June 30, 2011

Faves of 2011 (so far) - Round Three: The Scenes & The Random


Alright, so Nomes @ Inkcrush is running this awesome survey about the best books of 2011 so far, and I decided to join. Now, my only particular rule for this survey is that I shall talk about books I read for the first time during 2011, regardless of the year they were first published.

Okay, so this is the last installment of this survey! Lets get to it - but be warned, I'll try not to but there might be some spoilers.

the scenes

1. best first chapter
The Reluctant Heiress by Eva Ibbotson - now, let me be clear and say that I didn't like this book because I seriously didn't like the heroine. But the beginning of this book, when it chronicles the life and trials of the hero, Guy Farne, from the time he was found and taken to an orphanage and eventually adopted, and became a rich, successful man. When he fell in love both with a girl and with the city of Vienna - that first chapter was AMAZING.

I wanted to know more about Guy, I was half way in love with him by then. But he was cursed with a super sucky heroine that eventually brought the whole thing down.

2. best climax
This one is hard, but I got to say that I really liked the climax of Queen of the Dead by Stacy Kade, because it was a really game changing moment. I'm not gonna say what happens, obviously.

3. best ending
The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta - that ending was everything I hoped for. It was hopeful, it gave me just enough conclusion, and it left me feeling like these people I had grown to love so much were on their way to being truly happy. 

Also, Good Oil by Laura Buzo - the ending felt right. There was really no other way it could have ended and I loved how it was executed.

4. best plot twist/revelation (no spoilers!)
The Royal Treatment by Lindsey Leavitt - I can't say what it was but I loved it to pieces and it's the reason why I can't wait for the next book of that series

5. scariest/most disturbing scene
I don't really do scary or disturbing - at least, I haven't this year.

6. steamiest scene (or sweetest/sexiest kiss award)
For the Steamy side:
Badlands Bride by Cheryl St. John. Yeah, sex in the frontier! I was surprised, but that was probably the hottest scene I've read all year.
Shout out to Healing Hearts by Taryn Kincaid - it was a short story but surprisingly steamy.

Sexiest Kiss: I'm going to break the rules here a little and say... every time Heathcliff and Miranda kiss in Moby Clique.

7. best swoon-worthy moment
Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins - Archer and Sophie in the windmill, after battling some ghouls or something. That's all I'm sayin'.

And in Where She Went when Adam and Mia -in flash back -are talking about her family going to one of Adam's concerts and Mia was worried because she didn't want to share Adam, and he tells her "You don't share me. You own me."  Definite swoon for me.

8. biggest nail-biting moment
I'm going to hate myself for saying this, but the will they, won't they moment at the end of We'll Always Have Summer. Same for Where She Went, when I wasn't sure how Mia and Adam would end, it made my stomach twist with worry.

9. most hilarious scene
Friday's Child by Georgette Heyer. Every time someone trying to explain what Ferdy meant about some 'Greek fellow'. You have to read it to understand but it had me shaking with laughter.

10. most heart-breaking/tear-jerker moment
If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman, all that book, particularly toward the end. It broke my heart over and over, and I let it because it hurt more if I didn't keep going.

the random

1. fave first sentence
"Dreams. Gossamer images that most people carried with them into their sleep, but for Dallas Leigh, they were the incentive that woke him before dawn, the impetus that pushed him toward midnight.
Dreams were the stepping stones to glory." -  Texas Glory by Lorraine Heath.

2. fave book title
The Art of Forgetting

3. fave reading experience (ie: created a great reading memory)
The Piper's Son - I just have such a visceral connection to this book. I can remember running around doing chores and listening to it, being afraid to start it because I already loved over half the people in the story... and well, a bunch of things. 

4. book with the best food in it (made me so crazy-envious-hungry)
Katie and the Cupcake Cure by Coco Simon - There are CUPCAKES all over! The girls form a club to bake and EAT cupcakes!!!!!

5. book with the most sensual weather (made you shiver/sweat)
Well, I loved all the descriptions of the beach in January in Starfish Sisters, I could feel the heat and the sand and how the girls felt when they were surfing even though I had no idea what they were doign surf-wise.  

