just what it sounds like…reading as a religion

Posts tagged “Fiction

Do You Believe in Magic?

Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia

Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia

The biggest issue in sequels and series, more often than not, is that later titles are never as good as the first.  Of course, there have been titles and series where this is obviously not true, as well.  I was pretty delighted to find that Beautiful Darkness, the sequel to Kami Garci and Margaret Stohl’s Beautiful Creatures, is IMHO better than its predecessor.  I’d been really excited to read both books in this series since I got an ARC of the second at ALA.  If you read my review on Beautiful Creatures, you’ll know that I thought the authors did a beautiful job creating the mythology of the magic in that novel.  This second novel is abundant in magic, which makes this girl REALLY HAPPY.  Anyone who has known me for a long time knows that I have always been a little obsessed with magic of all sorts.  I love love LOVE princesses and fairy tales.  I spent quite a bit of my childhood determined that I was a FABULOUS magician.  Boxes of memorabilia in my parents’ attic can attest to an unhealthy obsession with Harry Potter.  The recent surge in urban fantasy and paranormal romance has been like heaven to me.  There is this little glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, magic is real.

If any of the previous has left you thinking “Man, this girl is nuts!”, Beautiful Darkness might not be the book for you.  Creatures presented us with a very typical Southern small town, with the magical aspects very slowly appearing throughout the novel and presented as a very small and hidden underworld of the town.  In Darkness, that underworld takes center-stage and the reader realizes this is much, much bigger than just a few magical people living in a normal town.  So basically, although this continues the story from the first book, I kind of felt like this was a totally different kind of book.  Although, this kind of makes sense.  Ethan is getting farther and farther into the magic, so the book has to become more and more focused on the magic.   But still, this makes it a different kind of book.  The first book is so much about teenage relationships and learning to trust another person, with the magical aspects being important but merely a detail in this larger romantic story.  On the other hand, this book is about the relationship between Ethan and Lena, but much more so about Ethan understanding the magical world and avoiding an epic magical war.  I think this difference is important because I felt as though I was making progress and getting deeper into the story, whereas if we just had more magic girl in normal world drama, this book might have felt stale.

At this point, you’re probably like “Come on, Sarah, give us the dirty details.”  Well okay then!

  1. Amma is awesome!!!!  If you’ve read Creatures, you know this.  In this book, she gets even more A.W.E.S.O.M.E., with capital letters.
  2. Lena is a crazy person.  You’re probably gonna hate her this time around.
  3. Ridley actually has depth.  I knew it!
  4. Link is smarter than you think.  I just wanna give him a big hug.
  5. Magic exists where you least expect.  This is a reoccurring theme.
  6. It wouldn’t be magic if there wasn’t an ancient war going on.  Duh!
  7. And…best of all…Link’s mom watches Cat Week.  It’s like Shark Week with cats.  Strangely funny that Ellen just did Cat Week on her show last week.

I know,  I know.  These details aren’t very dirty.  I just really don’t want to spoil this one for you.  It’s too good.  I will admit that quite a few of the plot twists were obvious before they happened.  However, I also had quite a few moments where I was like, “WOAH! You got me!”  I do think that part of the fun of a book is trying to figure things out and I think that this book provided a good balance of foreshadowing and complete surprise.

If I have anything to negative to say about this book, it’s only that after the intense ending of the first book, the beginning of this book is kind of calm.  Therefore, at first, it took me a little bit to get into it.  I think this was because I was ready to get right into more intrigue, whereas the beginning of this book is heavy on basic exposition to get people the back story if they haven’t read Creatures or if they have forgotten some of the detail.  However, once this book gets into its central plot arc, it really moves.

I urge you to check this series out, especially if you are into any of the paranormal romance/urban fantasy stuff that’s really big lately.  This second novel in the series, Beautiful Darkness, hits stores Tuesday, October 12.  (That’s next week, so you should be pretty excited!)


The Following Book is NOT, I Repeat NOT About Vampires

So, I went on a little bender….a v-bender that is.  To be more specific, I dropped out of the realm of the living to read all the Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris.  I will admit that they got to me.  I am definitely hooked.  I will also admit that I am one of those foul people who watched True Blood long before she ever picked up one of the books that it’s based on.  Better late than never though, right?  Anyways, I won’t get into them too much here because they aren’t a YA series, which is mostly what I write this blog about.  Don’t get me wrong….everyone who knows me can tell you that I will not stand for any kind of censoring of any sort.  Truthfully, I very well could have read these books in high school, but I grew up in a pretty liberal household.  I just want it to be clear, for those young adults who prefer literature of a higher moral code, that these books were not written for a YA audience.  As such, objectionable language and sexual content abound.  But, for those of you who don’t mind such things or who relish this kind of literature, I say DIG IN!

