Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Book Review: Ignite

Ignite (Defy, #2)Author: Sara B. Lawson
Publication Date: December 30, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Series: Defy # 2

Murder, kidnapping, and forbidden romance abound in this thrilling sequel to Sara B. Larson's acclaimed YA debut, DEFY.

Alexa continues to harbor a secret love for the newly crowned King Damian, yet she remains by his side as his guard and ever committed to helping him rebuild Antion and reclaim the hope of Antion's people. However, when a new threat to Damian and his kingdom emerges, and blame is cast on the once friendly nation of Blevon, Alexa knows things are not what they seem. Once again the fate of her country hangs in the balance. Will Alexa be able to protect her king and uncover the true enemy -- before it's too late?

“Because sometimes we are needed to stay, and sometimes it’s better if we go somewhere else.”

The pain from my scars had eased over the last month, but it was still there. A constant reminder of the battle I’d fought against Iker.

My heart jumped into my throat and my fingers tightened around the hilt of my sword.

This book picked up right where the first one, Defy, left off. Fans of Defy will find themselves loving Ignite just as much, if not more. Alexa, our leading lady, has already saved her people and defeated their cruel king, but she is back in this installment for some more action and adventure. This book blew me away with its high fantasy appeal and all the breathtaking romance that goes so perfectly with this world and only wraps you up in the story that much more. The characters are still as intriguing as they were in the first novel, and Alexa, in my opinion, only gets better and better.

The world that Lawson has created has to be my favorite thing about this series so far. Well that and the way that the characters fit into the world and they both continue to build and grow with each new chapter. New conflicts developed in this installment that made things very interesting and added a dangerous twist to the plot. The happenings in this story only made me that much more anxious for the next installment. High fantasy is not my favorite genre because I am usually left trying to keep up with all the elements of the story, but Lawson gives readers a world that is completely wonderful, easy to follow and easy to understand!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Scholastic Press in exchange for my honest review***

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Book Review: The Dress Shop of Dreams

The Dress Shop of Dreams: A NovelAuthor: Menna Van Praag
Publication Date: December 30, 2014
Publisher: Ballantine Books

For fans of Alice Hoffman, Sarah Addison Allen, and Adriana Trigiani, The Dress Shop of Dreams is a captivating novel of enduring hopes, second chances, and the life-changing magic of true love.

Since her parents’ mysterious deaths many years ago, scientist Cora Sparks has spent her days in the safety of her university lab or at her grandmother Etta’s dress shop. Tucked away on a winding Cambridge street, Etta’s charming tiny store appears quite ordinary to passersby, but the colorfully vibrant racks of beaded silks, delicate laces, and jewel-toned velvets hold bewitching secrets: With just a few stitches from Etta’s needle, these gorgeous gowns have the power to free a woman’s deepest desires.

Etta’s dearest wish is to work her magic on her granddaughter. Cora’s studious, unromantic eye has overlooked Walt, the shy bookseller who has been in love with her forever. Determined not to allow Cora to miss her chance at happiness, Etta sews a tiny stitch into Walt’s collar, hoping to give him the courage to confess his feelings to Cora. But magic spells—like true love—can go awry. After Walt is spurred into action, Etta realizes she’s set in motion a series of astonishing events that will transform Cora’s life in extraordinary and unexpected ways.

No, these women are looking for much more than that; they are looking for a lost piece of themselves. Which is exactly what Etta Sparks can give them.

Now Etta knows that great love only comes once in a lifetime, if you’re lucky.

A simple, ordinary day, made special and extraordinary by first love and first words.

It’s a great shame, she thinks, that the heart cannot feel joy without also feeling pain, that it cannot know love without also knowing loss.

I have been a fan of Alice Hoffman ever since I became entranced with her novel, Practical Magic. The magical realism genre is full of intrigue and sweet, cozy stories. I discovered Menna Van Praag’s newest book and was reminded of Hoffman’s mystical and engaging magical tales. This book is full of romance, mystery, magic, and so much more. A lot of the book takes place in Etta’s dress shop where she has the ability to set free a woman’s deepest desires. Etta hopes to unleash some of her magic on her granddaughter Cora who cannot see the love that is directly in front of her. This novel contains four different love stories, told from varying perspectives, all while Cora is trying to solve her parent’s murder mystery. There is a little something for all in this book!

