Monthly Archives:: January 2012

Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light by Amy Thomas

January 30, 2012 Book Review 7 ★★

Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light by Amy ThomasParis, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) by Amy Thomas
Published by Sourcebooks on February 1, 2012
Genres: Chick Lit, Memoir, Non-Fiction
Pages: 280
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
Amazon Add to Goodreads
2 Stars
Part love letter to New York, part love letter to Paris, and total devotion to all things sweet. Paris, My Sweet is a personal and moveable feast that’s a treasure map for anyone who loves fresh cupcakes and fine chocolate, New York and Paris, and life in general. It’s about how the search for happiness can be as fleeting as a sliver of cheesecake and about how the life you’re meant to live doesn’t always taste like the one you envisioned. Organized into a baker’s dozen of delicacies (and the adventures they inspired) that will tempt readers’ appetites, Paris, My Sweet is something to savor.

The idea of this memoir is pretty adorable. I love Paris, I love New York, and I love desserts! I envy that Amy Thomas got to fly off to live in Paris for two years, doing advertising for Louis Vuitton and sampling all the amazing pastries and breads, not to mention the culture itself. The pages of this book are crammed full of bakeries and other foodish places in both Paris and New York. She makes a lot of recommendations for those who plan to travel to either location. Many times I felt like I was reading a menu with really detailed, yummy dessert descriptions. Do not read this on an empty stomach, or if you’re on a diet. The author even had me craving desserts I’m allergic to!

She also talks a lot about the history of various bakeries and dessert creations. Like the original chocolate chip cookie was a mistake. Someone accidentally dropped a chocolate bar in their cookie dough, and decided to go with the flow. A star was born. There’s lots of cool tidbits of information that I enjoyed reading about. I learned quite a bit.

Of course, she adds in personal stories from her past, as well as her time in Paris. My favorite one is when her parents fly to Paris to visit her. She describes all the touristy stuff there is to do, and she made me want to visit even more. She takes them to this one tearoom called Angelina’s, that sells the best hot chocolate in the world. She compares it to melted truffles. YUM. Coco Chanel used to have her 5:00 tea there everyday, and Audrey Hepburn popped in frequently. I looked this place up online, and it is GORGEOUS (and majorly expensive). I need to go!


Angelina’s Tearoom, Paris (Image from linternaute.com)

There were a few things that caused me to drop my rating of this book. I loved the idea, but the execution could have been stronger. I don’t speak or read French, and there is a TON of French in this book with no translations! She has a conversation with a woman who runs a bakery, and it was entirely in French. I could kind of make out what the general idea of the conversation was, but I had no idea what they were saying. She also used a lot of French phrases in the middle of her English sentences. It took away from my enjoyment, because I kept getting frustrated that I was missing something important. I just wish a parenthetical translation were there, or a footnote. Something. The author also writes really long, flowery sentences (sometimes the size of a lengthy paragraph) that are extremely wordy lists of stuff. She does this a lot (sometimes 2-3 times per page), and it gets kind of tiring. Here are a few examples:

  • “For months, I had been positively gushing about life in Paris: how charming the square-shaped trees were and how exquisite the ironwork; how graceful the seventeenth-century hotel particuliers (that’s French, not a typo) and enviable the French women’s legs; how sweet the strawberries and how divine the wine.”
  • “My visions of canal-side picnics in August were cruelly dashed, to say nothing of the chocolate eclairs heavy with custard, the buttery brioches that begged to be pinched and devoured, and raspberry tarts with their plump berries perfectly fanned out across precious beds of creme patissiere and moist pate sablee crusts that would have to go untasted while I was at the office.”
  • “But the prixe-fixe menu was also quite a value, considering it was really four courses once you factored in the biggest, most ridiculously decadent cheese course that came with it… or six courses, when you counted the two amusesebouches that began the meal… or eight courses with the two side dishes served alongside our entrees… or fourteen courses with the dishes of complimentary gelees, caramels, chocolates, lemon cakes, and petits fours that came in addition to our dessert course.”

Finally, she’s a complainer. She complains a lot about being single, and how all of her friends are pairing off. She complains about Paris, her job, her lack of friends, how her jeans are tighter than they used to be (which they should be with everything she eats! Haha), her lack of French skills, and how she misses New York. But then she goes back to visit NYC, and mopes and complains about how it’s not upscale enough for her anymore. And THEN she goes back to Paris and complains that she misses New York. I understand that it’s hard uprooting your life and moving to a foreign city. And I can totally understand why she felt like this. But filling her memoir with complaints didn’t make much sense to me. She spent a lot of the book sporting the “the grass is always greener on the other side” mentality, and I got tired of it. She was giddy about food. Food solved all of her problems. I wish she’d expressed more of her happiness in other areas of life.

