Posted in 5 Stars, Book Review

Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

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Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy, Fairy Tale Adaptations
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: January 3, 2012
Formats Available: Kindle, Hardcover

Summary:

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. no one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself t the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚 📚 📚

Oh my gosh, guys.

Oh. My. Gosh.

Let me start by saying this: this year’s reading experience has been mostly underwhelming. I didn’t get to do much at all for the first half of the year, for one thing–I was still with my own job, which was incredibly stressful and draining. Pair that with a hefty commute, and by the end of the day, it was all I could do to bang out a few sentences of the novel I was writing at the time. Reading was the last thing on my mind.

When I changed jobs over the summer, I suddenly had a lot more time and energy on my hands, so I threw myself back into reading. There were a few books here and there that I enjoyed, but I felt like I was going through the motions. I kept longing for a book–or dare I hope, an entire series–to sweep me off my feet, keep me up all night, and leave me in breathless anticipation for what happened next. Something infectious and emotional and creative and inventive and brilliant.

And then I found Cinder.

I’ve been toying with the idea of reading The Lunar Chronicles for a while. Cinder has been on my to-read list for at least a year, and has been chilling on my Kindle app for almost two months. I’m not sure what was holding me back. Maybe it was my hesitant attitude toward fairy tale adaptations, which seem to go wrong much more frequently than right. Maybe it was my growing skepticism of popular books, which almost never hold up to my expectations.

Whatever my aversion was, I’m glad I got over it. This book is excellent. Excellent.

Ms. Meyer’s writing is excellent in every way. Her construction in flawless, her  dialogue easy and natural, and her world-building adept. Her descriptions are so fluid I felt like I was watching the events unfold before me rather than reading them. Her characters were so developed I half expected them to walk right out of my Kindle. I laughed. I cried. I became fascinated with the beautiful, strange, cruel world that Ms. Meyer has created. I’m dying to know more.

I’m hoping that subsequent books will explain a little more about the history of the world–when did cyborgs become second-class citizens, and why? When did people migrate to the moon?

My only criticism: I saw the “big twist” at the end coming ten miles away. Literally, less than a third of the way through the book, I said, “I’ll bet X is what’s going to happen,” and I was right. I wish that had been handled a little more carefully so as to be a bigger surprise.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series!

 


Marissa MeyerMarissa Meyer is a fangirl at heart, with a closet full of customers, a Harry Potter wand on her desk, and a Tuxedo Mask doll hanging from her rear view mirror. Han and Leia are still her OTP. She may or may not be a cyborg.

Marissa writes books for teens, including the NYT bestselling series, The Lunar Chronicles.

Follow her blog or sign up for her newsletter at http://www.marissameyer.com/

Posted in 4 Stars, Book Review

Review: First Position by Quenby Olson

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Genre: Romance, Holidays, Kindle Shorts
Publisher: World Tree Publishing
Publication Date: November 21, 2015
Formats Available: Kindle

Summary:

Therese has a problem. Everyone at the ballet academy where she teaches is thrilled to have Luca Durante, the reigning star of the ballet world, as their guest artist for the school’s performance of The Nutcracker. There’s one difficulty: Therese has a history with Luca, and though she hasn’t seen him for seven years, she still remembers every moment from when they danced with each other. Will Therese be able to maintain a professional distance until the season is over? Or will Luca remind her why they moved so well together all those years before?

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚 📚

First Position is my second time to read Ms. Olsen’s work in less than a month, and I have to say I consider myself a budding fan. I loved Knotted (see my review here), so it’s no surprise I enjoyed this as well.

This fantastic little short story gives us a glimpse into a world most of us have seen only from the outside. Ballet, such a graceful and ephemeral art as observed from the audience, is in reality a tough, often bloody, business. Ms. Olson uses her personal experience to great effect, bringing the setting the life. Her descriptions are beautiful and so well executed that even I, someone with only a four year old’s concept of the dance, felt like an insider.

The only reason I give this story four stars, rather than five, is that I wish it had been a little bit longer. Luca, Therese’s mysterious love interest, felt a little flat to me. I didn’t feel like I really knew much more about him by story’s end than I did at the beginning. I would love to see a longer piece fleshing him out. Other than that, this story was great!

If you’re looking for a quick, fun, clean read this holiday season, look no further. Definitely worth the download!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.


