Thursday, May 31, 2012

My Favorite Reads Giveaway

When I saw this hop, I knew which book I wanted to give away. Not only did I love it, but my new best neighborhood teenager friend loved it, too.

I know she is only using me for my books, but I'm okay with that.

In case you missed my thoughts, check it out right HERE.

Cat Patrick is also the author of Forgotten which I also loved. So if you live in the U.S. and want to enter for a chance to win, fill out the form!

For some reason, sometimes the form doesn't show up in the blog. If you don't see it, click HERE to sign up!

For good karma, say something nice in the comment section. There's always the beautiful and skinny compliments which I don't abhor, by any means. You can also make predictions like my dog will not kill THESE chickens and I will have eggs in the fall or my children will love me enough to put me into a GOOD home.

Here are some more blogs hosting giveaways:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Between You and Me: A Novel by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Between You and Me: A NovelBetween You and Me: A Novel by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Goodreads: From the authors of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Nanny Diaries comes a new novel that takes readers behind the scenes of stratospheric celebrity—what it means to be worshipped by millions and still feel loved by none.

Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus have proven again and again that they are masters at exploring the nuances of family relationships—as they intersect with the current trends in the culture at large.

In Between You and Me, twenty-seven-year-old Logan Wade has built a life for herself in New York City, far from her unhappy childhood in Oklahoma. But when she gets the call that her famous cousin needs a new assistant, it’s an offer she can’t refuse. Logan hasn’t seen Kelsey since they were separated as kids; in the meantime, Kelsey Wade has become one of Fortune Magazine’s most powerful celebrities and carrion for the paparazzi. But the joy at their reunion is overshadowed by the toxic dynamic between Kelsey and her controlling parents. As Kelsey grasps desperately at a “real” life, Logan risks everything to try and give her cousin the one thing she has never known—happiness. As Kelsey unravels in the most horribly public way Logan finds that she will ultimately have to choose between saving her cousin and saving herself.

My thoughts: I started out thinking it was a light, easy read. Listen to the big buzzer. Definitely not what I thought it would be but definitely much more meaty than I had anticipated.

What the story achieves is allowing the reader into the world of the rich and famous without all the glitz. Of course, there is glitz, but I found myself thinking about this novel for days afterward. Lindsay Lohan, Michael Jackson, and so many other stars trying to transition into the adult and also normal world have so many more walls to punch down.

The gist of the story is that Logan Wade is Kelsey Wade's cousin. Although once inseparable, tragedy struck, there was a hospital stay, and Kelsey left to L.A. and became famous. The tragedy is not the main story although it explains a lot about the relationships when Logan finally remembers.

Kelsey and Logan haven't seen each other in 15 years. Their father's no longer speak and Logan's mother would never approve. Now Logan is Kelsey's assistant and gets a first row seat in the world of paparazzi, magazine pic spins, slander with no recourse, and the ultimate stage parents who push and push their child who is no longer a person but a multi-million dollar vehicle. Logan watches as Kelsey grapples with the idea of love, marriage, being accepted for who she is not what she can do.

Logan is not a strong protagonist. In fact, she's kind of slutty. This is not a YA book. There is a lot of sex, a lot of strong language, and a lot of adult themes. That said, the book is not without merit. I found it thought provoking and disturbingly probable.

*I received a free copy of this book from publishing company in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi REVIEW

The Drowned Cities (Ship Breaker, #2)The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads: Soldier boys emerged from the darkness. Guns gleamed dully. Bullet bandoliers and scars draped their bare chests. Ugly brands scored their faces. She knew why these soldier boys had come. She knew what they sought, and she knew, too, that if they found it, her best friend would surely die.

In a dark future America where violence, terror, and grief touch everyone, young refugees Mahlia and Mouse have managed to leave behind the war-torn lands of the Drowned Cities by escaping into the jungle outskirts. But when they discover a wounded half-man--a bioengineered war beast named Tool--who is being hunted by a vengeful band of soldiers, their fragile existence quickly collapses. One is taken prisoner by merciless soldier boys, and the other is faced with an impossible decision: Risk everything to save a friend, or flee to a place where freedom might finally be possible.

