Friday, May 28, 2010

Simple Secrets by Nacy Mehl

When Gracie Temple gets a phone call from her father saying that her Uncle Ben has passed away and has left his house and belongings to her, she sets out as soon as she can. Her Uncle lived in a small Mennonite community in Harmony, Kansas and Gracie has never even met him. She arrives with the intention to get things sorted rather quickly, but soon discovers there may be a greater plan at work. A letter addressed to her from her late Uncle causes her to stay and solve a decades old mystery. She meets the handsome Sam Goodrich, who instantly volunteers his assistance. Together they discover sinister things going on in Harmony, including a former corrupt Bishop, a thief, an evil man, and possibly an attraction to each other.

I liked that the way the mystery unfolded over the course of the plot. There were no slow points, and since there were clues in just about every chapter, the reveal wasn't left for a huge climax at the end. I thought Sam was quite the romantic guy! Gracie is a fish out of water for most of the book, a feeling that many readers will be able to identify with. I enjoyed being there with her as she saw the Mennonite people as something other than her back woods country assumptions. It seemed we met more modern Mennonites than the more conservative "old ways" ones. Nancy Mehl adds a ton of little details on their way of life - especially when it comes to the cooking - my mouth was watering the whole time! With a last shout out the beautiful cover, this series is sure to be a hit with the Amish and Mennonite readers.

If you like this book, keep your eyes peeled for the second in the series, Simple Deceit, arrive in December.

Overall Rating: 4 Stars

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday 5/26/10

MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins’s groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.

Yes, I can't wait. The first book blew me away, the second book surpassed my expectations, and now I am highly anticipating this third and final book. Go Katniss!

Release Date: August 24, 2010

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson

Ro Grandee is going to kill her husband. If she doesn't, he will surely kill her first. After living with a father that beat her, she has married a man equally, if not more, abusive. All it took was a fateful meeting with a tarot-reading gypsy in the airport, and Ro is finally ready to get herself out of her violent life. She begins to channel her younger, stronger self, Rose Mae, and sets out to get some closure and safety.

I am such a fan of Jackson's books. They are deep family dramas, rich with southern atmosphere and heavy emotions. Taking the character of Jim Beverly from Gods in Alabama (in my opinion, also a 5 star book!) and writing an entirely new story from another point of view was quite a trip. I enjoy it when authors choose to revisit a town and it's characters, as it feels like there was more to tell- that the story wasn't quite done yet.

I liked that Jackson slipped into southern dialect where it was relevant. Dialect can sometimes be terribly distracting, but it this case it was used to really flesh out the characters of Rose Mae's father and high school friends, to show the reader what her younger life was like. The writing was very powerful, often taking my breath away with it's stark honesty. It is hard to make something like domestic violence beautiful to read, but Jackson took Rose Mae's emotions and made them into something tangible that the reader can identify with and swallow. It may have been a hard book to stomach at times (especially the scenes with abuse), but I would read it all over again in a heartbeat.

Overall Rating: 5 Stars

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fear Street Flashback (3) + 100th Post!!!

Why? Because FEAR STREET was like, my favorite series growing up.

Originally released in March, 1995.

Oooh... a dead end. How spooky... I liked this one, actually. It was a scary, the whole idea of a hit-and-run. The thought of someone knowing your secret and killing your friends off one by one, but you can't go to anyone for help. I liked seeing some cameos from Shadyside Celebrities, such as Corky the troubled cheerleader, and even Pete from The Overnight. The only thing I found myself wanting was one more chapter at the end - the story kind of ends on an anti-climactic cliffhanger. I would have liked to see one more chapter knowing everything truly was all right in the end. The cover is also totally appropriate, good choice from the art department!

Fear Rating: 2 out of 3 Screams

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst

Octavia Frost is on her way to drop off her latest manuscript to her editor in NYC, when she sees a news blurb that her son is accused of murdering his girlfriend. This is only big news because her son is Milo Frost, lead singer of the very popular band Pareidolia. Though it's been more than four years since she's seen her Milo, she flies out to be with him immediately. When she gets there, she meets the colorful cast of characters Milo has surrounded himself with, begins to salvage her relationship, and piece together the specifics of what actually happened on that terrible night.

Parkhurst's novels have yet to be anything less than extraordinary. Dogs of Babel is one of the few books I continue to recommend to anyone who hasn't read it yet. Her second book, Lost and Found, was not quite on par with her first, but was still a fantastic read. And now with The Nobodies Album, she has returned to the gasp-out-loud high impact story I have come to expect from her.

Let me start by saying I often find reading stories-within-stories to be tedious and distracting from the actual story I want to read. But in The Nobodies Album, the pieces flow together seamlessly. In fact, I came to look forward to the excerpts of Octavia's stories, as they were equally as engrossing as the main plot. The whole concept is based around changing the ending to a story after it is written, and in this sense Parkhurst plays with the readers mind, making them wonder if endings truly aren't written in stone (as they say).

