Saturday, June 30, 2012

What I Didn't Say - Review

What I Didn’t Say

By: Keary Taylor

Published: April 30th 2012 by CreateSpace

326 pages

Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Goodreads description—Getting drunk homecoming night your senior year is never a good idea, but Jake Hayes never expected it all to end with a car crash and a t-post embedded in his throat.

His biggest regret about it all? What he never said to Samantha Shay. He’s been in love with her for years and never had the guts to tell her. Now it’s too late. Because after that night, Jake will never be able to talk again.

When Jake returns to his small island home, population 5,000, he’ll have to learn how to deal with being mute. He also finds that his family isn’t limited to his six brothers and sisters, that sometimes an entire island is watching out for you. And when he gets the chance to spend more time with Samantha, she’ll help him learn that not being able to talk isn’t the worst thing that could ever happen to you. Maybe if she’ll let him, Jake will finally tell her what he didn’t say before, even if he can’t actually say it.

What I Didn't Say was a good read. It was one of those books that I was expecting to be nothing more than what it sounded like. But it was. I was expecting things to go exaclty like the blurb was leading...Jake has accident. Results are he can no longer speak. The girl spends time with him. They fall in love. Happily ever after. And while I won't say that's a wrong depiction, the story was just a good bit more than that. Now, it wasn't earth shattering either, but it was more than I expected.

Sam ended up adding more to the story than I was expecting. Jake wasn't so much of a surprise, but together they were more.

I don't know, I'm having a hard time coming up with more to say about it. I enjoyed the actual presence of Jake's parents and siblings. A lot of times in YA lit, the stories focus so much on the main character, usually female, and the love interest, that they exclude the main character's family. So not only was it refreshing to have the main character's family, and parents specifically, be so present in the story, it was also refreshing to have the main character be male.

Again, What I Didn't Say was much more than I expected, and it wasn't a book I really had any thoughts about putting down once I got started. This is one of those times when I feel my rating system is inadequate. I don't feel like this is on the same level as some of the other 3 Star books that I've read and enjoyed much less, but I don't find that it's really up to 4 Star level either. So I'm feeling along the lines of 3.7 Stars.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Liebster Blog Award 2012

Oh my goodness! Two sweethearts of this wonderful community we call the book blogging community have tagged me for the Liebster Blog Award, Shelby @ Gobs and Gobs of Books and Quixotic Magpie. Thank you ladies so much.

My first thought was "OH my goodness! I've been tagged for a blog award! This is so awesome! Who are these awesome girls who nominated me?? Must move them to the top of my BBBF (Bestest Book Blogging Friends)--yes, I just made that up--list." And then my second thought was "What in the world is the Liebster Blog Award?"

Because my google search didn't seem to produce the origins of this award, I'm basing most of my information on the two bloggers that tagged me.

The Liebster Blog Award is an award given to new bloggers who have less than 200 followers.

Shelby @ Gobs and Gobs of Books's rules are as follows:

1. Post 5 facts about yourself.

2. Answer the questions that the blogger gives you.

3. Tag 5 other bloggers that have under 200 followers and come up with 5 (or however many you like) questions for the bloggers you tagged.

4. Let these bloggers know that you tagged them (comment on one of their posts).

Quixotic Magpie's rules are as follows:

Award winners share 11 facts about themselves, answer the 11 questions asked by the blogger who tagged them, come up with 11 of their own questions and tag 11 more bloggers with the award.

So here's my 11 facts (all non-bookish facts):

1. I'm a Christian.

2. My husband is 12 years older than me.

3. I workout 5-6 times per week.

4. I count calories.

5. I have 2 siblings. A brother and a sister.

6. I'm the baby.

7. My parents are still married after 35+ years.

8. I found out I have an irrational fear of being on the side of a mountain.

9. Which I discovered when my now husband took me hiking up one to propose to me.

10. We went to Greece and Turkey on our honeymoon--where every interesting place to see happens to be on top of a mountain.

11. I'm currently watching Conan's monologue.

The questions from >Shelby @ Gobs and Gobs of Books and my answers:

1) When did you start blogging and why?

I started blogging in March 2011. And I honestly can't remember much about what I was thinking back then. I knew people did blog about books, but I didn't know a single person who did, and I didn't follow any bloggers who did either. I wasn't sure I would ever tell anyone that I was even doing it. And slowly over time I started telling my friends and it's grown from there. I just really love reading and talking about books.

2) Who is your favorite author/what is your favorite book?

My favorite author growing up was Lurlene McDaniel. Now...I'm not sure I can nail down a single author as being my absolute favorite. I'm a really big fan of Carrie Ryan, Maggie Stiefvater, and Richelle Mead. And I'm a huge Jane Austen fan. But nailing down a favorite of anything is hard for me. So that said, Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion are in my top favorite books as well as The Dead Tossed Waves.

3) Where is your favorite spot to read?

Mostly I read on the couch while Husband is watching TV. Sometimes it's hard to concentrate with the TV on, but I like being near him. Plus I can multitask.

4) Do you buy the books your read or borrow them from the library?

Well the majority of the books I read come from books I buy--though I have been trying not to buy just any book these days, you guys know that can get expenise--or books I borrow from my sister-in-law, Holly, or my friend, Paula. Sadly, I've yet to visit my local library. Though, I recently drove by to make sure I know where it's located whenever I get ready to go by. I currently have too many books in my possession that need to be read to justify going to the library to pick up any more. But soon I will. And I have a feeling once I start that, I'll be buying less and less. And come to think of it, I get alot of the books I own from birthdays and Christmas.

5) What is your favorite movie adopted from a book?

Um...Again with the favorites. This is so hard. I love the Harry Potter movies. I love the Lord of the Rings movies. I like the Chronicles of Narnia. I'm a fan of the Twilight movies--no surprise there, right? Each movie's gotten better and better. I'm a huge fan of Pride and Prejudice (the version with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen--LOVE him as Mr. Darcy). I thought they did a good job with The Hunger Games. Like the BBC version of Persuasion. And I also really liked the recent version of Jane Eyre (starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender). And now that I've named every book made into a movie ever...I think I've covered this question.

Moving on to the questions from Quixotic Magpie:

1. What is your favorite holiday?

Halloween and Christmas

2. What is the best book to movie adaptation you have watched?

See my answer to #5 above.

3. What is the best and what is the worst book you have ever read?

See my answer to #2 above for the best book ever read. Worst book ever read...um...this is hard. I hate to be too negative. Maybe Soulkeepers by GP Ching. But if I can bring myself to finish Destined by PC & Kristin Cast...then that might just take the prize of the worst book I've ever read. We'll have to see once (if) I finish it.

4. What other hobbies do you like besides reading?

As I mentioned above, I workout, but we have a love/hate relationship. I did martial arts for almost 2 years at the end of high school. I'd love to have some time to work that back into my schedule.

5. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose?

Surprisingly I'm pretty cool with where I live now (po-dunk--yes that's a southern word--Alabama).

6. What is your favorite amusement park ride?

Ugh, have we not established by now that I'm not so good with the "favorite" questions? ... Maybe Batman at Six Flags Over Georgia. Definitely not The Goliath at Six Flags Over Georgia considering I literally lose my vision every time I ride it. And yes I've ridden it multiple times, even after losing my vision more than once. However, I've finally made the decision that perhaps that's not healthy, and I do not plan to ride that one anymore.

