Random Musings by Frodosco

Posts tagged “2013 TBR Pile

Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier: Frodo’s Review

Sapphire Blue

Summary From Goodreadssapphire blue

Gwen’s life has been a rollercoaster since she discovered she was the Ruby, the final member of the secret time-traveling Circle of Twelve. In between searching through history for the other time-travelers and asking for a bit of their blood (gross!), she’s been trying to figure out what all the mysteries and prophecies surrounding the Circle really mean.

At least Gwen has plenty of help. Her best friend Lesley follows every lead diligently on the Internet. James the ghost teaches Gwen how to fit in at an eighteenth century party. And Xemerius, the gargoyle demon who has been following Gwen since he caught her kissing Gideon in a church, offers advice on everything. Oh, yes. And of course there is Gideon, the Diamond. One minute he’s very warm indeed; the next he’s freezing cold. Gwen’s not sure what’s going on there, but she’s pretty much destined to find out.

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I received an ARC of Sapphire Blue from the awesome people over at ARCycling in exchange for an honest review.

Sapphire Blue was a lot of fun to read because the world Kerstin Gier has created is freaking wonderful. I love the crazy deep cast of characters, the time travel arcs, and the historical aspects are fantastic. I knew I was enthralled by this book pretty early on. Why you might ask? I was able to move past the only issue this book has, OMG-esque relationship issues.

The first part of this book is forgettable, and I was really worried that I was going to have to slog through a whiny MC/angsty romance/blah fest that left the world untouched. There is this confusing are they/aren’t they together thing going on, neither of them seem to know what they want, and it’s frustrating. Also, Gwen wasn’t my favorite MC in Ruby Red, just alright, so this wasn’t earning her any points. Too much whining and behaving like a child. Luckily, this period only lasted a few chapters.

Then…BOOM! The action picks up, Gwen doesn’t have time to deal with boy drama, and we get historical attire, a fantastic party, and MOAR TIME TRAVEL!!! The depictions of the dresses, the hair, and the overall ensemble are so much fun to read, plus we get more time with Madame Rossini, my favorite secondary character. Gwen makes a fool of herself (per usual) but she really grows as a character as the book progresses which I’m SO happy about. Also, 18th century party? I can haz? YAY!!! It was so much fun and weeeee, you just need to read it!

Ruby Red teased us with the Lucy & Paul arc, but Sapphire Blue ramps it up a bit and I loved every minute. Both characters are really engaging, the romance is sweet, and Lucy especially is a standout strong character, despite us getting more Paul in this one. I want more Lucy in Emerald Green, please let it be so! *stares at it on my shelf nervously*

Anyway…I know this review is really filled with me rambling, but that’s because, despite it’s minor faults and rough beginning, I had sooo much fun reading it! I’ve heard Emerald Green is the action-packed book of the trilogy, which makes that even more enticing, but Sapphire Blue was silly, and, I think, intentionally so. Come on, Gier even threw in a sarcastic gargoyle! Sapphire Blue is meant for the laughs, and I had a bunch of them. Overall it is just a great, light read that anyone who enjoyed Ruby Red will love. Thanks as always for reading! ^.^

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #165/200; 2013 TBR Pile #75/50; Mount TBR Challenge #75/150

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Frodo’s Frisky Friday: Saturday Night by Leigh Wilder

Frodo's Frisky Friday

Saturday Night

Summary From GoodreadsSaturday Night Leigh Wilder

When small-town cop Charlie is run off the road he expects an arrest and a slightly more interesting than normal Saturday night. Instead he finds himself handcuffed–with his own cuffs–and bent over the seat of ex-con Jake Miller’s truck. Charlie doesn’t mind…as long as he gets his turn next Saturday.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! This is where I write a review in the time I have before I go to work or before I go to bed. Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

My first read of the Doin’ It Dirty readathon, Saturday Night was a great way to kick off the naughtyness fest. It’s M/M which is a change of pace for me even within the Erotica genre. Saturday Night is a really short piece, at around 2,500 words, but it definitely got me in the mood to read some more. The chemistry Wilder creates between Jake and Charlie is excellent and I would love to revisit that coupling again if she were to go back to the well.

Wilder has an incredible gift at eliciting a very strong reaction in such a short span. I’d recommend this to any fan of Erotica, steamy and with a well written naughty scene it’s the perfect kick start to the sexy part of your day. It can be good for a fantastic finish as well. 😉

You can get Saturday Night for FREE on Smashwords here https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/257036 Thank me later ^.^

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #116/200; Mount TBR Challenge #67/150; 2013 TBR Pile #67/150

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YA Wednesday: A Bad Day For Voodoo by Jeff Strand

YAWednesday

A Bad Day For Voodoo

Summary From Goodreads

When your best friend is just a tiny bit psychotic, you should never actually believe him when he says, “Trust me. This is gonna be awesome.”

Of course, you probably wouldn’t believe a voodoo doll could work either. Or that it could cause someone’s leg to blow clean off with one quick prick. But I’ve seen it. It can happen.

And when there’s suddenly a doll of YOU floating around out there—a doll that could be snatched by a Rottweiler and torn to shreds, or a gang of thugs ready to torch it, or any random family of cannibals (really, do you need the danger here spelled out for you?)—well, you know that’s just gonna be a really bad day…

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A Bad Day For Voodoo was really, really weird. It is all about the humor as opposed to Strand’s usual 50/50 split of horror and the hilarious. Unfortunately I think that this worked against him. I understand that this is a YA which is also unusual for Strand, but I never felt any fear or trepidation at all and I missed that. The book constantly makes fun of itself, the content and characters within and even the reader on occasion. If there were some serious bits mixed in maybe this would have worked but it felt over the top and the slapstick humor got old after a while.

The characters were empty shells for me. I didn’t connect with any of them and they didn’t feel like they had any substance. I’m not sure what Tyler (the MC) was supposed to be. A hero? Not really. Courageous? Not intentionally. A “model friend” type? Ya, I guess that fits the most. Adam, the best friend, was just a moron. His role was the funny guy with the outrageous plans and ideas, he succeeded in the latter part but his humor felt forced and mostly I just wanted him to get whacked over the head. If I had a favorite character it would be Kelley (the girlfriend) who was the closest to meaningful as the book gets. She was tough, had a good head on her shoulders and didn’t panic in the face of (ridiculous) danger or adversity. I liked her but I have no clue why she associates with the other two.

Part of my problem with A Bad Day For Voodoo is its constant breaking from the story to say something from the “author” to the reader. You know that fourth wall in comedy or acting where the person on stage acknowledges the viewing audience (especially if it is being filmed for tv or a movie)? Well if there is one in the literary world this book shatters it. Throughout the story the audience is being addressed, questioned and even given suggestions. While some minor use of this tactic would probably be effective it felt like I was never able to connect to the story because Strand kept taking me out of it. Immersing myself in a book’s story is often the best part of reading it, forgetting reality and diving into an alternate universe, A Bad Day For Voodoo refuses to allow that and it was irritating.

The plot was all over the place and just plain disjointed. There was no flow and random events occurred that were seemingly only for comedic effect but that added no depth, substance or truly anything of value to the story. Maybe the underlying message if there is one (I doubt it) just went over my head but I’m guessing if there was one it was buried so deep under the crazy antics that it didn’t want to be found or recognized. Voodoo, craziness ensues, random gang, more insanity, hey look the undead! Oh and now a psychotic family of cannibals… right.

Until I started writing this review I didn’t realize how much I didn’t enjoy A Bad Day For Voodoo. There were a few moments where I actually laughed but for a book relying so heavily on comedy it fell way short. The plot was a mess, the characters were (with the possible exception of Kelley) unsubstantial and the author refused to let the reader stay inside the story even if they wanted to. I can’t say I recommend this one even for fans of Strand. Thanks as always for reading!

