Friday, December 30, 2011

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

The Book of Blood and ShadowThe Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It was like a nightmare, but there was no waking up. When the night began, Nora had two best friends and an embarrassingly storybook one true love. When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands and an echoing scream that stopped only when the tranquilizers pierced her veins and left her in the merciful dark. But the next morning, it was all still true: Chris was dead. His girlfriend Adriane, Nora's best friend, was catatonic. And Max, Nora's sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming, was gone. He was also—according to the police, according to her parents, according to everyone—a murderer. Desperate to prove his innocence, Nora follows the trail of blood, no matter where it leads. It ultimately brings her to the ancient streets of Prague, where she is drawn into a dark web of secret societies and shadowy conspirators, all driven by a mad desire to possess something that might not even exist. For buried in a centuries-old manuscript is the secret to ultimate knowledge and communion with the divine; it is said that he who controls the Lumen Dei controls the world. Unbeknownst to her, Nora now holds the crucial key to unlocking its secrets. Her night of blood is just one piece in a puzzle that spans continents and centuries. Solving it may be the only way she can save her own life.

There are a number of reasons why I immersed myself into this book and finished satisfied. The story itself is well written and planned out. Although it is a fantastic jump from a suburban household to Paris to Prague, it doesn't feel forced or contrived.

I loved the writing style. The beginning sentence grabs the attention of the reader immediately. It begins with blood. Nora is covered in her best friend's blood as he lays in a puddle, dead. Her other best friend is catatonic, also covered in blood. Her boyfriend is missing. But then, she explains, it always starts with blood but that's not really true. That's the middle; the gravitational pull, the vortex. That's the event that signifies BEFORE and AFTER. Then she backs up and tells the reader what led up to the events of Chris' death. Then the book continues as Nora's senior trip to Paris turns into sneaking off to Prague to find her boyfriend. It could happen.

Nora is a great protagonist. Although not perfect and sometimes a little stupid (like why even like Max?), she is intelligent and articulate inside her head. That is the other part of the writing style that I loved. Wasserman is a collector of words. She uses them in beautiful sentences that articulate feelings I have had but only with her articulation do I understand them. She also uses descriptive words that feel delicious saying inside my mouth. I'm kind of weird about words. Still, it isn't WHAT she says but HOW she says it that had wowed. It clicked and felt right.

Back to the story, the reader and Nora don't know who to trust, although Nora trusts Max far past what I, as the reader, would have trusted Max. Nora feels alone at many points in the book and succinctly describes those feelings. To add interest to the book, the author juxtaposes a historical figure and writes letters from the figure to her brother describing her struggles and secrets - much of it mirroring Nora's experiences although not in obvious ways.

Good read.

Violence: Moderate
Swearing and language: Mild and mostly in Czech
Sex: Implied

Situations Matter by Sam Sommers Review

Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your WorldSituations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World by Sam Sommers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
An "entertaining and engaging" exploration of the invisible forces influencing your life-and how understanding them can improve everything you do. The world around you is pulling your strings, shaping your innermost instincts and your most private thoughts. And you don't even realize it. Every day and in all walks of life, we overlook the enormous power of situations, of context in our lives. That's a mistake, says Sam Sommers in his provocative new book. Just as a museum visitor neglects to notice the frames around paintings, so do people miss the influence of ordinary situations on the way they think and act. But frames- situations- do matter. Your experience viewing the paintings wouldn't be the same without them. The same is true for human nature. In Situations Matter, Sommers argues that by understanding the powerful influence that context has in our lives and using this knowledge to rethink how we see the world, we can be more effective at work, at home, and in daily interactions with others. He describes the pitfalls to avoid and offers insights into making better decisions and smarter observations about the world around us.
My take: Through social scientist maneuvering, the author studies context by creating situations and plugging it into some scientific algorithm. Okay, I made up the algorithm part. Still, Doogie Howser (he is a very young Ph.D) brilliantly plays with social situations and watches reactions, recording them. He then changes the context and finds the reaction is different. It is a fascinating read, particularly if you are a sociological nerd. Which I'm not. I just couldn't put the book down to finish any other task for a day or two. Well written, interesting content, and quite funny, in a professor kind of way.

About the Author: Sam Sommers is an award-winning teacher and researcher of social psychology at Tufts University outside Boston. His research specialties include how people think, communicate, and behave in diverse settings, as well as psychological perspectives on the U.S. legal system. 

At Tufts Sommers is known for his engaging lecture style and has won multiple teaching awards, including being selected by the Student Senate as the Professor of the Year in 2009. (His wife would insist on mentioning that he was also voted by the student newspaper the "hottest" male professor on campus; however, being well-versed in the power of situations, he'd note that the honor had less to do with him than with the anything-but-fierce state of the competition.)

Sommers has given talks at dozens of colleges and universities, including Harvard, Yale, M.I.T., Dartmouth, Cornell, Emory, UMass, and Rutgers. His research has been featured by a wide range of media outlets, and he has testified as an expert witness in criminal trials in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Oregon. 

In his free time, Sommers enjoys hanging out with his wife and two daughters, blogging on the Psychology Today website, batting lead-off for the vaunted Tufts Psychology summer softball team, and exerting more effort than he probably should editing Seinfeld and Daily Show clips for use in the classroom.

