Saturday, March 31, 2012

March Recap

In case you missed anything, here's a recap of what was posted in March. 

+ A look ahead at what's to come in April.

I have replied to comments on all of these posts. 


Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin
Allegiance by Cayla Kluver 
Artemis the Loyal (Goddess Girls #7) by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams


Other fun stuff

Author Interviews:

A Look Ahead

April will be another lighter month with mostly reviews, but I'll have a few features, a DNF explanation, an interview or two, and a giveaway.

PLUS, the first week of April is going to be filled with absolute WIN because I have reviews scheduled for two Special Shelf books!

I will also be road tripping again for the last few days in April as I head back to Texas for my permanent move. So I'll be MIA then and for probably a little while after while I get my internet connection set up. But don't worry, I will have posts scheduled in my absence and I'll still be able to read comments.

See you in April!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Bloggiesta Tips & Tricks


Are you participating in Bloggiesta?

I would love to participate in Bloggiesta (both because there are about a million things I've been planning to fix on my blog, and also because I just want an excuse to post that adorable button), but with my big move coming up, I really don't have the time.

BUT, hopefully you are participating! And if you are, I'd love to help. I've written a bunch of tutorials  that you might find useful and I've listed most of them here for you.

Blog Design


How to Make a Full-Screen Blog Header
How to Make a Sidebar Header
How to Fix Overhanging Sidebar Images
Why you shouldn't use Microsoft Word to write your posts

Icons and Buttons

How to Make a Button
How to Make a Scrolling Widget for Blog Buttons
How to Make Social Networking Icons (Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, etc)
How to Make an "Email Me" Link and Icon


How to Add a Signature to Posts
How to Customize a Comment Form Message

More HTML (made super simple)

How to Make Colored Boxes
How to Make Borders
How to Make a Progress Bar (for challenges)
How to Customize a Progress Bar

Attract Followers

Blog Promotion

How to Increase SEO with Post Titles
How to Increase Blog Readership with Search Engines
4 Ways to Gain Readers Using Comments
3 Ways to Attract Readers Through Hosting
How to add a link to your blog when you leave comments

Suck Readers in for Hours!

How to Make Anchor Text
How to Make Named Attribution Jumps
How to Maximize Links, part 1
How to Maximize Links, part 2
How to Use Labels (Tags) to Increase Blog Traffic

Even though I won't be participating in Bloggiesta this year myself, I'll still be cheering the participants on from the sidelines. Remember,

You can do it!
Feel free to come back here and share your success!

Have you written a tutorial? Share your links in the comments!


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Book Review: A Breath of Eyre by Eve Marie Mont

A Breath of Eyre by Eve Marie Mont
#1 in the Unbound series
Release Date: March 27, 2012
Publisher: Kensington
Pages: 342
Received: ARC from author and publisher
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

Emma Townsend has always believed in stories—the ones she reads voraciously, and the ones she creates in her head. Perhaps it’s because she feels like an outsider at her exclusive prep school, or because her stepmother doesn’t come close to filling the void left by her mother’s death. And her only romantic prospect—apart from a crush on her English teacher—is Gray Newman, a long-time friend who just adds to Emma’s confusion. But escape soon arrives in an old leather-bound copy of Jane Eyre…

Reading of Jane’s isolation sparks a deep sense of kinship. Then fate takes things a leap further when a lightning storm catapults Emma right into Jane’s body and her nineteenth-century world. As governess at Thornfield, Emma has a sense of belonging she’s never known—and an attraction to the brooding Mr. Rochester. Now, moving between her two realities and uncovering secrets in both, Emma must decide whether her destiny lies in the pages of Jane’s story, or in the unwritten chapters of her own…


Why you can't just look at the rating

My ratings are my personal, subjective reaction to the book I read. It's a measure of how much I enjoyed it, or not. My ratings are NOT objective critiques on the worthiness of a book.

So that's why it would be a really bad idea to look at my 3.5 rating here and think A Breath of Eyre is only a slightly above average book. It's not. It's a good, solid book and I do recommend it.

It's just not really MY kind of book.

What I was expecting

I gravitate toward time travel (book travel?) stories like this because I like to laugh and I automatically assume this plotline will come with a hefty dose of sarcasm, funny observations, and "fish out of water" hilarity.

Barring that, I was expecting to get caught up in the Gothic romance of Jane Eyre. Which, to be honest, is probably me setting myself up for a fall because I've, um, neveractuallyreadJaneEyre. So I really don't think I was in a position to have accurate expectations.

But either way I figured I'd spend a chapter or two in the modern world before Emma was whisked into the pages of Jane Eyre where I would then spend the rest of the story.

And of course all my expectations were completely wrong.

What I got

First off, the vast majority of the book takes place in modern times. Jane Eyre is more of a metaphor that helps Emma deal with the events in her real life. It is NOT the focal point of the story (though if you haven't read the original, prepare yourself for massive spoilers).

And that humor I was expecting? Definitely NOT there. The meat of the story is Emma's real life relationship with her father, her two friends, and her maybe crush. All of these relationships are fraught with Serious Issues like the specter of dead mothers, suicide, depression, mental illness, death, classism, insecurity, and racism.

Heavy, right? For a contemporary issues reader, this book will be a treasured gem. But for me, I was lost. I'm not an issues reader, and these issues are all WAY too heavy for me. I may have even teared up a little at one point.

So why didn't I just DNF?

Honestly, I was tempted. For me, reading issues books is like wearing an itchy wool sweater. Everything feels forced and uncomfortable.

But narrator Emma was like a pair of super comfy fuzzy socks and that is why I kept reading. There was something about her that felt right and made me want to be her friend. She's shy and unsure and sort of floundering around, but she has a strength to her that made me proud. I could relate to Emma's fears and her desire to conquer them.

