Dec 31, 2011

Saying Goodbye to 2011 and Hello to 2012! What Am I Reading?

First of all, I want to wish all of my followers a Happy New Year. You will never know how much you mean to me. Just the idea that someone cares about my opinion and trusts my judgement when it comes to books is enough to send me over the edge. I know that I have been kind of sporadic when it comes to posting lately, and I apologize for that, but I have had so much going on and it's hard to keep up! I promised you guys awhile back that I would keep you updated about what was going on in my life and let you in on the state of my reading and that's what I intend to do here. I haven't done one of these posts in awhile, so here goes.

I just finished reading Getting Over Garrett Delaney. I liked it, but I didn't love it. I have not written a review for that yet, but it should be coming soon. Like tomorrow. Maybe.



I am currently reading The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour. I am enjoying this one a lot. It should get at least a 4 star review from me unless something insane happens. I'm also reading Dirty Blood by Heather Hildenbrand. I'm also liking this one a lot. Actually way more than I thought I would. I didn't think I would hate it or anything, but I'm not really a fan of werewolf stories.


After I finish those, I will be starting Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion. Why? Because I have heard great things about this book and I always have had an interest in learning about Scientology. But that is a topic for another blog. I also plan on starting The Edumacation of Jay Baker at the same time. I try to read two books at once and most of the time that is what works for me. That book is my first official challenge book. I'll be reading it for the 2012 Debut Author Challenge hosted by The Story Siren.



And finally, after that I will be reading City of Hell Chronicles Vol. 1 by various authors and New Girl by Paige Harbison. When I am done with all of those then I will regroup and choose my next six books. 




I thought I would end with a little fun tidbit for you about my 2011 reading. The first book I read in 2011 was Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. The last book was Getting Over Garrett Delaney which I talked about at the beginning of this post. And I know it doesn't really matter, but I just thought it was a really fun contrast. I guess my reading tastes really are across the board.

I am also working on a really fun editing project right now. I can't talk about it, but it's a book that I think a lot of people are looking forward to. So there is a lot of pressure on the author and I to make this great. Better than great, actually.

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all of you and I promise to do one of these types of posts for every 6 books I read in 2012. That way you can see what I am up to.   I guess you can call that my 2012 New Year's book blogger resolution.







Dec 28, 2011

H10N1 by M.R. Cornelius

Publisher: Self-published
Release Date: April 12th, 2011
Pages: 340
Genre: Post-apocalyptic
Source: From the author in exchange for an honest review.

H10 N1H10 N1 by M.R. Cornelius
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb:


A deadly influenza virus rages out of control. There is no easy-fix vaccine. No eleventh-hour containment. Only death. With no workforce, power plants have been shut down, police and fire departments have collapsed, crops lie unpicked in the fields.


When Dr. Taeya Sanchez finds herself unceremoniously dismissed from an emergency medical facility in New York, she decides to steal the hospital's armored van for a midnight escape. Unfortunately, Rick DeAngelo, a driver for the hospital, has already stocked the van for his own getaway.


Thrown into an unfriendly alliance, these two must pick their way across the dangerous wasteland of America in search of a safe haven. And as the miles roll by, they discover that the living should be feared much more than the festering corpses out there.


Review:


This was a fun romp into the post-apocalyptic genre. It wasn't too serious, it wasn't too deep, but it sure was a lot of fun. Sometimes novels in this genre try to make a point or make you face a moral dilemma and I didn't feel that happened here. Sometimes I like it and sometimes I don't. This book was exactly what I needed to read at the particular time that I read it. I wanted something suspenseful that I could get lost in and that's what I got. Parts of it were fairly scary, and I felt pretty realistic. These things could easily have happened and there is a possibility they could happen in the future.


It's easy too imagine a disease outbreak or another country using it as a biological weapon against us and that's exactly what happened. People were dying all over the place and dropping like flies and the hospitals simply could not keep up. All hell broke loose and suddenly the main characters are racing across the country trying to find a place to live where they can be safe and start over. That's a whole lot easier said than done in this kind of environment where people are looting, killing, and fighting for their lives.


I will say that the second half of the book was more fulfilling than the first. It had more depth and also a more structured plot. I enjoyed the characters, but I really felt that they truly came into who they were more after the halfway point. I don't want to give up any spoilers, but I really did like the second half of this book a lot and I probably would have rated this book five stars if I felt as strongly about the first half, but I didn't. The main reason is because I had an issue with the book's pacing. If the first half would have been tightened up a little more and didn't meander as much as it did, then the book would have flowed much better.