Overall, this was a moderately enjoyable read. The author has a few coming of age moments, and you can tell she learned a lot about herself during her time abroad. I appreciated her human side, but wished for a little more depth. She either talked at great length about food or her hardships. I enjoyed reading about the food, but I got sick of it towards the latter part of the book (it started to feel about as exciting as a cookbook without the recipes). Maybe Paris, My Sweet should be read in small doses, along with another book. I might have appreciated it more that way. If you love New York and Paris, this book will take you there. And if you love torturing your dieting self with amazing sounding pastries, this is the book for you! At least reading about calories doesn’t plaster them to your hips, right? I’ve created a Dessert Bucket List now, thanks to Amy Thomas. :)


Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry (Book Review)

January 28, 2012 Adult Fiction, Book Review 5 ★★★★★

Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry (Book Review)Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry
Series: Troy Chance #1
Published by Broadway Books on February 22, 2011
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: From the Publisher
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5 Stars
“If I’d blinked, I would have missed it. But I didn’t, and I saw something fall from the rear deck of the opposite ferry: a small, wide-eyed human face, in one tiny frozen moment, as it plummeted toward the water.”

When she witnesses a small child tumbling from a ferry into Lake Champlain, Troy Chance dives in without thinking. Harrowing moments later, she bobs to the surface, pulling a terrified little boy with her. As the ferry disappears into the distance, she begins a bone-chilling swim nearly a mile to shore with a tiny passenger on her back.

Surprisingly, he speaks only French. He’ll acknowledge that his name is Paul; otherwise, he’s resolutely mute.

Troy assumes that Paul’s frantic parents will be in touch with the police or the press. But what follows is a shocking and deafening silence. And Troy, a freelance writer, finds herself as fiercely determined to protect Paul as she is to find out what happened to him. What she uncovers will take her into a world of wealth and privilege and heedless self-indulgence—a world in which the murder of a child is not unthinkable. She’ll need skill and courage to survive and protect her charge and herself.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been able to read a good mystery. The first author I ever loved was Mary Higgins-Clark. Her mysteries made me fall in love with the genre, and I’ve been seeking out good ones ever since. When this book popped up in an e-mail to The Broke and The Bookish, I jumped at the chance to read it. It sounded so intriguing, and exciting. Picture this… you’re on a ferry, it’s crispy cold outside, and in the distance you see a bundle thrown off the back of another ferry at the exact moment you pass it. It could have been trash, right? Or a hoodie that blew off the deck. But no, you just can’t shake the feeling that it is so much worse than that. Without thinking you, not even a very good swimmer, jump into the frigid Lake Champlain and make a beeline for the diminishing ripples in the water where the mysterious bundle hit moments before. As you frantically search the murky waters around you, your eyes meet the eyes of a scared, drowning little boy. You grab him, swim a grueling one-mile swim, hoping to avoid the hypothermia creeping into your very bones, and pull him to the rocky shore. He’s not breathing, so you try to remember the CPR lesson you had a LONG time ago. You succeed. He’s breathing. As his eyes open, he looks at you, lets out a little sigh, rests his sleepy head on your arm, and murmurs, “Merci.”

This is what happens to small town newspaper journalist, Troy, on the way to visit her boyfriend. She scoops the little French-speaking guy up, runs to her car, warms him up, and tries to push away the fact that someone tried to murder this little boy. Using her very limited education in French, she learns from him that his name is Paul, he’s 6, he was kidnapped, and they killed his mom. Rather than turning him over to the police, she assumes the role of temporary mother and takes him home with her. As she learns more about him, she begins to search for his father, investigate the horrible kidnapping on her own, and finds a special place in her heart for him. The more searching she does, the more dangerous her simple life in Lake Placid becomes. She can’t let go, though. She has to know that Paul is safe, and she will do anything in her power to ensure he is.

OH MAN, right? I was hooked from the first line, “If I’d blinked, I would have missed it.” It totally sucked me in, and I read the entire thing on the way home from vacation. I really do love long car rides sometimes. No obligations but reading. The story was so unique. A six-year-old is not usually the most important character in a book, but Paul was definitely the star. He is incredibly sweet, impeccably well behaved, and cute as a button. I fell in love with this little guy, so I can totally understand why Troy did too. And yes, her name is Troy. It threw me for a while, but then I got used to it.

I really like Troy. She lives in Lake Placid with several men that rent rooms from her during high season. She’s one of the guys, but in a feminine way. They respect her, and she’s kind of like a mom to them even though they’re about her age. She has a brother who is a police officer in Florida, and she calls on him when she needs help. I loved reading about the process she went through to dig out information. She’s smart, brave, daring, fearless, and very likeable. I enjoyed reading her story (especially her bond with Paul, his dad, and their housekeeper), and she’s a great heroine who doesn’t whine when life gets tough.