So, if I’m not gonna write about the SoVampMysteries, what am I gonna write about? Something that is NOT, I repeat NOT about vampires.

I just want to make sure we’re clear about this, the following book is NOT about vampires.

Why am being so adamant about this, you may ask?  Let me explain.

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Earlier this year, I heard a lot of talk about Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.  Everytime I heard someone talk about this book, it was in the context of a discussion about vampire books.  Add that to someone telling me that this is like Twilight, but the girl is the vampire–and I built up this whole notion of what I thought this book was.  Finally, this weekend I sat down and read it.  Guess what?  It’s not about vampires, at all! What were all those people smoking?

What is it about, then?  Well, I don’t want to tell you because it’ll ruin the fun of discovering it for yourself.  I will concede that is about something supernatural…but not vampires.  LOL

Ethan Wate grew up in the small town of Gatlin, South Carolina, just like his father before him and all the Wates before him.  They live in the same house, surrounded by the same people, living the same life.  Nothing ever changed, until now.  After Ethan’s mom dies in an accident, Ethan’s dad locks himself away in his office writing and Ethan succumbs to terrible nightmares.  Every night he dreams the same thing.  A girl is falling, leaving him, and he can’t save her.  When his dream girl shows up in Gatlin, Ethan thinks that maybe his life is gonna turn around.  But when unexplainable things start to happen and Ethan’s housekeeper Amma, the one person he feels like he can always trust, tells Ethan to stay away from the new Lena, Ethan knows that change might not always be good.  Still, Ethan knows that he has to look deeper, that everything must be happening for a reason.  Can Ethan and Lena learn to trust each other so that they can figure why they are so powerfully connected?  Will change mean a new future or no future?

Watching Ethan and Lena learn to trust each other and fall for each other is breathtakingly beautiful.  The connection between them, with its supernatural appearance, also seems to resemble the nature of true love–powerful beyond all things, even when it might mean danger or heartbreak.  At times, it was slightly frustrating watching Lena continue to distrust Ethan and push him away.  But, while this is painful, it lends a nice touch of a real relationship.

While many powerful and heartbreaking things ensue, this book also provides its share of lightness and humor.  I think it’s mostly due to the badass female quotient.  Amma, the Wates’ housekeeper, is tough as nails.  It is amusing to watch her as she lays into Ethan with the tenacity only true caring and love can create.  You know in an instant that no one crosses Amma because she does what she does for your own good.  Ethan’s three eldery aunts, the Sisters, are just as endearing.  At times slightly off-kilter and at other times just plain stupid, the reader knows the Sisters’ way and word are law–even it means there are only 11 true states (the Confederate ones) and itching is spelled ichin’.  There’s just something you have to love about women who think that being buried with your recipes so as not to share them is a sin of the highest order.

There’s also a badass supernatural quotient in this book.  I told you before, I’m not gonna give too many details here.  Let’s suffice it to say that Garcia and Stohl have built a pretty enchanting world here.  You are gonna love unraveling it.  Wrap up all that supernatural goodness and put it in a nice package with a southern drawl and you are gonna be instantly charmed.

I am looking forward to reading the sequel, Beautiful Darkness.  I’ve got an advance reading copy from ALA sitting right next to me.  I think I’m gonna take a night off and enjoy a chick flick though.  I could do with a little light to balance out the dark.

As always, happy reading!  And if you’ve read Beautiful Creatures already, I wanna hear from you.  Did I miss something?  Did you think it was about vampires?  Cause, I’m still mulling that one over. 🙂


And So, We Reach the End.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Note: You may find spoilers here.

Recently, I proclaimed my excitement over receiving my copy of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, the final installment in the Hunger Games Trilogy. I have been waiting in anticipation for this novel to be released because I became so deeply attached to the characters and the story in the previous two novels in the series. I was certainly not disappointed by this last chapter. Collins writes this novel with as much intrigue and emotion as the previous novels. I will say, however, that this one depressed me. I think the only reason I came away from the book feeling less than satisfied was due to the level of sadness in this novel. I’m a sucker for happy endings. However, I found that the emotional nature of this book made it far more realistic (given the content), than if the novel had been a happy fairy tale ending to the series.