Honestly though, it was a really fun read. I don't feel that it covered any areas that any other post-apocalyptic novel hasn't covered in the past, but the characters were unique and really stood out to me. They all felt like individuals. Also, some of the places that were used as settings in the book were really cool. For a debut effort, I think this author has a lot of potential. And as an editor, aside from the pacing issues, I felt the book was really remarkably well done for a self-published novel.

To order a copy of H10N1 from Amazon.com, click here: H10N1. It is currently free, but I don't know how long that will last. It is normally 3.99.



Dec 24, 2011

River in the Sea by Tina Boscha

Publisher: Self-published
Release Date: August 27th, 2011
Pages: 306
Genre: Historical fiction
Cover: I like it, but I don't love it. I think it could be a little more eye-catching.
Source: Physical copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

River in the SeaRiver in the Sea by Tina Boscha
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb:


At fifteen, Leen De Graaf likes everything she shouldn’t: smoking cigarettes, wearing red lipstick, driving illegally, and working in the fields. It seems the only thing she shares with her fellow Dutchmen is a fear of the German soldiers stationed nearby and a frantic wish for the war to end. When a soldier’s dog runs in front of Leen’s truck, her split decision sets off a storm of events that pitches her family against the German forces when they are most desperate – and fierce. Leen tries to hold her family together, but despite her efforts, bit by bit everything falls apart, and just when Leen experiences a horrific loss, she must make a decision that could forever brand her a traitor, yet finally allow her to live as her heart desires.


Inspired by the life of the author’s mother, River in the Sea is a powerful and moving account of one girl reaching adulthood when everything she believes about family, friendship, and loyalty is questioned by war.


Review:


First things first. This book is self-published. I will have you know that I hold all books to the same publishing standard, whether they are big 6 or self-published. And that's why for me a lot of self-pubbed books don't often meet the same standards that the big name publishers are able to achieve. There are many differing opinions on this, so if you disagree with me, that's fine, but it's the way I feel. That's not saying I don't enjoy self-published books because I have read some great ones. But I have had to do a lot of weeding to get to the ones that I have enjoyed. With River in the Sea I did not feel like I was reading any less than the best work that this author could put out. The editing was top-notch. The book flowed, grammatical errors and typos were to a minimum, characters were flawed but real, and I really REALLY liked the writing style. So props to Tina Boscha for having an extremely talented group of professionals behind her making her work shine.


This book is kind of hard to review though. I didn't feel there was that much of a plot. There were a few things that happened that led to all the other events happening, but a lot of the book was just watching this family fall apart and struggle and fight to get to the end of this war and somehow manage to remain standing on their feet. And in the center of it all was the daughter Leen who is dealing with all of her emotions and how she feels about what happened. So in a lot of ways, I felt it was more of a character study than anything else. Which was fine! I enjoyed it. It was definitely more of a character-driven book though than a plot driven book. And at first I was a bit confused about that. And the huge reason was because of the way this book opens. It has this big huge dramatic event happening, and I guess I sort of thought the rest of the book would unfold in the same manner. There's no right or wrong here; that is not a criticism, it's just not what I expected.


It is beautifully written as well. The words flowed and I really appreciated the author's writing style. It was very vivid without being overly descriptive. She also did a great job of setting the scene. I generally don't read war stories, but I didn't really feel like this book was a war story. It's more about how a family deals with the effects of war and the aftermath. It's an account of what I am sure a lot of families went through during WWII. Oftentimes we read about the concentration camps, the fighting, Hitler, and what it was like to be dealing with the war directly, but rarely do we hear about how a particular family in an occupied country is handling everything. And because of that I think I learned quite a bit.  It wasn't my favorite topic and it will never be, but I can appreciate a talented author and I know a good book when I read one. And so I would recommend this book to anybody that is intrigued by this review and has a love for WWII.

To order River in the Sea from Amazon.com, click here: River in the Sea. The Kindle edition is only $0.99.



Dec 21, 2011

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: January 3rd, 2012
Pages: 387
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi, Dystopia,
Series: Lunar Chronicles #1
Cover: I love it. That is what I call a memorable cover.
Source: NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1)Cinder by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb:


Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .


Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.


Review:


I've been excited to read Cinder for awhile because I thought it would be unique and really different than any other YA book. And it kind of was, and it kind of wasn't. It had a great story and I can't rave enough about the wonderful writing. It was descriptive without being overly descriptive, but vivid and managed to capture the emotion of the narrative. It's the type of writing that just really flows from one sentence to the next, and because of that keeps the reader from wanting to put the book down.


As for the story itself, it was not exactly what I was expecting, but that doesn't mean it wasn't good. It just wasn't as unique as I thought it was going to be. I think it's kind of common knowledge by now that this is a retelling of Cinderella. And there were some similar story elements, but for the most part it was very different. It had the mistreated girl, a prince, the glass slipper (disguised as something else), and the wicked stepmother and stepsisters (sort of), but that's where the similarities ended. Besides that, there's just a simple story of a girl and a guy from different classes that fall in love. There's a bit more to it than that, but I think that covers it pretty well. It is a dystopia, it is sci-fi, and the world-building was pretty fantastic. I also thought it felt pretty realistic considering we were dealing with androids, cyborgs, and people that live on the moon.


As for the characters? For the most part I loved them. They weren't as well developed as I felt they could have been, but they were pretty unique. And that gives them some bonus points in my eyes. The one character I was looking for more personality from was Prince Kai. He was kind of dull! The androids and cyborgs had more personality. Actually, they had great personalities. And I loved the crotchety doctor..he may have been my favorite. No spoilers here, so you will have to see for yourself.


In the end, Cinder has a great story and it's a really fun read. You won't learn anything new, and the plot is pretty straightforward, but it is a lot of fun reading the gorgeous writing as the story unfolds. I can't think of too many people that wouldn't enjoy reading this book, so pick up a copy and get reading.

Final Note: I think it's a fun read that almost anyone would enjoy. It has a great story, great characters, and the words were a lot of fun to devour.

To pre-order Cinder from Amazon.com, click here: Cinder: Book One in the Lunar Chronicles

This link will take you to the book trailer: http://shelf-life.ew.com/2011/12/20/cinder-book-trailer-marissa-meyer-exclusive/



Dec 18, 2011

In My Mailbox #16



In my mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren every Sunday to showcase the books that we got for review or purchased throughout the week. I haven't done an IMM in a few weeks because I haven't gotten any books in the mail but one. I am not accepting any indie requests for review right now either, so expect this meme to be really slow for me in the upcoming weeks. The book buying ban is over, but I'm not buying any books right now until I get caught up on some of the ones I already own. And believe me, there are a lot.

I get most of my review books through the internet these days, and I have gotten a few from NetGalley over the last couple of weeks. The reason I am cutting down on review books is because I have fallen insanely behind and I have a TON of editing projects coming up over the next couple of months and I am really trying as hard as I can to manage my workload. I did accept two indie books for review a couple of weeks ago, so look for those below, but until I get caught up on all the indie books I have, I will not be accepting anymore.

There is one exception to that rule. IF I have worked with you before and you have a new book coming out during this time, I will accept your review request again. I will notify everyone via this blog and my review policy page when I am open for requests again. And I'm sorry guys. I know how much this sucks, but I am under a ton of stress right now and I need to start taking care of myself and spending more time with my family. They miss me.



So, let's get started! Over the last couple of weeks, I got:


From M.R. Mathias:

~The Confliction by M.R. Mathias

From B. Jane Lawson:

~To the Cliffside by B. Jane Lawson

From Alyson Miers:

~Charlinder's Walk by Alyson Miers

From LibraryThing and Random House:

~Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

From NetGalley and Flux:

~Katana by Cole Gibsen

From NetGalley and HarperCollins: 

~Slide by Jill Hathaway

From NetGalley and Macmillan:

~After the Snow by S.D. Crockett

From NetGalley and Random House:

~The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

From NetGalley and ABRAMS:

~Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe by Shelley Coriell
~The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry


I think the publishers have figured out by now that I read fast. I know it's a lot, but that's divided over three weeks. So when you look at it that way, it's really not that many. I'm currently reading Fracture by Megan Miranda, which I gotta be honest, I'm not really enjoying. I just finished Cinder by Marissa Meyer, which I loved. The review for that should be coming tomorrow. 

