Monday, November 22, 2010

Review: Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, October 2010
Hardcover, 432 pages
ISBN-10: 1416989439
ISBN-13: 9781416989431
Grades: 9 and up

Nora should have know her life was far from perfect. Despite starting a relationship with her guardian angel, Patch (who, title aside, can be described anything but angelic), and surviving an attempt on her life, things are not looking up. Patch is starting to pull away and Nora can't figure out if it's for her best interest or if his interest has shifted to her arch-enemy Marcie Millar. Not to mention that Nora is haunted by images of her father and she becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to him that night he left for Portland and never came home.

The farther Nora delves into the mystery of her father's death, the more she comes to question if her Nephilim blood line has something to do with it as well as why she seems to be in danger more than the average girl. Since Patch isn't answering her questions and seems to be standing in her way, she has to start finding the answers on her own. Relying too heavily on the fact that she has a guardian angel puts Nora at risk again and again. But can she really count on Patch or is he hiding secrets darker than she can even imagine?

Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick may have been one of my most anticipated sequels for this year. When I read Hush, Hush last year, I fell totally in love with Patch, the fallen angel, bad boy/good guy character. I devoured the book in one sitting and I just assumed with the release of Crescendo I would feel the same way.

I kinda did and I kinda didn''s that for sitting on the fence? I still love Patch, though I think he was in this book far less and was considerably misrepresented throughout (I kept my faith in him the whole time, despite how things were starting to look :-))

Nora, on the other hand....and here's where I need to have a serious talk with this character: Nora, didn't you think that after several times of following your instincts, only to end up in bigger trouble that maybe, just maybe, you should not listen to said instincts?... This girl needed a huge head slap, for sure!

I totally saw who the "bad guy" was early on in the story and I'm usually easily fooled when it comes to mysteries, so that part of the storyline was fairly predictable for me. What will keep my attention with this series comes in the form of some of the other characters introduced in this book and where their stories will take us in Tempest. There is still a lot to be learned about Nora and the gang, which I'm definitely looking forward to.

Crescendo is a book filled with many unanswered questions and is left with a huge cliff-hanger. It is worth the read to catch up on where the characters stand but it's basically a bridge between the first and the third book, as so many middle books seem to be.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Margaret K. McElderry, August 2010
Hardcover, 496 pages
ISBN-10: 1416975861
ISBN-13: 9781416975861
Grades: 9 and up

Magic is dangerous--but love is more dangerous still.

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by--and torn between--two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length...everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world...and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

I've had the three books that make up the Mortal Instruments series sitting on my shelf for quite some time, patiently waiting for me to pick them up and read them...did I mention that they're all signed too? After having heard so many great things about the series, it's a wonder I haven't touched them yet. But, you know the story, time gets away from you, review copies take priority, etc., etc.

Then came my opportunity to review Clockwork Angel, the first book in the Infernal Devices series,  which gave me a glimpse into this world created by Cassandra Clare. By golly, I loved it! (Yes, I just said by golly, lol)

I wasn't sure about Tessa's character right away. She seemed a bit rigid or cold. As the book progressed, all of the characters grew on me considerably. I have to agree with the general consensus that Will needs a good smack upside the head (as many literary characters do), but what the future unfurling of his story holds has got me in a tizzy...the anticipation may just about kill me!

Clare has developed this whole fantastic, dark, Victorian Era landscape, with a touch of magic that makes the reader wish they could be transported into it. She represents technology as it would have been at the time but with these creatures, these mystical beings manipulating gears and such to fit their grand designs, yet still held in check by the limitations of that particular time. I think Clare has done a wonderful job of piecing it all together. I also think this would play out very well, visually, on the big screen, especially scenes with The Dark Sisters. The Silent Brothers are fairly creepy too...

I was shocked at a few things that occurred in Clockwork Angel. Clare does not hold back in the least, pulling at the heart strings and showing no mercy where some of the more likeable characters are concerned. Want to know what I'm referring to? Read the book! I swear you won't regret it.

The unfortunate part is having to wait until September 2011 for the next book in the series, Clockwork Prince, to be released. In the mean time, I am more encouraged than ever to pull City of Bones, City of Ashes, and City of Glass off the shelf and read on about the Nephilim.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Review: I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books; 1 edition (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0545088186
ISBN-13: 978-0545088183

Seventeen-year-old Bronwen Oliver doesn't just want a family. She has one of those, and there's nothing terribly wrong with them apart from bickering grandparents, an image-obsessed mother and a brother she describes simply as Jesus. But there's no natural sense of connection between Bronwen and her family, leaving her with the belief -- and the hope -- that she was switched at birth, that she was never supposed to be Bronwen Oliver but someone else entirely.

