Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Best of the Bunch: November 2011


"Best of the Bunch" is an awesome meme hosted every month by the lovely Lyrical Brown at Lyrical Reviews. It spotlights our absolute favorite book we read this month. My Best of the Bunch pick for November is:

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

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.

My choice for the Best of Bunch award actually came down to a tie between this book and Anna and the French Kiss. My decision ultimately had to land on Catching Jordan though; because I literally sat down and read this book in one sitting after UPS delivered it to my door. I honestly can only think of one other instance when I've done such a thing, so this is why Catching Jordan is my favorite this month. It will forever be one of the best contemporaries I've ever read!

The synopsis given for this book doesn't even come close to how AMAZING and addictive it is, and you don't have to be a football fan or an avid contemporary reader to love it either. Jordan is a fantastic character, and the guys in her life are drool-worthy and absolutely lovable. Please do yourself a favor and get this book-- you won't be disappointed! My review can be found HERE.

What book received your Best of the Bunch award? =)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Review: Skid Out (Heavy Influence) by Ann Marie Frohoff

Published: Kindle Edition published on 9-12-2011
Format: e-copy
Series: Heavy Influence Trilogy
My rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis from goodreads:

A novella prequel to the Heavy Influence Trilogy about young, reckless love between a rising rock star and his younger muse. Follow their journey through temptation, deception & forbidden love.

17 year old high school senior, Jake Masters, front man of a rising rock band, finds new interest in his younger freshman next door neighbor Alyssa Montgomery. Their relationship breaks hearts; stirs jealousy and band infighting. When they’re brought to new found awareness of body and soul, will rightful boundaries be crossed? Will the right decisions and choices, which are detrimental to the band and its future, be made through the haze of infatuation? Will Jake’s absences on the road lead to another filling his shoes? Jake and Alyssa’s lifelong friendships are strained and tested; secrets are kept, admitted and shared. Family bonds are broken, as others grow stronger. Who knew a first love could cause so many problems? Then again, in their eyes, there are no problems as long as they’re together. In the end, will his new found muse bring down everything he’s worked so hard to achieve or will she inspire positive creative change; that will carry him and his band to stardom.


First I would like to thank Annie Frohoff for emailing me a copy of Skid Out and the Mp3 that goes along with it. I listened to the song, "Transpose", before diving into the story of Jake and Alyssa and I found that it was a nice touch. So, thanks again for giving me the opportunity to read and review your book!

Skid Out is the prequel novella to the Heavy Influence Trilogy, and it is pretty radtastic! In this short novel, we are introduced to the two main characters: Jake and Alyssa. Jake is the lead vocal and guitarist in a band that's in the early stages of taking off, and Alyssa is his younger next door neighbor. The attraction between these two is both unexpected and undeniable. I really enjoyed the fact that this novel was from the perspectives of both of them; and I appreciated the fact that the author was able to keep their point of view's from bleeding together, because the characters are two unique individuals.

Jake seems like a great guy. He's focused and committed to his band. His attraction to Alyssa is a little heartbreaking on one hand because he seems to be battling with himself about how to handle his feelings for her, since up until now she was only ever the kid sister of a friend. Alyssa is also confronted with the same degree of feelings and possible doubt about their budding relationship. She's young and inexperienced, and Jake has inadvertently awakened a part of her that she never knew existed. These two have me hooked, and I'm extremely interested to see where their road to first love will take them.

I recommend this book to anyone who appreciates music and wants to read a believable story about life and love, among other things. This prequel gave me a taste of what is sure to be a fantastic story, and it left me wanting so much more. I will definitely be on the lookout for the Heavy Influence Trilogy because I can't wait to see what Jake and Alyssa will become. 

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Published: 12-2-2010
Format: Paperback, 372 pages
Genre: YA Contemporary
My rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis from goodreads:

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near - misses end with the French kiss Anna - and readers - have long awaited?


This book has me so smitten! Stephanie Perkins sure does know how to write an engaging story; and it doesn't matter if contemporaries are your preferred genre or not, it's impossible not to get swept away with Anna and Etienne. This entire book is a delightful experience, and all of the complicated dilemmas and situations throughout this story are so real and possible. I love when a book can be so believable and really make me feel so many different emotions right along with the characters. Also, the majority of the book takes place in Paris and the author is so fantastic at describing it and making you feel like you're there, which is a truly magical experience as well.

