Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Red Blazer Girls: The Mistaken Masterpiece by Michael Beil

Description from Goodreads Link
Sophie, Margaret, Becca, and Leigh Ann are back in an all-new Red Blazer Girls caper. In the third installment, Sophie is nose to fist with her arch-rival, Livvy, all while taking care of movie-star Nate Etan's dog, when Father Julian hires the Blazers to help him authenticate a painting. Mayhem and mystery follows as the girls attempt to uncover the truth. Oh, and, uh, Sophie's friend-who-is-not-a-boyfriend, Raf, is back. . . . Here's another charming and engaging adventure starring these four every-girl sleuths that's perfect for readers 10-up

Sophie is having a great time she's enjoying school, has her best sleuth friends close and has decided to join the swim team. Then BAM! Livvy accidentally breaks Sophie's nose during swim practice. She thinks things are looking up for her when she gets invited to meet THE hottest actor Nate Etan and he asks her to watch his dog for a couple of weeks...for money! Then, the dog turns out to be a menace and eats her shoes and valuable clues in their next problem solving adventure!
The next problem to solve: Father Julian has asked the girls to find out 1. Which signed baseball is the correct one and not a fake. 2. If a painting is really a masterpiece or a fake. Then, a third mystery is thrown in when Sophie begins receiving mysterious packages in the mail. And who is the strange man at the gallery that will not leave the building? And why is Raf acting so weird? And what is Livvy really up to?
The Red Blazer Girls series is so fun! It's got humor, drama and I keep learning new things while solving the mysteries along with the girls. Not only that but I think it's about time I make a trip to New York and visit this famous park this book keeps talking about! (oh, and the coffee treats and pizza sound drool-worthy as well)
My favorite part of this book was how they found out which baseball was the fake, I had my heart in my throat when they discovered the mess! (you gotta read it to find out *wink) "Oh NO he didn't!" was my verbal reaction.

I have really enjoyed reading the Red Blazer Girls books over the past couple of weeks and have the pleasure to ask the author a couple questions of my own.
Author: Michael D Beil (photo taken from Author's page  )
  You have had many professions in your life, from sailmaker to lawyer to teacher. When in your life did you decide it was right to write? 

Sophie’s first words in The Ring of Rocamadour are: “For as far back as I can remember, I have told everyone I know that I am going to be a writer.”  That’s me as much as it is Sophie.  As a kid, I was inspired by the books I read; I was creative, and desperately wanted to be a part of that world.  One of my earliest efforts was a screenplay for an 8mm movie I made with my brother and some friends.  It was called The Seaweed Strangler, and that story was the inspiration for the book that I just finished - my first non-Red Blazer Girls novel. 

Having had several different careers, what was it that inspired you to write for young adults?

It took me a while to find my niche in the publishing world.  During the 90’s, I wrote two and half (unpublished) novels for grownups before my wife suggested that my “voice” - that elusive idea that publishers are always talking about - was a natural fit for the middle grade audience.   I wasn’t so sure at first, but gave it a shot.  I sat down one day and Sophie just started talking.  I wrote the first (of many, many) drafts of The Ring of Rocamadour in about six weeks!

You have been able to capture the humor and drama that young girls experience expertly, why did you decide to write the book with girls as the detectives instead of boys?

That was definitely the result of teaching in a girls’ school.  I teach freshman English, and while my students are a couple of years older than Sophie and her friends, they provide the inspiration.   Leigh Ann’s declaration (in The Vanishing Violin) that  “. . . I’ll bet your first punch is way more memorable than your first kiss” is a paraphrased version of something one of my students said during a play rehearsal.  I thought that was just about the funniest thing I’d ever heard, and I wrote in down in my “ideas” notebook immediately.

 You currently reside in New York but previously are from Ohio and New York is a BIG part of the books. What kind of inspiration do you get from the city that helps you plan the mysteries?  A special music store or museum  or coffee shop that inspired the places you write about?

One of the things I’ve tried to capture in the books is the girls’ nonchalance about living in “the city” (as everyone who lives here refers to it).  People (like me) who move here from other places are in awe of the place, but to kids like my students and the students at St. Veronica’s, it’s just home - they know no other way of life.  (When I first told my friends back in Ohio that my students rode the NYC subway to school every day, they couldn’t believe that parents could be that reckless with their own kids’ lives.)  As for specific places that inspire me, the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer, which is connected to the school, was the model for the church in The Ring of Rocamdour.  Regardless of your religious views, this gothic masterpiece is worth a look if you’re in town; the stained glass windows some of the most amazing ones you’ll see on this side of the Atlantic.  During the summers, when I’m writing full-time, I take the dogs for a walk in Central Park almost every morning.  It’s a wonderful place, and the walk gives me a chance to think about what I wrote the day before, and to plan the next few pages.  