When she begins dating college senior Jared Sondervan, she finds herself thoroughly embraced by the loving family she has always wanted and does not hesitate to say yes when Jared proposes on her 18th birhday. Plans for the Perfect Beach Wedding before her junior year of college become plans for the Perfect Beach Wedding before her freshman year of college. And a wedding so soon isn't exactly what Bronwen wants. But Jared is. And his family is. Or so she thinks.

Before Bronwen can determine what she truly wants, she must first determine who she truly is, and the answer, she discovers, is only partially what she thought it was. She wasn't switched at birth, but she's also not Bronwen Oliver and hasn't been for a very long time.

From the start, this book had a familiar ring to it. I have felt very similar to Bronwen, with parents whose interests were so different from my own that I did not think we were actually related. I also got involved in an engagement at a young age, but this was where our similarities became divided.

Bronwen was an enjoyable charcter, for me. The sarcastic tone of the novel fit well with my own ironic sense of humour. As things begin to snowball out of control for Bronwen, though, this changed. It got a little more serious,and rightfully so. When things have been left unsaid for so long, the time for laughing and joking must eventually be put aside to deal with the more important issues in life.

This book has a bit of an older feel than the usual YA, with the characters being late to teens early twenties. There were some situations that felt wrong to me, for example Bronwen "saving it for marriage" just seems so outdated, but that's just my own personal opinion. Having a daughter myself, I will encourage this theory when the time comes (I dread the day, lol) and will gladly accept the title of "hypocrite", lol.

I did enjoy this book for the most part, it just took a bit of a down turn towards the end. It's definitely worth reading though if you've ever questioned your own identity or if you were switched at birth :-p

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Review: The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

Touchstone, August 2010
Hardcover, 400 pages
ISBN-10: 1439197172
ISBN-13: 9781439197172

Heiress to the red rose of Lancaster, Margaret Beaufort never surrenders her belief that her house is the true ruler of England and that she has a great destiny before her. Her ambitions are disappointed when her sainted cousin Henry VI fails to recognize her as a kindred spirit, and she is even more dismayed when he sinks into madness. Her mother mocks her plans, revealing that Margaret will always be burdened with the reputation of her father, one of the most famously incompetent English commanders in France. But worst of all for Margaret is when she discovers that her mother is sending her to a loveless marriage in remote Wales.

Married to a man twice her age, quickly widowed, and a mother at only fourteen, Margaret is determined to turn her lonely life into a triumph. She sets her heart on putting her son on the throne of England regardless of the cost to herself, to England, and even to the little boy. Disregarding rival heirs and the overwhelming power of the York dynasty, she names him Henry, like the king; sends him into exile; and pledges him in marriage to her enemy Elizabeth of York's daughter. As the political tides constantly move and shift, Margaret charts her own way through another loveless marriage, treacherous alliances, and secret plots. She feigns loyalty to the usurper Richard III and even carries his wife's train at her coronation.

Widowed a second time, Margaret marries the ruthless, deceitful Thomas, Lord Stanley, and her fate stands on the knife edge of his will. Gambling her life that he will support her, she then masterminds one of the greatest rebellions of the time—all the while knowing that her son has grown to manhood, recruited an army, and now waits for his opportunity to win the greatest prize.

In a novel of conspiracy, passion, and coldhearted ambition, number one bestselling author Philippa Gregory has brought to life the story of a proud and determined woman who believes that she alone is destined, by her piety and lineage, to shape the course of history.
Had you asked me about The War of the Roses several months ago, I would have described a particularly funny scene from the movie with Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas (you know the the dinner party?). Now, after reading The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory, I see that there was in fact a different War of the Roses.

My only previous experience with Philippa Gregory was reading The Other Boleyn Girl a few years ago, so I had an idea of what to expect. What I wasn't expecting was the humour involved in The Red Queen. Ok, so maybe what I found funny wasn't meant to be but the characterization of this little 9 year old girl, Lady Margaret, thinking she is the next Joan of Arc just struck a chord with me. I could picture the self-sacrificing attitude, the super-holy beliefs of Lady Margaret vividly.

It is this, I think, that draws me most to Gregory's writing. She takes a historical figure, though one not quite as famous as say Richard III or Henry VIII, and gives them life. She makes them a three dimensional figure for us and brings their stories to the forefront instead of the back seat role they have played for centuries. Of course, not all is historically accurate but the richness of the characters make you want to research more of the "real" story (yes, I wiki'd Lady Margaret).

