Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Monthly Reads: April 2012

Over the week-end, I was thinking the blogland was in a lull once again. Today, I came back home from work and there were 27 posts waiting in my Google Reader... In a couple of hours, that's not bad. It seems everyone has decided to post today :) And I won't be left behind!

So here is what I read in April:

1) About that Night by Julie James: B

2) Just Down the Road by Jodi Thomas: B+

3) Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire: C+

4) Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman: D

5) I Want Candy by Susan Donovan: C+

6) Flirting with Intent by Kelly Hunter: B-

7) We'll Always Have Paris by Jessica Hart: C+

8) I'd Tell You I Love You, But I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter: B-

9) Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter: C

It's the start of a new semester at Gallagher Academy and the girls are in for a surprise. The first mission in their Covert Operations class takes place in at the Jeffersonian museum in Washington D.C. and it is to make it to a certain display at a given time, without being tailed. Unfortunately for Cammie, she trusted the wrong person and failed miserably. However, she does confirm the existence of the male counterpart of Gallagher Academy: Blackthorne. And for the first time in history, the two academies are going to work together... which explains the presence of Zach - the boy whom she trusted in Washinton, at the academy. The more she interacts with Zach, the more Cammie feels something fishy is going on... and with her friends, she decides to put into practice the skills they learned to find out what.

I picked this right up after reading I'd Tell You I Love You, But I'd Have to Kill You. Why not right? Since the story and world would still be fresh in my mind :) While Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy was still a fun book, I thought it wasn't as good as I'd Tell You I Love You, But I'd Have to Kill You. One reason is I thought there was a bit too much moping from Cammie since her relationship with Josh came to an end. Then, there was the new love interest introduced: Zach. In this case, because she's not over Josh, it felt very much like a love triangle which I really dislike ^_^; Also, Cammie is a character who needs to have the upper hand and knowing that Zach knows something she doesn't, she doesn't feel secure. As a result, she questions Zach's action and motives a lot. Obviously, it doesn't help that Zach is indeed keeping some stuff away from her ^_^; And what really hurt Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy in my opinion was the fact that it didn't really have an overall plot. Li said on Goodreads that it lacked substance and I agree with her. Ms Carter got away in  I'd Tell You I Love You, But I'd Have to Kill You because she was setting up the series, so there was a lot of world building... but it wasn't the case in Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy and it impacted the enjoyment a lot.

Still, as I said, the book was fun. I did like the friendship between the girls and the test at the end was entertaining. I still wonder if the Code Black breach was part of the test or not... Also, I liked that there are people able to get the upper hands on Cammie and her friends when it comes to spying or uncover their spying :P It makes it realistic and more balanced. In any case, I was still interested enough to read the next book :)

10) Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover by Ally Carter: C+

It's summer and Cammie is visiting one of her roommate, Macey McHenry, in Boston. Actually, Macey is on the presidential campaign as her father, Senator McHenry, has accepted the nomination for vice-president and she wanted company. During the visit, Cammie and Macey thwarted a kidnapping attempt... and for the first time, Cammie is confront with the reality that despite all her training, there are things that she cannot do. When school starts again, Macey is back to Gallagher Academy, but this time, with a bodyguard from Secret Service... who turns out to be Cammie's aunt Abby. However, Macey is still expected to participate to the campaign and that means doing brief appearances at several events. Cammie has seen how Macey's father's political aspirations is stifling her life. However, what concerns Cammie most is the kidnapping attempt and she worries Macey is still in danger. Therefore, Cammie and her friends decide to take matters into their hands.

I was really looking forward to Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover, because based on the blurb, I thought the setting was going to be different than the two previous books, not taking place at school. I was wrong, but Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover still turned out to be an enjoyable read.

I thought the first part of Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover was very good and solid. I liked the electoral campaign, it was a good backdrop for the story and it fits the concept of this series: being secretive, acting discreetly and not getting noticed :P Also, the influx of new blood - Cammie's aunt and geeky boy Preston who is Macey's counterpart - is a good move on Ms Carter's part too. I also think the plot in Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover was the most interesting thus far in the series and that we're finally getting somewhere with the overall storyline of the series. The best part though, what makes the book for me, is the deepening friendship between Cammie and Macey :) It's nice to see the evolution of their friendship and some development of the secondary characters. Hopefully, Liz and Bex get the same treatment :)

The reason Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover is not getting a higher grade though is that while they are improvement on several fronts, others are getting old and predictable. For example, the whole snooping around is getting old and how Cammie can so easily sneak out of the academy. I know that's the basis of the series given that Cammie and her friends are spies in training, but it feels very repetitive. Also, the whole Zach thing is getting old as well. Cammie's wishy-washy attitude towards him: is he a good or bad guy, is he interesting in her or not and the fact that he knows more than her and she kind of resents him for that ^_^; Also, what bothers me is that I find it arrogant that Cammie and her friends thought they could protect their friend better than the pros. It stems from a good heart, but you really think you can do better when you don't have all the facts? I feel their just stumbling around like an elephant in a china store and perhaps making things worst instead of aiding.

While I enjoyed Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover more than the previous installment, I found that I needed a break from the series... and have yet to pick up the next book.

11) Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins: C+

12) Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg: A-

13) The Witness by Nora Roberts: A-

14) The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan: B

15) Ten Things We Did (and probably shouldn't have) by Sarah Mlynowski: B-

16) Hunting Kat by Kelley Armstrong: B-
Upcoming review to come.

17) The Calling by Kelley Armstrong: B-
Upcoming review to come.

18) Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford: C-

The Sullivans family is a well-off family, but their wealth relies on the matriarch, Arden Louisa Norris Sullivan Weems Maguire Hightower Beckendorf, and unfortunately, someone has displeased her. As a consequence, she demands a written apology by New Year or else, she's disinheriting the whole family. The problem is the family has no idea who have displeased Almighty Lou, but they guess it's one of the girls. So each writes their own letter, confessing their sins. First you have Norrie who fell in love with a guy 8 years her senior and ran out to him on the night of the Bachelors Cotillon which is basically her introduction to society. Then there's Jane who got into a feud with her best friend and has taken to blogging - revealing all the family dark secrets... and finally Sassy who believes she has accidentally murdered her step-grandfather.

I got this book through a contest over at RT and was really looking forward to it for some reasons... but once I got it, it languished in my TBR pile. Having read it now, well I wouldn't have minded if it languished in the TBR pile a bit more ^_^; I think the problem is I was expecting something a bit more fun based on the cover and Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters wasn't. Basically, the book is divided into 3 parts, each narrated by one sister retelling what happened. Overall, I thought the writing was good, but the problem was the story. First, the book was too short to contain 3 POVs and as a result, Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters lacked some depth in my opinion. It would have been a lot better if Ms Standiford had focused on one story. My favorite was Norrie's, probably because it was the most mature and romantic. I thought Jane's story was passable, but Sassy's was pointless. Seriously, I could have done without.

While Norrie's story was my favorite, I do question the relationship between a 17 years old woman and a 25 years old man. I'm not saying that it's bad or anything... I just wonder if a 25 years old guy would really be interested in such a young woman for an invested relationship. I think this might have worked better for me if the man was a tad younger.

Book-wise, Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters was definitively not the best YA I've read. Far from it. Based on the story, I think I would have given it a D. However, it got upgraded to C- because I did like Norrie's story and I really enjoyed the family dynamics, especially the siblings complicity :)


Books bought: + 10
Books read: -18
TBR pile: -8

Category Romance – 2
Contemporary Romance – 4
Fiction – 1
Romantic Suspense – 1
Urban Fantasy – 1
YA – 9


Sigh, time goes by so fast! It's almost the end of May and I forgot how awesome a month April has been! I'm really happy with my numbers :) 18 books is a great number and I reviewed almost all of it! Unbelievable. Seriously, that would have been impossible last year. As months pass, I'm really tickled with my Week-End's Minis feature :)

Reading-wise, I think the month was very balanced :) I had some really great reads - hey 2 As in there!  Those are rare for me LOL. There were also some duds, but they happen and didn't really dominate the month for me, so that's a good thing :) Really, thinking back, I have to say April was a really good month. I was looking forward to many new releases and they all delivered! :)

I also really like the negative number in the TBR :) Another thing I'm doing great at this year. I realized today that I have not been running after new releases as much as previous years either. It feels unnatural at times and good at others LOL.

Also, I think the surprise is the number of YA I've read last month... I feel I've been burning out on a lot of genres lately and therefore, fell back on YA. Even though it's really the same genres that I read usually - contemporary and urban fantasy - the fact that it's a younger set of characters does make a difference LOL.

