Sunday, February 28, 2010

Review: Mariana by Susanna Kearsley

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley
2009 Allison & Busby Limited (originally published 1994 by Corgi Books)
Softcover Edition
395 pages
Genre: Fiction/Romance

4/5 Stars

Summary (Press Release)
The first time Julia Beckett saw Greywethers she was only five, but she knew at once that it was her house. Now, twenty-five years late, by some strange chance, she has just become the new owner of the sixteenth-century Wilshire farmshouse. But Julia soon begins to suspect that more than coincidence has brought her there. As if Greywethers were a portal between worlds, she finds herself abruptly transported back in time. Stepping into seventeenth-century England, Julia becomes Mariana, a beautiful young woman struggling against danger and treachery, and battling a forbidden love for Richard de Mornay, handsome forbear of the present squire of Crofton Hall. Each time Julia travels back, she becomes more enthralled with the past, falling ever deeper in love with Richard...until one day she realizes Mariana's life threatens to eclipse her own - and that she must find a way to lay the past to rest, or risk losing a chance for love in her own time.

My Thoughts
Time-travelling books with a spice of romance and treachery are books that I truly enjoy. There are some books that tend to grab you right from the beginning and don't let you go until the very end, and this was one of those books for me. I found the storyline truly engaging, the characters were quirky and interesting, and the hint of scandal and treachery was fascinating.

All of the elements were present in this novel. You had the sixteenth century house, the hint of a ghost or two, missing relatives and documents from an old family, hints of treachery from the past, elements of reincarnation, and lost souls trying to find each other over the years. If you throw in an evil relative or two, hints of treachery, and unhappy young lovers, you have everything you need to set you up for a good old soppy love story/suspense/mystery/ghost story with a time travelling element thrown in.

What I really liked about the book is how seamlessly the time-travel element was sewn into the novel. It seemed to flow from past to present with an ease that made the storyline very easy to follow and didn't disrupt it at all. The author was very good at making us see how Mariana's life was slowly taking over Julia's present life and how easily we can lose ourselves in the temptation to live in the past. It took a lot of courage for Julia to resolve Mariana's fate and get on with her present-day life as she actually lived Mariana's life as Mariana and go to know and love the people who were alive in Mariana's time period.

Another thing I liked about this novel was the twist at the end. While some of the events were bittersweet in Mariana's time, I was really happy at the way things turned out in the end. It was a little sappy, but then I can be somewhat sappy myself at times so this really satisfied me. I wanted things to end satisfactorily this time and they did.

If you're in the mood for an engaging story that spans centuries, with some interesting characters and plot twists, a light romance, than you will truly enjoy this book.

Review: Lone Star Legend by Gwendolyn Zepeda

Lone Star Legend
by Gwendolyn Zepeda
2010 Grand Central Publishing
342 pages
Softcover Edition
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

4/5 Stars

Summary (Press Release)
If she can find the time, Sandy Saavedra will stop to breathe. New management has turned work upside down and her father's upcoming marriage - something he forgot to mention to Sandy - means there's no peace at home, either. But it's okay. No matter what's thrown her way, Sandy can deal. Because Sandy has a secret, and his name is Tio Jaime.

A short drive out of Austin delivers Sandy into the wide-open spaces of the Hill Country, to the front porch of grandfatherly hermit Tio Jaime. There, in the company of pepper plants, a shaggy dog, and fresh squeezed lemonade, the old man imparts down-to-earth advice. Overbearing boss? Work smarter; she'll leave you alone. Disrespectful boyfriend? Pack your bags; a real woman tolerates only a real man. His simple perspective reminds Sandy she can make her own choices - something she's been forgetting lately.

Feeling inspired, Sandy posts their chats online. But as she introduces the world to her personal Eden, her own life heads straight to hell...

My Thoughts
This book turned out to be a wonderful surprise and I enjoyed it tremendously. The writing was crisp and clear, with many funny and humouristic moments between the characters, the details and descriptions were rich, with plenty of emotional scenes. All of this combined together to produce a fairly good page-turner.

What particularly intrigued me about this book was the debate about anonymity in the blogging world. Sandy had a personal blog where she vented her fears, frustrations, doubts, and angst about her personal life, writing things she really shouldn't have exposed to the public, all under the guise of thinking she was writing anonymously. Some of the things she wrote, while readers were understanding and sympathetic, were hardly flattering. As she became a prolific writer for the new entertainment site she worked for, she let information drop that linked her to her blog site and people began to understand she wrote both sites. All of this began to explode and she hurt everyone around her. I couldn't help but think of all the blog sites that proliferate today, many who write under the guise of anonymity and who probably write things they shouldn't under that mistaken guise, and I often wonder how long before we start to hear about lawsuits and other such things happening to bloggers. My mother always said to beware about what you write and about what you say as both could come back to haunt you. She would definitely be right about Sandy in this novel.

I really admired Tio Jaime as the sudden fame really did not go to his head as it did the others. He was Sandy's rock through everything and his words of wisdom became an instant hit with viewers on Sandy's website. Sandy however, has not been able to convince Tio to sign the release form, but posts his interviews anyways. The nagging seed of dishonour continues to grow, but she ignores it until she can't ignore it anymore and has to deal with the consequences of her actions.

I also admire Sandy as she manages to keep her integrity despite all of the fame she is exposed to. Although she does some things she is not proud of, she manages to get it all under control without lowering herself to the crass level of some of her colleagues and with her head held high. It was nice to see her develop into a self-confident young woman who came through an ordeal with her morals and integrity intact, and one who learned from the many mistakes she made.

I really enjoyed the many blog posts and comments that were included in this novel. They were quirky and fun and very enjoyable. They added a certain something to the novel that made it more interesting. They also showed how scary some of the readers can be, and how scary it can be for celebrities out there in the world. I also think there was a message in here to be leary of blogging; do it for fun, for a business, but beware the idea of anonymity as it does not exist.

Filled with memorable characters, and an interesting storyline, this is a novel with a message.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren. It is a weekly meme highlighting the books we have received in the past week either as review copies, book we bought, books we received as gifts, or books we borrowed from the library. Here are the ones I added this past week.

Books I received for review:

1) City of Night by Michelle West

City of Night is the long-awaited second novel in The House War, the story Michelle West's avid fans have been waiting to read for over a decade. In this novel, times have becomes even more desperate within Averlaan's hundred holdings. Street children have been disappearing, theft and violence have increased, and Jewel and her den are finding it hard to make ends meet. Rath, who continues as their protector, does not heed the the warnings of the seer dreams and has become involved in something dangerous. As he learns a deadly secret, he must join with the mages of the Order of Knowledge to wage a war against a nearly unstoppable foe. He must also risk making contact with a sister he swore he would never speak to again in order to protect all he holds dear. For only within the well-guarded walls of the Terafin manse will Jewel and her comrades stand any chance of escaping the unnatural forces reaching out to claim them...

2) Waking Up in the Land of Glitter
by Kathy Cano-Murillo

One ill-fated evening, Star jeopardizes her family's business, her relationship with
her boyfriend, and her future career. To redeem herself, she agrees to participate in a national craft competition, teaming up with her best friend - Ofelia - a secretly troubled mother whose love for crafting borders on obsession; and local celebrity Chloe Chavez - a determined television personality with more than one skeleton in her professional closet. If these unlikely allies can set aside their differences, they'll find strength they never knew they had, and learn that friendship, like crafting, is truly an art form.

3) O'Shaughnessey: The Faerie Circle by Jeremy McGuire

The second story about the intrepid leprechaun, O'Shaughnessey, takes up where the first left off, that is, with Bobby Mahoney grown and with children of his own.