QuenbyQuenby Olson lives in Central Pennsylvania where she spends most of her time writing, glaring at baskets of unfolded laundry, and chasing the cat off the kitchen counters. She lives with her husband and three children, who do nothing to dampen her love of classical ballet, geeky crochet, and staying up late to watch old episodes of Doctor Who.

Posted in 3 Stars, Book Review

Review: Call Me, Maybe by Ellie Cahill

Call Me, Maybe

Genre: Romance, New Adult
Publisher: Random House LLC
Publication Date:
February 9, 2016
Formats Available: 
Kindle

Summary:

Clementine Daly knows she’s the black sheep. Her wealthy, powerful family has watched her very closely since she almost got caught in an embarrassing scandal a few years ago. So when Clementine’s sent on a mission to live up to the Daly name, politely declining isn’t an option. Of course, the last thing she does before boarding the plane is to grab a stranger’s phone by mistake–leaving the hunky journalist with her phoneSoon his sexy voice is on the line, but he doesn’t know her real name, or her famous pedigree–which is just the way Clementine likes it. 

Despite all the hassles, Justin Mueller is intrigued to realize that the beautiful brown-eyed girl he met at the airport is suddenly at his fingertips. They agree to exchange phones when they’re both back in town, but after a week of flirty texts and wonderfully intimate conversations, Justine doesn’t want to let her go. The only problem? It turns out that Clementine has been lying to him about, well, everything. Except for the one thing two people can’t fake, the only thing that matters. The heat between them is for real. 

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚

(True rating, more like 2.5)

It physically pains me to give Call Me, Maybe such a low star rating for a couple of reasons. First off, rather than following one of the few tropes most contemporary romances follow, this story is a somewhat original play on the classic comedy of errors. Additionally, the writing is almost technically flawless. Ms. Cahill definitely has a powerful command of language, and wields her power with finesse. The prose is well-constructed and the pacing is spot on. Were I to judge the book on only these qualities, it would most assuredly receive all five stars from me. Unfortunately, there were flaws in other areas that annoyed, disappointed, and–dare I say?–disturbed me, causing me to take those two and a half stars right off.

Right off the bat–and this will sound extremely hypocritical, considering I am a lifelong bookworm, an author, and a book blogger all rolled up into one–I kind of hated the fact that Clementine was such an avid reader.  And not just in a casual, barely mentioned way. Bookish, introverted female protagonists always manage to get under my skin at least a little, even though I can connect with them quickly since we’re so similar. I find myself faced with droves of main characters who prefer the company of their books, Nooks, and Kindles to real people these days, and it gets old. It feels like a lazy shortcut to character development, one that I feel more and more authors are taking these days. I doubt many readers complain about this, since after all we almost instantly manage to connect with characters like this, but I read to escape. I know what loving books is like–I’ve already done that. Tell me about the female mechanic/pilot/chainsaw murderer/hedge trimmer. I want to know more about her.

Also, most (if not all) of the conflict which drove the plot to its happy ending either felt contrived or made absolutely no sense. Conflict is a beautiful thing in literature when used properly, but here it only served to infuriate me. All of Clementine’s issues with Justin could have been completely resolved if she’d just opened her mouth and talked to him. I did like that Clementine had a book blog, but I just couldn’t understand why someone in her situation was so hesitant to pursue a career in editing or publishing. Every time she whined about wanting to find a job that let her read all the time, I threw my hands up in the air and shouted “Um, hello!” But sadly, she didn’t seem to hear me through the Kindle.

Lastly, and this may not make a difference to other readers, Clementine and Justin’s relationship was based purely on lust. It’s fine to include relationships based purely on lust in a novel, of course, but nothing makes me more irritable than being lured into a story by promise of romance only to be presented with a couple who literally only care about the physical act of being together. It’s like thinking you’re buying a Chanel purse only to get home and discover you’ve bought a cheap knock-off. (SPOILER)I mean come on, they move from asking each other about favorite foods and colors to having phone sex in the course of a day? And is the phone sex the intimate conversation I’ve been promised, because if so, that is definitely misleading.(END SPOILER)

Overall, this was a fast, well-written read. I more had problems with the actual content and morals of the story, rather than readability. If you don’t have problems with the above issues I mentioned, then by all means have at it. I’m sure you’ll really enjoy it! If my concerns made you give pause, however, I’d find something else to read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 


Ellie Cahill is the author of When Joss Met Matt, Call Me Maybe (2016), and Just a Girl (2016). Ellie is also the not-at-all secret pen name of Young Adult author Liz Czukas (Ask Again Later, and Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless). Liz’s books are often compared to John Hughes movies, while Ellie usually gets compared to Nora Ephron. Either way, if you like a good 80s rom-com, you’ve found the right place. When they’re not writing fun, funny romances full of shenanigans and awkward kisses, Liz and Ellie are at home with their family and a golden retriever with different ideas about the definition of “dog bed.”

