Monday, December 31, 2012

The Smart and Capable Daughter

Expected Publication:  January 1st, 2013
The Tutor's Daughter
By: Julie Klassen
Bethany House
ISBN-13: 9780764210693

Emma Smallwood, determined to help her widowed father regain his spirits when his academy fails, agrees to travel with him to the distant Cornwall coast, to the cliff-top manor of a baronet and his four sons. But after they arrive and begin teaching the younger boys, mysterious things begin to happen and danger mounts. Who does Emma hear playing the pianoforte, only to find the music room empty? Who sneaks into her room at night? Who rips a page from her journal, only to return it with a chilling illustration?

The baronet's older sons, Phillip and Henry, wrestle with problems--and secrets--of their own. They both remember Emma Smallwood from their days at her father's academy. She had been an awkward, studious girl. But now one of them finds himself unexpectedly drawn to her.

When the suspicious acts escalate, can the clever tutor's daughter figure out which brother to blame... and which brother to trust with her heart?


     Emma Smallwood is the only daughter of a newly widowed Father, whose academy for young boys whose parents wish them to learn away from home is floundering due to his disinterest.  Emma writes to the Father of two former students, an Earl with two young sons of an age to be tutored.  The Earl replies with an invitation for Emma and her Father to come live with the family for a year and educate the twins (spoiled, coddled teenagers who are smothered by their Mother).  They accept with some hesitation, but thinking that a change of scene will do them good.  But then strange things begin happening upon their arrival.  Mysterious music late at night, someone being in Emma's room while she's asleep and belongings going missing.  Plus, Emma is wrestling with her conflicting feelings for the eldest son, brooding Henry and the middle son, charming Phillip.  But are first impressions what they seem to be?  And will the secrets of the noble family be more deadly than a simple tutor's daughter could ever have imagined?  This was a decent book.  I felt like Emma was little too smug and 'perfect' for a good heroine, she was definitely no Austen character that's for sure.  But I liked her all the same, even though she was completely naieve and devoid of most common sense/forethought.  It was pretty obvious who the better brother was, for all Emma's stupidly made observations and Henry would have been an interesting character - of not for his creepy stealing of Emma's things as a teen and hidden obsession with her as an adult.  The odd relationship between Phillip and Lizzie Henshaw (who is hiding something very huge), Lady Weston's ward, is creepy and not very believable.  I did like the plot development, as there were a couple of mild surprises.  But for the most part it was entirely predictable.  And I should have checked publishers beforehand, because I didn't realize it was Christian fiction until it go extremely preachy in the last 20% or so of the book.  That REALLY annoyed me beyond belief.  Especially since the rest of the book was so devoid of serious religion on the part of any character.  Overall, only recommended to serious fans of Christian romance, who like a little bit of history and mild mystery thrown in the mix.

VERDICT:  2/5  Stars

* received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is January 1st, 2013.*

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Out of Fortune's Favor

Expected Publication: January 2nd, 2013
Back to the Good Fortune Diner
By: Vicki Essex
ISBN-13:  9780373718283

Everville, New York — it's the town where Tiffany Cheung grew up, and the last place she wants to be. But after losing her job in Manhattan, that's exactly where she finds herself. Worse, she's working at her family's Chinese diner and feeling like the outsider she once was. The only bright side is that Chris Jamieson, the boy she used to tutor, is still around. Her high school crush is hotter than ever, and he needs her help… again. Tutoring Chris's son is the perfect temporary job. Except, Chris finally seems interested in her — and is hinting about a less temporary arrangement. Talk about bad timing! Because Tiffany's not staying and nothing will stop her from getting back to her real life. But maybe what's real is about to change….


     Tiffany Cheung is back in Everville, New York after avoiding it for almost her entire adult existence.  But after she was laid off from the publishing house where she was an assistant and evicted, she had no other place to go but home.  Back to her parents who constantly pit her and her brother Daniel against each other, and can't have a conversation without a horrible fight ensuing.  Daniel is still stuck working in the diner, with no obvious advancement or use for his business degree, and Tiffany is determined not to end up like him.  So while she's busy looking for another publishing job in the city, she takes a side job tutoring her former high school crush's teenage son in English.  Over the years Chris Jamieson had only gotten hotter and more interesting, so when he starts showing an interest in Tiffany sparks fly.  But with the prejudices of a small town and issues from the past, plus their diverging career paths can Tiffany and Chris make things work?  Or will they only be a summer fling?  This started out very promising.  I liked Tiffany, even if she was a bit of a bitch to practically everyone and bordering on completely socially defunct.  She was still relatable and had a wry sense of humor that I liked.  Chris had a pretty hard life since high school, and I felt like he had matured quite a lot.  Simon was a teenager, and mostly a brat but the family problems and how he fit into them had me rooting for him even when he was a douchebag to Tiffany and his Dad.  All the issues with Tiff's family were mostly mis-communication and culture clash between her, her brother and their parents/grandmother who had immigrated from China and been raised in a more traditional environment.  I liked the slow build of the relationship, it was definitely realistic in that aspect.  My least favorite part was the trite, played out ending.  I felt like Tiff gave up everything that she had ever wanted because she was suddenly in 'lurve' which trumps a career and outside life.   It went against the message of the rest of the book.  Daniel's ending was far better to me.  Overall, a cute romance but pretty much exactly what you'd expect from Harlequin.  The treatment of inter-racial relationships was pretty awesome though.

