Sunday, July 31, 2011

Jane Jones, Worst.Vampire.Ever, by Cassie St. Onge

Jane Jones: Worst. Vampire. Ever.

As if being a teenage vampire is bad enough, Jane is also allergic to blood.  How does that even happen?  Jane spends her time trying to survive high school, an overprotective mom, boy troubles, and some embarrassing allergic reactions, but suddenly, she finds herself, and her family, facing some much more serious problems.  

Vampires are still one of the hot young adult fiction topics, so we have seen, and I believe will continue to see, lots of books cropping up with vampires as the main characters.  However, I thought this one sort of stood out.  I think the author did a good job of showing how teen angst combined with vampire brooding can make life hell in high school.

Kids struggle through high school all the time, so Jane's character is easy for teens to relate to, even if her dilemmas are slightly different.  I found the characters believable, as much as vamps can be I guess.  The book made me remember why I hated high school myself.  I think the book is probably most appropriate for older middle grade and high school readers, probably not a lot here to engage most adult readers, but still a pretty funny read none the less.

I received a review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine program.

Mistaken Identity, by K. Dawn Byrd

Mistaken Identity

Eden and Lexi have been good friends nearly all their lives, even when their friendship does not always make sense.  When Eden makes a list of 6 goals to accomplish, Lexi even helps get some of the goals accomplished.  But when the goal of getting a boyfriend leads Eden and Lexi to unknowingly fall for the same boy, the only think likely to get accomplished is a lot of hurt.

What do you get when you join a fantastic Christian author with the increasingly popular genre of young adult fiction?  You get a book with unbelievably wide readership appeal.  Such is the case with Mistaken Identity.  Once again, Byrd shows her ability to write Christian fiction in a way promotes a godly story, complete with great characters and a solid plot, in a way that is not too pushy or evangelistic.

I really liked the characters of Eden and Lexi.  I think that these are girls to which a lot of teen readers will relate.  While Eden is a Christian, she is human and flawed, and I think Christian teens need to see that in books, that it is normal to make mistakes at this age, but you can still hold on to your faith.  The character of Lexi appeals to more mainstream teen readers, and I think that is the key to this book having such wide appeal, beyond a Christian market.  After all, what teen reader would not relate to the idea of competing for a  guy?  I particularly liked the fact that Byrd does not stoop to gimmicks, such as ridiculous slang or pop culture references, in order to make the book more teen appropriate.  The story stands on its own.

While Christian fiction is a popular genre, I think there is a bit of a hole in the Christian young adult genre, and Mistaken Identity does a great job of filling it.  Not all teens want to be reading about the kind of romance you seen in books like Twilight, so this is a nice way of not only providing them with an appropriate type of romance, but really giving them something to read about the sounds a lot like the lives they live, and the struggles they face.  Bravo for Mistaken Identity, and I hope we see more like this from Byrd.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bad Girls of the Bible, by Liz Curtis Higgs

Bad Girls of the Bible and What We Can Learn from Them

Not every woman in the Bible was a woman seeking saintly status.  The Bible is chock fuller of sinners, prostitutes, adulterers, gossips, backtalkers, and all around bad girls.  Besides serving as some cautionary tales, what purpose could these bad girls serve in relation to our everyday lives?  There is actually quite a bit we can learn from these fallen women, and our ability to relate to them may surprise everyone, most of all ourselves.

I have to say, the title of the book is what drew me in.  I hoped it would be written a little tongue in cheek, and in my opinion it was.  I actually enjoyed how these classic "bad girl" tales were given modern day counterparts, to help readers better understand the situation.  At times, for those not biblical scholars, it is hard to interpret specific Bible stories within the appropriate historical and political context.  I liked that the vignettes did this, thus making the stories more relatable.

