Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Girl with the Iron Touch ~ Kady Cross (earc) review

The Girl with the Iron Touch (Steampunk Chronicles #3)
May 28, 2013
384 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

(my review of The Girl in the Steel Corset #1 & The Girl in the Clockwork Collar #2 in the series -review contains some spoilers for TGitCC)
In 1897 London, something not quite human is about to awaken
Kady Cross's new Steampunk Chronicles novel - following The Girl in the Steel Corset and The Girl in the Clockwork Collar - picks up where the story established in the first two books left off.

The group of Griffin, Finley, Sam, and Emily thought they'd ended things with their enemy the Machinist when they literally brought a house down on his head. Only, his body was never found in the rubble and now things are happening that seem to have the Machinist mark on them.

When one of their own is kidnapped, they can't ignore things any longer. Their archenemy must have somehow survived.

The rest of the group -- along with Jasper and perhaps even Jack -- will have to work together to come to the rescue and to end things with the Machinist once and for all.

The Girl with the Iron Touch is definitely a continuation of the series; it draws heavily on the relationships and story already established to begin the novel, without much recap. Anyone just picking up the series will miss out on a lot of who the characters are to each other -- a real strong point of the series -- as well as the backstory, plot wise.

All that means, however, is that if you haven't read the fist two novels yet, you definitely need to now.

The characters are more settled into their group - that became four in The Girl in the Steel Corset - and back in London after The Girl in the Clockwork Collar's expedition. So, they (and we readers) are able to have some great character and relationship developments while things are a touch more settled. In the calm before the storm.

Those just secondary characters from the first books, Jasper and Jack, that it's about impossible not to love at least a little, are both back this time. The balance achieved between really giving seven (yes, seven -- the last one's a splendid secret) characters each their own great part in the 'character'y part of the story while having a thought through plot that's been unfolding over more than just this one novel, is fantastic.

We aren't given just characters dealing with their feelings and where that will take them while the action stays stagnant nor does the plot run full steam ahead while the characters live in a state of flux.

While the Steampunk Chronicles should please lovers of character-centric and plot-cenric books, both. We're given a bit more insight into two characters in this novel. Two characters who you likely wouldn't think of having an overlapping story line, and yet they do. One that's pretty brilliant and hopefully continued as it brings out sides to each of them we didn't see prior.

This is an incredibly enjoyable, fast reading novel that will pull you in right from the start. Cross doesn't use a lot of flowery language or imagery to tell her story, instead relying on the characters and the action, which works. Aside from a few places where characters 'romancey' thoughts or statements feel almost, almost out of place, the entire story flows from start to finish.

Rating: 9/10

(nb: There's quite a bit more of the plot in the publisher synopsis. I didn't include as much because it's not all 'right away' happenings and it's fun to find out as you read. If you like knowing more going in, however, check out Goodreads or the publisher's site.)

prior books/ebooks in the series:

and #2.5 The Dark Discovery of Jack Dandy out July 1

thank you to Harlequin & NetGalley for my egalley of the title for review

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

All I Need ~ Susane Colasanti (earc) review

All I Need
Viking Juvenile
May 21, 2013
240 pages

When Skye meets Seth at the beach party, there's an instant connection. It's a feeling she thought was reserved only for fictional romances, those in movies and books, and something she thought she'd never feel herself. It's obvious they have something real.

When Seth leaves for college before they're able to exchange contact info, Sky's left wondering if everything was a real as she thought -- and felt. Wondering, but still hoping.

If the two do make their way back to each other, will things be the same as they were? Are they really something special . . . or were they not meant to last, after all?

All I Need, Susane Colasanti's newest release, out today, is told, in alternating chapters, through both Skye and Seth's points-of-view. Beginning at the beach party where they meet the story then follows their whirlwind romance and later their separation. As Skye and Seth go on divergent paths, readers are able to see what they're each up to and whether or not they're thinking about each other and missing the other.

As well as, of course, whether or not they do, in fact, get back together.

Colasanti did a great job with Seth and Skye's relationship. Their romance in the beginning is fast, but it's undeniably sweet. It does have that almost fictional, only-in-the-movies feeling to it. After that, however, when things get more difficult for the pair, as they're separated and their feelings, their whole 'relationship' really, come into question, the story feels very real.

