Wednesday, December 25, 2013


Book: Allegiant
Series: Divergent #3
Author: Veronica Roth

Review: I'm not sure how to start this review. I read this book about a month ago and initially disliked the book, then thought maybe I was being to harsh and it had it's good points, and after thinking about it, I'm giving it 2 stars (which I still think is generous). In Allegiant, Tris, Four and a few select others go beyond the fence to see what is out there. They find out everything they learned in the video was a lie and they learn how they got there: The government decided to manipulate genes to remove the qualities of selfishness, etc. and not shockingly, this plan backfired. So they decided to 'fix' this problem but recruiting people with 'defective genes', wiping their memories and putting them in enclosed cities until they started reproducing children with normal (Divergent) genes. This had been going on about 8 generations in Chicago by the time Tris left (I couldn't help wondering why there wasn't any inbreeding issues). 

This book was told in alternating narratives with Tris and Four. It was ridiculous they were even a couple anymore and adding Four's narrative was unnecessary. He came off as extremely emotional, indecisive and weak. Tris was her normal self sacrificing self. My biggest challenges with this book were the lack of characterization for secondary characters (i.e. Christina, Uriah, etc) and the plot holes. Several characters die in this book and I could barely muster any feelings for them (excluding a major death at the end, which I won't spoil but will say I'm probably in the minority for being okay with their demise). And the plot, there were a ton. The world building was lacking, many things weren't clearly explained, the resolution at the end didn't really make sense and characters actions were out of place. I'm avoiding spoilers here people but this book was all over the place. 

My least favorite of the series. I didn't hate it but it I didn't quite like it either. 

Grade: 2/5


Book: Insurgent
Series: Divergent #2
Author: Veronica Roth

Review: Picking up immediately were Divergent ended, Tris and her crew are battling Janine and the Erudite who are distributing a serum to control Dauntless. The only people immune are Divergent while the Fractionless are planning to stage an uprising. 

Hmm. I really liked the first book. It was fun and action packed. It seemed like nothing of importance happened for 3/4 of this book. There was a lot of teenage angst between Tris and Four (he didn't even seem like the same character from book 1). I was so done with their melodrama mid-way through the book I was hoping they would breakup so I wouldn't have to listen to Tris promise she wouldn't lie to him again...and then immediately break the promise. I'll avoid spoilers but I thought it was bizarre Tris would easily agree to work with Marcus given their history and there was a major death that should have been more thrilling (or satisfying is a better term) at the end. This book concludes with everyone finding out what is outside the gates....nothing shocking. 

Overall, it wasn't perfect but I still liked it. 

Grade: 3/5

Double Crossed: A Spy and Thieves Story

Book: Double Crossed: A Spy and Thieves Story
Series: Heist Society #2.5
Author: Ally Carter

Review: Macey is a society girl/spy in training. WW Hale V is a wealthy youth/grifter. Their unique skills are put to the test when the gala they are attending is held up by armed men. Finding themselves as hostages, can they figure out what the thieves want and make it out alive? 

This book blends characters from Carter's Gallagher Girls series (which I have not read but plan to after reading this) and Heist Society (I read the first book and really liked it). This was smart, fun and well crafted. I loved it!

Grade: 5/5

The Accidental Werewolf

Book: The Accidental Werewolf
Series: Accidentally Friends #1
Author: Dakota Cassidy

Review: Marty is dedicated to her job selling Bobbie Sue Cosmetics (imagine Mary Kay) but things start to change when she is bitten by a large dog one night. Her blond hair starts getting darker, her leg hair won't stop growing and she is becoming increasing emotional. When a strange sexy man shows up at her apartment a week later and tells her she is a werewolf, she does not believe him.

This was a very light, fluffy, cute read. It reminded me a lot of the first Sarah Dearly book (Immortality Bites by Michelle Rowan) although not as funny. Marty grew on me as the book progressed and while Keegan (the werewolf who accidentally bit her) was sexy, he was rather flat as a character. There wasn't much to him other than his hot body and the fact that he loved Marty's scent. I did like how Marty faced discrimination meeting the pack, I felt that was pretty realistic (in terms of an outsider coming in and trying to fit in). My main struggle with the book was the mystery element of 'who is trying to kidnap Marty and why' and the 'other woman' introduced in Keegan's life. I just didn't feel like they were big enough threats. Also, Marty's reaction to being kidnapped at the end...way too air headed and flinty. 

Although I didn't love this book, it was okay. The next book in the series focuses on Marty's friend Nina, who I is very outspoken and was a fun side character. I will give that book a chance. 

Grade: 2.5/5

Better Read Than Dead

Book: Better Read Than Dead
Series: Psychic Eye Mystery #2
Author: Victoria Laurie

Review: Picking up a few months after the last book left off, Abby is recovering from her attack and happily dating Dutch (who is now an FBI agent on an out of town assignment). She agrees to read tarot cards at a wedding for a friend, only to realize once she is there that the bride's family is in the Greek mob. One the 'don' hears of her talents, he wants her help tracking down his wife who disappeared while shopping years ago. Meanwhile, one of Abby's clients is attacked and the police request her help in apprehending the killer. 

I liked this book much better than the first one. More dark and more meat to the plot. It was still fun and light but there were more twists and turns. I really loved how Abby was blackmailed (essentially) into helping the mob. Milo (Dutch's old partner) was also a welcome addition. Dutch is pretty much MIA in this book although in the few scenes he was in, I was very annoyed with Abby's immature behavior in how she communicated with him. It's really shocking she is supposed to be 31. I still haven't warmed up to Abby's sister who just doesn't read like a real person. Abby continues to grown on me and I like how her talent helps guide her (although she makes a lot of bad judgement calls, like only calling Dutch to warn him about danger on a Friday...going out of town for 2 days and then calling again Monday when she gets back. And she has a cell phone the whole time!). 