 When you plan your quizzes for your classroom, are the questions as difficult to answer as some of the problems in the books? (For example you had the girls try to find which name doesn't fit into a list of classic character names). 

Not so much on quizzes or tests, but I try to give them some creative research assignments that force them to dig a little deeper than your basic Wikipedia entry.  For example, I do send them on a Dickens “treasure hunt” every year, in which they have to find all kinds of strange details about his life and books.  Full disclosure: it’s more fun for me than it is for them.  But hey, life is unfair like that sometimes.

How many Red Blazer Girls' books do you plan on writing? (Because I for one cannot wait to see what can happen next!) Or do you have any other books you are working on?
I’m working on the fourth RBG book right now, which will publish, I believe, in December 2012.  It’s set during the two weeks before Christmas, so that timing should be great!  But I promise that won’t be the end of “the girls”  I still enjoy their company, and my publisher has expressed interest in continuing, so . . .

As I mentioned above, I also recently finished my first non-RBG book (it’s in copyediting as I write this), which will publish next spring/summer.  It’s a coming of age story about a boy from New York who spends a summer vacation at his uncle’s lake house in . . . you guessed it, Ohio!  While he’s there, he finishes the monster movie his dad started years before, and solves a mystery about him in the process.  My editor and I haven’t quite settled on the title, but I can tell you that the working title was The Seaweed Strangler! 

Thanks for taking time to review The Mistaken Masterpiece and for inviting me to answer a few questions for you.   It’s a great blog, by the way!

Thank you for taking time to answer some questions for me Michael, I really enjoyed these books and look forward to the next part in their story.
Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy of The Red Blazer Girls: The Mistaken Masterpiece  to giveaway to a random lucky commenter on this post.
                            US mailing address only, please
  Remember I must have a way to connect to you or reach you if you win~
                          Giveaway Ends on July 8th!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Red Blazer Girls: The Vanishing Violin by Michael Beil

Description from 
When there are mysteries to be solved, the Red Blazer Girls are on the case! The discovery of the Ring of Rocamadour has secured the girls' reputation as Upper East Side super-sleuths, bringing many sundry job requests (no mystery too small, right?) and some unwanted attention from crooks. This time the girls must follow a trail of cryptic clues, involving everything from logic to literature, to trace a rare violin gone missing. But nothing is as it appears, and just as a solution seems imminent, the girls find themselves scrambling to save the man who was once their prime suspect. Bowstrings and betrayal, crushes and codes abound in this suspenseful companion to the Red Blazer Girls' 2009 debut. Recent clues indicate that there'll be more mystery and mayhem to come

Another fantastic adventure of the Red Blazer Girls (given their name from the red blazers they wear for school) This time I listened to the audio book. But I have to say I did not 
enjoy the audiobook as much as I did reading the physical book of the Ring of Rocomadour.
The main reason I would recommend the physical books instead of the audio is because of the clues. I found in the first book the clues are sometimes very visual. Although they are still worked through verbally in the audiobook it takes a lot of concentration and a notebook to solve the clues along with the girls and made it  more difficult to work through. 
This time they are given two mysteries to work out. There is a strange case of somebody cleaning the school after hours, tidying desks and fixing broken machines that nobody else in the school has done. Then the case of the stolen violin, and they decide to start their own band. These girls are keeping busy that's for sure! Oh! then they get to deal with the mean girl Livvy who seems to be a little jealous of their new found celebrity status. 
This mystery is very complicated and honestly I never even saw the result coming. Don't you love when that happens?!? This time they get involved in more than one mystery. Fantastic humor and adventure that leads them all around New York.
Another great book in the Blazer Girls Series. I love the humor and the adventures in these stories. You learn while you read in a very entertaining and fantastic reads. I could not chose my favorite clue on this one because I didn't get the visual from the audiobook I would have liked. My favorite part had to of been the ending though, when all the clues fit together!