Books I Bought
1) Revelation by C.J. Ransom

Books I Borrowed from the Library
1) The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum

2) The Keepsake by Tess Gerritsen

3) Stolen Magic by Mary Jo Putney - The story of Simon Malmain, the Earl of Falconer.

4) The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Finds

Friday Finds is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading, whereby you talk about a book or books that you have discovered in the past week that you are excited about.

I saw this book at the bookstore for the first time, even went back three times to look at it, and although I didn't buy it (huge regret), it is definitely at the top of my list for the next time I am at the bookstore.

by S. J. Parris

Giordano Bruno was a monk, scientist, poet, and magician on the run from the Roman Inquisition on charges of heresy for his belief that the Earth orbits the sun and that the universe is infinite. This alone could have got him burned at the stake, but he was also a student of occult philosophies and magic.

Bruno's pursuit of this rare knowledge brings him to London, where he is unexpectedly recruited by Queen Elizabeth I and is sent undercover to Oxford University on the pretext of a royal visitation. Officially Bruno is to take part in a debate on the Copernican theory of the universe; unofficially, he is to find out whatever he can about a Catholic plot to overthrow the queen.

His mission is thrown dramatically off course by a series of grisly murders and a spirited and beautiful young woman. As Bruno begins to discover a pattern to these killings, he realizes that no one at Oxford is who he seems to be. Bruno must attempt to outwit a killer who appears obssessed with the boundary between truth and heresy.

Doesn't it sound fantastic?

Friday Follow

Midday Escapades, One 2 Try, and Hearts Make Families are the hosts of the weekly Friday Follow, a meme celebrating a great way to discover new blogs, meet new friends, and find out some interesting and fascinating things that are out there on the blogging world. If you are interested, click on one of the host sites above, sign up, and have some fun.

You may follow as many blogs as you like

Follow the Friday Follow hostesses in the first three slots.

Follow back when you get a new follower through Friday Follow.

Comment on the blogs telling them you're from Friday Follow.

Have fun, fun, fun, fun!!!!!!!!!!
Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine that features upcoming new releases that are being anxiously awaited. Fever Dream is for me and Knightly Academy is for my son. Happy reading everyone!

Fever Dream
by Preston & Child

At the old family manse in Louisiana, Special Agent Pendergast is putting to rest long-ignored possessions reminiscent of his wife Helen's tragic death, only to make a stunning - and dreadful - discovery. Helen had been mauled by an unusually large and vicious lion while they were big-game hunting in Africa. But now, Pendergast learns that her rifle - her only protection from the beast - had been deliberately loaded with blanks. Who could have wanted Helen dead...and why?

With Lieutenant Vincent D'Agosta's assistance, Pendergast embarks on a quest to uncover the mystery of his wife's murder. It is a journey that sends him deep into her past where he learns much that Helen herself had wished to keep hidden. Helen Pendergast had nursed a secret obssession with the famed naturalist-painter John James Audubon, in particular a long-lost painting of his known as the Black Frame.

As Pendergast probes more deeply into the riddle - the answer to which is revealed in a night of shocking violence, deep in the Louisiana bayou - he finds himself faced with an even greater question: who was the woman he married?

Knightly Academy

by Violet Haberdasher

Henry Grim has never been in trouble for borrowin a sword from the headmaster's private stores. He has never discovered a forbidden room in a foreign castle, or received a death threat over breakfast.

All Henry knows is life as an orphaned servant boy at the Midsummer School, bullied by the priveleged sons of the aristocracy. But all that changes when Henry is the first commoner to pass the entrance exam for the prestigious Knightly Academy, where he will be trained as a modern-day knight alongside the cleverest and bravest fourteen-year-olds in the country.

Henry and his roommates, two other students from decidedly un-knightly backgrounds, are not exactly greeted with open arms by their classmates. In fact, it soon becomes apparent that someone is going to great lengths to sabotage the trios chances of becoming knights. But Henry soon learns that there is more at stake than his future at Knightly, and only he can sound the alarm. Is anyone going to believe a former servant on the brink of expulsion?

Brimming with wry humour, page-turning suspense, and surprise twists, this first adventure in a memorable new series is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Review: Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning

Dreamfever (Book 4)
by Karen Marie Moning
2009 Delacorte Press
390 Pages
Hardcover Edition
Genre: Paranormal

4.5/5 Stars

Summary (Press Release)
MacKayla Lane lies naked on the cold stone floor of a church, at the mercy of the erotic Fae master she once swore to kill. Far from home, unable to control her sexual hungers, MacKayla is now fully under the Lord Master's spell. In this stunning new novel, the wall between human and Fae worlds have come crashing down. And as mac fights for survival on Dublin's battle-scarred streets, she will embark on the darkest - and most erotically charged - adventure of her life.

He has stolen her past, but MacKayla will never allow her sister's murderer to take her future. Yet even the uniquely gifted sidhe-seer is no match for the Lord Master, who has unleashed an insatiable sexual craving that consumes Mac's every thought - and thrusts her into the seductive realm of two very dangerous men, both of whom she desires but dares not trust.

As the enigmatic Jericho Barrons and the sensual Fae prince V'lane vie for her body and soul, as she rallies the sidhe-seers to fight an impossible battle and the power of the Dark Book weaves its annihilating path through the city, Mac's greatest enemy delivers a final challenge...

It's an invitation Mac cannot refuse, one that sends her racing home to Georgia, where an even darker threat awaits. With her parents missing and the lives of her loved ones under siege, Mac is about to come face-t0-face with a soul-shattering truth - about herself and about the world she thought she knew.

My Thoughts
I can't say enough about this series. Karen Marie Moning has been a favourite of mine ever since I discovered the MacKeltar's years ago and she definitely does not disappoint in this fourth instalment of the MacKayla Lane series. I was enthralled, mesmerized, and kept flipping through the pages as quickly as I could. I found the plot intriguing, dark, secretive, and somewhat creepy as Ms. Moning's descriptive narrative made me easily imagine a world that was falling apart, where light and dark fought constantly, and human and monsters mixed unexpectedly, uneasily, and unknowingly. The heroes and heroines are in constant motion and in constant danger as they continue to fight the Unseelie hosts that are overtaking the world all in search of the Dark Book, a living thing capable of either imprisoning the Unseelie or destroying the world.

While I found the book absolutely mesmerizing, I also have found the series completely frustrating. It's amazing that you can enjoy reading something so much, yet want to throw the book against the wall in frustration at the end and scream. There are several reasons for this. First of all, while I have enjoyed the plot, unless you have an amazing ability to remember little facts, there are so many things happening and so many plot threads occurring that it's sometimes hard to keep track of everything that is going on. I would be happily reading along and then wham!, an event from book 1 gets brought up and it happens to be really important. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, and a lot of interactions between these characters that occur. It can be dizzying at times. I think the thing that frustrated me the most was the way the books have ended; the absolute shock of the ending in this book and in the last one was unexpected and incredibly frustrating. And now I have to wait until Book 5 to find out what happens. I can't say anything more here or I will inadvertently give away some spoilers and I don't want to do that, but suffice it to say that Book 5 better come out soon. Ms. Moning has continually promised on her blog that everything will be resolved satisfactorily in the end so I (and I'm sure all of her fans) will be holding her to that.

I think another thing that frustrates me in this novel is Jericho Barrons and V'Lane. I really am not sure what to think of Barrons, although he does seem to loosen up a bit more in this novel, just not enough to satisfy. We only learn a few more tidbits of information about him than we knew before and although I am intrigued, I am still not sure whether he is a good guy or bad guy. Would I still like Barrons and Mac to get together though? Absolutely!