While I enjoyed this book, there seemed to be some editing errors (or lack of research may be the better word). The mobster is noted as living outside of Detroit on Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan is over 3H away from Detroit. I think the author meant Lake Huron or Lake Erie perhaps? Her sister's house is also described as quite large but the sq foot doesn't seem large enough to accommodate all of the bedrooms and rooms. Minor complaints but I couldn't help thinking about it while I was reading. 

Not perfect, but fun!!

Grade: 3.5/5

Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye

Book: Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye
Series: Psychic Eye Mystery #1
Author: Victoria Laurie

Review: Abby Cooper is a a psychic intuitive who lives a pretty boring life. When one of her clients is murdered, she feels responsible for not realizing her life was in danger. To make matters worse, she goes on a date (with someone she met online) and doesn't realize he's a police detective. Although she's vowed she won't use her talents to help police investigations (for fear they will suspect her), she ends up assisting anyway. When Abby becomes a target of the killer, can she figure out who it is before she becomes the next victim?

This was a quick, cute read and had a few laughs. Although Abby comes off as fairly immature for a woman in her early 30's, she grew on me throughout the book. I like the dynamic between Abby and Dutch (the sexy policeman she meets from a dating website) and there is potential for a good love story. I wasn't as on board with the relationship between Abby and her sister. I think the issue is that her sister  (very rich, CEO) just didn't seem like a real person.  There were also some phrases that were repeated too often (like 'liar liar pants on fire') but overall, I liked it. 

Grade: 3/5

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Fiery Heart

Book: The Fiery Heart
Series: Bloodlines #4
Author: Richelle Mead

Review: This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year and I liked the book, I really did. I just didn't love it like the previous books in the series (I didn't stay up all night reading it like the previous installments). Sydney's younger sister Zoe is now at school to train under her and Sydney has to be very careful with her extracurricular activities-specifically her witchcraft, revolutionary Alchemist activities and of course, her forbidden romance with Adrian. 

Unlike the previous books, this was written in alternating narratives between Sydney and Adrian. I love Sydrain, love them (way more than Rose and Dmitri) but I really didn't need half of a book listening to a manic depressive lament about how pathetic he is and how much he misses his girlfriend. It was depressing to read. Sydney was her typical Sydney self and she is pretty fabulous. I liked the infusion of Zoe and wish she had a more visible role throughout the book. Where the previous books had a mystery element that took center stage and the romance was a side story, the romance seemed like the main point of this book. The exclusion of that would be the ending..although it is something we've been building to for the last few books, I can say I am SO EXCITED FOR THE NEXT BOOK!!! I think it is set up to be the best book yet. 

Overall-I liked it. Not my favorite book in the series but a must read to set up for #5. 

Grade: 3/5

Blood Bath & Beyond

Book: Blood Bath & Beyond
Series: Immortality Bites Mystery #1
Author: Michelle Rowen

Review: Sarah Dearly is adjusting to life with her fiancee Thierry when he takes a job 'he cannot refuse' with The Ring (organization that manages vampire affairs). They relocate to Vegas so he can investigate a beauty pageant contestant (think Honey Boo Boo). Things get complicated when a series of murders occur and Thierry becomes the main suspect. Have no fear-Sarah is on the case!

Immortality Bites is one of my favorite vampire series for one primary reason-Rowen has the ability to make me laugh. This book was no exception and I found my self constantly chuckling over Sarah's ability to get in harms way and her attempts to get out of trouble. I especially loved a scene where she finds herself tied up by vampire hunters and tries to talk her way out of it. I loved the Vegas backdrop and the serial killer mystery was fun. I didn't really warm up too much to beauty pageant contestant Victoria (a chain smoking 5 year old who loved sparkles and all things pageant) but overall, super fun, light, read.  **Readers who haven't read the first series may not warm to Thierry-he is a rather cold character but beneath the exterior, he and Sarah are really wonderful together.**

I look forward to reading the next book. 

Grade: 4/5


Book: Frigid
Series: Frigid #1
Author: J. Lynn

Review: College seniors Sydney and Kyler have been best friends forever. Sydney has secretly been in love him for years but doesn't want to say anything for fear of ruining their friendship. Kyler is also a complete man-whore which complicates her feelings. When they are stranded together during a ski vacation, they have to confront their feelings for each other and face a nefarious foe. 

This book had a fun premise-best friends who harbor secret feelings for each other are trapped in a house during a snow storm. Unfortunately, I just didn't buy Sydney and Kyler's relationship. Sydney (she had zero self esteem; imagine an older Bella Swan with even less backbone) was SO awkward in every interaction with Kyler I couldn't imagine them ever being friends, no less 'BFF.'  Kyler was essentially perfect (described like an Abercrombie model who loves animals) and his only fault was his man whoring ways. He also called Sydney "baby" quite often, an odd term of endearment for a friends. They both came off rather flat with little personality. I was surprised by the sex scenes (much sexier than I anticipated!). In terms of the mystery, I wish the author had thrown in a few red herrings because it was obvious who the perpetrator was.

Overall, this was an okay read. I've heard great things about this author so I will give some of her other books a try. 

Grade: 2/5

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Book: Divergent
Series: Divergent #1
Author: Veronica Roth

Review: Sometime in the future, Chicago is a closed off city where the citizens know nothing about what goes on outside their city. Society is divided into factions based on morals: Abnegation (selflessness), Candor (truth), Dauntless (bravery), Erudite (knowledge) and Amity (peacefulness). Every 16 year old takes an aptitude test that gauges what faction they are best suited for and then officially chooses their faction during a ceremony. Tris shocks her Abnegation family when she chooses Dauntless. While Tris goes through Dauntless training, she is physically and mentally challenged. She also discovers that she must keep her true aptitude test results-divergent (suited for multiple factions) secret. 

