Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book Review: Goddess Girls # 5 & 6 by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams

Athena the Wise by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
Series: #5 in the Goddess Girls series
Release Date: April 5, 2011
Publisher: Aladdin
Pages: 246
Received: Review copy from author
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Principal Zeus asks Athena to help Heracles complete his twelve labors. But when Heracles starts borrowing Athena's friends' things without asking, will she be able to help him set things straight?


Like all the books in the Goddess Girls series, Athena the Wise can be read as a standalone and it is not necessary to have read the previous books.

This series gets better and better with each book! Athena again narrates and she solidifies her spot as my favorite Goddess Girl with her brainy approach and ongoing struggles juggling all of her many activities (I can SO relate with her "more is more" approach!).

The twelve labors of Heracles takes center stage, with Athena filling her classic role as guide (this time on "dear ol' dad" Zeus's instruction). This myth translated well, keeping excitement and momentum high as Heracles grappled with each labor. Always packed to the brim with mythology, Athena the Wise does not limit itself to this tale, incorporating Athena's famed encounter with Arachne as well.

Complementing the mythology are the real world problems Athena faces, with which readers of all ages can easily relate. In addition to her over-achiever stresses, Athena grapples with the difference between revenge and vengeance and how to appropriately stand up for oneself.

Inventive melding of myth and modernity, adorably named objects (Zeus Juice, Teen Scrollazine), and hilarious puns make this series a sure thing. The honest portrayal of real-world feelings and problems youngsters face takes Goddess Girls to the next level and makes them an essential addition to youngsters' libraries.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Aphrodite the Diva by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
Series: #6 in the Goddess Girls series
Release Date: August 9, 2011
Publisher: Aladdin
Pages: 277
Received: Review copy from author
Rating: out of 5 stars

In book 6, an exchange student from Egypt, Isis, is encroaching on Aphrodite's match-making turf. Will she also edge Aphrodite out of her group of friends?


Like all the books in the Goddess Girls series, Aphrodite the Diva can be read as a standalone and it is not necessary to have read the previous books.

As much as I adore this series, Aphrodite seems to be the character I connect with the least. As in her first book Aphrodite the Beauty, it was clear to me that our personalities were not aligned. Consequently, the problems she faced were not problems I could empathize with as much as I could with, say, Athena.

But, this is part of the beauty of the Goddess Girls series. Like The Babysitters' Club of my youth, each character has their own unique personality, and so readers of equally varied personalities can easily find a character with which they will be able to relate. Aphrodite's experiences with popularity, (MG-level) romance, and struggles with low grades are sure to resonate with many girls.

I had to force my interest for the first few chapters, but after rivals Aphrodite and Isis reach an agreement and Aphrodite remarks that "Pinky swear was obviously a universal language," I knew I was hooked! She must be right, because the pinky swear part was when I finally GOT Aphrodite. It was smooth sailing for me after that point.

The myth of Pygmalion is explored in typical Goddess Girls fashion with all of the humor, heart, and updated realism I have come to expect from this series. The more modern issue of parents divorcing was also explored (though I won't say through who--spoilers!), and we finally get a peek into the softer side of Medusa. Particularly welcome was the introduction of the Egyptian Goddess Girls. I am crossing my fingers that an Egyptian Goddess Girls spinoff series is in the works!

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key

Do you have any questions about Athena the Wise or Aphrodite the Diva that I haven't addressed?

Feel free to ask in the comments!

Click to add Athena the Wise to Goodreads

Click to buy Athena the Wise

Click to add Aphrodite the Diva to Goodreads

Click to buy Aphrodite the Diva

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 

Click on the covers to go to my reviews.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

In My Mailbox (33)

In My Mailbox is a meme started by Kristi at The Story Siren where we get to post about the books we receive each week.

This mailbox is from two weeks ago. 
It's a little smaller than usual because I'm currently driving across the country! I'm telling myself there are scads of books just waiting for me at home in my mailbox (which is unlikely, but I can dream, can't I?)
For Review

Griffin Rising
by Darby Karchut

Release Date: June 28, 2011
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Pages: 174
Goodreads Page

I've heard this is about an angel in training, but he's not your typical angel and this is not your typical angel book. My main draw to Griffin Rising is the mentor relationship between Griffin and Basil. It sounds sweet, and I like the idea of the central relationship focusing on friendship instead of romance. Reviews from Musings of a YA Reader and Supernatural Snark convinced me to accept this for review.

After the Snow
by S. D. Crockett

Release Date: March 27, 2012
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Pages: 304
Goodreads Page

This is an ARC and I'm pretty sure, though not positive, that I got it after filling out a form in Shelf Awareness (a daily newsletter about the publishing world). The thing about Shelf Awareness is that I fill out the offers, but then I forget which books I put my name in for!