The pacing was also sort of slow, but there was interpersonal stuff going on all the time and I was curious to see how it would all unfold. I was antsy in the beginning because it takes a long time before Emma gets sucked into the book, but that's mostly because I was expecting a different sort of book at that time.

The narrative then bounces back and forth with Emma traveling from our world to Jane's, back to ours, then back to Jane's, and then back to ours again. The biggest surprise to me was that I actually enjoyed the parts in our world more than those in Jane's. I was completely caught up in Emma's interpersonal growth and her friends' various dramas.

Do you have to read Jane Eyre first?

I don't know. I didn't. I'm sure I missed a bunch of nods to the original (which was a bummer because that's one of my favorite parts of retellings), and I know I got a ton of spoilers.

Overall though, I think it's not necessary to have read the original. I never felt lost or left out for having not read Jane Eyre. Emma's journey stands well on its own, and if her growth takes a cue from Jane, it does not diminish Emma's triumphs.

Bottom line

This isn't my kind of book at all, so the fact that I read it cover to cover, loved the narrator, and actually found enjoyment is saying something. Contemporary issues readers should like it a whole lot more and will probably really appreciate the way Jane Eyre was used to guide Emma.

Eve Marie Mont's sensitive handling of intense issues, beautiful writing, creativity, and ability to craft well-developed characters make her a welcome addition to the ranks of YA authors. There will be two more books in this series as Emma gets sucked into The Scarlet Letter and The Phantom of the Opera. I'm not really sure how that will work given Emma's mode of travel in A Breath of Eyre, but I have faith that Eve Marie Mont will pull it off.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

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

Want to win a copy? Click here to enter!

Add it on Goodreads

But it on Amazon

Looking for another book like this? 

You might like: 

Click on the covers to go to my reviews.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Author Interview + Giveaway: A Breath of Eyre by Eve Marie Mont! (US)

Back in November during the Historical Fantasy Jubilee, I had the pleasure of interviewing debut author Eve Marie Mont and getting my first taste of the windswept moors and certain hazel eyed boy with a haunted past found in A Breath of Eyre.

I've since read A Breath of Eyre and while I'll restrain my gushing today (tomorrow I'll gush), I am delighted to be able to offer a finished paperback copy for giveaway, courtesy of the publisher!

I've re-posted the interview below to help whet your appetite!

Please Welcome Eve Marie Mont!

Eve Marie Mont is the author of the upcoming A Breath of Eyre, where a modern girl finds herself sucked into the classic story and inhabiting Jane's body! Every time I see another hint, snippet, or beautiful piece of A Breath of Eyre swag, I get a little bit closer to "barely containable excitement."        

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

A: Hands down, it would be Gray. He’s a swimmer and lifeguard with sad, hazel eyes and a haunted past. How could he possibly be a bad kisser? Is it weird to have a crush on an 18-year-old fictional character?

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

Elise Fairchild is everything her name suggests: fair and lovely and blueblood and, as it happens, a real b-----! She is nemesis and rival to my protagonist, Emma, and she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. But don’t despair: there are a few satisfying scenes in which Emma yanks that spoon right out!

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

Um, hello? Read question #1. No, seriously, I’d want to reenact one of the scenes in which Emma is stuck in Jane Eyre, wandering over the moors, falling in love with Mr. Rochester, and trying to solve the mystery of how to get back home.

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

Emma’s best friend, Michelle, lives with her Aunt Darlene in a section of Boston that’s sort of a “Little Haiti.” Darlene practices voodoo and interprets dreams AND runs her own bakery, so I’d definitely want to spend an afternoon with Darlene talking about philosophy and religion over pastries and Cremas.

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

Without giving spoilers, there’s a scene at the end of the book in which two characters realize they are far more connected than they first realized. What follows is dramatic, intense, romantic, and a little bit scary. And it’s also loosely based on a scene from Jane Eyre!

Get lost in a good book. Literally.
Emma Townsend has always believed in stories—the ones she reads voraciously, and the ones she creates in her head. Perhaps it’s because she feels like an outsider at her exclusive prep school, or because her stepmother doesn’t come close to filling the void left by her mother’s death. And her only romantic prospect—apart from a crush on her English teacher—is Gray Newman, a long-time friend who just adds to Emma’s confusion. But escape soon arrives in an old leather-bound copy of Jane Eyre… 
Reading of Jane’s isolation sparks a deep sense of kinship. Then fate takes things a leap further when a lightning storm catapults Emma right into Jane’s body and her nineteenth-century world. As governess at Thornfield, Emma has a sense of belonging she’s never known—and an attraction to the brooding Mr. Rochester. Now, moving between her two realities and uncovering secrets in both, Emma must decide whether her destiny lies in the pages of Jane’s story, or in the unwritten chapters of her own…


Have I teased you enough? Want to enter to win? Ok!

Click to make larger

Just fill out THIS FORM and cross your fingers!

Info for the giveaway:
  • What you can win: A finished paperback copy of A Breath of Eyre by Eve Marie Mont
  • As always, you do NOT have to be a follower
  • You must have a US mailing address
  • You must be 13 years of age or older
  • One entry per person
  • Your address is not required, but including it will help with sending the book out to you sooner
  • I will contact the winner through email and the winner will have 24 hours to reply before a new winner is chosen 
  • This giveaway closes on April 3rd

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Book Review: Bourne by Lisa T. Bergren

Bourne by Lisa T. Bergren
#3.1 in the River of Time series
Release Date: February 27, 2012
Publisher: Bergren Creative Group, Inc.
Pages: about 160
Received: Review copy from author
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, Special Shelf

This is a review for book #3.1 in the River of Time series and THERE ARE SPOILERS in this review for earlier books!