Good world building and an intriguing heroine. I loved the trials and tribulations of Dauntless training and the dynamic between the initiates. Of course, there was a chaste romance that slowly developed between Tris and her training instructor, Four. While these romances often bother me, I really loved Four as a character. He was someone I looked forward to learning more about in the rest of the series.

Fast paced, action packed book with an interesting world-fun! 

Grade: 4/5

Counting by 7's

Book: Counting by 7's
Author: Holly Goldberg Sloan

Review: Willow is a 12 year genius who loves the number 7, plants and diagnosing medical conditions. She is orphaned when her adoptive parents are killed in a car accident. With no family to speak of, she is temporarily taken in by a classmate's mother.

While the premise of the book sounds depressing, it was heartwarming and ended up in me "happy crying" at the end (of course it happened when I was at the dealership getting my oil changed and the mechanic came over to tell me my car was ready, embarrassing!). While Willow was a slightly frustrating protagonist (she was seemingly wonderful at almost everything she did, which wasn't believable) the people surrounding her were wonderful.  This was a slow read at times, but full of heart.

Grade: 4/5

Lost in Shadow, Part 1: The Contract

Book: Lost in Shadow, Part 1: The Contract
Series: Lost #1
Author: Scarlett Edwards

Review: After her junior year at Yale, a young woman travels to northern California for the opportunity of a lifetime. Things don't go according to plan when her job is cut short and she is kidnapped. Finding herself in a large room with a shock collar around her neck, she is presented with a contract that she is 'asked' to sign. If she signs, she is committing to 5 years of servitude to an unknown person with the initials JS. If she resists, she will starve to death. Can she figure out who JS is and find a way to survive without becoming a slave?

Wow-this book was quite a surprise. It's short with very little dialogue but it packs a psychological punch. It really made me question what I would do in her situation. The premise is unique (the timeline starts in 2014 and then it jumps back in time a few sections at a time). I read this book a few weeks ago and I'm still thinking about-and talking about it to other people. 

Definitely a book to check out if you want something short and unique. 

Grade: 4/5


Book: Trouble
Author: Samantha Towle

Review: Mia seems perfect. She's beautiful, smart and a med student at Harvard. But Mia is anything close to perfect. She was physically abused by her father until his death, her boyfriend beats her and she has an eating disorder. She's never had the strength to stop the cycle of violence until her boyfriend tries to rape her. After learning her mother (who she thought died) signed away her parental rights, Mia flees Boston for Colorado to try to find her. Mia meets Jordan, a womanizer with a gambling problem who is trying to turn his life around. 

Mia is a flawed character and Towle did a great job with her back story. Domestic violence is a tough topic and she didn't hold back. I did find it odd that her feelings for Jordan was so strong given what she just went through. His instant love for her was also a little far fetched. I'll avoid spoilers, but there is a twist about 3/4 through the book relating to Mia's mother that I didn't see coming, but made the relationship between Jordan and Mia to be icky. There is another scene where Jordan does not warn Mia about a destructive person who is in close physical proximity and it seemed very out of character for him, especially given what they had been through and her history with the individual. I was happy with the resolution of the book and Mia's decisions about her health. 

Overall-not perfect but I liked it. 

Grade: 3/5

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Beautiful Beginning

Book: Beautiful Beginning
Series: Beautiful Bastard #3.5
Author: Christina Lauren

Review: Two years after they declared their feelings for each other in San Diego, Chloe and Bennett are getting married. Bennett' decides to hold off on sex for a few days until their wedding night and Chloe takes this as a personal challenge to seduce him. Add in drama surrounding the rehearsal dinner, family and wedding preparations and they have quite the adventure.

Overall, this final installment in the BB series was light and fun. It had it's funny moments as well as sexy. It was a tad ridiculous over how upset Chloe was with Bennett over the no sex rule before the wedding-it was literally only for a few days but she was acting like it was a month. However, seeing her attempt to seduce him was amusing as well as how he tried to thwart her. We get some glimpses into Max (love him!) and Sara as well as Hannah and Will (love them as a couple!). 

A fun conclusion to a series I'm happily recommending to friends. 

Grade: 3/5

Beautiful Player

Book: Beautiful Player
Series: Beautiful Bastard #3
Author: Christina Lauren

Review: Hanna is a grad student who spends almost all her time in a lab. When her brother suggests she call his old college roommate to get out and be social, she takes him up on the offer. Will is surprised to fine that his good friend's little sister has grown into a beautiful woman. When sparks start to fly, they both need to reconcile their feelings for each other.

The BB series is back on track with this installment! Will is a player with a heart of gold and Hanna is an inexperienced nerd who needs Will's help to get into the dating pool. This is funny, sweet and very sexy. The progression of their relationship (from both a friendship and physical aspect) was relatively realistic as well. I could totally understand Will's hesitation to get involved with his friend's sister and Hanna's concerns regarding Will and his extracurricular activities were on point. Bennett, Chloe, Max and Sarah also make some appearances here as well. 

Overall-super fun!!

Grade: 4.5/5

Monday, December 2, 2013

Beautiful Stranger

Book: Beautiful Stranger
Series: Beautiful Bastard #2
Author: Christina Lauren

Review: After leaving Chicago and her cheating fiance, Sara decides to start over in New York. When she meets Max at a dance club one night, she decides a quick hook up is exactly what she needs. Max feels differently as he actively pursues Sara.

I really wanted to love this book. Max is smart, sexy, witty and British-did I mention he's British? He was all around fabulous. My challenge with this book was Sara and the evolution of their relationship. I never warmed up to Sara and wish she was written a little more dynamically to make them a more believable couple.  The writers did add in a element that she enjoys public sex but I took it more as that thrill of getting caught-it went a little further toward the latter part of the book. I'll avoid specific spoilers but while it was sexy, it didn't really seem to fit her personality as something she "needed." In terms of their relationship, there was almost zero conversation. Their interactions were almost exclusively physical and I believed they were in lust, but being in love was a jump. The drama at the end to drive a wedge in between them seemed a little rushed as did their reunion. 