Anna is one of my most favorite characters I've ever come across. She is so incredibly relatable, and has a multitude of endearing quirks that make her even more likable. Her inner monologue is something that I got such a kick out of. I laughed so loudly throughout this book that I'm pretty sure my poor cat is scarred for life (he likes to sit on the arm of my chair, and he found himself alarmed several times by my loud outbursts!).

Anna is complimented well by Etienne, who is the swoon-worthy boy with the English accent that quickly becomes Anna's best friend/love interest. This guy has serious charisma. He's so much better than I thought he would be. The time that Anna and Etienne spend together is so real, and you can actually feel the tension and chemistry between them. Their love story is among my top favorite love stories of all time.

The other friendships that Anna forges while in Paris are also quite memorable. Her entire group of friends are entertaining and diverse, and I found myself so swept up in all of them. They had their arguments and times of tension, but that's reality. Real friends stand by you, and Anna's friends are a true example of that.

I'm so glad I took my friend's advice and picked this book up, because Anna and the French Kiss turned out to be such a delightful read about friendship, first love and self discovery. This is a book I will definitely be re-reading whenever I feel I need a good dose of amusement and happiness.  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

In My Mailbox (7)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. It's a fun way to exhibit the books we recently acquired. =)



*All titles link to goodreads*

Bought & Reviewed:

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

-This book was so fantastic! It's definitely one of my favorite contemporaries I've ever read. I urge you to read it. My review can be found here.

Bought:

Steampunk Poe -Illustrated by Zdenko Basic & Manuel Sumberac

-My best friend Sarah @ The Book Life spied this while we were at the bookstore a couple of days ago and I went crazy over it! I am a huge fan of Edgar Allan Poe so naturally I just had to buy this. This book is basically just some of Poe's best stories and poems with amazing Steampunk illustrations that go along with the theme of what the stories and poems are about. Here are a couple of pictures of the illustrations:


This one is from the poem The Raven.

This is from The Masque of the Red Death (My favorite story!).

What's in your mailbox? =)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Review: Deadly Cool (Deadly Cool #1) by Gemma Halliday

Published: 10-11-2011
Format: Paperback, 303 pages
Genre: YA Fiction, Mystery
Series: Deadly Cool
My rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis from goodreads:

Hartley Grace Featherstone is having a very bad day. First she finds out that her boyfriend is cheating on her with the president of the Herbert Hoover High School Chastity Club. Then he's pegged as the #1 suspect in a murder. And if that weren't enough, now he's depending on Hartley to clear his name. Seriously? Not cool.

But as much as Hartley wouldn't mind seeing him squirm, she knows he's innocent, and she's the only one who can help him. Along with her best friend, Sam, and the school's resident Bad Boy, Chase, Hartley starts investigating on her own. But as the dead bodies begin to pile up, the mystery deepens, the suspects multiply, and Hartley begins to fear that she may be the killer's next victim.


This was such a fun and entertaining read. Gemma Halliday combines suspense, mystery, humor, and teen angst to produce a great book that's hard to put down. This book had me from the very first page, which sent me into fits of laughter, and it only got better from there!

The main character, Hartley, is hard not to instantly like. The book starts off with her playing the role of detective to find out if the news of her boyfriend's infidelity is true. After she connects the dots she makes an even more startling discovery, which leads to her boyfriend, Josh, being named a prime suspect for a murder. She knows that even though Josh is a cheating douchebag, he's not a killer. Hartley then winds up with the daunting task of trying to prove Josh's innocence, because she seems to be the only one who can. This proves just how good of a person Hartley is and it's one of the things I really liked about her. Even though Josh betrayed her trust, she's still able to overcome her negative feelings towards him because she wants to do the right thing.

Hartley and her investigative team were awesome. Her best friend, Sam, complimented Hartley's character perfectly and she proved to be a great best friend to have. The shenanigans that these two got into was priceless, and their attempt at stealth on several occasions had me cracking up. Chase was a great edition to the story and team as well. He has a very upfront sort of personality that I admire. He's also rocking somewhat of a bad boy vibe that makes it hard for a girl to resist (I know I wouldn't resist!). His ability to fluster Hartley on several occasions was certainly proof of that. I couldn't help but grin when they were around eachother. It'll be interesting to see where things lead next between them, and I'm excited to see more of Chase in the next book.

