Spotlight Friday (58)

So you know how in Tangled, the opening song sung by Rapunzel asks “When will my life begin?”  Apparently, my life decided to really take off this month.  I have been a truly awful blogger these past few weeks.  I have 2 new book reviews and a movie review to do.  AND I missed last week’s Spotlight because I was so busy.  I’d like to say that I’ll do better soon, but I can’t promise anything.  I’ll do what I can!

Bitter Blood (Morganville Vampires, #13) by Rachel Caine

Release Date: November 6, 2012

*By book 13 in a series, you can’t possibly do this without some spoilers.*

Summary (from Goodreads)Thanks to the eradication of the parasitic creatures known as the draug, the vampires of Morganville have been freed of their usual constraints. With the vampires indulging their every whim, the town’s human population is determined to hold on to their lives by taking up arms. But college student Claire Danvers isn’t about to take sides, considering she has ties to both the humans and the vampires. 

To make matters worse, a television show comes to Morganville looking for ghosts, just as vampire and human politics collide. Now, Claire and her friends have to figure out how to keep the peace without ending up on the nightly news… or worse.

What’s To Like: I just love this series, even if it’s gotten formulaic and predictable at times.  It’s the same reason why I watch TV shows I know are going to make me laugh or why I used to watch CSI, which really is pretty much the same every week.  It’s good, I like it, and I want to keep up with it.  I’m really interested to see how these ghost hunters fit into the story.

My review of Bitter Blood.

Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill

Release Date: November 13, 2012

Summary (from Goodreads)Meant to be or not meant to be . . . that is the question. 

It’s one thing to fall head over heels into a puddle of hazelnut coffee, and quite another to fall for the—gasp—wrong guy. Straight-A junior Julia may be accident prone, but she’s queen of following rules and being prepared. That’s why she keeps a pencil sharpener in her purse and a pocket Shakespeare in her, well, pocket. And that’s also why she’s chosen Mark Bixford, her childhood crush, as her MTB (“meant to be”).

But this spring break, Julia’s rules are about to get defenestrated (SAT word: to be thrown from a window) when she’s partnered with her personal nemesis, class-clown Jason, on a school trip to London. After one wild party, Julia starts receiving romantic texts . . . from an unknown number! Jason promises to help discover the identity of her mysterious new suitor if she agrees to break a few rules along the way. And thus begins a wild goose chase through London, leading Julia closer and closer to the biggest surprise of all: true love.

Because sometimes the things you least expect are the most meant to be.

What’s To Like: I really like this because I can see so much of myself in Julia.  I think there are a lot of readers out there like me who have all these rules for love and think everything is so formulaic (is that my buzz word for the day or what?).  Anyway, I’m really excited to see London through Julia’s eyes and see what this Jason is all about.

My review of Meant To Be.

Miss Fortune Cookie by Lauren Bjorkman

Release Date: November 13, 2012

Summary (from Goodreads)Meet Erin. Smart student, great daughter, better friend. Secretly the mastermind behind the popular advice blog Miss Fortune Cookie. Totally unaware that her carefully constructed life is about to get crazy.

It all begins when her ex-best friend sends a letter to her blog—and then acts on her advice. Erin’s efforts to undo the mess will plunge her into adventure, minor felonies, and possibly her very first romance.

What’s a likely fortune for someone no longer completely in control of her fate? Hopefully nothing like: You will become a crispy noodle in the salad of life.

What’s To Like: This has been on my to-read list since I first heard about it over 2 years ago. I think it just sounds like a fantastic premise and I’m really excited to see what happens.  This whole blog thing has me interested.  I haven’t read too many books yet with blogs in them.  It may lead to an interesting format to the story if we actually get to see blog pages.

The Girl in the Steel Corset (Steampunk Chronicles, #1)

First Lines: The moment she saw the young man walking down the darkened hall toward her, twirling his walking stick, Finley Jayne knew she’d be unemployed before the sun rose.  Her third dismissal in as many months.

One of my good friends has been on my case about reading this for quite some time now.  She finally loaned me a copy of it (and the sequel) to read.  And when I actually had time to read, I managed to knock this out in…a week and a half.

Set in 1897 London, Finley lives in a world where machines are as present as the class system.  Finley  is different from most girls in that she fights back against young lords who want to take advantage of her…and she wins.  Her dark side makes it possible for her to take down a grown man with one punch.  Griffin King sees how Finley is special, like him and his friends: Emily, the inventor; Sam, the part robot man; and Jasper, the American cowboy.  Griffin is investigating a criminal named The Machinist, who Griffin believes is responsible for a number of new crimes.  Finley finally feels like she might fit in.  But it isn’t long before The Machinist sets his sights on a new target…one much closer to the group of misfits than Griffin would like…

Like I said, it took me a week and a half to get through this.  I had a lot going on, so I admit I’m having a hard time piecing everything together in my head from start to finish.