The relationship between Lady Margaret and Lord Stanley was the most interesting part, neither truly knowing whether to trust the other. I could have done without a particular scene involving Jasper Tudor and Lady Margaret, it didn't seem to flow with the rest of the story though it did serve to highlight Margaret's commitment to her cause.

My only regret was that I hadn't read The White Queen first; there were many references to Elizabeth Woodville that I would have understood better if I had. It definitely did not take away from the story at all and I have every intention to go back and read The White Queen...along with the rest of the books in The Tudor series! Overall, The Red Queen is another great work of historical fiction.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Review and Guest Post: I Heart Paris by Lindsey Kelk

ISBN: 9780007875504
ISBN10: 0007875509
On Sale: 28/09/2010
Format: Trade paperback
Pages: 336

Angela is in the city of love -- but romance is taking a nose-dive! When Angela Clark's boyfriend Alex suggests a trip to Paris at the same time as hip fashion mag Belle asks her to write a piece, she jumps at the chance. But even as she's falling for the joie de vivre of Paris, someone's conspiring to sabotage her big break. And when she spots Alex having a tete-a-tete with his ex in a local bar, Angela's dreams of Parisian passion all start crashing down around her. With London and her old life only a train journey away, Angela can't decide if should stay and face the music or run away home!

Thanks to Shannon at Harper Collins Canada, I had the pleasure of reviewing I Heart Paris by Lindsey Kelk.

Let me start off by admitting, it took me a little while to warm up to the main character, Angela. I thought she was just going to be a name dropping fashionista but as more of her personality was revealed she became this cute, clumsy, real woman. Angela seems to have it all: the rockstar boyfriend who wants to take her to Paris, a successful blog which leads to an opportunity with a famous fashion magazine, and a best friend with connections in the fashion world. Who wouldn't want her life? But from her arrival in Paris, things go amuck.

Using miscommunications and an evil assistant thousands of miles away, Kelk sets the stage for mayhem for poor Angela. While it seemed that some of the scenarios were only randomly placed in the book book for their comedic effect (I did wonder a few times why things had happened) everything wrapped up nicely in the end. The book was full of self-deprecating humor with a particularly British twist (Angela originally hails from London). The use of English vernacular was fun to read...using a British accent in my head while reading, of course.

If you are a fan of chick lit, this makes for an excellent addition to your reading list. Kelk also includes "Angela's Guide to Paris" at the back, if you're fortunate enough to be able to go. Along this vain, I have a virtual tour of Paris posted on The Book Lover's Inc. website here.

Annnndd, as an extra special treat, Lindsey Kelk has provided us with a top ten list! So, direct from the author, here is her list of must haves:

Top 10 items to pack when going on a romantic adventure

Surprise! Your boyfriend is taking you away on a romantic weekend away! What could possibly go wrong? Well, you’d be surprised. I once had a nightmare that Robert Pattinson whisked me away to a cabin in the woods that had no TV, no internet and I hadn’t even packed a book. He had packed a book and proceeded to read it alllllll day. We had quite the row. Haven’t been able to watch Twilight since. I’d say Remember Me but no one saw that anyway, did they?

There is a ridiculous amount of stress involved in a mini-break. If you’re a new couple (or as the world now measures time, post-Bieber), it could be the longest amount of time you’ve spent in each other’s company and therefore a real test. If you’ve been together pre-Beiber, then there’s a lot of pressure on you to Have A Good Time and Reignite The Spark. What follows is a list of things that might not occur to you right away – I’m sort of assuming you’ve got the more obvious basics covered – but should you find yourself in an awkward spot this list should sort you right out.

1. Sexy lingerie, comfy PJs, cashmere wrap
Now, this is a romantic adventure so really, if stockings and suspenders aren’t in your bag, you’re not doing your bit. I’m not saying you have to be trussed up like a turkey all weekend long though, equally important are slouchy PJs for lounging around and super soft wraps, preferably cashmere for snuggling purposes. The key here is to think sensory overload: nothing goes in your suitcase unless it makes you happy – one way or another. Please just note that holey old trackpants are not welcome.

2. Pencil and paper
This kind of trip begs for little love notes, penned to your beloved and left on their pillow just because you missed them while they were in the shower. Or you know, maybe there’s something you’ve been wanting to say or suggest, that you can’t quite say out loud… Nothing gets the pulse racing faster than a handwritten fantasy. And boys, nothing melts the ladies more easily than a little ‘I love you’ that she can keep forever. Fact.