I had a fun time trying to guess who the killer was throughout this story, because believe me, there are a fair amount of suspects to chose from. I couldn't read fast enough towards the conclusion of the book once the identity and motives of the killer were discovered. I am really excited to see what Hartley will get herself into next in the second book in this series, because I'm definitely hooked!

Review: Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Format: Paperback, 281 pages
Genre: YA Contemporary
My rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis from goodreads:

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 of 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 starting position... suddenly she's hoping he'll see her as more than just a teammate.

The day I got this book in the mail I sat down and read it in one sitting because I just could NOT put it down. I can only think of one other instance where I've done that. So, obviously I'm incredibly in love with this book! This is definitely one of my favorite contemporaries I've ever read. The storyline is believable and there is both a serious and hilarious tone to the book. The characters are so likable and fantastic as well. Plus, there's a ton of hot boys in this book, and you can never go wrong there!

Jordan Woods is captain and quarterback of her high school football team, where she's a star. In this book, she struggles to overcome the obstacles of being a female in the world of football and she strives to be taken seriously in the college football scene. She's always dreamed of playing college ball, but she soon realizes that not everyone is as open minded as the many who support her in her home town. Along with this dilemma, Jordan also finds herself developing feelings for the new guy in town who joins her team and threatens to take her position as quarterback. Things are complicated, to say the least.

I really liked Jordan! I had such a great time seeing things through her eyes. She's a very confident and capable young woman who has an impressive amount of determination. She's also quite funny. I envied her close relationships with several of her male teammates. I love how protective and supportive they were of her. I especially adore her best friend, Sam Henry (A.K.A. Henry, since everyone calls eachother by their last name in this book. Which is something I found charming). Henry was so awesome, with his sense of humor and solid friendship. He cracked me up in this book. He is a great guy to have around for sure and I couldn't get enough of the moments when him and Jordan were together.

This book is so much more than you could imagine. There are real issues going on throughout the story that are tense and heartbreaking at times. This is an emotional tale of new love, disappointment and discovery. Also, let me point out that you don't have to be a fan of football to like this book. I know pretty much nothing about the sport and found that my lack of knowledge didn't have any effect on my absolute fondness for this story. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a read that will leave you smiling and content. I am definitely a fan of author Miranda Kenneally now and I will gladly read anything else she writes.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Published: 9-27-2011
Format: Hardcover, 418 pages
Genre: Paranormal/Fantasy YA Fiction
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
My rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis from goodreads:

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?


Laini Taylor has quickly become one of my favorite authors! In Daughter of Smoke and Bone, she weaves a very intricate and dynamic story that will have you on the edge of your seat until you reach the very end. The other world that is described seemed so vivid and I could picture everything that happened so perfectly. This book is also beautifully written and unbelievably descriptive, and the premise is so unique. The characters in this book are divine as well. This entire book is magical.

Seventeen year old Karou doesn't exactly lead the most "normal" life. She pretty much has two separate identities: Art student in Prague by day and errand runner for a horned beast named Brimstone by night-- for whom she collects teeth. I really felt for Karou. She lives her life in a state of emptiness that she can't quite put her finger on. She has no clue where she's from or who her parents were, only that she was taken in by Brimstone and him and a few other non-humans (A.K.A. Chimaera) are the only family she's ever known. I really got so caught up in Karou and her journey throughout this book. Learning about other worlds and races was so incredibly fascinating. Her Chimaera family was so great, all of them so unique. I relished the moments when she stepped through the portal into "elsewhere". I was also in shock and awe every time Karou would stumble across vital bits and pieces of information she had yearned to discover all her life. Believe me, there are so many revelations and discovered truths that will leave your head spinning!

At the heart of this tale is Karou and Akiva. Oh, Akiva........what an experience he was! Some of the moments that he shared with Karou just about set me on fire. This man is, for lack of a better word, HOT. Once we get to know him he proves to be filled with a passion and fire that is irresistible, especially to Karou. Delving into the unexplainable connection that these two share was both beautiful and heartwrenching. You can't help but crave more of them.

This book is filled with an almost palpable intensity at times, but some of the lighter moments that I really quite enjoyed were when Karou and her best friend Zuzana were hanging out. In fact, I can guarantee that pretty much every time I would burst out laughing hysterically, Zuzana was always involved somehow. I hope there's more of her in the next book. Only she can turn a widow's peak into a sexy, dirty and hilarious joke!