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #121/200; Mount TBR Challenge #69/150; 2013 TBR Pile #69/50

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Mini Review Monday: The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

MiniReviewMonday

The Sea of Monsters

Summary From Goodreads

The heroic son of Poseidon makes an action-packed comeback in the second must-read installment of Rick Riordan’s amazing young readers series. Starring Percy Jackson, a “half blood” whose mother is human and whose father is the God of the Sea, Riordan’s series combines cliffhanger adventure and Greek mythology lessons that results in true page-turners that get better with each installment. In this episode, The Sea of Monsters, Percy sets out to retrieve the Golden Fleece before his summer camp is destroyed, surpassing the first book’s drama and setting the stage for more thrills to come.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews on Mini Review Monday! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

As most of you have already heard of and read the Percy Jackson series I figured this is the perfect book to have a short and succinct Hobbit-Sized review. Rick Riordan is a genius. The Sea of Monsters was a great continuation of the series and really allowed us to dive into the world even further and learn some more about the mythology as is portrayed by Riordan. We get a nice mix of the “real” mythology as well with the Golden Fleece story told in full. I didn’t really care much for the new character, Tyson, that much either way but he was alright. However, I love the chemistry between Percy and Annabeth which seems to get better with each book in the series. Yes I ship MG characters, don’t judge me!

To summarize: It’s Rick Riordan, this book was the one that made me decide to buy all of his other works (yes it was THAT good) and it’s the Percy Jackson series. What more do you need to hear? If you haven’t started the series and are late to the game like I was/am I definitely recommend it! I can’t wait to read The Titan’s Curse sometime soon. Thanks as always for reading! ^.^

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #132/200; Mount TBR Challenge #73/150; 2013 TBR Pile #73/50

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Frodo’s Frisky Friday: Frankenslime by Rock Bronson

Frodo's Frisky Friday

Frankenslime: A Sordid Sexual Horror Story

Summary From Goodreads

Warning: not for the faint-hearted or easily-offended, contains some of the most extreme and outlandish acts imaginable plus copious amounts of cartoon gore! Proceed at your own peril…

Innocent and naive assistant-professor Maura Kindle pines for Doctor Chester Franklin, handsome Adonis and brilliant scientist at the shady genetics institute where they both work. But behind his charming exterior, Chester is avile narcissist, who permits himself to love only one entity on earth — the bloated and makeshift cadaver of thrown-together limbs and body-bits that he keeps in his basement mortuary and refers to as “the Bride”.

Maura wants Chester to love her, but the brooding doctor only cares about her for her brains — Literally! Because the only thing Chester’s sexy monster still needs before she can live is a good head on her shoulders — Maura’s to be precise. But just how well-adjusted could a stitched-up gal like that really be when she finally comes to?

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This review and book contains mature content

What the heck did I just read? I’m pretty sure that is the appropriate reaction to Frankenslime which is by far the most grotesque and bizarre erotica story, or truly any kind of story, that I’ve ever read. I read this piece at the suggestion of two of my favorite bloggers, Amanda aka On a Book Bender & Kelly aka Reading the Paranormal. It was both hilarious and confusing and the only way I can sum it up accurately is by doing what I am dubbing a Twitreview. I’m not going to attempt to explain it because it is both obvious and easier to show you, so here we go!

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So ya, that’s my Twitreview. I don’t know how to better summarize my feelings than those tweets. It was bizarre, nonsensical and oddly satisfying. Also hilarious, in case you didn’t get that. Oh and it was free so if you click the picture you can read it for yourself. I hope you enjoyed my goofy attempt at a different review style! Thanks as always for reading! ^.^

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #123/200; Mount TBR #71/150; 2013 TBR Pile #71/50

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YA Wednesday: Croak by Gina Damico

YAWednesday

Croak

Summary From Goodreads

Fed up with her wild behavior, sixteen-year-old Lex’s parents ship her off to upstate New York to live with her Uncle Mort for the summer, hoping that a few months of dirty farm work will whip her back into shape.

But Uncle Mort’s true occupation is much dirtier than shoveling manure. He’s a Grim Reaper. And he’s going to teach Lex the family business.

She quickly assimilates into the peculiar world of Croak, a town populated by reapers who deliver souls from this life to the next. But Lex can’t stop her desire for justice – or is it vengeance? – whenever she encounters a murder victim, craving to stop the attackers before they can strike again.

Will she ditch Croak and go rogue with her reaper skills?

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Croak is a hilarious, if sometimes dark, read that had me captivated from the very beginning. It was easy to fall in love with the snarky MC, Lex, and the rest of the cast of goofball characters. The writing was great, the powers awesome and the plot intriguing. So ya, I liked it.

Lex is a perfect main character for me. She’s sarcastic, she doesn’t put up with crap and she happens to be an all around badass. Sure she’s a hot head and doesn’t have the most tact in the world but she’s genuine and I loved her for it. She wants to fit in just like every other teenager but she refuses to change who she is to achieve that and that is commendable.

The romance in Croak was the only thing that felt a bit forced to me. First, it was made painfully obvious from the get go that they liked each other, at least a little. Second, the back and forth romantic “tension” between them didn’t seem all that realistic especially the awkward exchanges and moments they kept having. The end reveal was obvious and I just didn’t care much about it. It was kind of cute and all but definitely the notable weak point in the book.

The plot though? Genius. Twists and turns, one unexpected reveal after the next and plenty of subplots worked in for depth made this story a great one. The reaper skills were pretty incredible, the possibilities seemingly endless and the creepy deaths added some extra chill to the otherwise humorous piece. Damico worked in plenty of moral dilemmas and discussions on a variety of different topics from who deserves to die, who deserves worse than death and who should hold that power if anyone. Plus the ending? Brilliant!

The quaint, if a tad wacky, little town was as easy for me to fall in love with as it was for Lex. The names were funny, the descriptions thorough without being overly so and I really liked the map provided at the beginning. The complex world of the reapers, the craziness they travel through to do their duty, and all of the other strange and wonderful places that are hidden within the realm are captivating. It’s simply lovely.

I really enjoyed Croak. The writing was unique and Lex was a fantastic, and relatable, main character. The world Damico created was nothing short of remarkable and while the romance was a tad irritating at times that was not enough to knock the story down too much. I already ordered Scorch and pre-ordered Rogue and I’m sure I’ll love those too. Thanks as always for reading! ^.^

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #133/200; Mount TBR Challenge #74/150; 2013 TBR Pile #74/50

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Frodo’s Frisky Friday: The Beauty and the Beast by Leigh Wilder

Frodo's Frisky Friday

The Beauty and the Beast

Summary From Goodreadsbeauty and the beast

The Beauty is a dominant in the local BDSM scene. So is the Beast. Nathan invites Kate to dinner with only one purpose: to ask her to marry him. Their like personalities struggle for control–will the beast be tamed, or will the beauty be devoured?

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Even though Leigh Wilder is an auto-buy author for me that doesn’t mean even she is infallible, though she’s pretty close. The Beauty and the Beast is the first piece by her that I didn’t LOVE. For this short piece I’ll do a PRO vs CON list, are you ready?

PRO

The sex scene is pretty good. Wilder definitely has a special touch for creating the right amount of sexy tension during the act and I love every second. It’s steamy, it’s naughty and the back and forth in this piece was really well done. That struggle for control worked wonders.

The detail in the Beauty and the Beast is exquisite. Describing things many authors would forget such as the rose’s thorns are touches that elevate a piece like this. I also enjoyed the descriptions of the house which just sounds amazing. Pictures please? I don’t care if it is fictional!

                                                                      CON

The characters and I just don’t mesh. “Beast” or Nathan, whatever you would like to refer to him as, felt like a cluster of cliches rolled into one hulk of a guy. He’s really good looking, big and muscular and has that outer dom/inner softie combo going on. Sound familiar? As for Beauty/Kate it wasn’t much better. She did have a more robotic edge to her that I actually found myself liking, but at times she felt too contrived. She had a similar outer dom/inner softie thing going and it’s just…been done.

I didn’t feel the same spark during the build up to the sex scene. While much of it was forced by design you could really feel that quality in the way the book flowed. It was as if Wilder’s creative side was being held back and then when the sex scene came it was unleashed with the power of a typhoon. Maybe it was due to having to pay some homage to the original fairy tale in the beginning? I don’t know.

