Mini Reviews

Today's selection of mini reviews is a motley crew (when are they ever not?), and presented in order of "age" ... from middle grades to women's fiction. It's an interesting ride.

Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle
Christopher Healy
Walden Pond, 2013

I am a little in love with this series. Or maybe it's the Princes Charming. Or the fact that Healy is taking such well-known fairy tales and turning them on their head in ways so topsy-turvy (and perhaps a little insane) you can't help but laugh to yourself. I'm still a fan of Liam. I think he's such a wonderful fairy tale hero, even in this mishmash version, and he grows as a character. After all the ups and downs and twists and turns and absolutely ridiculous things that have happened to the League, I maintain a secret hope that future installments will find the correct Prince-Princess pairings ... because there are definitely better pairings than the original tales dictate, among this posse anyway.

Book provided by my local library.

Sweetest Spell
Suzanne Selfors
Walker, 2012

Emmeline is a dirt-scratcher who escapes death. Twice. Some would consider that a blessing, but the people in Emmeline's village have always viewed her as a curse of sorts: with her deformed foot and the strange way cows follow her around. After a flood ravages her home and sends Emmeline downriver, she finds refuge in the home of a local dairyman's family. The Oaks take Emmeline in, despite her dirt-scratcher heritage, and with surprising compassion help her blossom and grow. And discover the sweetest of all surprises: Emmeline can make the mythical chocolate that once made Anglund famous. With the uncovering of this gift comes a journey that will tax every ounce of Emmeline's new-found strength and courage, rooted in the surprising foundation of Owen Oak's love.

A twisting, turning, surprising story that blends magic and love and chocolate and subterfuge and history and legend in such a complex tapestry. Emmeline is a worthy heroine, and Owen grows to become a true hero in his own right. And that cover, you've got to appreciate that cover.

Book provided by my local library.

Rainbow Rowell
St Martin's Griffin, 2013

As a late-twenties professional, I am coming to terms with the fact that I am a fangirl. Geek I've been okay with for more than a decade. Fangirl has taken some getting used to. Which is one reason I enjoyed this read so very much. Because Rainbow has presented the whole enchilada of fangirling: the good, the tough, the iffy, the mesmerizing. Cath is a college freshman -- and twin to Wren, who is the pretty, spunky, popular, outgoing one. As if one of those labels wasn't hard enough, compound the two; then add a dose of fangirl social anxiety, and Cath is a character you immediately want to give a mug of cocoa and tell her everything will be okay. She grows a lot, in what I think is not only a pretty good tale about life as a fangirl, but also a true take on the freshman experience. It's a hard year, where a lot of growing happens. Or it was for me anyway, and definitely was for Cath.

And then there's Levi! Oh, Levi. I want to pick him up and tuck him in my pocket for keeps, precious. We wants him.

Book provided by my local library.

Cassandra King
Maiden Lane Press, 2013

Ever since I met her at a scholarship luncheon, I'm always eager to pick up Cassandra's latest novel. Of course, there's usually a wait between reads, but that's okay. Writing about Southern women, in the heart of The South, her novels are normally ones that make me think. They're not fluffy, and Moonrise was actually a little intense. It has its dark shadows, its mysteries, its very real real-world-issues. The intricacies of long-standing relationships muddled and marred when one member dies and another marries in -- further complicated by the secluded realm of the Southern Elite. It was a little bit of an odd read for me, in that the characters were so much older than myself, but it's set in Highlands! Highlands!! I love that area, and I've always enjoyed reading about the people who Summer in mountain retreats I can only dream of. Not my favorite King novel, but not a complete disaster either.

Book provided by my local library.


The Silmarillion

The Silmarillion
JRR Tolkien
Houghton Mifflin, 2001 (originally published 1977)

Oh. Stars. As a Tolkien fan for literally half my life, I'd never read The Silmarillion. Friends have talked about how tough a read it is, that it took three tries (or more) to finally slog through. They cautioned me about my pre-reading enthusiasm, and hoped I wouldn't be disappointed. Readers, I fell in love. From the earliest pages, I was caught hook, line and sinker. Head over heels.

I'm not even going to try to write a "formal" review. This isn't a book to be "reviewed" -- it's a book to be read, to be absorbed, to be loved. Richly, intricately detailed The Silmarillion is the history of Middle Earth's most awesome residents: the Elves. (Okay, so there's quite a bit of basic Middle Earth history too, but let's be honest: It's all about the Elves). At the risk of sounding like a mad woman, at times I felt as if I was reading my own history; that's how deeply I connected with this book. It's a novel, but not. It's a tome of history, but not. It's a collection of short stories, but not. It's, quite simply, Tolkien. With characters to love, to honor, and to abhor. With so many minute details and complex family relations that things become muddled even as they fall into clarity. It sets up the Tolkien most of us "know" with astonishing cohesiveness.

I think, having read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings several times before, and thereby coming into this reading having some knowledge of the significance of what was happening, aided greatly in my understanding. The plan now is to reread those books again (very soon, we hope, since I read this back in August (oops)), and see what new elements I pick up on.

Book provided by my personal library.


Lying to Meet You

Lying to Meet You
Anna Garner

Is it easier to meet people if you're already in a relationship, than when you are single? It's a question Chloe and lifelong pal Ethan debate, and decide to put to test. The theory is that by pretending to be in a relationship with each other (top secret, nobody is allowed to know it's all a front!), they will each be able to meet and attract potential romantic partners. Crazy and complicated, I know, but also somewhat hilarious. Once the "relationship" starts, Chloe's already busy life gets even more packed: between dates with Ethan, cooking classes with her best friends, and filming a reality show -- not to mention designing and planning the next seasons' lines for her clothing boutique -- Chloe's life is hectic. But it's also awesome: her boutique is doing well and promising much for the future; she's having more fun hanging out with Ethan than she expected; and she's met her Mr. Maybe -- a fellow judge on the reality show. As the fall spins into the holidays, everything seems to be playing out perfectly, especially when Chloe realizes that hottie judge William Shannon appears to be very interested in her. For all intents and purposes, it appears that Chloe is about to get everything she ever wanted. Or is she?

