I now blog over at The Eyre Guide! This blog is an archive of my past posts.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Review: The Orphan, The Soulcatcher, and the Black Blizzard

The Orphan, The Soulcatcher, and the Black Blizzard
by Kimberlee Ann Bastian

Plot Summary:
Most of his life, Charlie Reese has been surrounded by a loving family and all the comforts of home. But when a house fire claims them, he and his cousin, Jimmy are sent to an orphanage in the heart of ‘Depression Era’ Chicago. A year later, Charlie’s life is shaken by yet another tragedy and with it comes the mysterious introduction of a secretive runaway, named Bartholomew. As Charlie begins to discover more about his new companion, he unknowingly becomes a participant in a two-hundred year old secret. Come the morning of the Black Blizzard, Charlie finds he must make a choice - flee the destiny laden at his feet or take on his responsibility and follow a path full of supernatural wonders.

Expectations:  The cover is stark and mysterious, setting up expectations for a serious, atmospheric tale, and with the title, I expect something of a new, mysterious mythology.  

This book was a very quick read for me - only a couple days - which says something for the narrative pace.  There is a lot that happens in this story (it is the setup for a planned series) and with that the characters are solidly established and the mythology backstory is hinted at and slowly revealed.  Not completely however so there are many questions left to be answered.  In a way I felt that that hindered the story as I wanted more of what was at stake to be revealed so I could understand what the characters were up against and become more invested in their story.  The story overall could have used more fleshing out in my opinion, with additional details about the mythology giving the story more of an epic feel and adding more suspense.  The characters were all very well drawn, however, and I admired the backbone and strength of character in Charlie and the sincerity and loyalty in Bartholomew.

The mythology is something pretty new to me, and intriguing in how it seems to mix the feel of Old World tales and American tall tales. The setting of Depression Era Chicago was almost it's own character, given how well researched it was and how vividly the author brought the realities of the Depression to life.  The speech and attitudes of the people at the time was fascinating.  This book has a solid story and an interesting premise, leaving plenty of questions unanswered in anticipation of the next in the series.

review copy kindly provided by the author in connection with Young Adult Novel Reader Blog Tours

Links: Amazon (kindle)  ◊ Amazon (Paperback)  ◊ GoodReads  ◊ Author Website ◊  Author's Twitter  ◊  Facebook Fan Page
Thursday, June 28, 2012

Review: 12 Precious Anecdotes From Life

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
12 Precious Anecdotes From Life
by Payal Roy

Plot Summary:
12 short stories that initiate the ball of fate rolling on the court of life. Meet Samantha, John, Amy, Uncle Ben and an octogenarian amongst a dozen other faces who share their anecdotes through this book.

What do they have in common? Successful and interesting people from a diverse background, their paths cross with Anita Maher. This sets off a cascade of events that compels everyone to look back at their own lives. How is Anita affected? Other people too seem to bump into Anita all of a sudden . Does life want to convey a message to all?

12 heartfelt anecdotes from their lives kept a secret all this while, only to be revealed to Anita, when time seems limited and many ventures still left unexplored. Does life give a second chance? Find out in this book which shares their exploits and adventures through their intriguing and engaging vignettes on life.

Expectations: An inspirational book couched in fiction, I was intrigued by how well the author would get the message across while also creating interesting stories.

The twelve stories in this novella are very short and with that, character and plot development is formulaic and simple.  The main focus of this novella is to convey nuggets of wisdom to enrich your life and make you think about what is really important.  The stimulating messages range over friendship, family, pets, and self-worth; providing insight into the common pitfalls of our  workaholic, profit-driven society.  This is a simple book with few pretensions, and inspiring words for jaded individuals.

review copy kindly provided by the author

Links: Amazon  ◊ GoodReads  
Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Review: Entwined

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
by Heather Dixon

Plot Summary:
Azalea and her younger sisters dance in the mysterious silver forest every night, escaping from the sadness of the palace and their father’s grief. What they don’t understand—although as time passes they begin to get an inkling of the danger they are in—is that the mysterious and dashing Keeper is tightening his snare with deadly purpose. Luckily, Azalea is brave and steadfast. Luckily, a handsome young army captain also has his eye on Azalea. . . . Lush, romantic, and compelling, this debut novel by Heather Dixon will thrill fans of Shannon Hale, Robin McKinley, and Edith Pattou.

Expectations:  Love a fairytale retelling!  And one about the Twelve Dancing Princesses was something I had not seen before.  And regarding the plot summary, I'm not a big fan of Robin McKinley, but I love Shannon Hale's work.  Edith Pattou, I'm not familiar with, so I must look into some of her work.