Mac has grown up considerably throughout the novels and I love the fact that she still acts silly on occasion and wants to be a girly-girl. The witty and quirky dialogue is fascinating and downright funny at times. Mac is often impatient and has much to learn, but that just makes her more interesting as she is not perfect and makes many mistakes; we learn right along with her.
She is tougher and more dangerous and when she comes fully into her powers, she will be a force to be reckoned with.

Dreamfever was an enjoyable read and I have enjoyed this series very much. With the shocking ending of Dreamfever however, I hope that Ms. Moning plans to publish Book 5 very soon as I am definitely looking forward to reading the conclusion to what I consider to be a great series.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Musing Mondays: Keeping Books

Musing Mondays is hosted by Just One More Page and today's theme is about what you do with all those books you collect over the years.

Do you keep all the books you buy over the years? Do you just keep the ones you really enjoy or the ones you have a particular fondness? Do you keep certain series or do you keep them? What do you do with them if you don't keep them?

I can't actually remember a time when I didn't have books in my life or when I didn't get a thrill from either receiving or buying books. Going to the bookstore or to the library was always exciting and I will admit that I still get excited when I see a new book I've been dying to read on the bookshelf. My husband just rolls his eyes, but has learned wisdom over the years and says absolutely nothing now. It must be especially trying for him as my son has developed the same passion for reading that I have and my daughter is tripping merrily along the same path too. I can't imagine what he now thinks when they both clamour to go to Chapter's instead of Home Depot, and I don't ask.

As for me, I have a difficult time giving up my books. A few years ago, I donated a huge stack of them to local charities and almost cried, but it had to be done as we were moving again (my husband is in the military). I receive a lot of my books as a book reviewer and I find those books easier to give away than books I buy personally for some reason. I just don't want to be the
person who has books in every room of the house when I grow older and I don't want to be the person my grandkids shake their heads sadly over when they send me off to the retirement home one day and have to clean my house and it's full of books and that's it.

I host giveaways for my students, will hopefully host giveaways on my blog one day very soon, and will continue to donate books to charity. I will keep those old favourites that I am loathe to part with and that I know my children will want to read one day. And I will continue to frequent
the local library and continue to donate money to them as I pay my overdue fines as I return yet another overdue book because I have taken out too many.

Happy reading everyone!

It's Monday! What are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by One Person's Journey Through A World of Books that highlights the books you read the week before, the books you are currently reading, and the books you are expecting to read in the week ahead. It's a great way to visit other blogs and see what other people are reading; you can discover new books, new authors, and new friends. Go explore, have fun, and find some new and interesting books!!!!

Books I Read:
1) A Kiss of Fate by Mary Jo Putney

2) Kitty's House of Horrors by Carrie Vaughn - Review copy

3) Gifted: Better Late Than Never by Marilyn Kaye

4) Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning - Review forthcoming

Currently Reading
1) Marianna by Susanna Kearsley

2) Lone Star Legend - Review Copy sent to me

To Be Read Next Week:
1) The Moses Stone - This is the third week I've put this off but no longer.

2) Beautiful Creatures - I had to put this on a shelf last week due to a review copy I had to read.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Book Review: Kitty's House of Horrors by Carrie Vaughn

Kitty's House of Horrors (Book 7)
by Carrie Vaughn
2010 Grand Central Publishing
294 Pages
Softcover Edition
Genre: Urban Paranormal

4.5/5 Stars

Summary (Press Release)
Talk radio host and werwolf Kitty Norville has agreed to appear on TV's first all-supernatural reality show. She's expecting cheesy competititions and manufactured drama starring shapeshifters, vampires, and psychics. But what begins as a publicity stunt will turn into a fight for her life.

The cast members, including Kitty, arrive at the remote mountain lodge where the show is set. As soon as filming starts, violence erupts and Kitty suspects that the show is a cover for a nefarious plot. Then the cameras stop rolling, cast members start dying, and Kitty realizes she and her monster housemates are ironically the ultimate prize in a very different game. Stranded with no power, no phones, and no way to know who can be trusted, she must find a way to defeat the evil closing in...before it kills them all.

My Thoughts
This is the first Kitty Norville book that I have read and I was very impressed. I really wasn't sure what to expect, and at first it sounded like the usual urban paranormal fantasy whereby you gather a group of supernatural beings, put them in a remote location, and see what happens. Luckily, there was nothing usual about this novel, as with a dose favouring 'And Then There Were None' by Agatha Christie thrown into the mix, and many plot twists and turns, the novel takes on an ominous and dark tone, with Kitty thrown right into the middle of it.

The tensions between the characters begin fairly early in the novel, particularly between Grant and Anastasia, who both believe and suspect that there is something sinister about the whole thing and wonder if it has anything to do with the Long Game and the dangerous vampire Roman. Roman is slowly consolidating his power base and the supernatural world is becoming worried at his growing power.

Then one morning, the vampires' companion is found dead, three of the production assistants are found murdered, and Kitty and Jeremy discover a silver fence built around the compound effectively shutting them in. When they are fired at by someone using silver bullets, they realize that someone is hunting them down; further traps are discovered set up around the lodge that has everyone uneasy and worried. Kitty, Tina, Grant, and everyone else must either band together to stop what is happening or risk their lives in the process.

Vaughn does an excellent job at weaving many of the plot lines together and picking up some darker plot lines that leave you wondering what is really going on. You learn more about Roman, Anastasia, Grant, the Long Game, prejudice against supernaturals, and other important plot details that hopefully will stretch into future books and it looks like the future will be pretty ominous for supernatural beings. Ms. Vaughn includes some witty and fun dialogue to break some of the tension and I really enjoyed her tongue-in-cheek humour and the ironic slant in many of the scenes. While the novel started more slowly and was more fun, the second half of the book was quite intense, with fear and destruction, death and pain, all leading up to the big conclusion as to why this was happening. The writing style was crisp and clear, with lots of details; I understood exactly what was happening at all times.

I really enjoyed Kitty's sarcastic humour. I found her to be strong, interesting, kind, difficult, always trying to balance out the human and the wolf part of her being. Seeing her lose control a couple of times made her seem more human to me, as odd as that sounds. Watching people around you die, it only seems natural that you'd get stretched to the breaking point and would want revenge. The rest of the characters were pretty odd too, but that is expected of a group of supernatural beings. Conrad is the only human of the lot, and while he annoyed me at first, he actually grew on me towards to end. His character is believable because I think many people would be skeptical at first if someone told them they were a werewolf or a vampire, even if they believed in something like that. To watch him struggle with coming to terms with that was fascinating.

Kitty's House of Horrors was a solid piece of work with plenty of action, twists, and turns, and suspense to satisfy any reader. Fortunately, it looks like there will be more books in the series as the ending suggests epic battles are on the way. I am looking forward to reading more about Kitty Norville in the future.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday Morning Meanderings

It was a pretty busy week at work last week and I'm sitting here this morning reflecting on life, wondering about things I haven't really thought about in years. Well, okay, it's been about a year since I've really reflected like this. And you may have guessed why I'm a little maudlin this morning: Yes, it's my BIRTHDAY! I find as I grow older, and I watch the numbers get bigger every year, I tend to get a little more reflective and look back upon the year to see what I've really accomplished and whether I've met my goals. Many people tend to do this on New Year's but I've always tended to do this on my birthday and I'm not always satisfied with the results. I've always tended to be a go-getter and a perfectionist and somewhat of a leader, but upon deciding where to go for my birthday dinner, my daughter decided we were going to go go Montana's and it was decided that's where we were going. And I thought to myself, how did that happen? Where are my leadership qualities, where is my aggressiveness when I've allowed a 7 year-old to decide where I wanted to go for MY birthday dinner? And now I'm of course rebelling and sitting here reflecting on that minute little episode, thinking, how in the world did that happen?