I beg to differ. Anybody who can segue into a Seinfeld episode in a psychology class really must continue doing so. It would be criminal to stop.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and ChangeNew: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change by Winifred Gallagher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Exploring our unique human genius for responding to the new with curiosity and creativity, the bestselling author of Rapt shows us how to embrace our changing world while living a fuller, saner life.
In today's fast-paced world, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the mind-boggling number of new things-whether products, ideas, or bits of data-bombarding us daily. But adapting to new circumstance is so crucial to our survival that "love of the new," or neophilia, is hardwired into our brains at the deepest levels. Navigating between our innate love of novelty and the astonishingly new world around us is the task of New: helping us adapt to, learn about, and create new things that matter, while dismissing the rest as distractions.
With wit and clarity, acclaimed behavioral science writer Winifred Gallagher takes us to the archaeological sites and neuroscience laboratories exploring our species' special affinity for novelty. All of us are attuned to things that are new or unfamiliar because they convey vital information about potential threats and resources. As individuals, however, we vary in how we balance the sometimes conflicting needs to avoid risk and approach rewards.
Some 15 percent of us are die-hard "neophiliacs" who are biologically predisposed to passionately pursue new experiences, and another 15 percent are "neophobes" who adamantly resist change.
Most of us fall squarely in the spectrum's roomy middle range. Whether we love change, avoid change, or take the middle path, neophilia plays a crucial role in all of our lives. No matter where we sit on neophilia's continuum, New shows us how to use it more skillfully to improve our lives.
At this time of unprecedented change- when the new information we handle daily has quadrupled in the past thirty years, with no sign of slowing-we must look beyond such secondary issues as voracious consumerism, attention problems, and electronics addiction to refocus on neophilia's true purpose: to learn about and create the new things that really matter. This big-picture perspective has long been missing, and New will jump-start that discussion by offering the tools we need to control our love of the new-rather than letting it control us.

As Homo Sapiens, we are hardwired to seek change and adapt. From our very first ancestors on the African continent, through the changes of the earth's and climate cycles, they adapted or faced obliteration. The Neanderthal, our cousins, had large brains and knew how to use tools. However, they were resistant to change and traveled little more than 15 kilometers during their lifetimes. When water dried up or the climate changed, they refused to change with it and died off. Meanwhile, our African ancestors, upon meeting the same challenges, migrated and eventually found themselves on every continent linking each of our human family together with this capacity to seek out new and better for the sake of survival.

Today's homo sapiens share the innate desire to survive but no longer need the skills of days of yore (that's a long, long time ago). The author deconstructs the different studies done by sociologists, anthropologists, and psychologists while providing modern day (within the past couple hundred years) examples of neophiles. While the societies consist of approximately 15% neophiles (actively seeking new thrills or change), 15% neophobes (resistant to change), the majority of people lie somewhere in the middle. The author explores the biological, cultural and individual reasons for our places on the continuum.

This is not the most interesting book for a person without leanings toward anthropology, psychology or sociology. On the other hand, there were parts that I found fascinating although much of it is theory and not hard science (hence the above stated studies). I enjoyed it in the way that I am a neophile in regards to sociology, anthropology and psychology. Always seeking the next thrill, I am. Kind of like a college professor. Just a thrill a minute.

If you are looking for a book to answer the questions of how much is too much and discuss the evils of technology and techno-addicts, this is not the book you want. The book simply discusses the way we seek out new information and why along with application to our own lives.

Well written and researched.

Unraveling Isobel by Eileen Cook

Unraveling IsobelUnraveling Isobel by Eileen Cook

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads: Isobel’s life is falling apart. Her mom just married some guy she met on the internet only three months before, and is moving them to his sprawling, gothic mansion off the coast of nowhere. Goodbye, best friend. Goodbye, social life. Hello, icky new stepfather, crunchy granola town, and unbelievably good-looking, officially off-limits stepbrother. 

But on her first night in her new home, Isobel starts to fear that it isn’t only her life that’s unraveling—her sanity might be giving way too. Because either Isobel is losing her mind, just like her artist father did before her, or she’s seeing ghosts. 

Either way, Isobel’s fast on her way to being the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons.

My take: This is a simply fun book that contains all the elements of an enjoyable read. Let's go through them:

Likeable protagonist. She could be anybody. She isn't any "type" of person. She also isn't a blank slate. She has a personality but can't be pigeon-holed.

Possible love interest: Three dimensional. Not Mr. Popular. Not Mr. I'm-So-Bad. His name is Nathanial because it sounds so proper. So Isobel calls him "Nate." Just to be contrary.

Dialogue: Told first person from Isobel's perspective, it is snarky, clever, and ever so witty. This is my favorite type of humor. Her internal dialogue cracks. Me. Up. Very funny.

Genre: Mystery/Contemporary YA/Paranormal but I promise there are no vampires or werewolves.