The first thing that struck me was how elegant and lush the writing in this book is.  It is very evocative of a fairy tale, and perfectly suited to the world the author created in this novel.  I did listen to the audiobook of Entwined, and I was really impressed by the reader, Mandy Williams, who did an amazing job voicing 11 young girls, and making them all stand out. The development of the royal family - with all those princesses - was beautifully done, and I'm sure the audiobook reader wouldn't have been able to give fantastic character voices to the girls, if she didn't have equally fantastic characters to work with.   The idea crossed my mind a few times while listening to this book, that the original story would do better to be retold in novella form, or a short-ish story, as I felt like the story was being dragged out a little. 

With the expansion of the story, the author creates a wonderfully dark and macabre world of the Pavilion, where the girls dance,  and where the sinister Mr.  Keeper presides, giving the novel an edge that balanced the flippancy of the young girls, and the lovely three romances that are developed in the story.  The evolving relationship between the princesses and their father was also touching and realistically portrayed I think, even if there was a touch of The Sound of Music sometimes (replace all singing with dancing).  Even with the some parts of the novel dragging and a deus ex machina ending (oh, the power of love!) overall this was a very enjoyable read.
Monday, June 25, 2012

Review: Murder Takes Time

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Murder Takes Time (Book 1 in the Friendship and Honor Series)
by Giacomo Giammatteo

Plot Summary:
A string of brutal murders has bodies piling up in Brooklyn, and Detective Frankie Donovan knows what is going on.  Clues left at the crime scenes point to someone from the old neighborhood, and that isn't good.

Frankie has taken two oaths in his life -  the one he took to uphold the law when he became a cop, and the one he took with his two best friends when they were eight years old and inseparable.

Those relationships have forced Frankie to make many tough decisions, but now he faces the toughest one of his life; he has five murders to solve and one of those two friends is responsible.  If Frankie lets him go, he breaks the oath he took as a cop and risks losing his job. But if he tries to bring him in, he breaks the oath the kept for twenty-five years - and risks losing his life.

In the neighborhood where Frankie Donovan grew up, you never broke an oath.

Expectations: This book looked to be an emotional crime thriller, with the poor Detective having a hard time turning in his friends, but I didn't think there would be much of a struggle with me, obviously you would have to put the bad guys away!

This novel actually exceeded expectations, for where I thought I would get a crime thriller with one conflicted protagonist who is trying to stay true to his roots while also doing his job, I got a novel about three conflicted protagonists who struggle to be true to their idealistic past while carrying on three very different lives as adults.  It was both heart-warming and soul-hurting to read about these characters who have a bond forged in those childhood experiences that always seem to be the most important, be torn apart by circumstances and driven down such different paths, yet their oaths of Friendship and Honor keep them together.  The author tells the story using different first person narratives from a variety of characters, while also bouncing the story forwards and backwards in time - a difficult set-up but one done superbly, as you start in the present, and pieces of the past are given to you as needed so that the characters and their predicaments are unfolded gradually.  The real nature of the story is only clear until about the middle of the book when all the pieces start coming together.

Because the novel goes into the mind of many of the characters, decisions that should be clear-cut, become murky when character motivations make you sympathize with even the murderer, and I think the real power of this book comes from the way the author transitions childhood hopes with harsh adult reality.  It's something that everyone has to come to terms with to a certain extent, and the way the author develops it in the lives of his characters creates very poignant and touching moments that at times brought tears to my eyes.  Although some sad things need to happen in the story, ultimately it brings off a hope-filled ending, with a resolution that feels right and is perhaps not exactly what I expected.  I recommend this book for anyone who wants a well-thought out, character-driven mystery/crime novel, which delves deep into the human psyche.

And I guarantee you'll be craving some Italian food after reading this book!

review copy kindly provided by the author

Links: Amazon  ◊ GoodReads  ◊ Author Website ◊  Author's Twitter

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Liebster Blog Award

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
I've been tagged for this award 3 times actually - been too busy to really respond to it, but thank you so much to the kind bloggers who thought of me, namely:
Nobonita at Daydreaming Bookworm (the first!)
Sherri at FIK*TISH*UHS
Shelly at Dive Under the Cover

The Liebster Blog Award is given to upcoming bloggers who have less than 200 followers and Liebster is a German word which means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing and welcome.Awww....that's so adorable.

Here are the rules:

1. Each person must post 11 facts about themselves
2. Answer 11 questions the tagger has given you and give 11 questions for the people you've tagged.
3. Choose 11 people and link them in your post.
4. Tell them you've tagged them.
5. Remember, no tag backs.