The guys she lives with are hilarious. They act like stereotypical college athletes. Troy can’t keep food in the house, they have all kinds of funny things to say, and they really are just big softies. I really liked them. They were concerned about Troy, and were always willing to help her if she needed them.

The story was gripping, to say the least. The mystery was not a fast-paced as some I’ve read, but that actually made the story more believable to me. Troy ran into some snags, everyone was in some danger… but just enough to make it real. Some mysteries seem a bit too far-fetched to be taken seriously. This story could have happened. I am SO excited for the next book! Go buy this one. You’ll love it.


Seduction by Brenda Joyce (Book Review)

January 26, 2012 Adult Fiction, Book Review 3

Seduction by Brenda Joyce (Book Review)Seduction by Brenda Joyce
Series: The Spymaster's Men #1
Published by Harlequin on January 31, 2012
Genres: Historical Romance, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
Amazon Add to Goodreads
1 Stars
Dominic Paget, the earl of Bedford, will do anything to resume spying upon Britain's enemies. Badly wounded, he is put will in the care of a beautiful gentlewoman, Julianne Greystone, only to discover that her sympathies lie with his enemies. Yet he can't help but seduce the woman who saved his life—hoping she never learns of his betrayal.

Julianne is captivated by the wounded stranger she believes is a revolutionary hero. Until she discovers the truth…her "hero" is the privileged earl of Bedford. Devastated and determined to forget him, Julianne travels to London. But when she finds herself in danger, it is Bedford who comes to the rescue. Now Julianne must navigate the intrigues of a perilous city, the wild yearnings of her own heart and the explosion of their passion….

I pride myself on being a pretty versatile reader. I’ve been reading a lot of dark YA dystopians and paranormals lately, so I took a few days to read some lighter romances like Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, and now Seduction. I love my YAs, but sometimes I just need something completely different. Historical romances are another love of mine, so when I saw this on NetGalley, I was excited and intrigued. I love spy stuff and England and France and deception! I was expecting to really enjoy this. Sadly, it fell short for me. And with that, here are my thoughts (I’ve bolded the most important points, just in case you’re a skimmer!):

1. The romance took a back seat to the extremely political discussions and explanations in this book. At 30% of the way through, I knew very little about the characters, but had received a very thorough history lesson on the French Revolution, the Tories, the Jacobins… the battles… the sympathizers and the different thought processes from everyone involved. I started to space and skim through large chunks. I love history, but not this much! I wanted a romance, and there were parts that felt like I was reading a textbook rather than a novel. I felt like the framework of the story took forever to be put into place. It really took away from the romance, which felt like an afterthought. Historical fiction? Yes. Historical romance? Not really.

2. With all that being said, her story was very well researched. I understand that the author wanted her readers to receive all the background information to really understand the story. However, the reader is bombarded with so much! Too much to be enjoyable.

3. I didn’t connect with/like any of the characters. Julianne made the stupidest decisions, and was unbelievably naive and spineless. I like romance novels that have strong women. Yes, she had strong opinions, but she was so naive and clammy that I had a hard time believing they were her own thoughts, and not something she had read in a pamphlet. And she kept getting into trouble! Dom was just annoying. He spent so much time with his nose in the air that he didn’t even see what was going on. He totally lacked common sense. The supporting characters aren’t really worth mentioning. Julianne had two brothers, but they were so similar and hardly ever spoken of, that I had a hard time differentiating between the two of them. Julianne had a maid/servant while staying at Dom’s house that I liked, but I think it was only because she didn’t bug me.

4. Too. Much. Drama. Everyone threw tantrums. Dom deceived Julianne, and she was so mad that she pouted forever! Julianne deceived Dom, and he got so mad he refused to look at her. Can’t we be more adult here, and talk about this? They were on opposing sides of a war. Feelings are bound to be hurt. All of this pouting and cold shoulder business caused pointless misunderstandings. Julianne ends up getting into trouble because of her radical ways, and spends less than 24 hours in a jail cell. She won’t eat. When she gets out, she’s so weak and traumatized that she has to spend a week in bed. Seriously? That’s a pretty wimpy reaction. I kept wishing she’d suck it up.

5. About 3/4 of the way through, things pick up a little. At this point we’ve been given all the info on the French Revolution, so the focus settles on Dom and Julianne and deception. It was a bit more enjoyable, but I felt it was too little too late. There was not enough time to recover, which was disappointing. So much time was spent on historic details and politics that time ran out before I could connect enough with the characters or the story to care how things ended.