7. What is your favorite bird?

Eagle? I've never really been a huge bird fan. And though I'm not a real football fan either, if I had to support a school it'd be Auburn University--hence, War Eagle.

8. Do you ever skip to the end of the book while reading it, just to see what happens?

Absolutely not! And I refuse to tell any of my friends what's going to happen in a book they're currently reading if I've already read it. Even knowing a few of them will go google it anyway.

9. Where do you usually read?

See #3 in the previous set of questions.

10. What do you think of e-books and e-book readers?

Dig 'em. Do I hate the idea of printed copies going extinct? Sure. But I can't combat the convenience of being able to have my books with my in hand at all times and not just the book I'm currently reading, but ALL of my books (all of them I have as e-books anyway).

11. Do you go to the library?

See #4 in the previous set of questions.

My questions for the bloggers I tag:

1. Do you read the Acknowledgements written by the author in the back of the book?

2. Did you start blogging because you love writing and perhaps want to be a writer, or just for the genuine love of books?

3. What is your favorite genre?

4. What's the first book you remember falling in love with?

5. What kind of music do you like?

6. Do you create a playlist in your head for books you read?

7. Do you prefer happy endings to books or not so much?

8. Do you prefer series or stand-alone books?

9. Do you develop character crushes? If so, which characters have you developed crushes on?

10. Do you partner with your local bookstore/library?

11. Is there a genre/theme/characteristic that you see repeated in your reading that's beginning to annoy you?

The blogs I'm tagging are:

Kristen's Book Nook

Ivy Book Bindings

The Housework Can Wait

Christian Novels

Pink Polka Dot Book Blog

Joie De Lire

Helene's World of Books

Candid Diversions

Booksmartie

Books with Cass

Love, Literature, Art, and Reason

Now that this post is entirely too long, I'd just like to say thanks again to the ladies that tagged me for this.

Bitterblue - Review

Bitterblue (Graceling Realm #3)

By: Kristin Cashore

Published: May 1st 2012 by Dial

563 pages

Source: Received as birthday present, therefore, personal library

( Goodreads | Amazon )

Goodreads description--Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle—disguised and alone—to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

I’m finished with Bitterblue and I suppose the Graceling Realm series, unless there will be more books in the series that I’m unaware of. I still think that Fire was my favorite book out of the series. Her’s was my favorite story. But Bitterblue stood on her own. I was happy to see that while it might not be have been necessary for you to read Graceling before reading Fire, it was definitely necessary to have read both Graceling and Fire before you read Bitterblue. Kristin Cashore did a great job of tying all the story lines from both Graceling and Fire with Bitterblue.

I feel like I have a lot of opinions about Bitterblue floating around that need to be expressed. Some of them are not so politically correct. (Hey, it happens.) I guess the first thing I’ll touch on is how this book reminded me of Insurgent. In the way that Insurgent never really slowed it’s pace and one horrible thing after another happened. Well…yeah, without giving too much away, Bitterblue is very much like that. These poor characters, specifically Bitterblue, herself, have so much hitting them all at once. And bless her bones (AH!!! Not more bones!), she just can’t go mere moments without something traumatic and world-shattering happening.

Bitterblue starts out her journey in this book by being completely overwhelmed with the stacks and stacks of paper that pass across her desk. Her advisors keep her swamped with her paperwork. And little by little she realizes how much she doesn’t know about her kingdom, her castle, her advisors, her father, her mother, herself…And so she sets off with a list of things she doesn’t know or understand, hoping to find some answers. And boy does things build from there. She had herself one of those situations where the answer to one questions only creates about a zillion more questions. And none of the answers seem to be happy ones.

I can understand her need to know all of these things. To know and understand the truth about what happened during her father’s reign. But one thing I don’t understand is what took her so long to get started figuring them out? I mean 18/19, however old she actually is, seems like a few extra years too old to start wondering. And secondly, I’m pretty sure she could have (or should have) been able to guess all of the things that happened under Leck’s rule. None of the things we found out surprised me. The cutting, the rape, the forcing others to not just watch, but also participate. I don’t even feel like I just revealed anything to someone who might not have read this book, because all of that should be expected from a psychopath who can control people’s minds, right? I guess The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo helped me to expect some of the lengths that a psychopath will go to and even some of the twisted, cruel, inhumane things that they enjoy doing. So, yeah, no surprises there.

Yet, there were enough other questions that Bitterblue had on her plate to keep me far from bored. I never really had any “how could I not see that coming” moments, but I never really felt like I had EVERYTHING figured out either. It was a nice balance. Sometimes it’s nice not to try to work too hard to read between the lines and just allow yourself the freedom to receive the information as the character does. Of course, I snicker to myself whenever I figure something out before the character does, and specifically if I figure something out before others I know who have read the same book. It’s nice to think you’re “in the know.” And some things are just too obvious to pretend like you haven’t figure them out early and you wonder how for Pete’s sake the characters haven’t. But sometimes, it’s nice to relax, and not put yourself to the task of beating everyone to the punch. Again, I had the perfect balance of seeing some things coming a mile away, while also allowing myself the freedom to be somewhat surprised during the process.

Overall, I was very satisfied with this read. A good conclusion to a good series. A well deserved 4 star rating. Minor spoiler, I am glad to know that at least one of the main characters allowed herself to get married--but I won't say which one.

And now for my non-politically correct rant. I always read the Acknowledgements written by the author at the end of a book. I’m not sure if everyone does this or not, but I do. I find it interesting. Well Kristin Cashore made an apology having to do with “disability politics” in her Acknowledgements at the back of the book.

Thanks to Rebecca Rabinowitz and Deborah Kaplan, who, after reading a late draft of Bitterblue, counseled me on the matter of Po, disability politics, and whether there was any way to counter the consequences of my making Po's Grace grow so big that it compensated for his blindness at the end of Graceling. (I was not thinking about disabilty politics back then. It didn't occur to me, until it was too late, that I had disabled Po, then given him a magical cure for his disabilty--thus implying that he couldn't be a whole person and also be disabled. I now understand that the magical cure trope is all too common in F/SF writing and is disrespectful to people with disabilities. My failings here are all my own.)

I have no problem with incorrect thinking being brought to someone’s attention and that thinking being corrected. (Though what’s “incorrect” and what’s not is sometimes debated--that’s a whole other argument.) I could be speaking out of turn here, but I don’t believe it was ever her intention to suggest that Po was an incomplete/incapable person once having developed his disability, and therefore, she had to create a “magical fix” for him so that he could be “whole” again. And the point of my rant doesn’t even have to do with whether people with disabilities should be treated as “whole” individuals pr not because in fact they are “whole.” There’s nothing “wrong” with them.

What bothers me is when people jump on a person because of a perception that he or she can only do so much to control. Even as I just did in the paragraph above, we work so hard to preempt any attacks on what we MIGHT be saying that we go to great lengths to describe what we’re NOT saying just so that we’re not misunderstood. And yeah, obviously people can easily misunderstand one thing or another (see I’m doing it again), but what I’m talking about is almost willful misunderstanding.

Perhaps Kristin Cashore’s thinking did need to be corrected, I don’t know. Only she can speak to that. But I wonder how it might have affected some of the decisions she made in the writing of Bitterblue that didn’t have to do with Po. Either way, willful misunderstanding will ALWAYS annoy me. And I don’t find anything politically correct about twisting someone’s hard work into something they never intended it to be. Ok rant over. Back to pleasantries.