All in all, April turned out to be a really good month :) What do you think?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hauling Sunday LXXX

Still haven't gotten back into a blogging rhythm it seems, which is why this post is so late ^_^; Ah well, hopefully, it'll come back to me this week :) In the meantime, this week-end was all about relaxing. My reading picked up, yay!! And I hung out with my sister and did some shopping. It's her last week-end till her big trip to Australia :) I predict this week, there'll be a lot of running around for her to get ready ^_^; We were shopping for shoes today: Nath - 2, Emilie - 0 LOL! She's running out of time and is still so picky - that's my sister for you :P

Okay, let's talk about books :) This week is going to be awesome!! Lots of good books to look forward to!! Still, the past week wasn't shabby either. Here is what I got...

From Book Depository:

Nightshifted by Cassie Alexander - I have to admit that I haven't been into PNR that much lately. However, Nightshifted sounds really interesting and refreshing :) The fact that the author is a nurse, I think it will make this book even better :) Plus, I've actually been waiting for this book for almost a year! Last summer, I was going through the list of authors at the RWA literary signing and then checked out Ms Alexander and the book caught my eye back then. Glad to finally read it!

If the Slipper Fits by Olivia Drake - I read the blurb of the book and it sounded like a book I'd enjoy, although I've never read Ms Drake before. Plus, I got a great price over at Book Depository and thought why not? :P



The Touchstone trilogy by Andrea K Host - Actually bought this ebook last week just before I departed for my aunt's surprise party :) I haven't read it yet, but expectations are high since Li really enjoyed this book and I trust her reading tastes :)

Her Best Worst Mistake by Sarah Mayberry - I wasn't sure at first whether I'd get this book. I enjoy Ms Mayberry's books, but not as much as everyone seems to. In the end, I broke down because of all the good reviews this has gotten... Oh and can't forget the good pricing :)


Book Fairy:

The Chocolate Thief by Laura Florand - I've been looking forward to Ms Florand's new release and am just ecstatic to have received an ARC, especially after having enjoyed All Fair's in Love and Chocolate. I actually have to thank Mandi from Smexy Books for forwarding my comment to Ms Florand and Ms Florand for being so generous and sending me the ARC :) Thank you!!


What about you? What good books did you get this week?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Week-End's Minis XVI: Revived by Cat Patrick

Hey everyone! How are you doing? It was great to have a 3-days week-end last week, but ugh, it derailed my blogging mojo! Not that it takes a lot, I know LOL. At least, the good news is my reading finally picked up! Yay! Now, I need to build up my read books pile a little, so I can offer you a choice for the WEM feature :P In the meantime, well it'll still be up to me :) And this week, my pick is Revived by Cat Patrick :) I know, I know, I've been reviewing a lot of YA lately... but what can I say, I got into a YA kick late April, beginning of May :P Hope you enjoy!

By the way, what are the good books you've read recently? :)

Revived by Cat Patrick
published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Hachette) in May 2012
As a little girl, Daisy Appleby was killed in a school bus crash. Moments after the accident, she was brought back to life.

A secret government agency has developed a drug called Revive that can bring people back from the dead, and Daisy Appleby, a test subject, has been Revived five times in fifteen years. Daisy takes extraordinary risks, knowing that she can beat death, but each new death also means a new name, a new city, and a new life. When she meets Matt McKean, Daisy begins to question the moral implications of Revive, and as she discovers the agency’s true goals, she realizes she’s at the center of something much larger—and more sinister—than she ever imagined.
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi/contemporary
Series: None

What do you need to know? First, if you were going to skip this book because of the sci-fi element, don't, because while it is present, it is a very small part of the story. In fact, to be truthful, I felt Revived read more like a contemporary YA :)

Basically, Daisy is one of the 21 patients part of a long-term clinical trial for a drug, Revive, which essentially does what its name indicates. As long as the subject doesn't have cancer or a mortal injury such as a broken neck or something lodged in the head, the drug should be able to bring the person back to life. All the candidates for this clinical trial were in the same bus crash, which occurred about ten years ago, and were all re-located along their families and given new identities. Since Daisy was an orphan, she was placed under the custody of agents in the program.

In the subsequent years, Daisy has died four more times - the latest from an allergic reaction to a bee stung. Each time, she and her guardians were re-located and this time around, they end up in Omaha, Nebraska as the Wests. Daisy is looking forward to this fresh start. She realized that as Daisy Appleby, she had isolated herself, not daring to make friend. As Daisy West, she doesn't intend to make the same mistake... and when she meets Audrey McKean on her first day of school, she doesn't let the opportunity pass. Very quickly, Daisy becomes best friend with Audrey and develops a crush on Audrey's older brother, Matt.

Everything is perfect... but it doesn't last very long. Soon, Daisy notices some strange behaviors from Audrey and it doesn't take long till she learns that Audrey is sick - very sick - and doesn't have long to live. For the first time in her life, Daisy realizes how final death is... At the same time, Daisy is starting to get suspicious about the Revive project when she runs into an acquaintance from her previous life and this acquaintance suddenly disappears... and a new case is introduced into the project.

Why this book? I really enjoyed Ms Patrick's debut novel Forgotten (although I have yet to review it ^_^;;). I like her blend of contemporary/sci-fi YA and that's why I picked up Revived :)

What I liked? In Revived, I still enjoyed Ms Patrick's writing very much. Her style is very enjoyable and easy to read, she has a nice voice and I think she blends contemporary and sci-fi very well :) And because there is some sci-fi element in her books, the story is kept away from the high school drama which seems to have become a requirement for my contemporary YA books LOL.

What I liked best in Revived was the contrast between Daisy who have died 5 times without real consequences and therefore, doesn't see death as threatening, and Audrey who will die. It made Daisy really think about the finality of death and I think she will see it differently.

Aside from that, I liked the characters in this book: Daisy, Audrey, Matt and Daisy's father figure, Mason. I also liked her friendship with another candidate, Megan. I liked the "normalcy" of Daisy's life despite being part of such a project. I also enjoyed Daisy's friendship with Audrey and the romance with Matt was sweet. And the ending worked for me :)

Any issues? I enjoyed the contemporary part of Revived, but I didn't think it was enough to make this book really stands out. Technically, that fell onto the sci-fi part of the book, but it wasn't developed enough to meet the expectations. The concept was actually quite interesting and had a lot of potential, but Ms Patrick failed to exploit it. First of all, it should have been more integrated to the story in my opinion. As it is, I felt the contemporary and sci-fi aspects of the book were very separate. In fact, it felt like Daisy had two separate lives: one involving everything about Revive and the other with Audrey and Matt. I think this stemmed from the fact Daisy knew so much about the project, that she was involved. The way Mason raised her, he was very honest and didn't withhold information. As such, Daisy even had access to the project files! In a sense, that's pretty cool for Daisy. However, I think if Revive and the whole project had been more mysterious, it would have worked better for the readers.

Also, everything seemed to be so easy in this book. The way Daisy opened up to Matt and revealed the secrets about Revive. I know she fell in love with him and I know that Matt is trustworthy, but to see her open up so easily... It was just weird. You'd imagine such a project would be more secretive. Also, how she discovered about the new case and uncovered the truth. All she really did was connect the dots, but those dots were in neon colors. This should have been the thrilling, the exciting part of the book, but it failed because it was so straightforward.

The last thing that bothered me about Revived was the villain's pseudo-obsession with Daisy. Why was she a target? Was it because she died so many times and therefore attracted attention? Was it really because she was an orphan? That part still puzzles me.

My Grade? C. I did enjoy Revived, especially the contemporary part of the book. However, truth be told, Revived wasn't as good as Forgotten and it is mainly due to the sci-fi aspect feeling incomplete :( It's unfortunate because I had high expectations for Revived and really wanted to love this book. Still, I'll be picking up Ms Patrick's next book because I did enjoy her writing and I hope she'll continue this style of YA :)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: Deadly Descendant by Jenna Black

Deadly Descendant by Jenna Black
published by Simon & Schuster in April 2012
As a living descendant of Artemis the Huntress, private investigator Nikki Glass knows how to track someone down. But when an Oracle shows up, warning the descendants about wild dog attacks in Washington D.C., Nikki is afraid it might be a trap. The Olympians believe the “dogs” are jackals, controlled by a blood-crazed descendant of the Egyptian death-god Anubis. Whatever... If Nikki hopes to muzzle Dogboy, she’s got to catch him in the act. But when she stakes out a local cemetery, she ends up face-to-snout with a snarling pack of shadow-jackals whose bite is worse than their bark. These hellhounds are deadly—even for an immortal like Nikki. “Dog” spelled backwards may be “god,” but that won’t stop Nikki from teaching these old gods some new tricks. Like playing dead.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Nikki Glass series, Book #2

The Story: Nikki Glass has recently discovered that she is descended from the Greek goddess Artemis. Not only that, but by accidentally running over Emmitt Cartwright, a client, Nikki has become a Liberi - an immortal descendant. Basically, only a mortal descendant of a god can kill a Liberi and steal his/her seed to become immortal.