It would be easy, perhaps, to keep the entire novel cute and happy, light and breezy. Yet, it's the tougher things the characters go through that make it feel more true to life. There is definitely still some sweet in the story, just less than the 'honeymoon' phase we see in the very beginning.

We experience a very enjoyable read because we get to read about Skye's life including her friends, their romances and their relationships with each other, about Seth and his starting out at college along with some of his family troubles. All along the Seth and Skye story line that keeps things real by not being sunshine and rainbows when that's not realistic.

The time jumps that occur do get a bit confusing. Well, maybe not confusing but one chapter is sometimes directly after the previous chapter or in line with it, sometimes it's weeks or months after it and it's not always obvious right away. When I was expecting certain chapters to be followed up by a chapter by the other character in/around the same time only to have it be months later, it was strange.

The jumps leave you missing some connection with the characters that follow-up (ie that second chapter) would have presented. One of the things I love most about dual narration novels is that I usually connect with them more. When the same situation is seen through two characters' eyes, it gives some insight into each of the characters and enhances the reader's connection with, likely, both characters. In All I Need a lot of events (time periods, really) were told only by one character. I didn't connect with the characters in this novel as much as I would have liked and I think this may have been a big part of why.

All I Need does leave you thinking about how one little moment, one little thing can possibly change your life forever. It's a great read, good for (almost) summertime.

Rating: 8/10

review copy received from LibraryThing Early Reviewers & Penguin

Thursday, May 16, 2013

If You Find Me ~ Emily Murdoch (earc) review

If You Find Me
St Martin's Griffin
March 26, 2013
256 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

They call it the Hundred Acre Wood. Alone, secluded miles away from anyone in a broken down camper in a national forest, Carey and Janessa can only rely on each other. With their mentally ill mother gone more and more, for longer and longer it's entirely up to fifteen-year-old Carey to care for her six-year-old sister.

Until the day, with their mother seemingly gone for good, when two strangers arrive. The girls are taken out of the woods and thrown into a whole new world: one of bright lights, new clothes, enough food, high school, and boys.

Their new life is full of a great many wonderful things, but also forces Carey to confront some things. Like why her mother took her all those years ago, kidnapped her. And what the truth there really is.

There's also the life that refuses to be completely left behind. The life that carries with it a dark secret, hanging over Carey, threatening her happy new life. It's why Janessa hasn't spoken in over a year. Carey wants this new life, with friends and family and all it promises . . . but she knows if she told, it would all be gone.

If You Find Me is a book that had me from the very first page, though, admittedly, that was because it started with a quote from Pooh's Little Instruction Book. Really, you can't go wrong with Winnie the Pooh. AA Milne's story and its characters are used in If You Find Me in a pretty spectacular way. From the woods where Carey and Janessa are living being 'the Hundred Acre Wood' to the quotes from different Pooh books, to a few mentions of characters within the story.

The references make sense within the book and the quotes are great. It's also a great fit with Carey and Janessa having their little life in the woods, their own little world and the Pooh things bring that bit of almost innocence to something so tragic.

It's not a story focused on the darkness of the girls being alone in the woods. Or of Carey being taken there years ago. It starts out almost as they're found and taken out of the woods. Carey is telling us her -- and Janess's -- story as they're beginning this new life in the 'actual' world. We''re able to see just how much they were deprived of over the years based on how they encounter everyday things, things we've all known about possibly our entire lives.

It would have been one way to tell the story to show the girls in the woods, without enough food and alone -- and we do get some of that in flashbacks -- but I feel that having them out, in society, learning to be a part of the world is so much a stronger story. We learn so much more about them, their past and their bond. The bond between the sisters is incredibly well written and very compelling. We know that there's something more between them, that we're not seeing, at least not yet.

I was a teeny bit worried that the ending wasn't going to wrap up as much as I wanted it to, yet then it was just about perfect.

As I'm less able to clearly make my point the more I like a book, I'll leave you with two quotes from authors who do a better job than I saying what a superb read If You Find Me is:
"If You Find Me grabbed me by the heart on page one and didn't let go till the very last word. Murdoch's language is lovely, her storytelling gripping.” —Carol Lynch Williams, author of The Chosen One

“Searing . . . hurt my heart and will probably haunt my dreams – a beautiful book about survival, identity, family, love and so much more.” —Jenny Downham, author of Before I Die


thank you to the publisher for the egalley through NetGalley

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Matter of Trust ~ Lis Wiehl with April Henry review

A Matter of Trust (A Mia Quinn Mystery)
Thomas Nelson Publishers
March 19, 2013
320 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

When life is murder, who can you trust?

