12/26/2012

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Hadley is having the worst day of her life. She is on her way to London to be a bridesmaid in her father's wedding and she has missed her flight. She is stuck at JFK airport contemplating how she is going to make it through the weekend, when she will be forced to watch her father marry someone she has never met. Enter Oliver - a handsome British boy also on his way to London. The two quickly strike up a conversation and Hadley finds herself wondering if this chance encounter has the potential to turn into something more. When Hadley and Oliver lose each other in the commotion of customs upon arrival, Hadley is left to wonder if she will ever see Oliver again and what might have been. Set over the course of 24 hours, Hadley and Oliver's story will have you believing in the power of fate.

The realist in me is highly skeptical about the idea of "love at first sight." The idea that in one moment it is possible to know someone well enough to fall in love with them is utterly crazy. The hopeless romantic in me loves the idea that fate intervenes and brings two people who are meant to be together. That they just click, just like that, and know that they have found what they are looking for. I would love to have a story like Hadley and Oliver's to tell my children and grandchildren when they ask how I meet their father/grandfather. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a sweet story and is a great distraction read at just under 300 pages. It's a 4 star read for me and one that I will probably pick up again in the future.

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Min is breaking up with Ed, her high school boyfriend. Their relationship seems doomed from the start. Ed Slaterton is the star basketball player. He is popular and has a certain reputation with the ladies. Min is a movie buff and doesn't fit in with the popular crowd. She is not the type of girl that Ed normally goes for. Despite all the obstacles, Min and Ed fall in love, but then Ed ruins it. Now Min is writing Ed a letter to explain why they are breaking up and returning all of the mementos she has collected from their time together.

I came across this book listed on a list of 15 books to read before they become a movie. I was intrigued by the story line and I needed a break from reading my endless stream of series books, so I picked it up. It was okay and I find myself somewhat indifferent to it. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either. The story is told from Min's point of view and is mostly a stream of consciousness as she writes a letter to Ed explaining their break up. At times the run-on sentences and jumpiness of the story got on my nerves. The story was creative and the illustrations added a new dimension to the story. I liked the idea that simple objects could spawn memories and represented events in the relationship. It was an interesting approach to the story and in my opinion saved the story from being just another typical teen romance/break up story.

It wasn't a bad book and it has the potential to be a decent film, should it ever be turned into one. Solid 3 stars for me.

12/14/2012

The Lucky Ones by Anna Godbersen

The Lucky Ones is the third and final book in the Bright Young Things series about three young women living in the Roaring 20's. The series began with a foreshadow - one would be famous, one would be married, and one would be dead - and without giving too many details away, this is how the series ends.

When last we left Cordelia Grey, she was reeling from the unexpected murder of her father apparently at the ends of her then lover Thom Hale. On the way home, she meets Max Darby, the famed celebrity pilot, and rescues him after his plane crashes. In The Lucky Ones, Cordelia and Max find themselves drawn into a complicated romance. His connection to Cordelia eventually leads to his secret being exposed and him losing the support of his patron. With nothing left to lose, Max and Cordelia take their relationship public and set down a path to restore Max's reputation to its former glory. Neither one could predict the turn this path will take.

Letty Larkspur has gotten her big break and has been taken under the wing of Valentine O'Dell and Sophia Ray, Hollywood's golden couple. Valentine and Sophia are determined to make Letty the next big thing and invite her to come and live with them in their penthouse and train with the best acting coaches money can buy. Letty, naive to a fault, soon discovers that everything is not as it seems. Sophia is having an affair and Valentine appears to be falling in love with Letty and helps her to secure Sophia role in an upcoming film. However Letty learns that she is just another girl in a long line of distractions for Valentine. When Letty's naivete is exposed she returns to her friends only to find out that Grady, her former flame is engaged to be married. Heartbroken, Letty fears that she has missed her chance to get everything she has ever wanted - love and fame.

Astrid Donal is now married to Charlie Grey, Cordelia's brother and heir to their father's bootlegging business. Astrid believes that she has finally gotten everything she has ever wanted, however cracks soon begin to appear in her happily ever after. Charlie is not the man she thought he was and his predisposition for violence threatens Astrid and the family business. Astrid finds herself increasingly alone and in the presence of her bodyguard, Victor, who she feels continually drawn to. The story comes to a head the night of Astrid's 18th birthday party. The events of that night will once and for all decide the destinies of all three bright young things.

I enjoyed this series, but not as much as the Lux series. I really like Godbersen's writing style and her ability to weave the stories of all the characters together. While she tells you in the beginning how the story will play out, I couldn't help but feel slightly disappointed in the ending. I think I was hoping for a more idealized happy ending for some of the characters. Nevertheless, I would recommend this series. It's an easy read and the time period is a great backdrop to the story.  

12/09/2012

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Miles Halter loves famous last words. He is on his way to Culver Creek Boarding School in pursuit of "the Great Perhaps" (the last words spoken by the poet Francois Rabelais). Miles is hoping that a change in scenery will lead him out of his safe and boring existence, and into something extraordinary. Upon arriving at Culver Creek he meets his new roommate Chip, a.k.a. Colonel, and receives a new nickname, "Pudge." But it is meeting the girl down the hall, Alaska Young, that will forever change his life. Alaska is beautiful, sexy, smart, self-destructive, and screwed up, and comes to personify the "Great Perhaps" for Pudge. But Alaska is a beautiful disaster and Pudge cannot save her from herself. Meeting Alaska has Pudge questioning everything he knows about friendship, love, loyalty, life, death, and what it means to live.

This book made me think about people and how I truly believe that everyone we meet comes into our lives for a reason. Some people seem inconsequential at the time, mere ripples, but they are important. Often these are the people who help to redirect you to where you are supposed to go - like in a game of pool when the ball you are aiming for bounces of another and into the side pocket. You might never had made that shot had it not been for the interceding ball, just as you never would have arrived at your destination had it not been for that person. Other people are waves and their impact on your life is profound and obvious. You are irrevocably different for having known this person - good or bad. But having meet this person means that you can never return to life as you have known it because the world is forever altered and will never look the same. Alaska was definitely a wave.

It also made me think about the purpose of life. Is it better to live a small, but happy existence or is "it worth it to leave behind a minor life for grander maybes?" I don't think there is anything wrong with a small life, but I imagine that one could come to regret the possibilities that could have been. On the other hand, a life full of grander maybes might be exciting, but moving from one adventure to the other might lack the security and calm of a small life. An endless adrenaline rush with no meaning. Maybe the "Great Perhaps" is finding the balance between the two. A life full of enough maybes to have been worth living, but small enough for those maybes to actually mean something.

I often found myself forgetting that these characters were in fact in high school. They seemed much more like college students to me. The story is well written and I really do enjoy John Green's style. The characters are smart, witty, and just dysfunctional enough to be believable. The story is thought provoking and well worth the read.

12/08/2012

Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Maureen Johnson & Lauren Myracle

Let It Snow is a cleverly intertwined telling of three Christmas romances, all brought together by a blizzard, and told by three different authors.

In The Jubilee Express, Jubilee finds herself unexpectedly on a train to her grandparents' house after her parents get arrested on Christmas Eve while trying to procure the latest installment of the Flobie Santa Village. Her boyfriend Noah, whom she is supposed to be celebrating their first anniversary with, seems strangely nonplussed by the situation and Jubilee finds herself wondering what's going on and to making excuses for him. On the way to Florida, a massive snow storm hits and Jubilee finds herself stranded in the company of Jeb, who is trying to make it back to his girlfriend who cheated on him, and a gaggle of teenage cheerleaders. Rather than endure being trapped on a train with the cheerleaders, Jubilee sets off across the way to a Waffle House. There she meets Stuart who insists on her spending Christmas with him and his mother and sister. As they trek across the frozen wilderness between the Waffle House and Stuart's house, neither one expects to find love.