VERDICT:  3/5  Stars

*received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is January 2nd, 2013.*

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Best Version of a Girl

Expected Publication: March 12th, 2013
Mila 2.0 (Mila 2.0 # 1)
By: Debra Driza
Katherine Tegen Books
ISBN-13:  9780062090362

Mila 2.0 is the first book in an electrifying sci-fi thriller series about a teenage girl who discovers that she is an experiment in artificial intelligence.

Mila was never meant to learn the truth about her identity. She was a girl living with her mother in a small Minnesota town. She was supposed to forget her past —that she was built in a secret computer science lab and programmed to do things real people would never do.

Now she has no choice but to run—from the dangerous operatives who want her terminated because she knows too much and from a mysterious group that wants to capture her alive and unlock her advanced technology. However, what Mila’s becoming is beyond anyone’s imagination, including her own, and it just might save her life.


     Mila is just trying to fit into her new school, while trying to grieve for her Dad, who died recently in a fire. All she wants is to fly under the radar, for things to go back to normal.  The only problem is Mila doesn't even remember what normal is - almost everything before the fire is a blank.  When strange things start happening to Mila, her life is thrown out of balance even further than she ever dreamed.  It turns out that Mila is an android, created by a secret government agency and stolen by "Mom" so she could have a normal life, as a teenage girl and not a weapon.  But now the government is catching up with them and as they try to escape, Mila and her Mom are caught.  Now Mila will have to try and fool the scientists who created her into believing that she's not a failed experiment.  Otherwise termination might be a real possibility.  Can Mila and her Mom manage to stay alive long enough to break free?  I really liked the idea that this book tries to carry through.  But I feel like none of the characters were all that developed.  I thought the book was going to be set at Mila's high school, with more romance and that it would definitely take Mila longer to figure out that she was an android.  I feel like that revelation was rushed into.  I would have liked a little bit more set up and world-building.  I felt like this book tried to hard to jump into the action right away.  I did like the scene where Mila's arm is gashed open and they realize that she doesn't bleed.  That was a good way to have her discover the truth.  I also felt like "Mom" didn't have a good enough reason to have stolen Mila - or at least the author didn't develop her enough to make me feel like she did.  I felt like Mila did about her Mom, that she only saw her as an object of interest.  Supposedly she took Mila to give her a normal life, but she treats her like a machine the same way everyone else does.  I liked the cliffhanger at the end and I probably will read the next book, but I really hope it had a lot more character insights and build-up.  Otherwise what's the point?

VERDICT:  3.5/5 Stars

*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. It will be available for purchase on March 12th, 2013.*

A Waste of My Time

Expected Publication:  March 26th, 2013
By: Susan Kim & Laurence Klavan
ISBN-13: 9780062118516

Welcome to the Wasteland. Where all the adults are long gone, and now no one lives past the age of nineteen. Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan’s post-apocalyptic debut is the first of a trilogy in which everyone is forced to live under the looming threat of rampant disease and brutal attacks by the Variants—hermaphroditic outcasts that live on the outskirts of Prin. Esther thinks there’s more to life than toiling at harvesting, gleaning, and excavating, day after day under the relentless sun, just hoping to make it to the next day. But then Caleb, a mysterious stranger, arrives in town, and Esther begins to question who she can trust. As shady pasts unravel into the present and new romances develop, Caleb and Esther realize that they must team together to fight for their lives and for the freedom of Prin.


     Esther and all of the others living in Prin are just trying to live through one day at a time.  The difference between her and them, is that she is friends with a Variant named Skar and they believe Variants are an abomination.  Then the Variants begin to attack the town of Prin, firebombing buildings and killing innocent citizens for seemingly no reason.  Around this time Caleb, a stranger, comes to town on a mission.  Caleb is determined to find out who murdered his wife and kidnapped their infant son - and more importantly, why they did it.  And what does the Source have to do with everything?  Esther is shunned and Caleb is run out of town as they get closer and closer to the truth.  With time running out, can they figure out what's really going on, save the town and get Caleb's son back?  I was wary about this book from the get-go because of the authors feeling the need to make the 'bad guys' hermaphrodites and outcasts.  Oh, so just because they don't have one set gender they're deformed and disgusting?  Shame on both of you assholes for perpetuating stereotypes, even in dystopian fiction.  I managed to slog my way through the book, even without any real world-building to get me involved in the story and some horrifically one-dimensional characters.  Esther is a spoiled brat, who lets her sister do all the work and then steals food to give to her friends when her sister isn't watching.  She admits that she doesn't know how to do anything, but it's almost like Esther's proud of it, even though it makes her useless, in a high-risk, low-survival world.  I liked Caleb, but I feel like I didn't get to know him very well and that while his quest was admirable it was also prepackaged to fit anyone.  The romance between Esther and Caleb was unrealistic and majorly based on lust and nothing else.  It was sickeningly obvious from their first interaction that they were going to be thrown together.  I did like the revelation about what was underneath Joseph's building and way Levi was defeated.  Overall, a very lazy attempt at high grade dystopia and I will definitely NOT be reading the next one.