I’m really interested in steampunk as a genre.  It’s really interesting to see how all this technology would fit in with the Victorian era.  I find it fascinating.  But at the same time, I get really sick of the word “automaton” by the time I’m done with the novel.  It’s a weird thing to be critical of, I know, but it really feels overused.

I liked the characters, especially Finley and Griffin.  I liked reading the story from their perspectives. They are clever and insightful about so much.  I didn’t so much like it when the perspective switched to Sam, but it could be because I found him to be really moody and impulsive most of the time.  It was a way of foreshadowing key points in the story, which I pieced together very quickly and spoiled the later chapters.

The action was fast-paced, which made it easy for me to keep up with the story when I only had about 10 minutes at a time to try to read it.

All in all, I liked the book but I won’t say I was over impressed with it.  It was entertaining, but not completely enthralling.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

First Lines: I was born with water on the brain.  Ok, so that’s not exactly true.  I was actually born with too much cerebral spinal fluid inside my skull.  But cerebral spinal fluid is just the doctors’ fancy way of saying brain grease.

This was another book I had to read for my YA lit class, and one I had heard about well before I read it.    And you have to admit the title is interesting.

Arnold “Junior” Spirit has lived a fairly typical life on the reservation.  He’s been bullied a little more than the other kids because of how he looks and talks, but he’s still an Indian…and he doesn’t want his life to be contained on the rez.  Junior wants to take his fate in his own hands.  And he will, but will his fate be what he expects or wants it to be?

I think maybe because of all the praise I heard about it I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to.  Everybody raved about how great of a coming-of-age story it was, but I just don’t understand what that is supposed to mean.  Nearly all of YA lit has to do with teenagers learning what it means to grow up.  That’s what makes YA lit so special.

What was hardest for me was getting to feel and understand Junior’s “voice”.  The writing just didn’t flow the way I wanted it to.  It was jolting and juvenile, I guess, which makes sense since it’s supposed to be Junior’s diary.  Still, I just couldn’t sink into it.

And there are some things I found inappropriate in it.  Most of the books I read don’t discuss these topics and I am more than OK with that.  It just felt uncomfortable, especially since the narrator is a guy and I’m a girl.  It just didn’t sit right with me.

But the story did cover some tougher topics that I liked.  I liked how it looked at life on the rez.  I liked how it broke down the differences between a “typical” White male and Junior.  I liked that we got to see Junior’s struggles in a new school and how he handled everything that was thrown his way.

Overall, I thought it wasn’t targeted at me and therefore wasn’t received as well as it could have been.  It covers some tough topics that are great for younger teenagers.  It just wasn’t for me.

Temptation

First Lines: Holy crap.  I watched the churning water rush over the driveway and back into the swollen creek bed.  I’d never seen anything like it before, and from the look of incredulity on Dad’s face, neither had he.

A big thanks to the author, Karen Hopkins, for getting me a copy of her book to read and review!

So as you may have been able to tell, I didn’t stumble upon this book on my own.  I had a little help from the author.  She contacted me and asked if I would like to read it for her.  After a minor hesitation, I agreed.

Life is anything but normal for Rose after she moves away from Cincinnati.  She’s been uprooted and forced to live in a small town next to an Amish community.  Noah has been Amish his whole life.  He likes the community, and the way life is.  Then Rose and Noah meet.  Suddenly, everything is different.  Rose finds herself drawn to Noah and his odd ways.  Noah is captivated by Rose’s spirit and wild nature.  The two can’t be together, but can they manage to stay apart?

Because of classes and hanging out with friends, it took me two weeks to finish this.  It never takes me this long to read a book.  I couldn’t believe it took this long, but it totally did.

So over the span of two weeks, I admit that I probably forgot some of what happened.  I didn’t get as engrossed in the story as I would have liked to.  It happens.  And that made it take even longer to finish because I couldn’t motivate myself to read it.

It’s not that it’s a bad story.  I really like the concept and the attention devoted to the Amish community.  I had some background in this area because I live in an area where it’s really not all that uncommon to run into an Amish buggy on the road.  That’s what drew me to this in the first place.

But there were some issues I had with the story.  It has the feeling of insta-love.  Or as I like to say, “Hey I just met you and this is crazy, but I think I love you.  Marry me, maybe?”  …Yeah.  The relationship felt really rushed and I don’t feel like I’m really exaggerating by comparing this to Call Me Maybe.

I also had problems with Noah and Rose.  I get it: you love each other.  Did you really have to change each other for the worse, though?  What I loved about each of them in the beginning was gone by the end.  Noah feels he has to “tame” Rose, which is really the last thing he should be trying to do since that’s what drew him to her in the first place.  I just…I don’t like relationships like that.  I don’t think people should try to change each other.  And I didn’t like how jealous and possessive Noah could be in some places.