In A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle, Tobin and his two best friends, JP and Angie a.k.a. "the Duke," are just settling in for a James Bond movie marathon when they receive a phone call from their friend Keun informing them that they must hurry over to the Waffle House where he works because a group of cheerleaders has just arrived. The one stipulation - bring Twister. Tobin and JP trip over themselves trying to make themselves presentable to meet the cheerleaders, while Angie looks on with mild amusement. Promising her hash browns, Angie grudgingly agrees to accompany the boys out into the storm and to the Waffle House. Along the way, the trio run into all manners of trouble as they race to the Waffle House. Tobin begins to see Angie in a whole new way, realizing perhaps for the first time that she is in fact a girl, a girl who apparently likes him a lot. When they finally make it to the Waffle House they run into Jeb, who is stranded there because of the storm. Jeb asks Tobin to deliver a message to his ex-girlfriend, Addie, should he see her. The message - I'm coming. Tobin, still trying to work through his new feelings for Angie, tries to get her attention by flirting with one of the cheerleaders. When Angie sees this and hurries out the door, Tobin follows her and it changes their relationship forever.

In the Patron Saint of Pigs, Addie is miserable. She made out with another guy after fighting with Jeb and they have broken up. Addie knows she made a mistake and desperately wants Jeb back. She sends him an email asking her to meet her at Starbucks on Christmas Eve, the place they went for their first date exactly one year ago. Addie waits for Jeb, but he never shows. No call. No email. When her friends accuse Addie of being too self-absorbed, she wants nothing more than to prove them wrong. She is asked by her friend Tegan to pick up her Christmas present, a tea cup sized pig, and Addie seizes this opportunity to prove that she is able to think of someone other than herself. When she fails to get to the pet store on time, the pig is sold to another person and Addie sets off on a search to recover the pig, which she eventually does. On her way back to the Starbucks where she works with the pig in tow, she runs into Tobin and Angie who deliver the much belated message from Jeb, giving Addie new found hope that maybe Christmas angels do exist after all.

This is a sweet story filled with all the wonderful things that give us the warm and fuzzies around this time of year. It's like three Hallmark movies rolled into one, with plenty of Christmas miracles to go around. The stories are all unique and the voices of the authors come through in each of their individual stories, but the stories also blend beautifully together. A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle was my favorite of the three romances, but the other two were also perfectly sigh inducing and pulled at the heart strings. This is the perfect book to pick up if you are looking to while away a snowy (or rainy in my case) afternoon curled up under a blanket and sipping hot chocolate. 

If I Stay & Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Mia is seventeen years old. She has a loving family, a boyfriend she loves, and a musical talent poised to take her places, but in the blink of an eye everything changes. Mia and her family have been in a horrific car accident and Mia finds herself watching the aftermath unfold from outside of her physical body. Trapped in this ghost like state, Mia tries to figure out what's happening to her. When she learns the fate of her family, she faces the ultimate decision - to stay or to go? Mia wrestles with the decision, considering all that she has lost and everything she would leave behind. When Adam, Mia's boyfriend, makes a desperate plea and vow Mia finds that her decision has been made for her.The consequences of that decision will rock both Mia and Adam's world and bring an ending to their story that neither one could have foreseen.

Where She Went picks up 3 years after Mia's accident. The accident that forever changed her world. This time we get to see the story through the eyes of Adam, the boyfriend that Mia left behind. He and his band, Shooting Star, are riding a huge wave of success after releasing the album written by Adam after Mia dumps him. Adam finds himself lost and checked out, desperate to understand why the girl he loves left him 3 years ago. He has become tabloid fodder, his band mates can hardly stand him, and his current girlfriend accuses him of still being in love with a ghost. Adam is in New York, the city that Mia traveled to 3 years ago to attend Julliard, for 24 hours before departing for a European tour. By chance he happens across the concert hall where Mia is performing that night. They meet up after the show and embark on a journey to Mia's favorite secret places throughout the city. As they travel through the city, they confront the demons of their past bringing closure and reconnecting with each other.

I loved, loved, loved this series! Once I started reading I couldn't stop! I laughed, I cried, I stayed up until 1 A.M. finishing the second book. I loved it so much that even though it was so late, I wrote this blog so I could share these amazing books with you. I loved Where She Went more than If I Stay. There was just something different about seeing the story through Adam's eyes. He just made my heart ache and melt all at the same time. He was so damaged, so devastated, so lost. I hope that someday somebody loves me that way. Mia and Adam's love story is just so epic - love found, love lost, love rediscovered. Sigh. Gayle Forman's writing is fantastic and the way she weaves a story together is magical. The ending is perfect and these books are definitely worthy of a re-reading. A solid 5 stars for me.


12/03/2012

6. Ode by Arthur O'Shaughnessy

WE are the music-makers,   
And we are the dreamers of dreams, 
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,   
And sitting by desolate streams; 
World-losers and world-forsakers,         
On whom the pale moon gleams: 
Yet we are the movers and shakers   
Of the world for ever, it seems.   

With wonderful deathless ditties 
We build up the world's great cities, 
And out of a fabulous story   
We fashion an empire's glory: 
One man with a dream, at pleasure,   
Shall go forth and conquer a crown; 
And three with a new song's measure  
Can trample an empire down.   

We, in the ages lying  
In the buried past of the earth, 
Built Nineveh with our sighing,   
And Babel itself with our mirth; 
And o'erthrew them with prophesying   
To the old of the new world's worth; 
For each age is a dream that is dying,   
Or one that is coming to birth. 

12/02/2012

Losing It by Cora Carmack

Bliss Edwards is about to graduate from college and still has her V card (her words, not mine). She is determined to lose her virginity before graduation and decides that the best thing to do is to just get it over with - a one night stand. Bliss sets off with her best friend to a local college bar where she meets Garrick Taylor, a gorgeous guy with a British accent, and decides that he is the one. Bliss makes it back to her apartment with Garrick and just when they are about to have sex, she panics and leaves him naked in her bed. Bliss is determined to forget the whole awful experience until she walks into her theater class and meets her new professor - the man she left naked in her bed the night before. Garrick and Bliss are draw to each other, but their relationship is not without complications.

This is a sweet story and has all the elements of a good romance novel - a hot guy, forbidden love, a love triangle, etc. The only thing that was really lacking for me in this story was some more angst. There just wasn't enough drama, mystery, or angst to really make me pine for the characters. It is a good distraction read and at just over 200 pages it is the perfect book to read while wasting an afternoon. It gets 3 stars from me. 

Beautiful Disaster (Disaster #1) by Jamie McGuire

Abby Abernathy is a good girl, or at least she is trying to be. She has fled her hometown to attend Eastern University and escape her past. Travis Maddox is the epitome of a bad boy - covered in tattoos, earns money fighting in an underground fight club, and is notorious for his one night stands. When Abby meets Travis at one of his fights, she is instinctively drawn to him and Travis is intrigued by her outward disdain for him. The truth is that neither one can stay away from the other. When Abby loses a bet, she must live with Travis for one month. The more time the two of them spend together the more complicated and entwined their relationship becomes, bring them both to the point of destruction.

I liked this book, but I didn't love it. It is basically a twist on Beauty and the Beast. Abby is not as innocent as Belle is, but she is the antidote to Travis' beastly ways. She's no angel herself however. She often pushes Travis' buttons and tries to provoke a response from him, even though she knows he is a bomb waiting to explode. Travis is a much more complex character than Abby, and I was disappointed that we do not get to learn more about his back story, because it might explain why he is the way that he is. He is certainly not the perfect male lead. In fact he is really more of a cautionary tale. He is jealous, possessive, prone to violence, and borderline abusive. I found myself cringing sometimes when reading this book over the things Travis did, because they are simply not acceptable in a healthy relationship. He was not the dark angel for me, he is simply just dark. In the end, they do definitely deserve each other and I guess you can say that they save each other. I just not sure if either of them is a better person because of it.

Book two, Walking Disaster, is due to be published in April 2013 and is the same story told from Travis' point of view. I have to admit that I am intrigued by this and will most likely be picking the book up when it comes out. For me, Travis is the more interesting and complex character of the two and I am looking forward to reading the story through his eyes. 

