Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Book Review: The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall

The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing: From the Files of Vish Puri, Most Private Investigator (Vish Puri Mysteries #2) by Tarquin Hall
Release Date: June 15, 2010
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: 320 pages
Murder is no laughing matter. Yet a prominent Indian scientist dies in a fit of giggles when a Hindu goddess appears from a mist and plunges a sword into his chest. The only one laughing now is the main suspect, a powerful guru named Maharaj Swami, who seems to have done away with his most vocal critic. Vish Puri, India's Most Private Investigator, master of disguise and lover of all things fried and spicy, doesn't believe the murder is a supernatural occurrence, and proving who really killed Dr. Suresh Jha will require all the detective's earthly faculties. To get at the truth, he and his team of undercover operatives—Facecream, Tubelight, and Flush—travel from the slum where India's hereditary magicians must be persuaded to reveal their secrets to the holy city of Haridwar on the Ganges. How did the murder weapon miraculously crumble into ash? Will Maharaj Swami have the last laugh? And perhaps more important, why is Puri's wife, Rumpi, chasing petty criminals with his Mummy-ji when she should be at home making his rotis?

Stopping only to indulge his ample Punjabi appetite, Puri uncovers a web of spirituality, science, and sin unique in the annals of crime. (from publisher)

This book was so much fun to read. The mystery was beautifully put together with a cast of quirky and fun characters, and the way it all fit was perfect--I didn't see it coming but it was understandable all the same. Sometimes, what I want to read is a fun and entertaining mystery story, and this book fit that to a tee.

The characters are what made this book so good, I think. Instead of being a simple mystery story--which isn't necessary bad, of course--The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing made me invested as much in the characters as in the actual mystery. They had back story and fun little things that made them entirely unique.

I liked the information about the gurus in India as well. The whole industry has always been interesting to me, and I liked finding out more about it. And the illusions, of course, are always fun to dissect. I was always that person who, while at a magic show, was constantly trying to figure out the trick instead of going along for the ride. So, the inner workings of seeming impossibilities was a lot of fun.

This was a quick, light read that I would recommend to any mystery lover. It wasn't the most emotionally satisfying read, but sometimes it's exactly what you're looking for at a certain time.

Amazon~Barnes and Noble~Goodreads

Monday, July 26, 2010

Book Review: Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
Release Date: December 23, 2008
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Length: 368 pages

A fresh, urban twist on the classic tale of star-crossed lovers.

When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created “perfect” life is about to unravel before her eyes. She’s forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she's worked so hard for—her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect. Alex is a bad boy and he knows it. So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more.

In a passionate story about looking beneath the surface, Simone Elkeles breaks through the stereotypes and barriers that threaten to keep Brittany and Alex apart.

I love the original story of Romeo and Juliet. I'm a romantic at heart, and I find the idea of star-crossed lovers beautiful. Plus the fact that it makes for a really, really good story. And Perfect Chemistry is the Romeo and Juliet story, essentially, a reimagining I enjoyed reading about.

The characters of Brittany and Alex were far more interesting than the stereotypes it would have been easy to make them. Even Alex, who is practically the definition of the "bad boy," had a lot to his character, and I could see exactly why he was who he was. I think having the story told by both Alex and Brittany made this possible--we got both back stories and were able to understand each character's motivation.

Something about this book, though, just didn't do it for me. I think it might have been the pacing of the action and how it was spread across the course of the novel. Some parts felt a little rushed ("Wait, they're in love? Already?") and some parts dragged on. It wasn't enough to prevent me from enjoying the book, but it did put me off a little.

Overall, this was a fun, sweet book that I loved reading. I think practically every fan of young adult romances would enjoy this story like I did, and I would definitely recommend it.

Amazon~Barnes and Noble~Goodreads

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Book Review: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Release Date: April 16, 2002
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Length: 336 pages

Somewhere in South America at the home of the country's vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of Mr. Hosokawa, a powerful Japanese businessman. Roxanne Coss, opera's most revered soprano, has mesmerized the guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening: until a band of terrorists breaks in, taking the entire party hostage.

But what begins as a life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different. Friendship, compassion, and the chance for great love lead the characters to forget the real danger that has been set in motion and cannot be stopped.

Ann Patchett has written a novel that is as lyrical and profound as it is unforgettable. Bel Canto is a virtuoso performance by one of our best and most important writers.