Related Reviews: Graceling & Fire

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Top 10 Tuesday - Characters that Remind Me of Myself or Someone I Know in Real Life

Top 10 Tuesday is a post hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and this week's topic is: Top Ten Characters that Remind Me of Myself or Someone I Know in Real Life.

I found this Top 10 Tuesday topic actually quite difficult. I suppose in some ways we all see ourselves in the characters of a story. More often the leading lady (for those of us who are female), yet, there is almost always traits and characteristics of these characters that I don’t feel quite allow them to remind me of myself. They almost always make some decision that I would not make myself. And each of us are unique in our own rights while being similar, I suppose. So I guess more than anything, I relate to situations the characters find themselves in more than seeing myself in any one character or situation.

1) I will say that I most definitely know someone that reminds me of Nathaniel Gray from the Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare. Specifically, Clockwork Prince. He’s a master manipulator and can easily portray himself as a brother, friend, potential significant other, only to utterly betray you in the end. That and the fact that he’s quite full of anger that I pray that he can one day let go of. And obviously because of the nature of the character, I’m not going to name the person. Perhaps he could also be a George Wickham from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen as well.

Shall we move on? Slightly more happy characters?

2) I know this is probably going to sound completely generic and unoriginal. But I relate to Bella from Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, well throughout the whole series I suppose, but specifically finding herself in a situation where she loves two men in New Moon and Eclipse. One of which lights her on fire and that she feels incapable of living without. The other a dear friend that she loves in a completely different way, but also not in the same way as he loves her. Both of them good men, but one of them is right for her and the other is not.

3) I can see a friend of mine in Vee from Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. She probably wouldn’t take that as a compliment, so I’m not naming her. But personally, I think Vee is hilarious.

4) I also have a friend who I might venture to say could be the female version of Jace from The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare in personality anyway. Not sure about the demon killing part. But the sarcasm. The wit. Yep. She could definitely fit. Even the self-preservation techniques when it comes to her emotions. But mostly the sarcasm.

5) I’ve known a Mason from Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead. Fiercely loyal, a great friend, had stronger feelings for someone than they had for him. Just happened to be red-headed too. He might also fit a Simon from The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare or an Oliver from Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz.

6) I can see myself in Grace from Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater.

7) I can see myself in Hermione from Harry Potter by JK Rowling. I often had “friends” who thought it’d be easier to just let me do their school work for them when we were younger. And while I wouldn’t do it for them, I ended up helping several with their school work whenever I could. Though, I can't remember ever really doing extra credit just for the fun of it.

8) I can see Russ, my husband, in Dimitri from Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead. Not in the kicking-butt-and-taking-names sort of way—though I did buy him some sparring equipment for his birthday one year so we could fight each other. But in the Zen-life-lessons Rose always jokes on him for imparting. It’s one of the reasons why I fell in love with him. And despite how much of a huge crush I have on Dimitri, he still doesn’t measure up to Husband (IMO).

9) I had a friend in high school who I could see in the Weasley twins from Harry Potter by JK Rowling. Though I’m not sure which one specifically. He was in general the class clown. Though it wasn’t joke shop type material so much as he was just hilariously funny and always doing pranks around school. Maybe he’s more of a Lee Jordan then.

10) And I also have a friend who reminds me of Vasalisa Dragomir from Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead. She’s one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. And she’d never be able to let an animal (humans…eh…that’s debatable depending upon who is is) suffer if she had the ability to heal it.

And that ladies and gentlemen is my Top 10 characters that remind me of myself of someone I know. Sorry for no pictures, I was exhausted after compiling my list. It was rather hard to create this one. And I apologize if I keep featuring the same couple of series over and over in my Top 10 posts, it just happens that way sometimes. What about you guys? Which characters remind you of yourself or of someone else you know?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

In My Mailbox - # 9

In My Mailbox is a weekly post hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren where bloggers can discuss the books we got in the mail this week.

So the first two books in my mailbox this week were a result of returning one of my birthday duplicates to the store and getting two in return. The first one was on sale for $3.99 hardback! And the second was the same price as the book I was returning $9.99. So I basically got my two books for $4! That’s a bargain!

Infinity (Chronicles of Nick, # 1)

By: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Published: May 25th 2010 by St. Martin's Griffin

464 Pages

Source: Personal Library

( Goodreads | Amazon )

Goodreads description—At fourtneen, Nick Gautier thinks he knows everything about the world around him. Streetwise, tough, and savvy, his quick sarcasm is the stuff of legends…until the night when his best friends try to kill him. Saved by a mysterious warrior who has more fighting skills than Chuck Norris, Nick is sucked into the realm of the Dark-Hunters: immortal vampire slayers who risk everything to save humanity.

Nick quickly learns that the human world is only a veil for a much larger and more dangerous one: a world where the captain of the football team is a werewolf and the girl he has a crush on goes out at night to stake the undead.

But before he can even learn the rules of this new world, his fellow students are turning into flesh-eating zombies. And he’s next on the menu.

As if starting high school isn’t hard enough…now Nick has to hide his new friends from his mom, his chainsaw from the principal, and keep the zombies and the demon Simi from eating his brains, all without getting grounded or suspended. How in the world is he supposed to do that?

Invincible (Chronicles of Nick, # 2)

By: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Published: March 22nd 2011 by St. Martin's Press

420 Pages

Source: Personal Library

( Goodreads | Amazon )

Goodreads description—Nick Gautier’s day just keeps getting better and better. Yeah, he survived the zombie attacks, only to wake up and find himself enslaved to a world of shapeshifters and demons out to claim his soul.

His new principal thinks he’s even more of a hoodlum than the last one, his coach is trying to recruit him to things he can’t even mention and the girl he’s not seeing, but is, has secrets that terrify him.

But more than that, he’s being groomed by the darkest of powers and if he doesn’t learn how to raise the dead by the end of the week, he will become one of them.

p>And the remaining events surrounding my birthday didn't actually produce any books to add to my personal library yet. My side of the family is more of the money giving type for birthdays. But that being said, what do you think I'll spend my money on?

I also received two books as Amazon deal of the day type things this week.

Invitation to a Spiritual Revolution

By: Paul Earnhart

Published: DeWard Publishing Company

168 pages

Source: Personal Kindle Library

( Goodreads | Amazon )

Goodreads description of a previously published version--Jesus concluded His Sermon on the Mount by saying, "Everyone who hears these sayings of mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who builds his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall." A generation that has either ignored or attempted to explain away "these sayings" of Jesus now teeters toward destruction, buffeted by the winds of human philosophy and floods of dissipation. Its epitaph may well prove to be: "Great was its fall." Earnhart says, "For this reason it is the more urgent that we look often and carefully at the one sermon of God's Son which perhaps more than any other defines the very essence of the kingdom of heaven. Here, if we listen humbly, our lives can be transformed, our spirits refreshed, our souls saved." Few preachers of our generation have studied the Sermon on the Mount as intensively or spoken on its contents so frequently and effectively as Paul Earnhart. His excellent and very readable written analysis appeared first as a series of articles in Christianity Magazine. By popular demand it was published in a single volume in 1999. Now, DeWard Publishing Company is thrilled to make this wonderful material available again so that it will continue to be preserved, circulated, and read by those who would not have otherwise had access to it.