Overall, I was disappointed in this although it's still a fun book and very readable (I read it in pretty much one sitting). 

Grade: 2.5 stars

Beautiful Bitch

Book: Beautiful Bitch
Series: Beautiful Bastard #1.5
Author: Christina Lauren

Review: Chloe and Bennett are officially a couple but their busy work schedules making spending time together difficult. Bennett decides to plan a vacation for them, of course things don't go according to plan. 

You know how sometimes you finish a book and wish it kept going? Well, that's we get here but all of the tension and cat/mouse is gone so there was nothing new or exciting here. This is told mostly in flashbacks and while some of them were funny (specifically Bennett meeting Chloe's dad for the first time), it was just okay. 

Grade: 2 stars

Beautiful Bastard

Book: Beautiful Bastard
Series: Beautiful Bastard #1
Author: Christina Lauren

Review:  Chloe Mills is ambitious, smart, hardworking and trying to finish her MBA. She loves every aspect of her job except for her boss, Bennett Ryan. Bennett is rude, arrogant and likes to bark orders. When an after hours presentation goes from professional to sexy, Chloe has to decide what to do with her Beautiful Bastard.

This is my first Christina Lauren book and wow! Light, fun, sexy with witty dialogue. I loved this book. Told in alternating narratives, we learn how Chloe and Bennett both see each other. She Thinks: he's a super hot asshole. He thinks: she wears sexy shoes just to tease him and she's kind of a bitch. Seeing them go from professionals (boss/intern) to inappropriate work relationship (sexy times at the office) to falling in love (I love you but we work together) was an adventure. Chloe's apprehensions about being in a relationship with her boss and the possible career ramifications rang true for anyone in that situation and I liked how everything was resolved toward the end. 

Overall-super fun!

Grade: 5 stars

Being Me

Book: Being Me
Series: Inside Out #2
Author: Lisa Renee Jones

Review: I'm not sure how to write up a quick plot summary because there wasn't much of one. This book picked up immediately after the first one ended and primarily focused on Sara and Chris' relationship issues. While Chris is now helping Sara with the Rebecca mystery, not much happened on that front. Sara may be a school teacher/art professional, but Agatha Christie she is not. Mark has several memorable scenes and I like how he pushes Sara on a professional level. Some questions are answered at the end of the book, I'll avoid spoilers but I didn't feel like there was enough character development for some of the actions taken by one of the characters at the end. In terms of Sara and Chris, they both have issues and it will be interesting to see how the author resolves everything in the next installment. Sara has a "big secret" in this book that is revealed that was a tad ridiculous. It which makes me worried that Mark's past may not be as scandalous or tragic as originally thought. 

Overall, I enjoyed this. I wish it was less filler and more plot but it was still a fun read. 

Grade: 3 stars

If I Were You

Book: If I Were You
Series: Inside Out #1
Author: Lisa Renee Jones

Review: It's summer break and school teacher Sara needs some excitement in her life. When her neighbor leaves a journal at her apartment that she found in a storage unit, Sara cannot help reading it. She finds the author (Rebecca) and her sexual escapades intriguing. Convinced something sinister may have happened to Rebecca, Sara goes to the art gallery Rebecca worked at and quickly finds herself immersed in the elusive writer's life.

This book was a pleasant surprise. The premise was sexy with a mysterious flare (what happened to Rebecca?!).  Two males were introduced early and it wasn't clear who the primary love interest would be, which was fun. I also liked how the males tried to one up each other. The idea that Sara (the teacher) had enough art knowledge to work in a high end gallery was far fetched (although the author did provide an explanation) but I liked the art background because it made this unique. 

Overall, fun book with a cliffhanger. I'm excited to read the next one! 

Grade: 3.5 stars

City of Lost Souls

Book: City of Lost Souls
Series: Mortal Instruments #5
Author: Cassandra Claire

Review: Jace has been bound to Sebastian and does his bidding. Meanwhile, the Clave is after Sebastian. While Magnus, Simon and the crew try to find a way to safely break the bond, Clary decides to take matters into her own hands to stay close to Jace.

The Good: The good/controlled Jace (I won't say bad or evil because even in his trance state he wasn't that bad) was fun and I enjoyed the dynamic between him and Sebastian. Simon is my favorite MI character and his sections provided good comic relief. I also really like him and Isabelle's relationship. 

The Not so Good: Clary. She was tolerable in book #4 but she was so whiny and ridiculous in this book I found myself constantly rolling my eyes. And while I love Magnus (can he get his own series? Pretty please?) his relationship with Alec (**spoiler alert**) needed to end a lot faster than it did. The fabulous Magnus Bane should not be putting up with immature Alec! Other than being good looking, I'm not sure what Alec brings to the table. 

Overall, I still enjoyed this book and look forward to the last one. 

Grade:  3 stars

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Rose Under Fire

Book: Rose Under Fire
Note: companion book to Code Name Verity
Author: Elizabeth Wein

Review'Hope is the most treacherous thing in the world. It lifts you and lets you plummet. But as long as you're being lifted, you don't worry about plummeting."

Rose Justice is an American pilot working for the Allied Forces Auxiliary.  She's young and relatively untainted by the war when she is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp. She eventually finds herself housed with a group of women known as the Rabbitt's, women who the doctors did unspeakable things to. This is a story of courage, friendship and survival. 

Although this is marketed as a companion book to CNV but I would absolutely recommend reading CNV first. This book picks up 8 months later and several characters make an appearance in this novel. I'll refrain from spoilers but we find out what Maddy is up to almost immediately. This is written in a similar epistolary style as CNV but the narrative this time around is straightforward. Rose's voice in the beginning of the book is young, naive and yes, slightly annoying. I found it fascinating and equally frightening how her teenager years differed from others living in Europe. Also shocking was that Americans believed reports of the concentration camps were Allied propaganda. Rose's experience in the camp, including the bonds of friendship, loyalty among the women and the perseverance was inspiring and heart breaking. I've never cried so much reading a book and I cannot even talk about the book in too much detail without tearing up. This book drew me in fast and I could not wait to see what happened to Rose and the Rabbits.

