2/27/12

Past Perfect

Author: Leila Sales
Pages: 306
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Format: Online Galley (ARC)
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Summary (from the author's official website)All Chelsea wants to do this summer is hang out with her best friend, hone her talents as an ice cream connoisseur, and finally get over Ezra, the boy who broke her heart. But when Chelsea shows up for her summer job at Essex Historical Colonial Village (yes, really), it turns out Ezra’s working there too. Which makes moving on and forgetting Ezra a lot more complicated...even when Chelsea starts falling for someone new.

Maybe Chelsea should have known better than to think that a historical reenactment village could help her escape her past. But with Ezra all too present, and her new crush seeming all too off limits, all Chelsea knows is that she’s got a lot to figure out about love. Because those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it….
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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

My Summary: Chelsea's been working at Essex her entire life, so when her friend Fiona decides to get a job there, it seems like her summer is going to have some excitement in it after all. But just when everything seems perfect, Chelsea discovers that her ex-boyfriend Ezra - aka the guy she can't get over - is working at Essex too. And it's going to take all of Chelsea's acting skills to keep her from making a fool of herself in front of him. As she begins to fall for someone else, Chelsea is faced with a problem: what happens when you only focus on the good parts of love?

My Thoughts: This book was just what I needed right now - the perfect mix of funny and bittersweet. The main character Chelsea is really easy to relate to - who wouldn't want to step out from behind their family's shadow - and I really felt for her when she couldn't figure out which direction her heart was pulling her in. We've all been there, haven't we? The writing was great as well: hilarious and smooth, it kept me reading (and wanting to read when I couldn't). And of course I had to mention the unique setting... I'm one of those history nerds your parents probably warned you about, and if I had the chance I would've been working at Essex right alongside Chelsea. The fact that history was so prevalent in the lives of the characters definitely made me want to brush up on my American History (and wish I could wear one of those awesome costumes, but I digress...).

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to anyone looking for something light, fun, and sweet to read. This book would make a great summer read as well - check it out if you're a fan of lighter contemporary literature!

Tyger Tyger

Author: Kersten Hamilton
Pages: 308
Publisher: Harcourt
Format: Paperback
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads)Teagan Wylltson’s best friend, Abby, dreams that horrifying creatures—goblins, shape-shifters, and beings of unearthly beauty but terrible cruelty—are hunting Teagan. Abby is always coming up with crazy stuff, though, so Teagan isn’t worried. Her life isn’t in danger. In fact, it’s perfect. She’s on track for a college scholarship. She has a great job. She’s focused on school, work, and her future. No boys, no heartaches, no problems. Until Finn Mac Cumhaill arrives. Finn’s a bit on the unearthly beautiful side himself. He has a killer accent and a knee-weakening smile. And either he’s crazy or he’s been haunting Abby’s dreams, because he’s talking about goblins, too... and about being The Mac Cumhaill, born to fight all goblin-kind. Finn knows a thing or two about fighting. Which is a very good thing, because this time, Abby’s right. The goblins are coming.

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My Summary: Teagan's had her whole life planned out for years: she's going to work at the zoo until she can get into an awesome college and graduate with a couple of degrees.

 But things start taking an unexpected turn for the worse after Finn comes to town. Within weeks, Teagan's whole life has been turned upside-down, and it's all she can do to hold on. Then when the worst happens, Finn disappears.

A year later Teagan is trying to move on as best she can... until Finn reappears, making a strange request. Just as she thinks things can't get any weirder, her dad is kidnapped by a goblin and taken into their world. With nothing left to lose, Tea and Finn set off on an adventure through the terrifying world of the goblins, hoping they can find Teagan's dad before it's too late.

My Thoughts: This was a great read! It was extremely refreshing to read something that wasn't quite like anything I'd ever read before (goblins! Can you honestly say you've read a book about goblins before?). It was really addicting as well; I told myself I would only read a few pages before bed, but I found myself unable to put it down and ended up finishing it all in one sitting. No regrets, either - this book was definitely worth it!

Final Thoughts: I recommend this to anyone who's looking for a fresh take on paranormal YA. Check it out! I'll be reviewing the next book in the trilogy as well, so check back soon!