Since becoming a Liberi, Nikki is slowly developing her powers. Being from Artemis the Huntress' lineage, it means that she has perfect aim and can track down anything or anyone she's looking for. This last ability makes her really desirable to the Olympians, a group of Liberi descended from Greek gods who believed they are above humans and non-Greek descendants. They have the tendency to slaughter descendants whenever they come across them to preserve their immortality and to reinforce their number. Since Nikki wants nothing to do with the Olympians, her only option is becoming part of Anderson's ragtag group of Liberi because he has a treaty with the Olympians: his Liberi and their families are off-limits to the Olympians as they live in Anderson's mansion.

As a result, Nikki is adapting to her new living arrangement; however, she's walking on eggshells. First, ever since the event in Dark Descendant when she learned of Anderson's true nature, she's been wary of him and therefore, is not herself around him. Then, there's Anderson's wife, Emma, that Nikki and Anderson rescued. The Liberi was repeatedly raped and then, buried alive in a lake. After the shock has wore off, all Emma has on her mind is revenge... and for some reasons, she's also developed a grudge against Nikki, making the atmosphere really tense in the house.

And now, the Olympians and Anderson's group have to work together because there's been a series of wild dog attacks in Washington D.C. and the Oracle believes it's the work of a Liberi. If the government finds out about Liberi, it'd be really bad... and with her developing powers, the task to find the Liberi falls unto Nikki's shoulders. Everyone in Anderson's group believes it's a trap... but sometimes, you have to walk into one to save your hide.

My Opinion: I discovered Ms Black last year with Dark Descendant. I had heard a lot about her Morgan Kingsley series, but it just didn't call to me. So when Ms Black started a new series, it sounded like the perfect occasion to give her a try and I really ended up enjoying Dark Descendant. It's a good thing too since I've been looking for new UF series lately and nothing appeals ^_^; I'm afraid I'm getting burn-out on UF as well, sigh. As a result, I was happy to pick up Deadly Descendant and continue a series that I enjoyed and thought had potential.

Deadly Descendant turned out to be a pretty good book despite a few issues. I think the main problem is that I had high expectations and they were not met. When I started Deadly Descendant, I thought one of the strengths of the series was the world building. I really liked the concept of the Liberi and the two factions. Unfortunately, the world building in Deadly Descendant was stagnant. There wasn't any new forthcoming information about the world to the readers or even to the characters themselves ^_^; And very little growth from the characters as well. Perhaps it would have been better if there's been a longer lapse between the two installments for Nikki to grow accustomed to her new situation and develop her powers. I wish I could say this lack was due to the book focusing on the action, but alas, it wasn't. Which is a great pity in my opinion, since the story/intrigue/suspense of Deadly Descendant was actually pretty good - the best aspect of the book actually - and would have been really exciting if more pages had been dedicated to it. As it is though, it was simply too short for the readers to really gain some momentum in their reading.

There was some unbalance in the book and it came from the fact there was too much monologues from Nikki. Deadly Descendant is written from the 1st POV, so we are privy to Nikki's thoughts and obviously, some were necessary to set up the internal conflict... but it just wouldn't end ^_^; First, there was the fact that Nikki was losing her independence and the whole Liberi situation. Then, the fact that she was wary of Anderson and the conflict with Emma made it so she wasn't sure Anderson would believe her or not. Nikki was a very rational and logical heroine and analyzed everything, but at one point, I thought it was just too much. Her reasoning all made sense and she did what she thought was necessary, but logic doesn't rule everything. Nikki needs to be more confident and assertive, but she also needs to start trusting the Liberi surrounding her. That was obvious to me when she let herself be blackmailed by Emma way too easily. I know she was reluctant to join Anderson's group and the only reason she did was survival... but here are your allies. If you don't get to know them better, if you don't trust them, then what are you going to do in the future? Most importantly, if you don't trust your leader, how can you follow him? I guess we will have to see how this situation unfolds in the next book.

Aside from the suspense which was good, my favorite part of the book was the developing relationship between Nikki and Jamaal. This relationship is actually quite surprising given Nikki and Jamaal started off on a wrong footing - and I'm not talking about a little dislike ^_^; What I also like is how refreshing it is. Usually, in this kind of urban fantasy series, the heroine usually falls for the leader of the group, but not in this case. Jamaal is a very angry character and even though he's been a Liberi for decades, he still doesn't have much control on his powers and his temper. Therefore, I find this relationship very interesting and intriguing and it definitively has a lot of potential. It'll be interesting to see how these two characters and their relationship develop. One thing I know for sure is I do not want a love triangle with Anderson and I hope Ms Black is not heading towards that direction. It definitively is not needed.

In the end, while I think Deadly Descendant was not great (still a decent read though) and a bit of a let-down in comparison to Dark Descendant, the series still has a lot of potential. I'm looking forward to getting to know the other Liberi more and finding out what will happen next. I thought the ending was very exciting - what with the coup in the Olympians hierarchy and how Emma and Anderson's relationship crumbled. Ms Black has really left the doors to the future wide open to possibilities :)

My Grade: C+. I've been debating on the grade between a B- and C+. In the end, I went with the grade you see because while I really liked the suspense, Nikki and Jamaal's relationship and feel the series still has a lot of potential, none of it can overcome Nikki's wishy-washy attitude and monologues - that unfortunately  really marred my enjoyment of Deadly Descendant ^_^;

Monday, May 21, 2012

Switching of genres: an evolution?

Hi everyone :)

how are you doing? Did you have a nice week-end? I hope you're getting as nice weather as I am! It's really gorgeous outside :) Sunny and not too hot - perfect really. So Saturday was my aunt's surprise party and she was surprised!! LOL, we were sure my uncle would give it away - he's not really good with keeping secrets and lying, but he pulled it off, so kudos to him :) LOL, my cousin thinks it's more like my aunt is naive... Could be a bit of both. I guess it did help my aunt's b-day is actually a month away.

The funny story of the evening was our gift to my aunt :) We actually bought her tickets for a show we knew she would enjoy on the week-end of June 15-16 (think Quebec's version of American Idol). We told my uncle, because we wanted to be sure it'd be a hit with her and also, to know which date would be better. Well turns out when my aunt saw the ads for the show, she asked if my uncle was interesting and my uncle said "No, no." You have to know my uncle: sweetest man on the face of Earth and he rarely says no LOL. So she thought my uncle and cousin was organizing something for her that week-end!! LOL, so now she knows why he said no :P What's funny is my uncle thought it was weird my aunt didn't argue more about going to see the show LOL. Now, everyone's happy :)


Before I get to the main discussion topic, I'd like to give you a little update on my dilemma concerning which edition of Thirteen by Kelley Armstrong I was going to get. Remember? Well thanks to Li, I've finally made a decision  and... surprise, surprise, I'm going with the Canadian edition!!

Why you ask, when the Canadian cover was clearly my least favorite... and the weirdest? LOL. Well Li sent me a link from Ms Armstrong's forum about the cover and turns out that Random House has something really special planned!! Here are the details.

First, the edge is going to be dyed red and patterned to match this image:

LOL, I had to look up Jennie's post about Fun Book Vocabulary to ascertain what the edge was. If I'm not wrong, it's the pages on the side of a book. I wonder how thick the book is for it to be patterned with that image...

And then, the image imprinted on the actual book cover is the following:

This I really love!! If this had been the cover jacket, I would have gone with this one without a doubt :)  It still doesn't go with my other books covers, but I think it's pretty and the mood it conveys fits in my opinion.

And you'll have the cover jacket that we've all seen:

The neat thing though is apparently, the jacket will be in vellum, i.e. thin and semi-transparent, and therefore, the image imprinted on the cover will show faintly! As for the text on the cover jacket, it'll be silver and red. Obviously, it'd be better if we could see the effect right now, but so far it sounds really cool... And if it still doesn't work for me, I'll just remove the cover jacket :P

So problem solved!! And a big, big, big thank you and hug to Li for sending me the link! Otherwise, I would have pre-ordered the UK version! Thanks Li!!!