How it all meshes: Excellent. What Isobel has is a seriously creepy stepfather with issues, an estranged father since his psychotic break and her mother's prodding of estrangement, possible ghost sightings, the Mean Girls group interested in her hot stepbrother, hot stepbrother which makes things a little on the weird side if they are, indeed, attracted to one another, mother who doesn't seem terribly supportive of her only child's needs, and the child may be going crazy like her dad OR she may be seeing ghosts. Neither sounds preferable.

Long-term message: There actually is one, even if it is somewhat peripheral. Isobel eventually confronts the fact that her father is mentally ill and he does not have the plague. This is addressed in a very appropriate manner and well articulated.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. There are a couple of "f" bombs but swearing and dialogue are not extreme or distracting. The writing is clever which I always love. Humor is snarky which I understand. Story is creepy but not disgustingly so. Just enough to maybe want to sleep with a nightlight.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler Review

BittersweetBittersweet by Sarah Ockler

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Goodreads: Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life, and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances... a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been. 

So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life...and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done. 

It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last.... 

My take: I started out wondering how the elements of this book would pull together and if there was anything beyond a cute story. I don't mind a cute story but I like some meat, too. I was pleasantly surprised.

Hudson is a closet ice skater. She used to compete and was incredibly good then something happened three years ago where she felt responsible for the breaking up of her parents marriage and she purposely blew a major competition. The fallout included a divorce, her dad took a clean break, the house sold, they moved into a small apartment with mom, little brother and Hud, and poured their life into Mom's diner, Hurley, while Hudson buried herself in a new hobby; making cupcakes.

Meanwhile, Hudson lost her best friend and the sport she used to love that lost its sparkle. So she keeps a secret from everybody except her new best friend, Dani, that she goes out on Lake Erie and skates on her breaks. Where she runs into, literally, Josh, co-captain of the hockey team who asks her to teach him how to skate better. At the same time, she finds out a major competition with scholarship money attached is upcoming and she sees a way out of her current life.

So the story continues with these odd elements of Hudson and the hockey team, Hudson and Josh, Hudson and Will, Hudson and her cupcakes, Hudson and her Dani, cameo appearances by her former best friend, Hudson and her little brother and Hudson and her mom. Where is this going and how do they relate?

Well, in the end, they do.They tie together with the comings and goings of the train and the seagulls. There are lessons to be learned about appreciating what you have and prioritizing. There are also lessons about substantial goals and choosing the best parts of life. Hudson wants to get out of the town and away from Hurley's. But she doesn't know what she really wants to do when she leaves. Leaving is her goal and is reflected by the comings and goings of the train, the seagulls, and her wanting to skate to Canada. Ultimately, she has to step back and figure out who and what is important to her and what the costs are.

It's an excellent teen book.

Language - relatively clean
Swearing - Moderate but nothing strong.
Sex - Some implication of possibilities but only if the reader has an active imagination.
Dialogue - relatively clean
Violence - Hudson's crashes on the ice.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sleepwalker by Karen Robards

SleepwalkerSleepwalker by Karen Robards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It’s not that Micayla Lange is afraid of the clinking she hears coming from the first floor of the empty McMansion she’s housesitting for her uncle Nicco. She’s a cop, after all. It’s just that finding out her boyfriend was cheating on her was enough drama for one night. Now she’s alone on New Year’s Eve, wearing flannel pajamas and wielding a Glock 22 as she zeroes in on the unmistakable source of the sound: Uncle Nicco’s private office. Jason Davis steals things for a living, so unexpected developments are a natural part of the job. Getting caught red-handed by a hot, pigtail-sporting police officer in what is supposed to be a gangster’s deserted house is just one more twist in the game. Kind of like finding incriminating photos in Nicco Marino’s safe, only to discover the cop — and the security cameras — have gotten a real good look at his face. Unfortunately for Mick, she also got a good look at the damned pictures. Her “uncle” might love her like family, but if he knows she’s seen evidence that implicates him in the murder of a city councilman, she doesn’t like her chances. Which is why she’s having a hard time reconciling her professional instincts with what she is rapidly concluding is an inescapable fact: She’s about to help a criminal get away with a suitcase full of stolen money. And she’s going with him. Mick and Jason’s race for their lives hurtles them through the dangerous Michigan wilderness on speedboat and snowmobile. As their adventure heats up and their enemies close in, Mick is torn between her duty to the force and the combustible passion engulfing her and her unlikely partner in crime. She’ll have to turn Jason in sooner or later . . . if they survive. But will they ever get a second chance at love?

My first and not last Karen Robards book is Sleepwalker. The time period of the main story is three days. Maybe less. The first part is a flashback of Mick and Jenny's mother's murder when Mick was 11 and she was killed in front of their eyes. Now 27, Mick has nightmares every few months and she sleepwalks, sometimes waking up to her own screams. Which is how Mick finds herself out of her bed on New Year's Eve while house sitting for an old family friend.

While returning to her room, she hears a sound. Now a Detroit cop, she runs to her room, grabs her Glock and interrupts a robbery in her "uncle's" safe. There is some good butt kicking and kicked butt and then the game changer when Mick comes across incriminating evidence against her "uncle." She's smart enough to realize she's in deep doo-doo and allows herself to be taken hostage and helps the thief escape. She plans on arresting him later.