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Nick and Amy Dunne live in a small town in North Carthage, Missouri. On the outside they appear to be the perfect couple, but appearances can be deceiving. When Amy goes missing, in what appears to be a violent way, on the couple's 5th wedding anniversary, the couple's not so perfect marriage is thrown into the spotlight and Nick finds himself the lead suspect in his wife's disappearance and possible murder. As the investigation into his wife's disappearance continues, more and more of Nick's indiscretions come to light, but is he really the killer? And is Amy really the perfect wife that her diary and the town paint her to be?

It took me a long time to get into this book. In fact I stopped several times in the middle of reading it to pick up other books. If I didn't have the OCD tendency of always finishing a book, no matter how horrible it is, I might not have finished it. The book doesn't really start to get good until about half way through. The beginning of the book is spent painting the husband, Nick, as this horrible person (which in many ways he is) and murderer. It is not until about the half way mark that the mystery surrounding Amy's disappearance final starts to unravel and we finally reach the much need plot twist that makes this book worth reading. It just takes way too long in my opinion to get there. The characters are horrible people and deserve everything that happened to them. Nick and Amy are almost a modern day Heathcliff and Catherine. They are both horrible, selfish, rotten people who really are meant for each other. They did not have a single redeeming quality in my opinion, which made it hard to feel for either one of them.

If you are into delayed gratification, pick this book up. I did like the structure of the book, which flashes between Nick and Amy's perspectives. It gets a two star rating from me because it was a little drawn out and because I have absolutely no love for either of the main characters.

11/18/2012

Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye

It's been awhile since I have posted any poetry, but I came across this poem the other day and thought it was beautiful and deserved to be shared.


Do not stand at my grave and weep 
I am not there. I do not sleep. 
I am a thousand winds that blow. 
I am the diamond glints on snow. 
I am the sunlight on ripened grain. 
I am the gentle autumn rain. 
When you awaken in the morning's hush 
I am the swift uplifting rush 
Of quiet birds in circled flight. 
I am the soft stars that shine at night. 
Do not stand at my grave and cry; 
I am not there. I did not die.

11/12/2012

Easy by Tammara Webber

Jacqueline's world has fallen apart. She followed her high school boyfriend to the college of his choice where he promptly dumped her in order to play the field. Now she finds herself at a school where she doesn't want to be, with a considerably smaller circle of friends, and failing a class for the first time in her life. She never thought she would be this girl.

Against her better judgement, Jacqueline's friend convinces her to attend a Halloween party at her ex-boyfriend's frat house. When Jacqueline decides to leave the party early she is physically assaulted by Buck, one of her ex's frat brothers. Before Buck can accomplish his ultimate goal, the attack is stopped by a passing stranger who saves Jacqueline and takes her home. Jacqueline wants nothing more than to put the incident behind her, but her strange savior begins appearing in unexpected places, like in the back row of her econ class. She finds herself drawn to this apparent bad boy named Lucas, with his startlingly ice blue eyes and tattoos. Her friends nominate Lucas as the perfect rebound guy, however the  more she gets to know Lucas the more Jacqueline realizes that he is hiding a world of secrets. As their love affair intensifies both find themselves struggling to trust the other with the total truth.

I really enjoyed this book and it was a really easy read, despite the fact that it deals with heavy subject matters - physical assault and rape. I liked the characters and I thought they were relatable. Lucas is a great male lead and will be up any girl's alley who enjoy a bad boy with a heart of gold. He's protective, mysterious, an artist and intelligent. Where do I get me one of those? The story was somewhat predictable, but there were a few surprises - mostly in terms of Lucas' real back story, which I won't reveal here so as not to spoil the book. I enjoyed the author's narrative and would recommend this for anyone who enjoys a good romance with an easy plot.

11/07/2012

Hush, Hush Series by Becca Fitzpatrick


I loved, loved, loved this series and it is probably one that I will find myself going back to reread every now and again. I think if you are fans of series like Twilight, you will probably enjoy this series. You will have to substitute fallen angels for vampires and Nephilim for werewolves, but it's not a bad transition in my opinion. Patch is my new favorite fictional (sigh, why are all the good ones made up??) male lead. He is the bad boy that Edward Cullen always aspired to be, but was never quite able to live up to. Nora, unlike Bella, didn't make me want to punch her in the face every 5 minutes. She does have some serious issues with trust and jealousy, but as a female literary character she's not that bad. Vee is a great character and I have a feeling that she would be a lot of fun to hang out with. I'm sure I would have to have bail money ready, but hey, what's life without a little fun?

I was happy that the supposed love triangle between Nora, Patch and Scott never really took off. I don't think I could have made it through the books if I had to relive a New Moonish type storyline again. I was slightly disappointed with how the book ended. I feel like Finale dragged a little bit and I was hoping for more of an epic standoff between Nora and her Nephilim usurper, which never really happened. I feel like the last two books were building to this huge battle that seemed like it was over before it really got started. Some things in the story came together a little too easily in my opinion and I wasn't thrilled with the Epilogue of the last book. It just wasn't where I anticipated the story to go and while I didn't hate it, it is not how I would have liked the story to end. I can say that I feel like everyone, with a few exceptions, got what they deserved. Definitely a easy 4 star rating for me.

Spoilers begin....NOW!


Nora lives in Coldwater, Maine and appears to be your average teenager trying to get through the day. Since her father's murder, Nora feels that someone is watching her. Her life continues in the same patterns until she meets Patch, who is unlike anyone she has ever known. He is beautiful, mysterious, and dangerous, and Nora feels drawn to him. She cannot decide whether or not to trust him. He always seems to be where she is and knows more about her than even her best friend, Vee. As Nora finds herself being stalked by a dark figure, she cannot help but to suspect Patch. As she seeks the truth, it becomes clear that Patch is more than he appears. He is a Fallen Angel - doomed to wander the Earth forever - searching for a way to become human. The problem is, in order to become human he needs a sacrifice - Nora. Despite the danger, Nora can't stay away from Patch as they fall for each other. Loving Patch is not without consequences, and Nora soon finds herself in the middle of a battle between the immortal Nephilim and the Fallen Angels.

The story continues in Crescendo...Nora survives the attack on her life and Patch, having earned his wings back, is now Nora's guardian angel. The problem is angels are not supposed to fall in love with humans. Everything seems to be going well until Nora lets three little words slip...I love you. After that, Patch becomes increasingly distant and begins to spend a great deal of time with Nora's arch-enemy Marcie Millar. Nora, believing that Patch has betrayed her and that she is just another one of his female conquests, breaks things off with Patch, but their lives continue to intersect. When an old acquaintance, Scott Parnell, moves back into town Nora can't help but think that he's hiding something about his past. When she receives an anonymous note and ring saying that the Black Hand killed her father, Nora becomes determined to find out who the Black Hand is. When the signs start to point to Scott and then Patch, Nora doesn't know who to trust. Solving the mystery will take Nora into ever increasingly dangerous situations and will lead to a discovery about her past and family that she was not expecting.

In book 3, Silence, Nora wakes up to find herself in the cemetery at her father's grave. The problem is she has no idea why she is there or how she got there, and soon discovers that she has been missing for 3 months. To make matters worse, Nora can't remember anything that happened for the last 5 months, including meeting and falling in love with Patch. Nora experiences flashes of memories - the color black - and feelings that she is missing something, or someone, important. While she was missing, her mother has begun dating Hank Millar and although she doesn't understand why, Nora is deeply suspicious of Hank. When her path crosses with Patch's (now going by Jev), Nora finds herself once again drawn to Patch without understanding why. Patch doesn't want Nora to remember. He swore an oath to her father Hank - if he let her go and kept her out of the war brewing between Nephilim and the Fallen Angels, Patch would turn spy and report the Fallen Angels' plans back to Hank. He wants her safe, but he too is drawn to Nora. When Hank double crosses Patch, all deals are off and he and Nora being plotting his demise and seeking a way to disband the Nephilim army he has been creating. After learning of a prophecy telling of his approaching death, Hank has no intention of keeping Nora on the sidelines and embarks on a plan to make her his true heir and future leader of the Nephilim army. A decision that will have dire consequences for all involved.    