One minute Mia Quinn is in her basement, chatting on the phone with a colleague at the prosecutor's office. The next minute there's a gunshot over the line, and Mia listens in horror as her colleague and friend Colleen bleeds to death.

Mia's a natural for heading up the murder investigation, but these days she has all she can do to hold her life together. As a new widow with a pile of debts, a troubled teenaged son, and a four-year-old who wakes up screaming at night, she needs more time with her family, not less--and working Colleen's case will be especially demanding. But Colleen was her friend, and she needs to keep her job. So she reluctantly teams up with detective Charlie Carlson to investigate Colleen's death. But the deeper they dig, the more complications unfold--even the unsettling possibility that someone may be coming after her.

Lis Wiehl's signature plot twists and relatable characters shine in this absorbing series debut . . . with an intriguing cameo from her best-selling Triple Threat series.

I haven't read any of Lis Wiehl's novels before (but have read April Henry's Girl Stolen) but A Matter of Trust looked interesting and it was available on audio when I was looking for something new.

The start of a new series (with, I guess, some crossover from Wiehl and Henry's Triple Threat series) A Matter of Trust focuses on Mia Quinn, recently returned to work at the King County District Attorney's Office. So many things have changed in the years Mia was away from the office, caring for her children. Without her friend -- and fellow prosecutor -- Colleen's words of assurance, Mia would be lost.

Only, then Colleen is murdered, while Mia is on the phone with her.

As Mia struggles to mange both her new case and her new life, she finds out more than she was expecting about both her late husband and all that he was keeping from her about himself and their life and about Colleen.

A Matter of Trust was enjoyable with the mix of Mia's work and personal life. The way they overlapped and how she had to balance them, as they each became more demanding of her and her time added tension and intrigue to the story and also made her character more interesting.

The different story lines involving teenagers in the novel were very relevant and timely and also integrated into the main story very well. They didn't seem stuck in just because they were 'current.' They also had great parallels with the other characters lives and stories.

The 'mystery' aspect of the book was a bit less, mysterious than I would have preferred with the whodunit being revealed, or strongly hinted at, sooner than I would have liked. As I said, I haven't read any of Wiehl's novels before so I don't know if this is her style or something unique to A Matter of Trust.

That this is the start of a series allows me to forgive this more, however, than I would have if it had been a standalone. I'm really intrigued by the characters we're introduced to here and anxious to see which ones will be back in the next book as well as what the plot of that novel will be.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The S-Word ~ Chelsea Pitcher (earc) review

The S-Word
Gallery Books
May 7, 2013
304 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

First it was SLUT scribbled all over Lizzie Hart’s locker.

But one week after Lizzie kills herself, SUICIDE SLUT replaces it—in Lizzie's looping scrawl.

Lizzie’s reputation is destroyed when she's caught in bed with her best friend’s boyfriend on prom night. With the whole school turned against her, and Angie not speaking to her, Lizzie takes her own life. But someone isn’t letting her go quietly. As graffiti and photocopies of Lizzie’s diary plaster the school, Angie begins a relentless investigation into who, exactly, made Lizzie feel she didn’t deserve to keep living. And while she claims she simply wants to punish Lizzie’s tormentors, Angie's own anguish over abandoning her best friend will drive her deep into the dark, twisted side of Verity High—and she might not be able to pull herself back out. . . (partial synopsis from Goodreads)

The S-Word was not quite what I was expecting. I don't think that now, after having read it -- and thought about it -- that I can say just what it was I was expecting. Possibly something a little 'neater.' I'm happy that isn't what I got, though.

Chelsea Pitcher's debut isn't neat. It isn't pretty and it doesn't glamorize what happens in high school. Lizzie's high school experience -- and the high school experience we receive (and learn about) through Angie, isn't some glossy, remember-when version of high school. It's real, perhaps a bit gritty and can be harsh.