Graffiti Moon

Author: Cath Crowley
Pages: 264
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Format: Hardcover
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads)
"Let me make it in time. Let me meet Shadow. The guy who paints in the dark. Paints birds trapped on brick walls and people lost in ghost forests. Paints guys with grass growing from their hearts and girls with buzzing lawn mowers."

It’s the end of Year 12. Lucy’s looking for Shadow, the graffiti artist everyone talks about.
His work is all over the city, but he is nowhere. 

Ed, the last guy she wants to see at the moment, says he knows where to find him. He takes Lucy on an all-night search to places where Shadow’s thoughts about heartbreak and escape echo around the city walls. 

But the one thing Lucy can’t see is the one thing that’s right before her eyes.



My Summary
: Lucy's an aspiring artist who's been living in a dreary town her entire life. Her only source of excitement is the work of Shadow - a graffiti artist with a real gift. Lucy's had some bad luck with romance, but she knows that if she can just meet Shadow, they'll become something great. 

After agreeing to spend the night with her friends Jazz and Daisy, Lucy ends up on a cross-town walk with Ed, the guy she almost dated a few years back. But Ed's hiding something: he's Shadow. Can Lucy figure out what's right in front of her before the end of the night, or is this romance doomed to fail for the second time?

My Thoughts: Graffiti Moon was one of those books I've been waiting to read for a long, long time. I pre-ordered it a few months ago, knowing (from the reviews) that it'd be awesome and unique. It seriously did not disappoint! It was a pretty short read (less than 300 pages) but it kept me hooked the entire time and definitely didn't feel rushed. It reminded me a lot of Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, actually (which I loved, by the way). My favourite character was, by far, Ed - I loved his development and growth, and the realistic way in which he's written (seriously, those perfect YA guys annoy the heck outta me!).

The writing was amazing as well. The words and the story flowed beautifully, and it was all connected in a way that made sense even though it jumped point of views and time frames. It felt almost poetic to me, and at the same time the language wasn't too over-descriptive or overwhelming.The author did a great job.

Final Thoughts: I definitely recommend this to fans of realistic contemporary literature (especially the edgier stuff), and to anyone who enjoyed Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist. You will not be disappointed.

2/19/12

The White Assassin

Author: Hilary Wagner
Pages: 275
Publisher: Holiday House
Format: Hardcover (ARC)
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads)Book II of the Nightshade Chronicles. The next step in the journey of the Nightshade City rats! 

“Fans of Redwall and the Warriors series will love this heroic tale of good versus evil in a subterranean society of rats. The world of the Catacombs is so compelling readers will wonder if it really might exist under our city streets. Expect great adventures in Nightshade City.” ~ Rick Riordan, Author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an  honest and unbiased review.

My Summary: Three years after Juniper and his friends' adventure in the Catacombs, they begin to hear rumours about Billycan's plans to return. After aligning himself with snakes and swamp rats, Billycan fails. He is brought back to Nightshade City and given a 'truth serum', and though it does not have the desired effect, it ultimately causes buried secrets to become unearthed.

My Thoughts: This was probably one of the most Epic (with a capitol 'E') children's / middle grade book I've read in a long, long time. I honestly didn't think that a book about talking animals (rats, no less) could be as great as this one was. The writing was amazing, and the character development... I was blown away by how much the author managed to change my feelings towards Billycan - especially after how evil he was in the first installment. She managed to turn someone who seemed purely evil into someone complex - someone that you can't really hate anymore after you find out his reasons for being the way he is. You gotta give props to an author who can do that.

Final Thoughts: I definitely recommend this novel (and this series!) to anyone who enjoys middle grade or childrens novels that are complex and riveting enough for an adult to love. Check out the first book in the series! You won't regret it.

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma

Author: Trenton Lee Stewart
Pages: 391
Publisher:
Format: Paperback
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Summary (from Goodreads)When an unexplained blackout engulfs Stonetown, Reynis, Kate, Sticky, and Constance must unravel clues relating to a nefarious new plot, while their search for answers brings them closer to danger than ever before. Filled with page-turning action and mind-bending brain teasers, this wildly inventive journey is sure to delight.


