From that time on, the world was hers for the reading....

Friday, July 23, 2010

Allan Richard Shickman: Zan-Gah

Thanks to the kind folks at Earthshaker Books, I have a signed copy of Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure by Allan Richard Shickman. I had never read a book set in prehistoric times, so I was intrigued.

"She began to move warily in a circle as the men tightened the trap, and as they got closer the lioness began to stride and prowl in a circle so small that she almost seemed to be chasing her tail. But she was watching, watching while she turned and snarled, for a weakness in the ever-tightening ring of her pursuers. Then, at the moment the attack finally was sounded--when the men, putting down their drums and torches, charged on the run with their spears--the lioness saw what she was looking for. One of her enemies was smaller, weaker than the rest. There was a point in the strengthening line that could be broken! Thought merged with furious action and the beast, with a mighty bound of astonishing swiftness, darted toward Zan. Five hundred pounds of snarling fury sprang directly at him with claws bared and fanged mouth open!"

Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure has hardly started. A bad conscience and concern for Dael, his missing brother, cause Zan to begin a search which will lead him to captivity, conflict, love, and victory. In a time of war, the hero goes from an uncertain boyhood to a tried and proven manhood, and a role of leadership among his people.

It's about survival, discovery, a long search, and a good fight.

It doesn't take long for the action to get started. And, once it does, the reader doesn't get a chance to come up for air.

The story begins with Zan-Gah's tribe battling a vicious lioness and what follows is a gripping, action-packed journey through dangerous terrains, encounters with angry rival tribes, and a brave attempt to endure in the most primitive of conditions.

This book was unique and like nothing I've ever read. Allan Richard Shickman is such a descriptive writer that it was easy to picture the barren landscapes and feel Zan-Gah's curiosity and fear.

Some of the violence was a bit hard to take but necessary to understand how tribes captured food, handled danger, and survived in prehistoric times.

Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure was both educational and captivating. I'm definitely going to recommend it to my thrill-seeking little cousins. I know they'll enjoy the Zan-Gah's adventures and bravery.

For more information, visit:

Rhonda Stapleton: Flirting with Disaster

In February, after reading so many positive reviews, I picked up Stupid Cupid by Rhonda Stapleton. I enjoyed it and added the next book in the series, Flirting with Disaster, to my "must read" list.

Felicity is a total romantic. That's why she follows her heart--not the rules--in her job as a cupid. But when Felicity turns her matchmaking magic on her best friend, Andy, it's Andy who breaks their golden rule: friends always come first. Andy is so wrapped up in her new guy that she's ditching everyone else. How can Felicity stop her BFF from letting a BF come between them?

Meanwhile, Felicity decides to get over her crush on Derek by setting him up with someone else--but in her impulsive haste, she accidentally matches him with the whole school, and now everyone is in love with him. The entire student body is headed toward heartbreak, just weeks before prom. Does Felicity have what it takes to make everyone's heart happy? Including her own?

Love is unpredictable. Even when it's initiated by modern day cupids equipped with cute, hot pink, tricked out PDAs. That's just one of the many lessons Felicity learns in Flirting With Disaster. Mix in best friend drama, a school-wide obsession, a possible love match for Felicity herself, and you've got the recipe for a super-fun sequel.

I really love this series, especially Felicity. Despite the zany mix-ups, her refusal to read her job's instruction manual, and her hopeless romantic tendencies, she has a good heart and the best of intentions. Even better, she's easy to relate to and root for.

I understood her heartbreak over losing her best friend Andy to a boy.

I felt bad for her when the love matches didn't work out.

(Note: If there are any modern day cupids trying to make things happen for me, I apologize for all of the job-related stress I must be causing you.)

I was excited for her when she started interacting with Derek.

She felt like a friend. And I always want good things to happen for my friends.

There's a surprise twist at the end that I really didn't see coming. I've already requested the third book in the series, Pucker Up, from my library because I MUST know what happens next.

Rhonda Stapleton created a witty, entertaining story that doesn't feel forced. Her sense of humor is evident on every page. I definitely think you should check out this series.