Don't want spoilers? Check out my reviews for the first three books:



From Author's Website: (highlight to read)

In this e-novella, River of Time #3.1, the dramatic tale about the Betarrinis and Forellis continues, picking up directly after where Torrent left off… The battle is done at the front, but the battle is only beginning back at Castello Forelli. Marcello fights for his life; Lord Greco fights to find his place; and Lia fights for love.


Whenever I read an "extra" like a novella or short story, I always have a few nagging questions and, ok, I'll admit it, fears. The worst thing an author can do to a beloved story is stretch it beyond its limits, and oftentimes that's exactly what happens with little extras like this.

But...but it's the River of Time! Let's be honest here, I would probably gobble up anything even remotely related to this series.

But I'm also super picky and because I love these characters so much, I'm really protective over them. I can't bear to see them fall victim to series stretching. My heart would break to see them in filler stories or, worse, forced rehashes of the same old plotline.

So it was with an emotional mess of unbridled elation and gut-punch dread that I entered Bourne.

And thankfully, I had nothing to fear!

Is there a point to the story?

Yes! The fact that this is a novella and not a full-length novel plays zero part in the story's construction. This is not an "add on for fans"--the plot is original and makes sense as the logical fallout of the events in Torrent. I also finally got to learn more about the mysterious brotherhood! The best way to think of Bourne is to just forget that it is a novella and treat it like part one of the next full book in the series.

The story picks up almost immediately after the end of Torrent and it is essential that you read Waterfall, Cascade, and Torrent before reading Bourne (unless you want massive spoilers for the first three books). The same breakneck pacing mixed with tender character moments and thoughtful soul searching that characterized the first three books is present again in Bourne.

The only time I felt the limitations of the novella length was at the end. Yes, there is resolution, but the greater story arc that has been set in motion promises MUCH more to come. Seeds have been planted and threads have been left dangling, and of course I am dying to find out what happens next! I wouldn't say the end is a cliffhanger exactly, but Lisa is certainly a diabolical tease.

Do I get to see the characters I know and love?

Yes! All of my favorite characters make an appearance (except the ones who have DIED! Oh Fortino!), although for many it is a tantalizingly small appearance. Marcello, Gabi, and Greco all play a decent role but the meat of this story is Lia and Luca (yay!). Though, even there, the short nature of the book makes it so that none of the characters get as much page time as I wanted.

But that's not a criticism of Lisa. You see, this series is like a pastry shop. I love it so much that I want to scarf down everything all at once without waiting. But that really isn't possible (my mouth is, regrettably, just as small as the rest of me). The same goes for these characters. I want to absorb all of their stories, secrets, hopes, fears, desires, everything all at once. Like book osmosis. And that's not possible, so I need to learn how to be patient and savor what I do have.

And, oh my, what a treat I have in Bourne! I have always been a huge Lia and Luca fan, and I am VERY happy with the events of Bourne. It wasn't just that things finally happened (but, total YAY for things finally happening!), it was HOW they happened. Luca's personality was so perfectly displayed in the most adorable, swoony, heart-melting, giggle-inducing scenes of PURE WIN. The witty banter between Lia and Luca was everything I had been hoping for and more. I couldn't have daydreamed it better.

Does the author mess with a good thing?

Not much is different from the first three books, and that is a very good thing. There isn't any new girl causing love drama, Marcello and Gabi don't have a "misunderstanding" to carry the plot, and the characters don't suffer mysterious personality transplants.

What IS different is the inclusion of Lia's perspective! Gabi still narrates plenty (and it was such a comfort to be back in her head again), but the introduction of Lia's POV was thoroughly welcome.

I'll blushingly admit that Lia left me a little star struck in the first three books. She was just so darn cool with her arrows and calm reserve. I loved this opportunity to get into her head and see the "woman behind the mask."

Her voice is similar to Gabi's, but her caution and control seen in the previous books came through in her narrative as well. While I can't help but get swept up in Gabi's romantic view of the 14th century, Lia has always been the character my practical side can relate to. I hope more books are told from her POV in the future.

Bottom line

LOVE! More please!

Oh, and can someone magic me up a print copy please? That man on the cover would look so nice on my shelf.

Oh, and edited to add: The length is about 160 pages.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

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

Add it on Goodreads
Buy it from Amazon

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 
Click on the covers to go to Goodreads.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Book Review: Goddess Girls #7 by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams

Artemis the Loyal by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
Series: #7 in the Goddess Girls series
Release Date: December 6, 2011
Publisher: Aladdin
Pages: 272
Received: Review copy from author
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

It's time for the annual Olympic Games, and the four goddessgirls are not happy! It's boys only--and the girls at MOA are not pleased.

Led by Artemis, Athena, Persephone and Aphrodite, the ladies of Mount Olympus hatch a plan to get Zeus to open up the games to everyone. Will they succeed--or end up watching from the sidelines again?


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

The seventh book in the adorable Goddess Girls series revisits Artemis's perspective as she tries to petition for female participation in the Olympic games.

While the message of equality between the sexes is definitely worthy, it's also been done sooooo many times and I wasn't exactly excited to dive into yet another rehash. That storyline also has a tendency to veer into man-hating territory with a "Girls Rule and Boys Drool!" message, which is a total dealbreaker for me.

But, I do love the Goddess Girls series and I have been continually impressed with the creativity and depth authors Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams manage to pack into each book, so I was cautiously optimistic that Artemis the Loyal would at least hit similar marks.

Not only did Artemis the Loyal live up to the previous installments in the Goddess Girls series, but it totally blew my expectations out of the water! The authors took the tired subject matter in a direction I wasn't expecting at all, breathing new life into the tale and advocating positive values.