                                                                   OVERALL

While the end result is a positive one there were notable flaws in the character originality and the story in the beginning just didn’t do it for me. The details and descriptions were great and the sex scene is, as always, Wilder’s shining moment. I liked it, but didn’t love it. Borderline three-Frodo piece but due to two major category flaws (which I describe in detail in my rating system explained page) it is a two. Still worth the read but my least favorite of her pieces thus far. Thanks as always for reading! ^.^

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #117/200; Mount TBR Challenge #72/150; 2013 TBR Pile #68/50

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Penny for Your Debts by Zoe E. Whitten: Frodo’s Review

Penny for Your Debts

Summary From GoodreadsPenny for Your Thoughts

When eight-year-old Penny Sterling becomes the child bride of Nicholas Rumpelstilts, she expects the worst. Instead, she’s free to go to school, to have friends, even to see the mother who gave her to Nicholas before her birth–and her new husband never lays a hand on her. But however pleasant the cage, she’s still a prisoner.

As Penny grows, she learns why Nicholas may want her: she’s a witch. She must hide her abilities or risk the world’s fear and hatred. Penny always thought Nicholas was the monster, but when a real monster leaves her scarred emotionally and physically he is the one who offers safety and comfort in a world where she’s likely to find neither.

When Nicholas disappears in dangerous circumstances, Penny faces a hard choice: take her freedom, or search for a captor she’s come to love.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! This is where I write a review in the time I have before I go to work or before I go to bed. Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

Penny for Your Debts was an interesting read for me. The book is designed to be thought provoking as it examines issues like Stockholm Syndrome and child brides. In this Penny for Your Debts is a complete success. Is it better for Penny to have a choice over her fate even if the possibilities each have major downsides? If she never found out about her true identity would she have been better off? How real are the effects of Stockholm Syndrome in this case, were Penny’s feelings her own and is Nicholas a monster or not? Penny for Your Debts forces you to answer all of these questions and more and I give major credit to Whitten for being able to pack all of those discussion points into one piece.

As for the story itself it was pretty good. The magical elements were well incorporated and the variety of supernatural creatures made for a rich and intriguing world that I would love to learn more about. There were cool power displays, daring rescues and awesome battles that kept the balance between action and thought provoking story even and the pacing smooth.

My only major complaint was with Penny’s character. It is important to remember that despite seeing her character grow and mature as the story goes on that she does start off as a child of eight. The issue I had was she simply did not think or speak like you would think someone at her age would. I don’t mean to say that there aren’t exceptions to any age group, and perhaps she is just exceptionally bright, but there were many, many parts in the story where the thoughts she had seemed far too advanced. Penny was reading people and understanding the meaning of their feelings and then trying to react in a way that would best appease them and while that may seem natural on the surface it was the level that she appeared to understand them that was just odd. I don’t know how else to explain it except to say that the thought processes she had at eight or nine were often just as advanced as those in her teenage years which doesn’t add up. She is either incredibly bright, insanely perceptive or just flawed in being realistic. I’m favoring the latter as the most likely.

Overall Penny for Your Debts was a pretty solid read. The issue with Penny’s character being believable at times was irritating but the other elements in the book (pun intended) allowed me to overlook those flaws most of the time. The magical and supernatural aspects really worked well and the transition Whitten made and the world she created were wonderful. I loved the ending, I wouldn’t mind a sequel one bit though that seems to be out of the question given this was written in 2011. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a thought provoking read set in a magical world. Thanks as always for reading! ^.^

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #120/200; Mount TBR Challenge #68/150; 2013 TBR Pile #68/50

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Touched by Zoe E. Whitten: Frodo’s Review

Touched

Summary From GoodreadsTouched

Amber McKenzie considers herself a bland, normal student until she feels the touch of something cold and invisible. Scant hours pass before she’s attacked by her best friend. She returns home to find her family slaughtered, forcing her to rely on the dubious protection of a D&D “mage” and a woman who may, or may not be a vampire. Is the threat real, or is Amber just “touched in the head”?

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! This is where I write a review in the time I have before I go to work or before I go to bed. Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

Touched, a 69 page novella, is a fast paced thrill ride involving all sorts of creatures of the paranormal variety. From a potential vampire to a changeling and even a mutant witch, Whitten offers new and rarely used beings not seen in the mainstream to keep readers on their toes. There are frightening enemies and plenty of dangerous action as well as plenty of gore (I mean that in a good way!) so horror junkies should be pleased. There is an underlying message of the fight for acceptance, particularly among people deemed outcasts by the majority and what it is like in their shoes. Whitten is never afraid to tackle real issues and does so without overwhelming the reader or taking away from the fantastic goings on in the novella.

I really enjoyed meeting Marcus and Vicky who I know reappear in other works by Whitten and I can’t wait to learn more about them and read stories from their perspectives. Marcus is funny and sweet and Vicky is a badass but with a softer personality underneath that I would love to explore. The one issue I had with touch is not quite loving the MC, Amber. She is a bit frustrating at times, callous and completely without tact. While I didn’t think she was poorly written by any means I also didn’t get any motivation to root for her in most cases which would have helped to balance out her flaws. This didn’t stop me from enjoying the plot and Whitten’s beautiful writing. Touched is a fun, freaky read with a good message at its core and I quite enjoyed it. Thanks as always for reading! ^.^

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #122/200; Mount TBR Challenge #70/150; 2013 TBR Pile #70/50

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The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger: Frodo’s Review

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

Summary From Goodreads

IT TAKES THE WISDOM OF YODA TO SURVIVED THE SIXTH GRADE

Meet Dwight, a sixth-grade oddball. Dwight does a lot of weird things, like wearing the same T-shirt for a month or telling people to call him “Captain Dwight.” This is embarrassing, particularly for Tommy, who sits with him at lunch every day.

But Dwight does one cool thing. He makes origami. One day he makes an origami finger puppet of Yoda. And that’s when things get mysterious. Origami Yoda can predict the future and suggest the best way to deal with a tricky situation. His advice actually works, and soon most of the sixth grade is lining up with questions.

Tommy wants to know how Origami Yoda can be so smart when Dwight himself is so clueless. Is Yoda tapping into the Force? It’s crucial that Tommy figure out the mystery before he takes Yoda’s advice about something VERY IMPORTANT that has to do with a girl.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! This is where I write a review in the time I have before I go to work or before I go to bed. Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is a lighthearted story of some middle school kids and the mystery that is Dwight and his Yoda-shaped origami puppet. I wanted a change of pace from my usual reads and this middle grade book is exactly what I was looking for. It’s funny, an easy read and remembering what it was like to be that age was a treat. The book uses multiple perspectives to piece together what makes Origami Yoda so special in a kind of case file type format. The puppet has been known to (seemingly) predict the future, how does he do it? Some characters believe in the puppet being magical somehow, others are undecided and one is a complete non-believer. Each short story, or case file, is hilarious and sheds some more light on Dwight, his puppet and how from the perspective of a middle school kid almost anything can be amazing and magical.

The underlying theme if you go beyond the humor is that you shouldn’t judge people based on their appearance or some of their habits. Because Dwight is known as a goofball, unobservant and not all that bright it gives Origami Yoda that much more mystique. While some of the kids seem to think Dwight might have more to him than meets the eye it is up to you as the reader to decide. What will you see?

I enjoyed The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. It was a quick read (only 145 pages) and was a wonderful change of pace from the usual books I read that are far more complex. If you want something light to read or need a good laugh I’d recommend picking this one up. It’s the first book in a trilogy and I will likely be picking up the other two books somewhere down the line. Thanks as always for reading!

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #111/200; Mount TBR Challenge #65/150; 2013 TBR Pile #65/50; Genre Variety Reading Challenge – Category – Middle Grade #27/30

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Review: Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

Ruby Red

Summary From Goodreads

Gwyneth Shepherd’s sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!

Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon–the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.