I'll go ahead and let slip one nugget. Uncle Nicco is big time mob. Sorry if I spoiled it for you but you figure it out pretty quickly. Cop and robber become grudging allies while Nicco's thugs (and he has a lot) look for them.

Action packed, intelligently written, well researched. It's a great thriller story with a couple of surprises thrown in. Sexual tension is not a surprise because it was definitely there. So it's a thriller with cops and robbers. It's a romance with strong attraction and sex. Not overboard sex but enough to get the gist and vicariously enjoy.

This is not a children's book.

Overall, an enjoyable read with a strong storyline and well written characters. Loved Jason. Oh, how I loved Jason.

Fun Filled by Renee Stephens (6 Week Weight Loss Plan)

Through her Inside Out Weight Loss program and seminars, along with podcasts downloaded more than 3 million times, Renée Stephens has helped countless people free themselves from emotional eating to achieve the body and life they’ve always desired. Now, in her first book, she shares the breakthrough lessons of her popular work and develops them into a complete, step-by-step program: Full-Filled: The 6-Week Weight- Loss Plan for Changing Your Relationship with Food—and Your Life—from the Inside Out.
With Full-Filled, you will gain freedom from dieting as you use some of the world’s most advanced mind and behavior-changing techniques. An intuitive and easy weight-loss program, Full-Filled will open the door to bigger transformations in your life. Not only will you drop excess physical pounds with Renée’s expert guidance, you will get to the root of why you eat and you will lose your spiritual weight—by identifying why you eat the way you do and finding better ways to satisfy your true hunger without food.
A former food addict, Stephens is a leading weight-loss coach who works with women and men who have spent years trying to free themselves from their weight struggle and to regain control of their lives. Women, Food and God led millions to spiritual insights; Full- Filled turns those insights into practical steps in an easy-to-follow program that will permanently change how you think about and behave around food.

The Full-Filled program will identify and heal your underlying food issues and provide you with the specific tools to create new habits that will make you slim and healthy for a lifetime. This isn’t about what foods you should and shouldn’t eat (although Renée does share some of her favorite recipes to make weight loss happen faster and easier). Filled with personal success stories and a whole bag of transformative tips and tricks, Full- Filled will set you up for significant weight loss and provide the no-fail techniques for keeping the pounds off permanently.

Lasting weight loss has nothing to do with what you eat, but why. Yet knowing why is not enough to make you slim. Internationally recognized behavioral weight loss expert Renée Stephens used to be so emotionally addicted to eating that she would pull food from the trash. But she searched within and discovered not only what was motivating her food issues but developed specific techniques to combat them. Soon her successful methods were working for people around the world! Her Inside Out Weight Loss audio program is the most popular weight-loss podcast on iTunes, with more than 3.5 million downloads! And now in FULL-FILLED: The 6-Week Plan for Changing Your Relationship with Food—and Your Life—from the Inside Out (Free Press; December 27, 2011 $26.00), Stephens not only helps readers discover the underlying causes of their weight struggles, she offers specific, step-by-step exercises to release the emotional pain tied to their unwanted eating habits so they can create new, healthy behaviors that last a lifetime.

Mid-winter's Eve Giveaway Hop and Hidden Wives

Thanks to Jessie Harrell from Oasis For YA & The Daily Harrell for co-hosting with Kathy of I am a Reader not a Writer

I have, just for you, 5 copies of trade copy of Hidden Wives by the illustrious, intelligent, and extremely articulate, Claire Avery! Just to clarify, Claire Avery is not one person but 2! I mean, they were when they wrote this book but now Claire Avery is down to one person. Mari and Michelle are sisters who grew up in a fundamental environment, although not FLDS. Still, they did an AMAZING amount of research for this book and really captured so many of the subtle and obvious effects of living this life of isolation, polygamy, and patriarchal priesthood abuse, particularly in light of the Warren Jeffs case in Southern Utah/Texas. I read this book when it came out last year and LOVED it. You can read that review HERE.

Go ahead and read the first chapter. Go ahead. I know you want to. Click HERE.
Hidden Wives

Book Description:  Fifteen-year-old Sara and her beautiful sister, Rachel, are too young to legally drive a car--but are approaching spinsterhood in Utah's secret polygamist Blood of the Lamb community. Having long since reached the "age of preparedness," they will soon be married off to much older men chosen by the hidden sect's revered Prophet.
As Sara, chosen to become her uncle's fifth wife, grows more distraught over her impending incestuous marriage, she begins to scrutinize the faith she has followed blindly her entire life. But for Rachel, who will be married to one of the many powerful community leaders vying for her hand, disobeying the Prophet means eternal damnation. Her friendship with the newest member of the community, the young and handsome Luke, starts as an attempt to save his agnostic soul, but ends with the pair falling helplessly in love. When Rachel is forbidden to see him, her absolute faith in the Prophet is severely tested. 
When Rachel's future husband is finally announced, violence erupts, and the girls must find the strength to escape the only life they have ever know...before it's too late. 
Claire Avery has woven a stunning tale that could be ripped from today's headlines. Shocking and empowering, Hidden Wives is a page-turning debut that will stay with the reader.