This was a fun, fast read. Chloe is a character you want to cheer for, and Ethan is the perfect best bud. Chemistry sparks, tension builds, characters surprise you -- it's got everything! The only "eh" moment for me was how fast everything ended. It felt like things almost got wrapped up too fast, but maybe that's just me. Regardless, it's a fun chick lit read.

eARC provided by author for review.



Jessica Grey
Tall House Books, 2013

I'm going to try very, very hard not to have this review be Exhibit A of Fangirl vs. Sensible Thought. But I can't make any promises. Every time I read this story (I had the extreme honor of being a beta reader), I fall a little harder in love with it ... with the characters, with the setting, with the very story itself. What is Atone, you ask? It's the sorta-sequel to Awake, in that it picks up several years later and features many of the same issues and people. But it's Becca's time to sparkle, and her story is a reimagining of "Beauty and the Beast" -- set in Grey's beloved [contemporary] Los Angeles. There's so much more to this retelling though ... In fact, there's so much of Atone that you've simply got to experience for yourself, that maybe I will indulge in a little fangirling after all.

If you read Awake, you're familiar with both the magical connection existing between Becca, Alex and Lilia, and the ... "interest" that former supervisor Nicholas Hunt has in that magic. You also know that there is no love lost between Nicholas and Becca. At all. So you're probably going to be as surprised as Becca was to find out she's his emergency contact; and then to realize she actually does care about his fate once she discovers him. As I said, it's "Beauty and the Beast," so you know in your head what's going to happen. But that doesn't take away from the reading -- Becca and Nicholas have so much animosity: extreme passions, just waiting to shift from one bent to another. As a beast, Nicholas is ... well, in a word: amazing. (I may or may not have left a lot of "wolf whistle" comments while beta reading). He's fierce and conflicted, and he develops so much as a character. As does Becca, who has to deal with not only the Becca-Nicholas/Fae-Beast dynamic, but also recognize and address her own issues. She's kickass, but she's a teensy bit flawed. Which is why we love her.

The way things play out, in terms of pacing, is quick. But with such powerful magic at work, you expect quick. Quick makes sense. Plus, you really want to get to the ending. Oh man, the ending. It is incredible. And there's just a lingering sense of what is to come in the next novel, which will be Lilia's story. Good times, people. Good times. And definitely one of my favorite reads of the year.

eARC provided by author for review.


Blog Tour: Over It


Today I'm happy to be a tour stop for Sarah Billington's latest release: Over It. You may remember The Kiss Off, which was a lot of fun to read -- well, this is the story of what happens next. And whew, is it a crazy ride! Don't forget to click on the banner and see the whole tour schedule! And there's a giveaway too, because we all know those are awesome.

First, here's the official synopsis (and purchase links), to whet your appetite ...

Warning: Sexual References, occasional coarse language.
Teen Youtube song writing sensation Poppy Douglas's lead singer boyfriend Ty's been criss-crossing the country and living it up on tour for months while Poppy has been stuck in the boring suburbs, finishing out the school year.
But it's Summer now, and the best thing just happened: Poppy's royalties for writing the hit song The Kiss Off just came in. She's minted, and she knows just what she's going to blow it on.
Ty's band Academy of Lies are headlining a summer music festival, and Poppy is taking her girlfriends along for the best weekend of their lives. It's all organized: the weekend is going to be full of camping under the stars, backstage passes, VIP rooms and partying like rock stars, not to mention some long awaited one-on-one time with America's favorite front man.
Except, when someone drops out of the trip and Poppy takes the opportunity to mend a broken friendship, it doesn't quite go according to plan. And when she meets her boyfriend's BFF from another band, the paparazzi form their own totally wrong conclusions. There's also the matter of Ty's 'super fan' stalker, but the less said about her the better.
The biggest test of all comes in the form of an opportunity too good to pass up. But will insecurities and jealousy stand in Poppy's way? Can Poppy and Ty's relationship even survive it?
Life is about to get much more complicated for Poppy Douglas, but what can you expect when your boyfriend is a rock star?

Connect on Goodreads; or get from Smashwords or Amazon!

Over It
Sarah Billington

This is a whirlwind of a story, mostly taking place over the course of one crazy weekend: a musical festival at the beach, where Academy of Lies are getting their first really major show. Poppy manages to convince her parents to let her go, under the chaperone-age of nerdy cousin Hamish (who isn't so nerdy anymore), and takes Nikki and Maddie along too - hoping to force a friendship (not so smart). With high hopes for music and quality time with Ty, Poppy has no idea what's in store for her and her posse ... Like the attention she herself receives as Poppy Douglas, the YouTube songwriting sensation and girlfriend of hott musician. And a songwriting offer entirely out of the blue, that makes her reevaluate everything. She definitely did not prepare to deal with a "super fan" stalking Ty, or the intensity of their reunion. Suddenly everything isn't a happy-go-lucky daydream, and once again Poppy finds herself dealing with serious issues.

Over It is a fun read, a great weekend-at-the-beach read (literally), but it has its very serious moments too, much like The Kiss Off. Mature moments, where Poppy & Co. must deal with very real world issues. As such, it's like a PG-13 movie: great, but a little edgy. Not in a bad way, just edgy. I mean, these are rock stars we're talking about after all - teenage rock stars, to boot. I feel like Poppy is growing in this novel, and look forward to seeing where she goes next.

eARC provided by author for review.