It’s not like I disliked the story.  I just thought it had some problems.  If you’re looking for an introduction to Amish life or a love story where only one of the two is Amish (apparently, these are more popular than I ever knew), then definitely look into this.  It simply wasn’t quite right for me.

Spotlight Friday (57)

Hey guys!  I really have not been on in the last week, have I?  Busy busy college bee.  I promise, though, I will have 2 new book reviews up before the next Spotlight.  I just finished one book this morning, so that review should be coming out in the next couple of days.  Just bear with me here.  (It’s this way at the beginning of every year.)  On to the new books!

Venom (Secrets of the Eternal Rose, #1) by Fiona Paul

Release Date: October 30, 2012

Summary (from Goodreads)Cassandra Caravello is one of Renaissance Venice’s lucky elite: with elegant gowns, sparkling jewels, her own lady’s maid, and a wealthy fiancé, she has everything a girl could desire. Yet ever since her parents’ death, Cassandra has felt trapped, alone in a city of water, where the dark and labyrinthine canals whisper of escape.

When Cass stumbles upon a murdered woman—practically in her own backyard—she’s drawn into a dangerous world of courtesans, killers, and secret societies. Soon, she finds herself falling for Falco, a mysterious artist with a mischievous grin… and a spectacular skill for trouble. Can Cassandra find the murderer, before he finds her? And will she stay true to her fiancé, or succumb to her uncontrollable feelings for Falco?

Beauty, love, romance, and mystery weave together in a stunning novel that’s as seductive and surprising as the city of Venice itself.

What’s To Like: It’s been a really long time since I’ve found a historical fiction I’ve been really looking forward to reading.  This looks amazing.  I love the location as well.  Venice?  So much about it that could be incorporated into the story.  I’m interested to see if this is going to have a supernatural twist to it or not.  I get the feeling that it does, but I can’t be certain until I have my hands on it.

My review of Venom.

Sirens (Faithful, #3) by Janet Fox

Release Date: November 8, 2012

*Note: This is a companion to two other novels, not necessarily the 3rd in a series.  I don’t think there are any spoilers, should you choose to read on.

Summary (from Goodreads)When Jo Winter’s parents send her off to live with her rich cousin on the glittering island of Manhattan, it’s to find a husband and forget about her brother Teddy’s death. But all that glitters is not gold,. Caught up in the swirl of her cousin’s bobbed-hair set—and the men that court them—Jo soon realizes that the talk of marriage never stops, and behind the seemingly boundless gains are illicit business endeavors, gangsters, and their molls. Jo would much rather spend time the handsome but quiet Charles, a waiter at the Algonquin Hotel, than drape herself over a bootlegger. But when she befriends a moll to one of the most powerful men in town, Jo begins to uncover secrets—secrets that threaten an empire and could secure Jo’s freedom from her family. Can her newfound power buy her love? Or will it to ruin Jo, and everyone around her?

What’s To Like: I like Janet Fox’s way of turning parts of history into something awesome.  Usually she covers less well known things, like the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, I think is the year.  Stuff like that.  This is the ’20s, so I’m wondering what kind of twist she has to offer.  I admit, I haven’t seen many with gangsters in them.  That should be interesting.  I’m really interested to see what’s in store.

The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart (Magic Most Foul, #2) by Leanna Renee Hieber

Release Date: November 1, 2012

*So you know how I said in the last one that there were no spoilers?  Yeah, not the same for this one.  Read on if you dare.*

Summary (from Goodreads)For Natalie Stewart, a normal life has never seemed so far away. Her only solace, Lord Jonathan Denbury, is wanted for murder. To clear his name, Denbury must return to England and assume the role of his demon doppelganger. But Natalie begins to doubt his true motives, especially as a new gentleman begins whispering in her ear. Natalie and Denbury may be able to visit each other in their dreams, but they can’t escape the darkening shadows. Amid spontaneous explosions, friends turned enemies and dangerous secrets revealed, there’s still a demon who has Natalie’s scent, and someone is trying to resurrect the ultimate evil.

What’s To Like: I really liked the first book in this series, Darker Still.  It was definitely odd, but I like odd.  I can work with that.  I loved watching Natalie grow more than anything else about the book.  And now I want to see what she does this time.  Plus, the title has my attention.  “The twisted tragedy?”  I mean, what’s going to happen to her now?  Can’t the girl ever catch a break?

Spotlight Friday (56)

So…to state the obvious, today is not Friday.  I completely forgot that yesterday I was supposed to have this up.  Oops.  My bad.  Still, a day late is better than never, right?