My only challenge while reading this book were the poems. Rose is a poet of sorts and she recites a lot of poems. Poems are not my thing but I can understand how they applied to the story and how they helped the women. 

On another note, if you read this, please be sure to read the last section written by the author. She talks about writing this book and Ravensbruck. 

A fabulous read. Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire are my favorite books so far this year. 

Grade: 5/5


Book: Solstice
Author: PJ Hoover

ReviewGlobal warming has reached dangerous levels with heat bubbles hovering over cities across the world. Schools have temperature gauges and emergency procedures when temperatures reach dangerous levels. Piper is a high school senior living in Austin with her over protective mother when strange things start happening. She receives a strange gift in the mail and then starts to see things that seem out of the ordinary. 

This book fell a little flat for me. I did enjoy the global warming angle and the Greek mythology infused with the story  was unexpected but the 'instant' love between Piper and the male characters was just really unbelievable. The twist at the end concerning Piper's heritage was not much of a reveal. 

Overall, an okay book.

Grade: 2/5

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns)

Book: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns)
Author: Mindy Kaling

Review: Written in a conversational tone, Mindy Kaling (actor/writer/producer and all-around funny girl) takes us from her childhood to present day success in a series of essays. She hits on a variety of topics including childhood, summer camp, dieting, friendship, dating, and various work stories. While the stories were hit or miss, I laughed more that I thought I would. I especially loved her recollections of summer camp. I'm still not sure who the 'real' Mindy based on some of these stories (I was pretty horrified at a temper tantrum she threw in the writing room of the office) but overall, she seems like a fun, chick (very similar to her character on 'The Mindy Project'). 

If you are looking for a light, summer read, you might like this. 

Grade: 3/5

City of Fallen Angels

Book: City of Fallen Angels
Series: Mortal Instruments #4
Author: Cassandra Clare

Review: The Mortal War is over. Clary and Jace are officially a couple and Jocelyn and Luke are planning their wedding.  Things are going great until someone starts killing members of Valentine's inner circle and Jace starts pulling away from Clary. Can Clary figure out what is going on?

I read the first 3 MI books back to back and quickly grew tired of Clary. I am so happy I waited to read these (and that I read the Infernal Devices series first) because I was re-energized reading this. Although some of the subject matter was pretty morbid, I really enjoyed this, especially Simon's sections. I enjoyed his discomfort juggling two women at the same time, how he handled his family issues and his interactions with Jace. A few new characters were introduced that show great potential and of course, Magnus was fabulous as usual. The only parts I dreaded were Alec. I don't remember Alec being quite so weak and unlikable in the previous book, but for the life of me I have no idea why Magnus is involved with me. 

Overall, fun book and a great addition to the series. 

Grade: 4/5

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Orange is the New Black

Book: Orange is the New Black
Author: Piper Kerman

Review: After graduating from Smith College, Piper is looking for adventure. She finds it when she commences a relationship with Nora, an older woman who involved in drug trafficking. Piper travels around the world with Nora and her business associates/friends and participates in moving drug money around. Piper eventually breaks up with Nora and moves back to the states. Life is going well for Piper and her dedicated boyfriend (who knows nothing about her twirl in the drug world) when the feds show up and she finds out she is being charged with drug trafficking and money laundering. Piper is very lucky and is able to plead guilty and only get a year in prison. She is placed in minimal security prison in Danbury, CT. 

This is a rare book that I didn't like yet it was a good book club selection. Why you ask? Because it sparked a lot of good discussion. I've never seen the show but several friends raved about how wonderful it was, so when I read this book I kept waiting for it to get good and it never happened. 

Let's dig in...Piper wanted an adventure and her girlfriend point blank told her (up front!) she was in the drug business. Piper didn't flinch at this. Okay, for someone who didn't even dabble in drugs, seems odd she didn't question that at all. Then, while they are vacationing somewhere, Nora dares Piper to jump off a cliff and says she'll do it too. Piper jumps and Nora tells her she wouldn't have done it if Piper hadn't. Piper comments she should have known at that point not to trust Nora. Um...really Piper? That was the defining moment for you? And after Piper travels around with Nora and her crew essentially sponging off of them for months she is surprised when Nora wants her to be a drug mule. Frankly I'm surprised it took them that long to ask her to pull her weight. 

When Piper's past catches up with her, she has to tell her boyfriend, family, friends and his family about her secret past. I imagine this was extremely tough for her but it seems very unrealistic that EVERY SINGLE PERSON she told basically said "Well, you were young. People make mistakes, it's okay, we are here for you." Really? No one said they were disappointed in her? Not one person? Maybe I'm shocked because I know my family would not be quite so supportive, but she apparently has the most amazing, dedicated, loving friends/family ever. She is also lucky she had money to hire a good lawyer because her sentence of one year was very short for what she plead guilty too. 

