  in their world) shows up. Freddie has been in "Limbo" for quite a while, and Freya is overjoyed to see him, though he makes her promise not to tell their mother, Joanna, that he is home, or their sister, Ingrid. Freddie claims that Freya's boyfriend, Killian, stole something important from him, and it was because of Killian's actions that Freddie was placed in Limbo.

At the same time, 32-year-old Ingrid has finally found love, with Matt Noble, a police detective - who is also a mortal. Ingrid is a little inexperienced, as well, and finds herself embarrassed every time she tries to explain this to Matt.

Norman, Joanna's husband whom they thought was long-lost, has also reappeared, and he wants to work things out with Joanna, who is currently dating a gentleman named Harold, also a mortal - or so she thinks.

The author juggles a lot of plot points in this novel, but ties most of them up nicely at the end. The witches and their partners have interesting lives, and Serpent's Kiss is just as good of a read as Witches of East End; their story will continue in June 2013, as well, with The Winds of Salem. I liked how Ingrid and Freya had some "normal" human problems - Ingrid is deciding if she wants to date Matt, and Freya is dealing with trust issues with Killian, ever since Freddie returned - yet they also have their "witchy" problems to deal with that we in the human world don't usually experience.

Also, stay tuned: I will be interviewing Melissa de la Cruz over email sometime in the next week, about this series, Blue Bloods, and her new Wolf Pact e-book series.

4 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Jennifer Johnson Is Sick of Being Married

Jennifer Johnson Is Sick of Being Married, by Heather McElhatton.

The perfect woman is actually three women rolled into one: Mrs. Howell, Mary Ann, and Ginger from Gilligan's Island. Three women who when combined become the whole package. The refined lady, the demure sweetheart, and the sultry sex kitten, all in one. A woman who can bake coconut pies, charm cannibals, and cavort on white-sand beaches in six-inch stilettos.

Simply put, the perfect woman is a sweet rich slut.

I was sent this book to review without reading the previous Johnson novel, Jennifer Johnson Is Sick of Being Single, but this novel can stand on its own two feet without having read its "prequel."

Jennifer is newly married to Brad Keller, whose father and family own Keller's department store, where we gather that Jennifer used to work as a copywriter. The Kellers are rich beyond belief, very Christian, and very controlling; Mother Keller and Brad's father send Jen and Brad to the tropics for their honeymoon, to a Christian resort, where they proceed to have the worst trip (or honeymoon, for that matter) ever, ranging from diarrhea to being locked out of the resort one night.

When they return to Minnesota, Jennifer finds herself bored with nothing to do all day, and she quickly finds herself becoming one of the "ladies who lunch." Brad wants them to exude perfection, as well, since his father is about to name a successor to the store and he is up against his sister, Sarah, for the position of CEO. Jennifer finds herself disliking Brad and his family more and more, until the end of the novel where she decides to take action and get herself out of the marriage as painlessly as possible.

I was reading this book in a hotel lobby during breaks (the hotel is connected to my workplace) and I found myself laughing out loud at various parts and dialogue throughout; I'm sure I looked like a crazy person, but I couldn't help myself, because the dialogue is hilarious. Not only will I be reading Jennifer Johnson Is Sick of Being Single, but I almost wish Jennifer was real, because I have a feeling she would be as awesome in real life as she is in the book. Other parts that made me laugh were sections on their new "space-age" refrigerator, which has a computer screen and an Ice Empress that can find you whatever you want to eat or drink in the fridge; the Ice Empress speaks Japanese, and it later turns out that she's not as "friendly" as she appears to be.

Kirkus Reviews has called this novel "bawdy, occasionally lewd, and often funny," and "a cross between chick-lit fare and Bridesmaids." If you're looking for smart and funny chick lit, look no further - Jennifer and her friends will guarantee you a good read.

Jennifer Johnson Is Sick of Being Married will be in stores on October 9th. 4.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A second look: Matched

"Cassia. Do you regret your decision to be Matched? Do you wish that you had chosen to be a Single?"