This book was beautiful. And fascinating. And heartbreaking. And so many other things that I can't quite figure out how to say. I'm going to try to keep this review from being simple gushing, but be warned that I might not entirely succeed.

This novel is about a group of diplomats and other important or wealthy people who are held ransom by a terrorist group for money and for the release of certain political prisoners. When the government refuses to give in, a very long stalemate begins and the story of Bel Canto begins. This novel was in fact based on an actual situation in Lima, Peru; an interesting bit of information that I wasn't aware of while reading the book.

The characterization in this novel was amazing. The party is taken hostage very early in the story, so we slowly discover who the characters are while they're already prisoners, fleshing out the characters slowly and through their actions rather than any previous knowledge we might have had. The terrorists, too, were made into interesting and fully-formed characters. The reader starts to empathize with them as the hostages do, making the "villain" in the story much harder to spot. By the end, I was rooting for the terrorists as much as I was rooting for the prisoners, which was a brilliant piece of work on the author's part.

The ending to this book was gorgeous, too. I knew, I knew it was coming, but in my blissful ignorance still ended up so emotionally attached to these characters that every moment mattered to me.

In my personal opinion, you should go read this book. Now, if possible. It was truly a fantastic story, and I'm really looking forward to reading more from this author.

Amazon~Barnes and Noble~Goodreads

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Upcoming Releases: 6/14/10-6/21/10

I'm most excited about:

Crispin: The End of time by AviRelease Date: June 15, 2010
(from Barnes and Noble) Avi guides his hero toward a final, very satisfying destiny in this wonderfully realized conclusion to the Crispin trilogy. With Bear, their mentor and protector, dead, Crispin and the disfigured girl Troth wearily wander the French countryside. Finding refuge at a convent, the two ultimately make the wrenching decision to part when Troth decides to stay with the Sisters, comforted that she'll never again be shunned for her appearance and having accepted her own destiny as a healer. Bereft of his only friend, Crispin e
ventually falls in with a band of traveling musicians, who, he finds out in increasingly suspenseful scenes, are murderous thieves who hold a terrified boy in thrall. The story of how he and the child, Owen, escape their clutches makes for a heart-stopping read. As in the other titles
in the saga, characters and setting are expertly r
endered. The ending is almost unbearably intense and leads to a deeply moving final scene in which Crispin learns that Bear will always be with him. Thrilling and beautifully wrought.
I read the first book in this trilogy ages ago and I remember loving it. I had no idea the book was first in a series, but as soon as I found out I decided that I need to read the rest of the series--and with this book I can!

Other recent releases: (links go to the Amazon page)
Adult Fiction

Release Date: June 15, 2010Frankenstein: Lost Sou
ls by Dean Koontz
Lowcountry Summer by Dorothea Benton Frank
Promises to Keep by Jane Green
Stories edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio


Release Date: June 15, 2010
Avatar: The Last Airbender (The Art of the Animated Series) by Bryan Konietzko and Michael DiMartino
Release Date June 18, 2010

Young Adult Fiction

Need by Carrie Jones
What are you excited about this week?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Mini Review Bunch 1

I'm so sorry I haven't been around this blog in a little while, but school has been insane for the past few weeks what with finals and all. I'm happy to say that this Tuesday marks my final day, so I'll be able to devote a lot more time to reading and to blogging.

I decided to post a whole bunch of mini reviews for the books I haven't had a chance to get to yet on this blog. If I wait for too long, they'll never get done--and there are too many amazing books on this list!

Fire by Kristin Cashore
Release Date: Available Now
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Dial
Length: 480 pages
Fire, Graceling's prequel-ish companion book, takes place across the mountains to the east of the seven kingdoms, in a rocky, war-torn land called the Dells.

Beautiful creatures called monsters live in the Dells. Monsters have the shape of normal animals: mountain lions, dragonflies, horses, fish. But the hair or scales or feathers of monsters are gorgeously colored-- fuchsia, turquoise, sparkly bronze, iridescent green-- and their minds have the power to control the minds of humans.