Afterlife (The Dark Gifts)

By: Willow Cross

Published: April 22nd 2012 by Willow Cross

18 pages

Source: Personal Kindle Library

( Goodreads | Amazon )

Goodreads description--Two hundred years before the battle of the fortress, a young man named William Townsend had to die. William had big plans. He would become a valiant soldier, fall in love, have a family, and die. In fact, he was certain it would happen in that exact order. But fate is a fickle taskmaster and things almost never go as planned. And sometimes, just sometimes, your true destiny will greet you after life.

And finally, for review and received via NetGalley...

The Loners (Quarantine, #1)

By: Lex Thomas

Expected Publishing: July 10th 2012 by EgmontUSA

416 pages

Sourc: Publisher via NetGalley

( Goodreads | Amazon )

Goodreads description--It was just another ordinary day at McKinley High—until a massive explosion devastated the school. When loner David Thorpe tried to help his English teacher to safety, the teacher convulsed and died right in front of him. And that was just the beginning.

A year later, McKinley has descended into chaos. All the students are infected with a virus that makes them deadly to adults. The school is under military quarantine. The teachers are gone. Violent gangs have formed based on high school social cliques. Without a gang, you’re as good as dead. And David has no gang. It’s just him and his little brother, Will, against the whole school.

In this frighteningly dark and captivating novel, Lex Thomas locks readers inside a school where kids don’t fight to be popular, they fight to stay alive.

That's it for me. What did you guys get in your mailbox this week?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fire - Review

Fire (Graceling Realm #2)

By: Kristin Cashore

Published: 2009 by Dial 461 pages

Source: Personal Library

( Amazon | Goodreads )

Goodreads description—She is the last of her kind…

It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. In King City, the young King Nash is clinging to the throne, while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. War is coming. And the mountains and forest are filled with spies and thieves. This is where Fire lives, a girl whose beauty is impossibly irresistible and who can control the minds of everyone around her.

Exquisitely romantic, this companion to the highly praised Graceling has an entirely new cast of characters, save for one person who plays a pivotal role in both books. You don’t need to read Graceling to love Fire. But if you haven’t, you’ll be dying to read it next.

I have to say I was impressed with Fire. I hadn’t really heard much about it, but what I had heard was essentially that it was “good” but “not as good as Graceling.” And I’m not sure I can agree with that. Maybe it has something to do with how I didn’t really have any expectations for this book and therefore felt more free to enjoy it, but I enjoyed it better than Graceling.

Fire, our main character, doesn’t just have a super-human ability, she’s a monster. Now, it took me a while to actually figure out what exactly that meant and to get accustom to the differences of the Gracelings from the idea of the monsters. But Fire’s ability doesn’t make her infallible. It doesn’t give her super-strength, the ability to take a punch (or an arrow). She doesn’t have accelerated fighting skills or an uncanny ability to survive. Yes she has an ability, and I suppose it can be useful in trying to save herself from death, specifically if that death is trying to come in the form of another human being. But it’s not a fail-safe. It’s not a sure-fire, death-free protection. In a lot of cases, Fire’s ability and being who she is, a monster, puts her in more danger not less. And that, I can respect. I thought Katsa’s Grace was convenient, but that’s just not the case for Fire.

I was troubled, however in the beginning, when yet again we find another character that appears to be so adamantly against marriage. And I wondered if this book would be the one that succeeds at having an existing relationship stand the entirety of the book. But as the story progresses I quickly find out that is not the case and perhaps the reason Fire is so against marrying Archer is because he’s just not right for her. This really is a frustration to me. I completely understand not wanting to marry someone that’s not right for you. But once you find the one that is, what’s the hang up? Like I said in my review of Graceling, it’s just hard for me to relate because I was the complete opposite. *Sigh*

I did really like Fire’s relationship development with Brigan. Brigan is an important figure in the kingdom being the commander of the king’s army and a prince and all. So he’s constantly going north, south, here, there, everywhere. And I totally felt that “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Every time he’d tell Fire he was leaving, I was always like “AGAIN???” But it made the relationship feel more real to me, and it also made it feel more grown up. I completely understand wanting to be with your special someone as much as time allows, but sometimes in the real world, it’s just doesn’t happen as often as you’d like.

Overall, I really enjoyed Fire. More than I expected to. 4 Stars. Have any of you read Fire? If so, what did you think?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me & 100th Blog Post Giveaway

I’m hitting two milestones today. One is that today is my birthday! YAY me! The other is that this is officially my 100th post! There’s just excitement all around.

Birthdays were always special to me as a kid. My parents didn’t have an overabundance of wealth, and therefore, birthdays and Christmas were the main events that included receiving gifts. I still get excited about what I might receive for my birthday, and since I don’t spend much money on myself just because, it’s always a nice treat when my birthday rolls around. Plus CAKE! Specifically for me, ice cream cake and caramel cake. My two faves. My mom does one and my mother-in-law does the other.

The older I get, the more I’m seeing the benefits of giving back to others. And in celebration of my birthday and my 100th blog post, I’m giving back to you guys—my readers—in appreciation for sticking with me through my ramblings and for simply being interested in what I have to say. THANK YOU!

I wanted to choose books that I have read that have been released within the last 12 months. The only one on the list that I haven't read is Rapture by Lauren Kate, though it is on my TBR list.

The winner gets to choose one of the following books:

Partials by Dan Wells

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

Raptureby Lauren Kate

Giveaway is open to US Residents Only.

The winner will be notified via email and will have 72 hours to claim their prize before another winner is chosen.

The "Answer a Question" answer can be found at least two different places on my blog.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Smokin' Seventeen - Review

Smokin’ Seventeen (Stephanie Plum # 17)

Audiobook

By: Janet Evanovich

Read By: Lorelei King

Published: Random House Audio; Unabridged edition (June 21, 2011)

308 pages in print version; 6 ½ hours in audio version

Source: Borrowed from my sister

(Goodreads | Amazon)

Goodreads description—Where there’s smoke there’s fire, and no one knows this better than New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum.

Dead bodies are showing up in shallow graves on the empty construction lot of Vincent Plum Bail Bonds. No one is sure who the killer is, or why the victims have been offed, but what is clear is that Stephanie’s name is on the killer’s list.

Short on time to find evidence proving the killer’s identity, Stephanie faces further complications when her family and friends decide that it’s time for her to choose between her longtime off-again-on-again boyfriend, Trenton cop Joe Morelli, and the bad boy in her life, security expert Ranger. Stephanie’s mom is encouraging Stephanie to dump them both and choose a former high school football star who’s just returned to town. Stephanie’s sidekick, Lula, is encouraging Stephanie to have a red-hot boudoir “bake off.” And Grandma Bella, Morelli’s old world grandmother, is encouraging Stephanie to move to a new state when she puts “the eye” on Stephanie.

With, a cold blooded killer after her, a handful of hot men, and a capture list that includes a dancing bear and a senior citizen vampire, Stephanie’s life looks like it’s about to go up in smoke.

The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich is always guaranteed to have me laughing out loud. Though this time I was full-fledge-belly-laughing at a few spots rather than just momentary giggling. I have no idea what my co-workers thought, but it was worth it.

These books are fast experiences. They’re not too heavy with major topics. They always make me laugh. Lorelei King is awesome as the reader. And besides that Smokin’ Seventeen combines the typical Janet Evanovich humor with what…what was that the description said above? That’s right, a real, live, senior citizen vampire. Match made in heaven, right? Comedy heaven.

Of course the plot was predictable, but who cares? Smokin’ Seventeen was a laugh out loud good time. The potty mouth definitely stood out to me as always when listening to an audiobook, and that’s always a bit disappointing to me. Overall I give this one 3 stars.