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Fill out the form. Is that easy or what?!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Magic of the Moonlight by Ellen Schreiber Review

Magic of the Moonlight (Full Moon, #2)Magic of the Moonlight by Ellen Schreiber

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Beware of a bite under a full moon…
it will complicate your love life.

Celeste has more to worry about than a secret romance with a hot guy from the wrong side of town. That guy, Brandon, is a werewolf. With gossip and hostility swirling at school, it’s time to find a cure for his nocturnal condition, and perhaps the one person who can help is his scientist father. But what if a “cure” makes things worse and Brandon becomes a werewolf full time? And with rumors circulating that there are werewolves in Legend’s Run, is it possible that there is another among their classmates?

To keep Brandon’s secret safe, Celeste must hide her relationship with him from her best friends, but with the Moonlight Ball approaching, she must make a choice. Her dream is to go with her one true love—Brandon. But once the sun goes down, the clouds separate, and the full moon appears, could she really walk into the dance on the arm of a werewolf?

In this installment of the sumptuously romantic Full Moon series, Celeste faces her fears and her friends and finds out whether she’s strong enough to stand up for herself and her one true love.

My take: It's a sweet read for a romantic teenager who finds hairy teenagers attractive. There are no vampires in this book and Jacob Black does not playfully romp around. The werewolves are more human looking than a real wolf and seem to emanate pheromones, rendering the female species helplessly in love.

The plot is predictable and the characters are shallow. If your preteen or teen asks for a copy of this book for Christmas, get it. Besides some make-out scenes, the book is clean and the sweet (but hairy) love story will appeal to them.

It's better than getting a puppy.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers by Lynn Weingarten

The Secret Sisterhood of HeartbreakersThe Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers by Lynn Weingarten
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
When her boyfriend breaks up with her on the first day of sophomore year, Lucy has no idea how she’s going to make it through homeroom, let alone the rest of her life. Enter three stunning girls with a magical offer Lucy can’t refuse. All she has to do is get a guy to fall in love with her in the next seven days, and then…break his heart and collect one of his brokenhearted tears. As the girls teach Lucy how to hook a guy (with the help of a little magic), she quickly discovers how far she is willing to go—and who she is willing to cross—to get what she wants. 

Fans of Lauren Myracle, Jodi Lynn Anderson, and Meg Cabot will love this tale of breakups, friendship, new crushes, and magic. Told with wit and charm, The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers is sure to be one of this winter’s most irresistible reads!
I'm conflicted about this book. I've never read this author before but I will tell you that her writing is GOOD. Her understanding of the art of love, flirting, playing on heartstrings, and the deeper issue of fear is EXCELLENT! Honestly, there were some incredibly good nuggets of wisdom within the pages. The writing style is clear, humor written well, heartbreak and other feelings very well described, and the objectivity in describing matters of the heart is absolutely phenomenal.

Why the conflict? I just didn't like the story. I can't pinpoint why. Maybe it's the idea of an exclusive club that offers promises with nothing to show they have the goods. Maybe it's the social hierarchy that made me a little tired. Lucy, the protagonist, was fine. I liked Gil and didn't hate Liza and Olivia. I found Alex uninteresting and a waste of time. I wanted to get to know Tristan better but he was peripheral yet became central. Every dialogue with him made him more likeable. Which then proved to me that Lucy was kind of an idiot. On the other hand, what 16 year old isn't, at least at times?

The ending indicates it will be a trilogy or some kind of series. It didn't necessarily leave the reader hanging, although the power of the Heartbreakers is not yet known to the reader. The power of four is significant and it is intimated that there is more that Lucy doesn't know.

Bottom line is that I loved the author's writing. I loved her ideas and perspective. I just didn't completely love the story.


Swearing - strong. "F" words used
Sex - Peripheral and implied; Lucy starts the book announcing to Alex she is ready to lose her virginity. She does not and nothing is described.
Underage drinking - present

Worth reading? Yes.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Switched by Amanda Hocking Teaser