Are there other moms out there who feel the same way?

I've always wanted to be a writer, ever since I learned about the world of books. Spending hours in a library or bookstore was an amazing thing for me. And I've always been a closet writer. It took a lot of courage for me to even start a blog, and expose even my own reviews to everyone, as I've always done them anonymously. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? But upon all this reflection, I've decided it is now time to reassert what I think is missing from my life. Don't get me wrong though. I have a fantastic husband, wonderful children, a successful career, and a good life. But I need to write again. So, after all of these meanderings, I've decided to get out and buy some journals that I used to fill as a teenager and young adult (by the dozens) and start writing on a daily basis and see where it leads. It's almost like a hunger, if anyone knows what I mean!?

On a more positive note, I am taking my family out to see The Lightning Thief tonight at the theatre, a movie I WANT TO SEE. And they didn't even argue!!!!! Assertiveness training 101 is back in force. And Montana's will still be a good choice for dinner (lol).

Here's to a new birthday year, a quiet day spent reading, and to a truly loving husband who is taking the children out for the afternoon so I can have some time to myself on my birthday. Bless you love!!!!
Friday, February 19, 2010

Quick Review: Gifted: Better Late Than Never by Marilyn Kaye

Gifted: Better Late Than Never (Book 2 in the Gifted Series)
by Marilyn Kaye
2009 Kingfisher
Genre: Young Adult
Softcover Edition

3.5/5 Stars

Summary (Press Release)
Tough rebel Jenna Kelley secretly dreams of a conventional life with normal parents. When her mother ends up in rehab, Jenna is shocked by the sudden reappearance of her long-lost dad. Jenna can usually read anyone's mind, but this stranger is a total mystery. Before long, streetwise Jenna finds herself walking straight into danger...

Jenna has a secret. She's GIFTED. And she's not the only one...

My Thoughts
This is book 2 in the Gifted series by Marilyn Kaye, and events begin where book 1 left off with Tracy, Amanda, and Jenna continuing to meet in the Gifted class, trying to learn about and control their unique gifts.

Jenna's alcoholic mother enters a two-week rehabilitation program and Jenna is forced to live with foster parents during this time. To her secret delight, Tracey's parents had petitioned to have her come live with them during this time, and Jenna enters a loving environment such as she has never in her short life experienced. As she becomes comfortable with her surroundings, her dad re-enters her life and wakens her hope of living a normal family life with a proper home. But Tracey and others in her group become suspicious of Jenna's dad's motives and try to convince her to be more careful around him as she knows very little about him.

While I understood how Jenna felt in this situation, and how desperately she wanted to believe in her newfound father, I found the storyline a little too pat. It was very easy to see where it was going and how her father was especially interested in her mind-reading abilities. I wasn't at all suprised when I discovered the truth; to be honest, I was somewhat disappointed at the way the events unfolded. I felt unsatisfied with the ending to Jenna's storyline, but I do like how the group is learning to protect and care for each other.

What I did really like was Amanda's storyline. While I'm not a big fan of Amanda, she is the most interesting character. Amanda's inner struggle to re-discover her emotions and to admit she is a very sensitive and caring person was a very interesting storyline and I enjoyed it tremendously. To watch her go back and forth from the mean persona she needs to uphold her 'queenly' rank to the conflicting emotions she has about other people is fascinating. When she body snatches into another person and sees herself through other people's eyes, she is actually disgusted by her other-Amanda behaviour and is upset by how other people talk about her behind her back. I loved watching Amanda's character development and look forward to more in the next series of books. I think she is changed forever and I am keen to see where this goes.

There are some very interesting and quirky characters in this series and I hope to learn more about some of the other students in the gifted class. Emily and her ability to look into the future is featured in the next book, HERE TODAY, GONE TOMORROW. I look forward to reading the rest of the books in this series.

This series is appropriate for grade 7 and up.

Friday Follow!

Midday Escapades, Hearts Make Families, One 2 Try are the hosts of the sixth Friday Follow celebration. You can join them every Friday to get more blog followers or to see many new and interesting blogs. It is fun and a great way to meet fellow bloggers. For more information, click on one of the above hosts and come see what this is all about.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine highlighting upcoming new releases that are being eagerly anticipated.

Born of an ancient family of clairvoyants, Marley Millet finds that her psychic gift is both unsettling and incredibly dangerous. She never wants to 'travel' again - but the choice is not hers to make.

After glimpsing the fates of two missing New Orleans jazz singers, Marley knows she has no choice and must speak up before more women disappear. Flinty cop-turned-writer Gray Fisher, who interviewed both chanteuses before they vanished, takes a special interest in Marley's incredible story - and in Marley.

Scouring the wild clubs of the French Quarter, Marley and Gray make an unlikely and uneasy team. But their determinated is matched only by the heat between them, and the evil they have uncovered.

Released April 2010
Monday, February 15, 2010

Review: A Kiss of Fate by Mary Jo Putney

Kiss of Fate
by Mary Jo Putney
2004 Ballantine Books
345 pages
Hardcover Edition
Genre: Historical Romance

4/5 Stars

Summary (Press Release)
Laird of an ancient, powerful Scottish clan, Duncan Macrae is committed to ending the ceaseless strife between Scotland and England. But he also has other, secret powers - those of a Guardian, humans with mystical abilities to control nature's forces and see into the hearts of others. And from the moment he encounters the young and independent English widow Gwyneth Owens, his fiery spirit is irrevocably drawn to claim her as his own - a passion that will not only set his loyalty to his land against his sworn Guardian vows, but will also threaten everything he cherishes most.

Though Gwynne's father was a Guardian, she believes that she has inherited only her mother's beauty, not her father's power. Then one kiss from the dangerously alluring Laird of the Macraes ignites a hunger that shakes her to her soul - and reveals visions of a looming catastrophe that threatens England and Scotland both. Only by becoming Duncan's wife, and ultimately betraying the man she loves, can she avert disaster.

As destiny and two mighty nations clash, Gwynne and Duncan must push their powers and passions beyond the most forbidden limits if they are to save their love - and secure the future.

My Thoughts
I love the concept of The Guardians, who have supernatural powers, living among the mortals, and sworn to protect them. They do not interfere in the normal course of events, but do on occasion help control the outcome when a large number of people are threatened. Many years ago, Gwynne's father risked alienating his family by marrying a mundane, something that was discouraged as a Guardian man needed to marry an equally powerful woman in order to keep the bloodline strong and to balance his own powers. Gwynne, thinking she was born without any Guardian powers, develops her father's love of history and lore and academia, and is content with her life as the companion of her late husband's sister. The women of the Guardians are certainly as equally powerful as the men during this time period, and women who are born of the Guardians, but do not have any powers, are trained to be useful and lead fulfilling lives. This would not necessarily be true of all women during this time period, where many women died of disease, childbirth, famine, and labour.

When Duncan Macrae enters her life, she sees him and knows he is her destiny. However, at the first kiss, she sees images of blood and destruction and is completely horrified. She is shocked and reluctant to marry Duncan as she can't get the images out of her mind. The Guardian Council asks her to marry Duncan in order to keep an eye on him and prevent him from interfering in a future event that will have cataclysmic effects on both England and Scotland. She is the only one who can stop him and before everything is done, she may have to betray everything she holds dear.