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This. World. Is. AWESOME!

Usually I dive into characters at the beginning of my reviews because generally that is the focus and how I feel about the book as a whole tends to go by how much I enjoy them, or don’t. However, with Ruby Red I just want to talk about the world that Gier created. For hours. With everyone. Alright I might be getting a bit carried away…

So in this world there is time travel, which is awesome. The MC has cool powers that she has only hinted at to anyone but her best friend and her mother (who I don’t think took it completely seriously) which are pretty incredible, and potentially dangerous should the wrong people learn she has them. Other people have different powers too, but so as not to spoil it I’ll just say at one point someone may or may not have used “the force” in a way. Aren’t I such a tease? ^.^ There are organizations that have complex prophecies that, if completed, may or may not result in powers untold. Oh, and wonderfully detailed descriptions of the time periods that the time travelers visit, who doesn’t love that?! Aaaaah I love this world so much. *hugs*

Oooh and the writing style! The dialogue is captivating, the characters have these in depth conversations and the vocabulary used is expansive and a thrill to read. The way Gier creates this web of family history that even the characters within the families can’t always figure out is intriguing and I’m very curious to see where she goes with it. What ties will be made next? Every scene just felt elaborate and shiny and aaaaah I can’t stop gushing. Books just aren’t written like this very often and it is such a refreshing experience. Love.

So, plot. The general idea here is girl winds up with special time traveling abilities, is completely unprepared and still has to deal with her new powers and resulting change of lifestyle while attempting to complete missions for this group of families that are trying to fulfill a prophecy. Except she doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing because she wasn’t trained at all. Oh, and she isn’t completely on board with some of what she is expected to do on these missions and the supposed “enemy” may not be so bad after all. We see some initial displays of time travel, transition into wonderful action sequences and then get some motivation leading into the second book, Sapphire Blue, by the “enemy” and a little romance. Still with me? Sounds pretty awesome right? I thought so too. ^.^

The romance is where I have some quibbles. No insta-love thank goodness, but certainly some instant attraction on the part of Gwyneth which I’m completely fine with. She likes the other MC, Gideon, right from the start at least on a looks level and as the story goes on she learns more about him along with the reader. However, Gideon doesn’t seem to reciprocate her feelings and we even see him involved with someone else early on. So near the end when one of the characters does a 180 I’ll be honest and say I was a bit frustrated. There weren’t a ton of warning signs (some small ones but nothing big enough to make the kind of change that occurred) and it seemed like it was just a tactic to generate more interest potential in book 2. Meh.

Finally, a bit more on the characters which in a reversal of my usual style I have saved (unintentionally) for last. To tell the truth this is the one area where I just didn’t connect with the book. I couldn’t get invested in what Gwyneth was going through except to marvel at the world and times around her. It isn’t that she is dull or irritating, she just didn’t have any qualities that stood out and grabbed me. Gideon at least had a solid sense of humor and while he is “annoying” in the first half according to Gwyneth, it’s his thing and he owns it. Oh, and the best friend (Lesley) just felt completely fake to me. She was like a robot built to help Gwyneth understand certain developments in the plot and catch up since she is so behind in training. Not thrilled with her character. Until the last 10% of the book or so this was going to really hurt the book for me but then BOOM new characters! Hello friends! I wanted to give the author a hug for introducing these people because I LOVED their characters and I’m sure they will be around more in Sapphire Blue which is a major reason why I’m super excited to read it.

I really enjoyed Ruby Red when all was said and done. The second half of the book, the more action packed half which comes as no surprise, was much better for me because it focused less on Gwyneth, Gwyneth, Gwyneth. The world is immense and complex and just awesome. Gier’s writing is such a nice change of pace from the vast majority of books I’ve read and I can’t wait to experience it again. The new characters introduced at the end of the book gave new life to the story and hopefully as Gwyneth is trained she will be less bland a MC. I don’t know how the romance, if there is going to be any, will impact Sapphire Blue but it should be interesting no matter what. Definitely check out this book and the series! Thanks as always for reading! ^.^

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #109/200; Mount TBR Challenge #64/150; 2013 TBR Pile #64/50; Seriously Series Reading Challenge #27/51; Genre Variety Reading Challenge – Category – Historical Fiction #26/30

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Review: In the Dark by Leigh Wilder

In the Dark

Summary From GoodreadsIn The Dark

Katrina and Alex have been skirting around each other and never quite getting together, until they get trapped in an elevator, and Alex has to keep Katrina’s claustrophobia from getting the better of her. He has a…creative way of going about it.

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Warning: The following book contains mature content and erotic situations.

It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! This is where I write a review in the time I have before I go to work or before I go to bed. Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

Looking for some instant sizzle? If so In the Dark is definitely for you! (That sounded like an infomercial, let’s try again) Wilder mixes in plenty of humor to go with the steamy situation and wastes no time diving right in to the action. While we don’t learn a whole lot about the characters, Alex manages to spark some life and personality into the short piece, enough to entice you to read further.

If all you are after is some wonderfully written erotica that gets right into the fun from the get go, In the Dark is perfect. Giving just enough tension between the characters, and with Katrina’s claustrophobia as a small barrier to overcome Wilder keeps the piece from being a one-and-done sex scene. However, the scene that does ensue is sweet, sensual and downright sexy as hell. The chemistry between the two and the dialogue they have is excellent. You’ll be caught between laughing one moment and moaning the next, quite the feat by Wilder. I definitely recommend it to any Erotica fans looking for a wonderful quick read. Thanks as always for reading!

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge: #108/200; Mount TBR Challenge #62/150; 2013 TBR Pile #62/50

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Review: Peter the Wolf by Zoe E. Whitten

Peter the Wolf

Summary From Goodreadspeter the wolf

Peter Holmes is a troubled teen still grieving the death of his sister. A victim of long term abuse, he escaped his parents only to find life as a foster child is another form of torture. Now living with his fourth family after a stint in juvenile detention, his view of his future is bleak until he meets Alice Culpepper and learns about the world of competitive gymnastics. But as Peter trains in the Culpepper gym and tries to get his life on track, his growing friendship with Alice threatens his new life, his foster family, and even his freedom. As if things couldn’t get any worse, his insane mother just escaped from prison…

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Warning: This book is highly controversial and includes detailed descriptions of abuse and child pornography. (However, I DID really enjoy it so please read on if you can handle the content!)

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Review: Drain Me Dry by Leigh Wilder

Drain Me Dry

Summary From Goodreads

19 year old Jamie has had it with living. He has a terrible job, no friends, and his home life is unbearable. He wants to end it all, but is too frightened to slit his own wrists. Instead he goes to The Victorian, a seedy underground blood den for vampires and their groupies, where he hopes to find an angel of death to end it all for him. Instead he finds Damian, who has much sexier things on his mind than death. Will Jamie succeed in his plan of suicide by vampire, or will he get an unexpected HEA?

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Warning: The following book contains mature content and erotic situations.

It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! This is where I write a review in the time I have before I go to work or before I go to bed. Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

I hadn’t realized it had been 2 whole months since a Hobbit Sized Review, wow! Well the style fits perfectly for this short piece. Jamie is a bit of a whiner as the MC, but he’s someone you can sympathize with because of his home situation. You may not root for Jamie, but he may be too innocent in the end for you to care. As for Damian? Insert sexy older male vampire model here please! Damian is your typical gorgeous vampire, a seasoned pro in the bedroom, and with an apparent soft spot for the innocent and the suffering. You can’t not like him.

The only complaint I have is the transition from Jamie’s suicide plan to his time with Damian is a bit rough. It’s minor and it isn’t glaring, but noticeable. Wilder excels once you move from the dialogue and over to  the intimate scenes. While Drain Me Dry is a short piece, Wilder will have no problem getting you all hot and bothered and aching (pun intended) for more. It’s sexy, it is playful and Damian is everything you could want in a sexy vampire. Once you’ve drained yourself dry from reading the story you’ll be right back for more of Wilder’s fantastic writing. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge: 107/200; Mount TBR Challenge #61/150; 2013 TBR Pile #61/50

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Review: Blood Winter by Diana Pharaoh Francis

Blood Winter

Summary From Goodreads

Max always does her job, no matter how brutal and bloody. That’s how it’s been ever since she was enslaved by a witch, turned into a supernatural warrior, and assigned to protect the coven of Horngate. But her job just got harder….