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Red Blazer Girls: Ring of Rocamadour By Michael Beil

Description from  Ring of Rocamadour
  It all began with The Scream. And ended with . . . well, if we told you that, it wouldn’t be a mystery! But in between The Scream and The Very Surprising Ending, three friends find themselves on a scavenger hunt set up for a girl they never met, in search of a legendary ring reputed to grant wishes. Are these sleuths in school uniforms modern-day equivalents of Nancy, Harriet, or Scooby? Not really, they’re just three nice girls who decide to help out a weird lady, and end up hiding under tables, tackling word puzzles and geometry equations, and searching rather moldy storage rooms for “the stuff that dreams are made of” (that’s from an old detective movie). Oh, and there’s A Boy, who complicates things. As boys often do.Intrigued? The Red Blazer Girls offers a fun, twisty adventure for those who love mystery, math (c’mon, admit it!), and a modest measure of mayhem.Michael Beil, a New York City high school English teacher, makes his literary debut with this fun and brainy mystery

One day in class like any other day, Sophie looks out the window at school and thinks she sees a ghost in the window of the building next door and screams. She and her friends decide that during lunch they are going to investigate. They end up sneaking through the church and "breaking in" to the upper floors which connect the church to the adjacent building where the old Ms. Harriman resides. Ms Harriman of course finds them snooping and befriends them. Eventually Ms Harriman decides to send these girls on a quest to find a missing birthday present that her father and meant to pass on to her daughter before he passed. But sadly the first note with the clues on how to find the present had been stored in a book and left for 20 years. As the girls solve one clue it leads them to another clue. 

What I loved about this story is that the girls are hilarious. I found myself very amused with the dialogue and their reactions. They had me laughing in every chapter. 
The thing I found different in this book than others that are similar, is the way the clues are handled. The girls have to solve several types of problems, English, Math, etc. But the way that the book is written the girls explain the problems as they work through them. I of course would not have figured out these things on my own if I had to, but they all were very logical and interesting. I felt very accomplished when I found the answer to one of the clues before they did, then there was a twist I didn't see coming adding to my enjoyment of the puzzle. I was amazed the girls could figure out the very educational clues and seemed very advanced for their ages. (7th grade). 
I learned as I read and not only that, I found out new things that I want to continue exploring. For example I think I found a brand new interest in reading the classics, especially Dickens. There was even a chapter or two with math equations and you HAD to work out the problem to continue reading. (you will not be graded of course) and they walk you through the answer in the next chapter. With graphs as well as verbal explanations.
I highly recommend these books, fantastic reads, very entertaining and enjoyable. I felt like I was one of their group and on a fantastic treasure hunt working through the clues along with them.
My favorite clue of this book was:

Because: 1) It was the easiest one to solve. AND  2) I got to learn something new! ( hint: Ovisaries )
I was so proud of myself for solving it pages ahead of them, but I was still stumped because I did not know what  Ovisaries was, but through the girls I learned something new!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Spellbound by Cara Lynn Schultz

What’s a girl to do when meeting The One means she’s cursed to die a horrible death?

Life hasn’t been easy on sixteen-year-old Emma Conner, so a new start in New York may be just the change she needs. But the posh Upper East Side prep school she has to attend? Not so much. Friendly faces are few and far between, except for one that she’s irresistibly drawn to—Brendan Salinger, the guy with the rock-star good looks and the richest kid in school, who might just be her very own white knight.
But even when Brendan inexplicably turns cold, Emma can’t stop staring. Ever since she laid eyes on him, strange things have been happening. Streetlamps go out wherever she walks, and Emma’s been having the oddest dreams. Visions of herself in past lives—visions that warn her to stay away from Brendan. Or else
There was a little bit of everything in this story, witchcraft, mystery, cliques, rich kids and bullies.
We start off seeing her attending a new school and telling everybody some random untrue story about where she came from and her past (and you know nothing good comes from lying). Attracted to one of the first guys she meets, and finds unexpected friends who are attracted to the design on the necklace she wears.
I did find it hard to get through the first part of this book, but once the story really gets rolling it ends on a very action packed fast paced story.
My favorite part of the story were the dreams she had, they brought warnings and were kind of unusual. I really enjoyed that. I also am a believer in soulmates and love at first site, so I more than enjoyed the Brendan factor. Although Cisco was not a bad addition and great dating material as well.
Kristen and Anthony were some of the meanest characters I have come across in any Young Adult book. I truely did not like either of them from page one and if I attended that school would have avoided them like the plague. Emma is not that kind of girl though, she wants to get through school with as little drama as possible until the gossip becomes more than she can handle and she stands up to Anthony, causing a chain reaction.
Angelique helps her discover her witchy side and has a great personality. There is some funny dialouge and the story shifts from light and heavy moods throughout.
It was a very fast read, entertaining and a little bit of funny and scary.      Spellbound (Harlequin Teen)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Enclave by Ann Aguirre