So now, onto today's discussion topic :) Not too long ago, I asked what was your definition of Women's Fiction. Well the reason is I wonder if Women's Fiction is the natural evolution for authors who write contemporary romance. This is not the first time this question has popped up in my mind... and I decided this time, I'd asked for your thoughts :) However, it's much harder to put it into words than I expected!!

Basically, I was looking for new releases by authors that I enjoyed in the past and realized my list of authors seems to be shrinking. Or at least, the list of new releases by these authors is definitively not as long as it could be. And I realized that in a lot of cases, it's because the authors have changed genres. Let's take Susan Wiggs for example. She started off as a romance author... but I felt there was a definitive shift throughout her Lakeshore Chronicles series. Actually, she seems to waver back and forth in that series between contemporary romance and women's fiction... but if you look at her two last stand-alones, Just Breathe and The Goodbye Quilt, those two are definitively women's fiction. Another author that comes to mind is Barbara Delinsky. When I started reading, Ms Delinsky's career was already well-established and I think her transition into women's fiction/fiction had already started. My first and favorite book by Ms Delinsky is Three Wishes... I think it's contemporary romance, but her subsequent releases lean more and more into women's fiction realm. However, there is no doubt she started off in romance :) Proof: Wendy just reviewed The Forever Instinct which is being re-issued in e-book format. More recently, an another author that seems to be making the transition slowly is Susan Mallery. Oh, her Fool's Gold series is definitively contemporary romance, but Almost Home and Barefoot Season are women's fiction books... and I wonder if it's the start of the end?

But aside for the fact that these authors are switching genres... my question is why? And I can't help but think deep down, it has something to do with the author's age. Perhaps they feel a disconnection to romance and draw inspiration from what they're going through in life? Or do you think it's because the two genres are so closely related, it's easy to cross into the other? Is it just a natural step in the evolution of things? I guess it doesn't limit to contemporary romance --> women's fiction. There's also romantic suspense --> mystery, paranormal romance --> urban fantasy. However, are these switches a conscious choice? I mean, when you take a closer look, authors who write historical romance are more likely to do it throughout their whole careers... or am I making generalization?

In the case of Sandra Brown or Kay Hooper, I always thought it was more about going mainstream, which is not a bad reason. Although when I consider Ms Hooper's books, a lot of her romance books had psychics and she liked her characters mysterious and intriguing... So perhaps her switch was really simply where her writing led her. Hmmmmm.

I guess my question is: Why do you think romance authors branch out to other genres? Is it simply the evolution of their writing or is there more underlying the switch? Is age also a factor? Is women's fiction the natural evolutionary path from contemporary romance?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Week-End's Minis XV: The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan
published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in January 2011
basis, n.

There has to be a moment at the beginning when you wonder whether you’re in love with the person or in love with the feeling of love itself.

If the moment doesn’t pass, that’s it—you’re done. And if the moment does pass, it never goes that far. It stands in the distance, ready for whenever you want it back. Sometimes it’s even there when you thought you were searching for something else, like an escape route, or your lover’s face.

How does one talk about love? Do we even have the right words to describe something that can be both utterly mundane and completely transcendent, pulling us out of our everyday lives and making us feel a part of something greater than ourselves? Taking a unique approach to this problem, the nameless narrator of David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary has constructed the story of his relationship as a dictionary. Through these short entries, he provides an intimate window into the great events and quotidian trifles of being within a couple, giving us an indelible and deeply moving portrait of love in our time.
Genre: Fiction, contemporary
Series: None

What do you need to know? As the blurb indicates, The Lover's Dictionary is written like a dictionary. Each word the narrator has decided to examine is defined by a moment, a feeling, an event that stem from the narrator's relationship with his lover. You have the perfect example in the blurb with basis :) Each page is dedicated to a word and like a real dictionary, it's in alphabetical order - therefore, the story is not told in chronological order and readers have to piece the story together from the bits they get from each definition. In addition, the narrator is anonymous and the gender of his lover is also unknown.

Why this book? Well, I think it's Ames who first brought this book to my attention. And then, it started to pop up on many other blogs (Christine, Hils, Mariana and Kailana). I thought the concept was very original and wanted to discover this book for myself :)

What I liked? The Lover's Dictionary was a quick, enjoyable read. The concept is very original, interesting and refreshing and that's obviously what made the book stands out. However, it had to be combined with the story Mr. Levithan wanted to tell and his writing for it to be as good :) Now, looking back, The Lover's Dictionary seems like a risky bet, but one that Mr. Levithan undeniably won.

When I started reading The Lover's Dictionary, I have to say I had my doubts. I'm the kind of reader who doesn't pay much attention to words themselves. You have probably noticed that in my reviews, I rarely quote from books and if I do, it's never a sentence and more a passage. So I have a tendency to take it away as a whole - feeling, story, etc. However, in the kind of books like The Lover's Dictionary, words seem to be so important and I was afraid I was going to miss something... but I don't think I did :)

The Lover's Dictionary is also a book where you have to glean for every piece and bits of information on everything: the relationships, the narrator, the lover, their personalities, etc. And once you have these information, you have to put it together to make a whole picture, kind of like a puzzle. I have to say I enjoyed that part more than I thought I would :) I also really enjoyed the ambiguity concerning the gender of the lover. To me, all these are proofs of how ingenious Mr. Levithan is with his writing :)

Any issues? It's not an issue per se, but obviously, at the end of the day, what the readers will remember most about The Lover's Dictionary is the concept of the book. The way The Lover's Dictionary is written and how the story unfolds, I think it's difficult to really connect with the characters. I mean, in the beginning, you're trying to figure out things and how everything connects, you're more focused on the definitions and less on the characters. Also, the fact that the narrator and the lover are anonymous creates a barrier in my opinion. I did feel for the narrator and I enjoyed reading his different feelings for every step of their relationship. His incertitude and doubts were heart-felt... but he's still a nameless face for me. As a result, it's really hard to get attached to him and get attached to the book on an emotional level and I think that will always be the flaw of this book.

My Grade? B. I did enjoy the book a lot and felt it was really refreshing, but as I said, there's a lack of emotional connection between me and the story and the characters, hence the grade. Still, The Lover's Dictionary is definitively worth a read; if not for the concept, then for Mr. Levithan's clever writing :)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A new look!

Well, not that different, but at least refreshing :)

This coming week-end is a long week-end in Canada! Yay! I'm really looking forward to it as I'll be heading up to Quebec City for my aunt's 50th birthday surprise party :) Fun times ahead! Before heading North, I decided to get a haircut. That's the problem with short hair, you need to maintain it often and I don't. However, I was really past due this time, so I got an appointment for this  place near my house. Then this morning, I got a phone call letting me know my glasses were ready! Double yay :) I was looking forward to them and was worried they wouldn't come before Saturday. Even if they had come in tomorrow (Friday), time would really had been short... but problem solved :)

I bought two pairs because there was a 2 for 1 deal and thank god for them because glasses are really expensive here! I was hoping to get two drastically different pairs (perhaps the colors), but it didn't work out that way. Still, I'm happy because they are quite different :) So here they are:

Pair A

Pair A is actually quite similar to my old pair of glasses. It's nice, classy, but without any real pop. If they are comfy, they'll probably become my everyday glasses :)

Pair B 

 Pair B are a bit more fun with the thick plastic frame and the embellishment on the side :) I actually really like them. They had the model in red, but it wasn't more of a red wine color instead of popping red. It just wasn't as nice, so black it is. The good news is that black goes with everything right? :)

And here is me, wearing the glasses with the new haircut :) What do you think? It's just nice to no longer have shapeless hair :P

Now, I just need to get used to them. I had my old pair for almost 3 years and they were really comfy :P I just feel weird with both these new pairs and my eyes have to adjust to my new prescription, even though the changes was very slight.

So what do you think?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

TBR Challenge 2012: True Vision by Joyce Lamb

Ouf, I made it!! Yay! I've been aware of the TBR challenge day was coming and that I needed to write my review, but lately, I'm having difficulty managing my time. I don't know what's happening, where time is going, but it seems I've been quite busy ^_^; My reading and blogging are both going so slow :( I can't wait for both to pick up, but I don't think it'll be any time soon :( Sigh.