We see the after-effects of bullying, with Lizzie gone, having committed suicide and her best friend trying to find who's most responsible. It's through Angie's investigation -- and what it uncovers -- that we learn what Lizzie really experienced. It seems as if this method would make what was done to Lizzie less impactful, than experiencing it first hand, as it happened. How Pitcher writes things, along with how readers do learn about Lizzie's pain affects the story and, possibly, Angie, more.

Most of the characters in the book are fantastic. They're fresh and quite different from the ones we see in most novels, most YA novels, too. While one character may have played this high school role and another that role, they didn't feel stereotypical. Perhaps a bit archetypal when you look back at it, but they weren't canned characters. Each of them had something unique and fresh about them that made for great inclusion in the story. (Jesse was probably my favorite character.)

There was one story line that I felt ventured into stereotypical territory. The story, along with the characters used, was something I've seen used quite a lot and so I wasn't sure if the characters and that part of the story were done truly for The S-Word and where it needed to go or . . . because. It didn't harm the story and it worked, but it didn't feel as original as the rest of the novel.

I do love the play with S-Word and sword and how 'cutting' they both are, can be. It's a great title for an enjoyable read.

Rating: 7/10

thank you to the publisher for my egalley for review via NetGalley

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Belonging ~ Karen Ann Hopkins Tour Post


about Belonging (Temptation #2):
I left everything I knew behind.

But it was worth it. He was worth it.

No one thought an ordinary girl like me would last two minutes living with the Amish, not even me. There are a lot more rules and a lot less freedom, and I miss my family and the life I once had. Worst of all, Noah and I aren't even allowed to see each other. Not until I've proven myself.

If I can find a way to make it work, we'll be NOAH & ROSE

together forever.

But not everybody believes this is where I belong.

Find/Buy Belonging:

on Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, Indiebound or Book Depository

about Temptation 
the first novel in the series:
Your heart misleads you.
That's what my friends and family say.

But I love Noah.
And he loves me.

We met and fell in love in the sleepy farming community of Meadowview, while we rode our horses together through the grassy fields and in those moments in each other's arms.

It should be


forever, easy.

But it won't be.

Because he's Amish.
And I'm not.

Find/Buy Temptation: 
on Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, Indiebound or Book Depository; Temptation Facebook page 

Review, Author Guest Post, Tour Schedule, & Giveaway below . . .

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Safe Haven movie

Safe Haven
20th Century Fox
May 7, 2013
120 minutes; PG-13
info on IMDb/buy on Amazon

Safe Haven, based on Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name is available today on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital Download.

The synopsis:
Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough star in this spellbinding romantic drama based on the novel by best-selling author Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook). When a mysterious, beautiful woman named Katie (Hough), moves to Southport, North Carolina, she sparks the interest of the locals, especially Alex (Duhamel), a handsome widower. Although she is attracted to Alex, Katie is reluctant to trust him – that is, until a new friend (Cobie Smulders) convinces her to give Alex a chance. But before long, a dark secret from Katie’s past threatens her happiness in this thrilling romance directed by Lasse Hallström (Dear John).
I'll probably be the first to admit that Nicholas Sparks movies can be . . . well, they're Nicholas Sparks movies -- and books. I am a bit in love with The Notebook, still, but The Last Song just didn't work for me. (Dear John was in the middle and I haven't seen The Lucky One; from what I remember the older movies are pretty good.)

That all said -- and it was said, not to knock Nicholas Spark, his books or the movies, but because I know some people do not like them -- Safe Haven is probably my favorite after The Notebook -- maybe tied with A Walk to Remember (though I still like that book much better).

The story in Safe Haven felt less cliched than the last few I've seen/read. It didn't seem to have as much of a formula to it. It was definitely still a sweet, enjoyable romance but it was not one hundred percent focused on Katie and Alex. Katie's secret had 'its' own story line that was developing alongside the romantic one and it added a bit of tension.

The movie did start out a bit slowly, awkwardly (not the very beginning) but once all that needed or wanted to be established was, the real plot could get gong and it was smoother. Both Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel did a really good job and it's a really cute movie. If you are going to watch it, ThinkJam has created a Nite-In feature for the movie, with great food ideas for while you watch the movie -- linked right here:

Click on the menu items to be taken to the recipes!