New York City has been decimated by war and plague, and most of civilization has migrated to underground enclaves, where life expectancy is no more than the early 20's. When Deuce turns 15, she takes on her role as a Huntress, and is paired with Fade, a teenage Hunter who lived Topside as a young boy. When she and Fade discover that the neighboring enclave has been decimated by the tunnel monsters—or Freaks—who seem to be growing more organized, the elders refuse to listen to warnings. And when Deuce and Fade are exiled from the enclave, the girl born in darkness must survive in daylight, in the ruins of a city whose population has dwindled to a few dangerous gangs. As the two are guided by Fade’s long-ago memories, they face dangers, and feelings, unlike any they’ve ever known.  Description from Enclave


   Amazingly fast read, it was over before I could realize what happened! I am just kidding of course, but once this book gets rolling, it's off! It's like you can't turn the pages fast enough because you know something is going to happen, and the next big thing is just a couple pages away. And then your heart it beating so fast wondering if they are going to make it. Then it's over and your wondering..can I have book 2 now please?

It does not leave you with a huge cliff hanger ending. But it will leave you wanting more. Tons of adventure, action, kicking butt and weird cannible like creatures that will freak you out! (zombie's?)

The humans do not act much like humans either. They live underground, they have very short life spans and they are very protective of the little they have managed to save.

My only question is, and I may have been reading to fast to catch it. Is what happened to these people? Was this supposed to be a post-apocolyptic setting or just a natural disaster? There is one time they mention it being "worse than Katrina." But honestly going into the book I was thinking it was something bigger than Hiroshima big, or bigger! So for that sake I hope there is more to come because I'd like to know. And if your reading this and they explained it and I totally read right through that part and missed it, lemme know!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Burn Bright by Marianne De Pierres

"Listen well, baby bats. Burn bright, but do not stray from the paths. Remember, when you live in a place of darkness you also live with creatures of the dark."
"Ixion exists as an antidote to the rules and conventions of other places. We believe that indulging in pleasure will make better people. Self-denial and discipline and virtue area all myths and invented to control you."
The story grabs you from page one and never lets go. No long descriptions, no chapters of back story. Just jump right in. We follow Retra as she is escaping from the island of Grave. Running through the pain of the discipline strip that has been implanted into her thigh. Barely making the boat as it pulls away from the dock. She knows nothing about Ixion, it has been hidden from her, but that is where the runaways are taken. The pirates come....searching for older runaways? The kids that are too old to go to the island of Ixion?  Or, are they looking for something else?
Retra is looking for her brother who ran away before her. He went to Ixion needing to escape the contained, disciplined restrictions of Seal South on the island of Grave. 
Ixion is unreachable by sunlight. It is guarded by the Ripers, it is fed and clothed by the Uthers. It is also contained by the night for the sunlight does not reach the island, ever
. "Listen well, baby bats. Burn bright, but do not stray from the paths. Remember, when you live in a place of darkness you also live with creatures of the dark."
 Retra finds many new things on Ixion. She makes friends from other islands who have come to Ixion, who know more about Ixion. We learn as we go, following her every step to discover the island, and its inhabitants and it's rules. 
"Everyone comes here for pleasure, even if they think they don't. Embracing it is harder for some and they go mad before they truly accept it. Most of the places they come from are founded with guilt and rules. The Ripers want us to break away from that-some wish to tear it from us while others are more subtle. " 
They have to register and pick new names as they enter the island. They are stripped of their old clothes and given beds and rules. They must schedule resting times between the partying, the dancing and the music. If you don't rest you will burn out more quickly. You eat, you take your pills and you dance and then you rest. You mind the Ripers, the rules and don't stray from the paths. Your focus is to be happy, seek pleasure and try to ignore the fact that you will be removed when you become to old. 
There is unrest on Ixion. Gangs are forming and the uneasiness between the Ripers is noticeable.
The rules are changing.
"Rules? Ixion is supposed to be free of rules, yet it seems as strict as Grave in it's own way and more....more dangerous." 