You’ll find Ellie on Facebook and Twitter (@ellie_cahill) but you’ll more easily find Liz in those same places as well as Instagram and Tumblr. You’ll find either one of them parked in front of the TV every Sunday night getting their fill of Zombies, Westeros, The Doctor, or any other place where cute English guys fight evil.

Speed round: sweet tea, Hufflepuff, dark chocolate, cheese is the perfect food, Go Badgers, and Han shot first.

Posted in 3 Stars, Book Review

Review: Jane Austen by Brian Wilks

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Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Publisher: Endeavor Press
Publication Date: November 8, 2015
Formats Available: Kindle, Hardcover

Summary:

Jane Austen, one of the best-loved novelists of the English language, is unique in that her approach to art is without complication. She never attempted to exceed the limitations of her capabilities or that with which she was familiar, but wrote of ordinary people engaged in familiar pursuits and doing ordinary things. 

Born the daughter of a country parson, Jane lived what many consider to have been a quiet and uneventful life. Yet in this book, Brian Wilks shows how rewarding a study of this deceptively quiet life can be. 

Jane was a member of a remarkable family, and her story is one of her close involvement with its members. Personal relationships and their portrayal are the keynote of her art and they are also the key to understanding her life. 

The successful novelist who, while being asked to dedicate a novel to the Prince Regent, wrote to advise her ten year old niece on good “Auntship,” would have preferred to be remembered as an aunt rather than a famous writer, and the glimpses of her life and family we have in her letters abound with the same wit, liveliness, and shrewd observation that are found in her novels. 

Yet there is also a wider dimension to her life. She lived at one of the most formative periods of English and European history, the time of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars abroad, and of social unrest and upheaval at home.

If these events find but a dim echo in Jane’s novels, it is not because she was unaware of them. Through her wide family circle she had first-hand contact with many of the social and political currents of her day: she had two brothers who became admirals and who fought in the Napoleonic Wars, an aunt who narrowly escaped hanging for an offence she did not commit, and a cousin whose husband met his death at the guillotine. These incidents are as much a part of her life as the drawing-room at Chawton where she wrote most of her novels. 

Brian Wilks recreates Jane Austen’s world with excerpts from her letters, providing a series of fascinating vignettes of her, her family, and of her world, which was that of the emerging industrial revolution, as well as of elegant Regency Bath and rural Hampshire.

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚

I have been a fan of Jane Austen’s writing since high school. Since graduating those several years ago, my interest and adoration for her work has only grown. Pride & PrejudiceSense & Sensibility, and Persuasion all count among my favorite books of all time.

Despite my admiration for her work, I never learned much about the actual life of this gifted Lady Authoress. Up until a few days ago, the only book I’d read about the lady herself was Becoming Jane, which while entertaining is fictional, so I was excited to read this biography when it popped up on Netgalley.

While Mr. Wilks’ pacing and narrative is engaging and fast-paced, I have to say I’m rather disappointed. This is a rather short book which serves more as a mere introduction to Ms. Austen’s life, rather than the full-length biography I understood it to be. Indeed, the synopsis provided by the publisher seems to cover most of the events touched on in the book, leaving hardly anything at all to discover in the book. Most of the text seemed to be excerpts from family correspondences and her earlier works, and while those were entertaining and fascinating, that’s not what I expected to read.

I wish Mr. Wilks had spent a little more time fleshing out the detailed events of Ms. Austen’s life, rather than stringing anecdotes together. I also would have loved to see him spend a little more time focusing on historical context, and citing more sources than just the letters and writings. The organization also left a lot to be desired.