And, in typical Goddess Girls style, equality isn't the only message touched upon. The sibling relationship between Artemis and her twin brother Apollo is explored, as well as a friendship between Artemis and a new boy, and a (totally younger MG-level) romance between Artemis and another boy.

My familiarity with Greek myths is decent, but at this point I'm beginning to reach my limits. I recognized the Actaeon storyline (creatively altered for the modern MG reader!), but most of the other references were out of my league.

I was hoping this would happen at some point so I could see how interesting the stories would be for someone unfamiliar with the original myths (which, I imagine, describes many Goddess Girls readers). I'm happy to say I was thoroughly entertained. The story flowed smoothly and without any "gaps" that sometimes occur with retellings.

Artemis herself was a character with whom I could easily relate and sympathize. The other three Goddess Girls (Athena, Persephone, and Aphrodite) all make appearances and it is always sweet to see how they support one another. Medusa also plays a part, providing another tiny peek behind her gruff demeanor and making the eighth book Medusa the Mean one of the most anticipated upcoming releases among my library girls (and myself!).

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key

Do you have any questions about Artemis the Loyal that I haven't addressed?

Feel free to ask in the comments!

Are there any plot topics you think are played out? Have you been surprised by an author taking a worn plot and making it fresh again?

Click to add Artemis the Loyal to Goodreads

Click to buy Artemis the Loyal

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 

Click on the covers to go to my reviews.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Author Interview: Gina Damico

Please Welcome Gina Damico!

Gina Damico debuted yesterday (!) with Croak, a book about a girl who finds out she's a grim reaper! Maybe it's my extreme terror at the idea of dying, or maybe it's because I've watched too many episodes of Supernatural, but I have a certain fascination with grim reapers. So the idea of a girl discovering she IS a grim reaper? Totally cool!

Gina was kind enough to stop by today and share some tantalizing bits about Croak. 

Q: If you were transported into your book, which scene would you most want to reenact?
A: Any scene involving the ether, which is a big, swooshy, wormhole-type break in the space-time continuum that allows the Grims to travel to and from their targets almost instantly, and where one can experience all the sights, sounds, and exhilarations of life all at the same time. I could easily hang out in there for a few hours, though it would probably end up driving me to the brink of sanity.

Q: Which one of your character’s brains would you want to pick the most?
A: I'd love to find out what Uncle Mort has rattling around in that noggin of his, because half the time even I don't know until it spills out onto the page. He keeps surprising me, that one. I should probably keep him on a tighter leash, but he's kind of scary. I mean, he has tattoos. And a scar.

Q: Which scene do you think will surprise readers the most?
A: I think readers will be surprised by the town of Croak, much like Lex is. It's not the sort of gloomy, scary place you might expect a bunch of Grim reapers to inhabit. It has bright green grass and rolling hills. It has a diner with a jukebox. It has nightlife. It also just so happens to have a portal to the Afterlife.

Readers should add CROAK to their To Be Read list if they like...

Books about:
Finding humor in death, witty banter, kickass teenagers, quirky settings, fantasy, and discussions on the cinematic merit of Titanic.

Books/movies like:
Anything Tim Burton-ish, TV series Dead Like Me, Six Feet Under, Pushing Daisies. It doesn't matter, however, whether you like or hate Titanic. Croak's characters fall into both camps, so there's something for everyone.

About Croak:

Sixteen-year-old Lex Bartleby has sucker-punched her last classmate. Fed up with her punkish, wild behavior, her parents ship her off to upstate New York to live with her Uncle Mort for the summer, hoping that a few months of dirty farm work will whip her back into shape. But Uncle Mort’s true occupation is much dirtier than that of shoveling manure.

He’s a Grim Reaper. And he’s going to teach her the family business.

Lex quickly assimilates into the peculiar world of Croak, a town populated entirely by reapers who deliver souls from this life to the next. Along with her infuriating yet intriguing partner Driggs and a rockstar crew of fellow Grim apprentices, Lex is soon zapping her Targets like a natural born Killer.

Yet her innate ability morphs into an unchecked desire for justice—or is it vengeance?—whenever she’s forced to Kill a murder victim, craving to stop the attackers before they can strike again. So when people start to die—that is, people who aren’t supposed to be dying, people who have committed grievous crimes against the innocent—Lex’s curiosity is piqued. Her obsession grows as the bodies pile up, and a troubling question begins to swirl through her mind: if she succeeds in tracking down the murderer, will she stop the carnage—or will she ditch Croak and join in?

Author bio:

I grew up under four feet of snow in Syracuse, New York. I received a degree in theater and sociology from Boston College, where I was active with the Committee for Creative Enactments, a murder mystery improv comedy troupe that may or may not have sparked my interest in wildly improbably bloodshed. I have since worked as a tour guide, transcriptionist, theater house manager, scenic artist, movie extra, office troll, retail monkey, yarn hawker, and breadmonger. I live outside Boston with my husband, two cats, and a closet full of black hoodies.

Thank you so much for stopping by, Gina!

Huh, that ether place sounds awesome! I'm also loving the idea of being instantly transported somewhere (oooh to be able to avoid traffic!). Uncle Mort sounds pretty cool. I mean, I seriously doubt MY uncle is hiding a secret grim reaping profession. 

Plus, I'm all about the witty banter and kickass teens. But, honestly, it's the discussions on the cinematic merit of Titanic that is calling my name. I am firmly on the side of BEST MOVIE EVER, or, at least, one of the best. And when it comes to that standpoint, I will never let go.

Have you read Croak?
How would you answer these questions?

 (Remember, no spoilers please!)
Will you add it to your TBR?
(and YAY for no more waiting! Croak is out now!)

Who is your favorite fictional grim reaper?
(Mine is, hands down, this guy).
Where do you fall in the Titanic debate?