Burn Bright is dark, it's creepy and it's fantastic. What a roller-coaster!
You can also visit Burn Bright Vlog to see my video review

This book is not yet available for purchase in the United States, Please help show your support if you are interested by helping spread the word about the books. The only way to purchase the book currently is directly through an Australian online seller.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hillserpent Academy by Richard Denney

 Description from
Owen Davinforth has been expelled from Hillserpent Academy for the last eight months & now he is permitted to return. But things have changed at the academy & not for the good. Owen's falling for a new guy, a dark force is working it's way around the school & it's aiming for Owen. Can he stop who or what it is before it's too late? What lies behind these gates? You will soon know

I consider Richard to be a friend. I met him through his Youtube, Twitter and Goodreads :!/RichardDenney88

Now, what I like about Richard is that he speaks his mind. His personality comes through in his writing as well, This is only the 2nd story I have read of his, but believe me I will read all of his works as they come out because his writing style always leaves a little humor in it and leaves you light-hearted. Hillserpent Academy was another fast read. It had action, crushes and my favorite of the characters Witcheisters, and maybe I loved them more for the name than their "character". I cannot help but to giggle a little, because I have family in Germany, so when I see the words like Witcheister, I say it really fast and it sounds German.
Hey! It's Saturday, so I thought I would be a little funny today...did I miss the mark?

Even if I missed your funny bone, so far I have found Richard's books to be really fast and fun reads. Full of adventure and humor and great characters.  I think they are perfect for that time of night when you want to wind down, get ready for bed and read a couple of pages before you sleep. His stories are short and perfect for that little bit of down time.

You may have noticed I did not actually write a review, so let's just call this one an author appreciation post!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Vampires Rule by KC Blake & Ebook Giveaway!

                                                    Vampires Rule
Description from
They don't call him Jackpot for nothing.

Jack has always beat the odds... at least until now. When he was attacked by a werewolf, vampires saved him. When he got tired of living the vampire life, another werewolf attack freed him, making him human again. Now Jack just wants to live a normal life, but what's normal about a hunter girlfriend, a brother who wants to stake him to be on the safe side, and a head werewolf building an army to rule the world?
Jack gets caught between his old friends and new, hunters and vampires. He wants to stay loyal to both, wants to protect everyone. Unfortunately, both sides are determined to kill the other. In the end, he'll have to make a choice

Here is a book that introduces us to a mixture of different creatures in one story. The main character Jack the vampire,  who turns human after only a handful of vampire years. The love interest Silver who's got powers of her own. The introduction of werewolves that set Jack free from his Vampire life. There is a mention of Faery and a new kind of creature the Wraith.
I for one love a story that introduces several types of species that interact. I love the twists that can happen in that kind of a story, but have yet to see one in which a vampire becomes human again. An all new twist leads to an all new kind of story! Not only does Jack rehumanize but he does it within the lifetime he would have still been alive if he had not changed. So, although older now, he gets to reconnect with his still human brother. But this leads to some interesting revelations when he decides to go back to school. Will he be recognized and if so what does that mean for him?
I found this story hugely entertaining. I read through it in no time as the twists keep rolling in, new people introduced and very intense and entertaining relationships happening. I also found the relationship between Silver and Jack very real, almost relatable (as it can be in a supernatural story) And Jersey was one of my favorite bad guys that I have read about in a long time. I never found a slow or boring moment in the whole book, very fast paced, original story that would make a fantastic summer read.

I was lucky enough to get to ask the author some questions about her book!

1.     Jack, Silver. How did you come up with your characters names?

Jersey is actually from another book that I tried to write years ago, and I don’t remember how I came up with it.  I think it had something to do with me wanting an old-fashioned sounding name because he was centuries old. With Silver, I was trying to think of an unusual name for a kick-butt heroine.  One of the names on my list was Erica, and that started me thinking about All My Children.  On the show, Erica used to have a sister named Silver. I liked it. Then when my girl became a werewolf hunter in the story, I started laughing because ‘only silver can kill werewolves.’  Get it?  I seriously didn’t do it on purpose, but it works. In the last book, Mortals Rule, you’ll learn about the origins of the name and the meaning behind it.

2.     I was very intrigued by the Wraiths. How did you come up with these creatures? Can you describe what they are and how you decided to use them in the story?