For more information on Rhonda Stapleton, visit:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Maureen Johnson: Scarlett Fever

I'm a big fan of Maureen Johnson. Her Twitter is entertaining. She writes amazing books. She's one of my writing heroes. I thought Suite Scarlett was a fun book, so I was excited to read the sequel, Scarlett Fever!

Ever since Mrs. Amberson, the former-aspiring-actress-turned-agent, entered Scarlett Martin's life, nothing has been the same.

She's still in charge of the Empire Suite in her family's hotel, but she's now also Mrs. Amberson's assistant, running around town for her star client, Chelsea - a Broadway star Scarlett's age with a knack for making her feel insignificant.

Scarlett's also trying to juggle sophomore year classes, her lab partner who is being just a little TOO nice, and getting over the boy who broke her heart.

In the midst of all this, her parents drop a bombshell that threatens to change her New York life forever...

Scarlett Fever picks up a few weeks after the first book ends, so it doesn't take long to get going. In fact, with Scarlett juggling school, helping her family, nursing a broken heart, and working for the very eccentric Mrs. Amberson, her frenzied life makes for a fast-paced book that I wanted to devour in one sitting. But I decided to pace myself and soak up the story, which Maureen Johnson filled with whimsical characters and lively adventures.

The Martin family, as always, was very lovable. Their struggles to take care of their family and maintain a cash-strapped hotel in a city filled with some of richest people in the world was realistic without being too preachy. I always root for the scrappy underdog, especially when they're as charismatic and well-deserving of good things as the Martins are. I'd love to be a guest at the Hopewell Hotel.

Some things were predictable, like the storyline revolving around Spencer's big acting break. But the way it was written was side-splitting funny.

And, while it was a bit under-whelming, I was glad to see Marlene's storyline extended. Her suspiciously nice behavior caught me--and Scarlett--off guard.

Lola's role in the book was heartbreaking, but quietly so. I think it's fascinating that in the midst of such a raucous world, there's a vulnerable, drama-free character who manages to stir up controversy and shock everyone.

One of the things Maureen Johnson rocks at doing is developing complex characters, and the introduction of Broadway star Chelsea, Scarlett's lab partner Max, school friends, and even a neurotic dog named Murray, was no exception. I enjoyed the interactions and the way Scarlett could land smack-dab in the middle of any plot and not feel out of place or forced there.

Even better, it was great to see a female protagonist deal with a breakup and her feelings for a boy without coming off as silly. Sure, she was a little obsessive (How many times can you watch a single YouTube video?), but she had a life and friends outside of Eric.

I think you'd have to read Suite Scarlett to understand what's going on in this book, but it's worth it. Both are great reads. In fact, Scarlett Fever far exceeded my expectations and was even more charming and hilarious than its predecessor. That's rare.

In short, I loved this book. The cliffhanger ending left me pouting and wanting more.

For more information on Maureen Johnson, visit:

Must Read: Crescendo

One of my favorite books of 2009 was Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. I'm really looking forward to the sequel, Crescendo (October 19 / Simon & Schuster)!

Nora should have know her life was far from perfect. Despite starting a relationship with her guardian angel, Patch (who, title aside, can be described anything but angelic), and surviving an attempt on her life, things are not looking up. Patch is starting to pull away and Nora can't figure out if it's for her best interest or if his interest has shifted to her arch-enemy Marcie Millar. Not to mention that Nora is haunted by images of her father and she becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to him that night he left for Portland and never came home.

The farther Nora delves into the mystery of her father's death, the more she comes to question if her Nephilim blood line has something to do with it as well as why she seems to be in danger more than the average girl. Since Patch isn't answering her questions and seems to be standing in her way, she has to start finding the answers on her own. Relying too heavily on the fact that she has a guardian angel puts Nora at risk again and again. But can she really count on Patch or is he hiding secrets darker than she can even imagine?