VERDICT:  1.5/5  Stars

*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. It will be available for purchase on March 26th, 2013.*

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

My Feelings For You Died of Exposure

Expected Publication:  January 18th, 2013
Exposure (Twisted Lit # 2)
By: Kim Askew & Amy Helmes
Merit Press
ISBN-13: 9781440552618

Double, double, toil and trouble. Sometimes, the quest for high school royalty can be deadly! In this emotionally-charged twist on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a self-conscious shutterbug named Skye Kingston navigates a treacherous school year in Alaska fraught with unspoken secrets and tragic twists of fate. Along the way she encounters three strangely prophetic BFFs; one social-climbing, sociopathic cheerleader; and a heart-stopping hottie named Craig McKenzie: the man who would be Prom King. Can Skye save the boy she loves — and herself — before they get caught in the crosshairs?


     Skye Kingston has had one hell of a year.  It has been filled with murder, intrigue, family issues and romance.  She just wants to put it all behind her now that she's at USC studying photography like she always dreamed of.  But after her roommates start spreading rumors about her and talking about her while she's there like she's invisible, Skye decides to set the record straight once and for all.  So she tells them the tale of Craig, the boy she secretly loved, and his psychopathic ex-girlfriend Beth covering up the accidental homicide of Duncan, captain of the hockey team and how it almost destroys them all.  Who is really to blame and will Skye and Craig ever get their happy ending?  This has all the set-up of a Macbeth re-telling and the lines are clear cut as to who represents what character from the original play.  The only one without any real place in things is Skye, a shy photographer for the school newspaper, who is secretly in love with hockey heartthrob Craig (a.k.a Macbeth).  Honestly, Skye came across very pathetically to me.  When Duncan dies, she overhears Beth telling Craig that they need to cover up their part in it.  Even after they find out that he died of exposure and didn't drown, still neither of them comes forward to confess what really happened.  And yet Skye is still making excuses for him and blames everything on Beth.  Oh yeah, she also doesn't tell the authorities that her classmate was probably MURDERED and she knows who did it!!!   All because she 'lurves' Craig so much and he's really a good person.  Honest, he is!  *Gags*  I thought that I would like this as much as the first book in the Twisted Lit series, but by the end I was so disgusted with all of the main characters that I hoped they all would get locked up in prison.  Overall, a very good book if you enjoy abusive relationships, where the female has no sense of self-worth.  It does get a star for the fact that it managed to keep me reading just to see if anyone would even get punished - they didn't, at least to my satisfaction! :(

VERDICT:  1/5  Stars

*received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is January 18th, 2013.*

Monday, December 24, 2012

Lemonade Mouth Puckers Up

Published: November 13th, 2012
Lemonade Mouth Puckers Up (Lemonade Mouth # 2)
By: Mark Peter Hughes
Random House Children's Books
ISBN-13: 9780385737128

Olivia, Wen, Stella, Charlie, and Mo—the members of the legendary band Lemonade Mouth—have been labeled many things. But just how did this little group of misunderstood outcasts end up rocketing from high school nobodies to household names?

In their own words, the band tells the story of the momentous summer when an overworked music promoter, an unwanted visitor from India, and an unexpected reappearance by a figure from Olivia’s past shook their world and launched them on their roller-coaster ride to destiny. There are plenty of false rumors out there, but this is the real story, the continuation of the official history of Rhode Island’s most influential band. Lemonade Mouth is going worldwide and taking no prisoners. The outcome will be nothing short of revolutionary.


     Lemonade Mouth is still riding on the high of what happened at Catch a RI-ZING Star when they start their summer vacation.  They are recording new music and their friendship is stronger than ever.  So of course things immediately start to go wrong.  Wen's Dad quits his job to start a hot dog food truck business and enlists Wen to be a dancing hot dog on street corners - unpaid.  Olivia is contacted by the Mom who abandoned her when she was just a toddler.  Mo's parents force her to be friends with Rajeev, the Indian teenage son of their college friends who is staying with them for the summer, with the obvious hopes of an eventual arranged marriage and Charlie is going through a philosophy crisis.  Oh yeah, and Stella just might be falling in love!  Life is never boring for the band, especially when a famous music producer named Earl Decker reaches out to them and they sign a contract with his record company.  But when the music and the things they believe in begin to fade into the background in favor of corporate greed, it's time for Lemonade Mouth to take a stand again.  Even if it means that they lose their chance at the big time.
     I was hesitant at reading a sequel for a book that I felt didn't really need one.  I was afraid that it was just scheme to make more money, based on the popularity of the Disney Channel movie from the first book.  But once I started, I couldn't put it down!  It is once again started off by Naomi Fishmeier, aspiring reporter and friend to the band, who is assembling the real story of their rise to fame.  It is also in the POV of every member of Lemonade Mouth, with a few other POVs thrown in like some of the parents, Naomi, Larry, a limo driver, and some other contestants on a reality show that they audition for.  I feel like it managed to capture the somewhat magical quality of the first book, but also with some serious realism thrown in.  I especially loved the crack that Olivia makes about like not being a Disney movie when Charlie asks where all the cool clothes and the money went to.  It made me laugh so hard.  The addition of Rajeev was a good one and I liked the tension/balance he provided to the group.  And the pros and cons of being indebted to a corporate mind by contract were definitely represented, especially in the ad campaign that eventually makes them break the contract and quit.  I loved the interactions with Sista Slash, the resolution of Olivia and Wen about whether or not they're dating, and Ray's secret soft spot for animals.  The characters matured a lot through the novel and by the end they had each changed for the better.  The ending was perfect and left the way open for it to really be the end OR for there to be another book, which I think would be perfectly okay with me.  Overall, fans of the original might really like it if they can get past the fact that it came on the heels of the Disney movie.  It is not at all related to it! :)