I read a lot of urban legends, and wraiths are just ghosts. I couldn’t find that much on them, so I created my own creatures and called them wraiths. In my book, I needed Jersey to have evil minions helping him, so I made wraiths into his slaves. Then I decided to trap them in their own bodies during the day. For their appearance at night, I turned to a nightmare I’d had as a kid. This wispy smoke-thing in the shape of a woman tried to kill me. While writing the story, I added the shiver of blue electricity and claws.

3.     Do you feel that having your main character, a vampire, turn human again makes him seem more vulnerable to the bad guys or stronger?

Well, I think Jack is vulnerable to a point. Once he becomes mortal again, he loses his vampire friends, and that makes him vulnerable to his enemies. He also loses his mortality, which definitely makes him vulnerable. But then he begins to develop powers of both vampire and werewolf. I think Jack has an inner-strength that gives him an advantage. Even though he can be killed, he doesn’t cower in a corner, and he doesn’t hide behind his hunter girlfriend. I like that about him.

4.     Who was your favorite character besides Jack as the main character and why?

I love Jersey.  The man has style.  Okay, he’s crazy-insane, but he’s got such charisma that I don’t think anyone could resist him for long. Someone told me they like him because ‘he might rip your head off, but he’ll quote Robert Frost while doing it.’  Another person compared him to Hannibal Lechter from Silence of the Lambs because he might be psychotic, but he’s a gentleman.

I also love Jack’s brother, Billy, because he can’t make up his mind if he should stake Jack through the heart or welcome him home.

5.     There are several different types of supernatural/paranormal beings in your book.  Does having a huge variety make the story harder to write or easier, especially regarding plot twists and character building?
My books are always complicated. I used to write romantic suspense for Harlequin, and my mysteries were extremely twisted. So I didn’t notice anything harder about this book. I wouldn’t call it easy either. It takes me a long time to construct the plot of a book and to write character bios, charts, etc.  I’ve been writing since I was twelve, so it’s second-nature to me now.

6.     I myself love that you included several different types of creatures living in the same world. What was your thought process on what creatures to include and are there some you wanted to include that you decided against altogether, or will there be more introduced in later books?
My next book will introduce a female werewolf and a shape-shifter.  Oh, yes, there is also the son of a notorious wizard. That will be the extent of the new creatures.

7.     If somebody is a vampire one day a human the next and a werewolf the next there can be an unimaginable number of combinations for something to become, was this concept of changing their status' something you thought of before you started writing or did it develop as you were already into the writing of the book?

The whole point of the book was to show what could happen if a vampire got a second chance at a mortal life. My books always start with questions. One day I started thinking about this, and I wondered if the vampire’s family would welcome him home? Would he be able to return to school? Could he fit in with normal people? Would his vampire friends walk away without a fight? There were several other questions, but you get the idea.
 This book is available for purchase at :   -Author's Website

                              Ebook Giveaway!
The author has been kind enough to offer some free copies of the ebook. So are you interested?
To enter for the giveaway for the code for an ebook download.
1. comment with your email address  
2. tweet @cubicleblindnes or @KasiBlake and say "I want to win a copy of Vampires Rule! by KC Blake"

As the code is only Good for download until JULY 1ST this giveaway is will end on June 25th
That's it! short, simple and sweet.
And remember if you enjoy the story, tell somebody about it! Goodreads, Twitter, facebook etc..share the love :)
Happy Reading! Thanks for Stopping by Today

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair

The Girl in the Garden   

Description from
The redemptive journey of a young woman unsure of her engagement, who revisits in memory the events of one scorching childhood summer when her beautiful yet troubled mother spirits her away from her home to an Indian village untouched by time, where she discovers in the jungle behind her ancestral house a spellbinding garden that harbors a terrifying secret.

A very endearing story of a girl telling the story of her summer in India. Her summer was full of events that changed her way of thinking about her life, love and family. She spends the summer of her 11th birthday with her mother's family in India. And slowly events unravel, stories evolve and the characters develop. The majority of this bitter-sweet story takes place at the family home. They do have some travels outside the rural Indian house, but the real evolutions happen right in the home. We see loss of life, love and childhood. The gaining of understanding, love and family.
        This was a story that I would like to read again. The evolution of the story and events unravelling was a perfect pace. It kept me very engaged and I was saddened when it was over. Beautiful story.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Queens of All the Earth By Hanna Sternberg   
As the author herself states on her website "Inspired by E. M. Forster's timeless classic, A Room with a View, I knew I wouldn't have to work too hard to cook up a plot. While best enjoyed on a Himalayan summit with a piping hot mug of green tea and yak butter, Queens of All the Earth is also microwavable for the modern reader on the go." 
Description from Goodreads: As her freshman classmates move into dorms at Cornell University, Olivia Somerset suffers a nervous breakdown. When months of coaxing and analyzing fail to rouse Olivia from her stupor, big sister Miranda decides the sisters should fly off to Barcelona for some "vacation therapy."