Finale (Hush, Hush, #4) by Becca Fitzpatrick

Release Date: October 23, 2012

*Series Spoilers Ahead*

Summary (fr0m Goodreads)Nora is more certain than ever that she is in love with Patch. Fallen angel or no, he is the one for her. Her heritage and destiny may mean they are fated to be enemies, but there is no turning her back on him. Now Nora and Patch must gather their strength to face one last, perilous trial. Old enemies return, new enemies are made, and a friend’s ultimate betrayal threatens the peace Patch and Nora so desperately want. The battle lines are drawn—but which sides are they on? And in the end, are there some obstacles even love can’t conquer?

What’s To Like: I’ve been a fan of this series from the beginning and I’m really excited to see what the conclusion will bring.  It’s always bittersweet when a series ends.  The stakes are higher and you never know exactly what will happen to the main characters.  Will they stay together?  (Ok, that one is usually answered with “yes”.)  It also means the end of new chapters in their story.  But it’s one more series to cross off my list!  Yes, bittersweet.

My review of Finale.

The Evolution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer, #2) by Michelle Hodkin

Release Date: October 23, 2012

Summary (from Goodreads)Mara Dyer once believed she could run from her past.

She can’t.

She used to think her problems were all in her head.

They aren’t.

She couldn’t imagine that after everything she’s been through, the boy she loves would still be keeping secrets.

She’s wrong.

In this gripping sequel to The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, the truth evolves and choices prove deadly. What will become of Mara Dyer next?

What’s To Like: I was going to put a potential series spoiler warning on this, but this series is so wrapped in mystery anyway that you can’t figure out what’s going on even after you read the first book.  That’s one thing I genuinely love about this series: it’s mysterious and unpredictable.  You know almost nothing going into the first book and you come out understanding some things and not others.  Given that cliffhanger at the end of the first one, we’d better be figuring some more things out in this one.

Touching The Surface by Kimberly Sabatini

Release Date: October 30, 2012

Summary (from Goodreads)When Elliot finds herself dead for the third time, she knows she must have messed up, big-time. She doesn’t remember how she landed in the afterlife again, but she knows this is her last chance to get things right.

     Elliot just wants to move on, but first she will be forced to face her past and delve into the painful memories she’d rather keep buried. Memories of people she’s hurt, people she’s betrayed…and people she’s killed.

     As she pieces together the secrets and mistakes of her past, Elliot must find a way to earn the forgiveness of the person she’s hurt most, and reveal the truth about herself to the two boys she loves…even if it means losing them both forever.

What’s To Like: I love that the summary starts with “When Elliot finds herself dead for the third time…”  It grabs my interest because you have to go, “wait, what?”  I’m really interested to see why this girl has hurt, betrayed, and killed people.  I know this summary isn’t a lot to go on, but she doesn’t seem like that kind of girl.  So the question becomes why?  And that is why I’ll read this.

Feed

First Lines: We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.

Believe it or not, this was actually my homework, reading this book.  If not my class, this wouldn’t have ever made its way into my hands.  It’s totally not something I would normally pick.

Set in future, Titus and his friends are just normal teenagers.  They can fly to the moon Spring Break, or get the latest breaking news from the feed that is imbedded in their heads.  On the moon, Titus sees a beautiful girl that he wants to get to know better.  This is the story of Titus and Violet, and their life in a time when technology is literally a part of us.

I like the concept of this.  I mean, that’s what futuristic/dystopia stories are all about.  They take something happening in our current society and take it to an extreme.  I liked that this took technology to the extreme, to see how far it could possibly go.  It definitely made for a…well, I was going to say “wake up call”, but more like “slap in the face.”

What I didn’t like was most everything else.  Not that I hated everything, but I just didn’t like so many aspects of it.  Titus and the others (except for Violet) were spoiled brats (which I’m sure is intentional and possibly a side-effect of everyone having a feed).  I didn’t feel like the story had much of a plot.  And the language was really offensive.

Breakdown: The Plot

So like, I just didn’t feel like there was a plot.  See my pathetic attempt at a synopsis up above?  Yeah. I have no idea what to say about it.  It’s mostly about Titus and Violet’s relationship, but even that’s not the main part of the story.  It’s just like, Titus’s story.  And it really wasn’t that exciting.

And the language.  Nearly everyone in my class agreed that the language was really off-putting.  There are unnecessary f-bombs dropped all the time that just got irritating.  Also, the use of slang.  I realize that by writing this review as a talk, I fall victim to using too many “like”s.  Just look in the above paragraph.  And I know this.  But the story immediately jumps in with slang words like “meg” and “youch” that you have to figure out by context what they mean.  Sometimes it takes chapters to figure this out.  That was annoying as well.

But it’s not like it’s a terrible story.  Some kids in my class genuinely liked it.  I didn’t.  It had good qualities, but it’s not my thing.