Thursday, May 31, 2012

May Recap

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



The Enchanted Chocolate Pot Blog Fest

Today is the last day to enter!


If I Like...Court Fantasy
Recommendations for books that fall into this genre

Cover Review: First Impressions

Miss anything last month? Click here to read a Recap

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Book Review: Dark Frost by Jennifer Estep

Dark Frost by Jennifer Estep
#3 in the Mythos Academy series
Release Date: May 29, 2012
Publisher: Kensington
Pages: 336
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is a review for the third book in the Mythos Academy series. This review probably DOES contain spoilers for the previous books. 

Don't want spoilers? Read my review of the first book, Touch of Frost instead!


From Goodreads:

I’ve seen so many freaky things since I started attending Mythos Academy last fall. I know I’m supposed to be a fearless warrior, but most of the time, I feel like I’m just waiting for the next Bad, Bad Thing to happen. Like someone trying to kill me—again.

Everyone at Mythos Academy knows me as Gwen Frost, the Gypsy girl who uses her psychometry magic to find lost objects—and who just may be dating Logan Quinn, the hottest guy in school. But I’m also the girl the Reapers of Chaos want dead in the worst way. The Reapers are the baddest of the bad, the people who murdered my mom. So why do they have it in for me?

It turns out my mom hid a powerful artifact called the Helheim Dagger before she died. Now, the Reapers will do anything to get it back. They think I know where the dagger is hidden, but this is one thing I can’t use my magic to find. All I do know is that the Reapers are coming for me—and I’m in for the fight of my life.


Are all my favorite characters back?

Yes! Daphne, Carson, Logan, Metis, Grandma Frost, Oliver, and (my two personal favorites) Nott (the wolf from Kiss of Frost) and Vic all make an appearance. Lots of squealing points for that!

But, sadly, their appearances are small. Daphne and Logan spend most of the book pissed off with Gwen and avoiding her calls, which was on one had totally disappointing because I love them and wanted them to be in the story more.

But, on the other hand, it was nice to get so much one on one time with Gwen. Gwen makes a kick butt loner in that Nancy-Drew-solo-mystery-solver kind of way. And with her very thorough first person narrative, it felt like me and Gwen were sleuthing together and hanging out like BFFs. 

Vic and Nott also played a decent role, which is awesome because I love them even more now than I did before (is that even possible?). And, even though Daphne, Logan, and Grandma Frost were MIA for a good part of the book, Jennifer Estep spilled some much-anticipated secrets about all three (yay!)

Does the plot start to suffer from series stretching?

The book kicks off with a bloodbath of awesome then follows with a dropped clue, a hunt for the Helheim Dagger, Daphne's magic revealing itself, Gwen's magic developing further (and here I thought her psychometry couldn't get any cooler), more fights with Reapers, sleuthing through Gwen's mom's high school journals, combat with Loki's evil champion and her talking sword (as much as the action of these scenes made me read with a white-knuckled death grip, the verbal sparring between Vic and the Reaper's sword stole the show and made me laugh out loud), more sleuthing to find a stolen ring, and all leading up to a gigantic climax of pure win (and heartbreak)!

So, yeah, I was pretty entertained. 

Also? Puppies make everything better.

I noticed the writing

It's been a while since I read the previous book in the series, so I was a little rusty on the details. Thankfully, Jennifer Estep is a recapping master and she filled me in on everything that went down in Touch of Frost and Kiss of Frost. So I was totally caught up to speed without having to take time I don't have to reread the previous books. Major points for that!

But the repetitive stuff also got a little too much after a while. If you've read the first two books then you're already familiar with Gwen's tendency to repeat things again and again and again. She still does it, but I love her so much that even while I'm sort of rolling my eyes because, yeah, I KNOW you have violet eyes and you saw something really awful with that girl and your mom died, its just, it's so Gwen. And I love Gwen.

The writing is also really heavy on the foreshadowing, and while I usually consider myself a big blind dunce when it comes to figuring things out early, I pretty much guessed every twist and turn with chapters to spare.

This really could have been annoying and admittedly it did remove some tension for me. But, the predictability combined with my feelings for Gwen made it feel more like I was rereading an old favorite where I know what's going to happen because, you know, I've already read it, but I still like settling in for a marathon reading session with my favorite characters.

Bottom line

The Mythos Academy series is like my favorite old sweatshirt. It may not look perfect anymore and it may not have the flash and excitement of a new outfit, but it's comfortable. Every time I put it on I'm instantly happy and I can sit curled up on the couch wearing it for hours of cozy bliss.

I love the character Jennifer Estep has created with Gwen and I'm pretty much at the point with her now where I'll read any book she stars in, regardless of the plot (even though Gwen is totally wrong about the food choices in the cafeteria. They sound divine).

Though thankfully, the plot of this series is looking pretty good. I can't wait to find out what happens in the fourth book, because, oh gosh, things did not end on a pretty note! It's not a total cliffhanger with the bottom dropping out right at a critical moment, but big end of the world stuff is imminent, and you know I'm always up for that.  