For the completely uninitiated, Brian Wilks’ Jane Austen is a good start. However, it is by no means a full-length biography, and if you know even a little about Jane Austen, it probably will not contain any new information for you.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Posted in 3 Stars, Book Review

Review: Hickville Confessions by Mary Karlik

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Genre: YA, Contemporary
Publisher: GPK Publication LLC
Publication Date: May 1, 2015
Formats AvailableKindlePaperback

Summary:

New town. New look. New beginning. High school junior Ryan Quinn has a past. She will do just about anything to keep it hidden, even if it means joining the ultra-conservative, no fun allowed, Purity Club. But secrets are hard to keep in a small town and when the Purity Club girls discover the truth, they viciously attack Ryan.

Justin is the kind of guy who can make Ryan forget her vow to change. He’s the kind of guy she should avoid at all costs. But he knows her soul secrets. He understands her and it is torture when she is away from him. But as she deals with the outward scars on her face and the inward shame of her past and Justin’s home life continues to spiral out of control, their relationship becomes as convoluted as their home life. Will they find the courage to open their hearts to each other in spite of their family drama?

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚

Hickville Confessions is a very strange book. Not necessarily strange bad, but strange…strange. It’s second in a series, but you don’t have to read the first book in order to enjoy the story. The pace is good and the writing is quite engaging–I went through it pretty quickly, reading over half of it in just a few hours–but at the end of the book, I wasn’t quite sure what the story was about, exactly.

We open with Ryan Quinn being assaulted by her “friends” from the Purity Club at school. Justin Hayes sees the attack and ends up rescuing her, and there begins their friendship. The book largely deals with Ryan’s physical and emotional healing after being assaulted and the pain that comes with that. Justin’s family issues are also discussed.

When I finished the book, though, I felt really confused. The only plot point that seemed to be resolved at all was (SPOILER) Justin and Ryan beginning a romantic relationship (END SPOILER),  and that happened at the halfway point of the book. The conflict between Ryan and the PC girls, specifically with Macey Brown, is not resolved at all, and we never find out more about Macey’s home life, which is hinted at in the beginning. I understand it’s a series, but I expected to have more resolved than the obvious.

There were other details that made the story a little less believable. It was an enjoyable read, but I don’t think I’ll be reading the rest of the series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

13725528Following a career as a nursing instructor, award-winning author Mary Karlik earned an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania. A native Texan, Mary loves horses, dogs, cats, and small town diners Although she has recently relocated to northern New Mexico, her heart remains in the Lone Star state.

Connect with Mary by visiting her wesbite:
http://www.marykarlik.com/

Posted in 5 Stars, Book Review

Review: Knotted by Quenby Olson

Knotted

Genre: Coming of Age, Romantic Comedy
Publisher: World Tree Publishing
Publication Date: June 10, 2013
Formats AvailableKindlePaperback

Summary:

When seventeen-year-old Olivia Davies receives a phone call from her estranged father in the middle of the night, she’s in for a huge shock. Her father is getting married–again–and he wants her to be at the wedding. So over summer break, Olivia packs her bags and makes the trip back to England to meet her future stepmother. But instead of the middle-aged woman she expected, Olivia finds herself introduced to Emmy Balfour, a stunning blonde young enough to be her sister. And if that wasn’t enough, she also finds herself dealing with the disapproval of Emmy’s older brother, Ian, a man for whom “polite” and “respect” seem to be four-letter words. 

With only three weeks until the wedding, Olivia struggles to stay afloat while navigating the treacherous waters of wedding planners, aristocracy, and bridesmaid’s dresses–not to to mention the bridesmaids in the dresses. But just when she thinks everything is finally settling down, a few well-timed lies threaten to destroy her father’s chance at happiness. As a last resort, Olivia must work with Ian in an attempt to set things right, a partnership that forces her to decide if keeping him at a distance or disregarding her first impressions of him will cause her to step up and make a few changes in her own life. 

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚 📚 📚

Sigh. Swoon.

Knotted contains a delightful story wrapped in every emotion you can imagine. It’s the ultimate feel-good read, the kind you can put down with a smile on your face, and manages to be so without being superficial, which is quite a feat. Several serious issues appear here, including divorce, parenting, family drama, and of course, pride and prejudice.