Is this a book for biblical scholars, probably not, but I found it to be both interesting and helpful to a lay population who was seeking to better relate to the Bible.  Women, often Christian women, feel like there is no way to recover or learn from mistakes they have made in their lives, and I find this book to be a great way to prove those sentiments invalid.  This book shows the healing and redemptive power of God's love and forgiveness, to even the baddest of girls.

I think this is a good book for Christian women, but I also think this book could be appealing to non-Christian readers as well.  It can help bridge the gap that religion can sometimes form, and show the difference between religion and faith when it comes to turning your life around.

I received a review copy of the book courtesy of the publisher. You can rate my review:

Friday, July 29, 2011

Mormonism Mama and Me, by Themla Greer

Mormonism Mama And MeThelma was raised in the Mormon Church, a descendant of a man who was once close to Brigham Young himself.  As a child she basked in the tenets of a faith, but as an adult, she began asking some questions, which lead her to leave the Church, and begin investigating other forms of Christianity.  Now, she shares her beliefs about Mormonism with others, in the hopes of winning their souls for Jesus.

Before reading this book, I will admit my knowledge of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was limited to here say.  I had never really discussed the tenets of the faith, or done any of my own research.  After watching some movies and having exposure to various types of media that referenced Mormonism, I found myself fascinated, so this book seemed like a great place to start.

It almost goes without saying that this book is not well received or appreciated by anyone who is a staunch Mormon.  And I went into reading the book with caution.  Anyone who defects from any group, religious or otherwise, is bound to hold low opinions of that group, and want to point out the faults of the group.  But, to my non-Mormon self, I felt like this book did a fairly good job of pointing out some facts about the Mormon faith, even if slantedly so.  Some of the tenets discussed are no longer held by the LDS church, so I believe one must still approach this book with a discriminating eye.

One thing I do wish about the book is that it contained more personal information, and resembled more of a memoir.  Thelma talks of her own conversion, as well as her mother's, to Christianity in an somewhat abrupt manner.  I wish it had been a bit more personal.

Overall, not a bad place to start for someone looking to learn more about Mormonism, even is some of it is simply opinion based.

This book is from my personal library.

The Hypnotist, by M. J. Rose

The Hypnotist (The Reincarnationist)Art theft is big business, and Lucian Glass should know.  He is part of the FBI's crime team, and is investigating some strange happenings, all dealing with items called the Memory Tools. A group of reincarnationists believe that these tools will unlock the mysteries of past lives, and some will stop at nothing to find them.  When a large statue called Hypnos is discovered at the Met in New York, it becomes clear that different groups have different reasons for wanting the statue, and nothing will stand in their way of getting it.  The situation forces Lucian to deal with his very painful past.

I was concerned that I would be a little lost when reading this book, since it is the third in a series, but I must say, this is an excellent stand alone book.  The plot, while complex, is easy to follow, and draws the reader in to the storyline from the very beginning.  Past and present are woven together in such fluidity,  I never had difficulty seeing how all the pieces fit together, nor questioned the author's technique in changing time settings and narratives throughout the book.  It was like a delicate dance, and was executed perfectly.

I never felt as connected to the characters as I would have liked, but I think that this too served a purpose.  With a story this complex and intense, a reader cannot get too attached to any character; there just really is not time.  I certainly sympathized with many of the characters in the book, some major players and some minor.

I personally am skeptical about metaphysical topics, including reincarnation.  I thought the book did a nice job of including metaphysical elements in the story without being over the top.  Similarly, I know know little about the world of fine art, but its incorporation into the storyline was done in such a way that it made sense to me.  I think it is sheer brilliance when an author can take topics about which readers are unaware or uninterested and incorporate them into a storyline that still can draw that reader in to the book.  I am curious to read the other books in the series now.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lake Charles, by Ed Lynskey

Lake CharlesBrendan's life is fraught with trouble.  First, he wakes up after a drug fueled sex romp to find his lovely date, Ashley, dead in their motel room.  Then, on a fishing expedition, his twin sister goes missing.  As he and his friend Cobb look for her, they soon get in over their heads.  He had no idea all the secrets that Lake Charles held.