Links for the books go to Goodreads, and I'm sorry I don't have any pictures for you, but it takes forever to look those up, and I need to get straight to work. I have a looming deadline. 

Also, if you don't know by now, I am taking a twitter break. I still will tweet links to my blog posts and anything else I find interesting, but I won't be on there to chat for at least a week. I'm getting caught up on everything, AND I'm moving to a new apartment. Thanks for sticking with me. You guys are the best. 







Dec 16, 2011

Top Ten Reads of 2011 and an End of Year Giveaway!

It's time for the big end of year giveaway I have had planned since I started this blog!  I'm really excited because I put a lot of thought and planning into it.


First, I had to pick my top 10 books of 2011. Now these aren't books necessarily published in 2011, they are just books that I READ in 2011. One of them hasn't even been published yet.


I'm going to count down my favorites for you, and the reasons why, and then at the end there will be a big giveaway. There will be three winners, each winner with the option to pick any book from my countdown list. In the case of one of the books, it will have to be a preorder.


And the best news? This giveaway is International! Books will be shipped from Amazon; in the case of an International winner, then I will be ordering from The Book Depository.


Are you excited to find out which books I picked? Just want to skip ahead to the giveaway? That's okay too. I won't stop you. Let's get started with the countdown!

Coming in at #10 is Enclave by Ann Aguirre. I picked Enclave because it was the book that really turned me into a zombie fan. The freaks (zombies) in Ann Aguirre's story are perhaps some of the scariest zombies I have ever had the pleasure of reading about in a book. Another great thing about it? The atmosphere. The world-building. It's all there.

See my review of Enclave.

Buy Enclave from Amazon here: Enclave.



At #9 is Exiled by M.R. Merrick. I've read a lot of great indie and self-published novels this past year, but this one was definitely my favorite. My favorite thing about this book were the characters. The characterizations are just fabulous and I found myself really getting attached to them. They all had unique voices and a ton of individuality. Other things I really enjoyed about Exiled? The story itself and the pacing. There is never a dull moment here. Definitely a great pick for reluctant readers.

See my review of Exiled.

Buy Exiled from Amazon here: Exiled.


#8 is one of my favorite non YA reads this year: Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman. It's hard to explain everything I loved about this book. It was quirky, pathetic, hilarious, and sad all rolled into one. I was hoping that it would get a lot of love from critics and well-known websites. It did get some, but unfortunately it didn't get as much love as I was hoping. So I'm offering it up for giveaway because I loved it and because I want more people to be aware of how great a book it was.

See my review of Domestic Violets.

Buy Domestic Violets from Amazon here: Domestic Violets.


Half-Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout is the perfect book for the #7 spot. I debated putting it higher, but there were a few I liked more. Simply put, this was easily one of the most suspenseful reads of 2011. There was never a dull moment and this was one of those books they call unputdownable. I wasn't sure about reading this one either, mythology isn't really my thing. See I hold this view that the Greek myths are weird enough on their own. No need to twist them even more. But there was no need to worry, because this book changed my opinion on that. Great characters, fantastic plot, a really entertaining writing style, and fabulous world-building make this one of my favorites of 2011.

See my review of Half-Blood.

Buy Half-Blood from Amazon here: Half-Blood.


It's hard to describe why I loved #6 (The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings) so much. Just know that I did and if you trust my opinion at all, you should read it. It's quirky, fun, heartbreaking, and everything about this novel screams real life. I think it is best explained by reading my review. I feel that I captured the emotions I was feeling extremely well. Oh, and also? Gorgeous writing style. That gives this book bonus points right off the bat. 

See my review of The Descendants.

Buy The Descendants from Amazon here: The Descendants.


The Enemy by Charlie Higson (#5), was one of my earlier reads of the year. Even though I read it long ago it still is almost as memorable as if I read it yesterday. This book was probably my second encounter with members of the undead army, and possibly the scariest. This book is up so high on the list because it is one of the scariest pieces of literature I have picked up this year. It is written extremely well, and the author is not afraid to make you really, really uncomfortable. To me this book straddles the line between what is acceptable and unacceptable in YA. It is violent, graphic, and shows adults as the bad guys. It is a daring book and a great pick for reluctant readers because of the suspense. But be warned. It may keep you up at night.

See my review of The Enemy.

Buy The Enemy from Amazon here: The Enemy.