Nora and Patch's story concludes in Finale. Nora is now Nephilim and leader of her father's army. She finds herself riding a precarious line as she attempts to fulfill her blood oath to her father and her promise to the archangels. Nora wants to lead her race to freedom, but doing so will result in the destruction of the fallen angels, including Patch. Nora knows she cannot live without Patch, but when the Nephilim are reluctant to accept Nora as Hank's heir, she and Patch are forced to stage a public break up and see each other only in secret. Nora throws herself into finding a solution that will allow her to free her people while still remaining with Patch. Nora soon discovers that there are powers and forces that she never imagined could exist. When she finds herself drawn to a new and addictive power she finds herself poised to lose everything that is important to her. The series concludes with an epic battle between Nephilim and the Angels. Betrayals abound. Only one race can win and both sides will suffer loses. But after all is said and done, will Nora and Patch survive together?

10/29/2012

The Perfect Game by J. Sterling

Cassie Andrews is junior at Fullton State College studying photography. Jack Carter is also a junior at Fullton State and a star baseball player with major league prospects. Jack is your typical cocky jock who has a reputation for sleeping his way around campus. When Cassie meets Jack at a frat party, she refuses to be taken in by his charm. Jack, who is used to getting his way with women, is intrigued and makes it his mission to get Cassie to give him the time of day. What neither of them knows is that they are both damaged - harboring wounds inflicted upon them by their own broken families. Against her better judgement, Cassie finds herself drawn to Jack and Jack seems equally smitten. He seems eager to prove to Cassie that he can pass the "guy test," a set of rules that Cassie lays out. Four simple rules - Don't lie, Don't cheat, Don't make promises you can't keep, and Don't say things you don't mean. They embark on a passionate romance as Cassie tries to trust Jack and Jack tries to not screw it up, like he always does. With just four simple rules you would think that wouldn't be so hard, right? As challenges arise and mistakes happen, Cassie and Jack have to make sure their ghosts from the past don't tear them apart.

I loved this book and Jack Carter has joined the ranks of my favorite fucked up male leads. Those of you who are fans of Christian Grey will enjoy Jack, even if he is Christian's less wealthy, less damaged, but still equally gorgeous cousin. He is yet another example of the bad boy that we girls all want to tame and transform with our love. I will warn my fellow cohorts who are not sports enthusiasts there is a lot of references to baseball in this book. It didn't bother me, as I am a big fan of America's past time, but it might bother some. Don't let that you off from the book however. While this is billed as YA Fiction, it is certainly for a more mature audience as there are a few scintillating sex scenes thrown in for the reader's enjoyment. It's nowhere near as raunchy as 50 Shades, but still equally enjoyable. Another book to add to my guilty pleasure shelf :)

Every Day by David Levithan

Every day A wakes up in a different body, to a different life. It has been this way for A for as long as A can remember. A never knows who he will wake up as or where he will wake up (Note: I use "he" as a loose term here as A does not identify as either male or female). He has woken up as a male, as a female, as a drug addict, as an athlete. The only consistency is that all of his host are same age as A.

A's hosts (for lack of a better word) are for the most part oblivious to his possession, which never lasts more than 24 hours. A is able to "access" the memories of his host, which allows him to get through a day in their life, but he does not have access to their emotions or feelings. When he leaves their body, they are left with the memories of what they did that day, but have no memory of A's possession.

A has accepted his fate and lives by simple guidelines: Don't get too attached, avoid being noticed, and do not interfere. All that changes for A when he wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin's girlfriend, Rhiannon. For the first time, A wants nothing more than to wake up every day in the same body so that he can see Rhiannon again. As A and Rhiannon fall for each other, they must struggle to find a way around their biggest obstacle: how do you love someone who changes everyday?

When I first read the synopsis of this book I was immediately intrigued by the idea of the story. It was a very quick read and I enjoyed the story very much. It raises some interesting questions about love and our perception of each other. How do you love someone who appears different to you every day? I think that we would all like to think that when it comes to love, the physical doesn't matter, but it does. So I can completely understand Rhiannon's struggle. How can you love someone fully when you have no mental construct of the person, no way to really define them? How do you reconcile that person in your mind when every day they appear in a different form? How does your mind wrap around that idea? And if the person never knows where they are going to wake up, how do you depend on that person? What if love isn't always enough?

My only problem with the book was that it felt unfinished, or underdeveloped might be the better word.

The next part of my review may contain some spoilers, so proceed with caution.

10/28/2012

The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer

I decided to re-read the Twilight Saga again (I've lost count on how many times I have read this series...I think this might have been the 10th time??) as the final movie installment arrives in theaters in just a few short weeks. I often get asked why I re-read some books over and over, especially when there are so many other books out there to read. Some books just feel like coming home. They are like your favorite sweater, your favorite coffee mug, your favorite spot on the couch. Some books are just a part of your soul. While I would not put this series in the category of books that have had a profound effect on how I view the world, it is certainly a series that has become a favorite escape of mine. Every time I read the series I find myself lost in the magical world of Forks, caught up in the lives of the characters, and completely oblivious to reality (even if it is only for a few hours at a time), which is really all I ever ask of a good book.

For those of you who are not familiar with series, the first book of the series, Twilight, is about Bella Swan, your average teenager, who exiles herself to Forks, Washington to live with her father after her mother remarries. Forks is a small town in Washington known for its almost constant cloud cover and rain. It is in Forks that Bella meets the Cullens, most notably Edward Cullen, a family that is clearly more than average. Bella and Edward find themselves drawn to each other, despite Edward's attempts to stay away, and Bella soon discovers the Cullens' dark secret - they are vampires. This realization draws Bella into a world that she never knew existed, bringing with it the joy of first love and dire consequences.

I originally came across this series in 2008 when the movie was released. Prior to seeing the trailers for the movie I had never heard of Edward Cullen or Bella Swan, and I had no idea who Stephenie Meyer was. I remember seeing the trailers for the movie and have to admit, despite my love of vampires, my interested was not piqued. It was a friend who suggested that I pick up the series. She couldn't believe, being the vampire lover I was, that I had not seen the movie, or read the book. She had read the books and was a huge fan of the series, and she proceeded to tell me about the books and insisted that I go home and give them a chance. It was her description of the characters and the story that finally turned me onto the series. I went home and sat down on my computer, and used one of my Amazon.com gift cards (a fabulous gift for any book lover by the way) to order the entire series.

While I waited for the books to arrive, I just happened to be bored one Sunday afternoon and decided to head to the theaters to see the movie. It was towards the end of the movie's run in theaters - it was only showing on one screen and there were only like 3 showings to choose from. I have to admit, that while I didn't hate the movie, it certainly wasn't a cinematic masterpiece. I should stop and point out that I rarely enjoy a movie adaptation of a book as much as I love the book, and Twilight was no exception. I left the theater loving the idea of the story and praying that the books turned out to be less of a disappointment. When Twilight finally arrived at my house, I pulled it out of the box and instantly started reading. Once I began to read, I couldn't stop! I loved the story and loved Stephenie Meyer's writing style. I was instantly transported into the Twilight world and didn't want to leave. I actually read the entire series that weekend.

To think that I almost missed out entirely! I do not think that had I only seen the movie that I would have taken the time to read the books. As usual, the books are far better than the movies. In fact, I don't think one can really fully appreciate the movies without having read the books. I have seen all of the Twilight movies and I know that I would not have the same connection to them without reading the books. There are so many little things that make these characters so special that do not come across on the big screen.