Katniss does not live in a happy fairy tale world. The future, dystopian society in which she lives is full of very real problems and struggles. The point of this novel, and the series thus far, has never been about giving Katniss her fairy tale ending, in my opinion. Sorry, if that spoils something for you. However, if you’ve read the first two novels, you probably aren’t expecting this one to be all rainbows and sunshine. Katniss has always been on a journey to find herself, to decide what she values, and to determine what she wants from life. She has struggled in determining her views of right and wrong and in developing her sense of trust.

I don’t want to give away too much plot detail, as I am forever encouraging people to read this series from the beginning. I will just say that this third installment, Mockingjay, is superb. It is suspenseful and gut-wrenching. You won’t be able to put it down. I will warn that it is considerable more violent than the first two installments IMHO. However, it may just be that the violence is of a grander and more random scale, more so than it being more graphic, which gives it such an intense feeling. Also, though you may have already picked this up, this one is sad. Be prepared with a large box of Kleenex!

Finishing a book series is always a bitter sweet moment. One is anxious to see how their favorite characters end up, but is sad to know this is the end. I thoroughly enjoyed the Hunger Games Trilogy as a whole. It is one of the best things I have read in some time, for its emotional qualities and its detailed content. I urge you to read this series if you haven’t and I look forward to seeing what comes next from Ms. Collins.


Breaking News: My Copy of Mockingjay Arrived Today!

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Star Island by Carl Hiaasen

Star Island by Carl Hiaasen

I am so super EXCITED!!!!!!!

Today, my beautiful copy of the newly released Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins arrived.  This is the third book in the highly popular Hunger Games trilogy.  I cannot wait to begin reading  it.  Too bad I have to go to class tonight.  😦 I have a feeling I won’t get much sleep tonight.  Look forward to a review coming very shortly because this is gonna be a can’t put it down kind of read.  I just know it!

Also on my currently reading list is Star Island by Carl Hiaasen.  Although, I’m gonna take a break from this until I finish Mockingjay.

I just wanted to share my excitement with you.  Stay tuned for my review coming soon!


AAAAAAAHHHHH…….REAL MONSTERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, or Why Freaky is Fabulous

Monster High by Lisi Harrison

Monster High by Lisi Harrison

No, I’m not talking about a fabulous old Nick cartoon, I’m talking about a fabulous new book series.

You may know Lisi Harrison from her Clique and A-List Series.  Well, in September, Lisi is introducing her new series Monster High and I am loving it!  The first volume is aptly titled Monster High and introduces readers to the unique place that is Merston High and the interesting students that attend there.

Melody Carver has just moved to Salem, Oregon from L.A.  Unlike her sister Candace, who has nicknamed their new home bOregon, Melody is excited to move somewhere where looks aren’t top priority.  Although work by her plastic surgeon father has left her visibly flawless, Melody still feels different on the inside.  She appreciates the beauty in individuality.  With one look at her new neighborhood, where every house is as different as the people who live inside them, and Melody knows she’s gonna like it on Radcliffe Way.

Frankie Stein is new, too.  Really new.  15 days new. Not just to Radcliffe Way and Merston High, but to the planet.  Frankie, as evidenced by her name, was built by her father–just like every family member in the long line of Frankenstein monsters before them.  Frankie is just like any other teen girl, except that she is made of metal parts and has to charge herself every night.  However, with the help of Fierce & Flawless Makeup to cover her green skin and her obsessive love of pop culture and shopping, Frankie might just be able to pass for normie.

Monster High by Lisi Harrison Back Cover

Monster High by Lisi Harrison Back Cover

Follow Melody & Frankie as they begin a new year at Merston High, where monsters and normies mix.  New girls trying to fit in at a new school, sounds pretty simple right?  Oh, did I forget to mention that if the normies find out monsters exist, there will be major trouble?  Oh yeah, and Frankie has a tendency to want to fight for the cause of equality and freedom for monsters? And, oops, Melody (a normie) just might be dating Dr. Jekyll, or is it Mr. Hyde?

Monster High is a perfect blend of teen girl drama with the hot supernatural trend.  I found myself delightfully surprised by this novel and am eager to follow along as this series unfolds.  I will warn this first novel introduces a lot of characters.  You might want to read slowly or reread some parts, so you can get them all straight before the series goes further (and possibly delves deeper into the lives of the background characters.  However, you may also choose to just focus on the trials and tribulations of the two main characters: Normie Melody Carver and Monster Frankie Stein.  The novel alternates between the viewpoint of these two characters introducing the normie view of Merston High and the monster view of Merston High.  Melody and Frankie are both admirable protagonists for their real imperfections.  They present a relatable character for young girls who don’t associate with the pretty and popular type.  They take their imperfections and are proud of them, which can hopefully empower young readers.