From the first page of this book, you know you are in for something different.  We meet the character of Ashley only through memories, and her ghostly visits to Brendan's dreams.  Yet her character is well developed throughout the book.  She gives clues throughout the plot to the truth of her death, a mystery Brendan is determined to unravel.

The plot is fast paced, and full of twists and turns.  At times, I had trouble seeing where the story was going, but I stuck it out and was rewarded in the end.  The story wraps up nicely, and even ends on a hopeful note, which I greatly appreciated after quite a but of darkness throughout the story.

Fans of thrillers and crime mysteries will appreciate this book.  I often lack the patience for such genres, desiring to know immediately who "dunnit", and I certainly felt that way with this one.  However, I am glad I was able to stick it out.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author.

Prom and Prejudice, by Elizabeth Eulberg

Prom and PrejudiceAs a scholarship student at the exclusive Longbourn Academy, Lizzie has had a bit of a rough time.  She is never fully accepted by the other girls, with the exception of her roommate Jane and another scholarship student, Charlotte.  As all the girls at the academy get caught up in a whirlwind of prom madness, Lizze finds herself caught in a most unusual web with Will, a boy from the local boy's school, and Wick, an alluring bad boy with a questionable past.  Will Lizzie survive the prom madness, and the year at Longbourn?

I tend to dislike modern remakes of classic books, both in movie and in book form, but I must say I was pleasantly surprised at how well this adaptation turned out.  I think that the spunk and levelheadedness of Austen's Elizabeth Bennett shows through in the modern day Lizzie character, and I really liked watching the character develop.  The plot seemed to retain just enough of the original story to appeal to the classic literature reader, and enough of as original spin to make it appeal to a whole new generation of readers.

It is hard to make classic literature appealing to young adults, so it makes me happy to see this adaptation done so well.  The themes of dealing with school, being an outcast, and facing prom are relatable enough to appeal to teens, yet the book does not stoop to gimmicks such as overt pop culture references or an overabundance of teen slang; this makes the book have wider readership appeal.

All in all, I would recommend this book to young adult readers, but also to lovers of classic literature.  I think this is an adaptation any Austen fan can appreciate.

I received a review copy as part of the Amazon Vine program.

Friday, July 22, 2011

When You Were Mine, by Elizabeth Noble

When You Were Mine: A NovelA chance encounter in her home town put Susannah face to face with Rob, her high school sweetheart.  Forced to reflect on her failed marriage and her failing long term relationship, Susannah reminisces about her youth.  When her best friend is diagnosed with cancer, Susannah has about all she can take, and ends up finding comfort in the familiar arms of her first love.  But both their lives are complicated, so, where does that leave their new found love?

I really liked this story.  The author plays with the time lines, bouncing from past to present in a way that really tells Susannah's story.  And I love Susannah's character a lot.  She does not allow her self to play the victim, yet at the same time she does allow her self to feel a wide range of emotions.  I like the twists and turns of the plot, and greatly appreciate the fact that not every lose end is tied up.  It makes the story so much more realistic, because let's face it, that is how life is.

I also really liked the sub-story that deals with Susannah's friendship with her best friend.  Again, not a nice tidy  situation.  I think this book is really relatable to a lot of female readers.  While not what I would call earth shattering, I think this book is a nice solid read, great beach reading, and it makes me curious to read more by Noble.

 I received a touring review copy courtesy of Crazy Book Tours.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pinpoint, by Sheila Mary Taylor

PinpointFrom the beginning, Julia has had an odd connection to her client, Sam Smith.  When he is found guilty of murder, Sam vows revenge against Julia for failing him as her client.  She seems nonplussed, despite the fact that odd things keep happening, and people around her are getting hurt.  But when her daughter disappears, Julia must face up to reality, including the truth about herself, as well as Sam's true identity.