After the Snow takes place during a future ice age and, I think, may fall into the post-apocalyptic/survival genre. It sounds like maybe there's a touch of dystopian in there, too? Basically a boy discovers that his family was taken away by "the trucks" and he needs to trek across the snow-covered wilderness to save them. I love survival stories when they make sense and are realistic! Hopefully After the Snow fits the bill!


by Claudia Gray

Release Date: May 27, 2008
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 327
Goodreads Page

I actually have no intention of reading this now. I ordered it to skim through the beginning because I own the last book in the series and I wanted to see if I liked the first book enough to bother hanging onto the one I own. I was sort of meh about her standalone book Fateful, but I liked it enough that I'm at least a little curious about this series.

But...I've heard it's a boarding school book (good!) with a lot of insta-love and "I can't live without you, you're my soulmate" monopolizing the plot (not so good). So, what do you think? Given my taste in books, do you think this series is for me?

I am also going to go on the record here and proclaim these among my absolute most disliked covers ever.

What did you get this week? Are you interested in reading any of these books? What did you think of them if you've read them already?


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Some books to mention

Shameless book pushing (ok, nudging)

Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown
Goodreads Page
Amazon Page

From Goodreads:

Jennie feels the tingling presence of something unnatural in the house now that Will is dead.

Her heart aches without him, and she still doesn't know how he really died. It seems that everywhere she turns, someone is hiding yet another clue. As Jennie seeks the truth, she finds herself drawn ever deeper into a series of tricks and lies, secrets and betrayals, and begins to wonder if she had every really known Will at all.

Do you remember the massive amounts of love I have for this book? So I couldn't not mention the release of the paperback. I'm totally in love with the new cover! It shows off Lisa Brown's illustrations so much better than the old cover.

The Stuttering Tattoo by Greg Logsted
Goodreads Page
Amazon Page

Product Description:

Steven Bishop is extraordinarily ordinary. He goes to school. He rides his motorcycle. He stutters. His best friend is a former Colombian cartel hit man turned cook/construction worker. You know, ordinary. All that changes the day Becky Moore walks into his classroom. Becky is dazzling, enigmatic.

One day Steven gives Becky a ride home on his motorcycle. There, they discover a severed arm, one of the fingers of which still has an unusual ring attached: a circle, in the middle of which is a heart, at the center of which is a bold number 37. While comforting Becky, Steven discovers a tattoo at the base of her neck: it is the same symbol. And so begins a thrilling descent into a world of crime and murder, a ride wilder than any Steven has taken before.

I haven't read any of Greg Logsted's books yet, but I adore his wife's books (that would be Lauren Baratz Logsted). The plot sounds exciting! What is up with that symbol??

Have you read either of these books? What were your thoughts?
Will you be adding either to your TBR?
Feel free to share links to your reviews in the comments!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Author Interview: Beth Revis

Please Welcome Beth Revis!

Beth Revis is the author of Across the Universe and its sequel A Million Suns (just released this January!).I haven't read either of these books yet (mostly because they are never on the shelves in my library--Good for Beth, bad for Small!), but they're on my TBR and I've spent more time than I should probably admit to oogling their gorgeous covers. I've also managed to sneak a peek at the first chapter and WOW, talk about dramatic!

Beth was kind enough to stop by today and answer some of my very important questions (you know, about kissing and stuff).

Q: Which one of your characters would you most want to kiss?

A: It has to be Elder--such a noble gentleman!

Q: Which one of your characters do you most want to slap or give a verbal tongue lashing to?

A: There are times when I'd like to slap Amy. I think she's in a situation where everyone knows what she SHOULD do, but she's not willing to do it. She's rather stubborn.

Q: If you were transported into your book, which scene would you most want to reenact?

A: The Season. Oh, Lord. That was the most uncomfortable scene to write, and the most emotionally eviscerating for me. It tapped into a lot of personal fears, and it was the one time where, after writing the scene, I had to walk away from the story for awhile.

Q: Which one of your character’s brains would you want to pick the most?

A: He's not a character who is actually IN the story--but he is mentioned a lot. I'd like to know more about the Plague Eldest, the first Eldest in the world of Godspeed. I'd love to know more about his motivations and fears.

Q: Which scene do you think will surprise readers the most?

A: The end! I try to make a unique twist for my books--I want to make the reader surprised!

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give your main character?

A: Don't give up hope, have faith, and don't be afraid to fall in love.

Readers should add ACROSS THE UNIVERSE and A MILLION SUNS to their To Be Read list if they like...

Books about:
     Kissing in space, where there's a very good chance things blow up.

Books/movies like:
     Firefly/Serenity, Star Trek, Doctor Who

Main characters like:
     Tris, Amy Pond, Starbuck

Romantic leads like:
     Peeta, Rory, Merlin

About Across the Universe:

A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder. When Amy is frozen aboard the interstellar spaceship Godspeed, she expects to be woken in 300 years on a new planet. Instead, someone wakes her up early…and if Amy doesn’t figure out soon, the next people woken up might not survive–including her parents.