 11 Facts About Me:
1. I've milked a cow, anesthetized a mouse, flipped a sheep, trained dogs, held a baby piglet - Animal Science major, yeah!
2. I hate seafood.
3. I don't have allergies... that I know of.
4. I've worked at the London Zoo.
5. I love most things to do with England.
6. I like to draw, mostly celebrity portraits (but they are nothing to write home about)
7. I love musicals and live theatre
8. I love the opportunity to see my favorite actors and actresses in person - most have been stars of the Broadway stage (watch Bunheads on ABC Family to see my favorite Broadway actress Sutton Foster!)
9. Drinking tea is the greatest - so calming and relaxing
10. I am obsessed with everything Jane Eyre!
11. My favorite actor to play Mr. Rochester (from Jane Eyre I hope you know) Michael Jayston was on the same flight as me when I was traveling to Germany a few years ago.  Craziness.

My 11 questions from Nobonita (since she asked me first.)
1)How long have you been blogging?
               It will be 3 months on June 30th.
2) Are you on goodreads?

               Yes! Love to keep track of my books.
3)Do you do weekly memes on your blog?

               Not at the moment, but I am looking for something that I would like to do every week.
4)Which book are you currently reading?

               Murder Takes Time by Giacomo Giammatteo - can't wait to know what happens next!
5)How many books do you have on your wishlist?

                Alot. :)
6)What is your favourite subject?
                In school it was English although I wasn't very keen on the grammar side of it.

7)Where do you live?
                Los Angeles, California

8)Did you ever visit my blog before I tagged you?

9)What kind of books do you usually read?
                Hmmm, I don't know... I kind of jump around.  I really like something with a little romance and suspense.

10)What is your all-time favourite author?
                Charlotte Bronte

11)Do you currently have any ARC with you?If you do,which book is it?
                 Hmm, not at the moment.    

11 Questions for other bloggers: (I'll make it easy)
1. Ketchup or mustard?
2. Peanut butter: Smooth or chunky?
3. Coke or Pepsi?
4. Tea or coffee?
5. Sweet or sour?
6. Pie or cake?
7. Apples or oranges?
8. Mac or PC?
9. iPhone or Android?
10. Day or night?
11.What is your favorite novel?


Definitely will need to work on expanding my blogger circle!  I will add to the list when I can!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Book Excerpt: Pushups in the Prayer Room

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

Pushups in the Prayer Room 
by Norm Schriever

Available at:
Facebook: Norm Schriever
Twitter: @NormSchriever

"Pushups in the Prayer Room is an account of a year I backpacked around the world.  It's not religious at all, but a wild, irreverent, and funny memoir that chronicles my personal maturation and consciousness about the world as it goes, as well as detailing a lot of history and culture from the inside out."

Excerpts from the Introduction of 'Pushups in the Prayer Room:"
In the spring of 1999, I left my old life behind and backpacked around the world for a year. I didn’t return until the spring of 2000, a profoundly changed man coming back to an unfamiliar home in a new millennium. Along my journeys I touched down in Costa Rica, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand, China, Japan, Israel, Palestine, Sinai, Egypt, Jordan, Germany, and the Netherlands. I stepped foot on the continents of North America, South America, Africa, Australia, Asia, and Europe, with only Antarctica left out.
I purchased a round-the-world ticket through United and the Star Alliance, which was ridiculously cheap — only $2,500 for 35,000 miles. That was good enough to drop me in the theaters of the world that I wanted to explore, and from there I took trains, motorcycles, commercial airlines, little puddle-jumper planes, buses, taxis, ferry boats, high-speed hydrofoils, bamboo rafts, horses, camels, and elephants to get to my outlying destinations.
I read somewhere that the circumference of the globe at the equator is about 24,000 miles. I sat down once to track all the legs of my travels that year, not only the big intercontinental flights but every jaunt to remote locales, and I estimated that I traveled around 70,000 miles total, or almost three times around the globe…
Traveling was not easy; I figured that on average I was on the road every two days, and believe me when I tell you that even a two-hour bus trip can be an excruciating, all-day affair in a Third World country. It was dirty and difficult and constantly uncomfortable. I got sick everywhere I went and had to fight off thieves, hustlers, and scam artists at every turn. I never had enough money and was constantly trying to keep my past life and relationships in the U.S. from unraveling. Most people in the States thought I was crazy and didn’t understand what I was doing. Most people I met while traveling thought I was crazy and understood full well what I was doing. I was a pariah, an outcast, a citizen only of the world, blazing a trail that had very few footprints ahead of me. Was I scared? Hell yeah — every moment of every day, but it got to the point where I couldn’t tell the difference between fear and feeling alive, and true happiness was having a front-row seat to watch the death match between the two…
In my idealistic youth I thought that I would conquer the world, when in fact the world changed me, giving me empathy for the millions of people whose existence I came to witness…
So what could I do to help? How could I possibly touch people’s lives, not only giving them hope but breaking down some of the walls that separate us as human beings? How could one little person make a difference to the whole wide world? I didn’t have the answers yet, but I was asking the right questions, pure questions, and that meant I was on the right path. What was I looking for on my odyssey around the world? I wasn’t sure yet, but that really didn’t matter because it was going to find me anyway.