Parkhurst's writing gets deep into the psyche of Octavia, a mother having to go through more than her fair share of tragedies. There are some truly graphic scenes that made me have to pause my reading and think of something cheery, just to be able to go on reading again. However, there are plenty of tender moments in the book as well, and I found myself not wanting the book to end so soon.

Parkhurst is an author I will always look forward to reading more of!

Overall Rating: 5 Stars

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday 5/19/10

THE CLOCKWORK MAN by William Jablonsky


Ernst’s world is one of endless admirers, including foreign dignitaries and heads of state. Hailed as a marvel of late nineteenth-century automation, he is the crowning achievement of his master, Karl Gruber. A world-famous builder of automated clocks, Gruber has reached the pinnacle of his art in Ernst—a man constructed entirely of clockwork.

Educated and raised in the Gruber household to be a gentle, caring soul, Ernst begins to discover a profound love for his master’s daughter, Giselle. Just as their relationship becomes intimate, however, tragedy strikes and the family falls apart. Ernst’s serene and happy existence is shattered and changed forever.

Abandoned, knowing no other life but the one he has led, Ernst allows himself to wind down in a kind of suicide.

Over one hundred years later, he awakens in a strange new land, the world he’s known long gone. Along with his mentor and guide, a well-meaning if slightly unstable homeless man, Ernst attempts to piece together the events that brought him to his new home—and to let go of the century-old tragedy that still haunts him.

The title and synopsis of this book grabbed my attention way more than the cover... but I still want to read it. As a first in the steampunk genre for Medallion Press, it will have to deliver!

Release Date: September 1, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

Books To Pine For, May 2010

The Charlatan's Boy by Jonathan Rogers
Nevermore by Kelly Creagh

Fat Vampire by Adam Rex
The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller

The Native Star by M.K. Hobson
The Wolf Tree by John Claude Bemis

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday 5/12/10

SIREN'S CALL by Devyn Quinn


Lighthouse keeper Tessa Lonike savors her solitude on Little Mer, an island off the coast of Maine, guarding her true identity as a mermaid. But when Tessa spots a man thrashing around in the ice cold waters during a storm, she must use her ability as a mermaid to pull him to shore. And a year later, when Kenneth meets her again, he's determined not to let Tessa slip away. But when Tessa'a archaeologist ex-lover comes back to town with a clue to her heritage, she may be forced to leave her happiness behind...

Yes, another mermaid book. *droooool* Seems to be a real influx of mer-books this year, but I am not disappointed at all. Love this cover, can't wait to read it!

Release Date: August 3, 2010

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

Scarlett March and her sister Rosie know what evil lurks in the dark. They are called Fenris, or as they are more commonly called, Werewolves. After watching a Fenris slaughter their grandmother, Scarlett and Rosie take it upon themselves to rid the world of as many of these beasts as they can. This involves hunting every night, and Scarlett thrives on it, needs it. Rosie, on the other hand, is becoming increasingly aware that hunting might not be what she wants to do for the rest of her life. Together with their best friend and confidant Silas, the three travel to Atlanta in search of their next big hunt. But what they find instead may be what they were looking for all along.

Can I start off by saying how beautiful I think this cover is? The simple colors and graphics are absolutely stunning. Sisters Red surprised me. I was not sure what to expect from this book, and what I got was not at all what I thought I would. The alternating chapters between Scarlett and Rosie's point of view are necessary and I thought they did a fabulous job of fleshing out both the sisters and the story. It was almost enough to make me want a chapter from Silas' point of view, as he is in the story from the very first chapter, yet we really know nothing about who he is, where he came from, or why the girls have come to feel as safe around him as they do. We get a little information about him, but I wanted more.

The fight scenes were scary and very realistic. Pearce was able to write teeth-grinding action that made me flinch with every rough impact Scarlett took. Those girls are tough! And perhaps what I appreciated most of all was that Pearce has written a different take on the Red Riding Hood fairy tale, as well as an uncommon plot from the rest of the mainstream werewolf YA fiction out these days. It is enough to make me want to read more from Jackson Pearce.

Overall Rating: 4 Stars

Sunday, May 9, 2010

This Gorgeous Game by Donna Frietas

Olivia Peters is thrilled when she learns she won first prize in an Emerging Writers High School Fiction contest. This means she gets a spot in Father Mark Brendan's writing seminar at Holy Mary University. She is so excited to be chosen and have the attention of an admired writer that she is quick to dismiss the sense that it may all be a little too abnormal. She has Father Mark lavishing praise on her writing, she's caught the eye of college boy Jamie Grant, and life couldn't be better. But then things do start to feel rather weird and out-of-place, and Olivia's perfect life spins quickly out of control.