When a mistake at their Barcelona hostel leaves the Somersets in a large co-ed dorm room, Olivia and Miranda are saved by kindly Mr. Brown and his son Greg, who happily volunteer to surrender their private room. But while Olivia feels an instant connection with brooding Greg Brown, Miranda sides with fellow guest and cocky American travel writer Lenny:
The Browns are just plain weird, and must be avoided at all costs.
In the midst of urbane Peruvian priests-in-training and Scottish soccer fans, from the shops of La Rambla to the waters of the Mediterranean to the soaring heights of Montjuic, Miranda works to protect her still-fragile sister while Olivia struggles to understand her burgeoning adulthood, her feelings for Greg, and the fear that makes the next step in her life so impossible to take.
Inspired by E. M. Forster's classic novel A Room with a View, debut author Hannah Sternberg's Queens of All the Earth is a poetic journey of young love and self-awakening set against the beauty of Catalonia. Teenagers and adults alike will be riveted and moved by this coming-of-age novel about the conflicting hearts and minds of two very different sisters
         This is the first time I have compared a more contemporary novel with a paranormal. But the sisters relationship in this book really brought back the a similar situation we had between Scarlett and Rosie in Sister's Red by Jackson Pearce. One sister yearning to experience love and another sister a little overbearing with protective qualities. Although this book is minus the werewolves and action. The description really does say it all, of course that's why I include them!
         The plus side of the book is the writing is very descriptive and and can pull you in, making you feel like you are traveling with them experiencing the art and buildings. Some characters are very likeable and the romantic aspect between Olivia and Greg is cute.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Description from
In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.    

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.
Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance

My choice, if given the chance would have been Erudite. I would love to be able to learn new things everyday. Read and explore and build my mind to be able to create things and benefit society to help it run faster and more efficient. Also on the selfish side, I'd like to spend the majority of my days reading and learning new things. On the other hand if you asked my mother she'd tell you I am Candor.
I have heard people say Divergent is hard to read because the names of the factions are sometimes not used gramtically correct in the writing. But I never even noticed until I saw some twitter chat going on about it. Gladly I did not read the chats until I was done with the story so I was able to enjoy it without putting all those thoughts  behind it.
This book really did get me thinking. If you want to bring up darkness is Young Adult novels (WSJ article reference) this book contains some pretty brutal stuff. I hear it compared to the Hunger Games often but I really cannot see much of a comparison to explore that further.
What I will acknowledge was how much it got me thinking about people, society and government. I ended up deciding that to label people to be just one thing would be telling you that your not really human. In this book you are born to have a purpose and raised to fit in this nice little square to fit society's needs. In my mind you really need to be able to encompass several of these things (Candor, Erudite, Dauntelss and Amity) to really even call ourselves humans, otherwise your really just a robot.
My thoughts as I read were focused on the trials they had to go through to become members of their factions. I constantly found myself thinking, so after all this training...what kind of jobs will they have that requires such intense-ness. (yes I am being vague as to not spoil you).
So hint..this book becomes very intense. A little introduction, keeps you guessing. Then lots of interesting stuff happening, keeps you guessing. Then BAM intense and jaw dropping "I cannot believe that just happened." reactions. Then of course the magical "When does book two come out..I have to have it NOW" reaction.               
Happy Reading!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hereafter by Tara Hudson

Description from
Can there truly be love after death?

Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she's dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she's trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.
Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever.
Thrilling and evocative, with moments of pure pleasure, Hereafter is a sensation you won't want to miss.