My favorite quotes are by Lula of course and are:

You did the nicky-nacky and now you've got the vordo. (sp?)

What you need is a pair of granny panties.

And the last one I can't quote because of potential underage readers, but it has something to do with fiber in one's diet and personal satisfaction.

The God Who Sees You - Review

The God Who Sees You: Look to Him When You Feel Discouraged, Forgotten, or Invisible

By: Tammy Maltby

Published: April 1st 2012 by David C. Cook

240 pages

Source: Publisher via NetGalley

(Goodreads | Amazon)

Goodreads description—For anyone who ever feels invisible, unnoticed, or unappreciated, here’s an invitation to rediscover the biblical God who sees you.

Tammy Maltby wants women to know their lives matter. So she invites you to explore the real life implications of knowing God sees you. He loves you passionately, and He’s intimately involved with every aspect of your life. God wants you to see Him too and to partner with you in bringing about His kingdom.

When you take this reality to heart, you will live more honestly, confidently, and fearlessly—because everything looks different once you really see the God who sees you.

First of all, I’d like to say that I wish the description above didn’t single out that the author is speaking to women, because honestly, I didn’t get that vibe while I was reading this one. I really feel like this book can be equally addressed to both men and women, and nothing in there speaks specifically to women only. It’s almost downright odd that the description singles out women. Oh well.

The God Who Sees You was definitely a thought-provoking, soul-searching book that I wasn’t expecting. And while I do take issue with the fact that she quotes The Message* “translation” (as my dad said, “if you can even call it a translation”), the content itself was really good. The only other issue I had worth mentioning was at one point Tammy Maltby was discussing the first sin in the garden with Adam and Eve and she makes the comment that she believes as soon as Adam confessed the sin and came out of hiding that God began devising a plan on how to redeem Adam and Eve back to Himself. I don’t agree with this because God is All-Knowing and transcends time and space. He knew Adam and Eve would sin before He created the world. And I believe He had the plan of redemption (Jesus’ death on the cross as payment for our sins) planned before He spoke our world into existence. As my dad says, “Nothing ever occurred to God.”

Now that I’ve gotten the negative out of the way, let’s move on to happy things. Knowing God sees you can be a comforting though. When you feel like no one else sees you, or no one else knows the “real” you, God does. And not only does He see you, but He cares about you, me, enough to know the number of hairs on your head. And He doesn’t stop there either, He’s active in your lives. But, knowing God sees you can also be a fearful and humbling experience when you’re not living your life the way He’s called you to live it. After all, it is a scary thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31), but you don’t have to worry about falling if you’re already there (John 10:29). Whether God seeing you is a scary or comforting thought all depends on your attitude, your heart, and the way you live your life.

Throughout this book, Tammy Maltby discusses the reasons why we hide, the difference between reverence and fear, the concept of being God-blind, and obviously what it means to be seen by God. Tammy Maltby pulls the idea of being seen by God from the story of Hagar in the Old Testament. I love how some people are capable of drawing out these massive ideas and concept that God created and placed within single phrases that some of us pass over without a second thought. I wasn’t far into the reading of this book before I got chills—you know the ones that tell you what you’re experiencing is special. What’s more special than realizing and focusing on the fact that God, the Almighty Creator of the universe, sees me?

One of my favorite parts is this “love letter” from God, my Father, that she created from phrases all throughout Scripture and organized in this beautiful way that lets me know my Father sees me. And while I loved that, and will keep that close to my heart, the entire Bible**, the entire story God has written and is continuing to write, is a love letter from Him to you. It’s His plan and His working to redeem you back to Himself. His purpose and His creation to have an intimate relationship with you. So in case you’re ever wondering, God sees you. (4 Stars)

*The Message is a paraphrase “translation.” There are basically two types of Bible translations. Direct translations, such as New King James Version, New International Version, New American Standard Bible, where the original Greek or Hebrew text is translated word for word, and paraphrase translations, such as The Message and The Living Bible, where the text is paraphrased or summarized. MessageBible.com says: “if there is anything distinctive about The Message, perhaps it is because the text is shaped by the hand of a working pastor.” This means that a fallible human being took the direct words of God and paraphrased or summarized them. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have a human being muddling the Word of God. My God is all-knowing and all-powerful, so much so that He said exactly the words He wanted used, and He does not need man to summarize for Him. But let me not stop there. Let me show you an example:

Psalm 18:20 & 24

The Message (paraphrase) – God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before him. When I got my act together, he gave me a fresh start. … God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.

NIV (direct) – The LORD has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me. … The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.

NKJV (direct) – The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me. …Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness, According to the cleanness of my hands in His sight.

NASB (direct) - the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness; According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me. … Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness, According to the cleanness of my hands in His eye.

As you can see, The Message version is vastly different from the direct translations, and when all else fails, I trust the direct translation of the Word of God over some man’s summarization. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

**As always, my disclosure anytime I review a book related to a spiritual topic: There’s always a possibility of man misunderstanding God’s Word--self-included. I will always refer you back to the Source, which is the Bible, for the authority on these topics. In this particular case, while I’d recommend this book to others, if you really want to learn about the God Who Sees You, the best place for you to be is in His Word, His book.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Top 10 Tuesday - Summer TBR

Top 10 Tuesday is a post hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and this week's topic is: Top Ten Summer TBR.

Considering I’m somewhat of an erratic reader, there’s no telling if I’ll read these in the order that I’m placing them below, or if something else will catch my eye and one or more will be bumped off my immediate TBR list. We’ll just have to wait and see. I’m very much a read-whatever-I’m-in-the-mood-for-at-this-particular-moment kind of gal. I might have full intentions of reading a particular book at a particular time and for whatever reason I just don’t. I have to read what I’m in the mood for at that exact moment. Or occasionally, if there’s a book I know I want to force myself through, I’ll read a chapter at a time in that book while reading something else for fun. Anyway, I’ve rambled enough. The list…

1. Bitterblue – Kristin Cashore – Got to finish the series, and I guess that'll be next up since I'm midway through Fire now.

2. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontte – My 5th and 6th grade reading teacher, affectionately referred to as “the Dragon Lady,” read Jane Eyre to our class. But I remember she said she skipped some parts. I’m not 100% which parts. And after having recently watched the movie, I was reminded that I can’t really claim to have read this particular classic, and so it’s on my TBR list. I’ve actually already started it. I’m about 3 chapters in, so I have it listed in my “currently reading” section, but as I’m not actively reading it, I figured it also counted for TBR as well.

3. Destined – PC & Kristin Cast – Ugh, honestly, it’s going to be pulling teeth for me to finish this book. This is going to be one of those that I force myself to read chapter by chapter. I’ve increasingly been frustrated with this series with the release of each new book, and this one is no different. I read chapter one, and was so annoyed I put it down with honestly little desire to ever pick it up again. I do hope to read it this summer so I can mark it off my list and move on. You might be wondering why I keep reading it if I’m so annoyed. And that my friends is called OCD. I can’t stand to abandon mid-series if it can be helped.

4. The Selection – Kiera Cass - I’ve seen good reviews on this one. Sounds pretty interesting. I’m really looking forward to reading this one. Plus I happen to be fond of the cover.

5. Hourglass – Myra McEntire – I received book 2 (Timepiece) from NetGalley to review, but I need to read book 1 first, obviously.