Alternate Link to the PDF

(and since this is, primarily a YA blog, be responsible, and no drinking alcohol if you're not of legal age to do so)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Temptation ~ Karen Ann Hopkins review

Stop back Wednesday, May 8th:
w/ review, guest blog + giveaway

Temptation (Temptation #1)
Harlequin Teen
June 26, 2012
383 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

Your heart misleads you.
That's what my friends and family say.

But I love Noah.
And he loves me.

We met and fell in love in the sleepy farming community of Meadowview, while we rode our horses together through the grassy fields and in those moments in each other's arms.

It should be


forever, easy.

But it won't be.

Because he's Amish.
And I'm not.
Sixteen-year-old Rose, her older brother Sam, younger brother Justin and their father, now a doctor at the local hospital have moved to Meadowview following the death of the children's mother. Vastly different from the suburban Cincinnati life they left behind, the Cameron family's new neighbors are Amish.

Expecting to have nothing in common with them, Rose is surprised when one of the boys doing work at her house, Noah, catches her eye. Are there just too many differences between them, or can love find a way?

I'll admit that in several ways, Temptation didn't really work as a romance for me. Rose and Noah were star -- or rather, society -- crossed lovers, struggling to find a way. She was 'English' and he was Amish, each with more than enough preconceived notions and biases about the other.

The beginning of their interactions worked well, with the hesitancy, the pull and then their drawing back . . . but then it felt as if things clicked over into 'Noah and Rose' too quickly. That, or the way Rose just didn't click for me may be why the romance didn't quite do it for me, either.  Despite that, the book worked. Not being sure that their relationship was actually a good, healthy thing gave me another reason to keep turning those pages, to see how things would work out. It may or may not have been something the author was hoping for, but it works, regardless.

The portrayal of the Amish community isn't sugarcoated here. It's especially truthful feeling when it comes to the treatment/place of women in their society. This lead to several points where I really wanted Rose to speak up for herself, to, well, toughen up. If that was in her, was her character, though, she wouldn't have fit with Noah and there wouldn't have been a story.

I'll be interested to see if this does play a part, or perhaps even more of a part in the second book, Belonging.

Rose's relationships with her brothers, especially towards the end of the novel, are great. As the story is focused mostly on Rose and Noah and their relationship, we don't always see a lot of Justin and Sam and, at first, they really are just the annoying brothers. As things progress, however, we get to see the deeper, more caring bond they have with their sister. It feels like a very real sibling relationship.

Rating: 7/10

thank you to the author for my copy of the book for review

Don't forget about next Wednesday's tour stop!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Tragedy Paper ~ Elizabeth LaBan review

The Tragedy Paper
Knopf Books for Young Readers
January 8, 2013
312 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

Tim Macbeth, a seventeen-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is “Enter here to be and find a friend.” A friend is the last thing Tim expects or wants—he just hopes to get through his senior year unnoticed. Yet, despite his efforts to blend into the background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “It” girl, Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. To Tim's surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, but she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone ever finds out. Tim and Vanessa begin a clandestine romance, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.

Jumping between viewpoints of the love-struck Tim and Duncan, a current senior about to uncover the truth of Tim and Vanessa, The Tragedy Paper is a compelling tale of forbidden love and the lengths people will go to keep their love.
This was an interesting dual narrative for me. Though, each of the boys, Tim and Duncan pulled me completely into their respective stories and though each story was unique, it was still hard, at times, to keep them separate and straight.

The two stories definitely have overlapping themes and events that, though different, do have similarities. It helps Duncan get pulled so quickly into Tim's story and keeps the stories of these boys who didn't even know each other, from being too disparate to work as a novel.

It's usually just the beginning of the switch in narration, as you're moving back into the other character's story and time, that any confusion can occur. After that, you're so fully engrossed in what's happening, that even if you do forget little things, it doesn't really matter much.

That structure of The Tragedy Paper and how LaBan chooses to tell her tale is fantastic. Throughout the novel, as you get to know the characters, those in Tim's story and those in Duncan's, there's this big, likely huge something hanging over everything. It's going to happen in Tim's story and it's happened in Duncan's. Readers just don't know what it is.

The not knowing, the build up we get in Tim's story -- that is build up and at the same time just his story, too -- all while Duncan is stressing over his tragedy paper is a perfect pairing. The more Duncan thinks about tragedy and the paper, the more you think about where Tim's story is ultimately leading. It's a great story arc and I just love the way things work together.

Rating: 9/10

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