Waves of wild magic have returned much of the world to a time when fairy tales were real and danger now lurks behind every tree and bush. As winter descends and food, heat, and water are harder to come by, many have turned to Benjamin Sterling for protection. Leader of the Earth’s Last Stand cult, Sterling claims to be the Hand of God, but his power and charisma secretly come from a dark and terrible source. With devout followers eager to do his sadistic bidding, he has his eyes on Horngate and its magical inhabitants. To save those she loves, Max will knowingly walk into a trap. But when the cult strips Max’s soul bare for all to see, will even Alexander—her lover and her strength—remain? And if she were to lose him, what does it matter if she gains the whole world…

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This book. I can’t even describe how many times I almost quit on it. Truly the only reason I didn’t was because I received it from the amazing people over at Arcycling. It just didn’t feel right to DNF it, no matter how much I wanted to at times. So I slogged through and have made it through to the other side. The funny thing is, Blood Winter isn’t a bad book. I wouldn’t even be surprised if quite a few bloggy friends of mine into fantasy would read it and like it. It just wasn’t for me. Let me tell you why.

Wordiness. I love beautiful descriptions and depictions of the worlds authors create and the characters that inhabit them as much as the next person. That does not mean, however, that I want 50+ words to describe what you could tell me in 10. I will qualify all of what I’ll be saying about this book by reminding you that since I received it from Arcycling it is an ARC, there may have been some changes. The advanced reader copy I received is 388 pages. It probably should have been closer to 300. There is simply too much description, too much minutia to wade through and that’s all there is to it. Moving on.

Style. Francis wrote Blood Winter in a way where we are being told what is happening rather than being able to experience the action along with the characters. This happens. Then that happens. Then some more stuff happens. While there are exceptions to every rule, in most cases I don’t recommend writing in this way because it feels passive, or worse, even distances the reader. It’s like reading a history book where all of the action has already taken place. You aren’t connected, you don’t feel with the characters and because of it the book loses so much potential for readers to enjoy. Meh.

The relationship. Gag me with a spork. Alright, please don’t as that sounds quite painful, but this “romance” did nothing for me. At no point did I hope for Max and Alexander’s happiness, feel saddened by their struggles or uplifted by their happy times. I felt numb, kind of like they do at various points in the book. It’s this on again, off again spiral of frustration, it’s a ride they can’t seem to get off of and, at least for me, just gets annoying. I get it, you are fighting, you aren’t the most compatible of people, but can we move on yet? In fact that’s exactly what I’ll do.

There are positives in Blood Winter. Arcycling book or not, if I didn’t find some things that interested me I would have DNF’d it after 100 pages or so. Max is actually a great character when she isn’t dwelling on Alexander. She’s a kickass near-superhero type with a sharp sense of humor. Who doesn’t love that? I wish she would have just ditched Alexander in the beginning since she was clearly having attachment issues as it was and moved on to kick everyone’s butt. Alas. She felt the most real out of any character in the book and things from her perspective, as opposed to Alexander’s, just felt right. Give me more Max and less mushy crap and I’d have been hooked.

The world that Francis created is also very intriguing. It is teeming with supernatural creatures of all types from angels to “Blades”, from witches to “Grims” plus a host of others. This is where the author’s tendency to go into too much detail was a help rather than a hindrance. You could pick up Blood Winter, which is the fourth book in the Horngate Witches series, and read it as a stand alone without feeling lost. As a reader I understood every facet of the world after about 50 or so pages. If it wasn’t for the style of writing employed I’d be keen on coming back and discovering more.

So overall no, I didn’t enjoy Blood Winter. If you are tempted to DNF a book that many times it takes some miraculous writing near the middle and end to save a book, this one didn’t have it. I didn’t like the style, the book could have been a lot shorter to cut down on the wordiness and excessive descriptions and the relationship was grating on the nerves. The positives, Max and the world building, couldn’t outweigh the negatives. Nothing to be done. Thank you as always for reading and don’t forget that I’m hosting a big celebration giveaway on July 2nd!

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #101/200; Mount TBR Challenge #60/150; 2013 TBR Pile #60/50

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Review: White Pickups by Larry Kollar

White Pickups

Summary From Goodreads

At summer’s end, mysterious white pickup trucks take to the roads and compel nearly everyone to “drive off.” Some of those who remain gather in a suburban Atlanta subdivision, and struggle to cope with a world whose infrastructure is rapidly crumbling. One of the few who are mentally and emotionally prepared for the end of the world is Cody Sifko, a youth who quickly becomes the inspiration for the others. When a strange homeless woman names him “Father of Nations,” is she seeing his future or her own delusions? As winter and a hate group try to destroy Laurel Hills, can Cody overcome personal tragedy and seize his destiny?

Love, hate, survival, and an apocalypse like no other—White Pickups is ready to take you on the ride of your life!

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I received an e-book copy of White Pickups in exchange for an honest review.

White Pickups, book one of the “Truckalypse” series, was very enjoyable for me and definitely has me excited for book two, Pickups and Pestilence. That doesn’t mean, however, that it wasn’t bizarre. As the series name in combination with the title would suggest, white pickups essentially are responsible for the end of humanity as we know it. The vast majority of the population goes into them and though the characters, and thus the reader as well, are not certain what exactly happens when someone enters these vehicles, they do not expect them to return to the remains of the world that they left behind.

I’m going to break down White Pickups into two sections, pros and cons, and then give a conclusion, sound good? Wonderful, somehow I knew you’d see it my way.

Cons: Love Triangles – They are very heavily used. Even when they are resolved rather quickly or the outcome seems rather obvious from the onset, Kollar uses them for tension and some fleshing out of characters. If they weren’t quite as obvious as to which way they were going to go I think this could have been a solid device, as it was the tool shone and the result fell somewhat flat.

Insta-love – You know my feelings on this if you follow my reviews at all. In this case I don’t think the love part was quite so instant in the main relationship as in many insta-love cases, despite iterations by some of the characters to the contrary. Lust? Certainly. Desire? Absolutely. Rapidly developed feelings? You betcha. But this was the best possible way it could have been incorporated and it felt very realistic. A small con at most but I had to mention it.

Slow Points In Development – There were parts in the book where I just wanted to skip ahead. I understand that Kollar wanted the reader to get an accurate portrayal of all of the work that would go into creating a post-apocalyptic community, something that is glossed over in many works and something I think is worthwhile to do. However, at some point you need to edit it down a bit so that the reader isn’t drowned in the minutia, there were areas where I certainly think that would have been possible. Had some parts been scaled down the book could have had a better pacing to it and been more exciting rather than just interesting.

Pros: Characters – There was a very large cast of characters that we actually heard from throughout the book which is a very challenging thing to attempt and Kollar did so very well. I felt like I knew them all and what they could potentially become and do in future books, that none of them seemed forced or unnecessary, and that there were strong emotional bonds with each of them. I can’t stress enough how difficult that is to accomplish and Kollar deserves major credit for them all having individual voices that stand out.

Originality – How the heck did Kollar come up with white pickup trucks ending the world? It was rapture-esque but not overly so (and without the typical religious overtones) but the idea for that was very creative and unique.

Believability – It’s an apocalypse book and it seemed possible. Read that again. Yes the premise is a bit weird (white pickup trucks calling out to you!) but the reasoning for people choosing to leave discovered by the characters certainly could apply to the vast majority of society. The characters as previously mentioned were believable, the way that the community went about creating a new life was broken down (even if a bit too much) into sections that actually felt like details weren’t skipped or glossed over and even the prophecies and magical qualities didn’t seem all that far-fetched.