For me, Edward is really what draws me to Twilight. He is the epitome of what I love in a vampire - a vampire with a soul, trying desperately to overcome his nature and be better, not realizing that he already is better for even trying. He is the perfect fantasy vampire, even though the vampire lore in this series is somewhat "softer" than other series that I have read. As with most vampire stories, there is the element of transformative love that I am a complete sucker for. I do have to say that I am not a fan of Bella in this series. While Edward is certainly a literary crush for me, Bella does not rank amongst the best female literary characters for me. I could not see myself being friends with Bella like I would be with say Elizabeth Bennett. I often find Bella obnoxious and too whiny. I am fervently hoping that Stephenie Meyer will one day finish Midnight Sun, as I would much rather read the story through the perspective of Edward than Bella.

The series continues with New Moon. Bella's world is shattered after her ill-fated 18th birthday party where a papercut results in Jasper trying to kill her. Edward, who already questions the safety of his presence in Bella's life, decides to remove himself from Bella's life in an attempt to give her the human life he thinks she deserves. Bella is devastated and turns to her friend Jacob Black for comfort. As Bella and Jacob's relationship gets more and more complicated, Bella discovers that Jacob has a secret of his own - he's a werewolf. Nevertheless, Bella finds herself no safer after Edward's departure as Victoria has returned to seek revenge against Bella for James' death. A series of misunderstandings leads to Bella racing to Italy to save Edward and brings her face to face with the Volturi  an ancient group of vampires tasked with keeping the existence of vampires a secret from humans.

As an ardent member of Team Edward, New Moon is my least favorite book out of the series. This stems only from the fact that Edward is absent for half of the book, and has nothing to do with the writing or characters. When I read New Moon I often find myself counting the pages until his return. The first time I read the book, I was utterly dismayed at Edward's departure and became irrationally angry with Stephenie Meyer. I continued reading it only because I knew that the story could not end this way. Bella could not end up with Jacob. I even had thoughts of writing a strongly worded letter to Stephenie if Edward did not reappear...

Don't get me wrong, I like Jacob, and I could easily see how Bella (or anyone for that matter) could easily fall for him. He is a warm, caring character - a perfect match for Bella. However, when compared to Edward and Bella's love, there's just no contest for me. Edward and Bella belong together. For me, New Moon was just one more step to reaffirming the inevitable - that Edward and Bella belonged together. I feel like it had to play out like this to dispel any thoughts of another possibility for Bella, to serve as yet another confirmation of the truth.

In Eclipse, Bella faces a series of new challenges. The Cullens, including Edward, are back and Bella must deal with the complications this creates with her Quileute friends and werewolves. Some new menace is ravaging Seattle and it appears to be the work of a newborn army. Who is behind the army and what their purpose is remains a mystery, but the Cullens, fearing an intervention from the Volturi, find themselves preparing to intercede.

I always found the cover art for the Twilight books interesting, and Eclipse might be my favorite one. According to Stephenie Meyer, the red ribbon symbolizes Bella's final struggle - choosing between Edward and Jacob, mortality and immortality. The threads of her life were unraveled in New Moon, and now she must choose to break the final thread - holding her to life before - or breaking the final thread and embarking on a new life altogether.

Eclipse is a close second behind Twilight as my favorite book in the series - and it is probably my favorite movie out the films. I love the action! I'm always slightly annoyed to have to re-live Bella's struggle with choosing between Edward and Jacob, because for me, her decision had already been made. This just seems like beating a dead horse, but again, I can understand why it is necessary. How the inevitability of their relationship would force all other options to be eliminated before they could truly be together forever.


The series concludes with Breaking Dawn. Bella, having made her final choice, and Edward marry and embark on their new life together, never imagining that their lives are about to take a turn that neither of them could imagine. When Bella becomes pregnant, she finds herself again fighting for her life and the life of her baby. The birth of Bella's daughter finally results in the long awaited transformation of Bella into an immortal, and also brings with it immeasurable joy and the possibility of impending doom which could result in the destruction of the Cullens once and for all.

Out of all the books in the Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn is the one that I have the most conflicting emotions about. As the culmination of the series, I had high expectations for it. For me, Breaking Dawn is the greatest departure from reality. It requires a greater "leap" into the world of fantasy than the other books in the series. I felt like even though the previous three books are fiction, they still had elements that grounded them in reality. However, most of that goes out the proverbial window in Breaking Dawn. There are several elements of the story that require one to turn off the rational part of your brain and simply accept them as fact - such  as the fact that Edward, an undead vampire, having the ability to create  live offspring - in order for the story to work.

You have to be willing to make that jump with Stephenie if you are going to accept and appreciate Breaking Dawn. I have to admit that the first time I read Breaking Dawn, during the marathon weekend when I read the whole series, the departure from reality didn't bother me so much because I was already so lost in the world of Twilight. However, after subsequent readings, I found myself questioning the story more, and it started to ruin it for me...until I turned off the rational part of my brain.

For those of you who have not read this series, but have seen the movies, remember you should never judge a book by its movie. While I enjoy the Twilight movies and they certainly have improved as the fan base and budgets have increased, they are still nowhere near as good as the books. As per usual, the movies take artistic licenses to ramp up the action and keep movie audiences entertained. Some of these changes I liked, others not so much. I still much prefer the version my imagination creates in my head as I read the novels. If you like Young Adult Fiction and vampires, give this series a chance if you haven't already. 

10/14/2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Charlie is a wallflower. He does his best to blend in and not stand out. The Perks of Being a Wallflower chronicles Charlie's freshman year of high school as he tries to make friends, figure out the world around him and his place in it. The story is told through letters that Charlie addresses to "Dear Friend."

The book deals with a myriad of issues faced by teens: first dates, family dramas, friendship, sex, drugs, love, homosexuality. Charlie is an endearing character who is both incredibly smart and naive at the same time. The characters in the story are dysfunctional and flawed, which I think makes them very relatable. The subject matter of the book was somewhat heavy - issues of suicide, rape, abuse, abortion, incest, some fairly hardcore drug use, mental illness were all present - but I feel like it is probably a fairly accurate description of what teenagers encounter today, unfortunately. The book had some poignant quotes, which now appear on E-cards and Pinterest, but the truth is I still don't know how I feel about this book.

On one hand, I gave it 3 stars because I really did enjoyed reading the book. It was a quick read - I read it in an afternoon. There were certainly things that I could relate to in the story - namely the family dramas and self-esteem issues experienced by the female characters. The letter writing structure was unique and I liked how it was personal and unrestricted. The reader was privy to Charlie's unfiltered stream of consciousness, which can be absent in a more straight-forward narrative. It kills me that we never find out who "Dear Friend" is or if they ever receive the letters Charlie writes.

However, the book did have some flaws. Charlie for one was so naive at times that it was hard to believe he was 15 years old. He came across as somewhat whiny and was somewhat of a cry baby. I often found myself wondering if maybe he wasn't Autistic because of his inability to read the emotions and social situations going on around him. Another pet peeve was that throughout the book Charlie writes about how his English teacher, Bill, gives him additional books to read and has him write essays. Charlie often says that Bill says he is getting to be a better writer with each new assignment, however this improvement is not reflected in Charlie's letter writing...

The books Bill has him read are meant I think to teach Charlie lessons, but it doesn't appear that Charlie picks up any new insights. His growth as a character is somewhat limited and stifled. Throughout the book, Charlie struggles to "participate" in the events around him, rather than simply sit back and observe. I can relate to this. My childhood made me grow up much faster than I was supposed to, and I can think back on several times in high school when I watched my friends do some frankly stupid things, but wishing at the same time that I was able to live in the moment like them. I often found myself observing rather than participating. There are some moments in the book when Charlie was able to let go and fully embrace the moment, but they were fleeting and few and far between. Again, I had hoped that his character would grow more than it did.

At times I found myself overwhelmed with the number of issues "dealt with" in the book. I put "dealt with" in quotes because while the characters encountered these issues, I feel like many of these issues were not analyzed or address on any meaningful level. Often they were simply events that happened in the story. This is where I think that having the story told through Charlie's letter writing might have been a hinderance. I found that when heavy issues came up, Charlie's own character flaws prevented him from providing any real insight into these issues. Sometimes I felt that the issues were included simply to include them - almost for shock value. It's terrible to say, but maybe when this book was first published all of this would have been more shocking, but today I feel like we are all so much more cynical and jaded and it felt more superfluous  rather than shocking. I think many of the events in the story would have been more meaningful if there were fewer and if the author had Charlie take more time to explore his feelings and the feelings of the other characters about the experience.