So this month, it was my turn to get the theme wrong ^_^; I thought it was "How Did This Get Here? (a book you can't remember how/why you put in your TBR!)" month, but turns out that's in July ^_^; By the time I realized my mistake, it was too late for me to read another book. Lucky for me, the themes are optional LOL. As a result, you get True Vision by Joyce Lamb :)

True Vision by Joyce Lamb
published by Berkley in June 2010
Newspaper reporter Charlie Trudeau is living an ordinary life, until witnessing a fatal hit-and-run accident gives her an intense psychic power she has no clue how to handle—and brings a Chicago police detective to her doorstep...

Noah Lassiter wants nothing more than to find the driver who killed his good friend. But his only lead is the beautiful Charlie Trudeau, who gets prickly when he starts nosing around town. Charlie’s clearly hiding something, but Noah needs her help unraveling the mystery of his friend’s death—even if the electricity between them complicates things.

But the more Noah and Charlie uncover, the more they realize they’re looking for a desperate killer—and the more danger they’re in. And if Charlie can’t gain control over her psychic powers, they may not survive long enough to explore the full sizzling potential of their desire...
Genre: Romantic suspense
Series: True trilogy, Book #1

The Story: Charlie Trudeau is a reporter and is working for the Lake Avalon Gazette, a newspaper owned by her father. She is also very idealist, believing that a reporter's job is to help the population by reporting the truth, bringing down the bad guys.

One night, while Charlie is leaving the office, a woman calls after her. Next thing Charlie knows, she's witnessed a hit and run. It's only when Chicago cop Noah Lassiter shows up that Charlie learns the woman was her cousin on her mother's side. Noah was a good friend of the victim, Laurette. In fact, the two worked together from time to time as Laurette was a psychic who helped him in some investigations... and perhaps, if the stars had aligned, they would have been a couple. When he learns of her death, Noah decides to come down to Florida to push the investigation... and he believes the key is Charlie. However, Charlie is reluctant to offer help. First, she knows nothing of her mother's family and the two women are on bad term. Second, she has to deal with the fall out of her article in the newspaper... She's also being overwhelmed with her empathy power which seemed to have received a boost. Her attraction to Noah is just one added complication she doesn't need at the moment... But she's glad the man has been around after he saved her from a few attempts on her life. Slowly, doubts start to creep in and Charlie and Noah both wonder if Laurette was indeed the target... or was she mistook for someone else?

My Opinion: A few years ago, I was browsing the bookstore, looking for new authors when I stumbled upon Ms Lamb. They had a few things going for them: the covers were pretty and caught my eye, the genre was romantic suspense and you can never have too much RS and the publisher was Berkley, one that I usually enjoy. I decided to go ahead and buy Cold Midnight and True Vision. Hey, at least I read one right away! LOL. And now, True Vision qualifies as my TBR entry :) So win-win, right?

I knew when I picked up True Vision that Charlie was a reporter - one of my pet peeves, but I was hoping it'd be offset by the fact that she was also psychic. Unfortunately, it wasn't. I kind of liked the psychic aspect of True Vision - the way she got flashes - but I was expecting a bit more... and the situation in which Charlie found herself in was a bit weird. Charlie's always been an empath, but her power wasn't that strong until she witnessed her cousin's death. On one hand, she's not new to the power, but on the other one,, she has no clue how to deal with it once it became supercharged... So Charlie finds herself stuck in the middle and never really moved from it. She never learned more about her power and never embraced it :( And what really rubbed me the wrong way was the fact she scoffed at the psychic her grandmother recommended Charlie to go see before her death. Seriously? I hate it when a character's a psychic and doesn't believe in other's powers. As for Charlie being a reporter, sigh, I rest my case. What I can say is that Charlie wasn't as annoying as I expected. It was nice to see someone with conviction and learning that sometimes, what you believe and reality clash and it results in a bad outcome. While Charlie wasn't as annoying, it didn't stop her from having TSTL moments though. There was one particular scene where they suspect someone is after her, but she sneaks out nonetheless to go meet someone at a cafe. They sit outside in the open... The thought of it being a bad idea does cross her mind, but instead of moving inside, she thinks "But if I'm killed, there'll at least be witnesses." Again, seriously?!? So yeah, I find that Charlie was a hard character to like... and to understand.

As for Noah, I liked him better than Charlie, but I didn't get him either. At the beginning of the book, it was mentioned a couple of time how "dark" he was, how he had demons... and that side of him was never really explained - or, I completely missed it. However, I did like he was a good friend and took the trouble to come to Florida to investigate Laurette's death. Also, he had much more sense than Charlie. As for the romance, it was too quick to my taste. I didn't see any connection between the H/H - not enough for them to be in love at the end of the book. I saw attraction and lust, but beyond the physical, I didn't even get why they liked each other ^_^;

Something else that didn't work in True Vision's favor is I felt I was missing a chunk of background story. Charlie's past with Mac, her ex-best friend... and Logan, one of Charlie's cop friends, and Charlie's younger sister Alex. It's kind of funny because Lori read True Colors which is the next book and said in her review: "while I could tell that important things happened in the first book (for example, the h/h - Alex and Logan - already have a well established friendship/almost relationship), I didn't have any difficulty jumping right into this one." Here I am, reading the first book and still feeling puzzled ^_^; I felt the readers never really got a good explanation. Also, there was the relationship between Charlie and her mother that was never really developed nor resolved :(

At the end, what saves this book from being a dud is the suspense and the writing. True Vision wasn't actually thrilling and I was able to guess who was the villain fairly early on, but I kept reading to find out his motives. As for the writing, I enjoy Ms Lamb's voice and style. That'll be the main reason for me to pick up Ms Lamb again :)

My Grade: C-. Basically, True Vision was a passable book for me and I believe my mood, when I read the book, didn't help matters either. While I believe Ms Lamb has a lot of work ahead of her, especially when it comes to characterizations and relationships, I'm most probably going to give her another try because I also believe she has a lot of potential :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Review: Sweet Spot by Kate Angell

Hey everyone!! So how was your week-end? I hope every mom got a nice Mother's Day and caught a bit of a break :) My sister and I... well my sister, LOL, cooked supper and I made a salad. I think my parents both really enjoyed it. Otherwise, let see, we did some yard work on Saturday. It was fun, but so tiring! My parents haven't been interested in yard work in the past couple of years... but they seem into it this year. My dad wants roses again and they've even discussed getting some bushes. I think it's good for them, another hobby :P I know my father will be babying those roses and it will give something else to do.

In other news, I bought new glasses!! Actually, I bought 2 pairs! As soon as I get them, I'll show you :) And that's pretty much it with me these days...

As you've probably noticed, I've been on a YA kick lately :) I don't know, just feel like reading them... Also, they were many just released. To avoid this from becoming YA central, I'm going to try to balance it better with non-YA books review. First up is Sweet Spot by Kate Angell :) I really enjoy Ms Angell's books. I can't pinpoint it, but the style just suits me. Ms Angell was contracted with Dorchester and we all know what happened to that publishing house. So two years after it was supposed to be released, we finally get the ending to her Richmond Rogues baseball series :) Enjoy!

Sweet Spot by Kate Angell
published by Kensington in May 2012

James "Law" Lawless is the star second baseman for the Richmond Rogues, the wildest group of free swingers ever to barnstorm their way through the big leagues. So when he hooks up with a seductive stranger at a costume party, it feels like he just hit the winning run of the World Series.

Extra Innings

Catherine "Cat" May was the hot number in that skimpy Wonder Woman costume. But she's not about to let Law know it--especially after he hires her to help him expand his off-the-field business empire. But how's she going to keep her identity secret when his every touch urges her to make him her very own...
Genre: Contemporary romance, Sports romance
Series: The Richmond Rogues series, Book #5 (End)

The Story: James Lawless plays second base for the Richmond Rogues and he is also independently wealthy, being the sole heir to the Grace Hotels Worldwide. Recently, James has established Prosper, an organization that supports graduates from the Richmond Business College in starting their careers as small business owners. For the program, James intends to buy Haunt, a club where inhibitions are left at the doors and anonymity is key as the customers come disguised. A big fan of superheroes and comics, James - dressed as Captain America - decides to check out the club. There, he meets Wonder Woman and sparks fly between them. When Wonder Woman runs out on him, leaving her Lasso of Truth, James vows to find her again.

The next day, James meet Catherine May who is in charge for looking for good investments for the Prosper program. James is attracted to Cat, but he can't forget Wonder Woman. Also, while attracted to Cat, he knows that she comes with strings attached... and James may never be ready for commitment, after losing his parents in a tragic car accident. Meanwhile, Cat has no intentions of revealing the truth: she was Wonder Woman. Having behaved uncharacteristically that night, she only wants to forget... but James is persistent. And as she comes to know the baseball player, Cat is not so sure of her decision anymore.