This is one of the better ghost stories I have read. It is a paranormal romance, and I do have some strong personal issues about making out with ghosts, but the author does make it sound kinda romantic. My favorite part of the story is actually most of the beginning. I really liked Amelia's kind of nonchalant way of handling her ghostlyness. She really doesn't want to find out who she was, how she died, what's going on in the world. She just takes each day as it comes, barely recognizing it's come and gone.
Then one day she rescues Joshua from drowning and in that moment that his heart stops beating he is able to see her, and keeps that "sight" after he survives. They find a very romantic connection to each other and soon start to explore who Amelia was when she was alive.
The story slowly developes into a mystery and not only about Amelia and her death but of the River and the surrounding town.
I have to give props to the author for her descriptions on what it would feel like for a ghost and human to kiss and hold hands, sounds kinda smexy. (sexy and smokin' hot) Hereafter
A hauntingly romantic story.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

 Description from
How do you defy destiny?
Helen Hamilton has spent her entire sixteen years trying to hide how different she is—no easy task on an island as small and sheltered as Nantucket. And it's getting harder. Nightmares of a desperate desert journey have Helen waking parched, only to find her sheets damaged by dirt and dust. At school she's haunted by hallucinations of three women weeping tears of blood . . . and when Helen first crosses paths with Lucas Delos, she has no way of knowing they're destined to play the leading roles in a tragedy the Fates insist on repeating throughout history.
As Helen unlocks the secrets of her ancestry, she realizes that some myths are more than just legend. But even demigod powers might not be enough to defy the forces that are both drawing her and Lucas together—and trying to tear them apart.

Very entertaining, fast paced, and twists I never saw coming. I found myself becoming very involved in this story, trying to guess what was going to happen next. I found myself pleasantly surprised on several occasions and was only able to guess 1 thing. From a book that had something new every couple of chapters I was not disappointed. I had no time to get bored with the story line or the characters because I read through it so fast wanting to see what was going to happen next. I really enjoyed the mix of contemporary life and Greek Mythology. I am beginning to think I'm learning more history from reading YA than I ever learned in history class.
Romance: I really liked Lucas and his reaction to their situation. He seemed very intelligent, always one step ahead of Helen, emotionally and physically. As this was all new to her she was standoffish and shy
but I could see a lot of development in her emotionally by the end of the book. The next book I can see being a lot more intense and enjoyable on the romantic issue. (FYI-I am not a huge gushy romance person)
There are a lot of different characters that come into play in this book, while it focuses mainly on Helen, and some on Lucas. We get to know the Delos family and other characters come into play. It's very well written and each character stands on their own and I learned to appreciate each of them.
I will have to read this one over again for a refresher course before the next one is released, but I'm looking forward to it and any new details I may have missed the first time through.

       Author's Website
Her website includes a trailer of the book (very awesome)
and a music video :Helen's Song "Where do I belong"
(also very awesome)  

Book Recommendations:
Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

Friday, June 3, 2011

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

It's been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.

Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard's rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future–and each other.
Told from Adam's point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.

If I Stay and Where She Went have such heavy emotions in them. Sometimes I wonder who wants to read such sad stories? But that may just emphasize my personal love for adventure, paranormal, fantasy books.
This second book is still very heavily laden with the music world. I was actually surprised that the book was not titled Where They Went as the story is told from Adam's point of view and the direction that he had taken after Mia's accident and then briefly for a couple of chapters Mia's story is told. The majority of the book is really Adam's situations, feelings and travels since Mia had left. Although of course through him her story is eventually told it really is Adams' story.
The fact that this story is told from Adams viewpoint is what actually got my attention and curiosity after reading the first book to see where the story went. Adam was my favorite character from the first book and he and his rock band style was more appealing to me than Mia's classical side.
I thought maybe we might see that rockstar side of Adam, the love of performing for people and the intense emotions that come from performing on stage and travelling. But Adams' story was full of depression, anxiety, saddness and hate for the situation he was in, like he was just following the motions to get through another day.
The author is obviously incredible at describing emotions and scenes that you can place yourself in the story very easily. Overall these books are very touching, but very sad.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Half Way Through!

Can you believe that it's June already?? I am amazed at how fast the time has passed since I started the blog and all the nice people I have met along the way, I love doing this so much, and it has only deepend my love of reading.

So far my top choices of books I have read this year are:

While there are several books that came in as a close second, so far the books above will always have a place on my shelves. If you have not seen my review on any above they are scheduled to post (usually by the release date) and I really recommend these.
Now as it's Wednesday I thought I might as well show you the books that I cannot wait to get my hands on so my Wishlist Wednesday choices are:




What books are you waiting for? Do you have a favorites list so far this year?
While I really had to cut this list down from the 50 or so I had listed, please understand it was hard. I wanted to add so many