Monday, March 19, 2012

DNF: Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

Did Not Finish Explanation

Received: ARC from publisher and won a copy
Read pages: 144 of 330

Five reasons I DNF-ed

1. Men are EVIL OPPRESSORS and women are a part of a Sisterhood of Superiority. This is one of my deal breakers. Not only does this annoy me on principle (hey, I like men), but it also makes it hard for me to swallow the romance.

I just can't buy that in a world where pretty much every man is a closed-minded prison guard, the romantic interest somehow manages to rise above it all and kiss the boots of his beloved.  

And he's the only man who thinks like this, except for maybe a token old guy (though I didn't meet a token old guy in Born Wicked yet...unless you count their father).

2. I wasn't feeling the love interest. He's quirky, awkward, weak, and he does not ooze masculinity. He gets beat up regularly. I like alpha men, so Finn really is not my type.

There was also a sort of love triangle developing, though the eventual winner is super clear (and not MY choice).

3. Cate, the main character, is so NOT getting an invite to my sleepover party. She has this idea in her head that I think is totally unreasonable, but she will not let it go. This provides one of the main conflicts in the book.

She bosses her sisters around and treats them like they're dim children. Now, ok, she does do this out of love for them, but it still annoyed me. She also rejects feminine things I actually enjoy reading about, like dresses and social gatherings and courting. I have a hard time warming up to main characters who diss what I like.

She also reminded me of Azalea, of whom I am not a fan. I liked the second sister Maura MUCH more. She's a spunky little go-getter who totally gets the value of possessing magical powers. Cate, on the other hand, seems perfectly happy ignoring the gigantic prophecy of power, suppressing her magic (?!), and spending her days holed up in her garden. BOR-ING!

4. Too slow for me (but remember, I am a super impatient reader). It sounds like there are some exciting things about to happen (secret societies! a hidden diary! a mysterious godmother! a prophecy!), but it is taking FOR-EV-ER to get to them. I read almost half the book and not much has happened at all. I think Born Wicked is a victim of series stretching, but I can't be sure since I haven't finished the book.

The pacing reminded me of Michelle Zink's Prophecy of the Sisters series where there was lots of hinting at something really cool, but it took three whole books to finally materialize (at least, I assume the good stuff eventually showed up in that series--I didn't bother picking up the third book).

5. I wasn't sold on the world building. This is an alternate historical fantasy, which basically means that it is similar to our world, but altered. New England America becomes "New London," a land where women are oppressed under the iron fist of a religious brotherhood. The Arab world is a center of enlightenment and freedom for women. There are lots of tweaks and changes, so while the names of these countries may be familiar, the descriptions of them are all mixed up.

That could be fine. My problem stems from the lack of explanation for these cultural developments. WHY are certain parts of the world enlightened and free while others are not? What in their histories have led them to develop in these ways? We get a little explanation, but only surface level.

I also wanted to know how these countries connect to our world. I understand that this is alternate history, but there must be some connection to real history, right? Some point where our history diverged and developed into the author's creation. Otherwise it would be fantasy and there would be no point in using the names of real countries.

Except there is no connection here. There is no "turning point" explained and so all of the cultural differences don't make sense to me. (Now, these connections may have been made later on in the book. I don't know. But, still, I would have preferred if they had been established earlier to ground the story, but maybe that's my impatience rearing its head).

Bottom line

So, yeah, not for me. This isn't a BAD book though. I can totally see fans of the Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy by Michelle Zink loving Born Wicked. I will also order a copy for my library.

Have you read Born Wicked?
I hope you liked it more than I did!

What features are deal breakers for you?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Review Comparison: The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

Review Comparison is a feature where I pull out the pros and cons of the book mentioned in my review and other bloggers' reviews.

Add this book to you Goodreads list 
The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children. If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. There are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. But when an actual stranger--a boy who seems to fade like smoke--appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi's need to know-- about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

Part fairy tale, part love story, Victoria Schwab's debut novel is entirely original yet achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind, and a dream you won't soon forget.

Click for my original review:

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

The following bloggers kindly allowed me to include their reviews in this feature:

Read Me Bookmark Me Love Me: 5 of 5

Musings of a YA Reader: 4.5 of 5
Mindful Musings: 4 of 5 
Alison Can Read: 4 of 5
One Librarian's Book Reviews: 4 of 5
A Girl, Books and Other Things: 3 of 5
Bookworm1858: 2.5 of 5
Logan E. Turner: 2 of 5
Dreaming Dreams No Mortal Ever Dared
Everything To Do With Books 
Rainy Day Ramblings
Pica Reads
A Backwards Story
YA? Why Not?

Please click on the links to read their full reviews!


Reviewers were almost unanimous in their positive assessment of the writing, though some did not like it. Commentary on the writing style dominated most reviews.

Readers were also divided on the pacing, with some finding it too slow and difficult to get into and others stating they were sucked in immediately.

Main character Lexi was generally well liked, as were the supporting characters. Readers were again divided on the romance, though most liked the male lead.