6. For so much frustration and confusion, the ending gets wrapped up in a perfect little bow way too quickly to be believable. I was actually worried that things would be continued in the next book (which I won’t be reading), we had so little time left. After all this time of being mad and annoyed and hurt and brooding and pouty, everyone just falls into place and life is perfect. This doesn’t happen! People go from hate to love in the blink of an eye! I’m really glad their story ended with this book, because I would have been frustrated if I had plowed through this one, only to still not be finished.

I’ve read a lot of historical romance. Like I said, it has always been one of my favorite genres. I would not classify this as a romance, though. Julianne and Dominic’s story was so weak, that it just annoyed me. Honestly, I didn’t care if they sorted out their battles. I didn’t like either of them, or their families. Everything took a backseat to the history lesson, which was really pretty boring. I skipped entire pages of history with no dialogue or happenings. It was just history. Now, I have nothing against history. It’s just not what I wanted to be reading when I picked up a romance. I will applaud Ms. Joyce for her impeccable research. It was obvious that she spent a ton of time reading up on the French Revolution and the spymasters. If you like historical fiction, I can see that you might like this. It just wasn’t my cup of tea.


Top Ten Books that Take me Somewhere

January 24, 2012 Top Ten Tuesday 15

TTT

Hey guys! I love traveling. LOVE it. And it’s during months like these that I get the travel bug. January is tough. It’s cold, we’ve got holiday hangovers, and the days are short and dark. It makes me want to go somewhere fun! So for this week’s freebie TTT, I’ve chosen to tell you about my favorite books set in places I’d love to escape to right now (or books with travelers I envy).

By Love or By Sea by Rachel Rager
This book takes place in a quaint little seaside town. It’s a very sweet, clean romance that I just loved. I want to visit this place.

Kiss and Tell by Suzanne Brockman
Here, we get to visit this adorable town in Florida called Sunrise Key. Picture flower boxes, white and blue-striped awnings, and picket fences. Everyone knows everyone. I want to find a bed and breakfast and live there for a little while!

Royal Target by Traci Hunter Ambramson
The heroine is a CIA agent, who goes to Venezuela on assignment and meets Prince Garrett. They hit it off, and her mission is terminated as she receives new orders to go to Meridia (a city on the coast of Italy) to pretend to be his fiancee as part of their security plan. Meridia sounds amazing, and Venezuela would be a wonderful place to visit as well!

My Heart Stood Still by Lynn Kurland 
Here, we get to go to an old castle in on the English moors. An American man falls in love with a Scottish woman from the past. It’s a gorgeous story, and the scenery sounds amazing.

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
The bulk of this takes place in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. PLEASE let me go! I love the Met, and I could definitely use a trip there right now.

Me and Mr. Darcy by Alexandra Potter
The characters in this story go on the Jane Austen tour of England! I’d love to go on that trip.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
A “race through the cathedrals and castles of Europe”. I’ll take it!

Carrie Goes off the Map by Phillippa Ashley
The heroine goes on a road trip through the English countryside with a really sexy guy… I want to do that!

Caribbean Cruising by Rachel Hawthorne
Now, I didn’t like this book very much, but it takes place on cruise ships and there’s nothing I love more than reading on the sun-drenched deck of a ship floating around the Caribbean!

Sailing to Capri by Elizabeth Adler
This takes place on a yacht set for Capri, Italy! Can you tell I love water and Europe?

So! Which books have you read that involve traveling, or just awesome places? And be sure to link me to your Top Ten Tuesday posts! I want to see what you came up with. :) Thanks for stopping by!


Dreaming of Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly (Book Review)

January 23, 2012 Adult Fiction, Book Review 5 ★★★

Dreaming of Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly (Book Review)Dreaming of Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly
Series: Austen Addicts #2
Also in this series: Mr. Darcy Forever
Published by Sourcebooks on January 1, 2012
Genres: Chick Lit, Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 280
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
Amazon Add to Goodreads
3 Stars
Fledging illustrator and Darcy fanatic Kay Ashton settles in the seaside town of Lyme to finish her book, The Illustrated Darcy, when a film company arrives to make a new adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion. Kay is soon falling for the handsome bad boy actor playing Captain Wentworth, but it's the quiet screenwriter Adam Craig who has more in common with her beloved Mr. Darcy. Though still healing from a broken heart, Adam finds himself unexpectedly in love with Kay. But it will take more than good intentions to convince her that her real happy ending is with him.

(While this is book #2 in a series, I contacted the author and she said each novel is a standalone, and they can be read out of order.)