I think all of us can relate to this story in some way and I definitely think that this book is worth the read. It will probably be more meaningful to an actual teenager (as opposed to someone like me, who is in their 20's), but anyone who experienced high school can probably getting something out of it.   

10/13/2012

22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson

22 Britannia Road is about a family trying to put itself back together after World War II. Silvana and Janusz find themselves caught up in a whirlwind love affair, resulting in a pregnancy and marriage. A few short months later, their son Aurek arrives and Janusz leaves to fight for Poland. Silvana and Aurek are forced to leave Warsaw when the German Army comes and are forced to survive in the woods, where they encounter strangers who are helping hands and see indescribable horrors. Meanwhile Janusz's military unit is bombarded by the Germans and he flees to France. The book chronicles their lives as they fight to survive the war and their eventual reunion. After being reunited, Silvana and Janusz must come to terms with the past and struggle to create a new life in a new country.

I have to say that I was underwhelmed by this book, but I can't put my finger on exactly why that is. The book was well written and the story certainly contained some twists that I did not expect. I think the author did an excellent job of portraying the changing effects of war and how these families were torn apart. It's amazing that anything can be rebuilt after such destruction.The experiences of the characters during the war were certainly compelling.

I think, for me, there was something lacking in the emotions of the story. The characters often felt stiff and I feel like there was so much more potential there. These characters really could have shined. The war clearly changed them and they had their own world of pain and secrets. I kept waiting for them to come alive, but for me they didn't. They lacked a real feeling of humanity, of relatability. I was not able to form an emotional connection with these characters and it left me disappointed and wanting. The book is well written, but it is not a story that I will probably remember a month from now. 

9/18/2012

Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe

Everybody knows Rob Lowe - the 80's icon, heartthrob, and one of the founding members of the Brat Pack. Granted when he was in his hay day, I was walking around in diapers, but even I am not immune to the fact that he is a good looking man. When I saw him on Oprah talking about his new book, I was intrigued. I love reading about the lives of people and knew Rob had a colorful past full of celebrity scandal, so I decided to pick the book up. It has been sitting in my Kindle queue for months and I hoped it would offer me a much needed break from the world of YA Fiction.

Rob does not disappoint. I found the book to be a fun, easy read. I didn't find Rob's narrative to be whining and self-pitying, like so many celebrity autobiographies. He tells his life story matter-of-factly and shares what he has learned from his experiences. It was interesting to read about his early career and his interactions with other young and famous stars. His recounting of the making of The Outsiders was particularly interesting. I found him to be rather humble, honest, and intelligent in his writing. If you are a fan of Rob Lowe, you will enjoy definitely enjoy this book. If you are unfamiliar with Rob, but enjoy autobiographies/memoirs, I think that you can still get something out of this book. It was a 3 star read for me.

9/07/2012

A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped in the summer of 1991 at the age of 11 and held prisoner for eighteen years. During that time she was subjected to all manners of abuse and neglect, and she gave birth to two children, both fathered by her captor. In A Stolen Life she recounts her story and what it took to survive.

I picked this book up after seeing Jaycee on Oprah. When I saw that interview I couldn't believe this woman's story and all that she had survived. I couldn't imagine being taken from my home and held prisoner for 18 years, while my captor subjected me to all manners of sexual and verbal abuse. I was amazed that Jaycee was even able to function. She had a very positive outlook and while it was clear that her life was forever damaged by her experiences, she refused to play the victim and seemed determined to take her life back. I admired that about her and was intrigued, so I decided to pick up the book.

It has been sitting in my Kindle queue for sometime now and I decided to take a break from all the Young Adult Fiction I have been reading and finally read it. I have to be honest...I didn't love the book. While I think her story is remarkable and I am in awe of her ability to survive the horrors that she did and still come out at the end with some hope for the future, I was less impressed with the book itself. It often felt disjointed and she would often stop in the middle of the story to reflect. These reflections often seemed off topic and they were a deterrent. The story jumped around at times and there didn't seem to be any flow or continuity to the narrative. I still think the book is worth the read. I just think I had high expectations for the book after seeing the interview, and it fell a little short for me. 

8/26/2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Hazel was diagnosed with Sage IV thyroid cancer at the age of 13 and her prognoses wasn't good. At the age of 14, however, a new drug miraculously shrunk the tumors in her lungs and effectively held her cancer at bay. It was by no means a cure, but it prevented her cancer from being an immediate death sentence.

At the age of 16, Hazel lives a sort of half life. Her illness has kept her from living a normal life, as she is tethered to an oxygen tank. She is disconnected from her friends and the life of a normal teenager. She spends most of her time at home watching bad TV and re-reading her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction.

When her mother insists that she get out of the house, Hazel goes to a meeting of a support group for kids living with cancer. Enter Augustus Waters. Augustus is gorgeous and in remission, having "won" his battle with osteosarcoma, but having lost his leg in the process. Augustus and Hazel fall in love and together they examine life and death, sickness and health, and what is left behind in the end.

I loved, loved, loved this book. I couldn't put it down once I started reading it. I laughed, I cried, I fell in love with Hazel and Augustus. Such is the plight of a book lover - to love characters so much that when their story ends you feel an emotional and physical loss. I felt that after reading this book. Some have criticized the book because the characters don't sound like typical 17 year olds, but it didn't bother me at all. In fact, if they had sounded like typical teenagers, I might have been sorely disappointed. When people deal with pain, with illness, with things that are beyond their control, it changes them. Forces them to grow up and view the world through different eyes. Hazel and Augustus don't sound like typical teenagers because they are not typical teenagers. What they experienced was so far removed from the experiences of their peers. Others dismiss it as a typical "cancer book."

Maybe it is, but for me the ideas about life and death in this book were quite profound. My favorite quote from the book is "I thought of my dad telling me that the universe wants to be noticed. But what we want is to be noticed by the universe, to have the universe give a shit what happens to us - not the collective idea of sentient life but each of us, as individuals." I loved these lines because I feel like they sum up the human condition so beautifully. Yes, the universe not only wants to be noticed, it demands to be noticed. It interjects into our lives daily, often at inconvenient times. But don't we all want the universe to notice us too? We live our lives trying to leave a mark because we fear being lost to a void of oblivion. Deep down we desperately hope that the universe will acknowledge us, that our small existence in this world was not lived in vain. We want to know that we were important, that we mattered to something bigger than ourselves, hopefully beyond the small world of our everyday existence.

We are scared by the universe and we leave our own scars. Another favorite quote is: "You don't get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you." These words ring true for my life and it is a lesson that I am only now learning to fully understand. Sometimes pain is a gift, because it means that you have loved fully. You cannot love without experiencing pain, and if you shut yourself off to avoid feeling pain, you will also shut yourself off from love and all that is good in this world. In order to truly love, you must make yourself vulnerable to pain. The beauty is that the choice is yours. You can shut yourself off to avoid feeling pain, or you can wear your scars as evidence of your ability to open your heart to love, despite the pain. It's a beautiful idea - taking the bad with the good - because in the end, the good makes the bad worth it.

I will be forever grateful for having read this book and I'm sure that it will take a long time, and several more re-readings, before I am able to process all of my thoughts and feelings about it. I do know that I have been changed because I read this book. I have read many books in my life and will read many more in the future, but only a few have left a scar on my heart and soul like The Fault in Our Stars

8/25/2012

Witchlight (Night World #9) by L.J. Smith

Raksha Keller is a shapeshifter. She and her crew have been chosen to track down and protect the new Wild Power. Iliana Harman has no idea that she is a lost witch, let alone the famed Witch Child and a Wild Power. Keller must convince Iliana of her power and to join Circle Daybreak before she is captured by the Night People who are also seeking her. Doubt over Iliana's power arises when she refuses to accept or acknowledge that she is the Witch Child and a Wild Power. The fate of the world is resting on Iliana's decision and her ability to harness the blue fire of the Wild Powers.