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Blog Tour: Seeing Light

Today I am super excited to be a blog tour stop for Seeing Light, the third (and final) installment in Michelle Warren's amazing Seraphina Parrish trilogy! Since this is the third in a very-connected-trilogy, this review will be a little different for two reasons:
#1: You really need to read books 1 (Wander Dust) and 2 (Protecting Truth) to really understand and appreciate everything that's going on in Seeing Light. I mean, really.
#2: I've got to be extremely careful not to give spoilers ... as with her previous books, Michelle has an amazing talent for storytelling - pacing, building tension, surprising you out of nowhere. I was careful to avoid other reviews/spoilers myself, and I feel it only fair to return the favor.

That said, you can check out my reviews for the previous books above, and you can start the series for free ((for a limited time!)).


Seeing Light
Michelle Warren

Whew. Michelle Warren has done it again, you guys. Picking up not long after Protecting Truth leaves off, we find Sera and her team (Bishop and Sam) once again living dangerously. As she continues to push back against the Society, Sera discovers more about what's "behind the scenes". What she discovers isn't pretty, and her fierce independence (those in authority might call it rebellion) prompts her to join in the covert fight to right the wrongs and end the secretive power of the Society. Wandering to places and times she has no "legitimate business" being, Sera - and her team - realize just how deep the corruption and web of deception go. But even as she fights to end the way of life she and her fellow Wanderers are trapped in, Sera wonders what will happen if she succeeds.

Mixed in all this, there's still a lot of intense emotion from the whole Turner-Bishop fiasco, and the raw grief that broke all our hearts in Protecting Truth is a very present factor. I love this element, even as it made me sad -- it makes Sera seem real, human. She's a pretty gifted and fierce Wanderer (or dun-dun-duh: Watcher, and that's all the spoiler you get, mwuahaha!), and it's easy to forget she's just a teenager. She's still a kid, really, and her heart is warring to be heard. So watching her sort through all the tangled emotions, fighting to discern whether what she feels is truly her heart or merely her Society-programmed destiny? It's good. It adds a lovely dimension to an already incredible story. And of course, Bishop is amazing. Because he always is, even when he's angry and hurting. The characters are incredibly vibrant and integral to making this complex fantasy work, and Michelle has created people who I don't want to forget.

eARC provided by author for review.

For more to whet your appetite, check out the book trailer:

And there's a giveaway!
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Guest Review + Q&A + Giveaway!

Today, I've got something super special in store for you -- and it's something I'm really excited about! One of my college buddies, who is also a huge reader (actually, this year he's kicking my butt on the reading front, which has us both shocked), has started a book blog of his own, and is hosting his first author event. What's so cool about it, is he's also able to cross-post his content, and I'm getting to host my first ever guest review! As well as some other cool stuff. So sit back, and enjoy the awesome ...

White Fire
Preston & Child
Grand Central, 2013
Review by Steven White

Corrie Swanson needs to make a huge splash on her thesis, as she’s competing in John Jay College’s Rosewell Prize for Outstanding thesis and a junior, like her, has never won before.  After a few failed attempts to pitch ideas to her advisor, a  conversation with the College’s museum/library coordinator leads her to an interesting tale: Oscar Wilde, famed author, heard tales of bear attacks in Roaring Fork, Colorado, in which the bears devoured the victims.  Thinking that she could provide a huge contribution to research in the area of animal markings left on bones, she forces her advisor’s hand into approval and sets out to the rich tourist trap of a town.  The ski resort city, while at first seeming to be friendly and willing to lend her a hand, soon closes the proverbial doors on her.  Things escalate, leaving Corrie in prison for a simple B&E, and Pendergast steps in.  Good thing too, because Corrie’s discoveries reveal that it was something other than a bear that ate those miners a century before… and soon, a serial arson killer joins the fray.  The slow burn becomes a raging fire and a race against time as three massive storylines, along with a Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle thread, reach an explosive, fiery finish.

Wow, what a ride!  This might just be my favorite entry to the series since Book of the Dead.  Not to say there haven’t been some great books since the end of the Diogenes trilogy,  but this one really raises the bar.  Fast-paced, chock full of murders, Sherlock Holmes, shocking twists near the end, great new characters, and even a moment of Pendergast showing some real emotion.
There are three main storylines in White Fire:
1. Corrie’s thesis project, based around the bodies of 9 miners who had been killed and eaten by *something* in the 1870s, when the town was still a huge mining area rather than a ritzy ski resort -- and the powers controlling the town fighting against her solving the mystery.
2. A serial killer and arsonist, murdering townie after townie and burning their bodies and their homes, as Pendergast works with local law enforcement (who are in over their heads with said killer) to catch them as soon as possible.
3. The search for a lost Sherlock Holmes story that Conan Doyle wrote after hearing a disturbing tale from Oscar Wilde at a chance dinner meeting.
All three of them are done well and integrated seamlessly into one big novel.  The ending is cringeworthy, in a good way… it will have you on the edge of your seat as you await the conclusion, which ties up well, and hopefully has brought a new character into our beloved cast of recurring players.
Overall, I give this story a 5 out of 5 stars.  One of my favorite reads of the year, and one of my favorite entries of the series, right up there with Still Life with Crows, Book of the Dead, and my personal number one, Cabinet of Curiosities.
ARC provided by publisher for review.
And now, for a Q&A session between my buddy and two of his favorite authors!