~Writing, Pacing and Setting~


  • "...a creepy, Gothic setting with a dystopian-esque feel..." (Mindful Musings)
  • " skin crawled from the creepiness of the descriptions." (A Backwards Story)
  • "I loved the atmosphere of this fairy-tale story." (One Librarian's Book Reviews)
  • "...[the writing] didn't strike me as anything special." (Bookworm1858)
  • "...not a very plot-driven book...very atmospheric..." (Bookworm1858)
  • "...beautifully written..." (Mindful Musings)
  • " incredible writer. Her way with words is amazing." (Pica Reads)
  • "...beautiful, full of stunning descriptions that make readers feel as thought they're actually there." (A Backwards Story)
  • "...lyrical..." (Musings of A YA Reader)
  • "The story is beautifully written and captivating." (YA? Why Not?)
  • "The writing is absolutely beautiful, so evocative without being overly flowery." (A Girl, Books and Other Things)
  • " elegant way of writing that I found beautiful and hypnotic." (Logan E. Turner)
  • "Schwab's writing is dripping with detail, painting clear images in your mind, but without getting bogged down." (Logan E. Turner)
  • "...beautiful, lyrical-literary quality...I was transported...the prose never overshadowed the story." (Alison Can Read)
  • "...absolutely amazing and poetic writing style." (Everything To Do With Books)
  • "...gorgeous...spellbinding and mesmerizing...honestly some of the most breathtaking and beautiful writing I have encountered." (Rainy Day Ramblings)
  • "The writing was so beautiful and poetic...vivid descriptions...eerie and chilling tone." (Read Me, Bookmark Me, Love Me)


  • "...I didn't feel anything but boredom..." (Bookworm1858)
  • "...the first 50 pages or so were slow to me." (Dreaming Dreams No Mortal Ever Dared)
  • "...I did have [trouble] sticking to the story for long periods of time...I really had to push myself for a while." (A Girl, Books and Other Things)
  • "...the story moved a bit slow for my tastes...the stakes never felt high enough for me to care about the outcome...I felt like I was fighting reading inertia, and that the more I read, the less I could actually continue to consume." (Logan E. Turner)
  • "The story is somewhat slow and drags a little toward the end." (Rainy Day Ramblings)
  • "The story was slow, but consistently held my attention." (Alison Can Read)
  • "While not a fast-paced thriller, there is plenty of adventure...." (YA? Why Not?)
  • "The pacing was steady--never brisk, but not slow either--with creeping tension building as the story progressed. The very beginning was a touch slow for me, but I was fully invested as soon as the children started disappearing." (Small Review)
  • " kept me turning pages late into the night, and when I finally turned the lights out, I was kind of tempted to hide under the covers." (Mindful Musings)
  • "From the first page, I was sucked into the gorgeous writing that creates each scene...intense" (One Librarian's Book Reviews)
  • "...enthralling, drawing me in immediately and keeping me mesmerized until the very last page." (Read Me, Bookmark Me, Love Me)
  • "Tightly plotted to slowly ratchet up the tension." (Musings of A YA Reader)
  • "...builds at a steady pace, pulling readers in until it's impossible to put the book down." (A Backwards Story)
  • "It starts off at a steady pace that kept me interested but then things started getting really intense and suspenseful and I was completely sucked into the story until the very last page." (Everything To Do With Books)
  • "...sucked me in so completely...I couldn't put it down once I reached the climax..." (Pica Reads)
  • "Tension is high with fear of the unknown, making the book impossible to put down." (Read Me, Bookmark Me, Love Me)

  • "...creates her own folklore in a way that feels realistic...." (A Backwards Story)
  • "...exquisite...with a fairytale-like quality." (Musings of A YA Reader)
  • "...has a fairy tale quality..." (YA? Why Not?)
  • "...the entire book feels like a fairy tale retelling." (Pica Reads)
  • "It read like the fairytales of old." (Alison Can Read)
  • " enchanting book that reads like an old fairy tale." (Rainy Day Ramblings)
  • " amazing work of literary art." (Rainy Day Ramblings)
  • "...left me breathless." (Read Me, Bookmark Me, Love Me)
  • "...stoked my imagination, held my attention, and then left me with the satisfied sigh of a story well-told and neatly ended." (Small Review)
  • "...a well-crafted, unique, and beautiful tale...[but] it fell a bit flat." (Logan E. Turner)



  • "I didn't feel any connection to the characters, to the plot, to the setting." (Bookworm1858)
  • "I had a difficult time connecting with the characters...the atmosphere was so rich and so alive that I actually think it took away from the characters for me." (Small Review)
  • "...all just so vivid in my mind's eye." (Musings of A YA Reader)
  • "The interaction between the main character, Lexi, and her family was great." (Mindful Musings)
  • "...I loved that [Lexi] had strong feelings about her younger sister..." (Bookworm1858)
  • "...Wren - who made me smile from the start, she's such a well-written, adorable child." (A Girl, Books and Other Things)
  • "Lexi's mom, she didn't play a big part in the book, but she was another favorite of mine." (Dreaming Dreams No Mortal Ever Dared)
  • "I liked that Schwab took the time to develop the character of Lexi's mother." (Mindful Musings)


  • "Lexi is an admirable character, I guess. But she's so nondescript and typical of a YA heroine." (Bookworm1858)
  • "Lexi's protective instinct didn't ring quite as true for me. I thought she was just nosy and curious." (Logan E. Turner)
  • "So many times in YA books the girls of the story come off as weak, not Lexi, no way..." (Dreaming Dreams No Mortal Ever Dared)
  • "I respected Lexi a lot as a character for not simply doing what she was told." (Mindful Musings)
  • "I loved Lexi's character. She felt so real, with her own strengths and flaws...She seemed so rational...refreshing to read from her perspective." (Pica Reads)
  • "I loved Lexi. She is persistent and brave...extremely well developed." (Alison Can Read)
  • "I liked Lexi...she was the kind of person who always tried to do what was right and I admired that in her." (Everything To Do With Books)
  • "I admired her strength and tenacity." (Rainy Day Ramblings)
  • "Lexi is a brilliant protagonist as she is courageous, intelligent and not afraid to stand up for what she believes in and wants." (Read Me, Bookmark Me, Love Me)