I chose Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel for the #4 spot because it was so unique and so original that it absolutely blew me away. It isn't a perfect read by any means, but what it does do is combine so many existing genres into one heck of a special book. There is dystopia, zombies, and steampunk, and it is all set in the future. The characters are amazing. The story is fabulous. If it has one flaw, it is that I feel the book was a bit wordy in places which made the pacing feel a little bit scattered. It is hard to ever imagine a romance between a human and a zombie, and you wouldn't think that something like that would work, but here it does. I really loved this book.

See my review of Dearly, Departed.

Buy Dearly, Departed from Amazon here: Dearly, Departed.


Now we are into the top three. I chose The Printmaker's Daughter by Katherine Govier for the #3 spot because it was one of the richest, most enjoyable pieces of literature that I have ever allowed my brain to absorb. The story is epic, sweeping, and heartbreaking. The research and time that was spent writing and developing this novel blows my mind. The characters are flawed, the setting and imagery, terrific. I seriously loved this book. I would reread it over and over if I could. I could not find one flaw in it. It's no secret that I enjoy Asian literature more than most people. But this novel is one of the best in the genre. And if you have any interest, you should read it.

See my review of The Printmaker's Daughter.

Buy The Printmaker's Daughter from Amazon here: The Printmaker's Daughter.


#2 is Death Watch by Ari Berk. I've raved about this book everywhere I possibly could, including the author's Facebook page. I often talk about how important setting the scene is for me in a novel. World-building. Imagery. Atmosphere. This book has it in spades. And then there are the characters. And the story. Everything was mind-blowing. This book was a feast for my eyes. For a word nerd, this is the ultimate read. Its originality sets it apart from anything else in YA. But be warned. This book clocks in at almost 500 pages. It is not a short read. So if you are looking for a quick fix and a speedy payoff, this is NOT the book for you. 

See my review of Death Watch.

Buy Death Watch from Amazon here: Death Watch.


So there's the book cover. Wanderlove is my #1 book of the year. Strangely enough, it's the only book on this list that hasn't actually been published yet. But it is available for pre-order. As such, I haven't even published my review yet. So you'll just have to take my word for it. This is the one book of 2012 that you must read. If you only read one, this is it. I fell in love with everything about this novel. The voice of the main character is impeccable. The characters feel so damn real; I really felt that they were going to jump off the page and appear in my living room. I think it's been years since I read a novel where the characters were this well fleshed out. The story was beautiful. If you love traveling, dream of traveling, or just have a strong desire to escape, this is the book for you. You will fall in love with Bria and Rowan as you feel their story unfold. 


Pre-order Wanderlove from Amazon here: Wanderlove.



Now it's time for the giveaway!

Rules:

1. Giveaway is International. US orders ship from Amazon. International orders ship from The Book Depository. If they do not ship to you, you cannot enter. :(

2. There will be 3 winners. Each winner will be able to pick one book from my top ten list. In the case of Wanderlove, it will be a pre-order.

3. A few extra entries may be earned. But I'm going to try to keep this as simple as possible. For me AND for you.

4. Enter using the Rafflecopter widget.

Dec 13, 2011

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: January 3rd, 2012
Pages: 384
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia
Series: Under the Never Sky #1
Cover: One of my favorites!!
Source: NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Under The Never SkyUnder The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Blurb:


Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction.


As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions.


They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers abarbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love - one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY


The first book in a captivating trilogy, Veronica Rossi’s enthralling debut sweeps you into an unforgettable adventure.


Review:


I'm frustrated. This was another one of those books that I was really anticipating, but just fell flat for me. And it seems I am pretty close to the only one who feels this way. So take my review or leave it. All I can tell you is that it just didn't work for me. And I am extremely disappointed because I really, really wanted to love this book. It's one of my favorite covers of 2012 as well.


Reasons why it didn't work for me? I really lacked an emotional connection to the story. I just didn't care about the characters. I feel that the author tried really hard to make me feel for her characters, but I just wasn't buying it.


I also wasn't buying what I felt was manufactured suspense. Hard to explain, but I really didn't find the Croven all that scary. I thought the aether storms were cool and not terrifying at all, even though they were destroying towns. I guess the easiest way for me to describe my feelings about Under the Never Sky is I just wasn't believing any of the material. I wasn't convinced. This wasn't a dystopia that felt realistic or frightened me. Because it would never happen.