VERDICT:  4.5/5  Stars

*received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book was published November 13th, 2012.*

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Clockwise Is Newly Defined

Published: November 19th, 2011
Clockwise (Clockwise # 1)
By: Elle Strauss
ESB Publishing
ISBN-13: 9781466440968

Casey Donovan has issues: hair, height and uncontrollable trips to the 19th century! And now this—she’s accidentally taken Nate Mackenzie, the cutest boy in the school, back in time. Awkward.

Protocol pressures her to tell their 1860 hosts that he is her brother and when Casey finds she has a handsome, wealthy (and unwanted) suitor, something changes in Nate. Are those romantic sparks or is it just “brotherly” protectiveness?

When they return to the present, things go back to the way they were before: Casey parked on the bottom of the rung of the social ladder and Nate perched high on the very the top. Except this time her heart is broken. Plus, her best friend is mad, her parents are split up, and her younger brother gets escorted home by the police. The only thing that could make life worse is if, by some strange twist of fate, she took Nate back to the past again.

Which of course, she does.


     Casey Donovan is an awkward teenage girl and for her, high school is Hell.  In that respect she's very normal.  The one little thing that sets her apart is her pesky time-travelling problem!  She never asked to be transported to the past every time her life gets stressful.  But after six years of it happening, Casey is used to it.  Then the unthinkable happens and Nate, her crush and the most popular boy in school, is transported back with her!  The year is 1860 and the country is on the brink of a Civil War.  The two find shelter and work with the Watson family, old friends of Casey's who have always helped her when she's in the past.  But to preserve her reputation, Casey tells them Nate is her brother.  They have plenty of adventures together, helping a runaway slave named Samuel hide from the slave-catchers and going to hear famous abolitionists speak.  Casey even receives a marriage proposal, albeit an entirely unwelcome one from a cruel man with Southern sympathies.  After they return home, Casey and Nate return to their lives apart from each other, in different social spheres.  Casey's heart is broken and her family is falling apart, plus her best friend Lucinda is angry and feels left out.  When she and Nate are carried to the past again, can they make things right with each other?  And will both of them make it home in one piece?  Also, who among their new friends is a traveler like Casey and are they connected closer than they ever could have imagined?  
     This was such a fun book.  I absolutely ADORE anything that had time-travel in it, especially if the characters travel into America's past.  I identified with Casey a lot, because I know what it feels like to be a dork and an outcast as a teenager.  I loved Lucinda, who was hilarious and a great friend.  To me Nate seemed very shallow at first but exhibited the most character development of any of the teens in the book.  Casey's family issues on top of her school stress acted as a trigger for the time travel, which was basically a double life for her.  The relationship with the Watson family was great and I loved the way they took in Casey, a.k.a Cassandra as one of their own.  The fact that Casey always returns at the exact moment she left, only exhausted and with huge dark circles under her eyes, was a great plot device.  It definitely provided a realistic explanation for why her parents and the people around her never discovered her absence and the truth of where she was.  And the mystery of Sam being another traveler and the incident where Casey accidentally travels with him to his time was totally unexpected.  It did explain a lot of things to me though and I loved their hidden connection revealed at the end.  Overall a fun book, with a cute romance and some mystery to it.  It managed to touch upon some important historical issues and was very relevant to me, as a young adult who was quite recently a teenager.  I highly recommend it to fans of time travel and YA books.

VERDICT:  4/5  Stars

**No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Please Crash and Burn

Expected Publication: March 5th, 2013
Let the Sky Fall (Let the Sky Fall # 1)
By: Shannon Messenger
Simon Pulse
ISBN-13: 9781442450417

Seventeen-year-old Vane Weston has no idea how he survived the category five tornado that killed his parents. And he has no idea if the beautiful, dark-haired girl who’s swept through his dreams every night since the storm is real. But he hopes she is.

Seventeen-year-old Audra is a sylph, an air elemental. She walks on the wind, can translate its alluring songs, and can even coax it into a weapon with a simple string of commands. She’s also a guardian—Vane’s guardian—and has sworn an oath to protect Vane at all costs. Even if it means sacrificing her own life.