6. most embarrassing book cover (feeling sheepish in public)
The US cover of The Piper's Son and Call Me Irresistible because that 'hand' seriously looks like a foot.
Bad Covers

7. can’t believe you waited this long to read the book (!)
 Friday's Child by Georgette Heyer - I'm a huge fan of romance and she's and iconic writer of romance yet I had never tried her books.

That's it on my side!
This has been a great way to look back at what has been going on this year and I can't wait to keep on reading!



PS - Sorry for the funky formatting, again, Blogger is being difficult.

June 29, 2011

Book Review: Dreams of Significant Girls by Cristina García

At First Sight: Three different girls clash at an exclusive Swiss summer camp - at a boarding school - in the early 1970's. The three of them come from privileged backgrounds but couldn't be more different. German/Canadian Ingrid is loud, bold and eccentric; Iranian Shirin is conservative, quiet and a brilliant mathematician; Cuban Jewish Vivian moved from Miami to New York, likes to dance and LOVES to cook.

They get stuck as roommates during that first summer - and the two following ones - as they battle the demons they carry from home.

Ingrid has the reputation for being a troublemaker, for being easy, and craves the freedom she doesn't have in her small Canadian town. Shirin is shy and would prefer to spend her time either with her beloved older brother or studying physics and math. Vivian wants to be the greatest chef of her time, never mind that her mother doesn't think it's an appropriate profession for a well educated girl.

As time goes by, they become best friends, even if they lives takes them in different directions, they become each other's best friends, even if they only meet for a month each year.

Second Glance: I really liked the idea of Dreams of Significant Girls - I love the title and cover, and I'm a sucker for boarding school stories, I have to admit.  But somehow, this story never finished clicking for me. 

Part of it is, I think, because I wasn't really aware the book was set in 1971-73 until I began to read it, and it threw me off a little. But mostly it was because I never really connected with Ingrid, Shirin or Vivien - at all. Ingrid was kind of repellent from the start; Shirin was a huge snob and sort of hot and cold all the time; Vivien was the most likable of the three, and I liked her in theory, but not like I wanted to be her friend.

And I think that was it, I didn't want to be friends with any of these girls. I didn't even want to be enemies with them, there were parts of them that read kind of flat to me.

Bottom Line: I think the enjoyment factor of this book is entirely dependent on how much you connect with the girls. I didn't, so I didn't enjoy it all that much. Other wise, the writing is good, and the pace decent if a bit hectic. Oh, it comes out July 12, 2011.

Favorite Quote: I ignored her and continued sweet-talking the soufflés. "Are you ready to come out yet?" I coaxed, feeling strangely elated. Was I imagining their collective sigh of "Oui"? With conviction, I turned to Chef d'Aubigne and triumphantly announced. "The soufflés say they are done."

June 28, 2011

Mini Review: Cherish by Wataru Yoshizumi (Manga)

The Deal: Chiriro lost her mom when she was 3 years old and since then she has been brought up by her Mom's best friend Taku-chan and his partner Rei. Now she's 18 and about to start college at the same university her mom and adoptive dad went to.

On the first day of classes, Chihiro runs into her first boyfriend, Tsuda-kun. Back in middle school, he dumped Chihiro after she told him her parents were a gay couple, and then he moved away and they never talked about it.

Only that now they are going to the same school, are in the same school club and he is under the impression that she's the one who dumped him because he was moving away.

My Thoughts: First off, don't let yourself be put off because Tsuda supposedly has a problem with Chihiro's parents. He really doesn't. And I shouldn't say it, but I'm afraid that part of the description will have a negative effect on the story's appeal.

Anyway, Cherish is a short, sweet story about first love and second chances. I usually don't like the Big Misunderstanding plot, but since this story was told in three chapters and things got solved very quickly, I didn't mind. And I was actually surprised at what really happened.

The story is quite sweet over all, and I really liked Chihiro and how loyal she was to the people who raised her, even though she really did like Tsuda and how she struggled because part of her was happy to see him again.

There was a sub plot about Chihiro's biological father that was a bit random, but oh well. Also, because it's so short, there isn't tons in the way of character development. But I had a really good time reading this manga, and it was sweet.

June 27, 2011

Faves of 2011 (so far) - Round Two: The Characters

Alright, so Nomes @ Inkcrush is running this awesome survey about the best books of 2011 so far, and I decided to join. Now, my only particular rule for this survey is that I shall talk about books I read for the first time during 2011, regardless of the year they were first published. 