"That's not it."

"Then what is it?"

"I think people should be able to choose
who they Match with," I say lamely.

"Where would it end, Cassia?" she says, her voice patient. "Would you say next that people should be able to choose how many children they have, and where they want to live? Or when they want to die?"

I first reviewed the novel Matched, by Ally Condie, in May 2011, and I thought it was fantastic: I gave it 4.5 stars out of 5. When the chance arose to review it again, this time for the BlogHer Book Club, I jumped at it, and I've recently finished re-reading it to see if my initial thoughts were still the same.

My original post on the novel was a little short, but here's what I had to say about it:

This book was amazing and the sequel, Crossed, is coming out in November 2011. Cassia lives in a dystopia society where the Government tells them who they will marry, how many children they will have (and this must happen before the woman turns 31), and where they will live. The citizens have the "luxury" of dying on their 80th birthday, before they have the chance to incur diseases like Alzheimers or other degenerative ones. Cassia has never questioned the system, and is in fact pleased when she is Matched with one of her childhood and best friends, Xander. When they give her information about her match on a computer card, however, the picture that comes up is not Xander's, but rather of another local boy, Ky. Cassia must decide if she wants to stay with Xander or make it work with Ky, who is an Aberration, and if ultimately she wants to break the Government rules.

This novel reminded me of a combination of The Giver, in that people are killed when they get to be old, and The Handmaid's Tale, for some reason, which is also set in a dystopian society. I am very much looking forward to reading Crossed when it comes out in November.

I did read Crossed and thought it was just okay, but the third and last book in the series, Reached, will be in stores on November 13th, and I will probably read it just to see how the trilogy ends.

However, after re-reading Matched, I still stand by my 4.5 out of 5 star rating. I've read a lot of dystopian lit since May 2011, most of which was also very good, but the premise of Matched is still intriguing, and it's definitely worth reading, especially if you want to read the entire trilogy.

*Disclosure: I was compensated for writing this review for the BlogHer Book Club. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Accelerated, by Bronwen Hruska.

He rolled the bottle between his hands, then struggled with the childproof cap and shook the pills onto his desk. They looked like lavender Tic Tacs. He realized now that there was only one way he could ever give this medication to Toby.

He funneled the pills back into the bottle, leaving one on his desk. He popped it into his mouth and downed it with a gulp of water from the bathroom sink.

He'd never been big on drugs. After his sophomore-year roommate dropped acid and tried to jump off the clock tower, Sean decided to skip the experimentation that kept most of his friends high through art school. Taking the Metattent was different. It was his responsibility to try it. He sat at his desk waiting for something to happen.

I was blown away by this book, and the fact that it's Hruska's debut novel amazed me as well. Sean Benning earns $70k a year working for a tabloid in New York City, even though his passion is art, and because his estranged wife's family is rich, they are able to send their son Toby to The Bradley School, which otherwise would cost about half of his Sean's yearly salary. Everyone always tells Sean how lucky Toby is to be at Bradley, and up until now he's agreed. When the school starts pushing Sean to put Toby on ADHD medication, though, Sean has Toby diagnosed and then gives him the pills, even though he disagrees with their diagnosis. After an incident that almost kills Toby, Sean begins to realize that its not just Toby that the school has tried this with - it's a lot of his male classmates - and the cover-up is bigger than it originally seemed.

Hruska has children enrolled in private school, which is probably why the "privileged" life is easy for her to write about, as she's intimately acquainted with the types of parents these schools lure in. One of these schools suggested her son be "evaluated" at one point, as well, and they put him on Ritalin only to take him off of it a bit later; Hruska did some research and found out that in 2007, 9.5% of all U.S. children were diagnosed with ADHD. She says: "With numbers like that, I started to wonder if the problem was not that more and more kids were unfocused, but that schools, parents, and a generally accelerated society  were expecting too much of them."

Bravo to Hruska for a great first novel - I finished it in about two days because it was so hard to put down. The characters are all people we can relate to, even though some of them live in a world where school costs $40,000 a year, and Hruska has weaved a story that will captivate even the most discerning reader.