I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. I loved the little town of Lyme. It sounds breathtaking, and I have always thought it would be fun to own a B&B by the sea. Kay’s sounds very cute and old-fashioned, with lots of character and charm. I liked the two actresses, Sophie and Gemma. They are very sweet and caring, and end up being great friends to Kay. I like Adam a lot, and think he’s a saint for putting up with Kay’s antics. He’s hopelessly in love with her, while she is trying to set him up with someone else (like Emma Woodhouse would). She’s completely clueless! The smartest person in this book is Adam’s eccentric Nana, who tells it like it is. She totally knows what’s going on, and is perfectly willing to voice her opinions. I liked her!

I had a hard time with the insta-love. Everyone falls in love with everyone really fast! With Adam, it’s love at first sight. He falls for Kay, the girl with the “toffee-colored hair” before he even knows her name. (By the way, you’ll get really tired of the phrase “toffee-colored hair”. It is used a LOT in this book.) Kay falls in love with Oli (the male lead in the movie) really fast. She’s planning their wedding and naming their children, and he hasn’t even kissed her yet. He hasn’t even told her he likes her yet! Gemma’s love interest takes a little more time, but again it’s love at first sight for him and love at first realization that he loves her for her. This is just not realistic! These characters are not junior high schoolers who think they are in love because they’ve never felt it before! And why is everyone so clueless? Kay is clueless about everything, Adam is spineless and won’t tell Kay that he likes her and not the girl she’s trying to match him with, Gemma is clueless and can’t figure out why a guy is being nice to her. People are not this dumb! Really, it felt like high school and all the he-said-she-said drama. These people are too old for this. I think this is the reason that I didn’t really connect with any of them. I just kept wanting to smack them.

Kay has conversations with herself, which are just weird to me. I don’t sit and actually have a conversation with myself, especially out loud. I guess I just don’t like it when characters have conversations with themselves, because I had the same complaint with Midnight in Austenland. Also… the title led me to believe I was going to be reading a Pride and Prejudice spin-off. This book is all centered around Persuasion, though, so you’ll be hearing much more about Captain Wentworth than Mr. Darcy. I’m not complaining or anything, and I really enjoyed reading about the romantic story of Persuasion. I just thought it was worth mentioning for those who are on the look-out for P&P retellings or spin-offs. This isn’t one.

My favorite part was when two characters get completely drenched in a downpour and have to make due with borrowed clothes. The guy has no pants, a bright yellow raincoat, and a t-shirt. The girl is wearing granny clothes that are too big. That was funny. And I really enjoyed the descriptions of the Cobb and the surrounding area. I’ve always really wanted to go to England, so any book that describes it to me is a book I appreciate. I really liked the idea of the novel as well. There were just a few parts that kept me from liking it as much as I could have, and expected to.

I’m glad I read Dreaming of Mr. Darcy. I was really excited for it, and it was a nice change from all the dark dystopias I’ve been reading lately. I just had higher expectations. Like all romances, everyone ends up with who you want/expect them to. I still plan to read the other stories in this series, and hope to connect with them more. :)


100 Followers Giveaway! (International)

January 21, 2012 Giveaway 39

Hi guys! My blog reached 100 followers a few nights ago, and let me tell you… I was much more excited than I thought I would be! Haha. I love all my readers, tweeters, and awesome book blogging friends. It means so much to me that you all care about my opinions, and take the time to read what I have to say! I also love the discussions we’ve had! To thank you for following me, supporting my blog, and being great friends, I’m giving the winner of this giveaway $10 at The Book Depository to spend on whatever book they’d like. This giveaway is open to my International readers, as long as The Book Depository ships to you. (Check here if you’re not sure.) Once again, thank you and good luck! I hope you win, because I kind of adore you.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations, Alexa @ Alexa Loves Books!
Your book, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, will arrive at your house on February 1st! Hope you love it!


When Good Books Get Lost Behind Not-So-Good Covers

January 20, 2012 Cover Talk, Discussion 16

Discussion time! You know how pretty much everyone judges a book by its cover, even though they say they don’t? I know I do. It’s really hard not to, especially since I’m an artist and expect the art to reflect the content. If a cover is bad (or lacking in good design, or design at all), I usually assume the book is so bad it’s not worth spending the money on a really great cover. Of course, this is not always the case. We’ve all been deceived by a beautiful cover before, haven’t we? (By the way, this will be the topic of my next discussion. Just you wait!) Here are some books I’ve read that ended up being good, despite the cover! It’s what’s on the inside that counts, right?

If you click on this montage, it will expand so you can see all the cover details better!

Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception and Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie by Maggie Stiefvater – These books are so much better than the cover! A plain black background with some clip art stuck on is no fun!