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

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

Dark Frost comes out today! No More Waiting!

Add it on Goodreads
Buy it on Amazon

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Book Review: Ordinary Magic by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway

Ordinary Magic by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway
Release Date: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 288
Received: ARC from author
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

In Abby’s world, magic isn’t anything special: it’s a part of everyday life. So when Abby learns that she has zero magical abilities, she’s branded an “Ord”—ordinary, bad luck, and quite possibly a danger to society.

The outlook for kids like Abby isn’t bright. Many are cast out by their families, while others are sold to treasure hunters (ordinary kids are impervious to spells and enchantments). Luckily for Abby, her family enrolls her in a school that teaches ordinary kids how to get around in a magical world. But with treasure-hunting kidnappers and carnivorous goblins lurking around every corner, Abby’s biggest problem may not be learning how to be ordinary—it’s whether or not she’s going to survive the school year!


I'm a character girl

Abby is cute as a button and totally real. She's shy and awkward in some situations, but she's laid back and fun around people she feels comfortable with. She wears her emotions on her sleeve, which makes her a great first person narrator, but sometimes gets her into trouble when dealing with other characters. She can also be a little slow to pick up on things sometimes, but that's because she's still a kid.

Buuut, Abby is very much a young character. She evoked all of my "Oh honey!" adult responses where I just want to hug her until her cute little eyes pop out of her head, but I'm not looking to invite her to any sleepover parties. I'm sure she'll be a hit with the target audience, though.

The other characters were all very nice, but they were all either just as young as Abby, or they were older but presented through Abby's younger eyes. So, very sweet to read, but I didn't get that personal connection from them (though I think I would love to be older sister Alexa's roommate. She's all prim and proper and I bet she's a heck of an organizer. I'd also tease her SO HARD about her romantic relationship Abby hasn't quite picked up on yet).

The strength of the characters for me came more from their interactions with one another than from any one individual character. I love that "big happy family" feeling where my face starts to ache from smiling so much and Abby's family made my cheeks ache they were so heartwarming. Abby's family could have gone the more typical route of evil step mothers and Cinderella-like shunning, but instead they were like a dream come true. Think the awesome Weasley family.

How about that plot?

The plot was pretty good, but for me it was all a little too slow and "lite." The plot reflects Abby's age, and while I'm sure it will be an edge of your seat adventure for the target audience, it was a little too predictable without enough high stakes for me.

True, there is a darkness to everything (they sell children in this world! And then put them to work in dangerous situations until they die young!), but I never felt like anything truly BAD would happen to the characters when it was all said and done.

Speaking of working in dangerous situations, is it just me, or does that sound kind of cool? These kids are immune to magic, so they're basically used by adventurers to go on quests thwarting magical spells and stealing treasure. And yeah, sure, ok, maybe they do often, you know, DIE, but I wish the story had focused on that life path. It sounds a heck of a lot more interesting to read about than following Abby as she learns how to non-magically scrub dishes.

It's like Harry Potter!

The world building is top notch and I am such a sucker for good world building. I was the kind of kid who spent about 90% of my play time setting things up (my Barbie always had her wardrobe and hairstyles planned for the next seven days before we even began to think about actual imaginative play), so the stellar world building was enough to carry the entire book for me.

The world reminded me a lot of Harry Potter, but it is different enough that it doesn't feel like a cheap copy. It's more like, imagine the world of Harry Potter, and then imagine what it would be like if within that world there was a school for squibs (non-magical kids born into magical families, like Abby). Now combine that with the idea of a Defense Against the Dark Arts class for non-magical kids who are immune to magic, and you pretty much have Abby's school. Isn't that cool?

But the world building doesn't end there. There's political world building, too! There's a king with a hidden past and he may or may not be a totally good guy (though I so want him to be good). This first book only hinted at the king's secrets, but I'm guessing the next book will peel back more layers and set straight some of the questions I have about him. I am VERY intrigued.

But let's get serious for a sec—is there kissing?

No, no there is not. Sorry. Abby is young so she's not really old enough to understand swoon. And even though there are adults, it's not like they're making out in front of her and she's pretty clueless about picking up on any lingering looks.

BUT, *I* picked up on some, and even though Abby doesn't realize it, there's a certain someone who totally has a crush on her. So no kissing NOW, but I'd bet money there will be at least a little hand holding in future books.

Bottom line

Ordinary Magic ends, not exactly on a CLIFFHANGER, but things are left pretty dangly. There's a character still in peril, a villain on the loose, and of course there's all those courtly secrets I want answered. I'm hooked enough to check out the sequel, but I'm also content to wait (my favorite characters aren't the one in danger, thankfully).

While I don't feel the burning need to keep my copy for myself, I have ordered a copy for my library kids and I think they're going to love Abby and her world. Ordinary Magic is perfect for kids who are old enough for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, but still a little too young to handle Order of the Phoenix through Deathly Hallows.

A note on those stars? They reflect my personal enjoyment only. This is the kind of book where my star rating would be much higher if I gave out objective ratings, because I really do think Ordinary Magic will be a hit among the target audience. 