Seventeen-year-old Fire is the last remaining human-shaped monster in the Dells. Gorgeously monstrous in body and mind but with a human appreciation of right and wrong, she is hated and mistrusted by just about everyone, and this book is her story. (from Goodreads)
I loved Graceling, and if you enjoyed it as well you will definitely like Fire. The main character is similarly strong and relatable to Katsa from that novel, and I loved reading about her and found myself righteously angry and happy for her in turn--exactly on cue, which shows me just how brilliant Kashore is at manipulating emotions. The plot flowed well, the romance worked and wasn't overly cheesy or predictable, and I adored the characters. My one complaint would be that it was a little too similar to Graceling, and I had a little bit of déjà vu while reading the book. I wouldn't recommend reading the two in close succession like I did for that reason.

Charmed Thirds by Megan McCafferty
Release Date: Available Now
Age Group: It really bridges YA and Adult
Publisher: Crown
Length: 368 pages

Things are looking up for Jessica Darling. She has finally left her New Jersey hometown/hellhole for Columbia University in New York City; she's more into her boyfriend, Marcus Flutie, than ever (so what if he's at a Buddhist college in California?); and she's making new friends who just might qualify as stand-ins for her beloved best friend, Hope.

But Jessica soon realizes that her bliss might not last. She lands an internship at a snarky Brooklyn-based magazine, but will she fit in with the überhip staff (and will she even want to)?

As she and Marcus hit the rocks, will she end up falling for her GOPunk, neoconservative RA...or the hot (and married!) Spanish grad student she's assisting on a summer project...or the oh-so-sensitive emo boy down the hall? Will she even make it through college now that her parents have cut her off financially? And what do the cryptic one-word postcards from Marcus really mean? (from Goodreads)
This book made me want to beat my head against a wall.

I loved Sloppy Firsts. I loved Second Helpings even more. And I didn't like Charmed Thirds at all.

There were some good points--like the very, very beginning and the very, very end--but the entire middle was so boring. And Jessica, the main character who I loved so much, became annoying and made a bunch of incredibly stupid decisions. And she whined in an unamusing way, which is one of my pet peeves for book characters.I skimmed like crazy through this, because I just didn't feel like reading pages of boring, inane nonsense. What happened to this awesome series?

To be fair, there were some moments that made me smile. Jessica's niece was wonderful and there were some really beautiful observations about the effect we have on other people's lives that I really enjoyed reading. Also, her family was fleshed out a little more and I started to appreciate them more than I did before.

At this point though, I'm not sure I'll pick up the next book in the series. I've heard bad things about the next two books as well, and I don't want the first two books to be ruined for me forever.

That...was not a mini-review. So I'll leave it with Charmed Thirds and wait a little while before tackling more from the endless list of read and unreviewed books.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Book Review: What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures by

What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell
Release Date: October 20, 2009
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Length: 432 pages

What is the difference between choking and panicking? Why are there dozens of varieties of mustard-but only one variety of ketchup? What do football players teach us about how to hire teachers? What does hair dye tell us about the history of the 20th century?

Here is the bittersweet tale of the inventor of the birth control pill, and the dazzling inventions of the pasta sauce pioneer Howard Moscowitz. Gladwell sits with Ron Popeil, the king of the American kitchen, as he sells rotisserie ovens, and divines the secrets of Cesar Millan, the "dog whisperer" who can calm savage animals with the touch of his hand. He explores intelligence tests and ethnic profiling and "hindsight bias" and why it was that everyone in Silicon Valley once tripped over themselves to hire the same college graduate.
Malcolm Gladwell may be my favorite nonfiction author, though I admit I haven't read many of them. He takes a topic that I've never considered before, then weaves it into an incredible story which makes me feel like maybe it isn't useless trivia after all. Even when it actually is.

This book is a collection of Malcolm Gladwell's best articles with the New York Times Magazine reaching back into the 1990's It's organized into three categories, but the topics definitely jumped around with every new story, making sure I never got too tired of one kind of story.

Some of the articles were less interesting than others, of course. I found myself forcing through a few of the ones in the middle--but it was alright, because I could skip them without losing track of the flow of the book. Like reading a book of short stories, any articles that didn't grab me could be passed by.

The best part about this book is that it makes you really think about all kinds of information you'd never thought of before. For example, Gladwell's views on plagiarism were fascinating, and I'd never heard the argument presented in the way he did. It made me reevaluate some of my ideas, and I loved that about it.

Amazon~Barnes and Noble~Goodreads

Friday, May 21, 2010

Book Blogger Hop (7)

Time for the Book Blogger Hop! Head over to Crazy for Books to find more excellent book blogs or to join in, and feel free to comment here if that's where you're coming from.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Book Review: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
Release Date: October 1, 2005
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Luna
Length: 440 pages

Choose: A quick death and hell or slow poison and hell.