I feel like I'm not doing this book justice in this review, because the awesomeness of this story has scrambled my brain. But please take my word for it when I say that you NEED to read this book. It will far exceed your expectations! I can't wait to read the next installment of this series and see what's next for Karou, because the ending of this book left me with so many more questions. But I am sure that whatever happens next will be equally as enchanting and clever!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

In My Mailbox (6)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. It's a fun way to exhibit the books we recently acquired. =)


*All titles link to goodreads*

Bought:

Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready
Shift (Shade #2) by Jeri Smith-Ready
Immortal by Gillian Shields
Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon
Deadly Cool by Gemma Halliday
Enthralled: Paranormal Diversions by Various Authors (some of my favorites!)

--I'm extremely excited to read all of these! Especially the Shade series. I have heard so many wonderful things about it, one of those things being a hot Scottish boy-- count me in!

Bought & Read:


--This book was so amazing! Definitely one of my favorites in this series. My review can be found HERE.

What's in your mailbox? =)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Review: Last Breath (The Morganville Vampires, #11) by Rachel Caine

Published: 11-1-2011
Format: Hardcover, 335 pages
Genre: Paranormal YA Fiction
Series: The Morganville Vampires
My rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis from goodreads:

With her boss preoccupied researching the Founder Houses in Morganville, student Claire Danvers is left to her own devices when she learns that three vampires have vanished without a trace. She soon discovers that the last person seen with one of the missing vampires is someone new to town—a mysterious individual named Magnus. After an uneasy encounter with Morganville’s latest resident, Claire is certain Magnus isn’t merely human. But is he a vampire—or something else entirely?

This book was perhaps one of my favorite books in this series. This is book eleven in The Morganville Vampire series, and it seemed to me that there was a much bigger creep-factor to the story than I ever remember there being in any of the other books--which is great, because I love being creeped out! This book also made me more emotional than any of the previous ones. I laughed, fretted, gasped, and even cried a little (which is something I pretty much NEVER do). Yes people, it was THAT awesome! If you haven't started this series yet, I highly recommend it! You would think that because this series is already eleven books in, that Rachel Caine would be running out of things to make happen in the town of Morganville. But no, the plot twists and story lines are as original as ever, and the characters are just as fantastic.

This book is mostly from the point of view of Claire, one of my favorite protagonists of all time. But we also get the perspectives of Amelie, Shane, Michael and Eve. At first I wasn't sure if it was completely necessary to have so many P.O.V.'s, but now I feel like it was important to be able to witness things through the eyes of these other characters so you can be more in tune with the story.

There are so many characters in this book that I love, and ones that I also love to hate! Claire was great, and she's just as smart and tough as ever. Her and Shane still have me rooting for them, after all this time. Speaking of Shane, we get to see a side of him that we've never seen before, and he just about broke my heart! Eve and Michael are fantastic as well. They are definitely the kinds of friends that I would want in my corner. Myrnin.......oh Myrnin, how I love thee. I don't want to give anything away, but in this book he shows us just how much he cares for Claire. Under all that crazy, he's a big softy, and I love it. Amelie and Oliver of course are the characters that I love to hate. They will continue to make you feel conflicted as to how you feel about them. One minute they're acting like emotionless and lethal creatures, and the next minute they do something that reveals their humanity.

I really can't say too much about the things that creeped and skeeved me out in this book without revealing everything, but I will say that Magnus (as described in the synopsis) is eighteen different kinds of freaky. With him comes an introduction to a whole new species of monster. The situations that Claire and her friends find themselves in while this character was involved are unforgettable and we have definitely not seen the last of this guy. The end of the book leans a little on the cliffhanger side and I'm certain that the next book will definitely be one heck of a ride--I can't wait!  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Review: Anna Dressed In Blood (Anna, #1) by Kendare Blake

Published: 8-30-2011
Format: Hardcover, 316 Pages
Genre: Paranormal YA Fiction
Series: Anna
Rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis from goodreads:

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.
 
So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.
 
When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.
 
But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas's life.

This book was superb in so many ways! I have to admit that I wasn't sure how much I would enjoy reading from a male point of view, because I tend to relate more to female characters, but I had no problems at all-- in fact, I found it refreshing to have a male's take on things. There were so many great elements to this book: ghosts, romance, action, gore, creepiness and humor. The author does a great job of explaining things and piecing together the story. This book also reminds me a lot of my all-time favorite television show, Supernatural, which is a plus for me!