The world-building was kind of all over the place for me too. Some of it I really loved. Like the aether storms. I felt when it came to the different tribes and the dwellers, there was a lot left unexplained and too many details were missing. I wanted more description. It felt kind of like a cop-out and an evasion from the author. I like to nitpick.


The one saving grace that kept this book from getting a much worse rating was Perry. I loved Perry. He was a fantastic character. Rough, rugged, and the perfect guy. There was the appropriate amount of angst. I loved his strength and his personality. I loved his voice as well. So it is clear to me that Veronica Rossi has some talent as a writer, I would just like to see her focus it more. If she can write a character as great as Perry, she can write a good book. So I may or may not read the next one. But I won't be one of the first ones to do it. I will see what other readers say first.

Final Note: Ehhh..it was good. But I would not read it again if given a second chance. There are many great dystopians out there. I felt this one was a somewhat weak effort. It was missing way more details then it should have been. Dystopians need supreme world-building.



Dec 11, 2011

All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson

Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: December 20th, 2011
Pages: 352 (It does not feel this long)
Genre: Historical, Asian Fiction
Cover: The cover alone made me want to request it, so they did something right.
Source: Edelweiss from the publisher

All the Flowers in ShanghaiAll the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb:


All the Flowers in Shanghai is Jepson's stunning debut novel. Set in 1930s Shanghai,the Paris of the East, but where following the path of duty still takes precedence over personal desires, a young Chinese woman named Feng finds herself in an arranged marriage to a wealthy businessman. In the enclosed world of her new household-a place of public ceremony and private cruelty-she learns that, above all else, she must bear a male heir. Ruthless and embittered by the life that has been forced on her, Feng seeks revenge by doing the unthinkable. Years later, she must come to a reckoning with the decisions she has made to assure her place in family and society, before the entire country is caught up in the fast-flowing tide of revolution.


Review::


I'm going to do this review a little bit differently because I don't have a whole lot to say, and the easiest thing to do when this happens is to form lists. So while it goes against all of my other review writing, it will help me talk about specific points.


LIKES:


-I loved the story in this novel. It was epic and sweeping and it may me feel a whole range of different emotions. I couldn't wait to see what happened next.


-I also enjoyed the writing style. I enjoyed the simplicity and yet it still had the ability to paint a mesmerizing picture.


-This may be a dislike for some of you, but this book was extremely depressing. It was so oppressive and just made me really sad while reading it. That's not always a great thing, but here it was. I think the author accomplished what he set out to do, which was to capture exactly how hard it was for Asian women, and in a lot of cases still is today.


-The protagonist made me angry. There were times when I loved her and wanted to rescue her from her horrible fate, but there were also times when I thought that she was just as bad as the rest of them, if not worse. It's very hard to root for a protag who makes bad decisions, but again, I think this is what the author was after.


DISLIKES:


-Lack of detail in the scenery. Except for wherever it was that Feng was living, you had literally no idea what was going on in the outside world. It was implied, but I would have liked some more detail into what life was like back then. There was some at the end, and now on thinking back to the book, that was one of my favorite parts. I just felt everything was memorable. And that's because all the story components were there.


-Towards the end, there was a major jump forward in time and I didn't like this. I would have much preferred this to be a longer book with twists and turns. It had the potential to be one of those epic cultural reads like Snow Flower and Memoirs, and I think it missed the mark by a hair. It skipped a bunch of years and I couldn't help but think I was left out of something. I rarely ever ask for a book to be longer, this may be a first, but here I felt like something was missing.


-Final criticism? Character development. It was good, it just could have been better. I didn't find myself caring for the characters as much as I could have. This was a DEPRESSING book. I should have shed a tear and I didn't. And that's because I was missing a connection to the characters and all the tragedy that surrounded them.


Still, if you like cultural reads, this is definitely a book you should pick up. It wasn't quite as good as Snow Flower, but it had a great story and it was definitely easy to read and easy to follow. It's a good story for people who think their life sucks and want to read about someone whose life sucks more. Hey, I'm just being honest. ;)

To pre-order All the Flowers in Shanghai from Amazon.com, click here: All the Flowers in Shanghai.