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear.
I loved this book. The pacing throughout the entire book is simply perfect--the relationships and character development is balanced with the plot of the story and I loved how it all fit together. Nothing felt forced, which I tend to find in most books similar to this.

The way the characters develop is completely realistic, even though I kind of saw it coming from the beginning. It wasn't a magical transition, it was a slow, gradual, and I was rooting for it to happen the entire time. Yelena was amazing and I was cheering for her the entire time. I just loved her.

I had a slight issue with the way backstory was stuck into the beginning of the book, with slight hints that were clearly engineered to make us interested in what had happened but not explain until the end of the book. It was kind of irritating, but the inserts were short and infrequent enough that I could pretty much ignore them.

Overall, this was an amazing story with an interesting plot and brilliant characters. I highly recommend it to every fan of young adult literature.

Amazon~Barnes and Noble~Goodreads

Sunday, May 16, 2010

In My Mailbox (1)

My town has a huge used book sale every year, and every year I manage to find a gazillion books I want to read. And they're so cheap, how could I not buy every single one? And....I end up broke. But with lots of books!

Shakespeare by Bill Bryson
When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Volume 2) by William Shakespeare
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Snow by Orhan Pamuk
The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
City of Light by Lauren Belfer

What did you end up with this week?

Friday, May 14, 2010

New Releases: 5/8/10-5/14/10

This week, I'm most excited about:

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin
Release Date: May 11, 2010

(from Barnes and Noble) Tessa Russo is the mother of two young children and the wife of a renowned pediatric surgeon. Despite her own mother's warnings, Tessa has recently given up her career to focus on her family and the pursuit of domestic happiness. From the outside, she seems destined to live a charmed life.

Valerie Anderson is an attorney and single mother to six-year-old Charlie--a boy who has never known his father. After too many disappointments, she has given up on romance--and even to some degree, friendships--believing that it is always safer not to expect too much.

Although both women live in the same Boston suburb, the two have relatively little in common aside from a fierce love for their children. But one night, a tragic accident causes their lives to converge in ways no one could have imagined.

In alternating, pitch-perfect points of view, Emily Giffin creates a moving, luminous story of good people caught in untenable circumstances. Each being tested in ways they never thought possible. Each questioning everything they once believed. And each ultimately discovering what truly matters most.
Sounds interesting, no? I always love contemporary fiction that can really capture the relationships people have, so I'm excited to see what this book is like.

Other recent releases (links go to Amazon page):

Adult Fiction

Fever Dream (Special Agent Pendergast Series #10) by Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston
My Name Is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliviera

Adult Nonfiction

WAR by Sebastian Junger

Young Adult Fiction

Jump by Elisa Carbone
For the Win by Cory Doctorow
The Golden Spiral by Lisa Mangum

What are you excited about this week?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book Review: The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan

The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan
Release Date: 1981
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Length: 144 pages

As their holiday unfolds, Colin and Maria are locked into their own intimacy. They groom themselves meticulously, as though someone is waiting for them who cares deeply about how they appear. When they meet a man with a disturbing story to tell, they become drawn into a fantasy of violence and obsession. (from goodreads)
I'd never read Ian McEwan before picking up this book. I never really felt the need to, despite the fact that I kept seeing him popping up in all kinds of discussions. And then he showed up on the list of 1,001 books to read before you die and I heard about this book in a podcast discussing the best short books, so I decided to go for it.

This book is creepy. And I knew that something terrifying was going to happen because of the summary, which almost made it worse. The entire book I found myself saying, "Okay, what's going to happen? What's that guy going to do? Oh my god, is this the creepy part?"

The suspense made this book impossible to put down, but it was only because I knew something bad was going to happen that I kept reading. The first half of the book dragged along, and it seemed like nothing was really happening for a good bit of the book. But I absolutely couldn't stop reading because I had to know the ending--the combination was strange and a little unsettling.

The very end was a little bit anticlimactic. That is to say, the build-up after the halfway point was amazing and I was so hyped up about what was going to happen that when the ending finally came, I almost missed it entirely. I had to read the last few pages a couple of times in order to fully understand what had happened, which was annoying.