Thank you Norm, for sharing your book with my little blog!  I hope everyone will check out your inspiring book!
Thursday, June 21, 2012

Review: Red Island

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Red Island
by Lorne Oliver

Plot Summary:
He watches in plain sight, but nobody sees him. Through his entire life the only time anyone saw him was when they needed someone to push around. This is his world now. He looks for a specific type, a specific woman who he can take and torture and eventually kill. He knows the game. He has learned how to stay hidden, how to do what he does without being caught.

Sgt. Reid of the RCMP moved his family to Prince Edward Island, “the Gentle Island,” to get away from the violent crimes that seemed to stay away from the tiny province. Getting a phone call that wakes him from the nightmare of a girl hanging from a tree bleeding from a thousand cuts throws his life into a whirlwind. Coming face to face with his nightmare threatens the peace of his family and the peace inside himself.

Expectations: I was thinking this was going to be a bit like Dexter (I'm mainly familiar with the book series, I haven't really watched the television show).

This novel takes an interesting look inside the minds of criminals and police officers by alternating between the point of view of the serial killer and the Sergeant in charge of finding him.  The scenes and emotions of the two protagonists are realistic and gritty, with the author gradually peeling back the layers on Reid and Ben (the serial killer) as Ben starts his murderous career.  We are given the story of Ben's childhood as well, which the author uses to develop the instability of Ben.  I'm only faintly reminded of Dexter, as there is little to sympathize with Ben (Reid says it best in the end when he ridicules Ben's complaints about the world).  

The way the author weaves the personal lives of Reid and Ben with their present - Reid on one side, trying to conduct a criminal investigation while keeping his past at bay, and Ben on the other planning his next murder - is particularly well done, as the reader is told only what we need to know, and we are left wondering whether Reid will pull off the capture until the last minute.  There are a couple of moments when Reid is close, and you just want to jump through the pages and draw him a gigantic picture of what is going on.  That element of suspense and the gradual horror of a serial killer unravelling makes this novel a stand out crime thriller.

review copy kindly provided by the author 

Links: Amazon  ◊ GoodReads  ◊ Author Website ◊  Author's Twitter
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Review: Dark Companion

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
Dark Companion
by Marta Acosta

Plot Summary:
When foster teen Jane Williams is invited to attend elite Birch Grove Academy for Girls and escape her violent urban neighborhood, she thinks the offer is too good to be true. She's even offered her own living quarters, the groundskeeper's cottage in the center of the birch grove.
Something's not quite right about the school -- or is it Jane? She thinks she sees things in the birch grove at night. She's also beginning to suspect that the elegant headmistress and her sons are hiding secrets. Lucky is the gorgeous, golden son who is especially attentive to Jane, and Jack is the sardonic puzzling brother.
The school with its talented teachers and bright students is a dream for a science and math geek like Jane. She also loves her new friends, including hilarious poetry-spouting rich girl, Mary Violet. But the longer Jane stays at Birch Grove, the more questions she has about the disappearance of another scholarship girl and a missing faculty member. 
Jane discovers one secret about Birch Grove, which only leads to more mysteries. What is she willing to sacrifice in order to stay at this school...and be bound to Birch Grove forever?

Expectations:  Going in, I knew this was a retelling of Jane Eyre, so I was intrigued by the idea of shifting the "Thornfield" portion of the novel into the "Lowood" portion as the synopsis seemed to indicate.  I figured Jane's youth and inexperience would come more into play, and Dark Companion would play up the Gothic traditions more.  I was also thinking that since this is a YA paranormal romance novel, this might be the first book in a planned trilogy. *hopes*

I was suitably intrigued by the Janian aspect of the novel.  Dark Companion did not so much rehash the plot of Jane Eyre but weaved its plot points into this story, creating something very new.  Where retellings of Jane Eyre are interesting to me in how they update or re-imagine the story, Dark Companion was much more of it's own story with a homage to Jane Eyre as well as other Gothic literature.  In fact I was delighted to read that the secret of Birch Grove was similar to the main plot of a fantastic Gothic short story called "Blood Disease" by Patrick McGrath.  I'm not sure if that story was actually an influence, but from the quotes heading each chapter, the author is obviously acquainted with many Gothic stories.  

