Friday, September 24, 2010

Up From the Blue, by Susan Henderson

Up from the Blue: A NovelTillie is about to become a mother.  As in, right now.  She is going into labor, several weeks early, and the terror of doing this alone causes her to reflect on her deeply troubled childhood.  She reflects on the way her family dealt with her mother's severe depression, a secret to be hidden a way, both figuratively and literally.  We spend time looking at life through her 8 year old eyes.  And Tillie's life is messy; her family is odd, and everything about her just seems wrong.  But nothing is as wrong as when Tillie starts to figure out the truth behind who made the choices regarding how the family came to be the way it did.

Finally a book that tells a story like this from the a different perspective.  We always hear adults talk about their depression, and how it affects them, or how they think it affects their families.  We hear teachers talk about troubled children in their classes, and speculate about the causes at home.  But this, this is a story, from the perspective of the one hurt the most by it, the silent victim that we so rarely hear from.  I wish more stories were told like this.  Susan Henderson does an fantastic job of shedding light on the affects of mental illness of a parent on young children.  One can not help but fall in love with Tillie, her innocence, her youth, her bites, her whims.  If I were Tillie, I would bite too.

I love that the story did not focus on the easy and expected.  Adult Tillie, mother to be, does not fixate on the idea of becoming like her mother.  In fact, adult Tillie is really just a catalyst to get to child Tillie.  We are only with adult Tillie the minimum amount of time necessary, because what happens in that 8th year is what is most important.  And while it would be easy to simply have made Tillie's father a "bad guy", his character is much richer, and more complex than that.  I worried, at times, about the implications with Anne, and was pleased that it never went where I thought it might.

All in all, a stunning, and powerfully dramatic story, that will cause me to pay a bit more attention to the Tillies I encounter every single day.

A touring review copy of this book was made available courtesy of Crazy Book Tours.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Art of Devotion, by Samantha Bruce-Benjamin

The Art of DevotionAdora, Miranda, Sophie, Genevieve.  Four women whose lives are irreversibly intertwined.  Adora and Sophie are mother and daughter, as are Miranda and Genevieve, yet some bonds are stronger than blood.  Ever since childhood, Genevieve has been spending her summers with Adora, and trying her hardest to imitate her.  Adora pampers the girl, and grooms her to point where she even arranges her first real encounter with love in the form of the dashing Jack.  Unfortunately, Adora does all this to fill a void left years earlier by the death of her beloved brother Sebastian.  As the situation continues to play out, each woman realizes just how little they really knew each other.

It is so hard to believe that this is a debut novel.  It is written as though by a seasoned author.  Samantha Bruce-Benjamin showcases extraordinary talented through the voices of these four women narrators.  I am absolutely stunned with the way these women's characters are developed throughout this novel, the precision with which their backstories are revealed, piece by piece, until, at the very end, everything comes together to form a larger picture.  Just when you think you have figured out which woman to trust, you encounter another plot twist, another character defect.

This story was haunting, and luxurious.  Set on an un-named Mediterranean island, the story seemed, at times, almost lyrical, and exotic.  I loved that the story unraveled the way that it did, because it made me hungry for the next page, chapter, and narrative voice.  As is common with stories that change voice, I started out worried that I would confuse characters, action, and sequence, but very quickly, I realized the fluidity of the book, and all fears flew away.

I mourn for the women of this book, for all of them.  Each suffers so much loss.  There is a recurrent theme that we are each born to fully love just one other person, regardless whether that is a romantic love, or a love of family bond or friendship.  I wonder if any of these four ever really finds their one love.

A brilliant, heartbreaking, glorious novel.  Bravo Samantha Bruce-Benjamin, bravo.

A touring review copy of this book was provided courtesy of Crazy Book Tours.

Monday, September 20, 2010

How to Buy a Love of Reading, by Tanya Egan Gibson

How to Buy a Love of ReadingCarley and Hunter have a complicated friendship, one that makes no sense in their snobbish town, where appearance is everything.  Why in the world does the golden boy insist on befriending the fat girl?  Yet, they understand each other in a way no one else does.  When Carley's parents insist on commissioning a book to be written on her behalf as a Sweet Sixteen present, it is to impress and engage Hunter that she even agrees to get involved.  She tries to distract him from his self destructive ways, so he instead begins destroying everyone else.  Will he destroy Carley?