Now, onto Round Two!

1. best female POV
Terra (North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley) She's observant, she's so lost, she's smart about somethings and a complete idiot about others. She feels so very real.

And the Girls from Starfish Sisters by J.C. Burke - Micki, Gerogie, Ace and Kia - four very different voices, four very different girls, yet I believed each of them. It's one book, one author but I never mistake one girl for another, and they are real to me.

2. best male POV
Tie between Tom Mackee (The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta) and Adam (Where She Went by Gayle Forman) because they were absolutely believable in their mistakes and the choices they make. I never thought "this is a woman writing a man" I just thought they were Tom and Adam.

3. Best couple
Tara and Tom (The Piper's Son), because they had to earn their being together. They were friends for years, they had a one-and-a-half night stand, and then Tom's life imploded, and for a while it seemed like that was it, until Tom decided to fix his life and knew that she had to be in it and he sets about being her friend again. They talk, and they listen and they fall in love again.

I'm going to share one of my favorite scenes of the book, it happens near the end, so beware!!
"...They are talking about me. They have a look of fear on their face. Even my parents, who created me, are afraid. I see that look on a lot of people's faces when they see me, Tom. Never yours." 

"I keep it hidden, but it's there. Believe me, you frighten me to death, but for different reasons."

4. who i so want to be best friends with
Alona Dare (Ghost and the Goth by Stacy Kade) I know she's the queen bee, and that she's mean and a little bitchy, but she's fun and I've actually have had friends like that and they are mad fun. She is loyal to her friends, and has a good heart underneath it all, plus with each book of the series I like her more.

5. who i fell completely in love with (new literary crush)
Cal (Demonglass by Karen Hawkins), I adored him. I so want him for my own. He's such an amazing, steady guy and I love him for it. So, while other girls fight over Archer, I'm going to kidnap Cal and keep him in my closet and he shall be my love slave.

6. worst (best) villain
Melaina (The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal) - the lengths this woman goes, the way she plots and schemes to get what she wants, and how she tramps all over whomever stands in her way. She literally sets the whole thing in motion, without her there is no story, and that's the mark of a true villain.

7. best character twist (who you loved then hated or vice versa)
Hated then Loved:  
Meredith (Princess for Hire by Lindsay Leavitt), she was such an abrasive character at the start, but I liked her once I knew more of her story.
Conrad (Summer Series by Jenny Han), I never really got the swoon where he was concerned, other than he was older and cute, but I never understood him until I got to the last book of the series. Then I got him, and only then I liked him.

Loved Then Hated:
Nora (Treasure Map of Boys by E. Lockhart) - I think that, in the end, she let me down as a friend. I always thought she was a good friend and a sweet person, but the more I get to know her the more I realize she's a bit judgmental.
Tessa (The Reluctant Heiress by Eva Ibbotson) - See, I was ready to like Tessa, I thought she would be another too sweet girl by Ibbotson; but boy was I wrong. Tessa starts nice enough but quickly I realized she was simply Too Stupid to Live and that's just not something I can over look, plus, I take heroine suckiness personal

8. best kick-arse female
Desi (Princess for Hire), she uses her powers for good and she stands up for others, and she tries to do what's right rather than what's easy. Also Micki (Starfish Sisters), she's a girl who has every reason to be bitter but she consciously fights the toxic feelings and is a cheerful, talented girl who's trying to do the best she can under the circumstances.

9 best kick-arse male
Mmm... I don't know.  Honest. I've loved some of the guys I've read this years but for me being a Kick-ass guy implies a ton of things.

10. broke your heart the most
Adam and Mia (Where She Went)- hands down, their story and all they go through. Some seriously bad stuff happens to them, and it's just... well, won't spoil, but you know.

11. best/worst character names
Best: Sophie Mercer (Demonglass), I might be a bit biased because Sophie is one of my favorite names ever; but I just love a normal, down to earth name.
Also, Amelia Hayes (Good Oil by Laura Buzo), it's just such a lovely name, has a nice ring to it.

Worst: Belly (Summer Series), because really it was just a ridiculous name. 