This thrilling companion to Paolo Bacigalupi's highly acclaimed Ship Breaker is a haunting and powerful story of loyalty, survival, and heart-pounding adventure.

My thoughts: There is a small country in West Africa called Sierra Leone which is rich in diamonds. In 1991 a civil war erupted and left the small country in a blood bath. No home was safe. Families and friends meant nothing to many. Common practices for recruiting soldiers were to kidnap boys at the appropriate age, drug them until addicted, then keep them semi-drugged while they committed their first atrocities. They were then addicted to narcotics they could only acquire through soldiering and their neuro-pathways had been rerouted with the violence they had inflicted.

Mariama Kallom was a teenager in 1992 in Sierra Leone. Her brother was abducted and the brainwashing failed as he refused to take part in the violence. He was eliminated. Mariama and her sister were hiding in a house when the rebels arrived in their town. There was not time to run. They were dragged outside, raped, then systematically the soldiers cut off the women's legs. As the machete was raised to cut off her own legs, the Red Cross arrived. The rebels fled and she alone had two legs.

I tell this story to prepare you for this book. The story is reminiscent of the civil war in Sierra Leone. The violence is extreme. The ice caps have melted and there is no clear leadership. Different factions are trying to take control for idealistic reasons. The soldiers are young, ill-prepared and trained through combat alone. Civilians are tools and the world now includes creatures engineered by splicing DNA. The book is really about Tool, a DNA enhanced creature we met earlier in Ship Breaker. It is also about Mahlia, the one handed cast-off who would have had no hands if her friend, Mouse, hadn't saved her.

The world presented is dark, depressing, cruel, violent and unpredictable. What I described of Sierra Leone is true. What is described in this story is disturbingly similar. Be prepared. That's all I'm saying.

*I received a free copy of this book from publishing company in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

An Uncommon Education Review

  “A young woman tries to save three people she loves in this elegant and remarkably insightful coming-of-age debut.
Afraid of losing her parents at a young age—her father with his weak heart, her deeply depressed mother—Naomi Feinstein prepared single-mindedly for a prestigious future as a doctor. An outcast at school, Naomi loses herself in books, and daydreams of Wellesley College. But when Teddy, her confidant and only friend, abruptly departs from her life, it’s the first devastating loss from which Naomi is not sure she can ever recover, even after her long-awaited acceptance letter to Wellesley arrives.
Naomi soon learns that college isn’t the bastion of solidarity and security she had imagined. Amid hundreds of other young women, she is consumed by loneliness—until the day she sees a girl fall into the freezing waters of a lake.
The event marks Naomi’s introduction to Wellesley’s oldest honor society, the mysterious Shakespeare Society, defined by secret rituals and filled with unconventional, passionate students. Naomi finally begins to detach from the past and so much of what defines her, immersing herself in this exciting and liberating new world and learning the value of friendship. But her happiness is soon compromised by a scandal that brings irrevocable consequences. Naomi has always tried to save the ones she loves, but part of growing up is learning that sometimes saving others is a matter of saving yourself.
An Uncommon Education is a compelling portrait of a quest for greatness and the grace of human limitations. Poignant and wise, it artfully captures the complicated ties of family, the bittersweet inevitability of loss, and the importance of learning to let go.”
My thoughts: I have very few thoughts regarding this book. Unfortunately, I could not find a thread to cling to. Nothing struck me enough to keep me moving through the book. I quit on page 143.  I can certainly give a quick review of likes and dislikes up until page 143, however. 
The author is a prolific writer. She makes every sentence colorful and vivid. This is both a strength and weakness in my mind.  After so many wordy sentences, I found my attention wandering. It was a little too much waxing poetic for my liking. This style of writing can go either way for the reader.
The reason I stopped reading is that nothing happened. Okay, Naomi went to the former home of the Kennedy family, got sick and threw up. Her father had a heart attack. She met Teddy who became her best friend and he was strongly Hasidic Jew and Naomi is only of Jewish blood on her father's side and her mother is a convert. Teddy moves away. Naomi starts college. She watches a girl fall through the ice. She's asked about Shakespeare. I found nothing (at least up to page 143) that tied any of this together. It was simply a commentary, although beautifully written, of snapshots of Naomi's life.  I needed something to grab me long before I quit reading.
Additional stops for this book that will give other opinions than my own can be found here:
Wednesday, May 2nd: missris
Thursday, May 3rd: Bookstack
Tuesday, May 8th: Stiletto Storytime
Wednesday, May 9th: Book Him Danno!
Thursday, May 10th: Unabridged Chick
Monday, May 14th: Elle Lit.
Tuesday, May 15th: Dolce Bellezza
Wednesday, May 16th: A Book Geek
Thursday, May 24th: A Musing Reviews
Monday, May 28th: Reading With Martinis
Monday, June 4th: BookNAround
Tuesday, June 5th: Daily Nibbles
Wednesday, June 6th: The Blog of Lit Wits

