“Books are for people who wish they were somewhere else.” ~ Mark Twain

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review: Jane Jones: Worst. Vampire. Ever

Jane Jones: Worst. Vampire. Ever. by Caissie St. Onge

Source: ARC provided by Amazon Vine

Rating:  3/5


For Jane Jones, being a vampire is nothing like you read about in books. In fact, it kind of sucks. She's not beautiful, she's not rich, and she doesn't "sparkle." She's just an average, slightly nerdy girl from an ordinary suburban family (who happens to be vampires.)

Jane's from the wrong side of the tracks (not to mention stuck in the world's longest awkward phase), so she doesn't fit in with the cool vampire kids at school or with the humans kids. To top it all off, she's battling an overprotective mom, a clique of high school mean girls (the kind who really do have fangs), and the most embarrassing allergy in the history of the undead, she's blood intolerant.

So no one's more surprised than Jane when for the first time in her life, things start to heat up (as much as they can for a walking corpse, anyway) with not one, but two boys. Eli's a geeky, but cute real-live boy in her history class, and Timothy is a beautiful, brooding bloodsucker, who might just hold the key to a possible "cure" for vampirism.

Facing an eternity of high school pressure, fumbling first dates, or a mere lifetime together with Timothy, what's a 90-something year-old teen vampire to do?

My Thoughts:
The synopsis of this one caught my eye and it sounded different enough that I thought I'd give it a chance. Was a little disappointing, but still an okay read.

Jane's family was turned during the 1930s and are not independently wealthy, suave, or sophisticated. Nice change of pace, as most vampires sound too good to be true. I always wondered why vampires had so much money at their disposal. Even with their long lives, you still have to have money in order to benefit from all that lovely compound interest. And wouldn't the banks eventually get suspicious? Jane's father works for a living, and they are anything but wealthy. Maybe the rich vampires rob their victims? Sorry..l digress.

Poor Jane is forever stuck as an awkward teenager, but her younger brother has it worse as he will be ten years old forever. Poor guy! But the family is close-knit and love one another, which is another nice change of pace. Most vampires are moody and dysfunctional, and this is only the second vampire family I've ever read about.

Liked that Jane knew she was different but still acted like a typical teenager, even though she had close to a century under her belt. No one is more surprised than she is to have the attention of not one, but two boys! She's such a little nerd that I couldn't help but like her!

This was just an okay story; nothing earth shattering but still an overall pleasant read. Appreciated the sense of humor woven throughout the story, which wasn't snarky or mean. Jane moans about her situation, but everyone loves and supports each other and I never got the sense of any real jeopardy. Think this would be a good story for middle grades, as it was a cute, fast read.


This ARC was provided by the Amazon Vine Program in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Review: Ruby Red

by Kerstin Gier

Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!

Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon--the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust. (Goodreads)

My Thoughts
Really enjoyed this one, and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series!

After a lifetime of watching her cousin Charlotte be groomed for time travel and knowing that she was nothing special in comparison, imagine everyone's surprise when it turns out that Gwyneth has the time travel gene, not Charlotte! Had to be a little like Jan Brady being elected prom queen over Marcia! In your face Charlotte! Ha! {Sorry....middle child syndrome rearing it's ugly head again... ;)}

When everyone finally accepts that Gwyneth is The One, she has a lot of catching up to do. Often on the fly, while travelling back and forth in time, and on top of keeping up with her schoolwork. Despite a lifetime of low expectations, Gwyneth proves to be a fast learner and I found myself being proud of her, as though she were a good friend instead of a character in a book. And speaking of good friends, Gwyneth's best friend Lesley is a huge help! So accepting and eager to research the past to try and help untangle the mess Gwyneth finds herself in.

No one really addresses why Gwyneth's mother lied about her birth date and didn't insist that she receive training along with Charlotte. I can understand her desire to give Gwyneth a normal childhood, but she left her horribly unprepared in case she turned out to have the time travel gene (which she did). I have an inkling of the explanation and hope that it's addressed further in the next book, but still....