Switched (Trylle Trilogy, Book 1)
Amanda Hocking
Macmillan Publishing

“Vampire and werewolf lovers beware; this trilogy opener offers readers a new take on an unexpected breed of mystical beings. Readers who can suspend preconceived notions and open themselves up to this new interpretation are in for a midwinter version of a good beach read.” –Kirkus Reviews
“Wendy is a flawed antihero, which helps differentiate her from the throng of paranormal-romance heroines, and the potential for development, both dramatic and romantic, should make readers anxious for the next installment of the Trylle trilogy.” –Booklist
“The romance is smoldering, the action is suspenseful, and the characters are quirky, likeable, and original. Amanda Hocking has a gift for storytelling that will grip readers and keep them wanting more…Entrancing.” –Library Thing
“Started Switched last night. I don't like this book because it made me stay up too late last night to keep reading and made me skip my dance class this morning so I can finish it!” --BookCrossing
"I started reading Switched in the evening one night and stayed up until 3 a.m. because I didn't want to put it down. I had to be at work the next day and all I could think about was going home and finishing the book. Yes, it's THAT good." --A Tale of Many Reviews
 "Switched is paranormal YA with a fresh twist.  It has a more deliberate pace than other YA fantasy...and more emotional thrills.  I really appreciated the realistic development of the love story, and the characters feel well developed.  Recommended." --I'd So Rather Be Reading
“I ate this book up I could barely put it down before bed, and was also trying to sneak time in my busy morning to read some extra sentences. This was an awesome first book in a series that I'm dying to read. Amanda please write the next one soon. I'm dying!!” –Midnight Glace Reviews
“I LOVED this book!  The characters are quite likable…and there is never a dull moment.  I highly suggest you take a look at this book if you want to read some fantasy that leaves you panting for the next installment.” –The Light Under The Covers
 "Filled with action, suspense, and romance...I found the story completely fascinating." --A True Reality Blog
“Amanda Hocking is like a breath of fresh air in the young adult paranormal market. I’ve read countless books about vampires, werewolves and faeries, but never one about trolls…Switched was an impressive start to a series that was chock-full of excitement, adventure and attitude.” –That Bookish Girl Blog
Switched has more intrigue and hidden secrets than the average YA book.” –Read My Mind
“An addicting, easy to digest book that can be devoured in an afternoon.” –Feeding My Book Addiction
I absolutely loooooveeed Switched.  From the first pages I found myself totally caught up stealing moments to read this book.  Visually I 'saw'  this book so well in my head. Just an awesome read that makes you feel for the characters.” –Novels On The Run Reviews

When My Baby Dreams by Adele Enersen

Once upon a time there was a brand new baby in Finland. Her name was Mila. Mila slept a lot and her mother, Adele, grew restless. Fortunately, Adele worked as a copywriter and concept designer in advertising. Those are just big words to simply say that Adele was artistic and creative. And bored. She wanted to play with Mila! But Mila wanted to sleep. So Adele created worlds for Mila. She used Mila as her centerpiece then threw fabrics here and there so that Mila could travel all over without moving more than a few inches.

Adele says: 
I used to introduce myself as a copywriter & concept designer in advertising, but that's not that relevant anymore. Right now I am a mother and a housewife, and loving it! 

This blog is my maternity leave hobby. While my baby is taking her nap, I create scene around her and take quick snap photos. 

I use only few minutes per picture, including creating idea, implementation and editing, 'cause I don't want to disturb her sleeping and most of my time is for my family. My camera is small and inexpensive Canon IXUS 750. 

Nancy says: Why didn't I think of that? (Because I am artistically challenged)

Adele's blog is: Mila's Daydreams

Book's release date is January 3, 2012.

I can already tell you it is going to be a hit! My happy endorphins released while reading this book and enjoying the pictures. Anne Geddes took cute pictures of sleeping babies. Adele creates art in minutes around her cute, sleeping baby.

MADAME TUSSAUD: A Novel of the French Revolution

In 2007, Michelle Moran published her debut novel, Nefertiti. Crafting a work of fiction around one of the most well-known women in history wasn’t easy, but with Moran’s combination of impeccable research, elegant descriptions, and vivid characters, Nefertiti went on to become a national bestseller and firmly established her as an author to watch. With her subsequent novels The Heretic Queen and Cleopatra’s Daughter, Moran’s star has continued to rise, as she has become the novelist of the ancient world. In MADAME TUSSAUD: A Novel of the French Revolution (Broadway; December 27, 2011), now available in paperback, Moran steps out of the realm of Egypt and Rome into new territory—the gilded but troubled court of Marie Antoinette—where her talent truly shines through.
While many have written about revolutionary France and its infamous players, Moran breaks away from the pack with a well-known, yet relatively unexamined narrator: Marie Tussaud. The woman better known as Madame, Marie was an eye witness to the Revolution and experienced its terror firsthand. In MADAME TUSSAUD, Moran channels Marie to provide a fictionalized account of her life and this momentous time in history.

In Paris, in the year 1788, there is whispered talk of revolution. While the aristocracy enjoys wealth and fortune, for the poor bread can only be had on the black market, and men sell their teeth to put food on their tables. Marie enjoys a comfortable life thanks to her skill creating wax figures. At her stepfather’s famed wax museum, the Salon de Cire, she has worked with some of the most influential people of her day—Desmoulins, Benjamin Franklin, and Robespierre—to craft their likenesses. Word of her gift travels quickly and soon the royal family comes to pay Marie a visit to the Salon. Impressed by her work, Marie is invited to court, where she tutors the king’s sister, Princesse Élisabeth, in wax sculpting. Living at Versailles, Marie experiences the opulence of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, but the fairy tale abruptly comes to a halt when the rumors of revolution quickly turn into all-out war. All over Paris, people are being sentenced to death by guillotine on ridiculous charges. For her relationship with the monarchy, Marie is on the list of “traitors,” but the revolutionaries allow her to live on one horrifying condition: that she use her gift to create the death masks of the beheaded aristocracy. 

Spanning five years, MADAME TUSSAUD takes readers from the beginnings of the Revolution to its horrific end, as seen through the eyes of an incredible heroine whose talent for wax modeling saved her life and preserved the faces of a vanished kingdom. Rich with history and graceful prose, Moran has vibrantly re-created the glory—and the horrors—of eighteenth-century Paris through Marie’s incredible story.