There's also a secondary story involving Brody Jones, the Rogues' new short stop. Being new to the majors, Brody is enjoying his success, i.e. the money and the women. When his fiancée shows up, it puts a cramp in his style and all he wants is for Maggie to return to their hometown... Oh and to break their engagement. But Maggie proves to be more stubborn and determined than Brody gave her credit for.

My Opinion: Yay, I finally got to read Sweet Spot! And I really want to congratulate Ms Angell for her tenacity! I really believed at one point that Sweet Spot would never be released, but I was wrong!! And it's instance like this one I'm glad to be wrong :) Because of the wait though, I find it really difficult to write a review for Sweet Spot. On one hand, the expectations are quite high and on the other, I can't really be objective ^_^; However, I'm still going to give it a try, so bear with me :)

All in all, I did like and enjoy Sweet Spot. It was a nice book, but definitively not a wowzer. I'd say one of the reasons it wasn't a wowzer was its lack of substance. James and Cat were likable characters and I loved the scenes with the baseball team. The interactions and camaraderie between the men were great and as a result, it gave a good feel to the book. And as usual, Psycho stole the spotlight for me :) Two of my favorite scenes were when they were betting who'd get his wife pregnant first and when their costumes choices for the opening of Haunt - superheroes or sidekicks - depended on their batting results :) It was so hilarious LOL. Those were great moments, but it was all very light. I felt like Ms Angell laid it out there for readers to read - the characters, the possible conflicts like James' fear of commitment, the romance, but it was never fully developed, fleshed out. I guess what I mean is the story was quite superficial :( For example, you have two good characters that are attracted to each other. They got to know each other a little by hanging out... I actually appreciated seeing them hanging out, but I wonder if that part needed to be so detailed? Because when it came time to really get James and Cat together, instead of developing the romance, Ms Angell switched gear and introduced the secondary storyline with Brody and Maggie ^_^; It left me wanting more meaningful moments between Cat and Law which is kind of weird when they've actually spent quite a lot of time together. The romance simply felt fast and I couldn't really pinpoint when Cat and Law became an official couple :(

I also felt the secondary storyline involving Brody and Maggie was totally superfluous. Especially since Brody acted like a jerk and it made it really hard to root for him. Those pages would have been better spent focusing on James and Cat. Also, as it's been pointed out in reviews for the previous books, Ms Angell's knowledge for baseball lacks a bit of research ^_^; So I did like the actual sport scenes - there were a few. However, other elements really didn't make sense. For example, all the players coming to work for the team once they stop playing ball? Yeah, not going to happen.

Still, despite all the issues, I liked Sweet Spot because it was a light and fun read. I also happen to enjoy Ms Angell's writing style a lot :) Plus, I love the team and am sad this is the end of the series. Speaking of the end, the epilogue was extremely cheesy, but cute :)

My Grade: My initial reaction when I finished Sweet Spot was to give it a B-. However, if I'm being honest instead of a fangirl, which is the point of this review, this book deserves a C... In the end, I'll give it a C+ because I really enjoyed re-visiting some of the characters :) Honesty mixed with some of the fangirl - fair right?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hauling Sunday LXXIX



Hope everyone is having a good day and a good week-end :)

This post is going to be short and sweet :) Only one new book to report:

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson - Thanks to Ames, I discovered Ms Matson through Amy & Roger's Epic Detour. I loved that book and there was never a doubt I'd get Second Chance Summer. I've actually started reading it today and while I'm not done, it's already a winner for me :)

Hey, I can actually write short post!! Who knew! LOL.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

WEM XIV: Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) and Gimme a Call by Sarah Mlynowski

Another week, another Week-End's Mini!! Thank you very much to everyone who has voted :) This week, you made my life easy because there was a clear winner: Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) by Sarah Mlynowski! This is actually pretty cool because it suits my mood perfectly. I've been reading a lot of YA these past two weeks :) And I guess it shows when I look at the books I've reviewed in the past week LOL. There are many more YA books reviews coming up, but I'll try to throw in some romance reviews to balance it all out :)

In the meantime, I've also decided to throw in a bonus: Gimme a Call by the same author. I read Gimme a Call back last December, but never got around to reviewing it. This seemed like the best opportunity :) So enjoy it all!

Gimme a Call by Sarah Mlynowski
published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers (Random House) in April 2010
A new life is just a phone call away!

Devi's life isn't turning out at all like she wanted. She wasted the past three years going out with Bryan—cute, adorable, break-your-heart Bryan. Devi let her friendships fade, blew off studying, didn't join any clubs... and now that Bryan has broken up with her, she has nothing left.

Not even her stupid cell phone—she dropped it in the mall fountain. Now it only calls one number... hers. At age fourteen, three years ago!

Once Devi gets over the shock—and convinces her younger self that she isn't some wacko—she realizes that she's been given an awesome gift. She can tell herself all the right things to do ... because she's already done all the wrong ones! Who better to take advice from than your future self?

Except... what if getting what you think you want changes everything?
Genre: YA, contemporary
Series: None

What do you need to know? The blurb is pretty accurate. Gimme a Call opens with our heroine, Devorah Banks aka Devi, at the mall, heart-broken. While Bryan, her boyfriend, has not broken up with her, for all intent and purpose, their relationship is over... And that's when Devi realizes that for the last three years, her life revolved solely around Bryan. She now finds herself alone with no friends, no hobby nor extra-curriculum activities, her prospects for college look bleak and the situation at home is less than ideal.

If Devi could go back in time, the most important thing she would do is warned her 14 years old self not to fall for Bryan... And that's exactly what she does when she realizes that after dropping her cell phone, it's working wonky and the only person she can reach is... herself, 3 years ago! Devi also decides to change her life around and sets the younger Devi on the right path: keep in touch with her friends, study hard, etc. But while Devi wants the best for herself, she can't help but be inexorably attracted to Bryan. Would going out with him really be that bad? And what happens when she tries too hard to change the future?

Why this book? I read this book for a couple of reasons. First, Ames really enjoyed Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) by Ms Mlynowski, so she was on my radar of author to read. Then, there was this cute cover (yes, I can be shallow at time) and I liked the concept of this one :) I don't exactly enjoy time travel, but I like the idea the future is not set in stone and can be changed. So I decided to give Gimme a Call a go :)

What I liked? I really, really enjoyed Gimme a Call. I pretty much enjoyed everything about it and it kept me engrossed till the end. I thought both the younger and older Devi were likable characters :) Yes, the older Devi was a bit pushy and selfish at times, but when you have the opportunity to change your future for the best, you take it... And it didn't only benefit her, it benefited the younger Devi as well. What I liked in this "relationship" is that the younger Devi wasn't just a drone and did what she was told. She questioned her older self, took risks - some with better results than others - and at the end of the day, was the wiser of the two :)

One thing that I thought was very well-done by Ms Mlynowski is that she managed to not reveal to the readers and younger Devi the cause of the break-up for the majority of the book. That added a little suspense and also insured that the reason behind it was not typical. I also liked the message about how important a balance life is that Gimme a Call imparted with the readership. Devi got lucky because she had a second chance, but no matter how much you are in love, you cannot lose sight of your future and friends as Devi did. Especially given how crucial those high school years; they're really the springboard to adulthood and the rest of your life for most people. I also really liked how Devi realized that friendship was important... And I think that the overall problem Devi was facing, getting caught up with their other half and as a result, letting their friendships fade, doesn't only happen when you're in high school, but also when you're in your 20s, 30s, 40s... So I personally felt I could relate to it - although I've never gone out with anyone steady.

Any Issues? I really liked the concept of Gimme a Call and I think Ms Mlynowski did a good job writing it. Younger Devi would do something and Older Devi would feel the effects of it right away, she could see the changes in her life... and not all of them, positive. What bothered me however is that it seemed Older Devi did not have any memories of the past three years. The only recollection she had was her own - going out with Bryan, finding herself alone. All she had to prove the changes were pictures and the results (like her college acceptance letters), not the progress... And I find that somewhat sad :( But this is really a minor issue and has more to do with my personal taste than the actual book.

My Grade? B+. I originally gave Gimme a Call a B... However, as I read more YA and have more books under the belt for comparison, I really think Gimme a Call is one of the better ones :)

Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) by Sarah Mlynowski
published by HarperTeen (Harpercollins Publisher) in May 2011
2 girls + 3 guys + 1 house - parents = 10 things April and her friends did that they (definitely, maybe, probably) shouldn't have.

