Thursday, June 21, 2012

Skinnydipping, by Bethenny Frankel

Skinnydipping: A Novel
Written by Bethenny Frankel

I'd like to start by saying that I love Bethenny Frankel. I watched her in The Real Housewives, in Bethenny Ever After, and read her "A Place of Yes" memoir-type book. So when I saw she had written a novel, I was anxious to see what her fiction writing would turn out to be.

I loved Skinnydipping! It was funny; it was irreverent, and occasionally inappropriate. That's what I love about Bethenny. I also liked how the story was written in an almost memoir like style. A few times I even forgot this wasn't a true story, although Faith, the main character, did seem to have a journey similar to the one Bethenny herself had. But I didn't find that it detracted from the story. The infamous "they" always say to write what you know, and it seems Frankel took that advice and came up with a really great first novel.

I would love to see more novels from Frankel because I think she has a spark and that she could really be a contender in the chick lit genre. For me, Frankel is like the perfect combination of Jennifer Weiner (Writer of many chic lit novels and short stories) and Jenny Lawson (Writer of The Bloggess blog and recent memoir) who are both great story tellers in their own right. I could see her fitting into this genre and excelling. I don't believe that chick lit is dead or dying.

This is really just a story of discovering who you are. I think it's a popular theme in this genre, and it's one that will continue to flourish. Figuring out who we are is something that we can all relate to. No matter the age or stage in life, as human beings, we're all struggling to figure out how we fit into our world and what we should be doing. Skinnydipping tells the journey of Faith to find out the answers to those same questions and ends with her achieving that peace that comes with being in the right place, doing the right thing, at the right moment. Even if this feeling rarely lasts forever, it gives us all hope that we'll experience our own moments of rightness when all is well in our world and everything feels like it is exactly as it should be.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Golden Lily (Book Two of Bloodlines) by Richelle Mead

The Golden Lily
Book Two of Bloodlines
Written by Richelle Mead

“You need me? You yell. You want to leave? We go. I'll get you out of here, no matter what.”--Adrian, The Golden Lily, Book Two of Bloodlines, by Richelle Mead

When I first found out that The Vampire Academy series was ending, I was pretty disappointed. I know that all good things must end, but that didn't change the fact that I was going to miss the characters I'd grown to love. Then I discovered that there would be a spinoff series, Bloodlines that would continue the story of some of the secondary characters from Vampire Academy. I was stoked that it wouldn't be the end of Dimitri and Rose. Yay! (If you haven't read the first book, Bloodlines, you need to check it out first.)

Much to my surprise, I think I am more invested in Sydney, the main character Alchemist, than I ever was with Rose. I adore this character. She is brilliant and funny and has her own set of problems and insecurities. I love Adrian as he is separate from Rose. I never realized how much I liked his character until Rose and Dimitri were out of the equation. Now that he's becoming his own entity, apart from Rose and even Lissa, I love his character.

Sydney continues to try to walk that fine line between what is acceptable and what isn't when it comes to her interactions with the Morai she is responsible for. It becomes harder and harder to consider herself separate from the group as they spend more time together and as they must work together to overcome the various situations they find themselves in. Time and again she is forced to make decisions that could have severe consequences if her superiors knew the full extent of what was going on with her "gang" as she fondly thinks of them. To add to the growing stresses of her assignment, she is also still dealing with some confusion over her own inner boundaries of right and wrong as well.

As she is prone to do, Mead left us with another edge of your seat ending. I'm sure that after you finish The Golden Lily, you'll be as anxious as I am to read the next book, which doesn't come out until February 2013. I look forward to watching this series unfold and to continue to see how Sydney deals with her growing attachment to this unlikely "family".

Monday, June 18, 2012

Life Without Parole, A Kate Conway Mystery, by Clare O'Donohue

Life Without Parole
A Kate Conway Mystery
Written Clare O' Donohue

This was my first experience reading one of Clare O'Donohue's books. I actually got this book for free as a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. I entered to win the book because the premise sounded interesting. My curiosity was piqued when I saw that there was a lot of interaction between the main character and some prisoners serving life without parole sentences. Although this isn't the first Kate Conway novel, it works well as a stand alone book. Not reading the previous book did not detract from this book at all.

I don't read a lot of mysteries, in comparison with some of the other genre's I read, but I do like them. I enjoy the change of pace now-and-then. I found O'Donohue to be a good writer. She did a great job of explaining who the characters were and their interactions with one another were entertaining. Her story was fast paced and easy to read. One of my favorite parts of the novel was how O'Donohue had cleverly captured the busy lifestyle of Kate by showing her working on two different projects at once, all while attempting to work through the grief she was experiencing since her husband's recent death.