About the Author
Michelle Moran is the author of the bestselling Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen, andCleopatra’s Daughter.  Her experiences at archaeological sites around the world motivated her to write historical fiction and continue to provide inspiration for her novels.

Madame Tussaud
By Michelle Moran
Broadway Books
December 27, 2011 * Pages: 480
Price: $15.00 * ISBN: 978-0-307-58866-1

Thursday, December 22, 2011

If We Kiss by Rachel Vail

If We KissIf We Kiss by Rachel Vail
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads: What would happen if we kiss?
Kevin led me quickly around the side of the building, then stopped. I managed not to crash into him. I tried to look calm, cool, unperturbed. I told myself not to laugh, especially not a snorting kind of laugh. "Wha . . . what did . . ."
And then he kissed me.
If We Kiss is the story of Charlotte (Charlie to her friends), who finds herself falling for a boy who is off-limits. Her best friend is in love with him, and her mother and his father are dating. Still, Charlie can't help but wonder, what would happen if we kiss?
My take: When I started reading: The first chapter threw me off because Kevin, hot-guy, kind of grabs Celeste and takes her to a corner and gives her a first kiss. So I spent the first half of the book trying to figure out why he did what he did and why she likes him. I didn't think I'd like the book.

Well into the book: I finally figured it out. Celeste is 14. She doesn't need a reason to like Kevin beyond the fact that he's cute and he kissed her. It doesn't matter why he did it and it doesn't matter that I don't find him endearing, Celeste did. Which reminded me...

Of my first kiss which was a lot like that. Exciting a gross. We block those things out when we're adults but Vail completely captures the experience of first crushes and first kisses. Did I assume I wouldn't taste him? I didn't think about it but I did. It wasn't pleasant, as Celeste describes. What's up with the tongue? Serious gross factor for the first kiss. Me? I kept my mouth closed and came away feeling like I'd just kissed a St. Bernard with his tongue hanging out.

Bottom line is that Vail captures the mentality and thinking process of a 14 year old. Why did she kiss Kevin back? Same reason I kissed Alan. He was there and kissed me. Duh. Why did she have a crush on Kevin? Same reason I crushed on most of my crushes in my teenage years. They were cute and they were there. Another duh. I can't recall a sparkling personality that drew me into the dating arena (besides my own, of course). Just cute guys with nice smiles and twinkling eyes. It's shallow and it can't be described. Yet Vail does a great job of it.

The other part so very well captures is the girl friend relationship. Best friends will do almost anything for each other. They also make each other laugh so hard over stupid things that there is no way that even a guy will stay long between them. It is more substantial simply because they have stood the test of time.

Fun read. Teenagers will love it. Parents will "get" their daughters and remember how it used to be before we got boring.

Mental Floss Review

mental_floss: The Book: The Greatest Lists in the History of Listory

For ten years, the knowledge seekers at mental_floss have been hunting and trapping the world’s rarest facts, locking them into captivating lists for the world to admire. Thanks to their tireless efforts, Mental Floss: The Book is packed with a decade’s worth of the smartest, quirkiest stories around, including:

  • Five Presidential Fashion Flubs
  • Seven Shameless Abuses of Diplomatic Immunity
  • Five Units of Measurement Weirder Than the Metric System
  • Four Toys That Have Gone to War for America
  • Seven Reasons Mister Rogers Was the Best Neighbor Ever
  • Five Things Your Body Can Do After You Die
  • Six of Baseball’s Strangest Trades
  • Four Foods People Actually Die For
  • Seven Things Walmart Has Banned
  • Four TV Shows That Changed the Course of History
  • Ten “Q” Words That Aren’t “Q-U” Words
  • Four Horrifying Parasites to Keep You Awake at Night
  • Eight Fake Archaeological Finds
  • Five Articles of Clothing That Caused Riots
  • Four Memorable Moments in Cross-Dressing History
  • Five Doomsdays We’ve Already Survived
  • It all started over cafeteria food. 

A group of intellects (freshman) at Duke University thought they could present facts in a fun manner and keep it more interesting than some of their professors. This led to a discussion with Duke's president who gave the idea a thumbs up but the name was a thumbs down. Will Pearson and Mangesh Hattikudur did what any student would do at this point - raise money through corporate avenues.

TADA! Mental Floss was born.

This book can be used one of two ways:

  1. Massive time killer. Read it front to back or skip around. Best to then get on the website and spend HOURS studying trivia. This might be the best way to beat Ken Jennings on Jeopardy.
  2. Keep it close to your dental floss. It's a bathroom book or, what we intellectuals call "Squat and Chuckle." Start on any page and enjoy.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Kitchen Daughter Jael McHenry Review

The Kitchen Daughter

The Kitchen Daughter
Jael McHenry
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Gallery

Goodreads: After the unexpected death of her parents, painfully shy and sheltered 26-year-old Ginny Selvaggio seeks comfort in cooking from family recipes. But the rich, peppery scent of her Nonna’s soup draws an unexpected visitor into the kitchen: the ghost of Nonna herself, dead for twenty years, who appears with a cryptic warning (“do no let her…”) before vanishing like steam from a cooling dish. 