When a hasty mistake reveals their location to the enemy who murdered both of their families, Audra’s forced to help Vane remember who he is. He has a power to claim—the secret language of the West Wind, which only he can understand. But unlocking his heritage will also unlock the memory Audra needs him to forget. And their greatest danger is not the warriors coming to destroy them—but the forbidden romance that’s grown between them.


     Vane Weston miraculously survived a tornado ten years ago that killed his parents, but he can't remember how he did it.  In fact he can't remember anything of his life before aftermath of the storm.  Now Vane is seventeen and has been adopted by loving parents and has a great life.  Other than the fact that some higher power seems to be sabotaging his love life.  Audra isn't a higher power, but she is a sylph (an air elemental) who has been charged with protecting Vane from Raiden, the evil sylph who killed his parents and now rules their world with an iron fist.  However, when Audra makes a serious mistake and gives away their location, she has no choice but to reveal herself to Vane and admit that he is a sylph like her - and possibly the only hope of saving their kind.  But will he submit to learn the ways of his people and can Audra resist his attempts at winning her heart, even though it is forbidden?  
     This book was horrible.  I only finished it out of courtesy to the tour site that graciously allowed me to read it.  For one thing, the minute the villain was revealed as being named Raiden, I couldn't think of anything other than Mortal Kombat for the rest of the book.  It made me laugh during parts the author probably intended to be very dramatic.  I couldn't stand Vane at all.  He was a spoiled, whiny, brat who only thought of himself.  He was constantly making things harder on Audra for his own amusement and I wanted to slap him for most of the book.  Audra was way too submissive and 'woe is me' to be appealing as a heroine.  The 'romance' that develops between them was entirely based on lies for about the first 2/3 of the book.  Then she finally tells him the truth and he doesn't care, so they stay together.  Yeah right!  Also, like the Gale Force would give up on their idea of Vane's arranged marriage that easily.  Vane's adoptive Mom gave a glimpse at why he was such an unfeeling prick.  I instantly disliked her and the way she treats Audra is unpardonable, unless she was deserving of it, and in those instances she wasn't.  The ending to the whole situation was not at all believable, but the twist about who was responsible for the death of Vane's parents was something I did NOT see coming.  So I can't entirely say the author completely bombed out with this one.  Overall though, not a book that I would ever recommend to anyone who likes to empathize and identify with characters and root for them.  I spent the whole book hoping Vane and Audra would get the Wicked Witch of the East treatment - and with the amount of high winds and tornadoes I am disappointed that they didn't. 

VERDICT:  1.5/5  Stars

**I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. It will be available for purchase on March 5th, 2013.**

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Are You Nobody? I'm Nobody Too...

Expected Publication: March 1st, 2013
Nobody's Secret
By: Michaela MacColl
Chronicle Books
ISBN-13: 9781452108605

One day, fifteen-year-old Emily Dickinson meets a mysterious, handsome young man. Surprisingly, he doesn't seem to know who she or her family is. And even more surprisingly, he playfully refuses to divulge his name. Emily enjoys her secret flirtation with Mr. "Nobody" until he turns up dead in her family's pond. She's stricken with guilt. Only Emily can discover who this enigmatic stranger was before he's condemned to be buried in an anonymous grave. Her investigation takes her deep into town secrets, blossoming romance, and deadly danger. Exquisitely written and meticulously researched, this novel celebrates Emily Dickinson's intellect and spunk in a page-turner of a book that will excite fans of mystery, romance, and poetry alike.


     Emily Dickinson is always looking for a way out of helping with the numerous chores her Mother creates for her and her younger sister Vinnie.  On one such afternoon when Emily is hiding in the meadow, she strikes up an acquaintance with a young man who mysteriously refuses to tell her his name.  To each other they are Mr. and Miss Nobody.  So when she arranges to meet up with him again soon and show him about town, Emily is excited to have a secret.  Then Mr. Nobody is found dead in the Dickinson family's pond, with no obvious reason.  Everyone except for Emily assumes that he has drowned and they wish to forget him.  But she won't rest until they have a name to write on his tombstone.  However, more questions come along for each answer Emily does uncover.  When it starts to look like Mr. Nobody was murdered, for sinister reasons and probably by his own family Emily becomes even more determined to uncover the truth.  But will she walk away from her investigation with her life or will the killer seek to make sure she stays silent, no matter the cost?  This book was definitely different, but in a good way.  I have never seen another YA book about Emily Dickinson as a teenager.  That alone made me anxious to read it and see if the author did her justice.  I feel like she captured the right amount of adult Emily, with a necessary mix of teenage qualities and quirks.  The headstrong personality and inability to settle for less than the absolute truth made Emily a great detective and a wonderful heroine.  The historical details were very well researched and it came across in the descriptions and the life infused into the writing.  When the Dickinson sisters were doing chores and bickering, I was right alongside them.  The mystery itself was slightly predictable, but the murderer wasn't who I had been expecting throughout the entire book.  I was surprised at the end, but I did love that the author made it so realistic.   The usage of Emily's poems to highlight plot points throughout the book was pretty genius.  Each poem had a well-chosen placement and moved along the story convincingly.  I was very pleased and overall, I highly recommend it for anyone who is a fan of Emily Dickinson, or likes to imagine famous people as teenagers.  It's an interesting book and probably one of the better ones I've read this year.  I'll definitely be looking up other books by this author! :)

VERDICT:  4.5/5  Stars

*received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via Edelweiss.  No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is March 1st, 2013.*

Madness Is In The Blood

Expected Publication: January 29th, 2013
The Madman's Daughter (The Madman's Daughter # 1)
By: Megan Shepherd
Balzer + Bray
ISBN-13: 9780062128027

In the darkest places, even love is deadly.