Yes, I understand that Grace wanted to protect her child, but she wound up unintentionally harming her instead. If nothing else, Grace should have prepared Gwyneth herself if she didn't want to bring her to the attention of the mysterious secret society. While she doesn't explain why, I agree with Grace's mistrust and her warning to Gwyneth. Any secret society that doesn't permit female members in their Inner Circle cannot be trusted! Just you wait and see....I bet the Count is evil and that Gwyneth will wind up saving the day!

Anyway, in case you couldn't tell, I really enjoyed this book. Thought it set up the series nicely, yet still managed to tell a good story. I really liked Gwyneth. Didn't care for her time travel partner Gideon, her cousin Charlotte, or Charlotte's mother. Haven't made up my mind about the rest of Gwyneth's family, but really looking forward to seeing what happens next! Definietely an enjoyable read!



Review copy provided by Zeitghost Media in exchange for an honest review.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Book Review: Awaken

Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky

Source:  ARC provided by Amazon Vine

Rating:  4/5

Maddie lives in a world where everything is done on the computer. Whether it’s to go to school or on a date, people don’t venture out of their home. There’s really no need. For the most part, Maddie’s okay with the solitary, digital life - until she meets Justin. Justin likes being with people. He enjoys the physical closeness of face-to-face interactions. People aren’t meant to be alone, he tells her.

Suddenly, Maddie feels something awakening inside her - a feeling that maybe there is a different, better way to live. But with society and her parents telling her otherwise, Maddie is going to have to learn to stand up for herself if she wants to change the path her life is taking.

In this not-so-brave new world, two young people struggle to carve out their own space.


My Thoughts:
This story really struck a chord with me, as I can easily see our society moving in this direction. So much is done online now that some prefer to live through their avatars rather than deal with people face to face. Life online is easier, and there's always the delete button!

Despite being raised immersed in the digital life, Maddie is still able to think for herself and has a rebellious, independent streak. While her father is a firm advocate of Life Is Better Online, Maddie isn't so sure. There's something to be said for human interaction, especially interaction with the cute and charismatic Justin! What Justin says makes sense, and the more Maddie learns, the more she's dissatisfied with her current life.

Really enjoyed this one, and it makes you think. Yes, life is easier online....you can present yourself however you like and avoid the awkwardness of small talk and having to talk to strangers. But we shouldn't give up on real life, no matter how tempting, because it's dangerous to lose touch with our fellow man. Sounds a little silly, but how else to explain flash mobs starting riots instead of pillow fights? It's too easy to disconnect when you're online all the time.

Don't mean to sound preachy, but this book does make you wonder. Katie is a very talented writer, and I really liked Maddie! Can't wait to see what Katie comes up with next!


This ARC was provided by the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Blog Tour: Savor the Danger

by Lori Foster

She may be aloof, and more pretty than gorgeous, but Alani Rivers is the kind of woman a hot-blooded mercenary can't forget, no matter how hard he tries. So when Jackson Savor wakes up next to the naked, sleeping beauty - with no memory of what happened -  he knows he's been drugged…even if Alani doesn't.

After she was kidnapped, Alani vowed never to trust another man again. Still, something about this strong, sexy hero with the tender touch makes her want to believe him. As Jackson hunts down a mysterious intruder, he swears he'll move heaven and earth to keep Alani safe. But what really happened that night? And will the truth bring them closer than they ever thought possible - or put Alani squarely in harm's way again? (Goodreads)

My Thoughts:
This was my least favorite of the trilogy, as I just couldn't connect with either Jackson or Alani. Jackson was just too cocky for my tastes. There's a difference between cocky and confident, and he didn't measure up to either Dare or Trace in my eyes. Didn't care for Alani either, as she didn't seem as strong as Molly or Priss. All presented different personalities, but I connected with the others more.

The story starts off with a bang, with Jackson waking up in bed with Alani, but having no memory of their night together. He assumes he was drugged, but no one is sure why or how, or if the target was Jackson or Alani. So Jackson is determined to protect Alani, and over-protective brother Trace seems to give in a little too easily. I didn't buy it.