Onto to her time in prison. I was expecting Piper to develop deep friendships with fellow inmates and learn about fellow inmates lives (this was based on comments I'd heard about the show). I was expecting corruption among the staff, drugs being smuggled in, fighting among the inmates, leaning about how being in prison affected Piper's relationship with her fiance. Maybe I've watched too many tv shows dramatizing prison because I was disappointed that the only time things became heated was over...prepare yourself...salad. No joke. Corruption is mentioned as things she heard had happened but none of it is in this book. In fact, for the most past, the prison staff seemed pretty professional and the inmates got along very well. Apparently it's a rule in prison that you only discuss how much time you are doing, not your crime. Some people may mention what they are in for, but there was not a lot of back story relating to her fellow inmates. In fact, there were a lot of side characters that came and went and it was difficult to keep track of them. Not that it mattered much. Everyone pretty much liked Piper. People tended to hang out with their racial groups but Piper was so cool she could hang with all of them. People were so nice they even greeted her on her first day with little supply gifts. Really, the whole building reminded me of my freshman door. They decorated for the holidays, did yoga daily (DAILY!) and Piper ran miles and miles around the track outside (DAILY!). She even had time to complain about the nice woodland creatures that she saw on the track. She had a job, but it was unclear what the hours were (seemed like she still had a lot of free time to do yoga and run). Her family kept her account stocked so she could buy stuff in the commissary and friends and family sent a constant stream of books (she actually complained she received the same newspaper or magazine twice). She had visitors every week during visitor hours. I realize her prison experience was atypical but it was also pretty boring to read. You may be wondering about Larry? That saint was there every week and there was ZERO TENSION between them. They stayed loyal to each other, no drama. 

In terms of Piper taking accountability for her crime, yes she plead guilt but I never got the sense she really felt responsible. She mentions one time in the book that she never thought about people actually taking the drugs and getting addicted. She kept saying "10 year old crime" as if it mattered she hadn't been doing anything illegal the last 10 years. Yes, that's true that she wasn't a career criminal but she definitely broke the law and got off on an extremely light sentence. And when she is finally put in a tougher federal facility for a month before testifying (and then being released), she sees Nora and wants to know why she snitched on her. 

Oh-and in case you didn't catch it, she's blond, pretty, smart and went to Smith. It's mentioned repeatedly throughout the book. The editor should have done a better job with those constant reminders. Finally, I would have loved one more chapter at the end to see how acclimating back to normal life was. 

Grade: 1/5

A Reliable Wife

Book: A Reliable Wife
Author: Robert Goolrick

Review: In 1909, wealthy businessman Ralph Truitt places an advertisement for a reliable wife. Catherine Land answers his ad and travels to his rural Wisconsin home from Chicago. But Catherine is not the simple woman Ralph is expecting, instead she plans to win Ralph's affection and then slowly poison him to death. Things don't go according to plan when she discovers Ralph has secrets of his own.

Overall, I enjoyed this book although I was expecting to love it. It's a great premise. Wealthy man places ad for a wife and a strange beautiful woman with a plan to murder him appears. Will she kill him or will something sinister happen to her? Goolrick is a talented writer and I loved the descriptions of the landscape and town, but I'm wondering if he was celibate while writing this. That is one reason I can think of for the over the top sexual anguish and frustration experienced by several characters. I read a lot of romance and erotica so I'm not shy to sexual references, but the repeated long sections devoted to this were annoying and could have been edited down. I wanted to scream 'You have a hand, take care of yourself!' to several of the characters.  Ralph was a decent character in the fact he was pretty layered (privileged youth, philandering 20s, lost love, and of course: MAGOR mommy issues). While he worked hard to redeem himself, I had a difficult time forgetting how he treated his son as a young child. Even though Catherine's treatment of Ralph was horrific at times, I loved her back story and really felt for her. She made a lot of bad decisions in her life but worked hard for her sister. There were some twists at the end I didn't see coming so that was a pleasant surprise. 

Grade: 3/5

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Clockwork Princess

Book: Clockwork Princess
Series: Infernal Devices #3
Author: Cassandra Clare

Tessa Gray should be happy – aren't all brides happy? Yet as she prepares for her wedding, a net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shaodwhunters of the London Institute. 

A new demon appears, one linked by blood and secrecy to Mortmain, the man who plans to use his army of pitiless automatons, the Infernal Devices, to destroy the Shadowhunters. Mortmain needs only one last item to complete his plan. He needs Tessa. And Jem and Will, the boys who lay equal claim to Tessa's heart, will do anything to save her. -Goodreads

Review: After devouring book 2 in an almost non-stop reading session, I was so excited to read this. I was really expecting to LOVE it and unfortunately that didn't happen. I felt like I was reading a romance novel instead of the thrilling conclusion to this awesome trilogy. Most of the new characters that were introduced seemed to pair off and offered little to the plot.  A lot ink was devoted to Jem dying. At several points I kept thinking "Just die already so we can move on with the plot." The final showdown with the Magister was okay..I was just expecting something 'more.' Of course, I still loved Tessa, Will and several other characters. I think reading out how portals were created was fascinating. Overall, I liked the book but I think it could have been more exciting, however I HATED what the author did with the character of Jem at the end. HATED.

*Spoiler Alert*
Jem needed to die. Becoming a Silent Brother, after he said he would never do it, was just ridiculous. So Tessa ends up marrying Will and having this amazing life together (which we only read about in summary) and he dies. Years later (in the midst of the current MI timeline) a cure is found for Jem's illness and he is able to leave the Silent Brothers (although we're told it's a lifelong commitment) and he and Tessa re commence their relationship. Ugg. I had no problem with Jem in the books, although it was obvious Tessa and Will would end up together. Her relationship with Jem was more of a friendship that grew into love (nothing passionate). I just wish this section was not included. A friend of mine who read both series reminded me that we don't know what happens yet with Jem because as of the 5th MI book, he is still a Silent Brother. I hope Clare has some very clever reason why he leaves the brotherhood. 

Anyway, even though this book was not perfect, I still liked it. 

Grade: 3/5

Widow's Web

Book: Widow's Web
Series: Elemental Assassins #7
Author: Jennifer Estep

Review: Salina Dubois is back in town. She's beautiful, powerful, sadistic and is out for revenge. She also happens to be Owen's ex-fiancee and she wants him back. 