For more information on Becca Fitzpatrick, visit:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Claire Cook: The Wildwater Walking Club

I love to walk! But I usually do it alone, so it's hard to get motivated. True story alert: On July 3, I received a shiny, new pedometer, which I promptly attached to my waistband as I walked to the park to take part in the city's 4th of July festivities. When I got there, I was excited to see that I had walked almost 3,000 steps! Now that's motivation! Unfortunately, I lost the pedometer. Along with it, my motivation. I thought reading The Wildwater Walking Club by Claire Cook might help me get a little of that motivation back.

Just put one foot in front of the other. Sounds simple, doesn't it? But when Noreen Kelly takes a buyout from her job of eighteen years and gets dumped by her boyfriend in one fell swoop, she finds it hard to know what that next step is-never mind take it. At first Noreen thinks maybe her redundancy package could be an opportunity, a chance to figure out what to do with the rest of her life while her company foots the bill. Sure, she may have gotten high to "Witchy Woman" and grooved to "Sweet Baby James" back when James Taylor had hair, but she isn't ready for her AARP card. Not yet.

But it's the first time in a great many years that Noreen has time to herself-and she has no idea what to do with it. When she realizes that she's mistaken her resume for her personality, Noreen knows that she has to get moving, so she puts on a new pair of sneakers and a seriously outdated pair of exercise pants, and walks. She doesn't get very far at first-just to the end of her street, Wildwater Way-but she perseveres, and when she's joined by her neighbors Tess and Rosie, Noreen realizes that walking is not an extreme sport. It can actually be fun.

As the Wildwater women walk and talk, and talk and walk, they tally their steps, share their secrets, and learn what women everywhere are finding out-that time flies and getting fit is actually fun when you're walking with friends. Throw in a road trip to Seattle for a lavender festival, a career-coaching group that looks like a bad sequel to The Breakfast Club, a clothesline controversy that could only happen in the 'burbs, plenty of romantic twists and turns, and a quirky multigenerational cast of supporting characters, and the result is an experience that's heartfelt, exuberant, and above all, real.

Sometimes it's important to take a moment to appreciate the simple, quiet things that life has to offer. Usually in that moment you find what's really important to you. And that's what Claire Cook's books do for me--offer up a little perspective through straightforward, engaging storytelling and genuine characters.

The core of The Wildwater Walking Club is friendship. Noreen, Tess, and Rosie have very different lives and personalities, but they complement each other wonderfully. Watching their friendship blossom was heartwarming.

As they walk, the characters' personal struggles are revealed--sometimes willingly, sometimes by accident. Following each character on her journey of self discovery was encouraging. Watching them find ways to move forward was inspirational.

I wish I knew people like Noreen, Tess, and Rosie. They'd be great friends and walking buddies.

(And the lavender recipes sprinkled throughout the book were a nice surprise--I might try some of them!)

I enjoyed this story. It made me want to make changes, taught me that it's never too late to find your way, and reminded me how important it is--not just for physical health, but mental health as well--to lace up my sneakers and walk.

For more information, visit Claire Cook at:

Lauren Conrad: Sweet Little Lies

If you're a long-time reader, you'll remember my review of L.A. Candy and a revelation that "The Hills" was a guilty pleasure of mine. So, of course, I couldn't resist reading Sweet Little Lies, the second book in Lauren Conrad's series.

How Sweet it is?

Jane Roberts was the average girl next door until she and her best friend, Scarlett Harp, landed their own reality show, L.A. Candy. Now the girls have an all-access pass to Hollywood's hottest everything. But there's more to life on camera than just parties and shopping. . . .

When racy photos of Jane are leaked to the press, she finds herself at the center of a tabloid scandal. She turns to her co-star Madison Parker for help, unaware that Madison is scheming behind the scenes. She might be Jane's shoulder to cry on, but does Madison really have Jane's back?

Scarlett's working on a scandal of her own. She's fallen for someone who's strictly off-limits--which means Scarlett has a big secret to keep . . . from the L.A. Candy cameras, the paparazzi staking out her apartment, even from her best friend.