My Summary: Almost 6 months after their narrow escape from Mr. Curtain, the Mysterious Benedict Society find themselves living together in Mr. Benedict's house. Due to the unknown whereabouts of Mr. Curtain and the belief that the children's lives would be in jeopardy, the Society and their families  have spent the last few months stuck inside the old house. All is well, if a little boring.

But when the government starts demanding Mr. Benedict return the Whisperer to their custody, things start to go horribly wrong. Mr. Curtain's spies cause a blackout in the entire city of Stonetown while the adults are out, leaving the children completely defenseless. Terrified and alone, the children are taken to Mr. Curtain's headquarter and held prisoner. Can they make it out in time to save everything they hold dear?

My ThoughtsI'm going to miss this series and the characters. It's a sad, sad day in every reader's life when they have to say goodbye to a series they've loved. I had no idea that day would be today!

As usual, Trenton Lee Stewart did not fail to deliver. This book was probably a tie for my favourite with book two, and the character development and story-line were awesome. We really got to see Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and Constance grow in this installment, and the way things ended... it was a perfect end to the series, but part of me hopes that there will be another MBS novel out soon (maybe one where they're a little older?), because I'm going to miss these books terribly.

Final Thoughts: If you're a fan of middle-grade novels (or have a child who is) I definitely recommend you check out this series. 

The Catastrophic History of You and Me

Author: Jess Rothenberg
Pages: 400

Publisher: Penguin
Format: Hardcover
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from the author's official website): Brie's life ends at sixteen: her boyfriend tells her he doesn't love her, and the news breaks her heart—literally.

But now that she's D&G (dead and gone), Brie is about to discover that love is way more complicated than she ever imagined. Back in Half Moon Bay, her family has begun to unravel. Her best friend has been keeping a secret about Jacob, the boy she loved and lost—and the truth behind his shattering betrayal. And then there's Patrick, Brie's mysterious new guide and resident Lost Soul . . . who just might hold the key to her forever after.

With Patrick's help, Brie will have to pass through the five stages of grief before she's ready to move on. But how do you begin again, when your heart is still in pieces?
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My Summary: Brie had the perfect life. At the young age of sixteen (well, almost) she had a loving family, three amazing best friends, and the world's greatest boyfriend.  Or so she thought.

It turns out Brie's boyfriend isn't so great at all. After almost a year of dating, he tells her he doesn't love her. Sucks, right? More so for Brie, who collapses after he makes his confession... and never wakes up.

Now, alone and confused, Brie is guided by Patrick - a guy straight out of a bad 80's movie - through the five stages of grief. But when she breaks the rules and starts messing with the lives of the people who betrayed her, Brie will discover just how far the ripples of her actions will spread.

My Thoughts: The minute I read the description for this novel, I knew I had to get my hands on it. I need to explain something first, though: I am not a fan of 'after-death' novels, just because I feel like it's a topic that's been really over-done lately (like vampires, werewolves, etc) so generally the quality isn't that great. But there are some novels that you just get a good feeling about, you know? The first novel about what happens after death that I actually enjoyed was Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (which I loved, adored, and cried over rather pathetically). Since reading it, I haven't read another 'after-death' novel... until this one.

I am not kidding when I say I laughed and cried, all while reading the same chapter. Reading Brie's narration, I couldn't help feeling angry, betrayed, and heartbroken alongside her. I went through my entire spectrum of emotions with this one, and I couldn't put it down until I'd finished all 400 pages in one sitting. The writing was awesome - smooth and clear - and extremely realistic. My heart was breaking for Patrick and Brie and everyone she left behind in her old life, and it takes a really good author to do that. All in all, it was amazing.

Final Thoughts: I definitely recommend this to anyone who likes paranormal YA, contemporary lit, or just fiction in general. Do yourselves a favour and check it out!

2/15/12

The Name of the Star

Author: Maureen Johnson
Pages: 372
Publisher: Putnam
Format: Hardcover
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


Summary (from Goodreads)The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper in the autumn of 1888.