  • "I'd get caught up into Cole's windstorm any ole day!" (Dreaming Dreams No Mortal Ever Dared)
  • "I absolutely adored Cole, he was mysterious and just really likable." (Everything To Do With Books)
  • "I loved Cole without even knowing why." (Pica Reads)
  • "Their romance was subtle yet sweet. I liked Cole very much...It's hard to put into words exactly what I liked about him. It was more of a feeling than anything else." (Alison Can Read)
  • "I never fell in love with Cole, or even believed that Lexi truly had..." (Logan E. Turner)
  • "I liked him as a character, but I didn't *love* him as a romantic interest...Since I didn't swoon for Cole, I found the romance distracting from the main mystery" (Small Review)
  • "[Cole] remains in part, a mystery." (Rainy Day Ramblings)
  • "...boy is it a good love story. It was developed perfectly at just the right pace, it made sense and wasn't instantaneous, the emotions between the two were realistic and the conflicts they faced were heart-wrenching..." (Read Me, Bookmark Me, Love Me)
  • "...I actually liked Cole...but I felt that [the romance] fell victim to the stereotypical YA paranormal romance syndrome...developed a bit too quickly for my taste..." (Mindful Musings)
  • "[Lexi] and Cole fell in love very quickly, much too fast for me to believe it was real." (One Librarian's Book Reviews)
  • "The only thing I didn't like about The Near Witch was the seemed to come out of the blue and felt unbelievable to me." (Musings of A YA Reader)
  • " bothered me that [Lexi] got so swept up in the new boy in town. I felt they had no chemistry." (Logan E. Turner)


  • "The ending was pretty good, but what I didn't like was after all the build-up and the excellent story telling, it just kind of fell flat for me." (One Librarian's Book Reviews)
  • "The ending felt a little leaves a few unanswered questions." (Rainy Day Ramblings)
  • "..ended so perfectly and satisfyingly, the climax and conclusion executed very well. There were no abrupt endings, no empty feelings of incompleteness." (Read Me, Bookmark Me, Love Me)

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cover Review: Daughter of the Forest

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

A little while ago I wrote a Spotlight List called Fantasy Authors I Should Have Read about fantastic fantasy authors I somehow (shamefully!) managed to have missed out on reading. This list included Juliet Marillier and many wonderful commenters raved about her book Daughter of the Forest. And I totally trust you. So much so, that I went and bought a copy when I saw it for sale.

But, of course, I still haven't read it! I wonder if part of that has to do with the fact that I kind of hate the cover. I'm sorry, but it's true! I've since read and loved Wildwood Dancing, so I'm pretty confident that I'll love Daughter of the Forest, but THAT COVER. Nope, I just don't like it.

You can click on all of these pictures to make them larger so you can get the full impact.

First, here it is in all it's glory:

I'm feeling a whole lotta meh. It's all washed out and faded looking. I'm totally superficial and I like shiny, bright new things. The colors on this cover make it look old and boring. I can almost smell that musty old book smell (which I hate, sorry), but this is an almost new and entirely musty-odor-free book.

I'm sorry to say, but the colors aren't the only thing working against it. Let's break it down and analyze all the pieces.

Swirly header/footer things:

These are good. I don't think you can ever really go wrong with swirly things on covers. They're just pretty. The colors here could use a boost of, well, color, but the swirlyness of it all still manages to score it some points. Yay for that.

Title treatment:

Things could be worse here. But they could also be a lot better. There are barely any swirls, which is an automatic point reduction. The D hardly counts. The rest of the font is just plain old whatever and while it doesn't score negative points, it isn't gaining any points either.

But what the heck is that F??? That's just a little too ye olde castle for my tastes. We're not in the 1980s anymore. Plus, it doesn't match....anything. This brings the title treatment to an overall NEGATIVE point score.

The swans:

Ok, so the colors are still pretty bleh here, but swans get automatic points because they're graceful and beautiful and next to ponies and unicorns they are practically the number one animal embodiment of princessy wonderfulness.

(Or, you know, magically cursed princes. Which is what that swan probably is, seeing how this is a Six Swans retelling). 

The girl:

Are you kidding me??? This is worth about a million negative points right here. I've said I can be superficial, right? Well, I am. This girl isn't ugly, but she sure isn't gorgeous either. And that hair! Honey, get yourself some frizz-controlling shampoo!

Oh, they don't have that in this world? You know what they do have? Magic. And if I had magic, you'd better believe I'd be using some of it on my own frizzy hair. 

And that "dress"! Sure we may be inundated with beautiful dresses on covers, and fine, maybe they are becoming a little trite. But you know what? They're pretty, and pretty trumps trite every time.

But does this girl have a pretty dress? Noooo, she has a sack. An ugly, drab, sack of a dress with unflattering folds and a weird shoulder covering thing. Fail.

(I don't care if she's focused on weaving painful nettle sweaters to save her brothers' swan-sucked souls. Can't she weave while wearing silk???)

So, what do you think about this cover?
Do you like it? Dislike it? 
Does it make you want to read the book, or are you totally superficial like me? 

(and, I know, I know, the book is much better than this awful cover would imply. Don't worry, I'm still going to read it. Someday.)


Interested in covers?
Be sure to check out another Cover Crazy post by Gina from My Precious.
    Click here for more of my cover reviews!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Book Review: Allegiance by Cayla Kluver

Allegiance by Cayla Kluver
Series: #2 in the Legacy series
Release Date: February 28, 2012
Publisher: HarlequinTeen
Pages: 512
Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Yes, this is a sequel. I tried to avoid major spoilers and hide anything that might be spoilery, but you WILL get some spoilers for the first book. 


From Goodreads:

Only I saw Narian for who he truly was: a young man with courage and an independent mind, and made to pay for what was outside his control. He couldn't help his past any more than he could help the way those intense, deep-blue eyes pierced me and held me captive.

An eighteen-year-old queen in love with the enemy as their countries pass the point of no return...