6. Timepiece – Myra McEntire – Ok , obvious. See above.

7. Radiant Shadows – Melissa Marr – I actually receive this one for my birthday LAST year. And I just haven’t gotten around to it. This is another set of books that have been increasingly disappointing to me. But I will press on. And Burnbury in the Stacks loves this series and this author. So maybe they get better. I’m not sure.

8. Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater – It’s no secret that I’m a Maggie Stievfater fan. Love her writing. This one hasn’t been released yet. (Release date set for Sept 18, 2012.) But I’ll probably be picking this up on the release date. Hey, that’s still summer, right? Officially anyway.

9. Hollowmen – Amanda Hocking – Plan to borrow this via my friend Paula’s kindle pretty soon. Got the first book as a free Amazon deal of the day type thing, but I’m not sure I’m invested enough to buy the 2nd one, even though it’s only currently listed at $2.99.

10. Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein – Also received via NetGalley and need to review. I’ve seen a lot of good reviews on this one, but based off the description, it sounds like something I’m not sure I’d like. But I’m willing to give it a go and see where it takes me. Besides, having low expectations is one of the best things for me, I’ve found, when it comes to how much I’ll like a book.

So that's my summer TBR list. What's yours?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

In My Mailbow - # 8

In My Mailbox is a weekly post hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren where bloggers can discuss the books we got in the mail this week.

It’s always a little tricky to go buying things for yourself the week before your birthday. But well I just couldn’t help myself. I always knew I’d purchase The Golden Lily the day it was released (June 12), and as that day drew near, I thought that I’d pick up one more book for myself since I’d be at the store anyway. I recently read Graceling and so the decision on which book to get next was easy. Fire, the next book in that series, of course. Plus I could ask Husband to buy Bitterblue for me for my birthday and thus complete that series.

While we’re in the store, Russ says, “Hey what was that book you wanted me to get you for your birthday? If you want we can go ahead and get it.” And so I’m all like “SWEET!” However, it wasn’t with the other books in the series on the shelf, and I didn’t see it with the other fairly new releases. So we decided he could just order it from Amazon. Besides, with Amazon’s Wish Lists making gift giving so easy, why not? (If you don’t have one, you’re missing out. Easiest way to shop for birthdays and Christmas, or whatever occasion. As well the easiest way to ensure you get something you want for your own special occasions.) But then he tells me that he didn’t see it on my Wish List. And that should have been a big red flag. But I was just thinking “user error,” or more likely, he just wasn’t paying attention. And I said “I’ll send you the link when we get home.” Only when we got home and I tried to send him the link I was alerted that “someone may have purchased this item already.” OOPS! I totally didn’t think about OTHER people buying for me for my birthday. Like maybe my mom, sister, brother, sisters-in-law, mother-in-law…

So, I inadvertently ruined a birthday gift surprise (or three). My bad. And I actually ended up with some duplicates from what I bought at my trip to the books store and a couple of other books I noticed were also “may have been purchased.” However, it does get me excited about my birthday. And since I was already planning a birthday & 100th blog post giveaway, I might just be able to do two giveaways. Don’t hold your breath though, we’ll have to see how the first one works out initially. Stay tuned for more information. (Particularly, look out for any post coming up this Thursday, June 21st.)

All of that being said, I got several great books in this week.

The Golden Lily (Bloodlines #2)

By: Richelle Mead

Published: June 12th 2012 by Razorbill

417 pages

Source: Personal Library

( Goodreads | Amazon )

Goodreads description--The second thrilling installment in Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy spinoff series.

Tough, brainy alchemist Sydney Sage and doe-eyed Moroi princess Jill Dragomir are in hiding at a human boarding school in the sunny, glamorous world of Palm Springs, California. The students--children of the wealthy and powerful--carry on with their lives in blissful ignorance, while Sydney, Jill, Eddie, and Adrian must do everything in their power to keep their secret safe. But with forbidden romances, unexpected spirit bonds, and the threat of Strigoi moving ever closer, hiding the truth is harder than anyone thought.

Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, Richelle Mead's breathtaking Bloodlines series explores all the friendship, romance, battles, and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive. In this second book, the drama is hotter, the romances are steamier, and the stakes are even higher.

(And I've already reviewed it. Here.)

Fire (Graceling Realm #2)

By: Kristin Cashore

Published: 2009 by Dial

461 pages

Source: Personal Library

( Amazon | Goodreads )

Goodreads description—She is the last of her kind…

It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. In King City, the young King Nash is clinging to the throne, while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. Ware is coming. And the mountains and forest are filled with spies and thieves. This is where Fire lives, a girl whose beauty is impossibly irresistible and who can control the minds of everyone around her.

Exquisitely romantic, this companion to the highly praised Graceling has an entirely new cast of characters, save for one person who plays a pivotal role in both books. You don’t need to read Graceling to love Fire. But if you haven’t, you’ll be dying to read it next.

Also, I've already received Timepiece (book 2 in this series) via NetGalley and need to review it. But obviously I want to read book 1 before reading and reviewing book 2. So...I went ahead and bought book 1, Hourglass for my Kindle. Amazon currently has it for $1.59.

Hourglass (Hourglass #1)

By: Myra McEntire

Published: June 14th 2011 by Egmont USA

387 pages

Source: Personal Kindle Library

( Goodreads | Amazon )

Goodreads description--One hour to rewrite the past . . .

For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn't there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents' death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She's tried everything, but the visions keep coming back. So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson's willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.

Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he's around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?

And I celebrated my birthday with my in-laws this weekend so other than The Golden Lily and Fire that I mentioned above, I also received Bitterblue as birthday present.

Bitterblue (Graceling Realm #3)

By: Kristin Cashore

Published: May 1st 2012 by Dial

563 pages

Source: Received as birthday present, therefore, personal library

( Bitterblue | Amazon )

Goodreads description--Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle—disguised and alone—to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

And that ladies and gentlemen is my mailbox for this week. What books did you guys get over the past week?

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Soulkeepers - Review

The Soulkeepers (The Soulkeepers, #1)

By: GP Ching

Published: June 24th 2011 by Createspace 308 pages

Source: Personal Kindle Library

( Goodreads | Amazon )

Goodreads description—When fifteen year old Jacob Lau is pulled from the crumpled remains of his mother’s car, no one can explain why he was driving or why the police can’t find his mother’s body. A beautiful and mysterious neighbor offers to use her unique abilities to help him find his mom.

But in exchange she requires Jacob to train as a Soulkeeper, a protector of human souls. He agrees to her demands, desperate for any clue to the mystery of his mother’s disappearance. But soon Jacob finds himself trapped in a web of half-truths, and questions her motives for helping him.

Wow. I have absolutely no idea where to start. I guess first let me say that I got this book on my kindle when I was going through a bit of a book drought. I can’t remember if it was free on Amazon or $0.99 or what when I got it. (It’s currently listed as free for kindle on Amazon.) But either way, I was desperate to get my hands on something to read. And the ratings on Amazon showed a high 5 star count and not too far behind that a fairly high 4 star count. Obviously those people don’t have the same standards that I do, but I digress.

I started this book MONTHS ago. At the very beginning of the book, the actual crash/accident scene, I wasn’t sold. But who’s able to tell how good a book is going to be based solely on the very beginning every single time? When Jacob was waking up in the hospital, I thought that was actually pretty well done and began to think that the book might actually have potential. However, it went downhill after that and never really recovered. This book quickly slipped into one of those books I was forcing myself to read. I’d force myself to read one chapter of this book before I allowed myself to read anything for fun. Occasionally, I’d find a chapter that wasn’t so bad and I’d willingly read two chapters. And some (very small) parts I’d even venture to say were decently written. But there just wasn’t much to keep me interested especially when compared to the things I found utterly uninteresting.