Of course, nothing stays secret for long for the stars of the newest hit TV series, and all this drama couldn't be better for ratings. But can Jane survive another season in the spotlight?

In television star Lauren Conrad's dishy, entertaining novel about young Hollywood, the lies are only as sweet as the people telling them.

What can I say? As is the case with all guilty pleasures, I'm inexplicably hooked.

I thought Sweet Little Lies was so much better than L.A. Candy.

The story moved at a fast pace, thanks to a plot filled with scandal, subterfuge, and spectacle.

The characters had more layers, especially Jane, who--thanks to a backstabbing, fame-starved co-star and a media scandal--transformed from a wide-eyed novice to a savvy TV star with an agent.

And the overall writing was better.

Like L.A.. Candy, I enjoyed the behind the scenes look at how reality shows are filmed and ultimately staged (texts and instant messages from the producers suggesting dialogue and topics of conversation played a big part in each "scene" and how the "characters" interacted). In fact, right after I read this book, I watched bits and pieces of a "Hills" marathon on MTV and found myself noticing that the "characters" seemed to have an obsession with text messages and looking at their computer screens. So funny! Why didn't I catch that before? It brought a whole new level of enjoyment to the show.

Even if you aren't a fan of "The Hills," I think you'd enjoy Sweet Little Lies. It's a fun, easy read filled with enough antics, rumors, and mud slinging to rival even the dishiest tabloid.

I know I'm definitely excited for Sugar and Spice (scheduled for publication on October 5) so I can find out what happens next!

For more information on Lauren Conrad, visit:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Suzanne Young: The Naughty List

If I could describe The Naughty List in one word, it would be effervescent. Suzanne Young created a story and characters that were frothy and fun.

As if being a purrfect cheerleader isn't enough responsibility! Tessa Crimson's the sweet and spunky leader of the SOS (Society of Smitten Kittens), a cheer squad-turned-spy society dedicated to bringing dastardly boyfriends to justice, one cheater at a time. Boyfriend-busting wouldn't be so bad . . . except that so far, every suspect on the Naughty List has been proven 100% guilty!

When Tessa's own boyfriend shows up on the List, she turns her sleuthing skills on him. Is Aiden just as naughty as all the rest, or will Tessa's sneaky ways end in catastrophe?

The Naughty List. Is your boyfriend on it?

Tessa and the Society of Smitten Kittens tore down all of the "airhead" cheerleader stereotypes by running a top secret, but well-established non-profit organization and setting up some dangerous and intricate covert operations to track down cheating boyfriends. The memos and letters to their clients were so entertaining that I wish I could view the photos and videos they obtained as evidence.

It was also nice to see the girls working together, caring about others, and not being catty or mean just because they were popular cheerleaders. Girl power!

My only complaint was that Tessa's personality sometimes grated on my nerves. No one is that perky and perfect all the time--not even cheerleaders. And while I enjoyed reading a YA book that wasn't littered with swearing, Tessa's good-girl image didn't quite gel with the purely sexual relationship she had with her boyfriend and the fact that she spied on (cheating) couples (sometimes) having sex. I'd love to see more of her personality explored and revealed.

I'd also love to see more high-tech investigations. They were, by far, the most entertaining aspect of the story.

All in all, I enjoyed the book and am curious to see what happens next.

For more information on Suzanne Young, visit:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Claire Cook: Summer Blowout

Every summer I dream of lounging on the beach and reading paperback novel after paperback novel. Every summer I'm stuck at home for one reason or another (no vacation time, no money, you name it). Instead, I head to my local library and look for books I'd imagine myself reading on the beach, bring them home with me, and pretend. Claire Cook's books always fit the bill, so I recently checked out Summer Blowout.