The characters in this story are all connected in one way or other and they are all rich and complicated and have obstacles they are facing in life. There are sad moments in the lives of these characters, but there are moments of extreme joy as well. I was completely enamored with this story and all of its original details. Menna has become of my favorite authors. Just like Alice Hoffman, I vow to read whatever she releases next. Her writing is breathtaking and is sure to make a believer out of you!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Ballantine in exchange for my honest review***

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Book Review: No Place To Fall

No Place to FallAuthor: Jaye Robin Brown
Publication Date: December 9, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen

Amber Vaughn is a good girl. She sings solos at church, babysits her nephew after school, and spends every Friday night hanging out at her best friend Devon’s house. It’s only when Amber goes exploring in the woods near her home, singing camp songs with the hikers she meets on the Appalachian Trail, that she feels free—and when the bigger world feels just a little bit more in reach.

When Amber learns about an audition at the North Carolina School of the Arts, she decides that her dream—to sing on bigger stages—could also be her ticket to a new life. Devon’s older (and unavailable) brother, Will, helps Amber prepare for her one chance to try out for the hypercompetitive arts school. But the more time Will and Amber spend together, the more complicated their relationship becomes . . . and Amber starts to wonder if she’s such a good girl, after all.

Then, in an afternoon, the bottom drops out of her family’s world—and Amber is faced with an impossible choice between her promise as an artist and the people she loves. Amber always thought she knew what a good girl would do. But between “right” and “wrong,” there’s a whole world of possibilities.

I picture the second red tack on my map. Maybe red isn't what I thought it had to be for at all. Maybe red is for love.

Make me whole and wash me clean of anything but the sound of my voice.

As he strolls out of the kitchen, whistling, the band breaks into “Runnin’ with the Devil.” Just great.

What I figure is that the outsides of a girl matter way more than anyone cares to admit.

Any time of year is a perfect time to pick up and read a young adult contemporary novel. I have always been a fan of a good contemporary novel and I always will be. Amber is our leading lady and it is her story that we get to be a part of. She lives in a small town, the kind that people fight and push to get out of, and she lives with a not so normal family. Her father is an awful person to her mother, her sister is married to a drug dealer, and Amber just wants to see her dreams of singing become reality. Amber gets by with help from her best friend Devon, who is completely devoted to her protection and sanity. Amber becomes involved in a secret relationship with Devon’s brother, Will, because he already has a girlfriend. Amber makes some really bad choices along the way, but Devon continues to stand by her and support her even when she hits rock bottom.

This book deals with some very realistic issues that many teens experience: drugs, sex, and alcohol, just to name a few. This story is emotional at times, as are most coming of age stories. The issues and daily obstacles that Amber faces are real and raw. This is just the way they should be. Brown’s writing gets very poetic and deep at times. In fact, there were moments where I had to stop, pause, and reflect on some of her words. She is very talented with writing dramatic, emotional scenes and making them stick with the reader.

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at HarperTeen in exchange for my honest review***

Friday, December 19, 2014

Book Review: Princess of Thorns

Princess of ThornsAuthor: Stacey Jay
Publication Date: December 9, 2014
Series: Delacorte Press

Game of Thrones meets the Grimm's fairy tales in this twisted, fast-paced romantic fantasy-adventure about Sleeping Beauty's daughter, a warrior princess who must fight to reclaim her throne.

Though she looks like a mere mortal, Princess Aurora is a fairy blessed with enhanced strength, bravery, and mercy yet cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as a boy, she enlists the help of the handsome but also cursed Prince Niklaas to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora's throne ten years ago.

Will Aurora triumph over evil and reach her brother before it's too late? Can Aurora and Niklaas break the curses that will otherwise forever keep them from finding their one true love?

The fairies made her the most beautiful when she was only a baby.

I will never be anyone’s girl but my own.

I can practically taste victory, hot and salty on my tongue.

I am as peaceful as a shell filled with the echo of the sea.

A lot of things about this book were right up my alley. The romance was not instant, the action was full of force, and the characters were developed down to a science. Not to mention, there were several hints of many well-loved fairy tales throughout the story. I was surprised at the twists and turns this story took because I had something completely different pictured in my mind. Stacey Jay’s writing is beautiful, rich, and deep and it is one of the reasons why I found this book so hard to put down at night. Aurora was one tough heroine; I wouldn’t mind reading more characters like her on a daily basis. This was a wonderful fantasy book full of many adventures. Stacey Jay has done it yet again!