Simply couldn't get into this one, as there were too many plot points that I felt were unbelievable. For instance, most of the scenes with Alani's ex-boyfriend didn't ring true. I did enjoy the Arizona scenes, and I would love it if Lori took a chance and gave Chris his own story!

Gave this one a 3/5 as even though it wasn't my favorite, it wasn't bad. The bar was set pretty high with Dare and Trace, so two out of three isn't bad.

And now, one last time, one of my favorite book trailers of 2011:





Review copy provided by Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc., in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

In My Mailbox (85)

In My Mailbox (85)
In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. I've included links to Goodreads if you want more information on the books.

For Review:
Received a surprise package from William Morrow Publishing this week. While I've read Laura Lippman and Charles Todd before, Simon Toyne is new to me. Love discovering new authors and reading outside my comfort zone!

Sanctus by Simon Toyne
by Simon Toyne

REVELATION OR DEVASTATION?
The certainties of the modern world are about to be blown apart by a three thousand year-old conspiracy nurtured by blood and lies … (Goodreads)

***

The Most Dangerous Thing by Laura Lippman
by Laura Lippman

Years ago, they were all the best of friends. But as time passed and circumstances changed, they grew apart, became adults with families of their own, and began to forget about the past - and the terrible lie they all shared. But now Gordon, the youngest and wildest of the five, has died and the others are thrown together for the first time in years. And then the revelations start. Could their long-ago lie be the reason for their troubles today? Each one of these old friends has to wonder if their secret has been discovered - and if someone within the circle is out to destroy them. (Goodreads)

***

A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd
by Charles Todd

...acclaimed author Charles Todd upped the ante by introducing readers to a wonderful new series protagonist, World War One battlefield nurse Bess Crawford. Featured for a third time in A Bitter Truth, Bess reaches out to help an abused and frightened young woman, only to discover that no good deed ever goes unpunished when the good Samaritan nurse finds herself falsely accused of murder. (Goodreads)




Amazon Vine:
Love Sandman Slim!

Aloha from Hell by Richard Kadrey
by Richard Kadrey

All hail Sandman Slim, author Richard Kadrey’s ultra-extreme anti-hero and recent escapee from Lucifer’s overheated Underworld playground. Legendary author William Gibson (Neuromancer) called Kadrey’s first deliciously twisted Slim adventure “an addictively satisfying, deeply amusing, dirty-ass masterpiece,” and in number three, Aloha from Hell, the ruthless avenger, a.k.a. Stark, finds himself trapped in the middle of a war between Heaven and Hell. With God on vacation, the Devil nosing around in Paradise, and an insane serial killer doing serious damage on Earth, Stark/Slim is ready to unleash some more adrenaline-surging, edgy and violent supernatural mayhem - and even pay another visit to Hell if necessary... (Goodreads)



Gifted:
Friend is clearing out her shelves and as I can't resist anything by Luna, I'm the lucky recipient! Now I need to cull my shelves so they fit....

Silver's EdgeSilver's Bane
Silver's Lure
by Anne Kelleher


For Camelot's HonorUnder Camelot's Banner
by Sarah Zettel


Looking forward to seeing what everyone else received this week!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Short Story Review: And Jacki, Of Course

by Amy Gerstin Coombs

Nora's grandchild is due to be born any minute. The occasion is marred by her son's mother-in-law, who never accepted Nora's partner, Jacki, as his other parent. Jacki tells Nora to stop dwelling in the past and dismisses her fears for the future. Can Nora forgive and forget? Should she? What will a mother do to hold onto her family? A short story from our Nibs short story line.(Untreed Reads)

My Thoughts:
Short stories are not easy to write. Without the luxury of a full length novel to establish a backstory and build characters, the author has to present well-rounded characters and a believable plot within a limited framework. They're not easy to write, which is why I'm so impressed with how good this story is! We're immediately plunged into the story, and Nora and Jacki soon feel like old friends! Coombs effortlessly gives us their history with Ben's mother-in-law while we're in the waiting room with them.