Bella Shaughnessy is addicted to lipstick with names like My Chihuahua Bites and Kiss My Lips-an occupational hazard, since she works at Salon de Paolo, her family-run beauty salon, along with her four half-brothers and sisters. The owner is her father, Lucky Shaughnessy, a gregarious, three-times divorced charmer with Donald Trump hair who is obsessed with all things Italian. After Bella's own marriage flames out spectacularly when her half-sister runs off with her husband, Bella decides she has seen enough of the damage love can do. She makes a vow: no more men. But then Bella meets a cute entrepreneur, and despite their bickering, they can't seem to stay away from each other. A small, well-tressed dog also finds her way into Bella's life, and her heart, and she decides to chance that, too. When the whole clan heads to Atlanta for a big Southern wedding, sparks fly - in a summer blowout no one will ever forget.

Bella was a quirky, fun narrator.

Her family was delightfully rambunctious.

That's what I love about Claire Cook's books--the characters are everyday people that I can relate to. They have flaws and issues. They argue. They feel lost and confused. Their hearts break. Still, they find their way back, through forgiveness, perseverance, a little help from family, and, sometimes, reinvention.

But Summer Blowout isn't heavy-handed thanks to hilarious dialogue and madcap family adventures. I often found myself laughing out loud.

I also loved all the make-up tips!

So I didn't make it to the beach this summer, but I felt like I got to spend a few hours there with crazy-fun friends.

For more information, visit Claire Cook at:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Minrose Gwin: The Queen of Palmyra

In April, I was given the chance to receive an Advance Reader's Copy of The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin. That's quite an honor for a small, unknown blog like mine. The story sounded interesting, so I jumped at the chance.

"I need you to understand how ordinary it all was. . . ."

In the turbulent southern summer of 1963, Millwood's white population steers clear of "Shake Rag," the black section of town. Young Florence Forrest is one of the few who crosses the line. The daughter of a burial insurance salesman with dark secrets and the town's "cake lady," whose backcountry bootleg runs lead further and further away from a brutal marriage, Florence attaches herself to her grandparents' longtime maid, Zenie Johnson. Named for Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra, Zenie treats the unwanted girl as just another chore, while telling her stories of the legendary queen's courage and cunning.

The more time Florence spends in Shake Rag, the more she recognizes how completely race divides her town, and her story, far from ordinary, bears witness to the truth and brutality of her times--a truth brought to a shattering conclusion when Zenie's vibrant college-student niece, Eva Greene, arrives that fateful Mississippi summer.

I started reading the novel in April, and I just finished it last night. That's not to say it was a bad book. Quite the opposite, actually. It was good. Really good. But the story was so painfully sad and left my heart broken. When it wasn't doing that, it left me infuriated, wanting to scream.

Florence's daily life was A LOT to digest. She's very strong because she has to be. But she's also innocent and vulnerable because she's only eleven years old. Reading her adult narrative and her eleven-year-old narrative added an extra layer to the book and helped me understand her reactions to and thoughts about the various tragedies in her life. Regardless of her age, I wanted to hug her and tell her that everything would be okay. Even if I wasn't so sure that would be the case.

The Queen of Palmyra was gripping, but it was also poetic. Minrose Gwin's words were so descriptive, so very vivid, that I could feel the summer heat, smell cakes as they were baking, and feel the sadness and fear the characters felt as if it were my own.

With a debut novel this powerful and beautifully written, I'm really intrigued to see what Minrose Gwin comes up with next.

For more information on Minrose Gwin, visit:

Monday, July 12, 2010

E. Lockhart: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

I heard so many good things about The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart that I knew I had to read it. Luckily, my library had it. Score!

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
Debate Club.
Her father's "bunny rabbit."
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:
A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.

Frankie Landau-Banks.
No longer the kind of girl to take "no" for an answer.
Especially when "no" means she's excluded from her boyfriend's all-male secret society.
Not when her ex-boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.
Not when she knows she's smarter than any of them.
When she knows Matthew's lying to her.
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.

Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:
Possibly a criminal mastermind.

This is the story of how she got that way.

This is my kind of YA Fiction. I'd describe it as "Veronica Mars" meets "The Skulls," a story about fighting the system and rocking against stereotypes. It is intelligent and bold.