I think what stood out about this novel is the development of Jane Williams as a disadvantaged girl, going after the opportunities to make something of her life.  With her Helen Burns equivalent/inspiration Hosea, I did wish there was more explanation of why he was so positive, practical and upbeat in such rough surroundings.  The other side characters were interesting, and the wittiness of the some of the characters made for some good laughs.  The male love interests were not as compelling a character as Jane, however, and I felt like the main focus of the book was more on the women.  The novel is intensely atmospheric in the approved Gothic tradition, and I loved the maturity of the text in addressing issues such as sex, drugs, bigotry,  and poverty.  Overall, this novel seemed a particularly well developed Gothic coming-of-age story with the touches of Jane Eyre a joy to happen across.

(Review copy from NetGalley)

First book of ten in the 2012 Books of Eyre Reading Challenge
Friday, June 15, 2012

Review: Flesh Worn Stone

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Flesh Worn Stone
by John A. Burks Jr.

Plot Summary:
Steven Alexander, simple suburbanite, loving father and husband, is thrust into a world of violence and slavery beginning with one brutal night where, during a home invasion, his sons are murdered in front of him. He and his wife Rebecca are then kidnapped, drugged, and taken to an uncharted tropical island where they awake on a pristine beach in the company of five strangers.

The island is prison and it’s residents are both the guards and prisoners. They are participants in the Game, a modern-day rendition of the Coliseum of ancient Rome, where they must compete in acts of murder, rape, and self-mutilation for the amusement of an unseen wealthy elite. Contestants must survive five times to earn their freedom from the island horrors. Losers become the evening meal.

Steven struggles to survive in a world where violence is not only accepted but cheered. He fights to hold on to his wife, Rebecca, in a community where cannibalism is survival, brutality is affection, and living another day is at the expense of his own soul. Survival comes with a price, however, and he soon learns that not only are not all of the players in the Game unwilling participants, but those who have volunteered to play the Game have paid a horrible admission price.

Expectations:  I'm not really into straight horror novels.  I've read the occasional Stephen King and maybe that's about it.  So I wasn't sure about accepting this novel for review from the author, but, very shallowly, I saw the cover and decided I wanted to give it a try.  The cover is just so good! Claustrophobic horror, with the insidiously menacing title glaring over it.  A cover is so important really.  So from that I was expecting a story that would get under my skin with a stark, emotional horror.

This story is brutal and violent, and it shows the very ugliest of human nature. Fair warning to the faint of heart. Pretty much everything bad that can happen to a person, happens here and at first I thought this novel was going to be an exercise in the value of shock carrying a story.  Thankfully there is an underlying message about humanity that is delved into and examined.  The deep horror that would get into my psyche wasn't in evidence in the beginning though.  I think true horror stems from going through the experience with a character you are invested in, and seeing how it changes them.  Or rather damages them.  Flesh Worn Stone gets pretty gruesome pretty quickly, but soon I became numb to it, gratuitous as it is, and I think it could have had a more lasting effect had it been more gradual and we had found out more about the innocent characters in the novel first.

This isn't to say the novella doesn't make an impact.  Once you start to realize which of the characters in the book volunteered to play the Game, the story takes a more disturbing turn, as characters you think you know are either damaged or revealed by the Game.  That is more disturbing to me than the actual acts committed.  (Though it's really a fine line between which is more disturbing!)  The main character, Steven, is the only hope for the reader that everything will be okay, as I wanted it to be, and his pursuit of the truth of the Game was what carried me through the rest of the book, as the suspense of finding out what was behind this horrible community kept building.  The dangling question left at the end, however, did not seem sufficiently set-up character-wise, because Steven seemed much more clear-seeing than to be moved by the feeble rationale for the nobility of the Game.  But I rate this book pretty highly because of the thought-provoking exploration of humanity's drive for survival and their capacity for adaptation.  And the denouement of the novel is entirely satisfying except for the small dangling question in the end.
review copy kindly provided by the author 
Links: Amazon  ◊ GoodReads  ◊ Author Website ◊  Author's Twitter
Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Review: The World Clicks

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The World Clicks
by K.M. Breakey