Dec 8, 2011

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Publisher: Sourcebooks
Release Date: December 1st, 2011
Pages: 288
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Cover: Love it, although I think Jordan needed to be a little bigger. She's supposed to be over 6 feet tall.
Source: NetGalley- From the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Catching JordanCatching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb:


What girl doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn't just surrounded by hot guys, though - she leads them as the captain and quarterback on her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys, and that's just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university. But now there's a new guy in town who threatens her starring position on the team... and has her suddenly wishing to be seen as more than just a teammate.


Review:


I'm going to make a confession. I requested this book not because I really wanted to read it, but because I thought it would be ridiculous. I really wanted to see what the author would do with this plot line and how she would go about making it believable. Because let's be honest. A girl playing football in high school is a rare thing. A girl getting recruited to play quarterback in college is unheard of and would never happen. There have been kickers, but that's as far as it's ever went. So I was fully preparing myself to roll my eyes a lot. Not so much, actually.


While portions of the story ARE unbelievable, the narrative in Catching Jordan was tight, paced well, and gorgeously written. The story was funny at times, but also full of angst. And I mean LOTS of angst. I didn't cry or anything, but there were times when I was pretty depressed. Jordan goes through a lot of crap. Her dad is a star NFL player and a douchebag, her best friend is in love with her, there's a new quarterback on her team that might steal her position(she's also crushing on him hard), and she is under a lot of pressure being a girl quarterback on her high school's football team. Add all of that to the fact that she wants to play football for Alabama (it's her dream), and the girl is under a lot of pressure. But despite all the angst, Jordan has possibly one of the strongest female voices in YA literature that I have read this year. I really, REALLY loved her. And rooted for her. And got pissed when things didn't go her way.


So while I would love to be snarky and say I laughed my tail off at all the ridiculous things that happened in this novel, I just couldn't. Because I fell for Jordan and her story. There were portions of the plot that were a bit typical, but the narrative was wrapped in a really fun package that made it unique.


The side characters had almost as much heart as Jordan did, and I loved reading about all the antics that happen on a high school football team. There was quite a bit of profanity in this one, and I loved it. Because it's a story with a bunch of horny teenagers in it. It was realistic. I never felt that it went overboard or crossed the line. Some may not agree, but times they are a changin'. Get on board or go down with the sinking ship.


Read this book and you will have a lot of fun. And you may come out understanding teenagers a little better.

Final Note: It was a fun read that is age appropriate for teens AND adults. And it was extremely hard to put down.

To purchase Catching Jordan from Amazon.com, click here: Buy Catching Jordan.





Dec 7, 2011

Pyxis by K.C. Neal Review and Kindle Giveaway!!


Publisher: Stonehouse Ink
Release Date: November 4th, 2011
Pages: 216
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Series: Pyxis #1
Cover: A- Really pretty, but the details are a bit blurry, and not in an artsy attractive way
Source: I received a copy from the author.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Blurb:


Two worlds.... One 16-year-old girl must learn to protect them both. The nightmares haunting Corinne and her friend Mason hint at a universe that exists beyond the one they know. Her destiny is to protect a weakness between the two worlds, but the person who was supposed to teach her how is dead. As Corinne and Mason search for answers, she tries to ignore the sparks igniting between them, but can't deny she feels safe only when he's nearby. Will they find help before their nightmares break free?


Review:


I think Pyxis is going to be a great series. I am so glad I read this book guys! Look! It’s enthusiasm about something! That is so not part of my personality! Okay. Let me stop being annoying for a second.


Simply put, this was a fantastic read. K.C. Neal is a great author and I am extremely glad I signed up for the blog tour. And I hope you guys will purchase this book, because it’s really worth it for the affordable price. And it’s indie! I have read so many great indie books in 2011!


I loved the story in Pyxis. The ideas were original and I loved that. I loved the way the book started with the bake sale and the guys chasing after Corinne. It was really entertaining and at the same time very awkward. I think a lot of the imagery in this book was out of this world. I can picture scenes in my mind as if I read them yesterday, when in reality, I finished this book a couple of days ago.


The plot was not as riveting as I think it could have been, but I think it was mostly because this book was a set-up for the events in the series that are to come. And there was a lot of set-up. But really, it needed to be there because this is totally a plot line that I think has the potential to be really exciting, but also very unique. We see so many books about vampires, witches, werewolves, etc. This is the first one I have seen with a potion/alchemy plotline. Yeah you heard me. And it was really, really fun!