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father's gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father's handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father's madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island's inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father's dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it's too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father's genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Inspired by H. G. Wells's classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman's Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we'll do anything to know and the truths we'll go to any lengths to protect.


     Juliet Moreau is just trying to survive, working as a maid among lecherous old men in the University she cleans for a living.  At sixteen, she still remembers the charmed life she shared with her Mother and Father, before the latter (a famous scientist and professor) was accused of heinous crimes and destroyed by scandal.  Forced to flee London, Juliet has always assumed that her Father, the infamous Dr. Moreau was dead.  Otherwise why hadn't he come to save her and her Mother?  But when she discovers that her Father has been living on a remote island, Juliet accompanies his assistant (their former servant boy) Montgomery back, to ascertain for herself whether or not the accusations were true.  With her Mother dead, she has no other family left and wants to believe in his innocence.  Did her Father practice the illegal vivisection, the dissection of live animals?  Or was he doing something far more horrific and with longer-lasting consequences.  With the help of castaway Edward, she is determined to figure out whether her Father is innocent once and for all.  Juliet is also torn between the passion she has for Montgomery and her interest in Edward.  But when the natives' restless natures explode, will any of them live long enough to escape?  
     This book was truly astounding.  My only complaint being that yet again, there is a FREAKING LOVE TRIANGLE!!!   So sick of them that I could scream.  Although, the ending definitely resolved the situation fairly quickly.  The moral issues in this book are ones that still make themselves relevant to me, a reader almost 150 years after the original story by H.G. Wells was written.  Juliet is a truly likable, feisty heroine.  I identified with her quest to believe in her Father's innocence and the mixed feelings/confusion she had about the origins of the natives on the island.  Dr. Moreau was completely insane - brilliant in an entirely twisted way.  The truth about Juliet's disease and injections made me completely revolted, but I still loved her.  That says something great for Shepherd's writing.  The dilemma of Montgomery was so epically drawn and still completely true to the split loyalties of someone doing something they know is wrong - but doing it out of compassion and love.  Overall, the shocking ending to the book, including the conclusion to the mysterious identity of a 'creature' slaughtering villagers and who escapes the island, had me gripped and practically howling in frustration.  In certain ways I am happy that this is going to be a series after the strong feelings it invoked in me, but I am also very hesitant to believe that another book would be as good as this one.  Highly recommended for readers who like a little science-fiction/horror fix, with a dash of classic literature thrown in.  A proclivity to Gothic romance can't hurt either.

VERDICT:  4.90/5  Stars

*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. It will be available for purchase on January 29th, 2013.*

Monday, December 17, 2012

Dear Book, You Smashed My Heart to Pieces

Expected Publication: March 5th, 2013
Eleanor & Park
By: Rainbow Rowell
St. Martin's Press
ISBN-13: 9781250012579

"Bono met his wife in high school," Park says.
"So did Jerry Lee Lewis," Eleanor answers.
"I’m not kidding," he says.
"You should be," she says, "we’re sixteen."
"What about Romeo and Juliet?"
"Shallow, confused, then dead."
''I love you," Park says.
"Wherefore art thou," Eleanor answers.
"I’m not kidding," he says.
"You should be."

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.


     Eleanor has just moved back in with her Mom and siblings after being kicked out by her Step-Dad a year ago for refusing to bow down to his authority - or his abuse and volatile moods.  She's got crazy red, curly hair, wears ill-fitting thrift store clothes and is overweight.  Park is just trying to stay unnoticed, which he's managing although it's not easy when you're half Korean and half White.  When Eleanor starts riding the same bus as Park and the other kids immediately begin to bully and reject her, he reluctantly lets her sit next to him.  At first they don't talk or even acknowledge each other.  Then she begins to read his comic books over his shoulder and he waits for her to turn the pages.  Park starts talking about music with her and making her mix tapes, giving her batteries for her un-used walkman at home.  It isn't long before they're defying the odds and starting to have romantic feelings for each other.  But with Eleanor's abusive Step-Dad always in the background waiting to strike and Park's disapproving Mom, will they be able to make things work?  And when Eleanor is forced to leave hom yet again and go live with her Uncle out of state, will they be torn apart for good? 
     I absolutely loved this book.  Those are the only words that I have for it, even if they aren't quite the right ones.  Eleanor's home situation was something that hit really close to home for me.  I grew up as the poor kid in class, rejected and bullied by my classmates for being different.  Luckily, while my Dad was a verbally abusive alcoholic, he wasn't physically abusive.  But I do know what it feels like to be afraid to go home and to have no one at school to turn to.  Park's life is normal and happy for the most part, but he's struggling with identity issues and the idea that his Dad doesn't understand him, or love him as much as his brother, Josh. 
     I felt like the gradual build-up of the relationship was very believeable.  Eleanor's prickly personality and relctance to accept help or 'charity' was very real to me.  It's all about pride, when you really have nothing else left.  Whereas in most books I read gushy romance rubs me the wrong way, I felt like Eleanor and Park were both so innocent and sheltered, that it rang true to me.  She was old in other ways, but romance was strange and new to her.  There was always a hint of cynicism that kept the "I-can't-live-without-yous" from getting to sickly sweet and unpalatable.  The ending and the way their relationship sort of dies and gets pushed away because of the distance really smashed me to pieces as a reader.  But it was so true that I couldn't help but nod my head and sigh in understanding.  I think this might be one of the best books I've read this year and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes a good, realistic teen romance, but doesn't mind some heartbreak along with it.