Highlight to read about A Million Suns:

Godspeed was once fueled by lies. Now it is ruled by chaos. It’s been three months. In that time, Amy has learned to hide who she is. Elder is trying to be the leader he’s always wanted to be. But as the ship gets more and more out of control, only one thing is certain: They have to get off the ship.

Author bio:

Beth Revis lives in rural North Carolina with her husband and dog, and believes space is nowhere near the final frontier. Across the Universe is her first novel.

Thank you so much for stopping by, Beth!

Let's see now...I already have Elder on my list of "Fiction hot guys I need to meet," but now I'm super curious to learn more about this Plague Eldest (you know how I love detailed histories with all sorts of secrets that need ferreting out!). I also want to read this Season scene. Something tells me it's not the Victorian type of season, huh?

But, honestly, even without all that, all you'd need to say to me is "Star Trek" and "Firefly/Serenity" and I'll be all over it.

And if THAT weren't enough, kissing with a good chance of explosions seals the deal.

Have you read Across the Universe or A Million Suns?
How would you answer these questions?
(Remember, no spoilers please!)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

DNF: The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe

Did Not Finish Explanation

Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley
Read pages: 210 of 309

I debated trying to stick it out until the end, but I can't bring myself to do that. It's not that The Way We Fall is a BAD book, because it's not. It's just not a good match with me.

I'm extremely picky about post-apocalyptic books (this isn't exactly post-apoc, but it's close enough). I want them to be realistic, horrifying, or exciting (or all three) with an intelligent MC. I want to really feel terrified and horrified by events (if you've read Cormac McCarthy's The Road, think the basement scene. Yikes!).

To me, The Way We Fall fell short on every marker.

Kaelyn wasn't painfully stupid, but she did make a number of questionable choices that added needless risk. If she had been plunked into a more realistic post-apoc story, then she totally would have been killed. She also struck me as much younger than she was supposed to be. I think she was supposed to be 16, but her actions, mindset, and narrative voice felt more like MG than YA.

The Way We Fall is also a VERY sanitized version of a post-apoc book. Think of it more like post-apoc lite, or post-apoc for the MG set. There is danger, and people do die, but the deaths seemed inserted more for trite shock value than realism, the disease never felt scary, and the societal collapse lacked gritty realism. It all felt like a paint-by-numbers version of a post-apoc book: all the points were hit, but everything lacked the emotion or life I want to see in a book.

The characters also felt one-dimensional. While the book is narrated in the first person using a diary entry/letter writing format, I had very little handle on the MC's personality beyond a few surface traits. Her voice was so generic that if I hadn't been told, I would have had a difficult time even guessing the sex of the MC.

The other characters are even thinner, primarily defined by simplistic labels. The boys Kaelyn meets later on were gratingly one-dimensional. The "good" guy is a paragon of virtue, while the "badness" of the other boys is stressed to the point where it felt patronizing.

My biggest complaint is probably my complete lack of emotional response to anything. People are dying! Lots of people! Kaelyn loses people she is very close to, and yet...I felt nothing. I couldn't care less. I wasn't scared. I wasn't at the edge of my seat. I wasn't anything.

The story plods along with nothing much happening and Kaelyn's dispassionate letters did nothing to engage me. It's less that the pace is slow, and more that Kaelyn is just distanced from everything. The plot is also riddled with irrelevant asides that I imagine are supposed to add depth but did little except muddy the narrative (a gay son whose sexuality is a Big Deal in one chapter in the beginning but has no relevance outside of that initial introduction. A similar conflict-that-isn't about the MC's mixed race. An aunt who left her family and the emotional damage that...never manifested in any relevant way, and so on).

The shorter page count, tiny chapters (2-7 pages on average), and simplistic voice make The Way We Fall a very easy read. The sexless quality to the narrative may help The Way We Fall appeal to boys as well as girls, making this a decent pick for the classroom. The "lite" aspects may also make this appealing to middle school classrooms, where discussion can be had over the situation without worrying about traumatizing younger readers. But, keep in mind, I didn't read the last 100 pages, so while what I did read seems more MG, I can't speak for the entire book.

This is a Disney book and the recommended age range is 12 and up, which seems about right. Unfortunately for me, I am too old and too picky for this book.

Have you read The Way We Fall?
I hope you liked it more than I did!

(hmm...I just realized now that I am scheduling this to appear on Valentine's Day. I should probably mention that this post is in no way a reflection of my feelings on Valentine's Day. I associate Valentine's Day with happy things like loads of chocolate--not death, plague, and destruction! Although, I think a little chocolate might be just the thing to brighten up a post-apocalyptic situation, don't you?)

What do you look for in a dystopian/post-apocalyptic book?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Small News: Road Trip!