Plot Summary:
A powerful idea has descended on Lane Craig, a 30-year old corporate gunslinger who dreams of greatness. Simple beyond belief, powerful beyond measure, the idea refuses to go away. Lane knows that if managed properly, a new electronic organism will emerge and transform the Internet and his life forever. A geeky wizard of Web programming, Lane can't do it alone. Fortunately, suitable partners are nearby. Best pal Johnny is a glib slacker coasting pleasantly in life's fast lane. Long-time friend Thomas, he of the freaky high IQ, has grown surly in recent years. Downright awkward. What's he hiding? It is only the addition of hard-charging newcomer Gino that galvanizes the team's momentum. Will the idea triumph? Will it derail in a tumult of testosterone and alcohol? A brave face cannot mask Lane's self-doubt and paranoia. Nor can new love interest, Cat, a striking beauty with a no-nonsense attitude. But as the saying goes, even paranoid people have enemies. Especially when it comes to Internet riches.
Set in Vancouver, BC, The World Clicks is no science fiction tale. The idea is real. It could be developed. The prescription is in the pages of the book. In its simplest form, it's a grand dare to Web developers everywhere. Who has what it takes? Who wants it?  Time will tell...

Expectations: A novel that revolves around a concept. Not a kind of book that I've read before actually, but something that appeals to my tech geek nature.  I anticipate something of a novelized form of The Social Network, not that I've seen that movie because I thought, how can a movie about creating a business be that interesting?

Well after this book, I admit I might be wrong about The Social Network.  (Also the movie did really well, so why don't I just watch it already.)  I think it's important to mention the simple idea central to this book.  A website where you just click a button.  However times you want, endlessly in fact, with the only goal being monitoring growth.  Seeing how far that number can increase.  Add to that - topics, ideas, people, countries, sports that you can click to support and increase their numbers.  Like fanlistings (is that still popular?) but without the people's names, just the numbers.  Really simple, and really intriguing; the novel shapes the idea and fictionally portrays it in the real world.  The author (definitely a techie) goes into some detail about how one could build a project like this: all the steps, the concerns, potential revenue, and potential growth. The technical jargon and the mathematical implications of such a growth model can be a little overwhelming at times to the uninitiated, but my mind could just glaze over those details and focus on the fact that this is a really cool scenario and interesting to see it being built from the ground up.

This idea then, is set in the lives of the three principle characters who are responsible for setting this website in motion.  Lane, the creator and narrator of the book, Johnny, the charismatic social connector, and Thomas, boy genius who improves on the idea.  The novel is rife with guy humor - that racy, insulting, and deprecating talk that guys indulge in when they are watching sports (in this case it's hockey) and drinking beers, which provides much needed levity to a novel that is pretty straightforward, no-nonsense tech talk.  There is a sort of romance built-in with  Lane and Cat, but it didn't really add to the story; it felt more obligatory to add emotional interest.  And the hint of internet espionage is welcome, but it is over pretty quickly, and not a major enough part of the story to stand out.  The three central characters thankfully are interesting and nuanced enough to engage the reader, and the side story about Thomas was a nice touch at a time when intolerance is still too prevalent.  This novel is best for people interested in the creation of new internet ventures, and finding out more about the kind of people behind them.

On a side note, I'd recommend visiting the book's website, it features some interesting content related to the novel.

review copy kindly provided by the author 
Links: Book Website  ◊  Amazon  ◊ GoodReads  ◊ Author Website ◊  Author's Twitter

Monday, June 11, 2012

My Favorite Book: Austenland, a review

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , , ,
Re-reading and reviewing the books that are near and dear:
by Shannon Hale

Plot Summary:
Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane's fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen; or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It's all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

Confession.  I'm not a big Jane Austen fan.  I'm an Anglophile, I like the time period, I like the manners, and the costumes.  I like the movie versions (for the most part) and enjoy the storylines.  But for some reason her writing doesn't do anything for me.  Too confined and proper perhaps - along the lines of Charlotte Bronte's opinion on Austen.  But for me, Austenland is not about Jane Austen.  It's for those girls who have that character crush, and then see that movie with that actor, and he just captures the whole reason for crushing on the character somehow.  And then everything just gets worse.  You probably understand.  I understand.  The point is though, Shannon Hale understands.  And she wrote this book for us.  And it is gloriously funny, touching, irreverent, and just plain understanding.  Because I know the character isn't real, the actors are just playing a part, and perfect guys don't exist.  But I don't read books to reinforce reality.  I have a 9-5 job for that.  So with Jane Hayes I can play and just imagine what it might be like.  And feel a little silly for it, but it's okay because Jane is my funny friend and knows just how silly it all is too. 