While the concept of this novel is really exciting, I actually thought it didn't live up its promise. Gwynne and Duncan, while both passionate creatures, don't seem to connect in a way that kept me completely fascinated and enthralled. I was actually more infatuated with Simon and the events of the Jacobites and the magic than I was with the developing relationship between Gwynne and Duncan. I love romance and passion and it's not to say that there weren't great and unexpected moments in this novel, but not enough to keep me interested in their relationship. I thought the second half of the novel was much more interesting than the first half. The events leading up to the rebellion and the emotions underlying it brought a lot of tension that made the rebellion seem more real. It was easy to see how people were torn in two during this time and the difficult choices they had to make between the idea of freedom from England and the Hanoverians or to continue following what they perceived to be an unjust and weak English ruler; it tore families apart. It was a passionate and patriotic time period.

There are some amazing characters in this novel that I would love to read more about in future novels. I think there is a great story about Simon, Lord Falconer, a man who really interested me as he was mysterious and secretive. He is Duncan's best friend, and shows up at the most unexpected times. The dark, brooding, good-looking, mysterious type gets me every time. There is Duncan's fiery and passionate sister Jean, who led a group of Jacobites herself in the rebellion and narrowly avoided her own dark fate. She has her own untapped Guardian power that is just waiting to be developed. I loved her power and her strength and how she wasn't afraid of anything.

I really admire Mary Jo Putney as a writer and have enjoyed many of her books. While this novel had many wonderful elements, and I would definitely read more Guardian novels to find out more about Simon and Jean, this is not my favourite Mary Jo Putney novel.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

One Persons Journey Through a Whole of Books is the host of a weekly meme that highlights the books you have read in the past week, the books you are currently reading, and the books you have the intention of reading in the week ahead. It's a way to get a focus on the enormous pile of books that you may have waiting for you. It's also a really fun way to see what everyone else is reading and to see what is out there.

If you comment on at least 10 other blog sites, you can earn an entry to win one book from Bookjourney's amazing Prize Box. So what are you waiting for? Head on over, participate, meet new people, learn about new books, and have a lot of fun doing it!

Books read this week:
1) Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider by Ellen C. Maze - I loved this book. A whole new twist on the vampire world.

2) Graceling by Kristin Cashore - Review coming shortly.

Books currently reading:
1) Kitty's House of Horrors by Carrie Vaughn

2) A Kiss of Fate by Mary Jo Putney

Books to be read:
1) The Moses Stone by James Becker - Review copy sent in the mail. I had intended to read this but extra work at my job left this on the shelf this week.

2) Beautiful Creatures

3) Fire by Kristin Cashore

4) Lone Star Legend by Gwendolyn Zepeda

I think this may be somewhat ambitious as work has been rearing its ugly head and I've had to stay later this past week and more than likely next week too. The literacy committee is in full swing trying to get the grade 10 students fully prepared for the OSSLT test in April. It seems kind of ironic that literacy at work is interrupting my own exploration of literacy at home, doesn't it?
Sunday, February 14, 2010

Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

by Kristin Cashore
2008 Harcourt, Inc.
Hardcover Edition
Genre: Young Adult

4.5/5 Stars

Summary (Press Release)
In a world where people born with an extreme skill - called a Grace - are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of a skill even she despises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him.

Whens he first meets Prince Po, who is Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po's friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace - or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away...a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

My Thoughts
I loved this book! I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this book other than I had heard what a great read it was and that it was one of the best of 2009. Other than that I didn't know what it was about or what I was getting into. That's the best thing about it.

Graceling is about Katsa, the niece of King Randa who is one of the seven kings of the land. She has been Graced with the art of killing and from the time she was a small child, she has been summoned by the king to service him by threatening, torturing, or killing those who are not subservient to the throne.

Graced with an extraordinary strength and speed, her Grace is killing. Many people of the kingdom have different Graces, and are identified by the mismatched colour of their eyes.

On a secret mission to save the grandfather of a king, Katsa unexpectedly comes upon a personage who knows who she is, and is almost as strong as she is. Shocked and uncertain, she hesitates, and instead of killing him, she escapes. She encounters this young man again in her own kingdom and learns that he is Prince Po, the grandson of the man she has saved. The meeting between these two people will set off a chain of events that will rock the foundation of the world as they know it and threaten an already fragile political system. Between the two of them, they travel across the country to save a fellow countrywoman and to discover the fate of a kingdom where something terrible is occurring. It will change their lives.

At first I thought it would be a typical fantasy novel and while it is a fantasy novel, it is certainly not typical. It is so well-written and the narrative flows so smoothly that the author has a way of drawing you right into the novel. The plot moved so quickly, with many twists and turns, that it kept me interested and I admit to reading past my point of where I needed to stop more than once. The dialogue was quirky and witty and I more than once found myself laughing and truly enjoying the repartee between the characters.

Katsa and Po are truly remarkable characters. They balanced each other so well that I felt kind of lonely and disappointed whenever they had to separate from each other. The development of their personal relationship was slow and well-done and I love how they each developed an understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses and helped each other through their difficulties. They fought and argued like any new couple and it was interested to see how they developed a comfort level with each other that only grows from understanding and time spent together. Katsa is a skilled killer who has naturally developed a resistance to relationships and is very wary of Po and her feelings for him. Despite her many mistakes, it was easy to forgive her. I can only admire the skilled writing of Ms. Cashore for the way she develops her characters and allows her readers to experience their feelings for that as I am not usually so understanding of the many flaws in my heroes or heroines.

Why did I not give this a 5 star? While I truly enjoyed this book and found the plot mesmerizing right from the beginning, my only complaint would be with the ending. I found it drawn out and a little too long. That being said, I found myself totally immersed in the story and the characters and had a lot of difficulty putting the book down. I look forward to reading Fire, the companion novel to Graceling.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Review - Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider by Ellen C. Maze

Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider
by Ellen C. Maze
2009 Outskirts Press
354 Pages
Genre: Adult Paranormal
ISBN-10: 1432751018
ISBN-13: 978-1-4327-5101-2

4.5/5 Stars

Summary (Press Release)
What is your novel attracts the wrong kind of attention- and an age-old evil turns out to be all too real?

Bestselling author Beth Rider enjoys her fame as the South's newest literary star.

That is until Jack Dawn, a real-life vampire, vows to kill her because of the vile redemptive message her book is bringing his people. The ancient race of bloodthirsty immortals to which Jack belongs, known as the Rakum, have spread evil among mankind since the Beginning. But Jack alone recognizes the novel's destructive potential and she must die.

Jack's proselyte Michael Stone was brought up from his youth to be strong, sensible and brutal. But at one hundred and thirty, Michael is old enough to appreciate his quiet and ordered life. When he strumbles upon the beautiful and apprently innocent Beth Rider, he is puzzled by his Elder's unreasonable actions against her. Instantly smitten, Michael takes it upon himself to protect her from the limitless lust of his brethren.

Facing the most terrifying trial of her life against creatures known only in fables, one simple woman will threaten the existence of a powerful and accursed people. In the climactic final battle, it is a race to the death, or if Beth has her way, a way to the life - of every Rakum who make the choice.

My Thoughts
When I first started reading this novel, I had absolutely no idea what it was about. To my surprise, it had a supernatural element to it, and was about vampires. Then I thought it would be another stereotypical novel about vampires, glorifying their race (not that there's anything wrong with that, but I was looking to read something different at that time). I was pleasantly surprised by the twists and turns of this novel and how different it was from the normal take on the vampire themes we have seen lately.

I love it when au author can take a legend or mythological idea and twist it so it becomes something new and interesting. This is definitely what happens in Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider. Ms. Maze creates her own unique vampire race, the Rakum, with Fathers, Elders, clans, always keeping the amount limited to 100 000 in the world. Vampires in the novel are not created from humans, but are born from the Fathers with a human mother and are raised in one of the Elder clans. Their gifts are nurtured and developed and they are educated in their beliefs from the time they are small; each Rakum have to pass a series of difficult tests in order to be initiated as full adult Rakum. Interestingly, there are no female Rakum. Their world is ordered, civilized, and controlled.