I'm away on vacation!

And, well, other things. But I'll tell you all about them when I come back. As you're reading this, I'll be driving across the country (I'll let you know how the reality of road tripping compares to YA book road tripping. I have a cute guy and good music, what else do I need?). 

I'll be gone for about three weeks, so I won't be around here much. But, I'm hoping I'll be able to catch a little internet service here and there, so feel free to comment and email me (just please don't think I'm ignoring you if it takes me a little longer to get back to you!).

I have posts scheduled for while I'm away, including a few DNF explanations, some reviews, and an author interview! I hope you enjoy them.

I'll miss you!


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Book Review: Everneath by Brodi Ashton

Everneath by Brodi Ashton
Release Date: January 24, 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 370
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever.

She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.

As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's


Yikes! That's a lot of pages!

I know 370 pages isn't a HUGE book, but to me, it's pretty long. What's even more important than page count is how long a book feels, and on that I'm kind of mixed.

Think of Everneath as a cake (yes, I'm pretty sure I can turn everything back around to food). Imagine a cake that's light and fluffy and goes down super easy. When it comes to this kind of cake, before I know it, I can easily scarf down half...and I could polish off the rest with no trouble at all.

Except, I'm not full. It was fun while it lasted, but I don't have that satisfying feeling of having eaten a big meal. I may even begin to regret spending so many calories on something that left me empty.

That's how Everneath felt to me. It went down easy and the pace never felt particularly slow (though it was far from fast), but I'm having trouble understanding how the relatively sparse story I read managed to fill up so many pages.

Wait, is this an issues book?

I had heard that Nikki's experiences in Everneath were a brilliant metaphor for drug abuse and depression. And, yeah, I guess they were. Brodi Ashton did do a wonderful job weaving these concepts together and capturing the emotions of both the person experiencing the trauma and how their loved ones feel in response.

But I'm NOT an issues reader. I don't want to be mired in sadness, and that's what happened here. Nikki spends most of the book oozing detached heartbreak, shuffling through her life in a haze of resignation and hopelessness. She's beyond tears. She's practically catatonic.

Despite all that, I still managed to like her. She may be a drag, but she's a drag with moral fiber. I actually felt sympathy for Nikki. Brodi Ashton does such a good job highlighting how doggedly persistent Nikki is in wanting to do the right thing but feeling like there is no way out for her.

She doesn't sit around moaning about how life is unfair. She doesn't pout, feel sorry for herself, or make poor choices (outside of the obviously very bad choice of getting involved with Cole in the first place. But those actions are understandable and not entirely her fault).

Do I smell a love triangle?

It's true that there are two guys, but Nikki isn't a flighty girl torn between them. It's very clear that one guy is her relationship and the other is her drug. I know that makes it sound kind of bad and normally I would be frustrated with Nikki over this, but I wasn't.

But...I still wasn't feeling the romance. Jack is a nice guy, but he didn't feel particularly guy like. He was just so unbelievably perfect that he felt more like a woman's dream creation than an actual genuine guy. So did I like him? Yeah, of course. But I didn't believe him and so my swoon only went so far. He did remind me of Jay from The Body Finder though (which is a GOOD thing).

Cole, the other guy, also felt a little forced and, I don't know, hollow? I feel like I should have been swooning all over the place for him, but I don't have a good enough grasp on who he actually is beyond a pretty face. There were a few hints at something deeper going on though, so I hope that gets explored more in the sequel.

Yay for retellings! Or...not.

Outside of the gorgeous cover (yeah, I'm a hopeless cover judge), my main draw was that this is a Hades/Persephone retelling. I am totally in love with retellings, but this one didn't cut it for me. The myth was used more as a rough guideline than a playbook of events and characters. This is fine, but I have to admit some disappointment (I like direct retellings more).

I was also disappointed with the sparseness of the paranormal parts. Brodi Ashton created this unique, intriguing world with the Everneath, but I feel like I've barely scratched the surface. The whole book is told through Nikki's first person narration, and so I only got to know what she knows about the Everneath (which is, apparently, not much).

The story focuses almost entirely on Nikki's feelings--how she feels having come back from the Everneath, and what she felt that led up to her time in the Everneath. Chapters alternate from Before Everneath and After Everneath. I liked the chapters B.E. a lot more. They were like breadcrumbs, with each chapter giving a tiny bit of information that I could use to piece together the Big Mysterious Reason why Nikki chose to leave Jack and go to the Everneath with Cole.

A.E. was a lot less interesting and mostly focused on Nikki trying to rebuild her relationship with Jack. There was also a mystery in this part, but it was pretty easy to figure out and I ended up losing interest the longer it took Nikki to get with the program. There isn't a ton of action in either time period, and sadly the paranormal parts stay far, far in the background.