Nora is Ben's birth mother, and her partner Jacki adopted him at birth. They are an established couple, yet Ben's mother-in-law has never accepted them as partners. Nora is afraid that there will be a barrier between them and their new grandchild due to distance and the fact that evil MIL lives closer and may influence the child. Legitimate concerns based on their past interactions, yet Jacki is laid back and confident that their grandchild will love and accept them with no problem.

This story left me wanting to learn more about Nora and Jacki. I sympathized with Nora and her fears, and was impressed that Jacki was so accepting of others and didn't seem to let anything phase her. Wanted to learn more about Ben and his wife, and why he allowed his mother-in-law to behave so badly. Coombs is a very talented writer, and I'd love to read more!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Book Review: The Tower

The Tower by J.S. Frankel

Source:  eBook received from the publisher for review

Rating:  4/5

Bill Lampkin doesn't have much of a life. He's in the hospital, abandoned by his father and decides to take a walk one night to escape the grim confines of his existence. During that nighttime stroll, he literally finds himself in another world.

And what a world it is! He is found by a group of very unusual people who take him in and teach him everything he needs to know. As he lives among them, he shares their lifestyle and even falls in love for the first time. What more could anyone ask?

However, the reality is far from what he first imagined. Bill begins to question this ideal existence and, when he realizes the truth, discovers that someone is out there who could destroy his new world-and all others. (Goodreads)

My Thoughts:
What if you were a 13 year old boy, diagnosed with leukemia, abandoned to die by your neglectful father in the children's ward of a hospital? Taking refuge in comic books, only to stumble through a portal into a parallel world where super heroes and magic actually exist? Pretty cool, right? William Lampkin thinks so, especially when the Ultras (the superheroes) save his life! Sure, part of the cure aged him several years, but at least he's healthy again!

Really enjoyed this story! Will develops a serious case of hero worship, settles into his new life, finds that he enjoys his job, and even starts dating one of the Ultras! A perfect new life for a boy who never caught a break until now! Or is it?

Will starts noticing that things are not quite as they seem, and starts digging for answers. Will he be happy with what he finds, or will it jeopardize his new life and love? Sounds a little like a soap opera when put like that, but it's actually a fun story with a great main character! I really enjoyed watching Will grow up and mature from a sickly child to a confident young man.

Telling his own story, Will has a sly sense of humor and isn't afraid to lay it on the line, even when it doesn't present him in the best light. He breaks the "fourth wall" and addresses the reader directly, which I really enjoy when done right. This one does it right!

Looking forward to reading more by this author, as he's a talented writer with a good imagination and a great sense of humor! I'm a sucker for a sense of humor. :)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

In My Mailbox (84)

In My Mailbox (84)
In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. My wishlist always grows after checking out everyone's mailboxes each week! I've included links to Goodreads if you want more information on the books.

For Review:

The Night Circus
Received a beautifully wrapped copy of The Night Circus from the publisher. Even came with a bookmark, and you know how much I love bookmarks! This one is almost too pretty to open! Have read nothing but good things about this one, so looking forward to reading it.

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night.


Commune of Women
Received an autographed review copy of Commune of Women from the author, via the Fiction Studio. Read an excerpt of this one and was immediately hooked!

On an ordinary Los Angeles morning, the lives of seven women are about to become inextricably entangled, as they converge upon LA International Airport for various purposes. Suddenly, the morning erupts into chaos, as black-clad terrorists charge into the terminal, guns blazing. As the concourse becomes a killing field, six of the women dodge a hail of bullets to find refuge in a tiny staff room....all traumatized or injured, (they)barricade the door and cower down, hoping to survive. As four days drag by, their expectations of an early rescue dashed, the women find a way to dominate their panic and terror by telling their life stories. (Goodreads)



Contest Wins:

Confessions of a Call Center Gal
Won an eBook copy of Confessions of a Call Center Gal by Lisa Lim from the lovely Book Vixen!

Described as Bridget Jones meets The Office, this one sounds like a fun read!



Looking forward to seeing what everyone received in their mailboxes this week!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Giveaway: Two copies of The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta


What if - whoosh, right now, with no explanation - a number of us simply vanished? Would some of us collapse? Would others of us go on, one foot in front of the other, as we did before the world turned upside down?