First, thank you so much for writing one of my favorite series of all times and providing years and hundreds of hours of enjoyable reads (and rereads!), and for taking the time out to answer a few questions for your fans!
Preston & Child: Thank you for having us and for all those kind words! We look forward to your questions.
1. In White Fire, you decided to create a chance encounter between Oscar Wilde and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that ended up being the missing link that Pendergast needed to solve the case. What led you to choose these two authors? Was it nerve-wracking to write an “offical” Sherlock Holmes tale to include in White Fire’s plot, with the permission of the Conan Doyle estate of course? Was it hard to jump into the mindset of an author long dead and try to make it sound like it was in his voice? What did the estate think of your idea and eventual story? Was Sherlock Holmes any inspiration during your creation and development of Pendergast?
Linc: By happenstance, I learned about a true incident in which Conan Doyle had dinner with Oscar Wilde at a posh London hotel. This was mind-blowing; I couldn’t imagine two more different writers. What could they have talked about? I knew there was a book in there somewhere, and an immediate brainstorming session with Doug brought the bones of that book together.
          Yes, it was a little nerve-wracking to write an officially sanctioned Sherlock Holmes story. Holmes was, after all, one of the numerous inspirations for Pendergast (as you surmise). And the Estate needed to see the opening of the story before they would give permission. So for a week I did little but surround myself with actual stories from the Holmes canon. Then I took a deep breath and forged ahead with the first draft. Luckily, with Doug’s help, everything worked out splendidly.
Doug: It was amazing to see how the idea developed. Once Linc had come up with the opening concept, I suggested a setting of Aspen, Colorado, because I thought the idea of Pendergast in his black suit and vicuña overcoat knocking around that chic and fashionable ski resort, like a fish out of water, was just too good to pass up. (We eventually changed the name of the town to Roaring Fork, because we wanted to alter some historical and geographical details.) I also suggested a back-story involving man-eating grizzly bear attacks, the digging up of a historic cemetery to make way for development, and a serial arsonist burning down multi-million dollar mansions—with the families inside. All these elements were woven together to create a seamless story. It was a great example of our writing partnership working at its most creative pitch.
2. As a team, you both put a lot of thought into your titles. I remember submitting ideas for Two Graves, but then loving the final title so much better than my suggestions. What other ideas were thrown out while writing White Fire, and what made you settle on White Fire?
Linc: Our working title for the book was BANE. Our publisher wasn’t happy with that, and so we started the process of bouncing possible titles back and forth. At the time, I was reading the biography of a famous horror writer, and at one point in it the title of a very old book—I believe it was a collection of poetry, but I’m not even sure it was ever published—was mentioned in passing. That title was WHITE FIRE. It seemed perfect to me for our use, referencing as it did both the snowstorm and the dreadful arsons that together dominate the story (in addition to being an arresting image on its own.) Our publisher agreed.
3. I’m constantly trying to get new readers to join the Pendergast fan club. I want the series to keep going for years to come! I sometimes have trouble describing the series to them though, as it’s so many things -- mystery, thriller, history lesson, detective novel, horror story, techno/supernatural tale… If you had to describe your works for a new set of readers, how would you describe it?
Doug: We have the same trouble ourselves, and I’ve noticed that bookstores put the books all over the place in various sections. The Pendergast books contain a taste of all those genres. But what brings it all together is the unique character of Pendergast himself, who is a man out of his time, the embodiment of old-fashioned values, codes of conduct, and civility that have largely been lost in the modern age—combined with a strong sense of justice, a hatred of bullies, and a love of fine food and wine.
4. Do you plan on bringing back the new character, Stacy? I really liked her! What about some of our other cast members, like Nora Kelly, Margo Greene, Viola Maskelene, or others? We all know you’ll bring D’Agosta and Hayward back in the future already! Haha! What about Diogenes? Any chance he escaped death and will return?
Doug: After all these novels, we’ve created a kind of alternate reality, populated with a wide cast of characters. Stacy is a wonderful character and I would love to see her in another book, so I would say that is quite possible. Margo plays a major role in the Pendergast book we are now writing. Nora will surely appear in the future. Viola Maskelene… Well, maybe I shouldn’t tell you this, but her relationship with Pendergast is firmly over, and she will not appear in a future book. As for Diogenes, I will only say this… did anyone see his dead body?
5. Is the next Pendergast book in the works already? Any tidbits you can share about that one?
Linc: I wish I could, but we’re keeping the details close to the vest for the time being. We can confirm, however, that it will be a standalone book, and not the start of a trilogy.
Doug: A hint: a terrifying sequence takes place in the ruins of an abandoned resort on the shores of the Salton Sea in California…
6. You’ve also co-written other books together, most recently the Gideon Crew novels. When can we expect a third installment of that exciting series? Will there ever be any more of a crossover other than Eli Glinn’s presence?
Doug: Yes, and the next Gideon Crew novel, entitled THE LOST ISLAND, will be published in the late summer of 2014. It is a story involving an ancient illuminated manuscript, a mysterious map, and a harrowing journey through an isolated and forgotten corner of the Caribbean Sea.
Linc: There will be a fourth installment in the Gideon series, and there will be what we think is a huge crossover into one of our early novels. Our projected title alone probably says it better than I could: BEYOND THE ICE LIMIT.
7. Do you plan on releasing any more short stories like Extraction? It was a fun story, and a good way to help satiate some of your fans’ ravenous hunger for more Pendergast!
Doug: Absolutely. We are working on some wild ideas for a Pendergast story. Those who subscribe to our newsletter, “The Pendergast File,” will get advance notice.
8. Mr. Child, I read The Third Gate last year and really loved it! Any plans on writing another book with Jeremy Logan? I very much enjoyed his character and would love to see him return! Or maybe one of the protagonists from Terminal Freeze or Deep Storm?
Linc: Thank you so much! Yes, I am hard at work on another novel featuring the ‘enigmalogist’ Jeremy Logan, and I’m very excited about how it’s progressing.
9. Mr. Preston, I’d love to see another book starring Wyman Ford soon, or maybe a return of Tom and Sally in one of those Wyman Ford books. Any updates on when we’ll get another Ford book?
Doug: Yes. My next solo novel, entitled THE KRAKEN MISSION, will be published in May of 2014. It stars Wyman Ford.
10. Lastly, as both of your started out as editors, do you have any tips on writing for other aspiring authors? Did that experience as editors help you in your own writing, or did you prove, like doctors, to be a “terrible patient” if you will?
Again, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedules of writing and being awesome to answer a few questions for your fans! We (and by we, I definitely mean *ME!!!*) can’t wait for more Pendergast, and honestly, anything else with Preston or Child on the cover. Thanks for a fantastic new installment in the epic saga that is the Pendergast series, and for more Corrie!
Doug: Our experience as editors definitely helped. Honestly, seeing what doesn’t work in other people’s manuscripts is a great help, so we know what to avoid. That may be even more valuable than figuring out what works. As for tips, my advice to the aspiring writer is to write every day. Just as violinists must practice daily and marathon runners must run, writers must write. It seems obvious, but you would be surprised at how many writers only sit down to work once or twice a week. You have to do it every day and you have to carve out a sacred, inviolate period of time to do it in, and be sure your family and friends are instructed not to disturb you during that time! My second tip is to get involved in a writers’ group, where you read and critique each other’s work.
Thank you for the great questions and for all your kind words about our books! We love interacting with readers through email, which we answer
and through our Facebook page