The relationship between Aurora and Nikklaas was by far my favorite thing about this story. This is how a love story should be written! Their love/romance was not instant and they both had flaws that the other learned to love and overlook. They both have characteristics that make me love and hate them at the same time. I loved the fact that they would bicker with one another. Their banter was part of the fun of reading! They are stubborn and their tendency to butt heads is what allowed me to relate to them so well; I am just as stubborn as Aurora!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Delacorte Press in exchange for my honest review***

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Book Review: The Look of Love

The Look of LoveAuthor: Sarah Jio
Publication Date: November 25, 2014
Publisher: Plume

“Jio has become one of the most-read women in America.” –Woman’s World

Born during a Christmas blizzard, Jane Williams receives a rare gift: the ability to see true love. Jane has emerged from an ailing childhood a lonely, hopeless romantic when, on her twenty-ninth birthday, a mysterious greeting card arrives, specifying that Jane must identify the six types of love before the full moon following her thirtieth birthday, or face grave consequences. When Jane falls for a science writer who doesn’t believe in love, she fears that her fate is sealed. Inspired by the classic song, The Look of Love is utterly enchanting.

Amour vi ten avant. Love lives on.

Tulips are the only flowers that continue to grow, up to an inch or more, after they’re cut.

My mom used to say that for every year you loved someone, it takes a month to recover.

This book was a gem. I was in such a great book reading mood when I picked up this book and was instantly intrigued by the magical realism aspect that was detailed in the synopsis. Jane has the ability to see true love. Her vision becomes cloudy and if the love is strong enough, she often has to sit down to keep from falling. She is tasked with the goal of finding and seeing the six types of love before her thirtieth birthday, or she loses the chance at finding true love for herself. Jane’s character was wonderfully developed and I loved how at first she was completely cynical and turned off to anything having to do with love. Jane learns to appreciate the idea of love once she begins witnessing all the new and old relationships around her. Her story is one that is perfect for this Christmas season.

Following Jane in her journey to find and identify the six types of love was unbelievably magical; I loved every page and did not want to finish this story. Jane witnesses so many types and forms of love and some of them are not at all what you would expect. Not only do you receive Jane’s story, but you get to be a part of so many other love stories as well. Jane has a hard job and sometimes she is forced to witness the heartbreak of some of her closest friends and even her brother, but the ending of this story was enough to bring tears to my eyes, happy, happy tears! If you have to buy for a book lover this Christmas, I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book for them!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Plume in exchange for my honest review***

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Book Review: Top Ten Clues You're Clueless

Top Ten Clues You're CluelessAuthor: Liz Czukas
Publication Date: December 9, 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen

Top Five Things That Are Ruining Chloe’s Day

5) Working the 6:30 a.m. shift at GoodFoods Market

4) Crashing a cart into a customer’s car right in front of her snarky coworker Sammi

3) Trying to rock the “drowned rat” look after being caught in a snowstorm

2) Making zero progress with her crush, Tyson (see #3)

1) Being accused—along with her fellow teenage employees—of stealing upwards of $10,000 

Chloe would rather be anywhere than locked in work jail (aka the break room) with five of her coworkers . . . even if one of them is Tyson. But if they can band together to clear their names, what looks like a total disaster might just make Chloe’s list of Top Ten Best Moments.

The trouble with “Feliz Navidad” is that everyone hates it, but you can’t stop yourself from singing it.

I swear, I must be missing some crucial part in my brain that tells my mouth to stop moving.

“Besides, someone’s got to have some attitude around here.”

How can I have so many bits of information and still be so clueless?

I have another perfect and cozy little tale to share with you right here at the holidays. Chloe’s story takes place on Christmas Eve in a grocery store right in the middle of all the holiday rush. This book had me laughing out loud and made me realize the pure perfection that can come from making lists. In fact, I could make a list of reasons why you will love this story, but I won’t. I will leave all the list making to Chloe. I love books that are written in the format of a diary, letters, or in this case, lists. Chloe makes a lot of them and it made connecting with her character even easier for me. Chloe is really made out to be a real teenager. Her thoughts are sometimes scattered, she is a little random, and she has one of the biggest crushes ever on a co-worker. This book was made by Chloe’s characters and all of her fantastic lists.

But in all seriousness, Chloe and the amazing cast of characters behind her are all worth picking up this book for. There is romance and so many laugh out loud moments that you would be crazy to pass this book up. There is a little mystery and an overarching theme of friendship, which I think anyone can benefit from reading. Most importantly, this book is light, fluffy, and totally addictive. Sometimes we all just need a break from our overworked and stressful lives. Chloe helped me relax by giving me so much to laugh at in her crazy story that takes place in the span of one day! This would make a perfect gift this Christmas season!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Harper Teen in exchange for my honest review***

Monday, December 8, 2014

Book Review: Razed

Razed (Barnes Brothers, #2)Author: Shiloh Walker
Publication Date: December 2, 2014
Publisher: Berkley
Series: Barnes Brothers # 2

Tattoo artist Keelie Jessup can handle that someone else has claimed the man of her dreams. She’s just not pleased with her remaining options…

Keelie doesn’t believe in the “perfect man.” But the men who are worth the trouble are usually taken—like her business partner Zach Barnes. After a string of bad luck and the lost chance with Zach, Keelie decides that maybe flying solo—and living with suppressed desires—is the key to happiness.