Bottom line

Everneath is way more of a contemporary issues book than I was expecting and, unfortunately, I'm not the right reader for this story. Nikki's blah mood rubbed off way too much on me and I now feel blah about the whole book. I will be ordering a copy for my library though, as it is a solid read that I think will be appreciated by readers who like contemporary issues, romance, and a touch of paranormal.

It was nice and easy enough to read that I might check out the sequel, but I'm not desperate for it. Everneath ends at a natural point, but it is also a pretty decent cliffhanger, so heads up on that.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Everneath that I haven't addressed? Feel free to ask in the comments!

What did you think of Everneath? 

Want to add Everneath to Goodreads?
Want to buy Everneath from your preferred bookseller?

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 

Click on the covers to go to my reviews.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Book Review: The Fourth Stall Part II by Chris Rylander

The Fourth Stall Part II by Chris Rylander
Series: #2 in The Fourth Stall series
Release Date: February 7, 2012
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Pages: 288
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is a review for a sequel, but there are NO spoilers for the first book!
Still worried? Check out my review of the first book instead!


From Goodreads:

The tween-noir saga continues. The life of crime is good. Mac has taken down legendary high school crime boss Staples, business has been booming and Mac and Vince are getting ready for middle school baseball tryouts. But this can't last. Mac has always tried to keep his friends close and his enemies closer. But what happens when you can't tell the difference?

A dilemma walks into the fourth stall in the form of Trixie Von Parkway - an eighth grader with a mean look and an even meaner predicament. Seems that the new science teacher is terrorizing her, and she needs Mac to get him off her back. Sounds simple enough, but as Mac starts to dig deeper, he finds even more trouble brewing at his school, including a new administrator bent on destroying his business and indicating that Trixie isn't who she claims to be.


Mac had me at hello

Mac's "voice" is a combination of The Godfather, film noir, and contemporary middle school boy that blends perfectly. Mac is such a likable kid. He makes me laugh and even when he's doing less-than-moral things, I'm still rooting for him to win (plus, his heart is in the right place, so that has to count for something, right?).

If I were in middle school, I would be crushing on Mac so hard. I'm talking notebooks filled with "Mac <3's Small" and I-can't-form-words-in-his-presence-because-he's-so-cool kind of crush. And if I were a middle school guy? I would totally want to BE Mac.

I love male narrators, but it's hard to find a good male narrator who actually sounds like a guy (sorry women authors, lots of your guys sound like girls!). Chris Rylander scores major points by writing a book that feels authentically boyish.

Not only that, but he also sounds like a genuine middle school kid. He thinks and acts the way a normal kid would act, and sometimes that means he bungles in ways that are just so classically tweenish. This totally endeared him to me, and I imagine Mac's thoughts and actions will resonate strongly with the target audience (tweens, primarily tween boys).

These are the kinds of issues I like

I really don't like reading about Heavy Issues like people dying or struggling with abusive relationships or depression and stuff like that. But I love contemporary books that deal with the normal "lite issues" kids face like zits and crushes and school stress.

Chris Rylander integrated these subjects well in the first book, and he proved his skill again in the sequel. Mac's first crush on a girl is equal parts funny and sincere, with a few laugh out loud lines as he expresses his total bafflement with the opposite sex. The pressure of standardized testing provides a more serious topic, and offers an opening for candid discussion without coming across as preachy or dull.

I didn't see it coming!

I didn't see the culprit until their identity was finally revealed. The evidence was stacked up against each possible bad guy in such a way that I believed any of them were capable. But, the doubts were equally convincing, so I was totally twisted up.

Chris Rylander gets the Genius Award for Epic Characters

Mac is great, but so are all of the secondary characters. The prim and proper but totally crazy little bully named Kitten cracks me up every single time. He didn't even have a big role, but I mentally cheered whenever he was mentioned. Reading these books is worth it for the mental picture of that character alone (don't believe me? Check out Heather's review of the first book where she said almost the exact same thing!).

Really, almost all of Chris Rylander's characters are memorable and awesome for some reason or another. Extra points for Mac's trusty right hand man Vince; Tyrell, Mac's surveillance man (SO cool!); and Trixie, Mac's crush and possible femme fatale. Even the opportunity to meet super minor characters like the weird rodent droppings expert make the book worth reading.

Where did the star go?

The wandering plot. I didn't think the mystery was built as cohesively as it was in the first book. The first book had great momentum, but it was very easy for me to put the sequel down for days at a time. I did want to see who was behind the problems plaguing Mac and his classmates, but clues came too few and far between to really grab hold of my interest.

There was also a LOT of baseball filler, and after years of associating baseball with boring weekends when my dad wouldn't let me watch my cartoons because there was a game on, I automatically revert into "this is boring" mode whenever baseball is brought up. I imagine the target audience will appreciate Mac's baseball nods more than I did. I did like the futile camaraderie Mac felt with other Cubs fans though--that I can understand.