Okay, so I don't know about you, but I'm a little intrigued. And I don't even read these books! I love when people are excited about stories -- whether it's stories they're writing, or stories they're reading. Enthusiasm is the best advertising. And as if all this hasn't been enough awesome, there's also a GIVEAWAY! Yup, you can enter to win one of three copies of White Fire! Just follow the instructions in the rafflecopter below, and good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Mini Reviews

Yup, I'm back with more mini reviews. I like this for when I start to feel a "backlog" -- or want to say something about a book, without really doing a "whole" review. And since the purpose of this blog is to have fun and share my thoughts on what I'm reading, I get to do whatever it takes to stay fun. Plus you get a handful of very different titles in one day!

The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail
Richard Peck
Dial, 2013

This book is almost ridiculously cute. A little nameless mouse ("Nameless is blameless," he hears it all the time), with a question mark of a tail. A scrappy mouse, a mysterious mouse. A mouse on a mission: to see the Queen. Yes, the human Queen Victoria. But along the way, there are some misadventures and unfortunate encounters. Like bats, and a swim in strawberry punch. And discovering that everything he thought about the world is just one big front for a huge, life changing discovery. Literally. Because it turns out, this little mouse isn't so nameless after all.

An incredibly cute, fun read for upper elementary/early middle grades. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and remembered all the reasons I used to love reading Peck when I was younger. (I think I'm old enough to return to him now, to paraphrase CS Lewis wholly out of context). And the illustrations! Such wonderful additions to an already fun story. I especially liked the full-color pages.

Book provided by my local library.

Paul Rudnick
Scholastic, 2013

I heard about this book during a School Library Journal web conference over the summer, and was intrigued - even though I wasn't entirely sure what I'd be reading. The book is weird. In a mostly good way, but still weird. It feels like a lot of shifting smoke and mirrors, with a little firework-flash thrown in for good measure. Nobody is quite who they seem. There are twists and turns and fairly insane developments. But it works. Which is perhaps the weirdest bit of all: just how well it all works together.

Becky was always a plain girl, the one trying to sink into the background and escape notice. When her mother dies, she finds herself inexplicably journeying to New York to meet with Tom Kelly - designer extraordinaire and standard of all things beautiful. He makes Becky a deal: he will turn her into the most beautiful woman in the world, if she'll wear three dresses. The catch? She's got to fall in love and be married within a short window of time. And he really does mean fall in love, not just snag some guy who wants to marry the most beautiful woman in the world. Rebecca gets right to the threshold of making everything come true, after a lot of misadventures and growth, and watches everything fall to ashes. Tom was teaching her more about Life than she realized, and there's more to both Tom and her life than Becky ever guessed. This is a crazy read, nowhere near realistic, but also darkly fun to read.

Book provided by my local library.

Lola and the Boy Next Door
Stephanie Perkins
Dutton, 2011

I thoroughly enjoyed Perkins's debut Anna and the French Kiss, and was very excited to finally get my hands on Lola. I was not disappointed: Lola is an endearingly chaotic 'heroine', in only good ways. She's a super creative girl, and has all the impetuous enthusiasm of seventeen. She makes mistakes, she misunderstands, she crashes. But she doesn't stay down. Especially with the help of her best friend Lindsey, and the surprising pick-back-up of childhood friend Cricket Bell. (Anna and St Clair also make a reappearance, and are voices of experience in Lola's ear. Plus St Clair is just fun!). How do I explain Cricket? He's awesome. Amazing. If not for the skinny pants, I'd be in love with him myself. He's not perfect, but his imperfections make him even more a long-legged puppy you can't help but adore. That's actually a pretty good summary of the book: On the surface, it seems just "too much" -- Lola never repeats an outfit/always dresses in costume; she's dating a much older, bad boy musician; etc. But it works. Because Lola is real, and all the characters could literally be walking down the street. It's life, in a book.

Book provided by my local library.