Soon "Rippermania" takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police now believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.
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My Summary
: Rory was thrilled when she found out her parents were moving to London, and that she'd be attending a boarding school - every Harry Potter fan's dream, right? But Rory's school is a far cry from Hogwarts, and her first week isn't exactly memorable (well, other than almost chocking to death in front of the whole school). Rory's time at Wexford goes from weirder to weirder when a string of mysterious murders - murders mirroring those committed by Jack the Ripper in the autumn of 1888 - begin happening nearby, pulling Rory and her friends into a murder mystery more than 100 years in the making.

My Thoughts
: This book was definitely unique! I've been a fan of Maureen Johnson for a while now, and her writing does not disappoint - this is one of those books you stay up late to read.

I loved the Jack the Ripper angle - I mean, who doesn't love a psychotic serial killer mystery? I live for this kind of stuff (hence the CSI, Criminal Minds, and Cold Case Files addictions), so this book was right up my alley. And of course the setting and atmosphere of the novel were incredible - one thing I adore about Maureen Johnson is her ability to make you feel as if you were right there, walking alongside the main character. Rory was an extremely believable character, and the fact that the romance aspect didn't overpower the entire story was really refreshing (yay for the author!).

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to fans of paranormal YA (no vampires, I promise!) and anyone who enjoys a good ghost story. There are some mentions of underage drinking (nothing serious) so I'd probably recommend keeping it to readers 16 and up.

Aces Up

Author: Lauren Barnholdt
Pages: 288
Publisher: Delacorte Books
Format: Paperback
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads)
Seventeen-year-old high school senior Shannon Card needs money. And lots of it. She's been admitted to Wellesley, but her dad just lost his job, and somehow she has to come up with a year of tuition herself. But Shannon's dream of making big bucks waitressing at the local casino, the Collosio, disappears faster than a gambler's lucky streak. Her boss is a tyrant, her coworker is nuts, and her chances of balancing a tray full of drinks while wearing high-heeled shoes are slim to none. Worse, time is running out, and Shannon hasn't made even half the money she'd hoped.

When Shannon receives a mysterious invitation to join Aces Up, a secret network of highly talented college poker players, at first she thinks n
o way. She has enough to worry about: keeping her job, winning the coveted math scholarship at school, and tutoring her secret crush, Max. But when Shannon musters up the nerve to kiss Max and he doesn't react at all, the allure of Aces Up and its sexy eighteen-year-old leader, Cole, is suddenly too powerful to ignore.

Soon Shannon's caught up in a web of lies and deceit that makes worrying about tuition money or a high school crush seem like kid stuff. Still, when the money's this good, is the fear of getting caught reason enough to fold?



My Summary
: Math wiz Shannon Card has been accepted into the university of her dreams. The only problem? Her dad lost his big-shot banking job a few months ago, and not having saved any money for college means that Shannon needs to come up with a years worth of tuition in a few months. Impossible, right? Shannon doesn't think so; she forges some paperwork and gets herself a job waitressing at the local casino. She knows that if she can work her butt off for the next couple of months, she'll have what she needs for college.

But work turns out to be a living nightmare for Shannon, who definitely wasn't meant to carry around heavy trays of drinks while wearing four-inch heels. On the verge of being fired, she's a tad bit surprised when she's contacted by the leader of an underground poker society called "Aces Up" - a group that relies on their math skills to win big at the tables. Fed up with the way everything is unraveling around her, Shannon accepts the invitation - and finds herself risking it all to try and win it big.

My Thoughts: I enjoyed this book. It was light and sweet - nothing too deep, but still interesting and engaging. I really liked the concept (it's pretty unique) as well, and the fact that it wasn't too long that it dragged but not too short that you feel like it was rushed. I liked that the author didn't shy away from the consequences of what Shannon was doing - I mean seriously, there was no way she could maintain a 90-something average on three hours of sleep a night, right? - and that the people around her were really worried about her well-being. 

All in all, it was a pretty solid read. I've been a fan of Lauren's writing for a while now, and I really liked the way she showed Shannon's thoughts alongside her dialogue - it made her seem like a more believable character (who was, I gotta say, pretty badass).