Bottom line

I adore this series and I can't recommend it highly enough. If you have a middle grade boy in your life, do him a favor and buy him this series ASAP. The first book is a hot seller in my library and I already have a waiting list for the sequel.

What's also great about this series is that each book can be read as a standalone. Even though knowing the events of the first book helps when reading the second, that familiarity isn't necessary. There are also zero spoilers in the sequel, so you don't have to worry about ruining the first book if you read the sequel first.

The second book ends by alluding to a possible third book, and I SO HOPE THERE IS A THIRD BOOK! I'll auto-buy it.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about The Fourth Stall Part II that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Add The Fourth Stall Part II to Goodreads!
Buy The Fourth Stall Part II from your preferred bookseller!

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 

Click on the covers to go to my reviews.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

In My Mailbox (32) New Format

In My Mailbox is a meme started by Kristi at The Story Siren where we get to post about the books we receive each week.

This mailbox is for the past two weeks.

I won the YAmazing Race with MGnificent Prizes giveaway hosted by the Apocalypsies--a group of YA and MG authors debuting in 2012. It has been like Christmas with the prizes making their way to my mailbox all week! Thank you so much to all of the participating authors and all of the authors who have sent their prizes to me. The following books and swag are from this giveaway.

Welcome Caller, This is Chloe 
by Shelley Coriell

Release Date: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Amulet Books
Pages: 320
Goodreads Page

Chloe's life hasn't been going exactly as planned. Her reputation was destroyed by none other than her (former) best friend, her independent study project proposal has been denied, and her grandmother's mental health is deteriorating. Struggling with loneliness and attempting to salvage her grades, Chloe decides to host a call-in radio show for her school's radio station. Could the radio station's misfits (including loner Duncan Moore) and her show's callers be the answer to her prayers?

This sounds like a light contemporary with a MC I can totally sympathize with and just enough romance and heartwarming scenes to make me aaaawww out loud. I'm looking forward to it!

by Elizabeth Norris

Release Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 445
Goodreads Page

Janelle is hit by a truck and dies. That is, until she is mysteriously brought back to life. Janelle is convinced her attractive classmate Ben had something to do not only with her resurrection, but also with the clock counting down to who knows what that she discovered while snooping in her FBI father's files.

Somehow the end of the world also ties into the plot, the countdown clock, and Ben...but I don't really understand how just yet. Guess I'll have to read the book to find out! I love books with mysteries, and given the thickness of this one, I'm hoping there are a TON of threads to unravel (oh! Totally didn't realize that. Ha, get it?)

by Marissa Burt

Release Date: April 3, 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 320
Goodreads Page

After unearthing a mysterious book in the basement of her school, Una finds herself transported to the land of Story. In Story, children are taught how to be book characters, attending courses on how to be heroes, sidekicks, and villains. Una is delighted, but there could be disastrous consequences if anyone discovers Una is not originally from Story.

I squeaked OUT LOUD when I opened the envelope for this book! I had it on my ARC Wishlist and then sort of forgot to request it, so I am SO fantastically happy that I won a copy! I love books like Inkheart and The Neverending Story where characters go into books. Yay!

Born Wicked 
by Jessica Spotswood

Release Date: February 7, 2012
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Pages: 326
Goodreads Page

Witches! Swoony kisses! Forbidden romance! Family secrets! Banned books! Rebellious friends! An oppressive Brotherhood! Tea parties! YAY!!!


Daughter of Smoke and Bone 
by Laini Taylor

Release Date: September 27, 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown
Pages: 418
Goodreads Page

I won this from Sally at Always Lost in Stories as part of her blogoversary giveaway. Thank you! I was SO excited to see that she sent the UK version, because I am about fifty million times more in love with the shimmery UK cover than the bleh US cover. Double yay!

I've heard so many wonderful things about this book, but I have to admit that I've been scared by the hype. I'm glad I won a copy though, because now I can see for myself. I've heard it involved a war between...angels and demons? Or creatures like them? There's also a romance, and I can't say no to romance.

What actually makes me most excited is what I've heard about the "story within a story." Readers seem to be mixed on it. The plot detours for a significant chunk into a myth that provides background for the main story. Or so I've heard. I LOVE when authors do this, so I'm really looking forward to this part!


Daughters of Rome 
by Kate Quinn

Release Date: April 5, 2011
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Pages: 370
Goodreads Page

I've wanted to read this ever since I saw the gorgeous cover and noticed Stephanie Dray (author of my Special Shelved Lily of the Nile and Song of the Nile) mentioned it on her site. The plot doesn't sound too shabby either. Ancient Rome during the tumultuous time after Nero's death? YES PLEASE!

Bookish Hobbit reviewed it a few weeks ago and was mixed on it, so she offered to send me her copy. Of course I greedily accepted. Thank you!