Blog Tour: Life in Outer Space

Hey guys, while I'm experiencing my first ever library conference (eep!), thanks for stopping by -- you're in luck today, it's another Peachtree blog tour. This time, featuring the intensely amusing Aussie novel Life in Outer Space. And, as always, don't forget to check out the complete tour schedule (there's even a chance to win your own copy)!

Life in Outer Space
Melissa Keil
Peachtree, 2013

There is a reason I love YA literature. There is also a reason I'm falling in love with Australian-pubbed novels, YA or otherwise. Life in Outer Space could be Exhibit A in a display explaining these attractions and affections. Its an entirely refreshing and exceptionally entertaining novel about a group of high schoolers who are geektastic. And I do mean geektastic.

The ring leader of this little tribe of nomadic geeks (okay, so not really nomadic, but it felt like a fun thing to say) is Sam. If anyone has ever fully embraced his geek-level status, it is Sam. He is a walking guru on all things horror movie and related ("real") movie trivia. Girls? Nah, Sam's not worried about the lack of feminine interest in his geektasmic self -- he's never met a girl who can hold a candle to Princess Leia. Until ... The day a new girl breezes into class, with a funky sense of style and the ability to make friends with everyone. Camilla appears to be everything polar opposite of Sam and his buddies -- but she also really enjoys hanging out with them. Especially Sam. And this means that life as Sam knows it, is officially over.

Even though it's an Australian novel, set in Australia, Life in Outer Space is such a teenager story. I think there are huge chunks of growing up that are universal, and some experiences that we can all relate to whether it happens in San Francisco, Middle-o-Nowhere, or Australia. It's just part of life, and that helps bring the human family closer together, ya know? Okay, philosophical wandering aside, we all know what it's like to be a high school student, a teenager, and deal with other teenagers. It's crazy. And wonderful. And terrible. Sam and Camilla, and the whole teen cast of this novel? They're real. They're walking down halls in schools around the globe. And this feeling of realism and authenticity takes this fun and quirky story and gives it added depth. Don't get me wrong, it's still a hilarious read -- I snickered out loud a few times -- but it's not just another high school musical (don't hate: I love those movies). Definitely worth picking up; but don't blame me if you get hooked on Australian publishing ... :o)

ARC provided by publisher for review.


Release Day Blitz: Seeing Light

Seeing Light
The Seraphina Parrish Trilogy # 3
Genre- YA Fantasy/ Time Travel
Publication Date- October 10th, 2013 

As the corruption of the Society intensifies and the questions surrounding her mother mount, Seraphina Parrish embarks on a journey to find Terease in the terrifying Wandering city of Nocturna. But the information she learns there only sends her team on a dangerous mission to fulfill an ancient prophecy. Delving deep into the disturbing secrets of their world, the revelations quickly unravel, revealing shocking truths about the Society and Sera’s life. In the end, power and courage clash in a mission for freedom that may shatter the Wandering world completely.



Blog Tour: Grounded

Today I am happy to be a part of the blog tour for Angela Correll's new novel Grounded. Catch the review now, and swing back later for a guest post from Angela!

Angela Correll
Koehler, 2013

True confession: I almost turned this tour down. I've got a huge stack of books to read, for both myself (the biggest pile, by far) and for review. But something about it kept beckoning, so I agreed. When something persistently nudges you to read something, do it! I had no idea this book would be just what I needed at the time. I'm not even entirely sure I know how to explain why, but I'll try ...

Annie has the world at her fingers. Literally. As a flight attendant with seniority, she gets to travel the global skies and spend time in gorgeous places. Like Rome, a special favorite destination. She's got a small circle of great friends, and a boyfriend who seems a dream come true. Then everything falls in pieces at her feet. The airline's purchased by another, and her job disappears. Too Perfect Boyfriend Stuart turns out to be, quite literally, too perfect to be true. Stranded in New York City without an apartment, what's a girl to do? Run home. Back to Kentucky, and the farm she grew up on.

After the bustle of life in the City, and the adventure of flying around the world, Annie has a hard time adjusting to the quiet rhythms of rural Kentucky. But the quiet is just what she needs, and soon she finds herself settling into a comfortable routine, aided in large part by reconnecting with childhood best friend Jake Wilder and getting to know her grandmother better. Not only is Annie able to repair old relationships, but she uses the respite to get to know herself better - rediscovering old passions and dreams, as well as finding new visions for the future. Her soul settles, her heart finds rest. And when it's time to make big choices, Annie is able to make a decision that both heart and mind find more than acceptable.

Annie's story is one that could be any girl's - finding herself jobless and heartbroken, returning home and finding new dreams in old familiar places. I could relate to Annie. I love the Kentucky setting - it's small town Southern enough to be familiar, even if it's a couple states away from what I know. And the supporting characters? Beulah (grandma) and Jake Wilder (the best friend) are awesome. Not to mention Woody, Lindy and the rest of the population. A comforting, familiar read that I am so glad I picked up.

Book provided by author for review.


Blog Tour: Where is Baby?

Time for another Peachtree blog tour! This one is entirely too cute, and once you read my review make sure you check out the complete line-up Emily's arranged!

Where is Baby?
Kathryn O. Galbraith & John Butler (illustrator)
Peachtree, 2013

Oh goodness. If you couldn't tell from the cover image, this book is incredibly adorable. Actually, it's beautiful. The illustrations are so well done -- I could easily see framing some of them as prints for a baby nursery (or "just because"). Simply beautiful. And for picture books, luring little kiddies into a lifetime of future reading, you've got to have beautiful pictures. Or so I think, at least.