Final Thoughts: I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys chick lit and lighter contemporary literature. It has some romance and a lot of laugh-out-loud moments, so I definitely recommend it if you're in the mood for some fluff. 

2/11/12

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey

Author: Trenton Lee Stewart
Pages: 440
Publisher: Little, Brown
Format: Paperback
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Summary (from Goodreads)The Mysterious Benedict Society is back with a new mission, significantly closer to home. After reuniting for a celebratory scavenger hunt, Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and Constance are forced to go on an unexpected search--a search to find Mr. Benedict. It seems that while he was preparing the kids' adventure, he stepped right into a trap orchestrated by his evil twin Mr. Curtain. 


With only one week to find a captured Mr. Benedict, the gifted foursome faces their greatest challenge of all--a challenge that will reinforce the reasons they were brought together in the first place and will require them to fight for the very namesake that united them.
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My Summary: It's been a year since the Mysterious Benedict Society discovered the evil Mr. Curtain's plans to take over the world and foiled any chances he had of doing so. Reynie, Sticky, Constance and Kate haven't seen each other in almost six months but have kept in touch. After each receives an invitation from Mr. Benedict and a cryptic description of some sort of adventure, the group reunites at Mr. Benedict's home... only to find that he and Number Two have been kidnapped by none other than Mr. Curtain. Now with less than a week to rescue their mentor, the gang sets off on an adventure that will take them halfway around the world and test their bond like never before.

My Thoughts: Another awesome read from Trenton Lee Stewart! He has this amazing talent - he can weave a plot together, and it's all so subtle that you never feel overwhelmed. There was an amazing amount of character growth in this installment - especially with Constance, who I think is probably my favourite character at this point - and as promised, the Mysterious Benedict Society grew closer than ever.

The writing was flawless as usually, although some of the descriptions were a tad over zealous - I personally didn't mind, but others might. I also loved that the writing doesn't talk down to the reader. I'll definitely be continuing with the series.

Final Thoughts: I recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed the first book in the series, and to anyone who enjoyed reading the works of Lemony Snicket and Ronald Dahl. If you haven't checked out the series yet  - or are looking for something for your child to read - I definitely think this is a series you should check out.

Hot Reads Sweepstakes



It may be cold outside, but it's hot between the pages! 


Simon & Schuster has paired up with Glade to host a Hot Reads Sweepstake! Enter below for your chance to win 1 of 5 Glade prize-packs, along with a few hot reads from Simon & Schuster. Click on the image to enter for a chance to win and find out more about this giveaway!


You could win: Sleepwalker by Karen Robards, Lothaire by Kresley Cole, and many more!

2/8/12

The Pregnancy Project

Author: Gaby Rodriguez
Pages: 218
Publisher: Simon & Shcuster
Format: Online Galley (ARC)
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Summary (from Goodreads): It started as a school project...but turned into so much more.
Growing up, Gaby Rodriguez was often told she would end up a teen mom. After all, her mother and her older sisters had gotten pregnant as teenagers; from an outsider's perspective, it was practically a family tradition. Gaby had ambitions that didn't include teen motherhood. But she wondered: how would she be treated if she "lived down" to others' expectations? Would everyone ignore the years she put into being a good student and see her as just another pregnant teen statistic with no future? These questions sparked Gaby's school project: faking her own pregnancy as a high school senior to see how her family, friends, and community would react. What she learned changed her life forever, and made international headlines in the process.
In "The Pregnancy Project," Gaby details how she was able to fake her own pregnancy--hiding the truth from even her siblings and boyfriend's parents--and reveals all that she learned from the experience. But more than that, Gaby's story is about fighting stereotypes, and how one girl found the strength to come out from the shadow of low expectations to forge a bright future for herself.
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I don't usually read memoirs - this one was probably my first - but the premise of this one intrigued me. After hearing about Gaby's story on the news a little while back, I wondered why in the world someone would ever want to do what she did. After reading her account of her life and her reasoning for the project, I gotta say, I admire her. The girl had GUTS to do what she did, and she really did show people that expecting the worst from people is not any way to go about.
A great read. Definitely recommend to teens!