I literally wanted to slap the taste out of the mouths of these spoiled, simpering characters.  Wealthy to a fault, trying desperately to live out the lives of the Great Gatsby characters, these shallow children have nothing better to do than drink, pop pills, spend money, and have sex.  They are so one dimensional it kind of made me sick.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of actual people in the world just like them.  Despite that reality, I found very little about the characters engaging, and absolutely nothing about them sympathetic.  Which is sad, really, because written in just a slightly different manner, I think Hunter could have been a hauntingly sympathetic character.  And Carley, well, I wanted to pity her, but she was just such a jellyfish.

I found the storyline to be convoluted, and confusing.  In the end, I was not really sure whose story it actually was.  There were too many things going on at once, the book within a book concept, the t.v show within the book within the book, just too many layers, none of them having much content.  It was like having a drawing done on several sheets of vellum overlay, and when assembled, the lines never really matching up to form an actual picture.

I did enjoy some parts of the book, particularly in the middle, when Carley and Bree, the author writing the commissioned book, start to make real connections, and Carley almost sticks up for herself a few times with Hunter.  So much wasted potential with Carley's character, it is hard to believe she ever actually becomes the person we learn of in the epilogue, again the lines do not match.

Not the worst book I ever read, but it was not an easy one to get through by any means.

A touring review copy of this book was provided courtesy of Crazy Book Tours.

Crazy Book Tours

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Crazy, by Han Nolan

CrazyJason is essentially raising himself.  His mother died, and his father, well, let's face it.  His father is crazy.  And since Jason has no friends, he created people in his mind to keep him company.  But when Jason's behavior at school results in mandatory in school counseling, Jason starts to form real relationships with the other students in his therapy group, he begins to need the people in his mind less and less.  It is these real connections and real people that afford him the courage to deal with his real problems.

When I first started reading this book, and realized the kind of cast of characters I was going to be dealing with here (real vs. imaginary) my head started to swim.  Luckily, Han Nolan does a brilliant job of keeping everything sorted out.  The dialog with the imaginary voices in Jason's head reads somewhat like a stage play, but really, that is not a bad thing.  Because of these voices all being a part of Jason's character, he is extremely complex, but very well developed.  I love watching him move more toward connecting with real people.

The storyline centers around mental illness and loss, so you would think the book would be mournful, yet it really is not, there is some real joy to be found in the book.  The subtext of forgiveness is pretty strong as well, which I think lends to that joyful feeling.  I find this to be a really fresh story for young adult readers, touching on themes that most young adult fiction won't, and in that, there is real merit.  It is beautiful, and brave, and capable of being a voice for some who have no other.

I received a review copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley.

Planning to Live, by Heather Wardell

Planning to Live
Rhiannon plans every aspect of her life.  Daily goals, weight loss, work progress.  She never planned to fall in love, however, and she certainly never planned on having that love ripped away from her.  Fate threw all of Rhiannon's plans for quite a loop, and she has been struggling to regain control ever since.  It takes a horrific car accident to show Rhiannon how little she is actually in control of, and how much her struggle for control has actually prevented her from living her life.  So what does she do know, when she actually wants to plan to live?

I have been struggling to write this review for days, because it is hard to review this book without giving spoilers.  And I refuse to give spoilers, because I really, really want you to read it.  We ALL need to read this book, there is so much we can learn from it.  This book broke my heart with every single page, and by the end, as the big fat tear drops rolled down my face, I was saddened and joyful all at once.  This book and its message has so much power.

Rhiannon's character is a perfectionist, to which I can relate.  Hard on herself about her weight, her job, every little misstep.  Goodness, I have been there, and I bet you have been too, which is why it is so easy to fall instantly in love with her character.  From the opening scene, which is so dramatic, you feel her pain, her joy, her sorrow, her devotion.  Rhiannon is like flesh and blood, and I became so attached to her through this book.  Never so much have I wanted a character to get her happy ending, because never so much has a character deserved it as Rhiannon. 