I love the ex-fiancee angle to create tension between Gin and Owen. Especially considering Gin wasn't even aware that Salina ever existed. So she is not only battling another foe with elemental powers, her relationship with Owen will be impacted as well. Why you ask? Because Owen has a blind spot for Salina and thinks she can do no wrong. He believes every lie she spews. We are introduced to a newish character in this book, Philip Kincaid (he's referenced in previous books but doesn't play a large role) and we learn about his past relationship with Owen and Eva. I liked the back story and hope to see more of Philip in the future. I liked how Gin handled the Salina situation overall. Of course, in typical Gin fashion, she tells us how badass she is...only to vastly underestimate her opponent and almost get herself killed. Then she comes up with a 'simple' plan that doesn't go according to plan but everything (almost) works out in the end. 

My only issues with this book was there was a lot of repetition again in rehashing past plots. I think by book 7 most people know the Mab backstory. I'm not sure if the publisher requires the summarization or if people really start reading a new series this far into it? This book also didn't feature our favorite cast of supporting characters. Okay, to be fair they are in the book but play very minor roles for the most part. I wanted more Finn and Sophia! 

Overall, I enjoyed this. Fun series!

Grade: 3/5

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Clockwork Prince

Book: Clockwork Prince
Series: Infernal Devices #2
Author: Cassandra Clare

ReviewIn magical Victorian London, orphan Tessa found safety with the Shadowhunters, until traitors betray her to the Magister. He wants to marry her, but so do self-destructive Will and fiercely devoted Jem. Mage Magnus Bane returns to help them. Secrets to her parentage lie with the mist-shrouded Yorkshire Institute's aged manager Alyosius Starkweather. -Goodreads

It's been a long time since I stayed up late reading a book but I literally could not put this down. Without question, I'm enjoying this series more than MI. This book starts off shortly after the previous one ended. Charlotte may be forced out as head of the institute and if that happens, Tessa won't have anywhere to go. Meanwhile, Tessa and the gang are still searching for the Magister and fighting off his clockwork creatures. Of course, romance plays a big theme in this book. While I'm typically not a fan of triangles, Clare handled it very well. Although Tessa initially bonded with Will, he's pushed her away enough that her friendship with Jem has slowly blossomed into something more. We finally learn what happened to Will and the revelation leads to a heartbreaking scene between him and Tessa. While she was internally struggling with her feelings, I felt her actions toward both boys was relatively consistent. Finally, the ending scene and the introduction of a new character for the last book has me VERY excited. 

Super fun! Great interaction with Will and Magnus that had me laughing out loud too. 

Grade: 4.5/5

Just One Day

Book: Just One Day
Series: Just One Day #1
Author: Gayle Forman

When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines. - Goodreads

Review: I'm not even sure where to start with this one. Allyson is an only child to upper middle class parents and is beyond spoiled. She just graduated from high school and never had a real job. Her parents get her a trip to Europe for the summer (her best friend from childhood is also going) and she can't even enjoy herself (I'm sure taking a teen tour isn't that great, but come on. How many of us would have loved to tour Europe before college?) She is usually a Mary Sue type who follows the rules and never goes outside the box when she decides to go with Willem (pretty much a complete stranger) to Paris. As someone who once went to Mexico to meet friends sans cell phone and not even knowing where we were staying, I can see how sometimes we make crazy decisions. However, being 2013, she should have bought a cheap cell phone to stay in touch with her friend. I also knew this was a love story of sorts, but I couldn't help thinking 'this guy is going to rob you and rape you and no one will ever find you.' 

Okay-onto the day in Paris. I was thinking this would be the BEST DAY EVER for Allyson...but there is no way I'd describe it as such. Yes, she donned a new persona and called herself Lulu when she was with Willem, but they essentially went on a train ride (where he disappeared for awhile and she was extremely insecure about being left behind by him), took a nap in a park in Paris, got into a fight with some people in said park, ran away, fought with Willem to the point that she was ready to leave...and then they make up, eat dinner, essentially break into a dirty artists building and then have sex. Then she wakes up, realizes he's gone and has a panic attack. Of course, she never gave him her real name and they have no way to contact each other. Does that sound like the best day of your life? No, me neither. 

Okay, so Allyson returns home, falls into depression and goes off to college. Of course she doesn't tell her parents what happened and tries to put on a happy face for them. She doesn't bond with roommates because she's too busy wallowing in self pity. She's pre-med and while she was a straight A student in high school, she is not doing well in school. I do think Forman nailed how the transition to college can be tough for freshman and how we realize that our high school friends are perhaps not the real friends we thought they were. Allyson's friendship with Melanie was perhaps more habit then having mutual things in common (realistic for those of us friends with someone from elementary school through high school...and then we are not as close as we once where when we start college). However, I just could not stand Allyson. I realize she was depressed but being depressed about that crappy day in Paris and Willem leaving-I just wanted to reach into the book, slap her and tell her to get over it. It was a one night stand in a dirty building! As for her relationship with her parents, I was pleased with how they 'punished her' when they found out she was doing poorly in school and when she decided to stop pre-med classes to take things like pottery...and then lied to them about it.  They made her actually get a real job (the horror!). She was extremely rude to her mother, who was having a hard time with her daughter leaving home. I will say I was hoping the mother would take some pre-med classes herself or find something useful to do while she was dealing with empty nest syndrome. As for the conclusion of the book, Allyson saves her money to go to Europe to track down Willem. I couldn't help feeling like she was a stalker for doing this. 

Finally, we learn at the end of the book that something happened to Willem, which is why he wasn't there when she woke up, and the next book is told from his perspective. And like that...even thought I thought this was overall 'okay' I'm suckered into buying the next book. Arggg. 