Beth turns all this on its feet with her new book. She is converting hundreds of Rakum over to her cause just by the Rakum having read her book and beginning to question their existence and asking questions about God. Jack Dawn, worried and anxious about his race, tracks Beth down and marks her as his Rabbit, believing her to be a traitor to his race. Beth is shocked when she discovers from Michael why this has been done to her and Michael is astounded when he discovers that Beth is the Rabbit he is sensing. He senses something wrong about the whole thing and becomes her protector. The relationship between Michael and Beth develops slowly and as events throw them together, they are forced to depend on one another more and more. Michael especially begins to question why he is going against his brethren and everything he believes in to protect a human woman who is about to turn his world upside down. As we are led down Michael's path, we learn many truths about the Rakum and about Michael himself. Michael becomes Beth's 'Knight in Shining Armour' and I loved watching him take that path to enlightment and watching their relationship develop.

The many other characters in this novel were interesting and quirky, to say the least. I enjoyed the interaction between Elder Roman and Javier, and how they became more affectionate towards each other towards the end. As many of the characters became more 'human', they acted more human-like whereas the characters who didn't believe in Beth's books, became more evil and did more evil things. There was almost this yang-yang effect; as some people grew nicer and more forgiving, others grew more evil and attempted more desperate acts.

Despite the lightning-fast plot, with many twists, the novel gave you a lot to ponder. While it was a page turner, and had me hooked right from the very beginning, there were some deep philosophical ideas present in this novel. It dealt with faith, mythology, philosophy, evil and goodness, redemption, and belief in God. While it didn't go indepth onto these topics, they were certainly present, and I had to stop reading at several points so I could ponder some of the points that were made. I had to admire Beth's deep faith in God as it helped to keep her calm throughout many difficult situations that I'm sure I could not have faced with the same stoicism she displayed. Many of the Rakum questioned their own belief system and their own reasons for existence and it was interesting following their paths to redemption.

This novel had a great plot, definite thrills, chills, and suspense to satisfy anyone, fantastic characters, and mythological elements. It hooked me right from the beginning and didn't let go, even after I finished reading it. It's a fantastic debut novel from an author whom I hope to read more about soon.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that highlights upcoming releases or books that you are really looking forward to reading. Here are a couple of novels that I can't wait to read in 2010.

The Infinity Gate (Darkglass Mountains, Book 3)
by Sara Douglass

June 1, 2010

Burning Lamp (Arcane Society)
by Amanda Quick

April 20, 2010

The Arcane Society was born in turmoil when the friendship of its two founders evolved into a fierce rivalry. Sylvester Jones and Nicholas Winters each sought to enhance their individual psychic talents. Winters' efforts led to the creation of a device of unknown powers called the Burning Lamp. Each generation the Winters man who inherits it is destined to develop multiple talents - and the curse of madness.

Plagued by hallucinations and nightmares, notorious crime lord Griffin Winters is convinced he has been struck with the Winters curse. And the instincts that have helped him survive the streets and rise to power are now drawing him toward Adelaide Pyne, the bothersome social reformer. But even as he arranges a meeting with the mysterious woman, he has no idea how closely their fates are bound, for Adelaide holds the Burning Lamp in her possession.

A dreamlight reader, Adelaide should be able to manipulate the Lamp's light to save both Griffin's sanity and his life. But their dangerous psychic experiment makes them the target of forces both inside and outside of the Arcane Society. And though desires strengthens their power their different lives will keep them apart - if death doesn't take them together.
Monday, February 8, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This is a weekly meme now being hosted by One Persons Journey Through a World of Books. It has been transferred from J Kaye Book Blog, but continues to be a great way for readers to take a look at what they have read, what they are currently reading, and what lays in store for them in the week ahead. It's also a great way to visit other blogs and see what other books people are reading.

What is different this week is that if you go out and visit a minimum of 10 blogs (easy peasy) that have linked to the above site and leave a valid comment at each site, you will be entered into a weekly drawing for a book of your choice out of the PRIZE BOX. Winners will be announced at the next weekly 'It's Monday!". For more information, click here.

Books I read this week:
1) The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

2) The Seventh Witch: An Ophelia and Abby Mystery by Shirley Damsgaard

3) Gifted: Out of Sight, Out of Mind by Marilyn Kaye

Books I am currently reading:
1) Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider by Ellen C. Maze - It's actually really good, but I keep getting interrupted by so many other books.

2) Graceling by Kristin Cashore - I couldn't put this down last night.

Books I intend to read this week:
1) Kitty's House of Horrors by Carrie Vaughn - Review copy sent in the mail.

2) The Moses Stone by James Becker - Review copy sent in the mail.

3) Dare to Die by Carolyn Hart

My reading schedule might be a little ambitious this week, but my review pile is getting higher and I need to get cracking on it. While I was typing, my phone rang and although I let the answering machine pick up, it was the bookstore telling me Seekers #4 just arrived and was waiting for me to pick it up. My son will be so thrilled; he's been waiting so long for that book.
Sunday, February 7, 2010

Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

The Forest of Hands and Teeth
by Carrie Ryan
2009 Delacorte Press
310 Pages
ISBN 978-0-385-73681-7
Genre: Young Adult

4/5 Stars

Summary (Press Release)
In Mary's world, there are simple truths.

The Sisterhood always knows best.

The Guardians will protect and serve.

The Unconsecrated will never relent.

And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village. The fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

But slowly, Mary's truths are failing her. She's learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power. And, when the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness.

Now she must choose between her village and her future, between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded by so much death?

My Thoughts
Mary is a heroine who longs to escape the confines of her simple village life. Listening to stories her mother told her of a very different world, she grew up believing that maybe there was more to the world than the fence that protects them from the dangers outside. But on the other side of that fence lies the Forest of Hands and Teeth; a forest that houses the Unconsecrated, zombies who with one bite can turn you into one, or turn you into their dinner. They continually crash into the fence, looking for anyone who has ventured too close, causing the fence to need continuous repairs as they constantly do damage to it.

While Mary understands her duty is always to the survival of her village, which includes marriage and procreation as so many people die, she is not satisfied with the way things are. As she questions people, she also alienates them and causes them to be either frightened of her or suspicious. When her mother ventures too close to the fence one day, is bitten by an Unconsecrated, and joins them, Mary has nothing left except to enter the Sisterhood, a society which guards many secrets. The society in which Mary lives has become ultra-religious and the Sisterhood is the guardian to many secrets and is in charge of everyone's well-being. Up until this point, Mary has always seen them as being gentle and kind, but upon entering the society, she suddenly sees a different and menacing side, a side which hides dangerous secrets and does dangerous things. It is one of those secrets that sets them upon the trail of destruction.

Throughout my reading, I couldn't get M. Night Shimalayan's The Village out of my mind. While the plots are not exactly similar, the settings have an eerie similarity: isolation, danger, survival of the fittest, secrets. When Mary leaves the village (for reasons I will not divulge), she learns many things about herself, her village life, her people, and those around her. While I enjoyed all of the scenes, what I did not get a real sense of is the deep connection between the characters. I always felt like there was an emotional vacuum between Mary and Travis and Mary and Harry and Mary and her brother. There were many times I had to go on assumptions as to how Mary really felt about some of the things that happened around her. I also thought Mary was a really selfish character at times and used those around her to get her own way. While she is extremely brave, I would have liked to know more about her motives (other than going to see the sea) and what drives her. While I didn't personally like Cassandra at the beginning of the novel, I actually developed a real fondness for the strength she demonstrated and developed as the novel continued. The same could be said for Jed, Mary's brother. I really liked his character toward the end of the novel as he showed he could be strong and tough and sensitive all at the same time. Mary was somewhat more selfish in her desires and a bit whiny. I would have liked to have learned more about Harry as well as I felt he kind of slipped away and although he was present, I didn't learn anything more about his thoughts or feelings.