Wherever You Go

Author: Heather Davis
Pages: 320
Publisher: Harcourt
Format: Hardcover (ARC)
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Summary (from Goodreads)Seventeen-year-old Holly Mullen has felt lost and lonely ever since her boyfriend, Rob, died in a tragic accident. The fact that she has to spend most of her free time caring for her little sister and Alzheimer’s-stricken grandfather doesn’t help. But Holly has no idea that as she goes about her days, Rob’s ghost is watching over her. He isn’t happy when he sees his best friend, Jason, reach out to help Holly with her grandfather—but as a ghost, he can do nothing to stop it. Is his best friend really falling for his girlfriend?
     As Holly wonders whether to open her heart to Jason, the past comes back to haunt her. Her grandfather claims to be communicating with the ghost of Rob. Could the messages he has for Holly be real? And if so, how can the loved ones Rob left behind help his tortured soul make it to the other side?
     Told from the perspectives of Holly, Jason, and Rob,Wherever You Go is is a poignant story about making peace with the past, opening your heart to love, and finding the courage to move forward into the light.
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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

My Summary: Holly's life is not what you'd call ideal - her mother works two jobs, and Holly is forced to pick up the slack at home by cooking, cleaning, and taking care of her little sister. Add to that the fact that her boyfriend Rob just died, and it's easy to see why Holly isn't very happy when her mother decides that Holly's grandfather - who suffers from Alzheimer's - is coming to live with them in their cramped apartment. 

Soon Holly begins to feel overwhelmed by all her responsibilities at home. Things only get worse when her grandfather claims to be communicating with the Rob, and when Rob's friend Jason begins spending more time with Holly. When Jason reveals that he wants to get to know her better, Holly is torn between this chance to move on and her resonating feelings for Rob.

My Thoughts: This novel was both touching and heartbreaking. I immediately related to Holly, and I felt like she didn't deserve all the heartache in her life even though she was strong and able to push through all the tragedies and be happy.  This novel begs the question: how long does it take to move on after the death of someone we loved? Can we ever truly love someone the same way that we loved them?

This book was an emotional roller-coaster ride. It made me cry like a baby at points and smile in others. I loved the character of Jason, and that he was always there for Holly - even when she didn't know it. I also really liked the character of Aldo (Holly's grandfather). He added that little bit of humour (not in a bad way) that was needed in the story. 

The writing was well done, although the point-of-view changes confused me a little in the beginning. Other than there was nothing I disliked about the book!

Final Thoughts: I recommend this to anyone who enjoys more thoughtful YA - contemporary literature especially. I think you'll definitely enjoy this novel if you liked If I Stay by Gayle Forman. Check it out if you're in the mood for a good cry! 

2/3/12

Follow Friday!


Happy Friday everyone!


What characteristics do your favourite books share?


Well firstly there has to be a believable romance (if it happens to have a romance element). Seriously, the minute I feel the insta-romance coming on, I close the book and shake my head. Second, there has to be some good character development going on. Books are meant to describe a journey, and if a person ends a major journey without changing in the slightest, then the journey can't have been that interesting (if that makes any sense at all to anyone, please let me know). Third, it has to have a likeable / relateable MC or I just can't get into the story.


I think that's it! How about you guys?

The Mysterious Benedict Society

Author: Trenton Lee Stewart
Pages: 492
Publisher: Little, Brown 
Format: Paperback
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Summary (from Goodreads)Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?

Dozens of children respond to this peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mind-bending tests, which readers take along with them. Only four children - two boys and two girls -succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and inventive children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. But what they'll find in the hidden underground tunnels of the school is more than your average school supplies. So, if you're gifted, creative, or happen to know Morse Code, they could probably use your help.
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My Summary: Reynie, Sticky, Constance, and Kate are four incredibly bright children. After passing the mysterious set of tests given when they responded to the newspaper ad, the children find themselves facing more danger than they ever have before when they accept a mission - infiltrate the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened and figure out how the headmaster of the school intends to brainwash people. Armed with nothing but their wits and each other, the children must solve a series of cryptic messages and make their way into the headmaster's inner circle to discover his secrets and ultimately disband his operation.