Overall, this was a good psychologically thrilling book--for the second half. Fans of a slow build-up would probably enjoy it, but even with the slow beginning I found myself liking the book. If anyone's read it, I'd love to know what you thought, because I still have mixed feelings.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Book Review: The Lost City of Z by David Grann

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann
Release Date: February 24, 2009
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Doubleday
Length: 352 pages

After stumbling upon a hidden trove of diaries, acclaimed New Yorker writer David Grann set out to solve "the greatest exploration mystery of the twentieth century": what happened to the British explorer Percy Fawcett and his quest for the Lost City of Z? In 1925, Fawcett ventured into the Amazon to find an ancient civilization, hoping to make one of the most important discoveries in history, but he and his expedition vanished. For decades, scientists and adventurers have searched for evidence of Fawcett’s party and the lost City of Z. David Grann’s quest for the truth and his stunning discoveries about Fawcett’s fate and “Z” form the heart of this complex, enthralling narrative. (from Barnes and Noble)
I'd never heard of Percy Fawcett before picking up this book, so I wasn't familiar with any of the material ahead of time. It was exciting to go in that way, knowing nothing about Victorian age exploration and so discovering things as the author showed them to me, and it was really well set up for people with minimal background knowledge on the topic. I never felt lost in the heaps of information required to truly understand the time period, a problem which could have easily occurred.

The book was a little long for the information in it. The biographical account of Percy Fawcett's life got a bit dry after a couple hundred pages, and then there was more to get through. And some of it could have been taken out, in my opinion, while still maintaining the flavor of Fawcett's life and personality.

I also expected something totally different when I went in to the book. The narrative was was an interesting and informative book about the life of Percy Fawcett, yes, but it didn't go beyond that into an adventure story in the Amazon. I went into the book expecting more of an story about how the author went looking for him, and that didn't happen until the very end of the book. Even then it wasn't at the forefront of the story, nor was it much of an adventure. However, I still did enjoy reading about the expeditions and about Fawcett himself. He had a very interesting personality and a very interesting life, and this book did an excellent job of exploring that.

Amazon***Barnes and Noble***Goodreads

Friday, May 7, 2010

Book Blogger Hop (6)

Time for the Book Blogger Hop! Head over to Crazy for Books to find more excellent book blogs or to join in, and feel free to comment here if that's where you're coming from.

Here are some of the amazing blogs I've discovered through the hop. You should definitely check them out if you're looking for insightful, spot-on reviews.

New Releases: 5/1/10-5/7/10

I'm most excited about:

The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles, Book 1) by Rick Riordan
Release Date: May 4, 2010

(from Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane. One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives. Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them--Set--has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe--a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family, and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.

I've loved Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series ever since The Lightning Thief came out...four or five years ago. The modern-day myths are brilliant and they were really well-written, too. So I'm thrilled that he's writing a new series, about Egyptian mythology. I'm a little bit worried about repeated material, but I have faith that this book will be new and interesting.

Amazon~Barnes and Noble~Goodreads

Other recent releases: (links go to the Amazon page)

Adult Fiction

Release Date: May 4, 2010
The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
Dead in the Family (Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire Series #10) by Charlaine Harris

Adult Nonfiction

Release Date: May 4, 2010
52 Loaves: One Man's Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust by William Alexander

Young Adult Fiction

Release Date: May 4, 2010
Lies: A Gone Novel
by Michael Grant
Spells by Aprilynne Pike
The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti
Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready

What are you excited about this week?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Book Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls #1) by Maggie Stiefvater
Release Date: August 1, 2009
Age Group: Young Adult

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Length: 400 pages

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human ... until the cold makes him shift back again. Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human--or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever. (from goodreads)

I was a bit put off from this book originally, because I had this idea in my head that there would be some kind of strange bestiality relationship between the girl and the wolf that I didn't want to read about. But I heard so much about this book from my friends that I eventually had to pick it up. And I did enjoy reading it.

The story was definitely well put together. The action worked well and it all built on each other to the point where everything made sense at the end without my knowing what was coming. The new twist on werewolves was interesting and creative, which is a difficult feat, but it worked well here, pulling in new twists on other ideas and keeping it just different enough for me to be interested in these werewolves and their habits.

What kept me from loving this book, though, was the way the romance was set up. I understand that Grace had been watching Sam for years and was obsessed with him and such, but he was a wolf during those times. And yet, as soon as she met him as a human, she was totally and completely in love with him. Without having ever spoken to him. Did she know Sam? At all? And yet she proclaimed her undying love. It was frustrating because the romance was written beautifully, and I couldn't get over the unrealistic factor enough to truly enjoy it.