BONUS: 5 fave covers (from books i have read)

Kat, Incorrigible - fits the book, it's whimsical and adorable. 
The Ghost and The Goth - oh, it does show the mood of the book, I swear, even though they guy isn't exactly as I imagine Will, the girl is completely Alona. 
Good Oil - Love this one to death, don't know why, I just do.
The Piper's Son - I refuse to aknowledge the US cover, I think the Aussie one is amazing, fits the book and it blows me away. 
Dreams of Significant Girls - I didn't like this book but I loved the cover, it has such a sense of... possibility.

June 26, 2011

As Seen On TV: Sherlock - Season One (BBC)


Sherlock is a new spin on the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson as they run around modern day London solving mysteries.

In this take, Sherlock is the world's only consulting detective, chasing after mysteries and answers, and willing to do whatever it takes to solve the cases. Dr. Watson is just John, an army veteran and doctor who is struggling to adapt to civilian life after being injured in Afghanistan.

Due to an acquittance in common, they decide to become flatmates at Baker St. and soon John is being dragged into whatever case Sherlock is working on.

With only 3 episodes clocking 90 minutes each, the first series (as the Brits call it) of Sherlock was an absolute delight to watch when I stumbled into it on BBC Entrainment. 

Everything I've ever loved about the Sherlock Holmes stories is still there but with an updated, modern twist - for example, Sherlock and John call each other by their first names rather than by their surnames as they do in the book.

Sherlock is a very magnetic character, even though he's a bit of a sociopath, doesn't read social clues well and finds baffling that John would complain about Sherlock's shooting at the wall just because he's bored. On the other hand, John is sort of the anchor of their relationship, the more practical one.

I simply adored this series. I love that there are super long episodes, even if there are only three of them so far, they are like mini-movies, so it's awesome.

I can't wait for the second season - also made of 3 90-minute episodes - which is set to be released in this fall.

June 24, 2011

Faves of 2011 (so far) - Round One: The Books


Alright, so Nomes @ Inkcrush is running this awesome survey about the best books of 2011 so far, and I decided to join. Now, my only particular rule for this survey is that I shall talk about books I read for the first time during 2011, regardless of the year they were first published.

Now, onto the categories!

1. favourite book read so far in 2011:
The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta - because it's just too good for words. Melina Marchetta is one of those authors that you can trust your heart to, she always delivers and amazing story and great characters.

2. most powerful book:
The Piper's Son as well as Good Oil by Laura Buzo, both books left me aching for weeks and I couldn't get them out of my head, plus they are so realistic. Shout out for If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman

3. brilliantly funny:
Friday's Child by Georgette Heyer - Might sound weird since this book was first published in 1944, but this story made me snort and laugh uncontrollably, which only goes to show you that when something is really funny, it doesn't matter how old it is. Special mention to The Ghost and The Goth, because I love how mean/funny Alona is, and to The Lonely Heart's Club by Elizabet Eulberg because Penny was just such a Beatles nut.

4. best ache-y, heart-breaking, tear-jerker read: 
If I Stay/Where She Went by Gail Forman, I think I went through half a box of Kleenex when I was reading these two books, and I even had to take a break between them because it was just a bit hard for my fragile psyche. And the Texas Trilogy by Lorraine Heath, each book tells the story of one of the brothers - Dallas, Houston and Austin - as they find the courage to love and it's just sad but hopeful all around.

5. most beautiful story:
For me, it has to be The Piper's Son again. The things the Finch-Mackee family goes through, the fact that it had me in tears one second and laughing the next, the fact that you could just feel the love these people had for each other leaping out of the page... it was simply beautiful.
6. delicious rainy day comfort read:

Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis - This book is magical, lighthearted, has an adorable protagonist and is about sisters loving-though-not-always-liking each other. I loved getting to know the mischievous Kat and going with her in her adventures.

7. adrenalin-fuelled, unputdownable award:
I've actually been very mellow this year with my reading, at least so far - so, nothing yet!

8. the beautiful prose award:
North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley - because it's such a great story about being lost and finally found, about loving and accepting yourself, even if you're a mess because that's just who you are.