Bound to a man she cannot love, Queen Alera of Hytanica must forget Narian, the young man who holds her heart. For Narian is destined to conquer Hytanica at the behest of his master, the powerful magic-user known as the Overlord. Alera doesn't truly believe Narian will fight against Hytanica-until Cokyrian troops attack with Narian commanding the charge.

Faced with the greatest betrayal a heart can know, Alera must set aside personal feelings and lead her kingdom through its darkest time. And when all hope, will and courage seem lost, she must find strength and remember that even the blackest night must have a dawn....


Did the writing improve?

Um, no.

The writing is pretty much exactly the same as the first book. Lots of useless information and sentences that say in twenty words what could easily have been said in ten. This frustrates me and I sigh about it an awful lot, but it's clearly not a dealbreaker for me since I keep reading these books. If you managed the writing in the first book, then you'll manage the writing in Allegiance.

Will I get to see a lot of Steldor?

YES! Sorry ladies, but if you're Team Narian, be prepared for a distinct LACK of Narian. He doesn't even appear in any significant role until the final showdown. But don't lose hope, your boy wins in the end. *grumble* (Read that spoiler if you want to know which guy wins the love triangle).

I loved it! (You may remember my hatred with the power of 1000 suns for Narian? Yeah, I didn't miss him very much). I am 100% Team Steldor and my appreciation for him only grew after Allegiance with everything he went through. He showed real maturity, putting his duty ahead of his personal wants and emotions. And oh my lord does that man have patience. I can't even count how many times I wanted to reach into the book and hug him and offer to be his queen instead of Alera.

Does London pull a disappearing act again?

London is always off doing something covert (and, really, don't his stealthy secret missions account for at least a quarter of his hotness?), but don't worry, he still gets a ton of page time.

When reading Legacy, I was really curious about London's mysterious past. Thankfully Cayla Kluver finally dished in Allegiance and I got all the dirty details. Rarely do Big Reveals like that meet my expectations, but I have to say this one satisfied me.

Do I have to suffer through long stretches of boredom?

Allegiance can be roughly divided into two parts. The first part is very similar in tone, style, and pacing to that of Legacy. The pacing was pretty slow and not much happened in terms of action. Mostly Alera pined for Narian, cursed Steldor, and tried to exercise her new role as queen with petulant attempts at independence. Blah, blah, blah, basically.

The funny thing is that I actually wasn't bored and I never considered DNF-ing. I would even go so far as saying I zipped through it. While it's true that not much actually happens and Alera continues to annoy me, the side characters are all wonderful.

Of course I also liked all the focus on Steldor. Not only that, but Cannan (Steldor's father) becomes a much more involved character and yet another contender for my heart.

The second part is where the action really picks up. I'm talking WAR. Yes!! I was positively giddy with this turn of events (even though it was all stupid Alera's stupid fault). Cayla Kluver did a fantastic job really driving home the bleakness and utter devastation of the war. She made me cry and rage and wail in despair that NO THAT CANNOT HAPPEN PLEASE NO!

She also took things in a direction I never expected and don't think I've ever seen an author take. That scored her major originality points. Seriously, I loved it.

The only thing that brought down all of this awesome was the fact that Alera was narrating. Now, this isn't ALL because I dislike Alera. The fact is, in her world women don't really do anything. At all.

So while all of the male characters (and my gosh, there was practically a harem of hot male characters getting all sexy and gorgeous with this whole war-torn-brothers-in-arms thing), I was stuck in Alera's useless head ineptly heating up porridge and feeling empowered because she hacked off her hair. She also sleeps a lot.

Whoop-de-do. I could have been in a battle! *STOMPS FOOT* I was SERIOUSLY gypped.

So what's up with the lower star rating?

Ugh, Alera.

Everything else I could give a pass, but Alera makes my stars shrivel up and die. I want to offer her a sleepover party invitation just so I can then snatch it back and dance around like a tiny little meanie gleefully crowing "SIKE! None for you! Hehe! None for you!"

She's just...she's dumber than a box of rocks, to put it mildly. And so totally childish. If she were the queen of my kingdom, I think I'd puke with fear. Every single bad thing that happens to her kingdom is the direct result of some utter piece of stupidity brought to them courtesy of Alera. And, of course, she doesn't see it AT ALL. She gets haughty and blames everyone else.

And did I mention she's selfish? Oh my word. While Steldor shoves aside almost every personal desire he harbors that may in some way conflict with his ability to properly run his kingdom, Alera does the complete opposite. All she ever thinks about is what SHE wants and how everyone should worship and obey HER and how she'd better get HER way or she'll do something even dumber than before.

Plus, the girl's priorities are all kinds of messed up. We're in the middle of WAR, tons of her countrymen dead, more dying, lots of very bad things happening, and what does she focus on? Whether or not Narian still loves her. Dude, REALLY??

Bottom line

If it weren't for Alera, I would Special Shelf this book. Cayla Kluver may take a while to tell her story, but what a story it is! That surprise twist in the latter half was fantastic. And the men. Oh my oh my, I can't even count how many attractive men there are in this book. That alone makes me want to read the final book.

About that third book. When I finished Allegiance I wasn't sure I wanted to continue on with the series. It ended really well and I couldn't imagine what would happen in the third book except a super annoying romance between Alera and Narian. *barf*

But then Cindy told me there was a prologue for book 3 included at the end of Allegiance and, after reading that prologue, I can't wait for book three! I'm even holding out a teeny tiny bit of hope that some of the guys will get a shot at narrating! (*please please please*)

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Allegiance that I haven't addressed? 

Feel free to ask in the comments!

Add it to Goodreads

Buy it on Amazon

Have you read this book? What do you think about the characters? Who is your most hated book character ever?

If you've read Legacy, what do you hope happens in Allegiance?

Looking for another book like this? 
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Click on the covers to go to my reviews.

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