Grade: 2/5

The Scorpio Races

Book:  The Scorpio Races
Author: Maggie Stiefvater

ReviewIt happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen. -Goodreads

'The Scorpoi Races' takes place in the early 1900s on a small island off the coast of England. Most of the residents live in abject poverty while the Malvern's appear to be the only family with wealth. Sean Kendrick has worked for Malvern for nine years and at age 19 is the head horse trainer. I thought of him  as the 'horse whisperer' throughout the book. He was quiet and mature beyond his 19 years.  His greatest wish in life is to buy Corr, a water horse he has trained since birth. Malvern agrees to sell him the horse if the wins the race. Kate Connelly (nicknamed Puck) was orphaned a year ago when both of her parents were killed. She enters the race to keep her older brother on the island a few weeks longer and to secure money so she and her younger brother can keep their house. 

This book is depressing and very slow. It takes us through the training for the race, the race itself and then a short chapter afterward. I did not care for Puck, who was extremely immature for age 16. Additionally, her reasons for competing in the race, although explained, never jived with me. I really liked Sean, who was wise beyond his years, but the attraction the developed between them didn't ring true. I was in an odd position where I was routing for Sean to win the race but realized Puck had to win somehow (as he had actual skills to ensure survival on the island, she didn't have too many skills). The race events did not unfold as I thought and I actually cried during the last chapter, so they in itself bumped my final grade from 'it was okay' to 'I liked it.'  

There was a supernatural element to the water horses, but I would still classify this is as fiction. As a side note, this island was small didn't seem to have a school. Even though the Connelly family stayed to themselves, I found it very odd that Puck didn't know Sean growing up. Equally odd was that Puck appeared to be the only teenage girl in the town.

Overall, okay read with a strong ending that elicits emotion.  

Grade: 3/5

Dead Girls Don't Lie

Book: Dead Girls Don't Lie
Author: Jennifer Shaw Wolf

ReviewRachel died at two a.m . . . Three hours after Skyler kissed me for the first time. Forty-five minutes after she sent me her last text. 
Jaycee and Rachel were best friends. But that was before. . .before that terrible night at the old house. Before Rachel shut Jaycee out. Before Jaycee chose Skyler over Rachel. Then Rachel is found dead. The police blame a growing gang problem in their small town, but Jaycee is sure it has to do with that night at the old house. Rachel’s text is the first clue—starting Jaycee on a search that leads to a shocking secret. Rachel’s death was no random crime, and Jaycee must figure out who to trust before she can expose the truth. - Goodreads

I think this is my first YA mystery and I wouldn't say I liked it exactly, but it was overall interesting. The setting was a small town in Washington state that seemed to be composed of white churchgoers and a Hispanic migrant population viewed with prejudice. Our protagonist is Jaycee, a follow the rules/goody two shoes type who lives with her strict and religious father. I found her boring and lacking in personality. Her decision to not involve the police in what she knew, seemed VERY out of character and her detective skills left something to be desired, but I thought the supporting characters were interesting. We had her religious father who is also the town attorney: does he know any town secrets? Why is he so protective? Seemingly superficial friends Claire and Taylor who put Rachel's death out of their minds in no time at all. Then there is Jaycee's new boyfriend Skyler and his older brothers that have all of a sudden taken an interest in Jaycee. Do they really like her or is something sinister at stake? Finally, Eduardo, a former gang member who Rachel tells Jaycee to trust. 

The murderer was easy to figure out about mid-way through the book but Wolf did a good job making scenes creepy. I wish Eduardo was more prevalent in the story. He had a chip on his shoulder for most of the book and I wish he and Jaycee had operated more as a team. Another comment..even though this was a mystery I kept thinking 'My god, Jaycee is going to go absolutely wild when she is in college away from her father.'  He didn't even allow her to have the password to their family computer, she was 16!! 

Grade: 3/5

Monday, September 16, 2013

Ashes on the Waves

Book: Ashes on the Waves
Author: Mary Lindsey

Review: 'Ashes on the Waves' is based on the poem 'Annabelle Lee' by Edgar Allen Poe.  Liam is a 20-year old living in Dochas, a remote island off the coast of Maine. Although the year is 2013 (perhaps 2012?) Dochas seems like the middle ages. No cell towers, one working phone in town, girls can be married off at age 14, men get away with murdering their wives (there is no law on the island), people form lynch mobs at times and there isn't a school for the one child that lives there. Ah-least I forget everyone believes in Celtic creatures and lore. They believe Liam killed his mother at birth and that he is part demon. He's had a tough life living in this backwards place to say the least. 

Liam is in love with Ana, who vacationed on the island as a child. Although he hasn't seen her in over 10 years, he reads gossip magazines to keep up with her life. She is now a socialite (think Paris Hilton or Nicole Richie, pre-marriage/babies) who has embarrassed her family one too many times. She is sent to the island as punishment and is not allowed to attend her brother's wedding.  Liam and Ana form an instant love connection that happens so fast you just have to go with it. But the caretaker at Ana's estate is trying to do everything in her power to keep them apart and mystical powers are using the two young lovers as pawns in a game of power. Add the crazy villagers in the mix and these two are up against several forces. 

This book is beautifully written and Lindsey does a wonderful job making Dochas come to life. It is inconceivable that places still exist in this world (they do-I had the pleasure of listening to Mary Lindsey talk about writing this book and she wrote it on one of these islands off the Maine coast) but it was interesting and a departure from other books. Ana felt like a very real character to me. Liam on the other hand, I understand what the author was going for but his old fashioned speech (which bordered on feminine on many occasions) lulled me to sleep. He was also so beat down and victimized by the people in town he was borderline pathetic. There were several occasions where Ana would reference something modern and he wouldn't know what she was talking about-I kept thinking that if he had been reading all those gossip magazines to keep tabs on her (let's face it-it's creepy that he was in love with this person he played with as a child, but she was one of his few good memories so I'll give him some slack) he should have known or read some of the saying. Minor complaint but I thought it several times as I was reading. 

Overall, great backdrop with a haunting story. You know how it will end before the book starts and I love that the author stayed true to the poem. Good book. The author said her goal by writing this is to try to get more people to read Poe and I am happy to say I will go out and do so! I'm inspired!

Grade: 3/5