Click on each photo to see larger views!

What did you get this week? Are you interested in reading any of these books?

I'm also trying out a new IMM format. How do you like it? Do you prefer it this way, or the old way?

I would also appreciate it if you would take a moment to fill out THIS FORM to leave your feedback on the Busting the Newbie Blues event. Thank you! 

If you would like an email alert for 2013's Busting the Newbie Blues, please sign up HERE.  


Have you written a review for The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter? 
I would love to include your review in the next Review Comparison!


Saturday, February 4, 2012

More books for swap

Same as before (gift card for books). Here are the adult books (fyi, in case you're a book snoop like I am, they're a mix of my books, my fiance's, and a bunch of gifts that are not my kind of book at all--you get lots of book gifts working in a library!)

I'm happy to take more pictures to show condition or if there are any titles you can't read. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments or through email (imagesandwords at optonline dot net).

You can click on the pictures to see larger views. I'm sorry if they slow anyone's computer down too much!



Friday, February 3, 2012

Book Review: New Girl by Paige Harbison

New Girl by Paige Harbison
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Publisher: HarlequinTeen
Pages: 304
Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

They call me 'New Girl'...

Ever since I arrived at exclusive, prestigious Manderly Academy, that’s who I am. New girl. Unknown. But not unnoticed—because of her.

Becca Normandy—that’s the name on everyone’s lips. The girl whose picture I see everywhere. The girl I can’t compare to. I mean, her going missing is the only reason a spot opened up for me at the academy. And everyone stares at me like it’s my fault.

Except for Max Holloway—the boy whose name shouldn’t be spoken. At least, not by me. Everyone thinks of him as Becca’s boyfriend but she’s gone, and here I am, replacing her. I wish it were that easy. Sometimes, when I think of Max, I can imagine how Becca’s life was so much better than mine could ever be.

And maybe she’s still out there, waiting to take it back.


New Girl is a tough book to like, but it's worth pushing past the the gratuitous sex and noxious characters to experience the brilliant retelling of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca hidden in this contemporary gem. I have read and love Rebecca, so keep in mind my experience with New Girl is colored by that.

Never say never

The pacing is moderate to slow and not all that much happens. Mostly it's contemporary inter-personal stuff without any BIG events (there are a few Medium events).

You know I have no patience for that, but surprisingly, I was actually ok with this. The original book doesn't have a whole lot going on either and I managed to love that one. Just like the original, I was totally transfixed by New Girl and I can't even pin point why. I felt that need to keep reading throughout the whole book.

These people!

Part of my fascination was because I was so wrapped up in watching these crazy people spiral out of control. Reading about them was almost like a guilty pleasure. I wanted to see what messed up thing they'd do next.

Their characterizations are spot on. The original characters were real pieces of work, but Paige Harbison managed to add humanity to her versions while still maintaining their Gothic lunacy. Don't expect swoony heroes and heroines you can whole-heartedly root for. Neither Rebecca nor New Girl are that kind of book.

The epically creepy Mrs. Danvers was reimagined as the tragic, but no less skin-crawlingly weird, Dana Veers. Dana's reenactment of Mrs. Danvers' creeptastic walk down memory lane through Rebecca's clothing was pitch perfect. Yikes! I'm getting shivers down my spine just thinking about it.

Even more notable was Paige Harbison's treatment of the Rebecca/Becca character. Rebecca is morphed from a goddess she-devil into a somewhat sympathetic Becca struggling with mental illness (sympathy only gets her so far though. She's still a she-devil I'd want to stay as away from as possible).

Unlike Rebecca, who haunts the periphery of the novel while never actually making an appearance in the flesh, Becca is given almost equal pagetime as the narrator. Third-person POV chapters alternate with the narrator's first person chapters and tell the tale of Becca's bombastic, twisted time at Manderly.

YAY, you have a spine!

The narrator of Rebecca was a total weenie. Her narrative was completely absorbing, but gosh did she go on and on about how she didn't think she could ever measure up to the mesmerizing Rebecca. She was so utterly eclipsed by Rebecca that her name isn't even mentioned in the book (she is known only as the "second Mrs. de Winter").

Given that, I was surprised when the narrator in New Girl actually stood up for herself! The title (naming "New Girl" and NOT Becca) should have been my first clue that this girl is not about to indulge in the pity part the second Mrs. de Winter was so known for.

Instead of internal torment, the narrator gets hit with an onslaught of "You're not as good as Becca" from her classmates. There was an oppressive feeling of the faceless mob always whispering behind her back. I was reminded of those books where the whole town accuses a woman of witchcraft and then makes her life miserable.

Where did the stars go?

I was fine with the less exciting plot because it was totally enthralling. What I wasn't fine with was the detour home the main character took during winter break.