All in all, this was a good read. I recommend it to fans of paranormal romance in a heartbeat, and I think other lovers of YA will enjoy it as well. It's fresh and interesting and well-written, and I think it's worth a read.

Amazon***Barnes and Noble***Goodreads

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Book Review: Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty

Second Helpings (Jessica Darling series #2) by Megan McCafferty
Release Date: April 22, 2003
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Length: 349 pages

Jessica Darling is up in arms again in this much-anticipated, hilarious sequel to Sloppy Firsts. This time, the hyperobservant, angst-ridden teenager is going through the social and emotional ordeal of her senior year at Pineville High. Not only does the mysterious and oh-so-compelling Marcus Flutie continue to distract Jessica, but her best friend, Hope, still lives in another state, and she can’t seem to escape the clutches of the Clueless Crew, her annoying so-called friends. To top it off, Jessica’s parents won’t get off her butt about choosing a college, and her sister Bethany’s pregnancy is causing a big stir in the Darling household.

With keen intelligence, sardonic wit, and ingenious comedic timing, Megan McCafferty again re-creates the tumultuous world of today’s fast-moving and sophisticated teens. Fans of Sloppy Firsts will be reunited with their favorite characters and also introduced to the fresh new faces that have entered Jess’s life. (from goodreads)

I was super excited going into reading this book because of how much I enjoyed reading the first book in the series, Sloppy Firsts. And I'm pleased to say that I wasn't at all disappointed. Jessica, the main character, has a wonderful voice and she's always clever and funny and awesome. Her reactions to everything are so realistic that even the qualities I find annoying about her seem like they have to be that way.

The story itself worked well, also. In fact, I think I liked the plot of Second Helpings better than that of Sloppy Firsts. It covered more ground in the same amount of time and the minor characters were fleshed out more than they were in the first book, breaking apart some of the high school stereotypes that bothered me in Sloppy Firsts. It was a little bit predictable--the end was pretty clear from the start of the book--but the way the ending was reached worked perfectly. The build-up of the romance was excellent, too, and totally realistic to the characters and their personalities.

I flew through this book and would recommend it to anyone looking for a fun read with great wit and characterization. After reading this, I can't wait to see Jessica in college in the next book, Charmed Thirds.

Amazon****Barnes and Noble****Goodreads

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Book Blogger Hop (5)

Time for the Book Blogger Hop! Head over to Crazy for Books to find more excellent book blogs or to join in, and feel free to comment here if that's where you're coming from.

Here are some of the amazing blogs I've discovered through the hop. You should definitely check them out if you're looking for insightful, spot-on reviews.

Une Parole
Time Out
Bewitched Bookworms

Friday, April 30, 2010

New Releases: 4/24/10-4/30/10

A shorter post this week because I'm rushed for time--but I couldn't cut it down too far, because there are too many books worth talking about!

Hannah's List by Debbie Macomber
This is a novel I've heard a very little bit about, but I'm intrigued by the concept. The story revolves around a man getting over his wife's death from cancer by looking at a list of people his wife wanted him to consider marrying after her death. Sounds like it could make for a crazy love
triangle (pentagon?).

The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
I first looked into this book because of the similarities between the stories with Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. But as I read more about this, I found that it was really quite different--a true story, for one, written by the person who found himself in the situation, and it focuses on that one man and the question of "What if that had been me?"

Hellhound on his Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Hampton Sides
I've studied Martin Luther King, Jr. in school more times than I can count. However, we've n
ever learned much about his death or the repercussions it had. It's really surprising, actually, that I've never even learned who killed him--and this book seems like a fascinating look into it.

Barnes and Noble

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
This book looks into the story of a Chinese girl who immigrates from Hong Kong to New York and starts working there. Interestingly, the author was put in the same situation as a girl which I'm sure will add to the authenticity.

Barnes and Noble

What are you excited for this week?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Book Review: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Literary Fiction
Length: 560 pages

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother’s death in childbirth and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. Yet it will be love, not politics—their passion for the same woman—that will tear them apart and force Marion, fresh out of medical school, to flee his homeland. He makes his way to America, finding refuge in his work as an intern at an underfunded, overcrowded New York City hospital. When the past catches up to him—nearly destroying him—Marion must entrust his life to the two men he thought he trusted least in the world: the surgeon father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him. (Goodreads)

Review: I've heard so many amazing things about this book that I was nervous to pick it up--I didn't feel like it could hold up to my expectations. And at first, that's what it seemed like it would happen as I read the book, because the first 100 pages or so were just good, not great. But once I got out of the backstory and into the pages that began to develop the main character, I fell in love.