As a photographer, Zane Barnes has an eye for the human form, and his eyes can’t get enough of Keelie’s curves. Unfortunately, Keelie is like most women—always fawning over his little brother, Zach. Zane is about ready to give up, but then a few stolen moments at his brother’s wedding have him thinking maybe there’s a chance there after all. Now he just has to prove that the perfect man does exist…for her.

It took more restraint than Zane thought he had not to pull her closer.

Zane gave himself ten seconds to start after her as she headed down the hall. Ten seconds, because if he didn’t, he’d be looking for her the entire time he was there, and he knew it.

Zane snorted. “Unlike you, superstar, I don’t need to make myself pretty for a date. I already am pretty.”

Although I have not read the first book in this series, I am very eager to do so after reading Keelie and Zane’s story. Keelie and Zane have a bit of a past together, no matter how mall it may be, and it was interesting to see their story play out nice and slowly. They both had a few things to get past before either of them were ready for a real, committed relationship. I tend to like stories where the heroine is pieced back together by the male protagonist. Keelie had a big secret that gets revealed later in the novel, and Zane takes part in piecing back together all of her broken pieces, most of which revolve around her secret. Even though I could predict most parts of the story, I was still very pleased with the character development and the way that the characters seemed to come alive in each other’s presence.

I absolutely loved the fact that their work in a tattoo shop bonded both Keelie and Zane. Keelie did not fit your average every day girly girl heroine. I loved that she was a little rough around the edges and had quite a bit of grit to her character. The fact that we know that these characters have known each other for a while, Zane actually has liked Keelie for quite some time, made these characters much easier to relate to. Plus, who doesn’t like to picture their lead characters in tattoos? This book will have you reading so fast because you are that enthralled with the words and tension and will also cause you to read slowly because you dread seeing these characters go.

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Berkley in exchange for my honest review***

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Book Review: Seventh Grave and No Body

Seventh Grave and No Body (Charley Davidson, #7)Author: Darynda Jones
Publication Date: October 21, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Series: Charley Davidson # 7

Twelve. Twelve of the deadliest beasts ever forged in the fires of hell have escaped onto our plane, and they want nothing more than to rip out the jugular of Charley Davidson and serve her lifeless, mangled body to Satan for dinner. So there’s that. But Charley has more on her plate than a mob of testy hellhounds. For one thing, her father has disappeared, and the more she retraces his last steps, the more she learns he was conducting an investigation of his own, one that has Charley questioning everything she’s ever known about him. Add to that an ex-BFF who is haunting her night and day, a rash of suicides that has authorities baffled, and a drop-dead sexy fiancĂ© who has attracted the attentions of a local celebrity, and Charley is not having the best week of her life.

A tad north of hell, a hop, skip, and a jump past the realm of eternity, is a little place called Earth, and Charley Davidson, grim reaper extraordinaire, is determined to do everything in her power to protect it.

“I often question my sanity. Occasionally it replies.”

“Of course I’m an organ donor. Who wouldn’t want a piece of this?”

“Are you ready?” she asked, whispering. “Ready as a drunk virgin on prom night.”

“If I’m upset, hold me and tell me how beautiful I am. If I growl, retreat to a safe distance and throw chocolate. BEST. ADVICE. EVER.”

Fans of Darynda Jones and Charley Davidson already know the deal when it comes to this fabulous series of books. This was actually the very series that got me interested in anything paranormal. I picked this series up years ago, and even now I am still loving where Darynda is taking things and her writing never ceases to amaze me, and after seven books in one series I think this says a lot. Charley Davidson is her usual confident, smart, funny self and one of my favorite characters of all time. Charley’s character does not often make huge progressions until this installment and the one before it, at least I don’t feel that she does, but her snarky, humorous personality more than makes up for it. She is everything I could ever want in a bookish best friend!

Charley’s sidekick characters like Cookie and the ever hot and steamy Reyes are part of what makes these stories as well. Without these characters the stories would not be the same. While Charley is a pivotal character, I would argue that many of the secondary characters are just as pivotal as our lead heroine. I felt that with this book, more than any of the rest, I was either laughing or crying. Emotions ran high because of several expected and unexpected happenings! As always, Darynda Jones both shocked and amazed me with some of her plot twists and developments. You will definitely want to start with book one in this series, and I promise you will not be disappointed. I am already anxious for book eight!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at St. Martin’s Press in exchange for my honest review***