Although I really enjoyed the book, I was left with too many unanswered questions at the end to be truly satisfied. I am hoping that some of these questions will be answered in the next book in the series, although I understand that the next book does not feature Mary. That being said, the narrative was extremely compelling and very smartly written. I found the scenes interesting and it definitely made me think about what would happen to our own future if something devastating were to happen to our own world. It didn't help matters that I watched the movie 'Zombieland' the same night that I finished this novel. All in all, I can't wait to read the sequel.

Review: Gifted: Out of Sight, Out of Mind by Marilyn Kaye

Gifted: Out of Sight, Out of Mind (Book 1)
by Marilyn Kaye
2009 Kingfisher
229 Pages
ISBN 978-0-7534-6283-6

3/5 Stars

Summary (Press Release)
Amanda Beeson is Queen Bee at Meadowbrook Middle School. If you're not friends with Amanda you're nobody. But one morning gorgeous, popular Amanda looks in the mirror and sees a very different face staring back at her. The Queen Bee is about to get a taste of life in someone else's shoes.

Amanda has a secret. She's GIFTED. And she's not the only one...

My Thoughts
At first I was surprised when I learned this book was about younger teens - 13-year-olds to be exact - as it reads more as though it's about older teens than younger ones. There are the typical stereotypes: popular, pretty, mean girl with all of her butterfly friends around her; cute, popular boy who used to be an amazing athlete with a big secret; tough, wise-cracking juvenile delinquent who can read minds, but has a tough home life; and nerdy girl whom nobody notices except when they're picking on her clothes, her hair, or anything else they can find to pick on.

Amanda is known as the Queen Bee around her school and is one of the meanest girls. She waltzes around, verbally harrassing anyone who does not meet her high standards, and that usually means everyone, including her friends. What people don't know about Amanda is that her snotty and mean behaviour is just a cover-up to hide intense emotions because if she gives in to those emotions, she could accidentally switch bodies with the person for whom she feels emotion for, and she just can't let that happen. For when she does switch, she also feels their pain as well as their emotion. Yet, one day when geeky Tracey Devon has the nerve to approach her table in the cafeteria, she allows herself to feel pity for Tracy, and the next thing she knows, she wakes up in Tracey' body. Suddenly she is living Tracey's life as Tracey, being treated like a nerd, and having people trip her and slam doors in her face, something Amanda has never experienced in her life.

Then suddenly, she ends up in one of Tracey's 'special' classes and discovers a class for special kids with special gifts and she is intrigued. Could there possibly be more people like her out there?

It took quite a while for the story to get going in this novel. We are introduced to eight other characters with special gifts, but other than Jenna, we really didn't learn a whole lot about them. This helps keep the confusion to a minimum and should keep the series interesting. So far, the grade 8 angst has been kept to a minimum, except for some scenes where Amanda/Tracey was mercilessly teased, but it was needed for the story as it was Amanda who was doing the teasing and the Amanda/Tracey character got to see what she was like and how other people reacted to her. She even heard what people had to say about her behind her back. I enjoyed these scenes as I didn't always like Amanda and how she treated people; she needs to get some of her humanity back as she copes with the switch.

Overall, I enjoyed the book Out of Sight, Out of Mind. It was fast-paced and easily understood, with some plot twists. It was also very addictive as I read it in one sitting. I will be starting book #2, Better Late Than Never as soon as I am able.

Recommended for grade 7 and higher.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Review - The Seventh Witch by Shirley Damsgaard

The Seventh Witch: An Ophelia and Abby Mystery
by Shirley Damsgaard
2010 Harper Collins Publishers
276 pages
Genre: Paranormal Mystery
3.5 Stars

Summary (Press Release)
Small-town librarian and psychic Ophelia Jensen hails from a long line of wise and wonderfully gifted women. There's her grand-mother Abby, a talented witch, and her great-aunt Mary, who's about to celebrate her 100th birthday. But as Ophelia learns, when she and Abby travel to North Carolina for the centennial celebration, their family secrets aren't just magickal - they're murderous.

Someone in the sweet Southern town wants Abby dead. Could it be a rogue witch in Ophelia's own family? A vengeful local witch desperate to settle a bitter feud decades in the making? Ophelia must use all her talents to save her loved ones - before the witching hour comes upon them, and bad blood turns deadly.

My Thoughts
One of the things that I have really enjoyed about this series, is the way the characters have changed and developed throughout. In the beginning, Ophelia was not very accepting of her gift, and was very reluctant to learn about it and use it the way it was meant. As the stories developed, through a series of difficult tests, she has learned to become more accepting. In this novel, when her powers suddenly don't work the way they should, and her ever-reliable runes don't work at all, she comes to the realization that she needs her gift and it is as much a part of her as her arms and legs. On the other hand, Abby has always been so strong and wise, and yet, in this novel, we watch her slowly fall apart as her past catches up with her and she can no longer deal with the pressure of keeping long-buried secrets hidden. I found Abby's breakdown much more interesting than Ophelia's as she always seemed to be such a pillar of strength. And looking at it from Ophelia's perspective, watching her grandmother fall apart, a person whom she has always relied on for strength and advice, would be very disconcerting. I really liked the way Ms. Damsgaard treated the scenes between Ophelia and Abby with such compassion and empathy.

Ms. Damsgaard taps into the superstitious nature of this quiet village in this novel. When Ophelia and Abby show up for their Great-Aunt Mary's 100th birthday party, the peace and quiet they have been expecting gives way to suspicion and secrecy. When Ophelia discovers a rattlesnake hidden under her bed and then is confronted and threatened not once, but twice, by a woman people claim is a witch, she starts asking questions. And when she discovers a dead body, whispers of witchcraft start spreading throughout the already superstitious village, all directed at the woman, Sharon Doran, who threatened Ophelia. As Ophelia begins to dig deeper, family secrets, long-buried, start to surface and threaten to tear her family apart. After several attempts on her life, Ophelia is determined to find the truth, no matter what.

Although I admire Ophelia's spirit, I have to admit that she sometimes drove me crazy in this novel with her temper and her stubborness. What in the earlier novels came across as bravery, came across sometimes as immaturity and I just wanted to shake her. I do have to admire her spirit though as she ventures into places I'm pretty sure I would not go without anyone else with me. We are also introduced to Cousin Lydia, a character I just loved, a healer with a lot of her own psychic talent. She always seemed so patient and loving with everyone, but there was a core of steel in her that came through in certain scenes. I would love to learn more about her own personal story and I hope the author does something with her character in future novels.

I was a little disappointed that Tink didn't have more of a role to play in this novel. Being a medium, and with ghosts being all over the place, I would have thought she would have a bigger part to play in the events. It seemed that whatever she and Ophelia's dad were doing was just thrown into the novel to remind us they were still there. I also found that some of the events in the novel were cut short with little explanation. Many times I was left with a lot of questions that were, unfortunately, not answered by the end of the novel. The police were investigating Sharon's family but even this was confusing as it was not made clear the role Sharon's family played in illicit goings-on and how this impacted on Ophelia's family and the rest of the village.

This is the seventh book in the popular Ophelia and Abby mystery series and according to Amberkatze's Book Blog, probably the last one. While you can read any of the novels as a stand-alone, it is recommended that you begin with the first one and work your way through them in order as Ms. Damsgaard does make a lot of references to events in previous novels. While I absolutely loved the earlier novels, and enjoyed this one, it did not leave me completely satisfied and I was left with many unanswered questions. While the relationships between family members was very well explored with sensitivity and compassion, I felt that the rest of the story just jumped from event to event so that it felt like it was thrown together. It was not my favourite book of the series.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday Follow

I am once again joining in on Friday Follow, hosted by One 2 Try, Midday Escapades, and Hearts Make Families. It was a lot of fun checking out sites I've never seen before.