My Thoughts: I was a little reluctant to pick up this novel (especially considering its size), but after reading some glowing reviews that compared it to my all-time favourite children's series (A Series of Unfortunate Events), I decided to give it a try.  And I am seriously glad I did. The writing flowed beautifully and reminded me of my old favourites by Ronald Dahl, and there were some parts that even I found funny. I also really liked that - like other successful books of its time - this book didn't 'talk down' to the reader. The puzzles and codes were entertaining as well -  I found myself wanting to learn Morse code after reading this novel!

Final Thoughts: I recommend this to anyone who enjoys middle-grade novels, and anyone who enjoyed the works of Ronald Dahl and Lemony Snicket. I'll definitely be checking out the sequel! 

Lothaire

Author: Kresley Cole
Pages: 468
Publisher: Gallery
Format: Hardcover (ARC)
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


Summary (from Goodreads)ALL FEAR THE ENEMY OF OLD 


Driven by his insatiable need for revenge, Lothaire, the Lore’s most ruthless vampire, plots to seize the Horde’s crown. But bloodlust and torture have left him on the brink of madness—until he finds Elizabeth Peirce, the key to his victory. He captures the unique young mortal, intending to offer up her very soul in exchange for power, yet Elizabeth soothes his tormented mind and awakens within him emotions Lothaire believed he could no longer experience. 


A DEADLY FORCE DWELLS WITHIN HER 


Growing up in desperate poverty, Ellie Peirce yearned for a better life, never imagining she’d be convicted of murder—or that an evil immortal would abduct her from death row. But Lothaire is no savior, as he himself plans to sacrifice Ellie in one month’s time. And yet the vampire seems to ache for her touch, showering her with wealth and sexual pleasure. In a bid to save her soul, Ellie surrenders her body to the wicked vampire, while vowing to protect her heart. 


CENTURIES OF COLD INDIFFERENCE SHATTERED 


Elizabeth tempts Lothaire beyond reason, as only his fated mate could. As the month draws to a close, he must choose between a millennia-old blood vendetta and his irresistible prisoner. Will Lothaire succumb to the miseries of his past . . . or risk everything for a future with her?
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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. 

My Summary: Lothaire is an ancient vampire who's been searching for his Bride for thousands of years - and he's finally found her. The only problem is that she seems to be determined to make his life a living hell.
When she realized she was possessed almost five years ago, Elizabeth was ready to end her life to save her family ... until Lothiare showed up and put a stop to her plans. After letting her get captured by the police and tossed into jail, he tells the demon inside her that he'll be back in a few years. Elizabeth is sure the guy is crazy, but as promised, he shows up just as she's about to receive her lethal injection and kidnaps her.

Now, trapped in his lavish prison, Elizabeth is forced to give in to the demon that's been dormant inside her for so long. With her soul at stake, can she afford not to give over to the dark side?



My Thoughts: This book was AMAZING. The plot, the characters... everything. Lothaire was such a bad-ass character (even though he was kind of definitely an ass - we expected it of him, but still). Elizabeth was an awesome character as well, and I really hope we get to see more of her in the future books. 

Kresley Cole is a genius when it comes to weaving story-lines together. I loved that she included Hag, Thad (he's by far my favourite character in the series), and Nix, and that Lothaire's back-story really explains why he is the way he is. It gave his character a lot more depth and even had my heart softening for him during some of the more intense scenes. Three cheers for the author on that front - I never thought I'd be able to see Lothaire as anything but a jerk. Changing a reader's mind like that takes a lot of skill.



Final Thoughts: I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys paranormal adult series, and anyone who is a fan of the Immortals After Dark series. If you haven't already, pick up the first book in the series! I guarantee you'll be glad you did.

Don't believe me? Check out the author's website here: http://kresleycole.com/ and read an excerpt of Lothaire here: Lothaire Excerpt. You can also check out an interview with Kresley Cole here (for those dedicated fans like myself!) and get some of your burning questions about Lothaire answered.