Monday, May 21, 2012

Crazy Dangerous by Andrew Klavan

Crazy DangerousCrazy Dangerous by Andrew Klavan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads:"You probably want to hear about Jennifer and the demons and how I played chicken with a freight train and—oh yeah—the weird murder and how I found out about it—you're definitely going to want to hear about that. But first, I have to tell you about the stupidest thing I ever did . . ."

Sam Hopkins is bored with his status as a preacher's kid. So when a group of guys notorious for being in trouble offers him friendship, he accepts. Before long, he has several new skills—including hot-wiring cars.

At school, there's an eccentric loner named Jennifer. When Sam defends her from being bullied, she begins to seek him out as her only friend. Her ramblings often seem illogical . . . but then start to contain grains of truth. One leads Sam to discover that one of his new friends has been killed. And then she tells him, "I'm looking for the devil." Sam doesn't know what that means, but he knows it's a matter of life and death that he figure it out.

Everyone else thinks Jennifer is suffering from schizophrenia. But Sam is starting to wonder if there could be something prophetic in her words. Discovering the truth is going to be both crazy and dangerous.

My thoughts: I don't like writing three star reviews because it usually means I have nothing to say. The story is good. Writing is good. No complaints. Nothing really stands out for me. It's a good introduction to severe mental illness, bullying, and the role God plays. It's well written, touching on important and timely issues and includes a hero teenager and parents who listen to him, although not always agree with him.

*I received a free copy of this book from publishing company in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson Review

Second Chance SummerSecond Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads: Taylor’s family might not be the closest-knit – everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled – but for the most part, they get along fine. Then they get news that changes everything: Her father has pancreatic cancer, and it’s stage four – meaning that there is basically nothing to be done. Her parents decide that the family will spend his last months together at their old summerhouse in the Pocono Mountains.

Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven’t actually gone anywhere. Her former summer best friend is suddenly around, as is her first boyfriend. . . and he’s much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve.

As the summer progresses, the Edwards become more of a family, and closer than they’ve ever been before. But all of them very aware that they’re battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance – with family, with friends, and with love.

My thoughts: I'm really struggling between giving this book 4 or 5 stars. Really, the only thing that stops me from giving it a full-on 5 star rating is the juvenile grudge. That said, it's been a long time since I was 12 years old and nearly as long since I was 17. The story hints about some long ago situation where Taylor did something that hurt both Henry and Lucy. What she did was definitely relevant to the story. How she handled it at the age of 17 was relevant to the story. How Henry and Lucy handled it, the first time seeing her since it happened, developed their characters. The actual event is anti-climactic and is not revealed until far into the book. However, more background is also revealed of what Henry's 12th summer included which clearly exacerbated his reaction.