On a side note, the Monster High book series seems to be just one part of a bigger picture–a Monster High franchise by Mattel in partnership with Hachette Book Group.  Mattel has already released a series of dolls and web content based on the Monster High characters.  I stumbled upon this after seeing a tv commercial for an animated web adventure called Monster High bearing the same pink bow skeleton logo as my Monster High advance copy book.  So, I went and checked it out at http://www.MonsterHigh.com.  This website offers children and teens the opportunity to enroll in Monster High, play games, and watch animated webisodes featuring the Monster High characters.  I will note, however, that the web content and the dolls only feature the monster characters in their more natural monster state.  No normie characters like Melody and her friends here.  Also, in the web series, the monsters attend Monster High, as opposed to Merston High, where there are no normies–just monsters–and a really creepy setting.  However, on its own, the web content and the dolls are quite cute and fun and will definitely broaden the audience for Harrison’s coming book series.

All in all, I’m pumped for the release of Monster High and future titles in the series.  The are just a good, fun read for a rainy day snuggled in bed or a sunny day by the pool.

P.S. Did you catch that Merston High is an anagram of Monster High.  Nice touch Lisi!

P.P.S. Isn’t the cover art adorable? Totally voltage!!!!

P.P.P.S. I haven’t read much of Lisi Harrison’s work before, so I just recently stumbled upon her website:  http://www.lisiharrison.com.  You should go there and check out her blah-g (blog)–it’s fun and funny!


An Evening with Brontë, or Why My Birthday was Super Awesome!

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger Final Cover

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger Final Cover

So, I haven’t been around and there is a sad reason why.  I’ve been reading a lot, but it’s all been pretty mediocre.   And I don’t want to share mediocre with my loyal readers.  But, all that’s about to change.  Friday was my birthday and I decided to celebrate in my own way.  I read two FABULOUS books!  Bonus: They both have ties to the brilliant Brontë sisters (and covers that irk me.)

First, I want to share Kody Keplinger’s The DUFF.  This debut novel was written by the author when she was a 17-year old senior in high school.  I have crazy respect for her for that.  Anyway, 17-year old protagonist Bianca Piper is the DUFF or so she is is called by school playboy, Wesley.  Wesley tells her the DUFF is the Designated Ugly Fat Friend and every group has one.  Even though B hates everything about Wesley and is way too smart to fall for his game, pressures in her life cause her to seek distraction in the form of an enemies with benefits relationship with him.  As she tries so hard to run away from her problems, Bianca may find one more thing she can’t handle…somewhere or someone that makes her comfortable and happy.

Bianca is an awesomely entertaining protagonist…totally brash and off-color and so real for it.  I love that she’s not afraid to tell Wesley exactly what she thinks of him.  She’s also not afraid to admit that girls can use guys just as easily as guys use girls.  She has this crass wit that will leave you doubled over in laughter.  The relationship between Bianca and Wesley is painfully beautiful in its intense teenage emotion.  The author’s voice is highly believable and relatable to any person who has experienced the poisonous nature of teenage emotion and the feeling that life is burying you.  Readers will find themselves rooting for Bianca to find peace with her self and to find serenity in the chaos of her life.

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger ARC Cover

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger ARC Cover

While I often read what some refer to as Pop Tart books, this novel is pretty intelligent.  Fans of classic literature will find well-placed allusions and allegory to Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter.  I will warn, however, that this book does not stray from bluntness.  I am quite against censoring what people are exposed to, but for those who care–the language and sexual content in this novel would probably earn it an R-rating.

Look for The DUFF to hit stores in early September.  On a side note, I have to share my thoughts about the book’s cover.  The final cover showcases a freckle-faced dirty blonde with too-blue eyeshadow and a big bubblegum bubble.  After reading this book, I have to say this just doesn’t fit Bianca to me.  Bianca is harsh and edgy and this cover just screams early Britney Spears.  Bianca is not a tween-queen wannabe.  I wish they would have stuck with the cover on my ARC.  I thought this cover was gorgeous.  The cover model with dark hair, blunt bangs, and no makeup seems much more appropriate.  Her pursed red lips and piercing blue eyes have this perfect combination of loneliness with a tough exterior.  But hey, cover design isn’t up to me.