3. Camera
Get your mind out of the gutter, surely you want to take as many arm-outstretched self-portraits as possible on your weekend away? Hopefully you’ll have lots of happy memories and a flick through the photo album on your return home should be all it takes to rekindle the romantic flame. And if it takes a little more than that, well, you’ve got the camera.

4. Walking shoes
Unless it’s a very short trip, there’s a good chance you’re going to want to leave the hotel/cabin/narrow boat (wouldn’t do it for me but you know, different strokes and all that) and there’s nothing sexy about blisters. Fluffy mules aren’t going to help you out when your new man suggests a hike through the woods to a cute country pub, now are they? Actually, I’ve yet to find a way they do help but still. You get points for trying.

5. Books & board games
I’m sure some of you will think this is ridiculous, I mean, it’s a romantic weekend away, who wants to read? But there has to be a bit of respite and personally, I think being comfortable enough to sit quietly with your lover and read a book is very sexy. Alternatively, you could indulge in a hot game of Scrabble – remember, a smart girl is a sexy girl. Unfortunately, a violently aggressive bad loser is not so I’ll pass on this one and just take a book. No Kindles or iPads allowed though, sorry. Ebooks just aren’t as seductive as printed paper.

6. iPod
Firstly, anyone who can go a whole weekend without music is inhuman and secondly, you’ve got to give your man a chance to bust out his sexytimes playlist. If it includes Do Ya Think I’m Sexy or Let’s Get It On, you might want to reconsider your life choices.

7. Chocolate & champagne
If the BF has planned this, there’s every chance he hasn’t paid attention to little things like, the need to eat. So just in case you turn up to an empty cottage kitchen and no shops for miles around, it might be a good idea to pack a couple of snacks. And if he has actually sorted these things out, no one is going to be upset that you’ve brought a box of chocolates, are they?

8. Candles
This is classic ‘mood setting’ ammunition.
Do not, I repeat, do not leave for a romantic getaway without them.
And really, can’t emphasis many times you should check that you have matches. There is nothing more annoying on earth than remembering candles and forgetting matches. Except maybe Justin Bieber.

9. Bubble bath
As far as I’m concerned, the words ‘romantic getaway’ are synonymous with the words ‘soaking tub’. There may or may not have been an incident at a hotel recently with half a bottle of Molton Brown bath soak and a bubble monster that attempted to take over all of Manhattan. This pleased me.

OK, I’ll be the first to admit that there’s nothing necessarily sexy about teabags but bear with me. One of the nicest things a boy ever did for me was sneak out in the morning to buy teabags for when I woke up. So the point isn’t really ‘pack teabags’ but remember to take the little things that make you comfortable. For me, it would be teabags, eye make-up remover and my favourite sweater. These aren’t sexy items but knowing you have them will put you at ease. Of course, if his are porn, poppers and a pet tarantula, you should probably call it quits now.

The only thing missing from the list are the other two books in the series, I Heart New York and I Heart Hollywood. But I totally agree with Lindsey....chocolates and champagne? bubbles? *sigh* I very much need a mini break myself now, I think....

And, yes, I have seen Remember Me.....though it appears I may be the only other person in the world to admit to it, lol. Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed the post!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Contest! The King's Daughter by Christie Dickason

ISBN: 9780061976278, ISBN10: 006197627X
Imprint: Harper Paperbacks
On Sale: 11/23/2010
Format: Trade PB
Pages: 480
Ages: 18 and Up

From the Publisher:

The daughter of James I, the Princess Elizabeth would not be merely her father's pawn in the royal marriage market.

The court of James I is a dangerous place, with factions led by warring cousins Robert Cecil and Francis Bacon. While Europe seethes with conflict between Protestants and Catholics, James sees himself as a grand peacemaker—and wants to make his mark by trading his children for political treaties.

Henry, Prince of Wales, and his sister, Elizabeth, find themselves far more popular than their distrusted father, a perilous position for a child of a jealous king. When Elizabeth is introduced to one suitor, Frederick, the Elector Palatine, she feels the unexpected possibility of happiness. But her fate is not her own to choose—and when her parents brutally withdraw their support for the union, Elizabeth must take command of her own future, with the help of an unexpected ally, the slave girl Tallie, who seeks her own, very different freedom.

Thanks to Mary at Harper Perennial, I have 3 copies of this stunning book to giveaway (I really am a sucker for the fancy dress). The contest runs from now until Nov.22, 2010. Just fill out the entry below and pass the word on! I will email the winners and they have 48 hours to respond before a new winner would be chosen.

Enter here
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