If given the opportunity, what sixteen-year-old wouldn't jump at the chance to move in with a friend and live parent-free? Although maybe "opportunity" isn't the right word, since April had to tell her dad a tiny little untruth to make it happen (see #1: "Lied to Our Parents"). But she and her housemate Vi are totally responsible and able to take care of themselves. How they ended up "Skipping School" (#3), "Throwing a Crazy Party" (#8), "Buying a Hot Tub" (#4), and, um, "Harboring a Fugitive" (#7) at all is kind of a mystery
to them.

In this hilarious and bittersweet tale, Sarah Mlynowski mines the heart and mind of a girl on her own for the first time. To get through the year, April will have to juggle a love triangle, learn to do her own laundry, and accept that her carefully constructed world just might be falling apart... one thing-she-shouldn't-have-done at a time.
Genre: YA, contemporary
Series: None

What do you need to know? April's parents are divorced and April has seen first hand what her mother's betrayal did. So when her mother moved to France to marry her lover, April chose to live with her father in her hometown of Westport, Connecticut. So when her father announces that they are moving to Cleveland because he found a new job in the middle of her junior year, it doesn't go over well with April. She's not about to start in a new school in the middle of the year! Plus, her life - and boyfriend - is in Westport! She comes up with the perfect solution: she'll stay at Vi's, one of her best friends, house and finish the year... The only hiccup in the plan is that Vi's mother will not be there at all. So a small subterfuge starts... but it works and April gets to stay!

Once April starts to live with Vi, she realizes that being independent and responsible is not as easy she thought... and that life has many surprises in store for her.

Why this book? Having had a taste of Ms Mlynowski's writing with Gimme a Call, I was more open to give this book a try :) Plus, remember, Ames enjoyed this one a lot! Otherwise, based on the blurb, I have to admit I'd probably have skipped ^_^;

What I liked? Surprisingly, I ended up liking Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have). When I first start the book, I felt that April was not responsible... mainly because she lied to her father and that made me uncomfortable. See, the book opens with the end and the story is basically a long flashback of what happened to get there. So the beginning makes April looks quite bad... However, after you've read her journey, it all makes sense and it's no longer that bad :P Actually, you realize those months she lived on her own with Vi, she did her best... Yes, there were some errors of judgement, but overall, she didn't do badly and definitively gained in maturity :)

What I liked the most about Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) was the realistic feel of the book. Okay, some parts were a bit unrealistic like April and Vi's subterfuge of setting up two email accounts and pretending to be each other's parents to reassure them that everything was okay... And buying the hot tub - really? However, April's feelings and the stuff she goes through during this time - that felt really real. I also liked that Ms Mlynowski addressed April and her boyfriend's first time. How she got on the pill, etc. And how later on, there was talk about the pressure of the first time and how it caused him to cheat.

Seriously, I have to give credit to Ms Mlynowski because it's her writing and style that made the book. She doesn't beat around the bush and doesn't sugarcoat reality: her characters have sex, they drink, they stay out late and hang out... They act as normal teenagers do and it's something that I feel a lot of adults don't acknowledge. Oh you always hear about parents complaining about the adolescent years, but that has more to do with their moodiness and rebellious attitude towards authority. When it comes to sex, alcohol and swearing, they prefer to idealize their teens. The reality is that a lot of teenagers - not all of them, but a lot - have heard and use swear words such as damn, shit and the f-bomb. A lot of them become sexually active during those years and they might not be able to buy their own booze, but it doesn't stop them from finding ways to get some. So I really appreciated Ms Mlynowski's candor and in my opinion, it made Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) refreshing and a nice change of pace for a contemporary YA.

Any Issues? I don't know have any real big issues with the book itself... However, I simply didn't enjoy the story as much as I did Gimme a Call. I liked that Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) was very realistic, but I find I didn't connect as much with April and what happened to her.

My Grade? B-Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) is a good contemporary YA, but probably better suited to a more matured audience. I'm glad that I have found another YA author to look out for :)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What is Women's Fiction?

I was talking with Brie from Romance Around the Corner the other day about authors and books that we enjoyed...  and it gave me an idea for a discussion topic. However, while I was figuring how to introduce that discussion, I ran into a little obstacle. What is the definition of women's fiction? And then, I realized that not everyone had the same definition of women's fiction...

If you look it up on Wikipedia - most reliable source on the internet *sarcasm*, here is what you'll find:
Women's fiction is an umbrella term for books that are marketed to female readers, and includes many mainstream novels, romantic fiction, "chick lit,"and other sub genres.
In a broad sense, I guess yes, that's what women's fiction is. However, when I say women's fiction, I mean the genre... and well if it's women's fiction, can it be romance and chick-lit as well? I figure also that everyone has its own definition of women's fiction - the genre, and I got curious :)

What is Women's Fiction for you? How would you describe the genre?

For me, women's fiction can contain strong romance threads or romantic elements, but it's more about the journey of the heroine than the HEA ending. As a result, I often associate books with older heroines or heroines with grown children to women's fiction. I feel the empty nest syndrome is a perfect platform for women's fiction, because that's when many heroines are starting a new life and searching for their identity. Obviously, it's not limited to those storylines, but I find the identity question is a recurring theme.

Also, I consider books in which there are many women of different ages going through different stages of their lives to be women's fiction. The different friendships, relationships and feeding each other off from their experiences are part of the journey.

For example, Debbie Macomber's Blossom Street series, Susan Wigg's Snowfall at Willow Lake and The Goodbye Quilt, Susan Mallery's  Already Home and Barefoot Summer are women's fiction books for me. In many cases, there is a very fine, thin line between women's fiction and contemporary romance... but  I think the distinction is there.

 Agree, disagree? I'd love to hear what you have to say :) So feel free the comments!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Review: Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg

Let see, few things I want to address before getting to the review :) First, a little reminder about Saturday's Week-End's Mini feature. The poll is up on the sidebar and open till tonight, 11.59pm! So if you haven't vote, please do so!

Second, I've made some changes to the blog layout :) Most noticeable is the background LOL. I loved the previous background, but if you had a too big screen, you ended up with the background running out and a chunk of white on each side of the screen ^_^; Plus, I had the previous background for a year or more already and felt it was time for a little change. I've also tweaked the colors, but otherwise, most of the blog remains unchanged. Let me know if there's any bugs or things I should work on or change! Thanks!

Now, onto the review! As I mentioned in my last Hauling Sunday post, I've read Ms Eulberg first two releases, The Lonely Hearts Club and Prom & Prejudice, and enjoyed them. However, I wasn't sure I would pick up Take a Bow right away because it was a hardcover... And when you see the difference in sizes for the hardcover and paperback, you wonder if the hardcover price is really justified ^_^; So I was going to try to wait a year for the paperback release - have I made it, I think it would have been a miracle LOL. Anyway, I was lucky to come across a copy of Take a Bow... and I LOVED IT!!! I loved it soooo much that I needed my own copy and therefore, ordered one. And now, I'm going to share my love with you all! Are you ready? :P

Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg
published by Scholastic in April 2012
Emme, Sophie, Ethan, and Carter are seniors at a performing arts school, getting ready for their Senior Showcase recital, where the pressure is on to appeal to colleges, dance academies, and professionals in show business. For Sophie, a singer, it's been great to be friends with Emme, who composes songs for her, and to date Carter, soap opera heartthrob who gets plenty of press coverage. Emme and Ethan have been in a band together through all four years of school, but wonder if they could be more than just friends and bandmates. Carter has been acting since he was a baby, and isn't sure how to admit that he'd rather paint than perform. The Senior Showcase is going to make or break each of the four, in a funny, touching, spectacular finale that only Elizabeth Eulberg could perform.
Genre: YA, contemporary
Series: None

The Story: The following summary is quite detailed. I wouldn't say there are spoilers per se, but it gives you a better idea of what's going on. If that's what you want, then read on :) If not, skip to the review section! 

Take a Bow follows the life of four teens - Carter, Sophie, Ethan and Emme - as they navigated their senior year at the New York City High School of the Creative and Performing Arts (CPA). Every year of high school is important, but senior year even more so because everything seems to be at stake: their futures, careers, love lives and friendships...

Carter Harrison was a child actor who became big with the Kavalier Kids movies franchise. Afterwards, he became the basic go-to kid for cute for all the big movies, Oscar presentations, etc. When the roles started to dwindle down, Carter decided he wanted to go to high school and try being normal. However, high school didn't turn out to be as he expected and he is still trying to figure out who the real Carter Harrison is. One thing Carter's sure of is that he no longer wants to be an actor... but how will the people around him react when he tells them he wants to pursue arts?