Things get even more complicated when Keller meets Galen, the prince of the shapeshifters and finds her soulmate in him. The problem is that he has been promised in marriage to the Witch Child in order to form an alliance between the witches and the shapeshifters. With so much depending on this alliance, Keller and Galen know that they cannot be together, but can they stay away from each other?

This installment of the story was much more action packed and exciting. We have finally reached the point in the story where the millennium is upon the world and struggle between the Night World and Circle Daybreak is heading for its climax. L.J. Smith introduces some new mysterious powers in this book in the form of Dragons. Unfortunately book #10, Strange Fate, has not been published yet and L.J. Smith has not released a publication date. There are rumors that the book will be published in the Fall of 2013, but for now it appears that we shall just have to wait and see. This is the one thing that makes reading series frustrating...waiting for the next book to be released. Hopefully it will be sooner, rather than later. I am also hoping that when the book is published that it will continue the momentum the series has picked up over the last 2 or 3 books. I would hate to take a step backwards, especially when the action is just now starting to pick up and the story is starting to get exciting...

Black Dawn (Night World #8) by L.J. Smith

When Maggie Neely's brother goes missing and is presumed dead, Maggie instinctively knows that something is not quite right with his girlfriend's account of what happened. Determined to figure out what happened to her brother, Maggie follows the girlfriend and soon finds herself taken captive and being transported to the Dark Kingdom as a human slave. She meets Jeanne, P.J. and Cady, who are also captured slaves and together they manage to escape their shape-shifter captives.

Cady is deathly ill and while hiding from the shape-shifters, Maggie encounters Delos, prince of the Dark Kingdom, vicious vampire, and a Wild Power. Maggie quickly realizes that they are soulmates, but Delos refuses to accept that fate. He leads the hunting party away from Maggie and Cady, but threatens her with death if she ever comes to the castle. Meanwhile, Cady is getting worse and it becomes clear that she will not survive unless they can get her to a healing woman. Maggie and the girls get Cady to the castle and healing woman and soon discover that Cady is a witch, an important witch named Aradia, who was sent to the Dark Kingdom as an ambassador to plead with Delos to help the witches in their battle against the vampires.
When Hunter Redfern shows up, it becomes clear that something is amiss and Maggie discovers his plan to kill all of the human slaves and take over the Dark Kingdom.

Maggie, who the slaves believe is the prophesized Deliver, becomes determined to get Delos to prevent the planned hunt and sneaks into the castle to confront him. When Delos finally gives in to the "soulmate principal" he wants to make Maggie a vampire. When she will not cooperate, he throws her in the dungeon until she will. Maggie must convince him to help and if she fails, more than just the fate of the Dark Kingdom is at stake.

I liked the setting of this story a lot. The Dark Kingdom is described like a medieval world and it was almost like Maggie had stepped back in time. I also liked Delos and his initial resistance to the "soulmate principal." I think that Black Dawn was a much more exciting read than many of the other books in the series. It was not filled with a bunch of superfluous side stories and the story flowed relatively well. I was also excited to see some more developments in the upcoming battle for the "End of the World" that all of these books have been eluding to. I tried not to give to much away in my synopsis, but I feel like we are finally making some progress toward this prophesied battle!

On to book 9 - Witchlight.

8/20/2012

Huntress (Night World #7) by L.J. Smith

Jez Redfern is a vampire, the leader of a gang of vampire raiders. Her world is in perfect order and she is confident in her place. All that changes when she discovers a secret that turns her world upside down - she is part human. This revelation leads Jez to abandon her former life and become a vampire hunter, protecting humans from the Night People.

Jez is recruited by Circle Daybreak to search for the legendary Wild Powers, the group who will stand to protect the humans when the Night World War begins. This requires Jez to return home and rejoin her former gang, including Morgead, the vampire who used to be her second-in-command. Jez finds herself drawn to Morgead and soon discovers that he is her soulmate.

It quickly becomes apparent that Circle Daybreak are not the only ones looking for the Wild Powers. The Night World Council is searching for them as well. Jez and Morgead find themselves in a race to find one of the Wild Powers and they discover it in the most unlikely of places.

I have now read several of L.J. Smith's books and I still can't completely decide how I feel about her as an author. There is always something that bothers me about her novels and I can't quite figure out. I think that it has something to do with the technical aspects of her writing. For me, her stories never seem fully developed. The stories are all very simple and move quickly, which in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, especially considering that it is Young Adult Fiction. But I often find myself wanting...What keeps me returning to her stories is her imaginative stories and her characters. I love her characters and her stories do not lack for imagination. I think I just wish that the writing behind them was a little stronger.

8/07/2012

Soulmate (Night World #6) by L.J. Smith

Hannah Snow had a perfect life. She was a happy high school student with friends and dreams for the future. All this changes when mysterious notes begin appearing in her own handwriting warning her of impending doom - dead before seventeen. Hannah begins to question her sanity and seeks the help of a young psychiatrist in an attempt to solve the mystery. Instead she discovers a series of past lives in which she dies before her seventeenth birthday at the hands of a vampire named Thierry.

The problem is Thierry is her soulmate. He is the Lord of the Night World, the first made vampire, and he has searched for Hannah throughout the ages, trying to make amends for the past. Hannah finds herself a pawn in an epic struggle between Thierry and Maya, the first vampire who is determined to have Thierry for herself. This battle has been going on for centuries and always results in Hannah's death, apparently at the hands of Thierry. Thierry is determined to end this cycle, even if it means giving Hannah up.

As Hannah seeks answers in her past lives, she learns that maybe what she has come to believe as the truth about Thierry is not all that it appears. But with Maya out for revenge, can even Thierry save Hannah from her destiny?

Finally my frustration with this series is slightly (yes, only slightly) appeased. There is a slight merging of stories as Hannah meets the members of Circle Daybreak, who are all the characters from the previous novels in the series. It is a very brief reunion, but it was enough to keep me interested in continuing with the series. I hope it is a foreshadowing of an epic battle between the Night World and Circle Daybreak...we shall see. I have a feeling that I am going to end up disappointed in this...

For now it's on to book #7: Huntress

8/03/2012

The Chosen (Night World #5) by L.J. Smith

Rashel's life changed forever at the age of 5 when her path crossed with a vampire. From that moment on, she vowed that she would never be helpless again, that she would rid the world one vampire at a time until she found the vampire who destroyed her world.

Now she is a vampire slayer. Out on patrol one night she rescues Daphne Childs and uncovers a secret slave trade operated by the Night World. In an attempt to bring down the slave trade and discover an unknown vampire enclave, Rashel sets out to get herself chosen as a slave by the vampires. Along the way she meets her soulmate in the last person she ever anticipated - John Quinn - a vampire with a dark reputation.

Together Rashel and Quinn discover that there may be some dissent brewing within the Night World - Lamia vs. made vampires, the Daybreakers vs. vampires who view humans as vermin. Trouble is brewing and even members of the Council, those charged with keeping the peace and enforcing the laws, are in on it.

This book was much more developed that the others in this series and I wasn't left wanting like I was after book #4. I am getting slightly frustrated with this series, however. It is clearly building to something. With all of the cross human/Night World relationships going on, the character cross overs and all the illusions to a coup, I am curious to see how all of these stories are going to intersect. It is clear that this is where the series is going, however 5 books in and we are still being introduced to new characters and there doesn't seem to be any merging going on. I am hoping that happens soon, or I might start to lose interest in this series... 

8/02/2012

Dark Angel (Night World #4) by L.J. Smith

Gillian Lennox is invisible and yearns to be part of the popular crowd. After a near death experience, Gillian returns to her body accompanied by Angel, who claims to be her guardian angel. With Angel's help, Gillian is finally able to achieve the popularity she has always desired, as well as catch the eye of David Blackburn, who turns out to be Gillian's soulmate.