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

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

Add it on Goodreads
Buy it on Amazon

Looking for another book like this?
You might like:

Click on the pictures to go to my reviews/Goodreads.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cover Review: First Impressions (4)

First Impressions:

Toys! Fantasy toys! I want to play!

Now that I've completely lost any veneer of cool I might have had I can freely admit my obsessive desire to own one of those tables old men have in their basements where they spend countless hours recreating set designs of epic Civil War battles with teeny tiny doll-house like figurines, trees, wagons, and cannons.

But instead of the Civil War, I want a fantasy table! One with orcs and elves, heroes with swords, dragons and wizards and all set in a world like Middle Earth! (And, ok, yes, I'll also take a Civil War table too, please).

*cough* Um, so, yeah, that's what this cover makes me think about. I really have no idea what to expect story-wise, but I imagine it contains a good deal of nerdiness mixed with humor and fantasy fun. AKA, my kinda book.

Reality (from Goodreads):

The Other Normals centers on 15-year-old Peregrine “Perry” Eckert, who’s seriously obsessed with an uber-dorky role-playing game called Creatures & Caverns. Concerned about his stunted social skills and need for fresh air, Perry’s parents decide to ship him off to summer camp to become a man.

He anticipates the worst summer of his life until he arrives at camp and stumbles into the World of the Other Normals, a place where his nerdy childhood may serve him well — but not without connecting with the real world first.

Do they match?

Pretty much! Dorkiness + fantasy + a little something that makes me think of Vivian Vande Velde's User Unfriendly and Heir Apparent = SO FULL OF WIN!

This sounds like one of those movies where a kid gets sent to fat camp but then when he gets there he realizes that they pretty much get to spend every day eating cream filled donuts and thumbing their noses at the jerks who sent them there, but for fantasy nerds! Score!

What do you think? Does this cover make you want to read the book? What would you think this book is about if all you saw was the cover? 

Can anyone come up with funny blurbs or taglines for the book based on its cover alone?
Am I alone in wanting a fantasy table of tiny figurines? 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Book Review: Ladies in Waiting Laura L. Sullivan

Ladies in Waiting by Laura L. Sullivan
Release Date: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Pages: 328
Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

Eliza dreams of being a playwright for the king’s theater, where she will be admired for her witty turns of phrase rather than her father’s wealth. Beth is beautiful as the day but poor as a church mouse, so she must marry well, despite her love for her childhood sweetheart. Zabby comes to England to further her scientific studies—and ends up saving the life of King Charles II. Soon her friendship with him becomes a dangerous, impossible obsession. Though she knows she should stay away from the young, handsome king, Charles has a new bride, Queen Catherine, and a queen needs ladies in waiting. And so Zabby, Beth, and Eliza, three Elizabeths from very different walks of life, find themselves at the center of the most scandal-filled court that England has ever seen.


They so didn't teach history like this in school!

Oh boy, ok, this is one of those books that needs to come with a bit of a warning. I went into things expecting a nice historical fiction story—frothy and more relationship-focused, sure, but nice. What I got was very different.

What I got was more like The Young and the Restless, as done by HBO. Think smut. There's so much coarse, bawdy talk about sex. And the way it's talked about is so not of the sweet "make love" variety. I mean, lady parts are referred to with slang my innocent ears have only heard coming out of the gutter mouth of Titus Pullo. I felt more than a little awkward reading this at work!

Romance readers won't find this racy at all (and no one actually HAS sex, which is kind of a disappointment after all that talk), but I was expecting a clean YA historical fiction so this all came as a surprise to me.

Is this educational historical fiction?

Ladies in Waiting takes place during the reign of Charles II. I don't know a whole lot about this time, so I was hoping to beef up my knowledge. Ladies in Waiting didn't teach me much at all, though, so it gets low marks as a cheat-sheet substitute for reading actual non-fiction.

There are mentions of real historical figures and their relationship to Charles is explained, but it is sort of an aside. Even Charles himself is more of an ephemeral presence than an actual fully explored character. The "feel" of the setting wasn't particularly immersive and I didn't feel grounded in the specific time period. It all just had a general "old court" vibe that really could have been any court.

So what's the point?

I'm not really sure. I guess I could put on a smarty pants hat and pull out some explanation about three girls finding their place in life, working toward achieving happiness on their own terms, journey of empowerment, yada yada.

But really? It's about sex. Who's having it, who isn't, who wants to and with whom. The narrative is third person and switches focus between each of the three girls, so you get to follow along as each pursue their relatively separate goals.

The plot moves at a moderate pace, but there isn't a ton of action. It's more like a People magazine where you can read through it pretty quickly, you're mildly entertained throughout, it's not particularly gripping, but you flip through every page to ensure you don't miss out on any botched plastic surgery or unmasked affair.

Beth gives drama queen Gothic heroines a run for their money with her comical pining after an off limits childhood sweetheart. I'm not sure if I was supposed to be laughing at her, but she's so absurd I couldn't stop giggling every time the narrative shifted focus onto her.