The plot is dramatic, without being melodramatic.  It moves fluidly between past and present, memories of years past and days past.  I found myself lying in my bed, devouring this book, I could not get enough.  The point of this book is that we get so caught up in the details of life that we forget to simply live, a lesson that Rhiannon does learn, and through her, we learn too.  We learn to savor the small moments of life, bite by bite, much like I savored this book, much like I hope you now will as well. 

A review copy of this book was provided courtesy of the author.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

From the Dead, by John Herrick

From The DeadJesse grew up the son of a preacher, whose mother died in childbirth with his little sister, Eden.  At the age of 18, Jesse longed to escape his small town life, as well as his father's shadow, and left Ohio for California.  Over the next 11 years, he struggled to catch a break as an actor, as well as to maintain his relationship with his long time girlfriend.  After hitting rock bottom, Jesse decides to return to his roots, recapture his life, and right so many wrongs from his past.

What a phenomenal treasure of a story this turned out to be.  The book echos strong Judeo Christian sentiments, without being a Christian novel, so there is much wide appeal of the story.  The themes of forgiveness and the reparation of the father/son  relationship (both biological and spiritual), and healing from all different types of brokenness are ones to which so many can relate.

I thought the story flowed very well, and I liked that the pace picked up quite a bit as the book wore on.  It made the book progressively harder to put down.  I loved the character of Jesse, mostly because he was so flawed, and fought so hard to regain his sense of self worth.  I thought this was a very powerful story, with a strong and positive male figure, something I find refreshing after reading a lot of stories with female heavy casts.

I would definitely recommend this book to many, many readers.  It is suitable for Christian readers, but do be advised that there are some episodes of strong language and swearing, sexual situations, and drug use in the book.  Still, I think the message of redemption makes it a worthwhile read for pretty much any adult reader.

A touring review copy of this book was provided courtesy of Crazy Book Tours.

Crazy Book Tours

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Jason Dark, Ghost Hunter: Volume VII Dead By Dawn, by Guido Henkel

Dead by Dawn (Jason Dark - Ghost Hunter)Jason Dark and Siu Lin are back in the latest installment of the Jason Dark series.  This time, there are a series of daily unexplained deaths, and even odder, numerous owl sightings.  Are the two odd occurrences linked?  Jason Dark is the man to find out.  While on the case, he runs into a mysterious street hawker selling snake oil.  How does this huckster factor into the whole mystery?

As always, Henkel produces a fantastic story.  It serves as not only a great chapter within the Jason Dark series, but also a terrific stand alone story.  As he has shown throughout all the previous installments, Henkel continues to develop the characters of Jason Dark and Siu Lin, and I felt as though this book, in particular, showed an even deeper development of their relationship, not only as partners, but as something...more.  I am excited about the options that may loom on the horizon for these two, and the directions future stories may take.

Guido warned me that this book was a little different from the earlier ones, and I have to say, I agree.  It has a much darker feel to it, and, while I loved the classic literary feel and many homages in the previous installments, this new, more gothic feeling is good.  It lends an intense, moody, and somewhat macabre feeling to the story, making it feel less like Sherlock, and more like Hitchcock.  I am liking this a lot.  It's very Poe-etic, if I can coin a very cheesy pun.

I would caution anyone new to the Jason Dark series, do not start with this one.  First of all, take some time to learn the back story of these characters, it is worth it.  Also, this story, as I said, is different from the past ones, but the past ones are equally awesome, so see where Dark's been, before you see where he's going.

All in all, another great story, that only leaves me wanting more.

A review copy of this book was provided courtesy of the author.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fallout, by Ellen Hopkins

Fallout Told in the three alternating voices of the children of meth addict Kristina, this is the story of what drug abuse can do to a family.  Tales of abuse, foster care, mental illness, and never really knowing a mother's love permeate all three teenagers stories.  We hear from Hunter, the oldest, as well as Autumn, and Summer.  Their stories are told in unison, with some similarities, and a stunning triple climax.