Summary/Feelings: Did I enjoy White Pickups? Yes. Did I think there were parts I’d like to have been edited down? Yes. Were the characters strong enough for me to overlook the flaws and make me excited for Pickups and Pestilence? Heck ya. Do I recommend the book? Check it out, if for no other reason than it is a unique piece, you won’t find it’s double anywhere, and that is a rarity and very special. Worth the read for sure. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow (you read that right!) for my next review!

Mount TBR Challenge #59/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #59/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #95/200

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Review: Forge by T.K. Anthony

Forge

Summary From Goodreads

Warned by a Seeing…
The high king of the Scotian Realm expects the arrival of an enemy, a race of psychic predators bent on galactic conquest. The Realm’s one hope is alliance with the neighboring star domains in defense of a shared colony, Forge.

Caught in Fate’s grim weaving…
Mindblind, amnesic, Tazhret lives out his drug-induced visions of servitude on Forge. He wants to believe the beautiful woman with the nut-brown hair who whispers reassurances to his harrowed heart: “You have a name.” But is she even real? Or just one bright thread in his dark dreams?

An unexpected hope…
Tazhret’s destiny leads him to freedom and the woman he yearns for —and to a desperate struggle against the enemy.

Tazhret can save Forge, and the clan of his beloved. But only at the cost of all he has hoped for: his name, his freedom, and his love
for the woman with the nut-brown hair…

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I received a copy of Forge from the author T.K. Anthony in exchange for an honest review.

Forge is old-school science fiction in a time when it seems that everyone is trying to reinvent the sci-fi wheel. In that sense it is refreshing and definitely will take you back to whatever sci-fi you read as a kid or teenager (if you are one now this doesn’t quite apply to you but you get the point).

Anthony immerses the reader into this universe from the beginning. While this approach can be a bit jarring at first, especially as you try and keep up with the dialogue and learn the language (which is how it felt for me anyhow), Forge is a fascinating world that is worth the effort.

However, the one major point of contention I have with this style choice, and something that is present throughout the piece, is the overwhelming descriptions. Oh sure, creating a realistic universe is never easy and when there are so many things different from our own world it can be necessary to use a tad more explanations than say in a contemporary. The problem here is multifold, when you bombard the reader with that much information, especially with very few pauses between, it can cause them to have a disconnect from the story and where it is going since their mind is so busy trying to accurately portray the immense descriptions in their head. Furthermore, this style tends to lead to less action, and while in Forge there is a good amount it does make even the best scenes seem laden with extra words, that perhaps if they were simplified, not all the time but just on occasion, they would in fact be more intense. Finally on this point is the matter of allowing the reader to make some things up for themselves, allow them to infer here or create there, with nothing left up to the imagination it can become slightly monotonous.

While those issues are present in Forge I think the characters make up for a lot of it. Anthony jumps between a few main characters and gives us insight into their points of view which gives them more depth, and where in other books this causes confusion or frustration because it can take time to get used to a character’s “voice” here it works very well. I particularly enjoyed Nica and her father, Col, which had excellent senses of humor and an instant likability about them though I can’t explain why exactly… (aren’t I just awesome at this reviewing thing? >.<)

There is romance in this book which shouldn’t come as any surprise based on what is said in the summary. No love triangle, huzzah! The kinda weird connection between them that doesn’t make any sense until quite a bit into the book is a little cop-outish but it did (mostly) keep insta-love out of the equation which is a tradeoff I’ll take. They have a very heartwarming bond and though the outcome is pretty obvious right away there was enough potential conflict with their relationship to make it interesting.

The positives for Forge, the characters, the action scenes and the romance definitely outweigh the sometimes overwhelming descriptions and overall I did enjoy it. Forge is book 1 in the Thrall Web series and I do look forward to reading the next book! I would recommend it to fans of old-school sci-fi who are used to this style of book. Thanks as always for reading!

Mount TBR Challenge #58/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #58/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #92/200

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Day 87: Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye by Shari A. Brady

Day 87

Summary From Goodreads

Before my older sister Francesca died, I worked at the bakery and wrote songs, but now I write lists. Lists like ten reasons why it’s my fault Francesca’s dead, or five reasons why I should try and win Howie back, or one reason why I need to stop lying to everyone, including myself.

Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye is an extraordinary novel about one family’s struggle to make sense of their world after losing a family member to addiction. Through sixteen-year-old Carmella’s eyes, we witness the courage and strength it takes to overcome the consequences of grief, guilt and co-dependency. With conviction and determination, Carmella shows us what can happen when we’re open to love, feel the pain of our loss, and find the courage to accept the truth of our lives.

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Hold on tight, this is going to get ranty.

I knew that this was going to be a very emotional and grief-filled story based on the summary alone, but I guess I didn’t grasp how much of the book was going to be spent on those points. The loss of any family member is, of course, incredibly difficult to deal with and getting over the damage it inflicts on you emotionally can certainly seem devastating. However, even if it is someone you were very close to as was the case in Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye I don’t think it completely controls your life. Sure it can hurt immensely, but the physical ailments that Carmella suffered that were caused by holding in this pain and the truth from her parents were on the extreme side. There are no amount of qualifications I can make for what I have to say to sound less insensitive, so I’ll just be honest, I do apologize in advance if I offend anyone as it is not my intent.

Carmella was an incredibly whiny main character. There, I said it. The girl suffered a tremendous loss, and I understand that she felt guilty about not doing more to help her sister, but get a freaking grip. She isn’t just whiny though, she’s insanely selfish.

At one point in the book (mini unimportant spoiler alert) she has an argument with her best friend Anna. Anna has finally corralled the constantly moping Carmella into going to watch one of her volleyball games, something Carmella never did the year prior for whatever reason. So of course this is a big deal to Anna and when she blows the game for her team (not all her fault but she feels awful about it) she feels like crap. So when Carmella asks if Anna will go to a party with some guys they had just met and Anna declines you’d think she’d be understanding right? Nope, she plays the victim card saying Anna clearly doesn’t sympathize with her loss, that the game isn’t a big deal especially compared to losing a sibling, that Anna has all of her sisters so she should consider herself lucky and won’t she please suck it up and go to the party so Carmella can be with this cute guy she doesn’t really know yet. I’m sure you can figure how that turned out. So like I said, really freaking selfish.

Back to Carmella. I didn’t find her funny, she was a total wench to her parents, especially her mom, and even though it was obvious that they were hurting and trying to deal with it in their own ways all Carmella could see was how they were being unfair to her. She had no empathy for them, or really anyone that experienced similar loss, it was all about her pain and how miserable her life was. Ugh.

Howie, the love interest, was a decent character. He had a good sense of humor to him and he seemed to genuinely care for Carmella and was a champ in putting up with her bs. He had his own share of crap in his life but didn’t give Carmella grief when she seemed to shrug it off at times and dwell on her pain, major kudos to this guy, though I don’t think he should have put up with her.

There were good points in the story. I enjoyed the lists which were mildly entertaining, probably because I’ve been making lists and charts out of habit for years and felt a connection there. The stories about Carmella and her sister were interesting and often quite funny, they were quite the pair. Unfortunately the highlights were drowned in a sea of self pity and typical teenage “everything is about me” behaviors and mindset.

There is only so many times you can say that someone really misses their sister, that their parents suck and aren’t being fair and that they get really nervous around guys before it gets dull. Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye far exceeded that number and then some, it got repetitive and any sympathy initially felt toward Carmella evaporated by about halfway through the book. Oh well, you can’t love them all. I better stop before I go on a crazy repetitious rant myself. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 88!

Mount TBR Challenge #57/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #57/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #87/365

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Day 83: Red Leaves by Thomas H. Cook

Day 83

Summary From Goodreads

Eric Moore has a prosperous business, a comfortable home, a stable family life in a quiet town. Then, on an ordinary night, his teenage son Keith babysits Amy Giordano, the eight-year-old daughter of a neighboring family. The next morning Amy is missing, and Eric isn’t sure his son is innocent.