The Host by Stephenie Meyer – Yes, the silver ring in the eye is cool, but the gunky make-up in the corner of the eye is not. The story is SO long, with so much going on. I’m sure more inspiration could have been stirred up for a better cover.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller – Nothing says drama, magic, and the Salem Witch Trials better than the back of a head…

Nightshade (The Poison Diaries #2) by Maryrose Wood – There’s just too much going on here. A face with pink cotton candy stuck to it and a forest with sunbeams growing out of her chin. “The Poison Diaries” logo is well done, but then they just slapped “Nightshade” on there all non-typographically pleasing. I bet they could have incorporated it somehow.

Black Swan Rising by Lee Carroll – Ugh. I’ve read this, and there is nothing in the story that looks like this.

Most Historical Romance (Like Master of Seduction by Kinley MacGregor) – I think more people would read historical romance (and romance in general) if we didn’t have half-dressed Fabios staring at us! I love this genre, but please. We’ve got a naked man, a flowery font, and “Master of Seduction” HUGE with an innuendo of a catch phrase on there. Thank goodness I have a Kindle. Covers like these embarrass me, and I’m terrified of being seen reading a book with one!

Hush, Hush be Becca Fitzpatrick – Honestly, this dude looks like he is being murdered with a feather (the red feathers above don’t help much). Yes, he is falling from Heaven, but that pose is just unnatural and painful looking.

The Giver by Lois Lowry – Hello, old man. Yes, it works with the story, but there’s no ingenuity at work here!

Loves Music, Loves to Dance by Mary Higgins Clark – Guess who wrote this one? I hope you can read it, seeing as how the name is so small. WHY must an author’s name take up 2/3rds of a cover? It’s not like it’s a really cool name, or a really cool font. Seriously.

Ok! So, you’ve got my picks! What are yours? What other books out there have I been avoiding for years because of the cover? Or do you like these covers? Tell me what you think!


Incarnate by Jodi Meadows (Book Review)

January 19, 2012 Book Review, Young Adult 9 ★★★★★

Incarnate by Jodi Meadows (Book Review)Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
Series: Newsoul #1
Also in this series: Asunder, Infinite
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on January 31, 2012
Genres: Dystopia, Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 374
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
NEWSOUL
Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.

NOSOUL
Even Ana's own mother thinks she's a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she'll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?

HEART
Sam believes Ana's new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana's enemies—human and creature alike—let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else's life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?

Do you ever read a book that leaves you thinking, “Ok, how on Earth am I supposed to go about reviewing that?” Don’t get me wrong. I loved this book. Sometimes, though, I come across a book I love so much, that it leaves me wordless. Haha. This was one of them. I’m not sure exactly what it was that made me love it so much. Perhaps it was the sweeping, yet believable non-insta-love romance, the unique take on a utopian world, or the writing that I totally got. You know how sometimes your brain and an author’s writing style just mesh, and you’re writing in your mind the exact same story you’re reading? Jodi just did everything right. She and I were on the same wavelength, and I totally got her. I’m not saying the book was predictable, because it totally wasn’t. I’m saying that everything she wrote was exactly what I wanted. I got my romance, my mystery, my alternate world, my suspense, my excitement. Let’s see if I can break this down for you in a way that makes sense. Haha. I’m really into putting my thoughts into numbered lists right now, so that’s what I’m going to do. It works for me.

1. I really loved reading about Ana’s journey to Heart. The very beginning of the book just sucked me in, and I was sold. It was suspenseful, and adventurous. It was also a great way to be introduced into this world. We’re introduced to the sylph, which are vicious invisible fire breathers that burn anything in their path. Whoa.

2. And then we meet Sam. I LOVE SAM. He might just be one of my favorite YA male characters. Because he’s been reincarnated so many times, he’s extremely smart, talented, and mature. He’s unbelievably caring and considerate. People in this world hate Ana because in order for her to be born, a person had to die and never be reincarnated again. Her birth was a complete mistake, and people resent her not only because she “stole” a life, but because they are worried that more people like her will be born in the future. Sam’s totally not on board with their train of thought, though. He adores her and helps her figure out that she’s worth so much more than her birth mother has been telling her her whole life. And he’s musical. He made me melt a little.

3. I really enjoyed learning about Heart. The walls have a heartbeat. There’s a mysterious temple with no doors that is so tall, you can’t see the top of it. It’s so huge that almost the entire human race lives there. Plus, it’s been there since the beginning of time. The inhabitants of this place said they just stumbled upon it after being born the first time. They think it was given to them by their God, Janan (which is so close to my name. woot!), to protect them from the dangerous beasts of the world.

4. The Masquerade Ball is flat-out one of the most beautiful scenes in the book. The ball is held for two souls who have pledged their undying love for one another across all their incarnations, even if sometimes one of them happens to be 80 and the other one 5. Or… if they both happen to come back as members of the same gender. It’s their souls that matter, not their bodies or age. So they celebrate this ceremony with a masquerade ball, where nobody knows who anyone is dressed as. The goal is for this couple to find each other anyway. What a beautiful underlying message of eternal love knowing no bounds. It’s a breathtaking thought. And wow, this ball was sexy. I’ll leave it at that!