This Gorgeous Game is a disturbing look at an inappropriate relationship. Though Father Mark's attention never becomes sinister, the reader will feel just as panicked and trapped as Olivia does. Freitas writes extremely beautiful prose on a very difficult subject, getting deep inside Olivia's thoughts and feelings. I think there are pieces to Olivia's life that all readers out there will be able to identify with. Plus, I loved the two best friends in Ash and Jada - Olivia is so lucky to have friends that love her so much! There are not many YA books written on this topic, and this book could stand as a cautionary tale for girls who might find themselves in a similar position as Olivia. A quick book that I read in one sitting. And though I breathed a sigh of relief when the last page was turned, it will haunt me in the years to come.

Overall Rating: 4 Stars

Friday, May 7, 2010

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin

Tessa and her husband Nick are in the middle of their anniversary dinner when Nick gets a page from the hospital where he's a surgeon. A little boy, Charlie, has been badly burned in an accident and will need multiple skin grafts. It should be a normal workday for Nick, but this time is a little different. Charlie's mother is Valerie, a single mom coping with her son's accident as best she can. Against her better judgment, she finds herself falling for her son's doctor, and is surprised when he seems to reciprocate her feelings. Suddenly these three people - Tessa, Nick, and Valerie - become intertwined in life-changing ways.

Total fan alert: Giffin's Something Borrowed is one the very few books I have read more than once. All of her books have been amazing for me, always sucking me in, always left me holding the book close to my chest. This latest book effortlessly met my already high expectations. I was sure I was going to get absorbed in the story, but was still unprepared at just how quickly Giffin made it impossible for me to set the book aside for any length of time.

I liked that this story was a spin-off of Something Borrowed (her older brother is Dex, making Rachel her sister-in-law), and that we even got a brief update how Darcy's doing. Reading about dissolving relationships is hard to do and yet I find myself being unable to turn away from them. Family dramas like this provide readers with something everyone can relate to, be it subtle pieces of advice your Mom gives you, little paranoia's your friends help fuel, or simple everyday relationship worries. Giffin's writing is sincere and brutally realistic. It didn't matter to me who "the bad guy" was in this story, it was hard not to agree with the feelings of everyone involved. And that's what I like most about reading Giffin - she gave me a lump in my throat and made my chest feel tight through the last page, but I wouldn't want it any other way.

Overall Rating: 5 Stars

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday 5/5/10


Wars may end. But vengeance is forever.

Roudette's story was a simple one. A red cape. A wolf. A hunter. Her mother told her she would be safe, so long as she kept to the path. But sometimes the path leads to dark places. Roudette is the hunter now, an assassin known throughout the world as the Lady of the Red Hood. Her mission will take her to the country of Arathea and an ancient fairy threat. At the heart of the conflict between humans and fairies stands the woman Roudette has been hired to kill, the only human ever to have fought the Lady of the Red Hood and survived-the princess known as Sleeping Beauty.

This series is my guilty pleasure. The writing is so good, the action is fantastic. the characters familiar yet better. Sooooooo can't wait to read this next installment. I hope Jim Hines can keep these books going forever. Forever!

Release Date: July 6, 2010

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Bikini Car Wash by Pamela Morsi

Following the death of her mother, Andi Wolkowicz moves from Chicago back to her hometown of Plainview to help her father take care of her twin sister Jelly. The economy is tight and rather than trying to find a job in the small town, she decides to open her own business in the old car wash building her father owns. Specifically, Bikini Car Wash business. Customers line up down the street on her first day open, but her little venture is not met with bright smiles from everyone. The major opposition comes from Guthrie's Grocery Store, which is right next to her car wash. Hank Guthrie thinks the car wash is complete scandal, but his son Pete thinks this may be the best thing to happen to Plainview (and him!) in a rather long time.

I have very much enjoyed Pamela Morsi's books, ever since Bitsy's Bait and BBQ was released by Mira in 2007 and Red's Hot Honky-Tonk Bar in 2009. The Bikini Car Wash is along the same veins in that it is a woman owning and operating her own place of business, but this book did not live up to the magic of the previous two. It was the same breezy romance with a strong woman story, but I felt it moved a little slowly.

That having been said, The Bikini Car Wash is one of those feels-like-it-really-could-have-happened stories. I was totally rooting for the bikini car wash to succeed, as if it were my personal friends and my corner near the grocery store! Pete Guthrie was quite a romantic man. And I liked the very real people from around town, like the conservative old biddies and the blue-haired Cher-L. I thought the ever-changing point of view was at times a little distracting. I couldn't really get deep into any of the characters and didn't feel that any of them were truly developed. I would have liked to spend more time inside the head of Andi or Pete, instead of Andi's Dad or Jelly. All in all though, it was a cute story - one that you could pass around to your friends and exchange your own thoughts on the idea of a bikini car wash.

Overall Rating: 4 Stars