I don’t really think the description above gives a really good description of what this book is actually about. Though, honestly, I don’t feel like putting in the effort to tell you what it’s really about. Ultimately, it did have a good moral to the story—you’re not the worst thing you’ve ever done. But now that I’ve told you the moral, you don’t have to read it yourself. (Yikes, that was kind of harsh, yet it’s how I feel.)

I’m giving this one 2 stars but only because it had moments of mediocrity and a decent moral to the story. Have you guys read The Soulkeepers? What did you think?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Golden Lily - Review

The Golden Lily (Bloodlines # 2)

By: Richelle Mead

Published: June 12th 2012 by Razorbill

417 pages

Source: Personal Library

(Amazon | Goodreads )

Goodreads description--The second thrilling installment in Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy spinoff series.

Tough, brainy alchemist Sydney Sage and doe-eyed Moroi princess Jill Dragomir are in hiding at a human boarding school in the sunny, glamorous world of Palm Springs, California. The students--children of the wealthy and powerful--carry on with their lives in blissful ignorance, while Sydney, Jill, Eddie, and Adrian must do everything in their power to keep their secret safe. But with forbidden romances, unexpected spirit bonds, and the threat of Strigoi moving ever closer, hiding the truth is harder than anyone thought.

Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, Richelle Mead's breathtaking Bloodlines series explores all the friendship, romance, battles, and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive. In this second book, the drama is hotter, the romances are steamier, and the stakes are even higher.

Bought this book on Tuesday (June 12) and finished it this morning (Thursday). I was trying so hard to finish it last night, but we didn’t get home until close to 9:00 pm and I ended up falling asleep on the couch reading. Obviously, I read it quickly, and hard a time putting it down.

I don’t feel like there’s much to say because I want to keep this spoiler free. But I’ll start with how much better The Golden Lily was than Bloodlines. I liked Bloodlines, don’t get me wrong. (You can read my review of Bloodlines here.) But I said it then, and I’ll say it now, Bloodlines was first and foremost setup for the rest of this series and for future events. Bloodlines was necessary, but it wasn’t the meat of the story. We’re finally starting to get into the “good stuff” with The Golden Lily.

Most importantly, what we get with The Golden Lily is character growth. Sydney is changing. Her beliefs are being called into question. Her eyes are opening to the world around her. She’s seeing humans for what they are and what they have the potential to become (not as “good” as they might pretend to be) all on their own versus what the vampires around her are (evil and unnatural is what she’s been taught to believe) and what they have the potential to become (better than the humans who raised her?). Things used to be black and white for her, and some things still are. Yet other areas are slowly blending, melding, and turning gray. I REALLY like what’s happening with Sydney. And I’ve got hope for her future.

Along the same lines, I honestly like what’s happening with all of the other characters too. Eddie, Jill, Angeline, Adrian—oh Adrian—and even Trey. They’re growing, developing, changing. And I like it all.

My only negative is that it falls into the category of yet another book that was built up to me and thereby didn’t meet my expectations. It was the ending’s fault (and only the ending that I’m disappointed with and not even because of what happened, but how it was built up). Richelle Mead said quite a while ago that the ending would make you want to throw the book across the room. And then Anna Reads followed it up by saying that the ending would leave you emotionally raw (though after re-reading just now her comments on the ending, maybe I'm the one who built it up in my head). And while the ending was emotional, I guess it had just been built up too much for me. I was expecting epic. I wanted epic. And what I got, was…well…just an unadulterated desire to continue reading. Which is a good thing, and it means a long wait until the next release. *pouts* But I definitely didn’t throw the book across the room, and I didn’t shed any tears or even get angry. It just was what it was. Still an excellent read, but maybe if everyone else lowers their expectations (or doesn't have the same problem as I do) then they might just end up blown away. And I’d love nothing more than for that to be your experience while reading this book. I’m just learning that expectations play a massive role in my reaction to a book whether good or bad.

What did you guys think? Have you read The Golden Lily? 4.8 stars for me.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Top 10 Tuesday - Beach Reads

Top 10 Tuesday is a post hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and this week's topic is: Top Ten Beach Reads.

I have to say, that I’m pretty sure my definition of “beach reads” isn’t the same as everyone else’s. And mostly that’s because over the last 5 years that I’ve increase my reading, I really haven’t read a ton of books that take place at the beach or anything like that. So…my list is probably going to appear random to some, but it makes sense to me.

1 –The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer– Because this was the series that Holly (my SNL) was reading at the beach when I got sucked back into reading and haven’t been able to stop since. After Holly finished with Twilight and started New Moon, I borrowed Twilight from her and finished it in a day while we were still at the beach. I think many people who were original fans of these books have in some ways betrayed the series. And I think that’s really sad. Of course the series is not without its flaws (no book is), but you can’t love it and fawn over it and then just because it picks up steam and makes something of itself suddenly change your mind.

2 – The Glimpse by Claire Merle – Because this is the book I read during my own beach vacation back in April. It was a fast read that I could get engrossed in and not come up for air if I didn’t want to.

3 – The Song of Fire and Ice Series by George R. R. Martin– Because these books are so long. You expect to be out on the beach for hours upon end, right? At least, I do. So why not have a huge book that I can hope to knock out (or at the very least, put a nice dent into) since I have the time, especially because who knows how long it might take for me to read these when I’m just reading bits and pieces at a time? But also because with the swapping of narrators, it makes for good stopping points if you need to run into the ocean for a dip to cool off or whatever various other errands you might have.

4 – Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley– Because it’s a stand-alone book that you could knock out quickly, and better than I expected.

5 – The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare– Mostly because I know two different people who decided to take these to the beach with them, and I’m a fan of the series as well. So why not? (Though they've been poping up on my Top 10 lists way too often.)

6 - Any of the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich- Because you need some comedy while you're at the beach. Who doesn't want to bust out laughing at jokes that the people around them can't hear? I do, I do!!!

7 - Persuasion by Jane Austen - Because it's not that long. And though I believe most of Jane Austen's books include travel from one location or other, I've not read all of her books yet. But Persuasion actually has a beach/ocean location in the story. So, perfect beach read IMO.

8 - Divergent by Veronica Roth- This is just a series I can get sucked into. With the fast paced action, it is possible this could be an awesome beach book.

9 - Angel Burn by LA Weatherly - A quick read. Road trip with a hot angel-assassin. Count me in.

10 - The Dead Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan- Beach with Zombies. YAY! I know this is the 2nd in the series, but just read the first one before your trip. Or take it along and read both. Shoot, add the third if you've got time.

What do you guys think? What are your top 10 beach reads?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

In My Mailbox - # 7

In My Mailbox is a weekly post hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren where bloggers can discuss the books we got in the mail this week.

What I Didn’t Say

By: Keary Taylor

Published: April 30th 2012 by CreateSpace

326 pages

Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Goodreads description—Getting drunk homecoming night your senior year is never a good idea, but Jake Hayes never expected it all to end with a car crash and a t-post embedded in his throat.

His biggest regret about it all? What he never said to Samantha Shay. He’s been in love with her for years and never had the guts to tell her. Now it’s too late. Because after that night, Jake will never be able to talk again.