In his desperate attempt to hold his family together by proving his-and the community’s-suspicions wrong, Eric finds himself in a vortex of doubt and broken trust. What should he make of Keith’s strange behavior? Of his wife’s furtive phone calls to a colleague? Of his brother’s hints that he knows things he’s afraid to say?

In a “heart-wrenching and gut-wrenching” (New York Daily News) race against time and mistrust, Eric must discover what has happened to Amy Giordano and face the long-buried family secrets he has so carefully ignored.

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I found Red Leaves at a big Half Price Books sale in the cities, the cover stood out from the rest and the summary drew me in as a potentially gripping thriller/mystery. I wasn’t disappointed!

One of the most fascinating parts of Red Leaves was the developing psychosis of the main character Eric. As he learns more about the situation his family, and more specifically Keith, has been caught up in he becomes increasingly suspicious about everything and everyone. This is further intensified by him learning details about his family that he had managed to ignore or refuse to see when he was younger, it causes him to start questioning everything he though he knew about his life and what his family is capable of. He doesn’t trust his brother, his wife, his father and he especially does not trust his son. The further he sinks into this constant skepticism the more paranoid he becomes, creating scenarios where there are none and making details out of the past that never existed. Red Leaves shows how when the cracks start to show in the foundation how easy it truly is for everything to fall apart.

The writing style choice by Cook was very risky in my mind but it worked after I got over the initial surprise. When I began the book I couldn’t quite pinpoint what felt so off, but after a few pages it dawned on me, Red Leaves is written in a passive voice. One of the things English teachers will tell you about writing right away (or at least this was the case with mine) is that you want to write in an active voice, writing passively can cause disconnect between the reader and writer as well as a myriad of other issues. When you reach the end of the book the reasoning for this style choice is made apparent, though I’m not sure it couldn’t have been avoided if Cook had wanted to. It does take getting used to but I don’t think it hindered Red Leaves at all.

The plot was wonderful and easily the highlight of the book. By using the psychosis Eric goes through as the book progresses it keeps the reader from determining who might have been behind Amy’s disappearance. It forces you to try and make your own assertions, deducing which of Eric’s paranoid discoveries are real and impactful on the case and which are just delusions his troubled mind has created. Along the way the characters around Eric, from his wife to his son and even to Amy’s father and Eric’s brother Warren, all change and transform in front of Eric’s eyes as well as the reader’s but in different ways. While Eric sees everyone behind a lens of suspicion the reader has a slightly clearer view, but even still Cook is masterful in hiding what really happened leaving all options open to the reader’s interpretation.

My main complaint about the book is the ending. Part of it did not surprise me but the “who done it” reveal was disappointing to say the least. It left me feeling like all the emotions I had built up for the characters and the desire I had to finally determine who was the guilty party was for nothing. Though characters were impacted they were not done so nearly as much as they could or should have been. It felt like a cop out which was terribly disappointing after the vast majority of the book had been so thrilling. Overall though I did enjoy Red Leaves and I think it is a solid mystery/thriller. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 84!

Mount TBR Challenge #56/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #56/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #83/365

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Day 79: Amaury’s Hellion by Tina Folsom

Day 79

Summary From Goodreads

Vampire Amaury LeSang is cursed to feel everybody’s emotions like a permanent migraine. The only way to alleviate the pain is through sex. When he meets the feisty human woman Nina, a cure for his ailment seems within reach: in her presence all pain vanishes. Unfortunately, Nina is out to kill him because she believes he’s involved in her brother’s death. And she would succeed if only Amaury’s bad boy charm didn’t play havoc with her hormones and catapulted her into his arms and his bed every time she was near him. As every kiss brings them physically closer, danger is lurking and threatens to destroy the little trust they have in each other.

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Maybe I should come up with a name for my occasional foray into ze naughty. Frodo’s Frisky Frolic? Seems too silly, oh well. This is the second book in the Scanguards Vampires series and also my second “adult” book of the year. As was the case with Samson’s Lovely Mortal I will be putting a page break here since I know a good portion of the people that read this blog are teens and I feel it only fair to give you the choice about whether or not to read this particular review. So read on if you’d like, but feel free to check out a different review if you aren’t into the adult romance books. ^.^  (more…)


Day 77: The Mirror Crack’d by Agatha Christie

Day 77

Summary From Goodreads

Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack’d from side to side:
“The curse is come upon me,” cried
The Lady of Shalott

-Alfred Lord Tennyson

Marina Gregg, the famous film star, has brought some much needed glamour to St. Mary Mead. But when a local fan is poisoned, the actress finds herself centre stage in a real-life mystery. Which other characters from the Mary Mead cast will perish before the credits roll? And will Miss Marple produce yet another stellar performance to steal the show?

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The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side is the third and final Agatha Christie book that I picked up last year during a couple of big book sales I went to, the others being Murder in Retrospect and Passenger to Frankfurt. This is the 9th book in the Miss Marple companion books, but the first one that I’ve read so far. As I have come to expect from Christie, The Mirror Crack’d was an excellent murder mystery written in her usual older style that is something unseen in current publications. The writing requires a thinking mind, and an active one at that. Unlike many mysteries of the last couple decades or so that let the reader sit back and discover “who done it” with the characters, Christie challenges her reader’s to try and figure it out for themselves, something I greatly admire her for.

Unfortunately for those, including myself, that are not used to having to really try and figure out these mysteries Christie does not make it easy. Just as with her other works that I’ve read, especially Murder in Retrospect, the amount of twists and turns is enough to boggle the mind. Christie makes it seem as if any of the people involved could be guilty at one time or another in the book and it is not until the very end that all but the most inquisitive and sharp mind can determine the guilty party with any certainty. I can honestly say I’ve never read any other mystery writer, current or otherwise, that has the skill to do this as much as Christie had.

The characters are strong as ever, with Miss Marple being the star as I’m sure is per usual in her mystery companion books. Marple is sharp, even at her old age, and has a witty sense of humor mixed in with a take-no-crap attitude which I loved. She’s a fantastic main character and her alone would have been enough to convince me to want to get the rest of the Miss Marple books. Marina, the film star, has a very interesting personality as well, though she’s a bit flighty and prone to mood swings, which may have been typical of the stars of that age. Though I know Christie develops her characters herself, rather than using real people and slightly altering them as is often done, I’m sure she got some inspiration from the flim stars of her day. If it is an accurate portrayal of what they were like then (this was originally published in 1962) it would seem not much has changed except for stars having to grow better ways to cope with media exposure since it is infinitely worse now with the internet in the mix.

The mystery was fantastic and Christie once again managed to confuse and confound me until the last. I loved the story and am thrilled I found the book (at the library sale, aren’t those awesome?!). I’d recommend The Mirror Crack’d, and likely all of Christie’s works to anyone, especially mystery lovers or any reader that likes a good mental challenge. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 78!

Mount TBR Challenge #54/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #54/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #77/365

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Day 75: 3 Heads & a Tail by Vickie Johnstone

Day 75

Summary From Goodreads3 heads and a tail

When nature lover Josie moves into a house share with two pals, dreamer Ben and model man David, she sees it as a short stop and doesn’t bank on an attraction developing with one of them. Meanwhile, Ben’s dog, Glen, has the hots for Miss Posh, the beautiful golden Lab in the park. When dog meets dog it’s puppy love, but a complication leads to Glen taking matters into his own paws. In this comedy of errors, romance and walkies, it’s anyone’s guess who is going to get the girl/dog and live happily ever after.

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3 Heads & a Tail is exactly what the title and cover would suggest, a funny and cute romantic story that is filled with heartfelt sentiments and some doggy perspective. I’m not sure that it has an intended age group audience, but it could be enjoyed by anyone from YA to adult. It isn’t overly steamy but tends to be more on the “aww” side of romance.

The only major complaint I had was repetitious writing. A lot of phrases were repeated, often without much of a gap between them. I won’t list a bunch of examples, but suffice it to say a thesaurus or just changes of wording would have been lovely at times. The characters could have been brought so much more to life it they just had slightly altered dialogue, kind of like in a movie where the actors are great but the material they are working with is too rough to let their talent fully shine through.