Zabby wants to do it with the king and spends about half the book thinking about it, a quarter of the book trying to talk herself out of it (the queen is her friend!), and the remaining quarter looking at his pee and other bodily fluids under a microscope. She's a little weird.

Eliza reminded me of Jo March. That is, if Jo March dressed like a man (ok, Jo March did do that), kept house with a whore, and spoke like a drunken sailor. She was so outlandish and crude, but she's such a simple, happy character that I felt equal parts ick-ed out and entertained by her.

I didn't actually like any of the characters, but I think that's ok (though the king's #1 mistress was pretty funny as she tried to puzzle out what exactly Zabby and the king did together in his science lab). To make matters worse? Their love interests aren't any better.

Why did I keep reading?

Because I love gossip and scandal and these ladies were rushing headlong into disaster and I wanted to see everything blow up in their faces. The end result wasn't the exploding train wreak I was hoping for (although the hanging scene was pretty close!), but the drama was high enough and the results outlandish enough to keep me entertained.

Heads up on the ending: This isn't the kind of book where everything ends happily ever after for everyone.

Bottom line

If you're looking for serious historical fiction, likable characters, or a steady plot, then pick another book. But if you're like me and you've ever purposely picked the longest line at the supermarket in order to have enough time to read all the scandalous headlines on the trash magazines, then Ladies in Waiting is for you!

This is a standalone.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

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

Add it on Goodreads
Buy it on Amazon

Monday, May 21, 2012

Celebrate the release of Suffocate by S. R. Johannes with a giveaway! (INT)

Enter to win an e-copy of Suffocate, part 1 of the Breathless novelette series by S. R. Johannes!

Suffocate is the first novelette in THE BREATHLESS series. It is a 15,000 word young adult thriller that combines the dystopic and science fiction genres.

For centuries, the world outside the Biome has been unlivable. Today, marks the first time anyone will attempt to leave the suffocating ecosphere. Eria is not worried because her scientist father has successfully tested the new Bio-Suit many times. It's a celebratory day until something goes horribly wrong. In the midst of tragedy, Eria uncovers a deep conspiracy that affects the very air she breathes.

If those responsible find out what she knows, they won't stop hunting her until she takes her last breath.


Sounds exciting! I don't read nearly as many thrillers as I should considering how much I love pulse-pounding mysteries. I also love this new trend of authors combining genres. Dystopia + thriller + sci-fi? Oh yes, sign me up, please!

Info for the giveaway:
  • What you can win: A finished e-copy of Suffocate (Breathless #1) by S. R. Johannes, courtesy of the author!
  • As always, you do NOT have to be a follower
  • This giveaway is International
  • You must be 13 years of age or older
  • One entry per person
  • I will contact the winner through email with their prize
  • This giveaway closes on May 31st 

And if you're impatient like me, you don't have to wait for the giveaway to close. Suffocate releases today and it is a bargain—No more waiting!

Or, add it on Goodreads!


S.R. Johannes is author of the Amazon Bestseller Untraceable and a current nominee of the Georgia Author of the Year in the Young Adult category. After earning an MBA and working in corporate America, S.R. Johannes traded in her expensive suits, high heels, and corporate lingo for a family, flip-flops, and her love of writing. She lives in Atlanta Georgia with her goldendoodle Charley (notice he is listed first :), her British-accented husband, and the huge imaginations of their little prince and princess, which she hopes- someday- will change the world.  You can find her hanging out online and visit her at, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Goodreads.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Book Review: Goddess Girls #8 by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams

Medusa the Mean by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
Series: #8 in the Goddess Girls series
Release Date: April 3, 2012
Publisher: Aladdin
Pages: 256
Received: Review copy from author
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Medusa is sick and tired of being the only mortal at Mount Olympus Academy. Not only is she surrounded by beautiful, powerful, immortal classmates, but she also has snakes for hair and a reputation for being mean. Immortality, she thinks, will solve everything. So when she finds out about a necklace that promises just that, she’s sure it will help her get the two things she covets most: to be as popular as the four Goddess Girls and to have her supercrush, Poseidon, finally notice her. But when the necklace brings about popularity in the totally wrong way, things go from bad to worse. Can Medusa overcome her “meanie” status and prove that there’s more to her that meets the eye?

I had been looking forward to Medusa's book for a while now, and authors Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams did not disappoint! Medusa comes across just as well and as easy to relate to as the other Goddess Girls. In fact, I think she may even be my new favorite (or at least tied with Athena).

Medusa's mean streak is explained sympathetically without ever veering off into preachy. I truly felt sorry for her and I spent much of the book wishing I could reach in and give her a big hug (not that SHE would be cool with that). I also loved seeing the Goddess Girls world through the eyes of someone on the periphery—not only is Medusa not one of the core popular girls, but she is also mortal.