What an incredible book this was!  I think that the storyline was incredible, and the plot moved at a nice even pace, so that the reader maintained enough interest to never put the book down.  I loved the subtle twists and turns within the plot, making it different from any crime thriller I have read.

I particularly enjoyed Julia's character.  This is a character that has suffered her whole life long, and while your heart breaks because of this suffering, you are hungry for more of her story.  I was fascinated by the way her back story was revealed, and I really feel it helped drive the plot to it's incredible climax.

I think that fans of legal or crime thrillers will enjoy this book.  And while not a mystery in the truest sense, there is still a mysterious tone to the book that will appeal to a wide variety of readers.  I great book to keep you up late into the night.

I received a review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Monday, July 18, 2011

BlogFest 2011 Giveaway Winner

First off, hello new readers and followers!  I am so excited that you all played along with the BlogFest 2011 fun! I hope you like the reviews that I have already posted, as well as the ones I will be posting in the future.

It is my pleasure to announce that the winner of the Amazon Giftcard Giveaway is.....

Krystal from Live to Read!

Thanks to all who entered, I was so thrilled to see the response!

I look forward to getting to know you all and hearing your thoughts on my reviews!

Friday, July 15, 2011

BlogFest 2011


Hello faithful readers.  So sorry for my absence lately, rest assured, I am still reading and reviewing books, and am still working toward my goal of 200 books in 2011.  To help apologize for my absence, and to help celebrate BlogFest 2011, I am hosting a giveaway.

I struggled with what people might like as a prize, and suddenly I realized, I can give whomever wins the exact book they have been wanting, by simply giving away a giftcard.  

So, I will be giving away a $15 gift card to Amazon.  Who would not like to win that, right?

Here are the details:
  • In order to win, you must be a follower of my blog.
  • Since the giftcard can be emailed, this giveaway is open to anyone.
  • The giveaway is open from 12:01 am July 15th to 11:59 pm July 17th.  A winner will be chosen on July 18th.  
  • Entering is SUPER easy, just leave me a comment below with your name, your email, and telling me how you follow my blog (GFC, Networked Blogs, etc). 
  •  Follow me on Twitter and get and extra entry by leaving a second comment with your Twitter name.  
  • "Like" me on Facebook and get an extra entry by leaving a third comment with your Facebook name. 
  • Go to my Amazon reviewer profile and vote any of my reviews "helpful" and get an fourth entry by telling me which review you voted on.
 So, you can get up to 4 entries.  Simple right?  RIGHT!  So, best of luck!


The fun does not end there.  Check out the following blogs, who are also participating in Blogfest 2011 by sponsoring some great giveaways:

You can see the full list of blogs participating in Blogfest 2011 at A Journey of Books

Hope you all enjoy Blogfest 2011.  Keep track of all the giveaways you enter here!  Good luck!

Friday, July 1, 2011

How Did You Get This Number, by Sloan Crosley

How Did You Get This NumberSloan is back with more essays telling about her life and adventures.  What happens when this city girl goes to Alaska?  Why can she never return to France?  Why did math class result in a doctor's appointment?  The answers to these questions and more can be found in this collection of essays.

Sloan, oh Sloan.  I have such a complex relationship with your work.  I love love pink puffy heart love your first book.  It was witty and honest.  This book, well, this book just tries to hard to be as cool as her older sister.  And fails miserably.

I found the majority of this book really boring.  It is so "New York" that its attempts at sophistication come across as merely pretentiousness.  Some of the stories induced a chuckle or two but nothing near the belly laughs that her first book elicited.  It merely sounds like the whining of a relatively well adjusted girl from a stable family living in New York and trying to be edgy.

I really thought this book fell short of the benchmark and am not entirely sure if I will read more of her work.  Which is absurd to me, given how much I adored her first book.  Her first book inspired me to write.  This book inspired me to write better that her.

This book is from my personal library.