Having hilarious but insightful thoughts coming from a character isn't all this book offers though.  The romance is light and chick-lit-y, but absolutely heart-warming and smile-inducing.  There are short, entertaining chapters illuminating Jane's previous boyfriends and sharply drawn characters that always made me laugh.  The nature of this book is wish-fulfillment for females, I think, and it doesn't disappoint at all.  Add the humor, romance, and witty writing, and this is one of my most highly recommended light, entertaining reads.  
Thursday, June 7, 2012

Review: The Twin's Daughter

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The Twin's Daughter
by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Plot Summary:

Lucy Sexton is stunned when a disheveled woman appears at the door one day…a woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Lucy's own beautiful mother. It turns out the two women are identical twins, separated at birth, and raised in dramatically different circumstances. Lucy's mother quickly resolves to give her less fortunate sister the kind of life she has never known. And the transformation in Aunt Helen is indeed remarkable. But when Helen begins to imitate her sister in every way, even Lucy isn't sure at times which twin is which. Can Helen really be trusted, or does her sweet face mask a chilling agenda?
Filled with shocking twists and turns, The Twin's Daughter is an engrossing gothic novel of betrayal, jealousy, and treacherous secrets that will keep you guessing to the very end.

Expectations: Gorgeous cover! There is something slightly ominous about the silhouettes of the twins staring at each other.  The promise of a Gothic novel with twists and turns gave me high expectations that this would be a fascinating tale.

There was such a delicious ominous atmosphere to the writing in this novel.  The sense that something was wrong, or about to go wrong, and with every turn of the page I was constantly trying to decipher what really was happening with the characters.  Lucy Sexton, the narrator, is thirteen when the story begins, and since the reader needs to see everything through her naive eyes, the author has the trick of letting the reader come to conclusions that Lucy does not.  And that sets up certain expectations that the author can then turn on it's head when there are new developments to the story.  I thought I had some things figured out, but there are some major twists and turns here!  Without giving too much away - if you read this novel, what you think is happening is probably not what is really happening.  Loved being kept on my toes!

Lucy grows older as the novel goes on, and I think the author did a great job capturing the youth and then maturity of Lucy in the writing.  There is a poignancy to many of the characters that gives them so much dimension so that I sympathized with all of them, even if I didn't really like them.  Not that my opinions of some characters stayed the same throughout the book.  All in all, this was a great story, with a masterful manipulation by the author in playing with reader's expectations.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Armchair BEA: Best of 2012

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
image credit: Nina of Nina Reads

Today’s suggested posting topic is “Best of 2012”
Share some of your favorite books so far this year, and/or the the books being promoted at BEA that you hope will end up among your favorites for the year!

I'll list my top three reads for 2012 so far, as I am at work and am trying to fit in a little blogging time quickly. :D

by Sarah Rees Brennan

This book is so much fun, with great witty writing, and an intriguing premise.  There is lots of suspense, and did I mention the witty writing?  So many laugh-out-loud lines, that the whole thing kept me entertained from beginning to end.  The cliffhanger at the end is going to make you wish you had waited to read this book though, because I wish the next in this series was in my hand today!
Release date: September 11, 2012
Anna and the French Kiss
by Stephanie Perkins

Another fun read; really sweet and romantic.  I do have a fondness for the French language and the idea of Paris (have never visited but I plan to!) so this book was a perfect getaway read, and it gives one all sorts of warm fuzzy feelings.
The Paladin Prophecy
by Mark Frost

There was action and adventure packed into every page of this book, making it so very hard to put down.  The writing is very tight, with many mysteries unfolding as well as new ones being developed.  Many of the kids had different "powers" and since it is set at a school, I felt like this book had some definite Harry Potter-ish vibes.
Release date: September 25, 2012

Monday, June 4, 2012

Review: Incorrigibility

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
by Rayme Michaels

Plot Summary:
This is a character- and dialogue-driven novella of raunchy, bawdy, irreverent humor. Besides being completely and utterly hysterical, it's a good way for women to get inside the brains of men, as a lot of it is guys talking the way they do when women aren't around, or saying what they often have on their minds, but are too bashful, due to the politically correct status quo, to actually speak. It is a quirky relationship/sex-comedy, where the boundaries of the mundane are mocked, bent, ridiculed, pushed, pummeled, pulverized, pounded, picked on and provoked. It also holds within it the most riotous courtroom trial you'll ever encounter! It is a tad-bit existential and critical of religion as well, and does have its serious and sappy - yet genuine - moments. 

WARNING: Coarse language and very sexual subject-matter. Reader discretion is advised.

Expectations: The plot synopsis is pretty straight-forward, and the story itself is very short, so I was expecting everything the author was selling!