I did enjoy this book, although I'm not sure if I enjoyed it enough to read more of O'Donohue's other books. I have such an extensive list already of books I'd like to read, that this author just didn't excite me enough. It wasn't poor writing or even a boring story. It just wasn't quite good enough to keep me coming back. I don't regret reading the book though, and it didn't take long to read. If you want a quick light read, I suggest you give this one a try.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Specials (Book Three of Uglies), by Scott Westerfeld

Book Three of Uglies
Written by Scott Westerfeld
"I love you all. But it's time to say good-bye, for now. Be careful with the world, or the next time we meet, it might get ugly."--Tally Youngblood, Specials, Book Three of Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld

I think I can say with absolute certainty that this is my favorite book so far of the Uglies series. This is book three, so if you haven't read any of the other books in the series, I highly suggest you do so before continuing on with this review. Check out my review of the first book in the series, Uglies.

Unfortunately, I cannot reveal why this book was my favorite of the series because it would take away your opportunity to discover why it is the best yourself. I think it would do you a great disservice for me to take that away from you, which is why, when I finish reading Extras (final book of Uglies series), I plan on doing a spoiler-filled review on the entire series. There are just so many aspects of the books that I haven't been able to really discuss for fear of ruining the book for future readers.

Pretties ended with Shay capturing Tally and, against her will, changing her into a Special. Westerfeld starts Specials off; very similar to the way he began Pretties, with Tally already pretty much adjusted to her new role as a Special in the elite Cutters group led by Shay. Just as he did not detail her first days as a Pretty, he didn't detail her first days as a Special either. Tally's metamorphosis from Pretty to Special is the most extreme change she's undergone yet, and I was drawn into her new life just as quickly as I'd been in each of the other books. I'm sure that after reading the first two books yourself, you don't really need any more encouragement to read this one, so just go read the book. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

City of Fallen Angels, Book Four of Mortal Instruments, by Cassandra Clare

City of Fallen Angels
Book Four of  Mortal Instruments
Written by Cassandra Clare

“L'amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle.
"It means that love is the most powerful force in the world. That love can do anything.”
-- Jace, City of Fallen Angels, Book Four of Mortal Instruments, written by Cassandra Clare.

Well, I had to get this one on audio because it wasn't immediately available in book form and I just could not wait that long to read it. If you haven't read the other Mortal Instruments books, stop here and go back to the first review of the first book or you're going to have some major spoilers.

Well, I knew that after all that happened with Valentine, and his death, things wouldn't be that easy for Clary and Jace who suddenly were free to date since they now knew they weren't siblings. This romance has been such a roller coaster that I had no doubts that although, on the outside, everything seemed better--villains dead, downworlders and the Clave working together, etc.--Jace and Clary's romance had been too fraught with obstacles to suddenly be picture perfect. I, along with all the other avid readers, had been rooting for Jace and Clary to figure out a way to be together despite the seemingly insurmountable issues that they faced, even though their romance seemed pretty jacked up.

So, no surprise, Jace and Clary are going to have to get through some major twists and turns again in this portion of the story. And since there are two more books to come, it may be awhile before we get to see them enjoy some drama free existence; after all, that is part of the charm of the series. I will tell you that Simon plays a pretty big role in this book and that some of the most brilliant writing so far that I've seen from Clare so far involves his character in this book. The fact that she's still surprising me and that the characters are still surprising me after four books is just astounding. I have read so many talented authors this year, but this series has definitely been one of my absolute favorites.

If you've read the first three Mortal Instruments, then you really didn't need this review to know you would enjoy this, the fourth book in the series. If you have stuck with it thus far, you're like me, addicted to the story of Jace and Clary. So go enjoy City of Fallen Angels, and then City of Lost Souls. Unfortunately, we'll have to wait until September of 2013 to read the final installment of this series, City of Heavenly Fire.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cold Magic (Book One of Spiritwalker), by Kate Elliott

Cold Magic
Book One of Spiritwalker
Written by Kate Elliott
I have to admit it took me a few tries to get into this book. I'm not entirely sure why. The characters were intriguing. My interest was piqued, but I wasn't hooked yet. If you're feeling a little bogged down by the necessary back history, and you just aren't sure, I think you should keep reading. I was glad I did. I am not going to reveal what changed my thoughts or when it happened because I honestly think that was part of the books charm. If you read it, you'll understand what I mean. If you're not sure and aren't willing to trust me, then don't read it. I'm not going to twist your arm.

It's been awhile since I read an alternative history fiction book. I was happy to slip into the genre again. I enjoy history quite a bit, and I enjoy seeing what might have been, had certain things in history not happened exactly the way they did happen. It's fun to see what direction the author will go with major historic events. The alternative history in this book isn't one I'm super familiar with, dealing with the Romans and Phoenicians, but I still found it interesting.

Elliott had plenty of interesting characters that were easy to fall in love with. She managed to make them very human and to describe them in such a way that you were drawn into their particular stories and felt a kinship with them.