Ms. Olson obviously drew a great deal of inspiration from Jane Austen, but she did so subtly. Instead of merely repackaging the exact plot of Pride & Prejudice into a modern story, which must have been tempting, she created an original story quite different from that of P&P and included only partial elements and tidbits, really a tribute woven in so carefully that only Austen aficionados will catch it. The characters in Knotted are fully-formed and fabulous, and completely stand on their own apart from whatever P&P role(s) they fill.

For example, our protagonist Olivia Davies is a far cry from well-composed, self-assured Lizzie Bennet. To put it bluntly, Olivia is a hot mess. That’s what I love about her. So often in YA novels, our main characters are so put together and well-adjusted, and while that’s all well and good, that’s not at all how I was as a teenager. In fact, aside from being “willowy” and having a father who lives on the other side of the pond, Olivia could have very well been me. She wears ratty clothes and slaps on old gas station makeup she barely knows how to use, and she’s clumsy and really down on herself a lot. She hates being on the receiving end of nice gestures because she doesn’t like the attention. I so identify with that, and am only recently coming out of my own similar phase, so it was nice to see her start to come to terms with her own self-worth at the end of the novel. I’m crossing my fingers for a sequel, and soon! 🙂

If you can’t already tell, I definitely recommend Knotted to fans of YA lit and/or Jane Austen. Let’s get real, in an ideal world, that covers everyone. So: everyone should read this book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.


 

Quenby Olson Quenby.jpglives in Central Pennsylvania where she spends most of her time writing, glaring at baskets of unfolded laundry, and chasing the cat off the kitchen counters. She lives with her husband and two daughters, who do nothing to dampen her love of classical ballet, geeky crochet, and staying up late to watch old episodes of Doctor Who.

Connect with Quenby by visiting her Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/QuenbyOlson/

 

Posted in 3 Stars, 4 Stars, Book Review

Review: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Literary Humor
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: January 19, 2016 (New Edition)
Formats AvailableKindlePaperback

Summary:

Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her book-loving pen pal. When she arrives, however, she finds Amy’s funeral guests just leaving. The residents of Broken Wheel are happy to look after their bewildered visitor–not much else to do in a small town that’s almost beyond repair. They just never imagined that she’d start a bookstore. Or that books could bring them together–and change everything. There’s a book for every person. . .and a person for every book.

MY RATING: 📚 📚 📚 📚

(True rating: 3.5)

I love a delicious long, almost sentence-like title, so The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend definitely caught my eye. Who are these readers, what is Broken Wheel, and what exactly do they recommend? I wanted to know. After reading the story description, I was sold.

TROBWR has everything you would expect from a book about small-town life–gossip, sex, intrigue, and teensy tiny dose of lawbreaking. Having said that, though, the book is relatively clean, if that’s something that matters to you. There’s little cursing and no explicit or graphic content. While there is an overarching plot, the story is pieced together with little episodic anecdotes reminiscent of To Kill A Mockingbird that made my Southern Lit loving heart happy as can be.

Ms. Rivald’s true strength is her character development. Each and every character has a story and a fully formed personality. They’re all equal parts lovable and infuriating, and they each have their own fatal flaw. Sara tries to save them through books while they all try to save her from books. It’s all very entertaining.

Now for the critical bits. The translation from Swedish to English could have been better. There were several times where the wording felt off, and while it made linguistic sense, it didn’t feel authentic–I wouldn’t expect a bunch of people from a backwoods town like Broken Wheel to say “mad” rather than “crazy,” for example. Additionally, (SPOILERS AHEAD) the romantic relationships are very odd. Tom and Sara falling in love seemed very anticlimactic after all the buildup, and the whole thing with Caroline and Josh just felt contrived. I never really bought either of them being into one another. (SPOILER ENDED).

With all that being said, I did enjoy reading TROBWR and would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys tales of love, small town living, and of course, books!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 


 

Katarina Bivald

Katarina Bivald grew up working part-time in a bookshop. Today she lives outside of Stockholm, Sweden, with her sister and as many bookshelves she can get by her. She’s currently trying to persuade her sister that having a shelf for winter jackets and shoes is completely unnecessary. There should be enough space for a bookshelf or two instead. Limited success so far. Apparently, her sister is also stubbornly refusing to even discuss using the bathroom to store books.

She sometimes claims that she still hasn’t decided whether she prefer books or people but, as we all know, people are a non-starter. Even if you do like them, they’re better in books. Only possible problem: reading a great book and having no one to recommend it to.