Angel even helps Gillian discover her true nature - she is a lost witch. As he introduces Gillian to her heritage and the Night World, Angel begins making some requests that have Gillian wondering whether Angel is in fact an angel, or something else entirely.

I think the concept of this story is by far the best in the series. However, the execution of the story leaves something to be desired. The whole thing felt rushed and under-developed. The potential for greatness was there, but in my opinion was not achieved. There were so many times throughout the book where I had anticipated more suspense, more action, more mystery than what I got and it was so disappointing.

For example, when Gillian finally figures out that Angel may not be what she thought him to be and realizes that she is in fact possessed, I had expected some great struggle of wills between her and Angel as she tries to banish him from her mind. Not the case! He simple just leaves! No struggle at all! How can you have a possession without the possessed having to fight the possessor? Another disappointment came when Gillian then had to figure out what Angel's unfinished business was so that she could send him back to the "Other side." That mystery lasted about a page and a half! Angel simply told her! No detective work involved! Very frustrating!

There are several other examples that I could give you, but I don't want to give the whole story away. I really feel like this book could have been developed so much more than it was. It was almost too simplistic and it felt very rushed. The story never had the time to truly develop, which is very disappointing because I feel like it has all the elements of a great story. Even the love story and soulmate principal was somewhat lacking in this story.

On to book #5: The Chosen... 

7/28/2012

Spellbinder (Night World #3) by L.J. Smith

Thea and Blaise are witches. Blaise has powerful black magic and is uses it to control men and have them do her bidding. Thea is a white witch and usually has to deal with the consequences of Blaise's actions. They are sister-bonded and while Thea does not often agree with Blaise's actions, the bond between the two witches is strong.

Thea and Blaise live with their Grandmother Harman, who also happens to be a very powerful witch. They find themselves having to start over at another school after Blaise's actions got them expelled from their previous school, just one of many they have been expelled from. Thea is praying that Blaise will behave, as their grandmother is threatening to send them to live with their aunt if they get into trouble again.

Trouble begins almost immediately. When Thea saves a boy named Eric from a snake, she finds herself instantly drawn to him. The problem is that he is a human, and humans are not supposed to know about the Night World. When Blaise sets her sights on Eric, Thea is bound and determined to protect him at all costs. He is her soulmate and Thea finds herself breaking the Night World's most strict laws - do not reveal the secret and do not fall in love with a human. In her efforts to save Eric from Blaise's attentions, she works a forbidden spell and accidentally unleashes an evil spirit who goes on a murderous rampage. Thea must now face the ultimate question - is she willing to risk everything to save Eric?

Nothing terribly exciting or different about this book from the previous ones. Just another well written YA Fiction novel. On to book #4: Dark Angel!

7/24/2012

Daughters of Darkness (Night World #2) by L.J. Smith

Daughters of Darkness is the second book in the Night World series by L.J. Smith. Mary-Lynnette and Mark Carter live in a small town named Briar Creek in Oregon. Nothing exciting ever happens in Briar Creek. Nothing until three mysterious young girls move into town to live with their aunt. Mary-Lynnette soon realizes that something is not quite right about their new neighbors, and she and her brother soon find themselves caught up in the Night World because Rowan, Krestrel, and Jade are vampires.

Mary-Lynnette cannot walk away now. Mark has fallen for Jade, claiming she is his soulmate, and they have to figure out who murdered the sisters' aunt. The truth is they are all in danger. The strict laws of the Night World have been broken...Mary-Lynnette and Mark, who are humans, know the secret, and Jade has fallen in love with a human. There is not turning back. Mary-Lynnette's world is further turned on its axis when Ash (you will remember him from book #1) shows up with the intention of returning his sisters to the island from which they came. One touch confirms it - Ash and Mary-Lynnette are soulmates. Only Mary-Lynnette is not sure whether or not she is ready to join the Night World, to always live in darkness. After solving the mystery Ash leaves to smooth things over with his father so that his sister can remain in Briar Creek, promising to return for Mary-Lynnette in a years time. The question remains...will Mary-Lynnette be ready?

I enjoyed this book just as much as Secret Vampire, and possibly a little more. Again, this is a total quintessential Young Adult Fiction novel, so if you are not into that, don't pick it up. I have to admit that the hopeless romantic in me is loving the idea of the "soulmate principal" - the idea that each person has a perfect match that understands them and completes them. Having never actually experienced this principal myself, the skeptic in me still finds myself rolling my eyes at the idea that it only takes one touch for the characters to realize they have met their match, while the 13 year old hopeless romantic is sighing...it's an interesting dual experience of emotions. I especially loved it when it happened to Ash, who we met in the Secret Vampire. I liked watching his character struggle with the new feelings he experienced - guilt, compassion, love. They stand in stark contrast to the usual reactions we get from him and plays so nicely into that notion that love, true love, is transformative and can overcome any obstacles. It will be interesting to see how Ash and Mary-Lynnette's love story plays out in future books as they both are still experiencing some hesitation, unlike the love story we saw in book #1 with James and Poppy.

On to book three: Spellbinder!

7/23/2012

Secret Vampire (Night World #1) by L.J. Smith

Poppy is sixteen years old and she is going to die. She has just been diagnosed with cancer and the doctors tell her there is no hope. She will die, or at least she believes so until James, her mysterious best friend, appears in her hospital room. James has a secret, a secret that can save Poppy is she is willing. James is a vampire and offers to turn Poppy so that he will not lose her. If James does this he will be breaking three very important laws of the Night World - the supernatural group consisting of vampires, werewolves, and witches - do not revel what you are, do not change a human into a vampire, and most serious of all, do not fall in love with a human.

James is willing to risk everything for Poppy because she is his soulmate. All appears to be going to plan when Ash, James' cousin and an evil and vindictive vampire, shows up and convinces Poppy that she must leave in order to save James from being punished for breaking the secret laws. Poppy leaves with him reluctantly and James sets off after them when he discovers Poppy is gone. Barely escaping exposure, James and Poppy set off to start their new lives together.

The Night World series is another series by L.J. Smith, writer of The Vampire Diaries series. While each book in the series is connected by a central thread, each volume follows a different protagonist who must face various challenges involving love, the "soulmate principle" and the Night World's strict code, which is why I have decided to blog about each book separately as I read them.

I liked Secret Vampire, as will anyone who enjoys vampire lore, because L.J. Smith mixes in some new with the old. For example, James was born a vampire and has vampire parents, but can still be killed by a stake through the heart. The book is quintessential Young Adult Fiction, so if you are not a fan of the genre, don't pick this book (and I'm assuming the rest of the series) up. Even I found myself rolling my eyes at some of the more ridiculous passages, that would have probably sent my heart a flutter and made me sigh, had I been 13 years old. Nevertheless, I enjoy L.J. Smith's writing and I am intrigued enough by the series to continue reading it. Next up is book two: Daughters of Darkness.

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

NSparks does it again! Safe Haven tells the tale of Katie, a mysterious young woman who shows up in the small town of Southport, North Carolina, determined to make a new start. She lives on the outskirts of town, doesn't have a car, works as a waitress at a local restaurant, and largely keeps to herself. Alex is a young widower with two children who runs the local market who is intrigued by the beautiful young stranger. After a series of events begins to draw the two of them together, Katie finds herself letting her guard down and falling for Alex. She is ever fearful that her past will catch up with her and shatter her safe haven.

This is another well written NSparks novel and if you are a fan of his, you will enjoy it. I didn't find anything truly remarkable about the story. I thought the antagonist of the story was somewhat darker than in some of his previous novels and seemed to have no redeeming quality whatsoever. He totally deserved what he got. Other than that I wasn't overly excited about anything else. I wouldn't call the book boring...but it wasn't terribly exciting either. It was a quick read and I read most of it while sitting on a ferry in Greece.

The film rights to the book have been purchased and they are in the process of filming the movie, which will star Julianne Hough as Katie and Josh Duhamel as Alex. The movie is scheduled to be released in February 2013.