I know I didn't write as much about this book as I usually write, but I seriously feel that it's better with this one. If you enjoy alternative history and supernatural phenomenon, then just try it out for yourself. I was not disappointed and I don't think you'd be either. I don't want to ruin the book for you, so that's all I'm going to say about this one.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit
Written by Charles Duhigg

I have to say that this book was definitely not a boring non-fiction self-help book! I really enjoyed the entire thing. I listened to this one as an audio book in my car to and from work every day and I think it has really affected my own habits and changed the way that I look at habits in general. I had never thought much about habits except for when I quit smoking a few years ago.

The book deals with how we develop habits both consciously and unconsciously. It's not so much a "how to" book on developing habits; it's more of an informative documentary on habits. Throughout the book, Duhigg tells stories of individuals and their habits. The stories he chooses to include are all very interesting and thought provoking.

Even though the book is not intended as a self-help book, I found my own habits changing as I listened each day. The bad habits began dropping away more and more frequently as I listened to the book day after day. I found that I was beginning to develop new good habits as well. Many of these good habits have seemed to come together effortlessly, even those that I'd tried unsuccessfully to adopt into my life over and over again in the past. For instance, I've been drinking more water, eating healthier and exercising daily. I'd tried to implement these habits time and time again before reading this book and failed miserably.

So, whether you're hoping to learn how to overcome your own bad habits or are just curious about how habits are formed, you should read this book. I found it incredibly thought provoking and really useful. We all have habits we'd like to better understand and habits we'd like to do away with and habits we'd like to take up. Anyone interested in how the brain works would also enjoy the book, as Duhigg goes in depth on how our brain processes habits, and exactly how they work.

The Temptation (Book One of Kindred), by Alisa Valdes

The Temptation
The Temptation
Book One of Kindred
Written by Alisa Valdes

I entered a Goodreads First Reads giveaway for this book because it sounded like it was going to be really awesome, and I won a free copy. I hadn't heard of this idea of a ghost and human falling in love and thought it would make for a super interesting plot. I have to say though, after reading it, I was a little disappointed. The writer is a bestseller author, so I was expecting a bestseller book. The idea of the story was awesome, but the story in and of itself, not so great.

I liked the overall plot of the book, but the characters seemed underdeveloped and cliché. The romance between Shane and Travis was also underdeveloped. It's not unusual in young adult fiction to have two characters falling in love quickly, but it seemed insincere in this story. Pretty much all of Shane's relationships seemed insincere: dog, best friend, ex-boyfriend, even her mother.

I think I would have enjoyed the book more if it had been a few hundred pages longer. That would have allowed Valdes to develop the characters and their relationships to one another a little better and all the twists and turns of the storyline could have been fleshed out more as well. Honestly the last few chapters flew by so fast and had so much going on that it was hard to follow. New characters were introduced and not very well explained.

I did like that Valdes left it at a cliffhanger ending, which makes me much more likely to give the second novel a chance when it comes out. Without the edge of the seat ending I would not have even considered reading the next book.

After I got done writing my review I went and looked at other reviews and found many of the same complaints there. I'm seriously hoping that Valdez will take these reviews into account while she's writing the sequel and will give the readers what we're looking for. I really think that this story has such potential, and just needed a little more time invested in it. I'm most likely going to give the author a second chance to wow me whenever she writes the sequel to change my mind. I hope that I won't be disappointed.

Pandemonium (Book Two of Delirium), by Lauren Oliver

Book Two of Delirium
Written by Lauren Oliver

“If you’re smart, you care. And if you care, you love.” -- Pandemonium, Book Two of Delirium, by Lauren Oliver

If you haven't already read it, I suggest you start with Delirium, the first book in this series, and after you've read it, come back. This review does contain spoilers from the first book in the series.

Pandemonium has a really cool style that I greatly enjoyed, that is totally different from Delirium. The chapters are labeled either then or now, and Lena (the main character), splits her story between them. The "then" chapters start where Delirium left off, with Lena's escape into the Wild. The "now" chapters deal with Lena now, about a year or so after her initial escape. I thought this was a great way to tell the story because it kept it interesting and helped to show you how and why Lena has changed into the person she is now. These brief glances into that difficult and trying time for her really help you to understand her better.

I felt like Oliver did a good job of telling Lena's story. I loved watching her progress in dealing with what happened to Alex at the end of Delirium and seeing her struggle to make her way in a world that was completely foreign to her. The introduction of new characters was spot on. Oliver describes these new characters as Lena sees them. As Lena gets to know and understand these new characters better, so does the reader. There were also many twists and turns throughout the plot that kept me guessing (although one of the biggest twists I saw coming from a mile away-go figure).

Needless to say I was sad when I saw that Requiem isn't scheduled to be released until February 2013, so it's a long wait until I get to find out how Lena deals with the latest unbelievable trial fate has tasked her with. I hope to see a few of the more mysterious characters of the first two books get fleshed out in Requiem.