This book was the third in a series, being the follow up to Crank and Glass, but I had never read either of those books.  You can bet I will be going back and reading them now, as well as other books by Hopkins.  This book was stunning.  Told in verse form, though not for the purpose of beautiful poetry, this book speaks of the victims drug abuse claims beyond just the users.  You can not help but just ache for these kids, because, while they are characters in a book, these stories are all too real.  I have known too many children like this, whose lives are ripped apart by drugs.

I do wish I had read the series in order, because it was very hard to me to feel any empathy for Kristina, the mother.  The first two books in the series are her story, in her voice, and I think had I read them, I would have felt more empathic, and some parts of the book may have made more sense, but still, the impact was so powerful.  Be advised, this book is dark and raw.  That being said, as a young adult book, I still think it appropriate for high school aged readers, and I would encourage parents to read this book with their teenagers and discuss it.  It is brutally honest, and oftentimes ugly, but so if life.  I loved this book a lot, and can not wait to read more from Ellen Hopkins.

A traveling review copy of this book was provided courtesy of Traveling ARC Tours.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Blogfest 2010 Post and Giveaway

BlogFest 2010

It is my supreme honor to be a participant in Blogfest 2010.  This is my first year as a participant, and I am so excited to be among so many talented bloggers.

I am also super stoked about what I have to offer as my giveaway!

Are you ready for it.....

Tiffany's Book shelf is giving away, for Blogfest 2010...

Autographed copies of Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver and Linger.

How cool is this prize?  You know you want it right?

So, here are the rules, they are pretty simple:

1.  You must be a follower of Tiffany's Bookshelf to enter.
2.  Contest is open to US and Canadian residents only.
3.  Contest will run from 12:00 am 9/10/10 to 11:59 pm 9/12/10.
4.  To enter, simply leave a comment with your name and email address.  No email, no valid entry.

That's it.  Pretty simple right?  I hope you think this is as awesome as I do, and I hope you take some time to look around on my blog before you move along to the next blog on the party.

The next stop on Blogfest 2010 is The Bookworm's Library so once you are done here, please head over to that supremely excellent blog to continue the fun.

Also, don't forget about the massive BlogFest 2010 grand giveaway!  Head on over to and click on the Tracking Site link to head to our own exclusive tracking site.  Once there you can register with a valid email address (to be used solely for the purpose of contacting the winner).  This site will allow you to track your progress through BlogFest 2010!  You can log on from anywhere at any time and continue where you left off.  The best part is that every blog that you visit and mark off through this tracking site will give you one entry into the massive giveaway!  We have a great collection of books, goodies and other swag that is looking for a new home!

Thanks so much for participating in the Blogfest 2010 fun!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tyger Tyger, by Kersten Hamilton

Tyger Tyger: A Goblin Wars BookTeagan is completely focused.  She does well in school, has a good job working at the zoo, and is determined to get a scholarship.  Nothing will deter her, she has a plan.  But when Finn comes to stay with her family, everything changes.  Before she knows it, her family suffers tragedy, and she starts seeing strange things all around her.  Suddenly, a world she thought only existed in the Irish old world tales her Mother told her is exploding all around her.  Teagan's world is overrun- with goblins.

As I read this book, my initial reaction was that I was not liking the book.  In fact, for the first half of the book, I felt the book was too dark, and confusing for someone not well versed in Celtic folklore.  But something pushed me to keep looking deeper into this book.  I can only assume that something is magic, because there is certainly something magical about this book.

As a young adult book, I liken this book to The Bridge to Terebithia.  The themes are certainly a little dark, but there is beauty and light to be found in that darkness.  The world that Kersten Hamilton creates in Mag Mell is simply stunning, and in fact makes me want to learn more about Celtic lore.  I love Teagan and Finn's characters, and the connections they share.  I also love all the literary references in the book.

In the end, I am really glad I stuck with this book, I think it has something really special to offer.  I am excited to see what else may be in store with the Goblin Wars books in the future.  This book is set to release in November.

A review copy of this book was provided courtesy of NetGalley.