That’s what the bewildered citizens of Mapleton, who lost many of their neighbors, friends and lovers in the event known as the Sudden Departure, have to figure out. Because nothing has been the same since it happened - not marriages, not friendships, not even the relationships between parents and children....

With heart, intelligence and a rare ability to illuminate the struggles inherent in ordinary lives, Tom Perrotta has written a startling, thought-provoking novel about love, connection and loss. (Goodreads)

*****

Thanks to the generosity of St. Martins Press, I have two ARCs of The Leftovers up for grabs for two lucky readers!

Gave this one a rare 5/5 rating, as I couldn't put it down! Great story, and an awesome cover! Check out my review if you have a chance, as I think this one is a great read!

Will make this one easy:  just leave a comment with your email address in order to enter.
Extra entry for each link you leave in order to promote the giveaway (twitter, facebook, blog, etc).

The books will be shipped directly from the publisher, so US shipping addresses only please.

Contest ends Saturday, August 13th, 11:59pm EST

Good luck!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Winner of July's Comment Contest!



Congratulations to the winner of my July Comment Contest!


Rimsa!


After counting up all of the comments made during the month of July, Rimsa made the most comments and is my grand prize winner! Rimsa, please send me an email at alexia561@yahoo(dot)com with your name and address, and I'll mail your prize out to you as soon as possible!

As promised, I also let the random number generator pick a few people who can choose something off of my prize page!

Congratulations to:

Tif at Tif Talks Books

and

Grace F (who has a nook named Naughty!)

Ladies, please let me know what you would like and I'll ship it out to you asap!

Thanks to everyone who commented during the month of July!

I love comments, and now that I'm home, will play catch up and visit everyone who was nice enough to stop by!

 

Manila Adventure

A few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to travel to Manila for two weeks. Yes, it was for work, but how could I turn down the chance to visit the Philippines? I've never been to that side of the world, so of course I said yes! A whirlwind of preparation, then I found myself in Makati City, at one of the most beautiful hotels I've ever seen!


Not going to kid you, the flight over and back was rough. I left home at 8am EST Friday morning and arrived a little after 9pm Saturday night Manila time. The Philippines is 12 hours ahead of the east coast, so that was a good 25 hours of travel time. I got to spend a few hours in the Tokyo airport before changing planes, but it was exhausting.

My impression of the small slice of Filipino life I experienced? Busy and chaotic and exotic and all-round wonderful! Saw some familiar brands with a twist in the grocery store. Saw old favorites like the Hard Rock Cafe, California Pizza Kitchen, KFC, Burger King, and the Outback! Ate quite a bit of rice. No knives with the Filipino meals, just a fork and big spoon. Used the spoon in place of the knife, and it worked out really well.



Didn't work up the nerve to ride on a jeepney, but took several taxis. Am amazed that there aren't more accidents, as I've never seen cars maneuver so close without actually scraping each other! And the honking never stops! Will never complain about New York City drivers again!

Felt very safe, as there were guards everywhere and they checked your bags at the entrance to every building. Some guards were a little more thorough than others, as I saw a few young men getting a full pat down!

I worked nights in order to stay on an EST schedule, so slept most of the day. Didn't want to waste my time sleeping, so experimented with different schedules of sleeping and exploring. Long story short, I slept 12 hours straight my first two nights home! Always tired, but never bored!

Naturally, I checked out a few bookstores! Was disappointed that I saw the same titles on the shelves that we have at home, so no new discoveries. One huge difference is that all of the books are wrapped in plastic! So no skimming through the book to see if you like the writing or not.

I bought several souvenirs, but my favorite is the collection of bookmarks the hotel gave me every night with the turndown service! Quotes from the book Lost Horizon. Makes sense, as the hotel is called the Shangri La. Have to love a hotel that gives you bookmarks every night!

Am still getting over the cold I brought home with me, and am now mostly over the jet lag. Tried to catch up with my blog reader, then gave up and marked them all read, deciding to just start fresh. Need to write a few reviews, then catch up with everyone. Am thrilled that I was able to take advantage of this awesome experience! Would I go back? In a New York Minute!

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