In contrast to her boyfriend Carter, Sophie Jenkins has always known what she wants to be: a singer superstar. When she auditioned for CPA, she had it all planned out: attend CPA, also have her best friend Emme who's a great songwriter enrolled, land all the lead roles, get the most coveted spot in the Senior Showcase and then, get a record contract by the time she graduates. However, things didn't go as she planned, what with all the good roles going to her nemesis, Sarah Moffitt. As a result, senior year is Sophie's last chance to get noticed and she's more determined than ever... no matter what the cost is.

Ethan Quinn is a genius when it comes to composing music and writing song and is considered the best at CPA. He's also the lead man in Teenage Kicks - a rock band that was formed with Emme Connelly, Jack Coombs, Ben McWilliams, all fellow students in music composition at CPA, on their first day of freshman year. For shy Ethan, being the lead man in the band was hard and it had a tumultuous effect on his relationship with his girlfriend and his music. After a dressing down by Emme, Ethan has gathered himself and is walking the straight line. He's desperate to prove to Emme that he has changed, for their friendship to be back on track... And with college looming ahead, he wants Emme to know his love for her and for them to be together.

Emme Connelly knows senior year is going to be busy and stressful with school work, band practice, the Senior Showcase and auditions for colleges. Her dream is to make it to Julliard. Luckily for her, Ethan is always there to encourage her. However, he's set a condition for her in order to use his studio to record her pre-audition CD: to sing her own songs. When Emme is invited to audition for the Senior Showcase as a singer - a very high honor, it doesn't go down well with Sophie... and it makes Emme realizes who are her true friends, the ones who always had her back. With friendships, love and her future at stakes, it's time for Emme to stand up for herself and step up to the plate.

My Opinion: Going into Take a Bow, I have to admit I wasn't too sure what to expect, because the blurb is a bit vague. Also, while I enjoyed Ms Eulberg's previous books, I had some apprehension due to the blurb because I'm not a fan of high school drama and it seems inevitable in the story... And indeed, there was some echoes of high school drama, but it definitively wasn't the focus of Take a Bow. I felt the book was more about friendships, their dreams and their journey :)

So I really, really enjoyed and loved Take a Bow :) However, to be frank, I'm having finding the right words for this review - this is my third attempt ^_^; It's hard to put it into words because as soon as I started reading Take a Bow, it just felt right and I was sucked in the story. I really liked how the book opens with the four characters awaiting for their audition to CPA. We get a brief introduction to each character, but also a feel of their personalities and their aspirations. More importantly though, it immediately sets the tone of the book and introduces the readers to the reality of their world. Then, fast-forward four years and Carter, Sophie, Ethan and Emme are about to start their senior year... and that's when the story really starts :)

Now, when I think of Take a Bow, three elements come to mind: the characters, the friendships and the setting. To me, it's the combination of the three that made Take a Bow such a winner :) I'll start with the easiest for me: the setting. I really liked that CPA was not a regular high school, because for me, it added another layer of complexity, set Take a Bow apart from most contemporary YA books and made it more interesting. Why? Because most students attending CPA are passionate about their arts, know what they want in their future and are already on the path of achieving it. Singing, writing music, dancing... these are not hobbies for them, it's their livelihoods. And I find admirable that they commit to it at such a young age. And it definitively was a commitment. Otherwise, why audition each semester simply to remain at CPA and then, audition for roles or spots in productions and showcases and actually perform? The auditions and the competition also contributed to make the characters tougher and more mature... It felt like a totally different world to me while still remaining a contemporary book and feeling real. So the setting was definitively key for me here :)

When it comes to the characters, I have to command Ms Eulberg for coming up with interesting, layered characters, but also for her writing since Take a Bow is told from four different POVs and each had a very distinct voice. Also, it was great to be privy to all four's thoughts and emotions and it definitively  made the book stronger. Another kudo to Ms Eulberg for the intricate ways all four storylines connected and intersected each other :) Sometimes, when you read a book with multiple POVs, it feels a bit clunky, the change of POVs too abrupt... But in the case of Take a Bow, it flowed really well and it did feel like I was reading one book and not four stories. Oups, got a little carried away LOL. Back to the characters. I absolutely loved Carter, Emme and Ethan, they were great, real and so lovable!! I liked how Carter was so down-to-earth when it came to his fame, his acting career and his talent. He was just a nice guy, trying to figure out who was the real Carter Harrison and in no way was he spoiled or arrogant. I think it speaks very loudly of Carter's personality and the way he was raised. What I liked the most though was Carter's journey throughout the book, the growth and the maturity he gained. I liked that he realized that nobody was pushing him to be an actor, that all these years, he's misread his mother's behavior and action. She wasn't pushing him to be a superstar; she wanted him to be happy. I thought for him to walk away from acting to pursue his passion was both brave and wise. Emme, I loved Emme!! At first, she appeared to be shy and not confident, but the inner strength this girl has! I also loved her loyalty to her friends, even if someone might not have deserved it... and that part of Emme really made me connect with her. I've been in Emme's shoes where I knew I was being manipulated and used... But at the same time, it's hard to give up such a friendship that was so dear to you. Even then, Emme never stooped to the level of being mean or wanting revenge... And I loved seeing Emme coming out of her shell and gaining confidence. As for Ethan, I have to admit that I had some doubts at first. The guy definitively made some mistakes... But once you see the way he stood by Emme, always being there for her, loving her... He definitively redeemed himself. You can't help but loving him and root for him! And I believe that with Emme, he won't repeat the same mistakes. He has someone to ground him... Finally, there's Sophie. She was made to be the villain of the book and therefore is not very likable... and yes, in some ways, her character is a bit stereotypical. However, it doesn't make her character less real. What I liked is that Ms Eulberg didn't backtrack at the end, redeeming her character. Sophie is the way she is and does not change. I'm sure she did consider Emme as her best friend when she was younger, but truth is, the most important person to Sophie is herself. Even when she was dating Carter, she was already imagining their breakup - just before her launching her first release ^_^; Everything she did was to achieve superstardom and that's what mattered to her. In a way, you have to admire her determination and her will... even though she's going about it the wrong way.

Finally, the friendships. I loved, loved the many friendships in Take a Bow. The chemistry and bond between the members of Teenage Kicks is the friendship that stands out the most for me. How Ethan, Emme, Jack and Ben (by the way, Jack and Ben were great, great secondary characters!!) formed an unit and had each other's backs. The support the boys gave Emme, how everyone was happy for each other when accepted in the college of their choices, etc. Carter envied Emme for the band friendship and I did too :P I also enjoyed the budding friendship between Emme and Carter; how good a listener Emme was and her encouragements to Carter. Also, how Carter was there for Emme. Even the brittle friendship between Sophie and Emme... In this case, it felt like the two girls just grew apart and this happens so often in high school. Sometimes, you have to let go even if it's hard... I have a feeling Ms Eulberg wanted to write about friendships at different states and how they affect one's life and she did a great job. I also very much loved the romance between Emme and Ethan and I liked how Ms Eulberg focused on theirs, that she didn't feel obligated to give everyone a love story. Emme and Ethan had such a chemistry, they knew each other so well. Seriously, they were a great match and it was very heart-warming to see them finally get together :P Friends to lovers theme lovers, you're going to like this one :)

Take a Bow was almost the perfect contemporary YA for me... but it wasn't because of two things. The first is I wished we've seen a bit more of Emme's feelings towards Ethan throughout the book. I loved how it ended, the way they get together... Emme's declaration that she's had feelings for Ethan for a long time... and how she didn't need to figure them out while Ethan had a girlfriend, etc. was really perfect. However, throughout Take a Bow, we read about Ethan's feelings for Emme and understood where it came from. But I don't feel the same way for Emme. What she said definitively made sense and I know it was genuine.  Perhaps she didn't want to acknowledge her feelings and therefore that's why we didn't get more... but I thought it came a little bit out of the blue ^_^; My second is wishful thinking on my part: I wanted Take a Bow to be longer. I loved everything about it, but I can't help but think that if it was longer, the book would be more completed and perhaps, we'd get more development for Emme's feelings for Ethan :P Seriously though, I think Ms Eulberg should consider writing slightly longer book :)

My Grade: A-. I really enjoyed Take a Bow and am recommending it to everyone :) It officially became one of my all-time favorite YA novels and have propelled Ms Eulberg onto my auto-buy author list :P I hope everyone who gives it a go enjoys it as much as I did :)

PS - Ouf, this was a long review! LOL.