I was happy to see the authors retained Medusa's core personality and did not have her do a 180 by the end of the book. A person with Medusa's background and reasons for developing her personality would not suddenly become warm and open in an instant (or, in 256 pages). While all the Goddess Girls have surprising depth, I think Medusa might be the first where we are given a reason for why her personality developed the way it did. Points for that!

Each of the Goddess Girls books can be read as a standalone, and the same holds true for Medusa the Mean. But, unlike the other Goddess Girls books, I really think Medusa the Mean should be read following the series order. It wouldn't be the end of the world to read this book first, but I really liked getting to know Medusa in bits and pieces through the eyes of the other Goddess Girls and then seeing Medusa's side later on. The first book (Athena the Brain) also explains how Medusa got her snaky hair.

Speaking of her snakes, I loved them! I'm not a big fan of snakes at all, but Medusa's snakes were adorable. They were such a source of support and comfort for her. I know visually the idea of a head full of snakes is kind of creepy, but I think pet lovers will find them endearing.

I SO hope we get more books from Medusa's point of view! Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams have written another winner that is sure to be a hit among Goddess Girls fans.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key

Do you have any questions about Medusa the Mean that I haven't addressed?

Feel free to ask in the comments!

Click to add to Goodreads

Click to buy on Amazon

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 

Click on the covers to go to my reviews.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Even More Enchanted Chocolate Pot Blog Fest!

Monday you saw the official first chapter of Sorcery and Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, and now today I can share the second chapter!

If you've written your own replies to Cecelia, please share your links in the comments—I would love to read them!

And if you were wondering why all the sudden talk about Sorcery and Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, the reason is because it is finally being released in e-format!

Click the picture to make it large enough to read.

Have you written a reply to Cecelia? 
What do you think of Kate's letter?
Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Book Review: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Release Date: May 15, 2012
Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children
Pages: 327
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, Special Shelf


From Goodreads:

Oct. 11th, 1943—A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

Harrowing and beautifully written, Elizabeth Wein creates a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other. Code Name Verity is an outstanding novel that will stick with you long after the last page.


You ARE the wind beneath my wings!
Ten Tissues on the Beaches Scale of Friendship

At first I really wasn't interested in this book. I mean, the bonds of friendship between two women? Where's the swoon in that? But not everything in life has to revolve around romance, and Code Name Verity is a perfect example of a book that does just fine without a swoony lead (though there is a smidge of romance with one of the women and a secondary guy...and it's very nice).

Now we're going to take a detour down my personal memory lane because this is the only way I know how to describe the friendship in Code Name Verity. Bear with me (or skip ahead).

When I was young I had a best friend and we were tight. At one point my mother remarked that we were like Barbara Hershey and Bette Middler in Beaches. I was the quiet Barbara Hershey character, my friend was a loud attention-grabbing singer. And, of course, just like happens in Beaches, I imagined our friendship spanning all of life's essential events like divorce, failed careers, and terminal heart disease (yes, this corresponded perfectly with my Lurlene McDaniel "Dying of cancer is the epitome of romantic" phase).

Little did my mother realize, but with that simple statement she sparked off my obsessive love with Beaches and the accompanying theme song Wind Beneath My Wings. Seriously, obsessed. I still tear up if I hear that song.

So now I judge the strength of all fictional friendships on the Beaches Scale of Friendship (1-10 Tissues with Ten Tissues being a perfect score of heart-breakingly amazing friendship. For another frame of reference, Anne Shirely and Diana Barry score a perfect 10, too).

Code Name Verity is easily a perfect Ten Tissues, which is saying something because I don't give out a perfect 10 lightly (even Harry, Ron, and Hermione, while very high, don't get a perfect 10). Code Name Verity begs the question, "What would YOU do for someone you loved?" and I wonder if I could do what they did.

Remember that sad ending?
I'm issuing the Do Not Read in Public warning

Ok, I admit it, I'm a tad emotional when it comes to reading. I tend to really get into things. And I cry, easily. But I don't think I've cried this much in a long time. Think Plain Kate kind of crying, but more. Think first pet dying kind of crying.

I cried here and there throughout most of the book, but mostly it was the kind of crying where I get a lump in my throat and kind of choke up a little but can pass it off as allergies just acting up a little and honestly I'm totally fine.

But then I pretty much sobbed straight through the final 50 or so pages. And at that point it was WAY past when I should have gone to sleep so I tried to force myself to fall asleep but instead I ended up crying for about another hour. And then I cried the next day. And then the day after that. Whenever I thought about everything that had happened, particularly THAT SCENE, I just lost it.

So there you go. You've been warned.

It's NOT a kissing book?!
Wait, I don't know if I like this genre

I'm a big historical fiction fan, but usually I don't like reading books set during WWII because they usually focus on one of two things: Hiding Jewish people in attics or women doing really anachronistic stuff (more on THAT later). The first subject is ok, but I think I pretty much got my fill of that in grade school.

Plus there was also the whole lack of romance factor and I was afraid I wouldn't like Verity because the blurb made it sound like she was a rotten traitor. So I wasn't really sure if Code Name Verity was for me.