5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Judging a Book by Its Lover

Judging a Book by Its Lover: A Field Guide to the Hearts and Minds of Readers Everywhere, by Lauren Leto.

I am not a scholar of literature. All my commentary comes from my experiences and presumptions as a reader. As you read what follows - my one-sentence book reviews, my gross generalizations about others' bookshelves, my categorical statements on how to fake any author, my love lavished on little-known treasures in literature, my cheat sheets on how to write like any author, my horror stories from my life as a bookworm, and my open letters to authors' fans - feel free to be annoyed if I snark on an author you love. Feel free to berate my schooling - my college degree is in political theory and constitutional democracy, a pretentious way of explaining that in one point in time I read a lot of Dostoyevsky and Plato. I'm a law school dropout and I managed to fail my college precalculus math class three semesters in a row. I'm afraid to get on planes. I am not an authority. I'm a Janet Evanovich fan, for Christ's sake.

This book was definitely not what I thought it was going to be about, so perhaps it was that notion that influenced this review. In fact, this book is something that people would probably expect me to write, since I'm a huge reader (obviously, from this blog!) and I like to read varied novels and other stories; because of this, it's a little strange I didn't enjoy it more. It could be because I expected it to be funnier, too - the author, Lauren Leto, started the website Texts from Last Night, which I follow on Twitter and which is a hilarious website that is definitely worth checking out. She also grew up in this area (metro Detroit) though she now lives in Brooklyn.

Synopsis from the publisher:
Riffing on everything from what a person's bookshelves reveal about his or her character and imaginary dinner parties with famous literary couples past and present to her petition to change the phrase from "bookworm" to "bookcat" and proper at-home use of book critics' go-to words like ennui, oeuvre, indelible, and frisson, Leto shares her snarky but spot-on observations about books and the passionate conversations they generate as well as memorable moments from her own adventures in reading.
The "memorable moments" that the synopsis references were actually my favorite parts in the book - if there had been more of these, perhaps I would have liked it better. As you read above, Leto gives sort-of a disclaimer saying that her views and opinions may differ from her readers, but overall I found the book to be a little boring. I know this is nonfiction, which I don't usually read, and I'll admit I did chuckle at a few of the descriptions - I especially liked the book critics' "go-to words" section - but I found myself wanting the book to be funnier, since that is what Leto and her website are known for, and in that aspect this book was a disappointment for me.

Judging a Book by Its Lover will be in stores on October 2nd. 2 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Beautiful Disaster

Beautiful Disaster, by Jamie McGuire.

My shirt crackled as I pulled it over my head; the static in the air had intensified with the coming winter. Feeling a bit lost, I curled into a ball underneath my thick comforter and inhaled through my nose; Travis's scent still lingered on my skin.

The bed felt cold and foreign, a sharp contrast to the warmth of Travis's mattress. I had spent thirty days in a cramped apartment with Eastern's most infamous tramp, and after all the bickering and late-night houseguests, it was the only place I wanted to be.

I am actually in the middle of reading a nonfiction book that I will admit I don't like that much, and then I remembered I had started reading this on my Kindle the other day. I decided to read just a little bit of it, but instead I got hooked and read the entire thing - in one night. Beautiful Disaster is the story of Abby Abernathy, a freshman at Eastern University, who meets bad boy Travis Maddox one night. Travis is everything that Abby wants to avoid - she has a checkered past, so to speak, which is why she and her BFF America decided to move across the country to attend Eastern - but she finds herself inexplicably attracted to Travis, even though he's known as a womanizer and he fights in his spare time to earn cash. They try to pretend that they are just good friends, even though she ends up living with him for a month - a result of a lost bet - and sleeping (but ONLY sleeping) in his bed; after a while, though, the facade crumbles, and they have to deal with their attraction to each other.