There is sort of a point to it (it shows her personal growth and how she's moving on), but, meh, it did nothing for me. I'm not really into that kind of thing, but more importantly it felt like a DETOUR. I was antsy to get back to the story already. It doesn't take up much time though.

There were also some inconsistencies in voice, particularly with the narrator. For the first few chapters her voice seemed like a put-on trying to seem more intellectual and highfalutin but it evened out and sounded a lot more "normal high school girl" after that.

I was also kind of bummed that the ending didn't have an explosive conclusion like the original with fire and murder and secret revelations and mental breakdowns. New Girl's ending was far too tame.

But the biggest reason for stars off is the level and treatment of sex. It DOES serve a point, but I wish that point had been made in more of a PG/PG-13 manner. It's not graphic, but only just barely. It's described in such a crass manner, which is perfect for the characters, but not so perfect for me as a reader. Many of these scenes contributed to my total lack of respect for most of the characters. Even more frustrating is the fact that these scenes are so prolific and detailed that I can't comfortably give this book to my library kids (and I so would have if it weren't for these scenes).

Bottom line

This is one of the better retellings I've read. Paige Harbison honored the sentiment of the original, but deftly twisted events and characterizations in ways English teacher's assigning literary comparison essays can only hope for. I am impressed.

I would definitely read another retelling by Paige Harbison, but I'm not fully sold on reading an original story of hers yet. The non-retelling parts were a little rough and I'm still hung up on her handling of the sex scenes.

New Girl is a standalone.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about New Girl that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Add New Girl to Goodreads!
Buy New Girl from your preferred bookseller!

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 

Click on the cover to go to my review.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Review Comparison Submissions: The Goddess Test

Have you written a review for:

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter? 

If you would like your review to be featured in an upcoming Review Comparison post, please fill out the form to send me direct links to your reviews! 

Click HERE to submit your review 

Submissions will be accepted throughout the entire month of February, so if you haven't read The Goddess Test yet, there's still time! The sequel, Goddess Interrupted comes out in March.

What is a Review Comparison? 
  • Provides a "snapshot" of a book by compiling the pros and cons mentioned across a number of different reviews. 
  • I'll link to your full review so readers can get a chance to see different views about a book.
  • Click here to view previous review comparisons.
  • Featured books, including this month's featured book, are selected based on your suggestions. Feel free to suggest a book at any time.

Please note:
  • Only direct links for the featured books will be accepted.
  • The comparison list will likely include direct quotes from your review.
  • All direct quotes will be credited to your blog name. 
  • Submission of a link does not guarantee inclusion in the final post. 
  • You do not have to be a follower of my blog to submit your review.
  • You may submit direct links to your review on Goodreads if you are not a blogger.
  • Submissions will be accepted until Wednesday, February 29th. Submissions will not be accepted after this date. 
  • The Review Comparison for The Goddess Test will post in March

I would also appreciate it if you would take a moment to fill out THIS FORM to leave your feedback on the Busting the Newbie Blues event. Thank you!

    Wednesday, February 1, 2012

    Event Recap: Busting the Newbie Blues

    Thank you all so much for participating in Busting the Newbie Blues! I can't tell you how much I appreciate your enthusiasm for this event. I hope your blues have been busted and that you've met many new blogging friends along the way.

    Though the linky list is now closed for new entries, you can still click on the links and visit any blog you may not have gotten to yet. I am slowly but surely making my way through the list and I will be stopping by every blog that entered!

    The discussions and Tips & Tricks posts will remain open indefinitely, so please feel free to join it at any time. The same goes for the Tips & Tricks Challenge.

    If you like these posts, I hope you decide to stick around! Small Review features new discussion and Tips & Tricks posts every month.

    Miss anything? Here are some posts you may want to check out:

    Introduction post with list of participating blogs
    My Busting the Newbie Blues questionnaire responses (2012)
    My Busting the Newbie Blues questionnaire responses (from when I was a newbie)

    Tips & Tricks Challenge
    Your questions answered
    How to Get ARCs: A Step-by-Step Guide
    List of all Tips & Tricks posts

    Discussion: When Blogging Makes Me Cry (and How I Smile Again)
    Discussion: The Dark Side of Blogging

    Ruby's Busting the Big Blogger Blues:

    General Chat
    How do you deal with blogger burnout? (part 1)
    How do you deal with blogger burnout? (part 2)

    2012's Busting the Newbie Blues has come to an end, but I hope to see all of you again next year!

    In an effort to make next year's Busting the Newbie Blues even better, I would love it if you shared your feedback on the event! If you would like to help, please fill out THIS FORM. Thank you!

    If you would like to receive an email when Busting the Newbie Blues returns in 2013, please fill out THIS FORM. I will send only one email and your email address will not be used for any other reason, nor will it be shared with anyone.

    February will be a little quieter here at Small Review, with only reviews and a Review Comparison. But don't worry, all of the regular features will return in March!
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