But forget all that. Code Name Verity is genre transcending. It's like Lolita where, even though the subject matter is a guy who lusts after a little girl, you don't actually have to be into that to appreciate the book. Not that there's pedophilia in Code Name Verity (there isn't), it's just that, this isn't the kind of book where you can look at the blurb and decide whether or not the genre is for you.

Instead, you need to ask yourself if you like books that are powerful, heart-wrenching, and memorable. Books that creep up on you and before you know it they're a part of you. Books that make you feel and books that make you want to drop everything and make sure all your loved ones know how much you care for them. Books with impact. Books that go beyond.

I'm also issuing the Nabokovian Puzzle Prize

The whole first half of the book is written in code! And it's not a super obvious code either (but you can figure out most of it, and no, it's not quite Nabokov, but who is?).

There are red herrings galore and a ton of things are said but they actually mean something different. It was so much fun puzzling through all these bits and trying to discern Verity's true messages amid all of her storytelling and false leads.

There was also one bit that was major foreshadowing and as soon as I remembered it (right before THAT scene), my stomach dropped to the floor because I suddenly knew what was about to happen. That made it about a million times worse and heart breaking (and by worse, I mean awesome storytelling).

After Bilbo has his five hour long birthday, they go on a quest!
Give it time for the slow burn

This is a slow burn book, but the burn is a little hard to see at first. I can see how the beginning might turn readers off because it is slower and the point of it all isn't really clear for a while.

BUT, don't give up. Stick with it and I PROMISE it will all make sense. And once you get to THAT scene, well, you'll see.

Looks will only get you so far, Russell
But is it historically accurate?

I mentioned earlier that I really dislike it when authors put women in historically inaccurate roles, and with a female pilot as one of the main leads and a female spy as the other, I was really worried Elizabeth Wein was going to disappoint me.

But she didn't! She did her research (down to ball point pens!) and thankfully my eye never had to twitch.

Not only are the characters grounded in realistic roles, but I also appreciated that she focused on slightly different things than every other WWII book under the sun. Now, I'll issue another warning here, but really, if you're reading WWII books and if you saw my previous warning about not reading this book in public, well, you should pretty much expect disturbing stuff.

Because WWII? VERY disturbing. Elizabeth Wein doesn't even focus on the more usual WWII disturbing fare like starvation and battle that, as horrifying as they are, have lost a bit of sting due to the fact that we've been so exposed to them. Oh no, she brings the spotlight onto atrocities like torture, Nacht und Nebel and hints at the "scientific experimentation" crimes committed by Mengele and others.

Bottom line

I am absolutely in love with this book! It is firmly on my Special Shelf and as soon as I finished I added more of Elizabeth Wein's books to my TBR, because I need more. I'm such a character girl, and Elizabeth Wein totally delivers when it comes to crafting so-vivid-they-could-be-real characters.

Code Name Verity is also one of those YA books that can easily be read by adults (they may not even realize it's YA). I've already ordered a copy for my library with a particular adult patron in mind, and there's a waiting list of both YA and adult patrons after her (I gush even more about the books I love at work than I do on here, if you can believe it).

Because this is the kind of book I can't help but gush about. I want to buy a million copies and give them to everyone I know. I also made sure my mother and sister both added Code Name Verity to their lists and you'd better believe I'll be book pushering this one on all of you, too.

And why was my review so vague? Because you need to experience this book as it unfolds.

Code Name Verity is a standalone.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

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

What is the saddest book you've ever read?
Which literary friendships score a 10 Tissues rating from you?

Code Name Verity releases today, No More Waiting!

Add it on Goodreads
Buy it on Amazon

Looking for another book with powerful relationships? 
You might like: 

Click on the covers to go to my reviews/Goodreads.

Monday, May 14, 2012

More Enchanted Chocolate Pot Blog Fest!

Last week I got to show you the "game" version of the first letter in Sorcery and Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer.

Today I get to share with you the "official" version! That is, the version that appears in the book, which you can now buy in e-format! (But it's still available in print for all of us e-reader-holdout Luddites.)

After 6 months, Wrede and Stevermer concluded their game, brought all of their letters together, and decided to edit them and make them into a novel. It's fascinating to see what changes they made to facilitate the makings of a congruent story. 

-Open Road Media

But, whatever format you prefer, you should totally check this series out if you aren't already familiar with it. Remember what I said last week? Jane Austen + J. K. Rowling—You can't go wrong with a combo like that!

Click the picture below to read the "official" version, and then scroll down to vote on which version you prefer!

Click the picture so it gets big enough that you can, you know, actually READ it. :)

Which letter do you like better?
The first letter
The second letter
Create your own poll with LearnMyself

Stay tuned Wednesday for Kate's reply letter!

Now, when I was originally asked to partake in this tour, I was offered the option of either posting Kate's reply, or writing my own reply.

Much as I think it would be cool to write a reply to Cecelia, I am so NOT creative enough to do that. So I'm taking the easy way out and posting Kate's actual reply.

BUT, you can totally join in on the fun!