Corinne’s character was great. I loved how invested in her family (and incidentally I loved her aunt and the old guy down the street) she was and I loved that she wasn’t afraid to stand up for what she believed in and take chances in her life. She was a bit reckless, but I think that made her character even more real.


Mason on the other hand, I have to be honest here, I found him a bit dull. He didn’t really have much of a personality and I don’t think his character depth balanced Corinne’s. He just felt like a love interest that the author stuck in because she had to have a love interest. You know what though? I do love the role he plays in the plotline as a whole. And I also think he has the potential to become a better character.


So, all in all, a great addition to the paranormal/fantasy young adult genre, and I think it’s a book that most of you would enjoy reading. I think it’s going to be a great series and I will definitely keep up with this one as it unfolds.

Buy Pyxis from Amazon here: Pyxis: The Discovery. The Kindle copy is only $0.99 you guys!


Go here to enter to win the Kindle: Enter to win a Kindle.




Dec 1, 2011

TGIF at GReads #5


It's been awhile since I participated in this meme. Actually, it's been awhile since I participated in any memes. November was an extremely busy month for me, and December is looking like it will be even busier. If that were even possible. Because of that, my reading/reviewing has not been moving as swiftly as I would like it to. So, it's either leave my blog to collect dust while I get my editing done, or participate in some memes so you guys have something to read and so I can fill in the blank spaces that are so glaringly obvious.

Hopefully this is a solution. Because it's driving me crazy. I love my blog so much. And I also love editing. I'm finding it difficult to balance the two, but I am unwilling to give either up. So cross your fingers that this works for me. 

Anyways, on to the topic of this week's TGIF: What's your process for writing book reviews? Any tips or suggestions you would recommend to other bloggers?

And I have to honestly say, it depends. I don't have one format that works for me. Sometimes I wait a few days to write my review, and sometimes I do it immediately upon finishing. For me it all hinges on how I feel about the book. If I finish and the book makes me feel like writing, then I pick up the laptop and go. And sometimes I need to ponder points in my head and figure out why certain things happened and how I feel about them. Those are the times when I wait a few days.

When I do decide to write the review, I just go. Get all my thoughts out first. Then, when I feel satisfied, I go back and edit. I read through my review a couple of times making changes as necessary. But I think the most important thing is to get those thoughts out first. Because I don't know about you, but my brain doesn't hold on to its ideas very long. This is the reason I have learned to carry a notepad with me pretty much everywhere.

I don't usually do a blurb of the book. I don't like summarizing. I'll do one if I think the blurb provided was crap for whatever reason, but usually I just jump right into the technical aspects of the book. What I liked and didn't like. I also like talking about how the book made me feel. I like my reviews to be as personal as possible. I know that is frowned upon in certain circles, but frankly I could care less what the "pros" think. 

Tips I can give to other bloggers? I'm not sure you want those. But I'll do my best. 

First of all, my situation is a little different. I edit books for my job. I read manuscripts that aren't finished. They still need work. So when a book comes to me for review that I feel is still unfinished, I get really mad. Really, REALLY, mad. There is just no excuse for this. I don't care why it happened. All I know is that you sent it to me for review and you should be ashamed of yourself for sending out a book that's unedited. Yes, I am a little more lenient with indie novels. But that doesn't mean your cat can walk on your keyboard and I will give it five stars. As a rule, if ANY novel that I read for review has more than five grammatical errors, I make a note of it. And to be honest, I think that's extremely generous of me. 

My point to writing this is: bloggers, you don't get paid for this. If a book you are reading is making you feel like you should be getting paid, it must be horrible. Put the book down and step away. There is no rule that says you have to finish it. And if you have read the first 100 pages (which is generally where I will stop), and you are still not into it for whatever reason, don't continue to torture yourself. Move on to something you will enjoy. 

That's the biggest piece of advice I can give to other bloggers. I know there are those of you who have a policy of finishing whatever book you start. And no offense, but I think you are crazy. I never want blogging to feel like work. I love my real job, but I also need a hobby. Blogging is my hobby. And the minute it starts to feel like a chore, I stop and ask myself, "Why?" Then I fix that problem and it becomes fun again. 

This was a great topic this week. Thanks for posing the question Ginger. I really enjoyed this one.

XKCWPDD6R5TY

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