Of course, the "story" is also engaging: a delightful romp through the baby animal world, discovering hiding places and cozy crannies. The text adds to the experience without detracting from the illustrations, and it's not too overwhelmingly wordy -- a good starter read, actually. And, as with so many of the awesome books put out by Peachtree, in the back are a couple pages of facts about the animals described within. Gotta love the combination of a beautifully illustrated, sweet read and science. Now, I may just curl up with this again, just to look at all the details in the pictures (seriously, details abound!) ...

Galley provided by publisher for review.


Blog Tour: Blackmoore

Today I'm absolutely thrilled to share with you a review of Julianne Donaldson's latest release Blackmoore. You may remember when I reviewed her debut Edenbrooke last year; I am very happy to say that Blackmoore is every bit as amazing. If not better.

Kate Worthington knows she can never have her heart’s desire and so believes she will never marry. But Kate’s meddlesome mother has other plans. Kate journeys to the stately manor of Blackmoore on the cliffs above the seashore, where she must face the truth and the man that has kept her heart captive.

Set in northern England, Blackmoore is a Regency romance that tells the story of a young woman struggling to learn to follow her heart. With hints of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, Blackmoore is a page-turning tale of romance, intrigue and devotion.

Check out my review below, and then click the banner to see what others think!

Julianne Donaldson
Shadow Mountain, 2013

Kate Worthington is many things, but she is not like her mother and sisters. The women in her family have an ill-gotten legacy of scandal, and even though their mistakes have cost her everything her heart desires, Kate is determined to break the tradition. She's forsworn marriage - and love - and seeks only to escape to India with her spinster aunt. After a long-desired visit to Blackmoore, of course. Blackmoore is the ancestral home, and future inheritance, of Kate's best friend Henry Delafield. Kate's plans are not her mother's plans however, and Kate quickly discovers just how far her mother is willing to push her to get her own way. Even as she seems to escape easily - agreeing to obtain (and reject) three proposals of marriage while at Blackmoore, thus earning the trip to India - Kate is sucked deeper into a vortex she cannot escape. She is forced to confront her own demons, all her hidden secrets, opening her heart up to searing pain and losing everything precious all over again. Blackmoore was supposed to be a dream come true, but it feels more like a nightmare to Kate.

I loved this book. Loved this book. I love Kate, and her struggles - she's trying so hard to keep herself from hurting, to break the mold of her family. She's fighting so hard that she gets a little lost, and that's a feeling I can relate to myself. But she is a fighter, so she's going to make it - you know she is, one way or another - and you root for her, and cringe and cheer for her by turns. And then there's Henry. Oh stars, but is there Henry. He's the perfect boy-next-door best friend, but he's also ... well, Henry. The heir of Blackmoore. A gentleman. Someone Kate has known and loved her whole life, and so, so much more. He's fighting too, fighting to be true to himself and understand the struggles that are sending Kate into the wild dangers of India. Their individual stories are so closely intertwined ...

Donaldson does a masterful job of weaving in the backstory, as Kate - and Henry - get brave enough to look back into the past, we experience it through their memories. Each "flashback" adds depth to the "present" story, and isn't distracting or confusing the way they can be at times. And the characters, oh the color and breath in the characters. I just ... You've got to read this. It's a Regency story with spunk and flair and surprises that will take your breath away.

ARC provided by publisher for review.

About the Author
Julianne Donaldson grew up as the daughter of a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot. She learned how to ski in the Italian Alps, visited East Berlin before the wall came down, and spent three years living next to a 500-year-old castle. After earning a degree in English, she turned her attention to writing about distant times and places. She lives in Utah with her husband and four children.
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Blog Tour: Claude at the Circus

Hi guys, welcome to another Peachtree blog tour! Today I'm happy to share a review for Claude at the Circus, the second installment of the super cute adventures of a very spunky dog. Emily's done another great job lining up an exciting tour, so make sure you check it all out after catching my review!

Claude at the Circus
Alex T Smith
Peachtree, 2013

Remember meeting the adorably entertaining Claude and his best friend Sir Bobblysock? Well, they're back! And do they ever return with style -- Claude is nothing if not spiffy, and Sir Bobblysock is so very posh and refined. For a sock, of course. (But how can you not love Claude's beret?) Our dazzling dog-and-sock duo's latest adventure takes place on a lovely Saturday when Mr and Mrs Shinyshoes take a daytrip. Leaving Claude to his own devices. Uh-oh ...

Deciding it's a perfect day for exploring, Claude and Sir Bobblysock wander into the Park, and discover all kinds of wonderful people and places. They even help save the day when a mommy out for a jog loses her baby carriage! The best is yet to come however, when Amazing Alan (of Alan's Amazing Circus) gives them ringside seats for his show. After arriving early, and doing a little spring cleaning, Claude and Sir Bobblysock settle in for a good show. But ... it's not. It's a horrible show, and Amazing Alan quickly sends the pair into the ring, to rescue his circus.

An incredibly fun book for both early chapter book readers and adults, the text is easy to read and the illustrations - simply done in grayscale and red - are hilarious. The chapter length make it feel like a real adventure, building excitement and spotlighting Claude's antics throughout the day. Claude is definitely becoming a favorite, and I look forward to his further adventures.

Galley provided by publisher for review.


Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood

Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood
Abby McDonald
Candlewick, 2013

We all know I'm a fan of Jane Austen and the realm of Austenesque literature/paraliterature (what I label "Austenia" here). We also know I'm a fan of contemporary YA. Combine the two, and it's safe to assume I'm going to enjoy the read. That was definitely the case in Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood.