You can write and post your own reply to Cecelia on your blog and link it up in the comments Tuesday so we can all see your creative replies! I'd love to see what you come up with (and I know some of you are awesome writers!)


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Book Review + Giveaways: The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Pages: 419
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

Enter a world where everything, even our classic fairy tales, is not at all what it seems.

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You've never head of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as "Prince Charming." But all of this is about to change...

Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, Liam, Frederic, Duncan, and Guztav stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it's up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other associated terrors to becom the heroes no one ever thought they could be.


Prince Charming had better return

Have you ever read a book and as soon as you turn the last page the first thing you think is, "Gosh, I SO hope there is a sequel!" And not because the author didn't actually, you know, finish the story, but because what they did write was so fantastically amazing that you don't want to even imagine a life where there aren't more of their books to read?

That's pretty much were I'm at right now with Christopher Healy and The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom. The ending was left a little open in that "Continuing Adventures" kind of way, but the story wrap was pretty satisfying. Mostly I'm contemplating bribery so I can get my little hands on more because I want more Frederic, Liam, Gustav, and Duncan (a.k.a. Prince Charming) right now.

Lucky for me, there are more books planned!

Prince Charming sets the record straight

I like to think of myself as a fairy tale fanatic, but how much of a fanatic can I really be if I can't even come up with the names of the princes who sweep my beloved fairy tale princesses off their feet? When I rack my brain trying to come up with even one name...I've got nothing. Worse than nothing, I've got "Prince Charming," and that's just embarrassing.

(oh, wait, that's not true. I forgot about Prince Phillip from Disney's Sleeping Beauty. I was totally in love with him when I was five. Oh yeah, and there's Eric from The Little Mermaid. Ok, whatever, that's only two out of how many? I think the point still remains).

But is it really my fault? I'm going to go with author Christopher Healy on this one and blame it on the bards. Because really, how can *I* be blamed for this unfortunate lapse when all the major tales focus on the princesses?

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom focuses on the oft neglected princes and is one of those "real deal tell-all" kind of stories where everything you thought you knew turns out to be not quite true after all. I LOVE that type of story, and The Hero's Guide is a top notch entry in the genre.

Apparently none of the princes ended up with the right princess (except maybe Duncan), none of the princesses are what we've been led to believe, and all of the princes are a little miffed at being relegated to generic "Prince Charming" status.

Prince Charming is hilarious

So that writing style? Yep, I noticed it...because it is fantastic! It's laid back, modern, and very funny. Christopher Healy writes all those observations I would think, but then he makes his characters say them out loud (but about ten million times funnier than I could ever be). Think The Princess Bride for tweens, but still totally readable for adults.

I don't usually LOVE books told in the third person, but I am kinda partial to the universal omniscient variant, which Christopher Healy used to full advantage. (You know, where the narrator talks directly to the reader.)

The nameless narrator almost becomes a character in its own right, breaking the fourth wall to offer up little tidbits of information that the characters are not privy to but I felt super cool for being "in" on (and I also felt embarrassingly predictable because that narrator played me like a fiddle with a number of "made you look" scenarios that I totally fell for).

Prince Charming is fantastic

The plot itself is pretty good. It didn't move at lightning speeds and the events are actually pretty basic, but the characters were so fresh, funny, and endearing that I was never bored.

Plus, people in nine states got to hear me laugh out loud because of my book, which I think is a new record for embarrassing myself by having to explain my Reading-Induced Emotional Outpourings. (I read this during my road trip).

The cast list is pretty big (four princes, five princesses, a witch, a bounty hunter, a bandit king and his henchmen, a giant, trolls, and so on), but they're all so unique and clearly drawn that I didn't have trouble sorting through all of them. This is a light MG book and so the characters don't have a TON of depth, but in this case that's ok.

My favorites are probably Liam and Frederic. Liam is where you'll find your MG-level swoon with his "classic hero" personality and sharp mind (I think I loved him the most when he was taunting the bandit king--I guarantee you will never guess the nature of those scenes!).

If The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom were turned into a movie, Liam would be that hot cartoon prince you totally don't have a crush on because he's a cartoon and that's just weird (...but you totally DO have a crush on him because, hey, he's hot! Dimitri, anyone?)

And, following that line of thought, if this were a movie, Frederic would be voiced by David Hyde Pierce channeling his Niles character. Frederic is such a prissy little wimp, but I adore him. He sees danger everywhere, abhors dirt, and considers picnicking outside to be high adventure. Watching him embark on a quest, rise to the occasion and find his inner strengths was worthy of fist pumps and out-loud cheers.

The other characters are equally amusing and likable, but you'll have to read the book to meet them and learn their hilarious back-stories. Otherwise I'll be rambling about them all day long.

Prince Charming is coming home with me

I am SO ordering a copy for myself and another for my library! My library tweens (girls AND boys!) are going to love The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, and I'm pretty sure I'll be able to pass it on to some teens and even a few adults as well.