Jane by April Lindner

Jane by April Lindner

On to a book with a much bigger and obvious Brontë connection–Jane by April Lindner.  This novel is presented as a modern retelling of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.  Given that it would be a very subjective topic, I will not address whether classics should be retold or whether this a good retelling.  I am just going to share my thoughts about the book on its own.  I LOVED IT! I could not put this one down, which was so welcome after reading a string of mediocre titles.

Jane Moore is down on her luck.  A tragic accident claimed her parents’ lives and forced her to drop out of a prestigious college.  She goes to a nanny agency in search of work, so that she may save up the money to go back to school.  Being intelligent and unphased by popular culture, she becomes the perfect candidate for a position at wealthy rockstar, Nico Rathburn’s, estate.  Once at Thornfield Park, she quickly develops a close bond with Nico’s daughter, Maddy, and in turn Nico, himself.  In a world that seems perfect from the outside, Jane is forced to confront the many secrets hidden inside.  Jane must decide what it means to be successful in life and what she’s willing to give for love.

Jane is an admirable protagonist.  She is independent and level-headed, always doing what she thinks is right and doing what she has to do for herself.  I love how she calls Nico on his crap (he does too.)  Readers will enjoy watching Jane soften and open up to those around her.  There are many lessons about life and love to be learned along with Jane as she finds her way in the world.  Nico is equally as likable.  A girl can’t help but be intrigued by a sexy, tortured rock star.  Plus, he’s adorably loving of his daughter.  Female readers will find themselves swooning over Nico and wishing they were Jane.

I thought that the writing of this book was refreshingly intelligent and well-worded.  I enjoyed being challenged by the vocabulary, but that might be my nerdy side coming out.  It was also deeply beautiful and moving.  I found myself crying on many occasions and overwhelmed with emotion throughout.  Fans of romance will enjoy this modern classic.  I enjoyed every minute of it.

Jane is coming to a store near you in October.  On a cover note here, as well, my ARC cover was plain–a pink title on a solid pastel blue background.  Amazon shows a cover with a girl in a sweater and flowy skirt walking on a foggy plain at dusk.  I hope they change this cover.  If not, please don’t be fooled by this photo!  It is more reminiscent of the original Jane Eyre, than the rock and roll retelling in Lindner’s Jane. Jane Moore is a rock star’s nanny in New England.  She does not go running forlornly across the plain. EVER.

All in all, it was a good birthday!  I especially enjoyed curling up in bed with these two great reads.  I highly suggest you check them out when they are released.  Happy reading!


Heartbreakingly Beautiful, or Why Tragedy Can Make a Person So Endearing

Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James

Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James

O.M.G.

I am totally reeling after reading Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James.  This fast-paced psychological thriller is intense, but I loved every moment of it.

17-year old Katherine Patterson has suffered a terrible tragedy. (I won’t share it here because, although I had some idea of what happened prior to reading this novel and some reviews give it away, unraveling all the details of Katherine’s past is one of the most suspenseful aspects of this novel.) But, Katherine has moved to the city to start a new life.  Her many attempts at remaining alone and aloof are easily squashed by the beautiful, exciting Alice, who wants to be her friend.  Katherine, who has spent a long time being sad and avoiding any traces of her old party-girl lifestyle, is easily persuaded to take up Alice’s fun and relaxed ways.  But is Alice really as carefree as she seems, or does her beautiful exterior only hide terrible secrets?

This book is so many things at once–thrilling, seductive, touching, intriguing, scary.  Told in alternating settings of past present and future, readers of this novel won’t be able to help but wonder if Katherine will ever overcome the tragedies of her past or if she is destined to end up far worse off.  This novel will hook you from the opening page and keep you guessing throughout.  I couldn’t put it down.

This book was published for adults by Random House, under the Bantam imprint.  When it was promoted at the Random House Fall Preview for adult titles, it was mentioned that it would also appeal to young adults.  Upon reading it, I found that it would definitely be appropriate and appealing to the young adult reader.  The underlying path of the story finds the 17-year old protagonist coming to terms with what it means to grow up.  I would recommend this to a certain type of young adult reader.  However, I will warn those of you reading this review that the novel is quite dark.

I was prepared to tell you to look for it on August 31st , as that’s what my advance copy claims it’s release date to be.  However, upon doing a little further research, it turns out that this book was actually released last week.  Lucky you! You should really go out and get yourself a copy.