All you need to do are the following:
* Link up your name and blog site to one of the host sites MckLinky
* Follow the Friday Follow hostesses
* Follow as many blogs as you like
* Comment on the blogs telling them you're from Friday Follow
* Follow back when you get a new follower from Friday Follow
* And most importantly, have fun!!!

It's a great way to meet new people, see interesting sites, and share your information.

Have a great weekend!
Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases. Today, I am highlighting Blood Vines by Erica Spindler, which releases March 2, 2010.

Summary (Press Release)
Thirty something Alex Owens knows very little about her childhood or who she really is, her only family an emotionally fragile mother. Alex spent most of her adulthood searching for the missing link, drifting from job to job, relationship to relationship. But when an infant's remains are unearthed in her hometown in back-country California, Alex suddenly realizes that she has a connection to the case. As if opening Pandora's box, long-lost memories start flooding in, dark and terrifying memories that haunt her every waking moment. When she arrives in Sonoma, the tight-knit community greets Alex with silence and suspicion, but Alex presses on, determined to get to the heart of a secret no one wants to see uncovered. As more violent deaths and a series of deadly rituals shock the small town, Alex is finally forced to confront the terrible truth about a single night that changed her family's lives forever...

Monday, February 1, 2010

Review: Never Slow Dance With a Zombie by E. Van Lowe

by E. Van Lowe
2009 Tom Doherty Associates Book (Tor Teen)
Genre: Young Adult
253 pages

4/5 Stars

Summary (Publisher Comments)
On the night of her middle school graduation, Margot Jean Johnson wrote a high school manifesto detailing her goals for what she was sure would be a most excellent high school career. She and her best friend, Sybil, would be popular and, most important, have boyfriends. Three years later, they still haven't accomplished a thing! Then Margot and Sybil arrive at school one day to find that most of the student body has been turned into flesh-eating zombies. When kooky Principal Taft asks the girls to coexist with the zombies until the end of the semester, they realize that this is the perfect opportunity to live out their high school dreams. All they have to do is stay alive...

My Thoughts
When I first started reading this book, I was somewhat disappointed. I thought it was going to be another teen angst book about two girls who were disappointed because they hadn't fulfilled their high school dreams and become popular the way they had hoped. There was the usual stereotypical cheerleader Amanda Culpepper, who was everything Margot wanted to be: beautiful, popular, head of every 'it' committee, and dating the one boy Margot has set her sights on. To top it off, Amanda is the girl who was best friends with Margot in middle school until something happened at summer camp one year that changed everything, and Amanda and her friends returned from camp giving Margot the cold shoulder, effectively shutting her out of the 'it' crowd. Margot has never forgiven her for what had happened, and she is still asking her the all-important question, why?

The day after the school carnival, everything changes. When Margot and Sybil arrive at school that morning, they are chased into the bathroom by a group of zombies, led by the queen herself, Amanda Culpepper. It seemed as if the entire school body had been changed overnight into zombies. And that's where the book suddenly changed into something interesting, hilarious, and very different. When Margot and Sybil run into the office for safety, they found Principal Taft unchanged and standing on his desk. After performing a test on them to ensure they weren't zombies, he asked them to continue the semester the way everything was and to coexist with the zombies. The girls saw it as the perfect opportunity to be in charge of committees they would never have been able to do. Suddenly, they would be the most popular girls in school.

Margot dove into her new role as head girl with enthusiasm. For the first time in her life, she was in charge of everything, and saw herself as the new 'it' girl. Unfortunately, this changed her and she does some things she was not proud of. I have to admit that there were times that I didn't like her character very much during this time as I found her extremely selfish, rude, and bossy. She was especially mean and spiteful to Sybil, who stuck by Margot through everything. Where Sybil seemed to develop in character and grew in sensitivity and maturity, Margot seemed to develop a callousness to her that was not very likeable. It led Margot and Sybil down some difficult paths and to face some truths that were not easy to face.

E. Van Lowe demonstrates a connection between the zombies and teenage angst in this very interesting novel. In order to survive the zombie world, you need to travel in packs of zombies as being an individual could either get you killed or turn you into one of them. What kind of zombie do you prefer to be? An emo-zombie or a goth-zombie or an it-girl-zombie? I had to laugh when Amanda first turned her nose up at Margot and Sybil and refused to turn them into zombies as it would mean they would now be part of Amanda's pack and they weren't cool enough. It definitely reflects high school life where being an individual makes you stand out. Everyone wants to be popular and have a pack of adoring hordes behind you. For Margot and Sybil, moving in a pack was paramount to safety in the zombie world, but even the zombie world had its hierarchy. There was even some fun poked at parents as the following question came up, why are the parents not reacting to their children becoming zombies? Simply enough, it was another teenage stage their children were going through and they will grow out of it. Hilarious!!
When Margot's boyfriend and parents sat staring at the television screen for hours at a time, she thought he had turned them into zombies too. But they were just watching tv so intently, they were behaving like zombies. Another reflection by the author on our zombie-like behaviour in our everyday world. It's pretty scary when you see it right in front of you like that, and Margot certainly began looking at her world in a very different light.

I really enjoyed this novel and if your are patient, it will pay off. There were many interesting scenes, with plot twists that took me by surprise. While I had many questions while reading the novel, I found that most of them were answered by the end. I found the characters to be quirky and down-to-earth. I especially liked Margot's descriptions of her gym teacher and her experiences in gym class; they were hilarious and the extremes to which she would try to get out of exercising were pretty creative. As a physical education teacher, I can really appreciate the creativity as I have been there with my own students. Overall, I was very satisfied with Never Slow Dance with a Zombie and I look forward to reading more of E. Van Lowe's work.

E. Van Lowe wrote for many award-winning TV shows such as "The Cosby Show" and "Even Stevens". He also cowrote the Academy-Award nominated short film Cadillac Dreams. Never Slow Dance With A Zombie is his first teen novel.

It's Monday! What are you reading?

It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by J Kaye's Book Blog celebrating what we have read last week, what we are currently reading, and what we are planning to read the following week. It's also a chance to see what others are also reading and to read reviews of some great books out there. It's also a chance to maybe see some authors that are unfamiliar to some of us. Interested? Then click here for all the information and join in the fun.

Last Week I Read:
1) Fade by Lisa McMann - Janie finds out what it really means to be a dreamcatcher and the reality is shocking. I have ordered book 3 and can't wait until I can read Gone, the final book in this great trilogy.

2) Never Slow Dance With a Zombie by E. Van Lowe - I thought this was going to be the usual teen angst book with unpopular girl desiring to become popular girl, but partway through the novel there was an unusual twist I wasn't expecting, and the novel turned out to be a lot of fun and very entertaining. Review is forthcoming.

3) Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost - What can I say? Love this series!!!

Currently reading:
1) Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider by Ellen C. Maze - I got this as a review copy in the mail. It's really good so far.

2) The Seventh Witch by Shirley Damsgaard - I got this as a review copy in the mail. Another series I just love. I'm sad this is supposed to be the final book in this series.

Intend to read next week:
1) Graceling by Kristin Cashore

2) The Forest of Hand and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

3) Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning - I'm not sure if I'll get to this one, but I couldn't just leave it at the library. I've been wanting to read this for quite a while now. The last book left me hanging and I'm sure this book will be no different and I'll have to wait for book 5 to find out what happens.

Happy reading everyone!