When I was about halfway through the book, I Googled it to see what other books the author has written, and I found this. I didn't really see the parallels to 50 Shades of Grey at first, but when I thought about it they are definitely similar, though Beautiful Disaster has nothing to do with BDSM. Both Christian Grey and Travis are very controlling, though I would say that Travis is more "human" than Grey; he tries to fix his mistakes and become someone that Abby could see herself with in the long-term, whereas Grey does this too but it's harder for him. Looks-wise, too, Travis is the opposite of Grey: he's a poor college student who fights and is covered in tattoos, whereas Grey was the epitome of the "classy" businessman.

Beautiful Disaster is going to be made into a movie as well, and I'm excited to see who the filmmakers will pick to play Travis and Abby. I could picture Amanda Seyfried or someone similar for Abby, who is 19. In my mind, she looks innocent (she's actually a virgin when she meets Travis) but has a "rough streak" in her; details are revealed about her pre-college life that show that she can play a mean hand of poker when she wants to.

Travis has a shaved head and tattoos, and I believe a wiry build. I couldn't picture any actors I know in that age range (he's 22, so probably like 20-30 age range) who have gone bald or shaven their head for a role. However, when I started thinking about actors that I have seen play "dark" roles but also were sweet in them, Steven R. McQueen and Michael Trevino (both from TV's Vampire Diaries) came to mind; looks-wise, Trevino might fit the role a bit better.

The two characters' best friends, who are actually dating each other, are Shepley and America (who goes by "Mare" for short), and those would probably be harder to cast.

The book veers a little at times - it often feels like it is multiple stories with these characters rolled into one - but the plot is still compelling. The author actually self-published the novel before it got picked up by a publishing house, and after it was published it gained a steady following, probably including those who liked the 50 Shades series. A follow-up novel, Beautiful Disaster, will be released in 2013, and it retells Abby and Travis's story from Travis's point of view.

4.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received an e-galley of this book from NetGalley to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Becoming Clementine

Becoming Clementine, by Jennifer Niven.

Each of the men wore a pistol on his belt and extra magazines, and each one carried a large rucksack. I wished I had my pistol, the one they'd issued me for the B-17, but they'd taken it away once we landed at Prestwick.

For a while we followed a creek bed, ducking through brush and bramble, and when this ended we kept pushing forward through the trees. I thought: I am in a forest in France. I am running from the Germans. I'm with strange men I barely know. I am a weapon of this war.

This novel is the third book in the Velva Jean series, the first two (of which I haven't read) being Velva Jean Learns to Drive and Velva Jean Learns to Fly. This one, however, focuses on World War II, and Velva Jean's part in it, in which she ends up in France masquerading as a French widow named Clementine Roux.

Synopsis from the publisher:
It's summer 1944 and Velva Jean has just become the second woman in history to pilot a bomber across the Atlantic Ocean as a member of the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots). After flying the B-17 Flying Fortress into Prestwick, Scotland, she volunteers to copilot a plane carrying special agents to their drop spot over Normandy. Her personal motivation: to find her brother Johnny Clay who is missing in action. But when the plane is shot down over France and only Velva Jean and five agents survive, she is forced to become a fighter; to become a spy; to become Clementine Roux. As she loses herself in her new identity, she also loses her heart: falling in love with her fellow agent, Emile, a handsome and mysterious Frenchman with secret of his own. When Clementine ends up in the most brutal prison in Paris, trying to help Emile and the team rescue and operative known only as "Swan," she discovers the depths of human curelty, the triumph of her own spirit, and the bravery of her team, who will stop at nothing to carry out their mission. And all the while she searches for her brother. Will she find him? And, at the end of her adventure, will she be able to find herself again?
This book was definitely interesting, perhaps more so to me because I have been to Paris recently and that is where Clementine (Velva Jean) ends up for a good chunk of the novel. The author, too, based the story on tales of her own grandfather when he served in the war, which helps to make the novel more "authentic." The characters that Velva Jean meets on her journey, too, are memorable, and you will find herself rooting for her and Emile's romance to survive, even though they battle the most unlikeliest of circumstances.

3.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel to review. The opinions listed here, however, are my own.

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