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is perfect for fans of The Princess Bride, fractured fairy tales, and hijinks.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Chris Healy Bio: Christopher Healy spent years reviewing children’s books and media online and in print before setting off to write The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, his first children’s book. He lives with his wife and their two children in New Jersey. You can find him online at

But wait, there's more!
Want to win your very own copy? 
Walden Pond Press is graciously providing TWO ways to win!

Info for the giveaway:
  • As always, you do NOT have to be a follower
  • You must have a US/CA mailing address for the hardcover, International for the audio download
  • 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 May 19th 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Author Interview: Caitlen Rubino-Bradway + Giveaway! (US/CA)

Please Welcome Caitlen Rubino-Bradway!

Though you may already know Caitlen as the co-author of the Jane Austen expansion Lady Vernon and Her Daughter (totally on my TBR!), she debuts this month with Ordinary Magic—her first foray into middle grade novels. Fans of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone will definitely want to take note!

Caitlen was kind enough to stop by today to answer some of my very important questions

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

A: Hmm…It depends on the kiss.  For instance, if it was a big-sister-top-of-the-head kind of kiss, I'd go for Fred.  He's one of Abby's friends at school; he's this awkward, poor little rich kid who's family wants to forget exists.  He tries so hard to be the jokey friendly guy that everyone likes, but as his author I know how totally insecure he is.  I just want to swoop him up and be all, "It's okay, you're a cool person, you don't have to try so hard!  Omg, I was just like you…"

But if you're talking about a romantic-1940s-sweeping-melodrama-one-leg-in-the-air kiss, well, then it's less who'd I'd like to kiss and more of a process of elimination.  Fred and Peter, our two main boys, are both 12, so yeah.  If I cut out everyone who's underage, or in a committed relationship, or just plain would not be interested, or not named after a teacher I actually had in real life and it would be really, really weird…that leaves me with…uh, Frank.  Who runs the sideshow at the Fall Festival.  He seems like a nice guy, though he does have to travel a lot for work.

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

A: Mrs. Andrews.  She's Abby's teacher back in her home town, and I do not like this woman.  She just gets under my skin.  Of course, I sort of wrote her that way - I drew from some teachers I had in the past that I just did not get on with.  I guess it worked.

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

A: I'm going to go with my gut here, and say the Fall Festival, when Abby and Peter spot the two treasure hunters that have been after them since the beginning and give chase.  The Fall Festival's this big party, and I would be a lot of fun to go to, plus I've always wanted to run through a crowd, dramatically shouting someone's name.  It's surprising how rarely you get to do that now a-days.

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

A: I have to go with King Steve.  I find him interesting because he's on Abby's side, so she sees him as a good person — and he is, but he's capable of doing a bad thing if it means eventually good will come of it.  Let's just say he knows right from wrong, but what he's willing to do to get to the right thing is…flexible.  I'm not entirely sure how flexible.

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

A: Wow.  I actually don't know.  There weren't any scenes where I was deliberately trying to surprise my readers.  But I would love to hear what scene they found the most surprising.

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

A: Just to stop and think sometimes about what people are saying and WHY they might be saying it.  I love Abby to death, but she's not the most observant person when it comes to others.  She sees people the way she expects them to be, and it doesn't always work out like that.

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

Books about:
     Magic schools, fantasy worlds, spunky girl leads, and first person povs.

Books/movies like:
     Tuesdays in the Castle; Kat, Incorrigible; Ella Enchanted; Harry Potter; Tangled.

Main characters like:
     Princess Celie, Ella of Frell, Ramona Quimby, Matilda.

Romantic leads like:
     Hmm....Abby's 12, so she's not aware of boys quite in that way, but say the Hermione/Ron relationship in the early books, or Poppy and Christian in Princess of Glass.

About Ordinary Magic:

In Abby’s world, magic isn’t anything special: it’s a part of everyday life. So when Abby learns that she has zero magical abilities, she’s branded an "Ord"—ordinary, bad luck, and quite possibly a danger to society. The outlook for kids like Abby isn’t bright. Many are cast out by their families, while others are sold to treasure hunters (ordinary kids are impervious to spells and enchantments). 

Luckily for Abby, her family enrolls her in a school that teaches ordinary kids how to get around in a magical world. But with treasure-hunting kidnappers and carnivorous goblins lurking around every corner, Abby’s biggest problem may not be learning how to be ordinary—it’s whether or not she’s going to survive the school year!

Thank you so much for stopping by, Caitlen!

Aw, I love the top-of-the-head kiss! Many of the kids in this book make me want dish out those big sisterly kisses. The Fall Festival would be fun, but scary, too! I think I'd want to reenact the scene when the teacher gets set on fire. Talk about a cool parlor trick!

Hm, I think the scene that surprised me the most was Abby's family's reaction to the Big Thing. More often than not, storybook families don't react that way but I LOVE that Abby's family was different. 

Have you read Ordinary Magic?
How would you answer these questions?
(Remember, no spoilers please!)

Info for the giveaway:
  • What you can win: A finished hardcover copy of Ordinary Magic by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway!
  • As always, you do NOT have to be a follower
  • You must have a US/CA 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 May 16th 

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