VERDICT:  5/5  Stars

*received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is March 5th, 2013.*

You're Not MY Snow White...

Published: December 11th, 2012
Snow Whyte and the Queen of Mayhem
By: Melissa Lemon
Cedar Fort, Inc.
ISBN-13: 9781462111459

Stuck in her family's apple orchards, Kat's got plenty of work to do and only pesky Jeremy to help. But when Jeremy convinces her to run away, Kat will discover that nothing---and no one---in her life is quite what it seems. Wonderfully reimagined, this is the magical tale of Snow White as you've never read it before!


     One thing that I hate more than ANYTHING is a misleading synopsis.  It's a good thing that I didn't read this one before I read the book, because it is totally misleading!  Katiyana is the Princess of Mayhem, but she has grown up in hiding at her Great-Uncle Barney's apple orchard, with no knowledge of her identity, or the fact that her Mother tried to have her killed before her Father saved her (and died in the process).  But Barney went blind when Kat became a teenager and with that blindness came anger, alcohol and violence.  Now the only person that Kat can rely on is the hired hand, Jeremy Simkins, who is rejected by everyone but her because of his family name.  When he convinces her to run away until he can marry her, Kat is taken in by seven dwarves, who come to love her.  But the Queen's magic mirror (which has a real person trapped inside) slips up and the Queen learns Kat is alive.  Will he be able to find a way to warn Kat of the Queen's evil plan to get rid of her once and for all?  And is the assassin sent by the Queen really all that he seems?  This was definitely different from any other Snow White re-telling that I've personally read!  I did like that the story was told from the magic mirror's point of view, and his connection to Kat was an interesting turn.  But Lemon didn't use that device to the fullest.  The mirror never really describes anything for us, but just gives us the barest insights into Kat's feelings and actions.  It's annoying and somewhat boring to read basics.  One of my favorite characters was Pokole, the dwarf, but really even he was two-dimensional as a character.  The romance with Jeremy was flat and the almost romance with the assassin (who has a secret identity) was so barely there, it isn't even really worth acknowledging.  The ending has a few great plot twists and reveals, but I felt like the so-called 'battle' with the Queen was too anti-climactic and very disappointing.  Overall, the twists at the end are the only thing saving this book for me as a reader, at all.  One thing I will say, is that for such a mediocre book the cover is beautiful.

VERDICT:  2.25/5  Stars

*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book was published on December 11th, 2012.*

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hooked On A Feeling

Expected Publication:  January 29th, 2013
Hooked (Hooked # 1)
By: Liz Fichera
Harlequin Teen
ISBN-13:  9780373210725

Get hooked on a girl named Fred... 

HE said: Fred Oday is a girl? Why is a girl taking my best friends spot on the boy's varsity golf team?

SHE said: Can I seriously do this? Can I join the boys' team? Everyone will hate me - especially Ryan Berenger.

HE said: Coach expects me to partner with Fred on the green? That is crazy bad. Fred's got to go - especially now that I can't get her out of my head. So not happening.

SHE said: Ryan can be nice, when he's not being a jerk. Like the time he carried my golf bag. But the girl from the rez and the spoiled rich boy from the suburbs? So not happening.

But there's no denying that things are happening as the girl with the killer swing takes on the boy with the killer smile...