A haunted kitchen isn’t Ginny’s only challenge. Her domineering sister, Amanda, (aka “Demanda”) insists on selling their parents’ house, the only home Ginny has ever known. As she packs up her parents’ belongings, Ginny finds evidence of family secrets she isn’t sure how to unravel. She knows how to turn milk into cheese and cream into butter, but she doesn’t know why her mother hid a letter in the bedroom chimney, or the identity of the woman in her father’s photographs. The more she learns, the more she realizes the keys to these riddles lie with the dead, and there’s only one way to get answers: cook from dead people’s recipes, raise their ghosts, and ask them.

My take: This is actually my favorite kind of book. It's about something relevant but also about something else much more relevant. It reminds me of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake which is about a girl who feels what people feel when they cook the food. But it's really not. It's about coping skills or it's a little story about growing up... 

This book is about Ginny who is 26 years old and has a personality. At least that's what she's always been told. Secretly, Ginny has never been officially diagnosed with Aspberger's Syndrome. She has self-soothed by hiding in closets and sticking her hands into her parents' shoes or cooking. She also self-soothes by cooking or imagining chemical changes while she cooks. 

One day she needs to feel comfort and whips up a dish by her Nonna. Imagine her surprise when Nonna appears to her in the kitchen and talks to her. Scares the dickens out of her. This turns out to be a theme for her. When a recipe is hand written, she can conjure a person up with the cooking and the smell. They stay until the smell fades. She learns from talking to them but also is forced to interact with the world about her. Her trusted housekeeper begins as the artery to the outside world and slowly Ginny discovers what she can and can't do. The introduction of David, the housekeeper's grief engulfed son is an interesting storyline. 

The book is a story about grief and some of the different grieving styles. So very, very interesting. 

Why I want Jael to be my friend: Jael McHenry is a talented and enthusiastic amateur cook who grew up in Michigan and Iowa before moving from city to city along the East Coast: Boston, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and now New York, where she blogs about food and cooking at the Simmer blog, She is a monthly pop culture columnist and Editor-in-Chief of Intrepid Media, online at Her work has appeared in publications such as the North American Review, Indiana Review, and the Graduate Review at American University, where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing. 

In her senior year at Tufts University she appeared as a semi-finalist on the "Jeopardy!" College Championship, where she made a killing in consolation prizes. 

Image of Jael McHenry

Monday, December 19, 2011

Flyaway by Helen Landalf

FlyawayFlyaway by Helen Landalf

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a quick and easy read targeting children of parents with addiction problems and lacking a stable home environment. Stevie has been living with her mother in precarious situations for many years. Her mother does what she pleases and Stevie is left to fend for herself which neither find a problem with this setup. Inevitably, one day her mother doesn't come home and Stevie's aunt shows up to take her to her own home. Stevie and Aunt Mindy struggle and clash as they redefine their relationship. Stevie is also always hoping her mother will return. Regardless that she is a crappy mother, she is her mother.

To add depth to the story, the author has included metaphors in juxtaposition of Stevie's life. Stevie finds an injured bird and helps another troubled youth transport it to a bird preserve where Stevie volunteers to help so she can keep an eye on the injured bird and its progress. She learns a lot about caretaking and giving the birds enough space to spread their wings and experiment in a safe environment until they heal. Sometimes the birds can't be saved. Their injuries are too extensive.

It's a sweet story with the realities of a population of children that are transient yet a parent is often present if not responsible or missing for days or weeks on end. I liked it quite a bit.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories 2011 by Joseph Gordon-Levitt

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories 2011The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories 2011 by Joseph Gordon-Levitt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads: HitRECord’s collaborative coalition of artists and writers are making history with The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 1, a collection of innovative crowd-sourced creative projects that pushes the limits of originality, cooperation, imagination, and inspiration. HitRECord, a grassroots creative collective founded by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, known worldwide for his performances in (500) Days of Summer and Inception, is a forum where thousands of artists worldwide share work and contribute to their peers’ projects in writing, music, videos, illustration, and beyond. Alongside Dean Haspiel’s ACT-I-VATE, a groundbreaking comics collective, and the photographer JR’s Inside Out Project, hitRECord is a haven for budding creatives. Now, the collective has edited together its most promising stories and illustrations to serve as its face in introducing the world to a new generation of talent, in The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories.

What it is: It's the smallest book in my library except for, maybe George Shrinks. What it contains is very short stories - sentences or poetry - along with a picture. Each one represents a collaboration by artists, readers, bloggers, etc. Joseph Gordon-Leavitt then culled the cream of the crop and published them. It's not earth shattering but I found myself smiling while I read them. They are clever, witty, thought provoking, and enjoyable. Some of the illustrations had me laughing out loud. Others were a little sad.

Best approached as a book of collaborative poetry unlike anything you've ever seen. And I'll be keeping this one all to myself.

IMM (12/18/11)

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristy, at The Story Siren.

And I want you to be jealous because I've already read two of the books for review this week. 

I didn't feel like shopping. I just wanted to read.

Here they are:

If We Kiss

The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers

Magic of the Moonlight (Full Moon, #2)

The Goddess Test

American Dervish: A Novel
An Unexpected Guest: A Novel
No One is Here Except All of Us