5. The action and suspense! Dragons, Sylph, people out to kill Ana and Sam… SO exciting! I was flipping pages faster than I could read, and had to press the back button on my Kindle to go back. (Anyone else ever do that? Haha.)

6. Music was a HUGE part of this book. Sam’s an amazing musician, and Ana connects with music on the same level I do. Music has always been one of the main elements of my life. It brings out such strong emotions and feelings in me. I connect with it on so many levels, just like she mentions throughout this story. I identified with her so much for this reason.

7. The lyrical writing was gorgeous, but not over the top or flowery. Like I said, I just got it. I don’t want to give away too many details, because it’s something you’ve got to experience on your own.

8. There were no hidden agendas in this book. There were points where the people seem to be very religious and devoted to their God, but this was not preachy at all. I didn’t feel like anything was being shoved down my throat. There were also a few moments that could almost be identified as anti-religious, but again I didn’t feel like the author was trying to sway me one way or another. Remember in my review of Halo when I said that a good author can write a religion without preaching it? This book, unlike Halo, was a good example of an author who handles it without trying to force someone to have an opinion. I really appreciated that.

9. The idea of reincarnation was handled in a very interesting way. These people live, they die. Then they are reincarnated into a new body (male or female) and come back as a grown human in a baby’s body. They come out smart, and with all the memories of their previous lives. It’s a very cool idea, and opens the door for many interesting and well-rounded characters. I loved it.

10. And… I just have to mention the cover. It’s gorgeous. And unlike some book covers, this cover tells so much about the story itself. I’m not going to elaborate on this because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I might just have to buy a hard copy of this book so I can own the cover. I’m a graphic designer, and I really appreciate art that is done for a better reason that to “just look pretty”. This is one of the best examples I’ve seen of a cover that very subtly opens a window to the story. You’ll understand what I mean once you read it.

All in all, read this book! It’s new, it’s fresh, it’s romantic, and it’s pretty much awesome. I can’t wait for the next one!


Top 10 Books I’d Recommend to if You Don’t Like Contemporary

January 17, 2012 Top Ten Tuesday 14

TTT

So, I love this week’s theme over at the Broke and the Bookish, because we were instructed to recommend books to someone who does not read _________. Meaning, all the lists this week are going to be different and will cater to many different kinds of readers. It’s so exciting, and I know I will love hopping around to everyone’s blogs!

I used to be one of those people who did not like contemporary novels. I always figured that if I treated reading as an escape, why should I read books that keep me right in the here and now? I should read to travel to a different time, not to hang out here in the world I’m trying to get away from! I’ve change my mind, though, and now I love them! So, it’s kind of like I’m recommending books to my past self. If I’m leaving anything out, let me know! I’m still a new lover of contemporary, so I don’t know all the good stuff yet!

Adult Contemporary Fiction:

Austenland by Shannon Hale
This was the first book I ever read that was completely contemporary. There’s a little romance, and the characters hearken back to regency times… but the whole thing takes place right now. It was a good way to slowly ease into contemporary, because it combined inklings of a genre I’ve always loved: historical fiction/romance.
(Read my review of Austenland.)

Carrie Goes Off The Map by Phillipa Ashley
I LOVED this book. The heroine is strong and independent. She’s been hurt by her now ex-fiance, and wants an escape from her normal life. So she grabs a friend-of-a-friend that she barely knows, and they go on a road trip around England, exploring the scenery, meeting new people, and getting to know each other. It’s a contemporary romance that allowed me the escape I always crave in a book.
(Read my review of Carrie.)

The Guardian by Nicholas Sparks
Nicholas knows how to create such strong, beautiful romances that you forget you’re reading about people just like you. Romances that strong have GOT to be otherworldly, but this book takes place right here, right now. It’s also probably the only book by him that won’t have you crying a TON. I cried a little during this one, but not much. It’s also got some suspense thrown in, which is fabulous.

Nocturne by Syrie James
This book has a vampire element to it, but the rest of the story is so realistic and so “right now” that you’re convinced vampires exist! The scenery is awesome. I love tying a bit of paranormal stuff!
(Enter my giveaway of this book right here!)

Pretty much anything by Mary Higgins Clark
Mary Higgins Clark writes the best, most exciting mysteries ever. They are amazing! She’s an auto-buy for me. I don’t even have to read the summary. I think all of them are contemporary, and I love, love, love the ride she takes her readers on.

Young Adult Contemporary Fiction:

Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle
This book is totally Christmasy, but you can read it anytime during the year. It’s composed of three short stories that are all connected. It’s full of blizzards and romance, and it’s one of my favorites!
(Read my review of Let it Snow.)

Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Anna was my first YA contemporary, and I have been sold ever since. This is definitely the best book to start with if you’re interested in YA contemporary. I’ve been ripping bookstores apart ever since, hoping to find another novel like this one.

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn
This book is very light and fun, with a unique storyline. It’s magical, which had me completely sold. Plus, it takes place in NYC, which is definitely the best place in the USA, in my opinion.
(Read my review of Dash and Lily.)

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
I’m cheating here because I haven’t read this yet (but I have been anticipating this for months)! All my friends love it, though, so I know I will. And seriously, who wouldn’t want to fall in love in an airport??

My Ridiculous, Romantic Obsessions by Becca Wilhite
This book is adorable, and all about this college freshman who is a romance novel junkie, and compares her own life to a novel. But then, when love comes her way she flips out and has no idea how to be anything less than awkward. I died of laughter so many times.


Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale (Book Review)

January 16, 2012 Adult Fiction, Book Review 3 ★★★★

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale (Book Review)Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale
Series: Austenland #2
Also in this series: Austenland
Published by Bloomsbury on January 31, 2012
Genres: Chick Lit, Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Mystery, Romance, Suspense
Pages: 277
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
Amazon Add to Goodreads
4 Stars
When Charlotte Kinder treats herself to a two-week vacation at Austenland, she happily leaves behind her ex-husband and his delightful new wife, her ever-grateful children, and all the rest of her real life in America. She dons a bonnet and stays at a country manor house that provides an immersive Austen experience, complete with gentleman actors who cater to the guests' Austen fantasies.

Everyone at Pembrook Park is playing a role, but increasingly, Charlotte isn't sure where roles end and reality begins. And as the parlor games turn a little bit menacing, she finds she needs more than a good corset to keep herself safe. Is the brooding Mr. Mallery as sinister as he seems? What is Miss Gardenside's mysterious ailment? Was that an actual dead body in the secret attic room? And-perhaps of the most lasting importance-could the stirrings in Charlotte's heart be a sign of real-life love?

Midnight in Austenland is the companion novel to Hale’s Austenland (read my review), which I have been gushing about across the Internet for EVER. Lucky for you, the release date was pushed up a few days, so you can grab yourself a copy of it even sooner than I had originally said! Oh, and I love the cover. It’s so pretty!

Austenland is one of my favorite books in life, so I knew it would take a lot to supersede (or even meet) my really high expectations for its companion. I went into this knowing that it was a companion novel and not a sequel, so I would not be reunited with my beloved characters from book 1. No biggie, I just miss them. Midnight focuses less on the romance, and more on an underlying murder mystery, which was pretty exciting (although the romance is totally there). It was a cute book, but I’ll always love the first one better. Seriously, though, when is the second book ever better than the first one? I think it all boils down to the fact that the heroine in Austenland (Jane) was so much better and more likeable than the one in Midnight (Charlotte). I still liked Charlotte, I just didn’t identify with her as much as I did Jane (seeing as how I’m not a divorced mother of two, but I am a closet Mr. Darcy Lover with a desire to hide my overly used BBC copy of P&P like Jane did.). I don’t have a ton to say about this book, but I broke up my thoughts into several different sections:

1. I loved the mystery/murder/suspense aspects that were woven throughout the book. It was a bit spooky, and I know I’m a chicken, but… I had a hard time reading after the family went to bed! When I started the book, I really was not expecting this. The characters sat around in the parlor playing mindless little games, and this mystery was a game initially. Then it broke out into the truth, and really blindsided everyone, including me.

2. The “Inner Thoughts” drove me nuts. The heroine’s inner thoughts speak to her a lot in this book, and she has frequent conversations with them. I hated it. It was so cheesy and done in a rather unnecessary, bulky sort of way. It was like she had multiple personalities that talked to each other. Kinda weird.

3. I did enjoy the romance. I ALWAYS enjoy the romance, and this love story is pretty dang cute. Charlotte is divorced, and her ex-husband recently re-married. So she decided to get away. The “resort” hires men to be love interests for the female paying customers. Just like in the first novel, a true romance bloomed… but a less predicable one. Hales is great at writing love stories. I would get butterflies in my stomach, like I was the one who was in love! Haha.

4. I love the idea of a themed vacation. I want to go find a company that actually does this, and book my trip! It would be so much fun to fly off to England, wear regency clothing, and live in an old mansion with chivalrous men hanging on your every word. Both Austenland and Midnight in Austenland made me feel like a vacation like that was really possible!  

If you loved the first one, I think you’ll really enjoy this one too. I recommend it to lovers of Jane Austen, a little mystery, and a sweet love story.