The synopsis is pretty accurate!  My perspective on the events in this novella is going to get a little female, so bear with me.  As the synopsis says, this novella gets inside the brains of men, and if this is what men are thinking all the time, no wonder men censor themselves. Keep doing it, men of the world!  The story centers around three men with a spectrum of neuroses.  Brent - battling his baser nature (or as one of the characters might say - human nature), Matt - fully embracing sensual hedonism and expecting everyone to admire him for it,  and then Jesse in the middle - struggling to maintain balance between his wants and finding a deeper meaning in life.  This is a pretty basic character overview, but one I feel is accurate, as the characters feel more like a means to the end of presenting the author's thoughts and ideas.  The story is short however and maybe a longer treatment could have fleshed out the characters a little more. 

The men are all irredeemable and incorrigible (that's the watch word!), and sadly the women in this novella are much the same way (add crazy and idiots to that too, although the men aren't much better in that department) so that through verbal combat between the three main characters,  as they debate their different viewpoints, there isn't any kind of solution unless it's the idea that no one really cares anyway.  And you can just keep doing whatever you want to do.  This is a cynical, critical, romp of a story wrapped up in outrageous thoughts and political incorrectness.  I don't agree much with any of the character's viewpoints, except for the hard and cold fact that the sheer beauty and skill in the music of the Beatles is cosmically blessed. :)

review copy kindly provided by the author 
this novella is available on Lulu or Barnes and Noble
Sunday, June 3, 2012

Review: The Choosing

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The Choosing
by Jeremy Laszlo

Plot Summary:
Seth is a young man torn by fear and indecision. His life no longer in his hands, he fears an uncertain future where the only certainty is a life of servitude to the kingdom. Fortunatly for Seth, he is not alone. His brother Garret too attends the choosing ceremony where their fates will be decided. Together the twins make their way to the castle city of Valdadore for the choosing ceremony but along the way Seth notices a strange new trend in his life. Time after time strange circumstances befall him in what others might call a coincidence, but Seth knows something else is amiss and begins mentally cataloging each new and strange event. Learning his past is all a lie, Seth begins to fear more for his future as a dark goddess vies for his service to her cause. Seths loyalties and responsibilities begin to stack up as he makes friends and allies and even falls in love, but with the choosing ceremony growing ever nearer will he be forced to flee the kindom into a life of exile, or choose to serve the goddess who swears that only through her will he find peace.

Expectations: A little magic, a little sword-fighting, and a lot of new mythology. 

The Prologue was gorgeous.  I loved the idea of how the gods created the world, and why they need and are intrigued by humanity.  The writing of the prologue also felt like a a proper story told by the fireside by tribe elders.  It is a great set-up.  Unfortunately, the rest of the novel didn't fulfill it's potential for me.  The main characters of Garret, Seth, and the two they pick up along the way, Ashton and Sarah, felt a little flat as characters, and I wished the author had more of their backstories revealed in conversation while they journeyed to Valadore instead of giving details about the pace of their walk, or how they did not feel the need to talk.  The journey to The Choosing is a large part of the novel, and largely unexciting.  What excitement there was - a fight with a Goblin, and the fight for Sarah, was good and I think it would have helped the story for the companions to have experienced a little more danger.  The romance between Sarah and Seth was very heavy-handed and repetitive, with little time given for it to actually develop.  

The actual Choosing ceremony was a more exciting event, but surprisingly short, and with very little ceremony.  I think the ideas in this book are solid, but a little more fleshing out of the mythology of this world would have helped the story.  
Friday, June 1, 2012

Books of Eyre Reading Challenge

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

2012 Books of Eyre Reading Challenge Hosted by The Musings of ALMYBNENR

I'm joining The Musings of ALMYBNENR's Jane Eyre reading challenge. I'm going for the "Governess" level - 10 books before the end of 2012. I already have two books for this year read (The Flight of Gemma Hardy and A Breath of Eyre) but maybe I won't count it, for more of a challenge... unless of course I need it, then I would want to count it. :D I do love all Jane Eyre related things, so this challenge shouldn't be too difficult!

I'll also be listing the books I've read for the challenge on this post.

Dark Companion by Marta Acosta

Death of a Schoolgirl by Joanna Campbell Slan
Ironskin by Tina Connolly

Chocolate Roses by Joan Sowards
The House on Blackstone Moor by Carole Gill

Anne Eyre by Summer Day

One Night at the Abbey by Amanda Grange
Not to Disturb by Muriel Spark
Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
Adele: Jane Eyre's Hidden Story by Emma Tennant

C'est fini!!