This contemp take on Sense & Sensibility throws some interesting twists into the original storyline, but I never got the feeling anything was "missing." In fact, I think McDonald did a masterful job of transferring a very time-and-culture-specific situation into a contemporary, relatable story. And the characters are marvelous. Simply marvelous. Grace is an Elinor that I think people will relate to more than Austen's original, and Hallie is a spot-on imagining of a twenty-first century Marianne. With cellphones and the internet, and being set in Hollywood (hello!), the whole Elinor/Edward relationship between Grace and Theo develops more "naturally", and seems more plausible. Who hasn't wondered what a guy means when he texts/emails so-and-so, or stops texting/emailing after such-and-such? Likewise, Hallie's relationship with Dakota (Willoughby) is more realistic, though just as dramatic. And I love-love-loved Brandon, who is - clearly - the contemporary remaking of Colonel Brandon.

A very fun reimagining of a favorite story, with characters I could root for (even if I occasionally wanted to shake Hallie) and relate to. A quick read that will also appeal to readers who are not fans of Jane Austen (gasp!).

ARC received from publisher for review.


Mini Reviews: AugBooks Edition

After participating in Nancy's AugBooks Readathon, I'm grouping some of my reviews together as a mini review post (others, like The Silmarillion, are getting stand-alone reviews). While I didn't complete my reading list, I did get roughly half read (if we count finishing Gorgeous once the official AugBooks deadline passed), and there was only one I bailed one! Yahoo!

Beautiful Day
Elin Hilderbrand
Reagan Arthur, 2013

One of those perfect summer reads: a wedding weekend, a beautiful island/beachy setting (normally I read Southern beaches, so the Nantucket setting was new-but-still-familiar-feeling), and more family drama than a reunion in the Deep South. I loved the multiple perspectives, giving a multi-faceted inside look at everything taking place surrounding this One Beautiful Wedding. The backstory was woven in beautifully, and I just really enjoyed the whole reading experience.

Book provided by my local library.

Vivian Vande Velde
HMH, 2013

A supercute, quick late elem/MG read about what happens when the princess kissing the frog, gets frogged. Imogene is a likeable princess, and her time as a frog leads her on many misadventures with colorful people. It's also a time that teaches Imogene what it means to be a princess (something her mother's best efforts struggled with). And, of course, there's a Prince.

Book provided by my local library.

Jane Austen Marriage Manual
Kim Izzo
St Martin's Griffin, 2012

"What if a modern woman took Jane Austen's "marriage advice" to the letter, and applied it to her own life?" That's the basic premise of this novel, although with a slightly more cynical/materialistic bent than Jane herself suggested (although Mrs. Bennett would certainly agree with Kate's theories!). It's a fun, quick read. I figured out where it was going reeeeeally fast, but that didn't take away from the reading. The story itself fades into the background for me though, because what I really enjoyed were the characters. Kate's one crazy conflicted woman, and watching her struggle to justify things is both exasperating and entertaining. There's a whole cast of colorful and interesting characters, my favorites being Fawn and Griff. (Also fun: so many of Kate's intimate circle feature Austen character names: Marianne, Brandon, Emma, etc. So fun!) A good summer reading choice.

Book provided by my local library.

Andrea Cremer & David Levithan
Philomel, 2013

I loved the idea of this book, and I've enjoyed other books Levithan has co-written (especially loved Dash & Lilly's Book of Dares!), but once I started reading ... I just couldn't get into it. After several chapters from each viewpoint (alternating between Stephen and Elizabeth), I started skimming. And even skimming things were moving sooooo slowly. And it's kinda weird. I mean, I knew it'd be weird -- the guy is INVISIBLE -- but it's like, weird-weird. Thus, I'm leaving it unfinished. Hopefully other readers will enjoy it more.

Book provided by my local library.

Sidenote: I really enjoyed making myself a list of things to read in a set amount of time, and focusing on doing just that. I may employ a similar method for catching up on some of my reading the rest of the year ... Or, I may have a big "end of year readathon" ... Hmm ... Must think on this ...


Cover Reveal: Love at First Slight

I am very happy to be able to share a cover reveal with you today ... a new Austenesque imagining, forthcoming in October ... and I love the cover! What do you think?


Cover Reveal- August 30, 2013

Genre: Fiction | Romance | Historical | Regency | Jane Austen Sequel
Publication Date: October 1, 2013

About the Book:

“It may not be universally acknowledged, but the unvarnished truth is that a young widow in possession of a good fortune is not necessarily in want of another husband.”

In this humorous, topsy-turvy Pride & Prejudice variation, all the gender roles are reversed. It is Mr. Bennet’s greatest wish to see his five sons advantageously married. When the haughty Miss Elizabeth Darcy comes to Netherfield with the Widow Devonport nee Bingley, speculation—and prejudice—runs rampant.

William Bennet, a reluctant and irreverent future reverend, catches Miss Darcy’s eye even though he is beneath her station. However, his opinion of her was fixed when she slighted him at the Meryton Assembly. As her ardour grows, so does his disdain, and when she fully expects to receive an offer of marriage, he gives her something else entirely ….


Product Pages:

Author’s Website:

Publisher Websites:

About the Author:

J. Marie Croft, a Nova Scotia resident and avid reader all her life, discovered Jane Austen's works later than others but made up for lost time by devouring the six novels and as many adaptations and sequels as she could find. In the midst of reading prodigious amounts of Austen-based fan-fiction, she realized, "Hey, I can do that." In her spare time, when not working at a music school or on a wooded trail enjoying her geocaching hobby, she listens to the voices in her head and captures their thoughts and words in writing. Her stories are light-hearted; and her motto is Miss Austen's own quote, "Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery." J. Marie Croft is a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America (Canada)
and admits to being "excessively attentive" to the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. She can be contacted at jmariecroft@gmail.com.