Cas is a great main character. He's funny, sarcastic, badass and smart. He has embraced his calling as a ghost hunter, and he's extremely focused and passionate about his duties. So of course when Cas learns of a ghost in Ontario called Anna Dressed in Blood that viciously murders anyone who sets foot in her house, he straps on his deadly athame and travels to Thunder Bay with his mother to rid the town of her presence. But when Cas finds himself thrown into a situation with Anna, he is surprised when she spares his life, on more than one occasion. As Cas and Anna develop an inexplicable bond, he finds himself torn between what's right and wrong when the pressure to kill Anna becomes more urgent. Because there is more to Anna's tragic story than anyone can imagine, and when Cas uncovers the shocking/horrific details of Anna's murder he realizes that although she has taken many lives, she is also a victim herself and needs to be saved.

Anna is a constant presence in this book and you can't help but feel for her, despite the heinous things she's done. What's interesting is that she's part monster, and part regular girl; which makes the relationship she develops with Cas both beautiful and heartbreaking. She also becomes an important ally to Cas and his friends when they find themselves dealing with another malevolent force in town (which is, by the way, really freaking creepy!).

The surprising friendships that Cas forges were a great addition to the story as well. I was pleasantly surprised by Carmel. She proved to be a very loyal and understanding friend. Thomas, the geeky telepath, was quite a trip also, along with his colorful grandfather. Cas' mother was outstanding. She's a very strong woman and highly supportive. I can't wait to see more of these characters!

I'm eager to see what happens with Cas, Anna and their team of "ghostbusters" because this book ended with surprise, triumph and devastation. I'm sure the next book will be filled with just as many interesting things. I can't wait!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Review: Bitten (Dangerous Girls & The Taste of Night) by R.L. Stine

Published: 9-1-2010
Format: Paperback, 484 pages
Genre: YA Paranormal Fiction
Series: Dangerous Girls
My rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Synopsis from goodreads:

You'll love them—to death.

Twin sisters Destiny and Livvy Weller return home from summer vacation with a dark secret . . . and an inhuman desire to drink blood. What have they become? Can they ever turn back? As their deadly secret becomes harder to keep, more questions arise and loyalties are tested. And as one sister descends into darkness, the other must find a way to save her—and herself. Who will live to see the glow of the next full moon? Which sister will survive?

In Dangerous Girls and Dangerous Girls #2: The Taste of Night, published together in Bitten, bestselling author R.L. Stine explores the dark creatures of the night.

Let me just say that R.L. Stine is the one who sparked my passion for reading several years ago, and for that I thank him! When I was younger I couldn't get enough of his Goosebumps and Fear Street books. So when I bought this book, I was feeling nostalgic and eager to channel my inner twelve-year-old again. I read this book before Halloween, because when I think of this holiday, I think of R.L. Stine. This book is actually two books combined into one. The first book is called Dangerous Girls and the second is called The Taste of Night (Dangerous Girls #2).

Twin sisters Destiny and Livvy Weller come back from summer camp very different. They have these unexplained bite marks on their necks, things start happening to them that they don't understand, and an attractive boy named Renz is following them. Not to mention, their town is buzzing with rumors of vampires and vampire hunters. Things become even more frightening when Destiny and Livvy's friends start turning up murdered. So, basically in the first part of this book the twins are trying to figure out who they can trust and what they can do to stop their impending transformation into full-fledged vampires. The end of the first book, Dangerous Girls, leaves us with some surprising revelations and questions. I pretty much saw certain things coming and the plot twists that were intended to be shocking didn't have that exact effect on me, but I still appreciated them and was able to enjoy the story.

The Taste of Night picks up where the first book left off. I don't want to give too much away, but I will say that Livvy's character ticked me off more in this part of the story. She's selfish and reckless and I didn't much care for her. Her actions and secrets in the first book that were later revealed proved just how self-involved she is. She pretty much leaves her sister and entire family in the lurch with everything. But in the end, she somewhat redeems herself and she's there when it counts. The ending of the story isn't really a cliffhanger, but it left me wanting just a little more. However, it was still an acceptable ending.

I recommend this book to those who are fans of R.L. Stine and his writing style. He definitely gave an interesting take on vampires and the plot twists are enough to keep you interested.

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