The characters were done quite well. The main character, Josie was a bit of a space case at times, but she seemed realistic. She didn’t always make the best decisions yet she owned up to that and took her lumps when she knew she deserved them. Ben is devoted, caring, and though he doesn’t have the highest self-esteem, he still tries to get Josie to notice he likes her, in his own way. The standout for the humans oddly enough is the pretty boy David. Johnstone really fleshes out his character well, he’s one of the most convincing asshats I’ve seen in a while, quirky sense of humor or no, he’s not a character that is easily liked which is definitely by design.

Of course, the fun part about 3 Heads & a Tail is the dog’s perspective. Johnstone does a great job creating a convincing personality that if you didn’t know better, or wasn’t filled with so many “voofs”, might be that of a human. Glen is often hilarious, and even devious, but, being a dog, is more easily convinced to do things than your standard character. He has his own set of views on how the world works with insight that only a dog could have. Overall a very enjoyable second main perspective.

The plot, while predictable for the most part, was entertaining. Love triangles, failed attempts at love, drunken nights and many a chase combine for quite the thrill ride, and cheesy romance fest. There are enough twists and turns along the way to keep the reader interested and I breezed through the book with ease. If you want a light funny read, and don’t mind the repetitious dialogue I mentioned earlier then this is a good pick. Thanks as always for reading and come back again for Day 76!

Mount TBR Challenge #53/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #53/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #75/365

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Day 72: Flight by Alyssa Rose Ivy

Day 72

Summary From Goodreads

Sometimes you just have to take flight.

A summer in New Orleans is exactly what Allie needs before starting college. Accepting her dad’s invitation to work at his hotel offers an escape from her ex-boyfriend and the chance to spend the summer with her best friend. Meeting a guy is the last thing on her mind—until she sees Levi.

Unable to resist the infuriating yet alluring Levi, Allie finds herself at the center of a supernatural society and forced to decide between following the path she has always trusted or saving a city that might just save her.

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Maybe I missed a memo somewhere. Are all paranormal romance books 15% paranormal and 85% romance? It sure seems like it after the last few I’ve read, and I can’t say I like the trend. Flight is no different. While there are paranormal elements sprinkled in and some of the main characters are paranormal in nature, the feel of the book is almost entirely that of a YA/New Adult romance. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m perfectly fine with reading romance books, though I prefer to know how heavily those elements are going to be used beforehand, but it needs to be done right.

Unfortunately, for me at least, Flight was not. I wanted to like this book, the writing was great, the style choices and pacing Alyssa Rose Ivy went with fit perfectly, but the romance… well it had some of my least favorite things, including the worst offender of all. That’s right, the dreaded insta-love strikes again. I don’t care one iota that Allie “resists” Levi in the beginning, which really is more her fighting off an instant attraction (ugh) for a while and eventually giving in one level at a time. Can insta-love not be a thing? Pretty please? Can’t the romance develop naturally and not be painfully obvious? *sigh*

I wish that was the only problem, but Flight committed another “crime” of romance books, the overly dominant/controlling male. Yup, Levi is one of those guys. He acts like he has control over her almost immediately, he refuses to take no for an answer even when she actually meant that she didn’t want anything to do with him, and acts like a jerk for half the book. I don’t want to spoil it, but there is a scene where he essentially gives her no options and just makes her get what he wants her to, I don’t care that she might have enjoyed the result, I can’t stand that. Let her decide what she wants! That goes for everything, not just that one scene.

To do further damage Levi near the end tricks her into something that she can’t escape from (no not that) and it’s despicable. His intentions weren’t even pure, it was crap and he did it because like all macho guys seem to be, he was scared. Not good enough. The guy may care for her, but he acts like a tool, and refuses to let her just be. Ugh.

The writing really was good, but even the few action scenes couldn’t save this for me. I have the second book in the series, Focus, but at this point I’m really not sure that I’ll read it. If it is anything like Flight in the balance of romance/paranormal, and if Levi doesn’t change at all, I guarantee it would be a DNF, so it’s probably not worth the time or effort. We’ll see, I’ll let it sit in my kindle for a while. Anyway, thanks as always for reading, I’m sorry this review was so negative, but I just can’t stand that kind of stuff. Come back tomorrow for Day 73 where hopefully I can be more positive!

Mount TBR Challenge #52/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #52/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #72/365

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Day 68: Lucid by Adrienne Stoltz

Day 68

Summary From Goodreads

What if you could dream your way into a different life? What if you could choose to live that life forever?

Sloane and Maggie have never met. Sloane is a straight-A student with a big and loving family. Maggie lives a glamorously independent life as an up-and-coming actress in New York. The two girls couldn’t be more different–except for one thing. They share a secret that they can’t tell a soul. At night, they dream that they’re each other.

The deeper they’re pulled into the promise of their own lives, the more their worlds begin to blur dangerously together. Before long, Sloane and Maggie can no longer tell which life is real and which is just a dream. They realize that eventually they will have to choose one life to wake up to, or risk spiraling into insanity. But that means giving up one world, one love, and one self, forever.

This is a dazzling debut that will steal readers’ hearts.

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You know how many stories, whether in book or movie form, start with something like “Let me start at the beginning…”? Well I want to start with the ending. See, I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about Lucid until I got to the last 15% or so of the book. The ending sold me, I’m not going to immediately rush to see where this fits on my top x books ever list or anything crazy like that, but it solidified Lucid as a good read. It’s dramatic, intense, and it will rip your heart out if you let it. There is such a powerful array of emotions and both MCs trying to get a grip on what they think is reality that you can’t help but be swept into their plight.

Speaking of the MCs, I did enjoy reading about both Maggie and Sloane. However, every review I’ve read seems to pick a favorite, and mine will be no different as I did connect more with Sloane. She’s more reserved, she’s the book lover and desires to be a writer, all things I feel an intimate connection to. Her personality just meshes with mine. That doesn’t mean I didn’t connect with Maggie too, just not in the same way. I liked Maggie, her backbone, her sense of humor and take charge attitude were very appealing. In the end I just can’t not feel closer to a book lover you know? ^.^

The romances. Oh boy. See this is why I can’t jump up and down and squee over the awesomeness that one of my best bookish/twitter/bloggy friends Annabelle from Sparkles and Lightning finds in Lucid. We weren’t just given one love triangle, Stoltz gave us two. I understand, symmetry between the two characters, some things need to be similar so that the worlds can stay intact, etc. etc. but that didn’t make it drive me crazy any less. Don’t get me wrong, the love triangles were pretty well done, though I thought the Thomas/Andrew one was pretty obvious in its result. Regardless, multiple love triangles was just a bit much for my taste.

The plot was done in a slow buildup fashion, no two ways about it (ironically enough). As I said, the ending portion of the book was riveting, but it took quite a while to get there and some of the early-to-middle parts developed just a tad slower than I would have preferred. On the other side of the coin some of my favorite lines were in those sections, so maybe keeping everything in was worth it after all. I certainly wouldn’t want Jade’s character to be lessened even in the slightest, it was fantastic, so I’ll take the development speed in stride in this case. Little sister characters always get me darn it.

The psychological discussions and debates (even if mostly one sided) were enjoyable. I love that sort of material, and while I wasn’t blown away by the therapy bits, they were done well. I don’t know how much more Stoltz could have delved into the character’s “condition” so maybe going into the amount of detail that there was is a good thing. I do know that I need to read another good psychological book (maybe a mind-fuck, those are fun) after reading Lucid to keep that inner-mind vibe going.

Overall Lucid was a good read. There were certainly elements (mainly one) that I wasn’t fond of, but they didn’t overshadow the many positive aspects. I’m not going to rate it a perfect 5/5 (sorry Annabelle) but I think a solid and positive four reflects upon the book pretty accurately. Neither character was perfect and neither were either of their lives, so maybe the rating for them matches that. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 69 (insert joke here)!

Mount TBR Challenge #51/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #51/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #68/365

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