Frankie Landau-Banks is my kind of YA heroine. She doesn't fret over her appearance, the latest accessories, or must-have fashions. She's not content being some hot guy's arm candy. Frankie is smart and very resourceful.

The story is very fast-paced. Frankie's exploits are brilliant and funny.

I loved this book. I love E. Lockhart for creating a delightful character who isn't afraid to speak her mind and risk her social status.

For more information, visit E. Lockhart at:

Friday, July 9, 2010

Stephenie Meyer: The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner

My Mom likes vampire books, so I picked up Twilight as a gift for her not long after it was published. Back then, Robert Pattinson was just Cedric Diggory, Kristen Stewart had blown my mind in her brilliant portrayal of Melinda Sordino in the movie adaptation of Laurie Halse Anderson's novel Speak, and Taylor Lautner was Sharkboy. It was simply Twilight, not The Twilight Saga. Mom read without the prejudice of the Hollywood over-hype machine and liked it. So, as each book in the series was published, I bought them for her. One weekend I was bored and decided to give the series a try. I liked the first two books. Everything after was over-the-top tragically awful. Still, I was curious about The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer--mostly because I had absolutely no memory of Bree Tanner in Eclipse.

Bree Tanner can barely remember life before she had uncannily powerful senses, superhuman reflexes, and unstoppable physical strength. Life before she had a relentless thirst for before she became a vampire.

All Bree knows is that living with her fellow newborns has a few certainties and even fewer rules: watch your back, don't draw attention to yourself, and above all, make it home by sunrise or die. What she doesn't know: her time as an immortal is quickly running out.

Then Bree finds an unexpected friend in Diego, a newborn just as curious as Bree about their mysterious creator, whom they know only as her. As they come to realize that the newborns are pawns in a game larger than anything they could have imagined, Bree and Diego must choose sides and decide whom to trust. But when everything you know about vampires is based on a lie, how do you find the truth?

If you like the Twilight books, you'll like this.

I, however, did not.

What bothered me most was the lack of chapters. There wasn't a single break in the entire story.

More bothersome? Even after reading the book, I still had no memory of Bree Tanner. But I did love Jane and the Volturi. They're so evil, you know, live vampires are supposed to be.

I'll give Stephenie Meyer credit for creating such a vivid backstory for such a minor character, but it just wasn't my thing.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Gayle Forman: If I Stay

If I Stay by Gayle Forman is one of those books that The Wall Street Journal wrecked for me last year by writing about the ending without giving a spoiler alert, so I put off reading it. I finally gave in. And I'm happy I did!

On a day that started like any other...

Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, adoring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. Then, in an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the one decision she has left--the most important decision she'll ever make.

Mia's narration, as she watches friends and family respond to the tragedy, is reminiscent of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, which is to say it is poignant and absolutely heartbreaking. However, there's a touch of humor and hope as Mia flashes back to memories of her parents, her boyfriend Adam, best friend Kim, and playing the cello.

As I was reading this novel, I remember thinking it was too short. How could Mia reach such a crucial decision in so few pages? But the length of the book was yet another indicator of just how fast things can change. And it made me appreciate the writing abilities of Gayle Forman even more. Words weren't wasted on irrelevant details. Every mood, smell, and sound was captured perfectly. Even better, the characters were real, vivid, and carefully developed.

I'm glad I didn't let the poor choice of a journalist keep me from reading If I Stay. Mia's story will stay with me for a long time.

According to Gayle's blog, Where She Went, a sequel that takes place three years later and is told through Adam's point of view, is scheduled for publication in spring of 2011.

For more information on Gayle Forman, visit:

New Covers: Ruby Oliver Series

The first three books in E. Lockhart's Ruby Oliver series will hit shelves later this month in paperback with brand new covers!

Old covers:

New covers:

The fourth book Real Live Boyfriends is scheduled for publication on December 28.

The new covers look great.

The old covers were quirky and fun.

I always get bummed when the covers change during a series. I like matching sets, so I'm left with two choices--deal with the clashing OR not buy the book at all. We'll see....

But yay for another Ruby book!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...