When Jake returns to his small island home, population 5,000, he’ll have to learn how to deal with being mute. He also finds that his family isn’t limited to his six brothers and sisters, that sometimes an entire island is watching out for you. And when he gets the chance to spend more time with Samantha, she’ll help him learn that not being able to talk isn’t the worst thing that could ever happen to you. Maybe if she’ll let him, Jake will finally tell her what he didn’t say before, even if he can’t actually say it.

(Amazon | Goodreads)

God, Girls, and Guys: Answers to Questions on Dating and Relationships

By: Robin Marsh & Lauren Nelson

Expected Publication: August 1st 2012 by Harvest House Publishers

Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Amazon description--Following their popular devotional for teen girls, God, Girls, and Getting Connected, award-winning news anchor Robin Marsh, and Miss America 2007, Lauren Nelson, now help young women shape a healthy, biblical perspective on dating, emotions, and love.

With humor, Christ-centered counsel, and straight-talk to girls, Robin and Lauren share openly about their early dating misconceptions and their discovery of God’s Word as the best guide for every girl. Personal stories and relevant chapter topics encourage and empower young women to make smart, godly choices.

What is love?

How do I become the girl God wants me to be?

What does godly dating look like?

How far is too far?

What's he really thinking?

Does a perfect guy or perfect relationship exist?

This fresh resource honors the dreams and questions of today’s girl with a clear look at God’s hope for their heart.

(Amazon)

I plan to purchase Richelle Mead's The Golden Lily and Kristin Cashore's Fire this week. But I'll feature them more once I've actually bought them.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Graffiti Moon - Review

Graffiti Moon

By: Cath Crowley

Published: February 14th 2012 by Random House Children's Books

260 pages

Source: Won in Love in Bloom Giveaway Hop hosted by Kat @ The Aussie Zombie

(Goodreads | Amazon)

Goodreads description—Senior year is over, and Lucy has the perfect way to celebrate: tonight, she’s going to find Shadow, the mysterious graffiti artist whose work appears all over the city. He’s out there somewhere—spraying color, spraying birds and blue sky on the night—and Lucy knows a guy who paints like Shadow is someone she could fall for. Really fall for. Instead, Lucy’s stuck at a party with Ed, the guy she’s managed to avoid since the most awkward date of her life. But when Ed tells her he knows where to find Shadow, they’re suddenly on an all-night search around the city. And what Lucy can’t see is the one thing that’s right before her eyes.

When I had the option to choose which book I wanted out of those available for the giveaway(The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, The Fine Art of Truth or Dare, Love and Leftovers, Wanderlove, Bittersweet, and Graffiti Moon), I looked them all up on Goodreads to see their descriptions and what others had rated them. While I originally thought I was going to pick The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Graffiti Moon caught my attention with the synopsis, and not just that but it was rated higher than most of the other options as well. So I changed my mind at the last minute. And boy am I glad I did. I still want to read The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, but I probably wouldn’t have sought out Graffiti Moon because I haven’t heard much hype about it.

Despite the decent ratings on Goodreads, I expected this book to be exactly what it sounds like. I wasn’t prepared for it to be so much more. Based on the synopsis, I wondered why in the world would Lucy just assume some guy who can paint graffiti is a guy she could fall for? I mean I get that he’s obviously talented, but the synopsis talks about birds and blue skies and I think to myself “what’s so special about that?”. But what the synopsis doesn’t tell you is that Lucy is an artist herself. AND that the way Shadow’s art is described in the book is so much more than birds and blue skies. Something about knowing Lucy is also an artist makes it more understandable how she could look at Shadow’s art and see his soul. But just some regular-Jane, non-artist person, I don’t know, that seemed kind of cooky.

And back to how Shadow’s art is described in the book…well…Cath Crowley does an excellent job of pulling you into this art-filled world. I’m not one of those people who can look at an art piece and get sucked into it. I can tell you if I think something is beautiful, quirky, or awesomely-weird, but I’m a surface kind of gal most of the time, blunt and to-the-point. But it was lovely to see Shadow’s art, and Lucy’s, through the eyes of an artist. And the words that Cath Crowley used to do so was done in a way that was nothing shy of art itself.

I’m not a huge poetry fan, though I do have an appreciation for it, and I can tell you what I like and dislike within the genre, but Poet’s words were pretty awesome too. More artistry.

The narration swaps back and forth between Ed and Lucy throughout the night, and Poet’s poetry is thrown in the mix as a separate form of narration. Sometimes the events overlapped. Like, Ed would have a chapter and when his chapter ended, Lucy’s picked up moments before his ended, so we get both perspectives on some moments. I liked this under this setting, but I can see where if I read books like this all the time, it might get old. I also liked how Cath Crowley didn’t give you 100% narration of the words said between the characters. Sometimes she just says “we talked about (insert subject)” and that’s all you really get. It leaves your imagination to play out the words for yourself. But again, too much of this would get old. I think she does it just enough so that you’re not annoyed.

The characters were also so much more real and deep than I expected based off the synopsis. Especially Ed. I do love a guy with talent. I love my kicking-butt-taking-names guys too, but I’m a sucker for an artist. It doesn’t matter if he draws, paints, sculpts, (all of which my actual husband has a talent for) or whether he plays the piano, guitar, sings, etc. Give me a guy with talent and soul and I’m hooked. Ed doesn’t disappoint and neither does Leo (Poet).

Overall I was much more impressed than I expected to be. I had a teacher in high school that told me once if a C-student exceeds your expectations on a paper, you might give him an A, and if an A-student doesn’t live up to your expectations you might give them a B or C, even if the A-student’s paper was better written than the C-students. If I were grading based off of expectations, I’d give this one 5 stars, but I am not. I’ll still give it 4 stars. Maybe even a 4.4. Check out Graffiti Moon, and let me know what you think.

Also, thanks again, to Kat @ The Aussie Zombie for hosting the giveaway that won me this book.

Armchair BEA 2012 - Ask the Experts

Today is day 5 (the final day) at Armchair BEA and today’s topic is ask the experts.

I don't feel as though I have enough knowledge about the blogging world yet to really give my own advice. But the one piece of advice I keep telling myself is that I don't have to keep up with everyone else. Being competitive as I am, I have to remind myself that there is no competition here. How fast someone else reads and how often they might be able to post has no bearing upon myself. I read at the pace I read, and I post at the pace that I post. That is all I can do, and trying to put pressure on myself to do more than what I might be capable of does no one any good. Least of all me.

Now, in the spirit of “no question is a dumb question”…

How do you balance reading, maintaining your blog, having a life, and having a full-time job (assuming you have a full-time job, most of the bloggers I’ve seen do)?

What specifically is a hop or a giveaway hop?

Do you have any tips about hosting a self-sponsored giveaway?

Is there any unspoken (or spoken) giveaway etiquette?

How do you generate sponsors for giveaways?

Do you usually make being a follower of your blog mandatory for entry to your giveaways?

What are your preferred methods for following other blogs?

What do you look for as determinants for following another blog? Or do you follow just about any blog you come across?

Do you read self-published works?

Are you partnered with other sites, your local indie bookstore, or library? If so, what do you accomplish by doing so?

Do you do guest posts for other bloggers? Or do you have others write guest posts for your blog?

Do you schedule your posts ahead of time? If so, how far ahead do you schedule them?

What are your blogging pet peeves?

I’m sure there are many, many more questions that I have, but I’ll settle for any answers you can give me to these for now. Thanks guys.