Confused? Bored with my analysis? Okay, I'll spice it up a bit. What I loved about the story is my own visceral reaction to it. I rarely cry over a book or movie. I surprised myself by watching a tear plop on my bedspread. What I've described is the basic teenage angst. I know. Been there. Done that. But as the book description indicates, the summer in the mountains is the last one for the family as a whole unit. The father, Rob, is dying of pancreatic cancer. Ironically, my own first boyfriend, the one I met on vacation and continued to meet every summer on vacation, grew up to a successful lawyer, married the proverbial girl next door, had four children and then was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The author chose a cancer that has a nearly zero survival rate. The reader is duly warned by the kind of cancer and the stage. (view spoiler)[I wasn't surprised by the outcome but surprised by the description of the stages of dying. It takes only a few pages and is not THE central part of the book, but the accuracy of it really hurt my heart. Taylor's father's death is relevant and necessary to complete Taylor's story and for her to face her own demons. It is one of the best young adult books I've read on grieving, death and loss. (hide spoiler)]

This is the second book I have read by this author. The first one had me giggling in pleasure and glee. It was so fun, upbeat, and such an enjoyable journey that I was surprised she could write another book so vastly different yet with amazing skill. The scenes are well orchestrated, characters quickly developed, relationships understood then change with natural transitions. Very, very well written.

*I received a free copy of this book from publishing company in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Arranged by Catherine McKenzie GIVEAWAY

Hooray for us! I get to give away a copy of this fun book! If you didn't read my review, you might be lost with the last question on form. And you will sadly miss out on my quirky sense of humor. But the question is not mandatory. Your loss.

Fill out the form below.
Ends May 31st.

By the way, if you haven't torn April off your wall calendar, do so now.
People respect you for looking like you have it all together.

(*RIP*). As of right now, I look like I have it all together.
Until I start dancing to tunes in my head.

The Exceptionals by Erin Cashman

The ExceptionalsThe Exceptionals by Erin Cashman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads: Born into a famous family of exceptionally talented people, 15-year-old Claire Walker has deliberately chosen to live an average life. But everything changes the night of the Spring Fling, when her parents decide it's high time she transferred to Cambial Academy--the prestigious boarding school that her great-grandfather founded for students with supernatural abilities.

My thoughts: The theme is somewhat common; regular girl becomes heroine because of her supernatural talents which seemed small at first. The school is interesting in that it caters to students who have begun to develop a supernatural gift. I liked the explanation and development of the students and their gifts. Yes, it can be genetic, but really the talents are a result of students using different regions of their brains then developing it with practice. Claire's talent is understanding animals. This is unique as nobody else can do it but there are also prophesies about her. That was interesting. Then it kind of went downhill for me.

The story and character development was adequate although I never really cared much about any of the characters. Still, it was a good introduction to them. When the conflict went into affect and the action started, I lost interest. It seemed very contrived and not as well thought out as the beginning of the book. For instance, when an idea occurred to one of the characters a dialogue ensues like this: "But wouldn't Mom or Dad have mentioned it to us?"

"I just remembered! Dad did mention something last week..."

I am not a writer so take my thoughts with a grain of salt but it seemed like the story should have introduced this information in a previous and unrelated discussion to give the reader clues and some predictability. Same with the secret room in the house and tunnel. They find themselves in a pickle but quickly remember how to access a secret bomb shelter that the reader didn't know about. It was a good solution but seemed random.

The story has merit and promise. Enough of the loose ends are tied up at the end to satisfy me but clearly there are others that need to be addressed in a sequel. It is a pleasant enough read and I believe the author is one to watch in the future as her skills develop. This particular book had its flaws but not enough to detract from an enjoyable story. But for me it was somewhat forgettable.

*I received a free copy of this book from publishing company in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Monday, May 14, 2012

It's Monday and This is What I'm Reading!

These are the books I have received to review in the past 3 weeks (because I'm a slacker like that)


At this very moment, I am at the very end of Beautiful Ruins.

As Tigger would say, TTFN (Ta-ta for now)!