Everything in this book was woven together perfectly, and as one thing led to another I never knew what was coming but it always made perfect sense. And everything had a purpose in the grand scheme of the book, whether to show how the characters evolve or to further advance the plot to the perfect conclusion.

I really connected with Marion, the main character. Reading about events from his point of view felt like how I would have experienced them, and by the end all I wanted was for him to a happy ending (finally).

The medicine involved in the book also made me want to learn more about the topics being discussed--it's hard to unravel truth from fiction in a story involving fictional characters, but as I did I learned a lot about topics I never would have thought to research on my own.

You should read this book if you have ever enjoyed any novel, because you will enjoy this one too. Every part of it, from characters to plot to setting are fantastic and work to make this book the incredible story it is.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Book Review: Princess Ben by Catherine Murdock

Princess Ben by Catherine Murdock
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 344 pages

Benevolence is not your typical princess- and Princess Ben is certainly not your typical fairy tale. With her parents lost to assassins, Princess Ben ends up under the thumb of the conniving Queen Sophia. Starved and miserable, locked in the castle's highest tower, Ben stumbles upon a mysterious enchanted room. So begins her secret education in the magical arts: mastering an obstinate flying broomstick, furtively emptying the castle pantries, setting her hair on fire.... But Ben's private adventures are soon overwhelmed by a mortal threat to her kingdom. Can Ben save the country and herself from foul tyranny?

Review: I was disappointed in this book. I love creative retellings of fairy tales (I adore Gail Carson Levine), so I was looking forward to reading this new version of Sleeping Beauty. And though I did enjoy the end of the book, there were a lot of issues with the first 3/4 or so.

The main issue I had was with the characters. For the first part of the book, she came across as whiny, spoiled, and unfriendly, which I think may have been done on purpose. However, it went a little too far and I found myself strongly disliking the character until she finally grew up at the end of the book. And once she did grow up, the book was much more enjoyable. I just wish that it had happened much earlier in the book. Her love interest, too, was unpleasant for almost the entire book until he finally admits his undying love for Ben. Wait, what?

The actual re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty was what I was looking for, though. It was interesting and quirky and clever, which are all important qualities in something like this. The minor characters all got personalities that seemed realistic, too, and I liked reading about them, particularly Queen Sophia, who's Ben detests but I rather liked.

Overall, this book had very good ideas but poor execution. I wouldn't recommend this book, but I'm open to something else by the author with more likable characters.

****Barnes and Noble****Goodreads

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Book Blogger Hop (4)

Time for the Book Blogger Hop! Head over to Crazy for Books to find more excellent book blogs or to join in, and feel free to comment here if that's where you're coming from.

Friday, April 23, 2010

New Releases: 4/17/10-4/23/10

Here's what to look for in bookstores this week.

The Light by D.J. MacHale
I really enjoyed the Pendragon series by this author, and I'm super excited to see his take on a new
and different cast of characters. This first installment in a new series draws inspiration from ghost stories.

Barnes and Noble


The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series is so much fun to read, and I'm sure this safari mystery story will be no different.

Barnes and Noble

Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey
This is a historical fiction novel set during 1800's America about a Frenchman fleeing his country and his friend/servant (it's a little unclear). The author has won two Booker Prizes, so I'm sure this will be exceptionally well-written.

Barnes and Noble

God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World and Why T
heir Differences Matter by Stephen R. Prothero
This book is all about the beliefs and questions of every major world religion, and the paths they take to solve the problems set forth by their faiths. I've always wanted to learn more about religion as a whole, and this seems perfect for that.


Barnes and Noble

Bounce by Matthew Syed
This book is similar in concept to Outliers, about the people who are the very best in their fields--Mozart, Picasso, Federer, and the other people who have risen to the top. The whole topic is incredibly interesting, and I can't help feeling that if I know how they do it, I can be excellent too.

Barnes and Noble

Radiant Shadows by Melissa Marr
These urban fantasy novels about faeries in New York are really fun to read, and I'm excited to get more engrossed in the world Marr has built.

Barnes and Noble

What are you excited about this week?