     Fred Oday just wants a chance to get into college and off of the reservation, where the only thing waiting for her is a harsh life and a crummy minimum wage job like the ones her parents have.  So when the Coach at the high school in town offers her a spot on the Boy's Varsity Golf team, Fred sees an opportunity to maybe win a scholarship and do what she loves at the same time.  When Ryan's best friend is kicked off of the team so Fred can have his spot, he decides to hate her instantly.  But the more he gets to know her, the more Ryan just might want to change his life for Fred, be a better person for her.  But when Ryan's friend Seth takes the pranks and cruel hazing tactics too far, will he be able to break away and do what he knows is right?  And by then will it be too late for him to win Fred back?  I thought this book was going to be a cute, fun romance about a girl who joins the boy's team and gets into a romance with a teammate.  Instead it ended up being a story about a girl dealing with racial prejudice and cruel hazing, so she could play golf and have a chance at a better life - away from her alcoholic Mother and the reservation they live on.  The one constant bright spot in Fred's life is her Father.  Her brother is gone too much to really be a shoulder to lean one.  Ryan Berenger was a spoiled, rich, selfish brat who only thought of himself.  I spent most of the book with my mouth open in disbelief as he continued to justify his  'friend' Seth's horrendous, psychotic behavior and side with him over Fred.  By the end of the book when they got together, I really couldn't care less about the supposed romance.  I was cheering for Fred, who helped the team win and finally gained a place of her own.  But I was disgusted that she still got back with Ryan after he supposedly 'changed' (just because he helped her family when they had an emergency situation) for the better.  And Seth's last minute change of heart was cliched beyond belief.  Overall, a depressing and disappointing read.  Most definitely NOT what I was expecting from a Harlequin Teen publication! The best part about it was the heroine-triumphs-at-sports angle, but I felt like the romance was superfluous (it could have made a difference if better developed). 

VERDICT:  2.5/5  Stars

**I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. It will be available for purchase on January 29th, 2013.**

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Not Close Enough to Downton Abbey For Me

Expected Publication: January 15th, 2013
Summerset Abbey (Summerset Abbey # 1)
By: T.J. Brown
Gallery Books
ISBN-13: 9781451698985

Sir Philip Buxton raised three girls into beautiful and capable young women in a bohemian household that defied Edwardian tradition. Eldest sister Rowena was taught to value people, not wealth or status. But everything she believes will be tested when Sir Philip dies, and the girls must live under their uncle’s guardianship at the vast family estate, Summerset Abbey. Standing up for a beloved family member sequestered to the “underclass” in this privileged new world, and drawn into the Cunning Coterie, an exclusive social circle of aristocratic “rebels,” Rowena must decide where her true passions—and loyalties—lie.

Victoria Buxton 

Frail in body but filled with an audacious spirit, Victoria secretly dreams of attending university to become a botanist like her father. But this most unladylike wish is not her only secret—Victoria has stumbled upon a family scandal that, if revealed, has the potential to change lives forever. . . .

Prudence Tate 

Prudence was lovingly brought up alongside Victoria and Rowena, and their bond is as strong as blood. But by birth she is a governess’s daughter, and to the lord of Summerset Abbey, that makes her a commoner who must take her true place in society—as lady’s maid to her beloved “sisters.” But Pru doesn’t belong in the downstairs world of the household staff any more than she belongs upstairs with the Buxton girls. And when a young lord catches her eye, she begins to wonder if she’ll ever truly carve out a place for herself at Summerset Abbey.


     Rowena and Victoria Buxton were raised along Prudence Tate and look upon her like a third sister.  But when their Father dies, the girls are thrown into the world of their less liberal Uncle (an Earl), who doesn't look upon Prudence favorably.  All he can see is that she is the daughter of a governess and as such, one of the servants.  So when the girls are forced to leave behind their home and live at Summerset Abbey with the Earl and his family, Prudence goes with them as their ladies' maid and nothing more.  Rowena, the oldest, is listless and unable to commit to any one goal.  She claims that she will try to help Prudence gain her rightful place, but treats her as sub-human like any other servant once in the Abbey.  Victoria is very frail and though she's open-minded, most times her attempts to be taken seriously are ineffectual.  But there is a deeper secret lurking in the Abbey's past - one that will reveal Prudence's true birthright and the identity of her Father.  Meanwhile, all three girls struggle with romantic quandaries and   
learning how to change along with the times.  But when the truth comes out, will it be shocking enough to tear them apart once and for all?  I went into this wholeheartedly excited about the comparison to Downton Abbey, which I am crazily obsessed with.  However even though the characters are somewhat similar they are infinitely inferior.  I did like Rowena, beginning to end.  Which was a surprising accomplishment due to how the author portrays her.  But she seemed so adrift that I couldn't quite fault her for her often  tactless behavior.  Victoria was annoying and babyish, with her temper tantrums and constant asthma attacks.  She used them to try and get her way, which was disgusting.  Victoria also wanted to play amateur detective with Prudence's heritage and Mother's past, which was insensitive to her friend.  She was a plot device and mostly an un-enjoyable one, for all the wit she was supposed to possess.  
     Prudence was the most disappointing because at first I liked her pretty well.  But as the novel moved along, she allowed herself to become bitter and used instead of taking charge of her own future.  On top of that, when she was falling for one of the Lords visiting the Abbey she treated him to a hot 'n cold display of affection.  Then when she finds out the secret of her parentage, she runs away and marries a servant boy she's not in love with and has been stringing along!!!  That made me want to strangle her for the carelessness she showed.  Overall, the plot had some holes and moved very slow.  It never quite caught the magic feel of Downton Abbey and the characters made me sad, because they had such promise.  I will most likely not read the next one (I say that now, but I most likely will anyways) as I do not want to watch the train-wreck that is coming from Prudence's poor choices.  Not recommended to anyone who likes self-respecting heroines.

VERDICT:  2.5/5  Stars

**received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via Edelweiss.  No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is January 15th, 2013.**