9. most atmospheric and vivid setting:

Kat, Incorrigible - set in 1803, the author does a great job at putting you in the time and place, with the outfits, the restrictions of lady-like behavior and the limited options the Stephenson sisters had in life. And also, Friday's Child - it's set in Regency England and you totally feel it, the speech, the outfits and the attitudes of the people in the book put you there.
10. i-so-want-to-go-there award:
I'm not sure I get this category, but if it means a book that made me want to go somewhere then I'm going to say Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins because it made me want to go to England and run around around London and explore a big, ole, creepy house in the countryside!

11. most original and imaginative:
The False Princess, because Eilis O'Neal created an amazing and unique world full of magic, deceptions and peril, and I loved every bit of it.

12. best under-appreciated, hidden gem book:
Good Oil by Laura Buzo and Starfish Sisters by J. C. Burke - I hadn't heard about either of those until I began to look for books for the Aussie YA Reading Challenge, but both books are choke-full of amazing, vivid characters and great story telling.

13. i-had-no-idea-i-would-love this-so award:
The Ghost and the Goth by Stacy Kade, as I had original dismissed this book due to the fact that I was having a bit of a paranormal overload, but there was so much more to this book, and I'm loving it.  Also,  The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal, I usually don't read that much fantasy but I fell in love with this world and these characters.

14. most haunting story: 
Where She Went by Gayle Forman, mostly because sometimes I still find myself thinking about Adam and Mia, just out of the blue they jump into my thoughts.

15. outside my comfort zone but gosh how i loved it:

The Art of Forgetting by Camile Noe Pagan - It's more chick-lit than romance and I often have trouble loving chick lit so I tend to avoid it, but I really liked this story. It's more adult than my usual, definitely contemporary and a lovely read.

16. series that i’m loving:
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins- Demonglass was the second book of the series and it was full of action, secrets and fun, plus, two totally swoon worthy guys! Ghost and the Goth by Stacy Kade, just started reading this series but I love it and can't wait for the next one.. Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt, because its funny and sassy and empowering. Special mention for the Goddess Girls by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams.

17. most memorable voice award:
Tom Mackee from The Piper's Son. I had his voice in my head for weeks and weeks, and even my own inner voice started to sound like a 21 year old Australian guy - and yeah, I said "mate" and "heaps" a lot - it just got to me that much.

18. completely awesome premise award
The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg- the idea of a club where being a strong girl is awesome, of friends that support you no matter what and that want the best for you. I loved it.

19. would make the best movie:

Princess for Hire and The Royal Treatment by Lindsey Leavitt, they are prime Disney movie material, and I love it for it.

20. want to re-read already
The Piper's Son and I'm actually in the middle of re-reading it.

Okay, so this is it for day one!

Let's see what round to brings on Monday!

Ps- Sorry for the funky formatting, but Blogger is hating on me right now!

June 23, 2011

Book Review: Queen of the Dead by Stacey Kade

Queen of the Dead
At First Sight: It has been a couple of months since newly dead Alona Dare became Will Killian's spirit guide, and they work surprisingly well together. 

Then, one summer night, as they are working with a particularly angry ghost, Will and Alona come across another ghost-talker - a girl called Mina. 

Soon, Will is obsessed with finding answers, trying to figure out stuff about his dad and questioning if he should be helping the living rather than focusing on the dead, and Mina just keeps taunting him with glimpses of some of those answers.

Meanwhile, Alona is discovering that her family is moving on without her. Her mom is throwing out her things and her dad and step-mother are having a new baby. And, to top it all off, Will isn't listening what she says.

Then, Mina - with her frizzy hair, weird ghost-busting gadgets and secrets - becomes a sore point between Alona and Will, starting a chain of events that ends with unexpected consequences.

Second Glance: Queen of the Dead is the second book in the Ghost and the Goth series, and I really liked it for the most part. I love Alona and Will, I love their interaction - for me that's the great strenght of this series, how well Alona and Will play off each other. 

Also, in this book we learn tons of stuff about ghost-talkers, while leaving just enough questions unanswered to have me counting the days until the next book comes out... next year! Oh, and there is a bit of a twist that was hinted at during G&G, and I really liked it. I actually cheered a little when I realized what was happening. Not that it won't be an issue in the next book, but so far I'm really happy with what happened.

But, I hated Mina. Boy did I hate her! (!!!) She is manipulative, and kind of mean, and I just didn't like her. And she kind of bummed me a bit, and I have the suspicion that she'll be back in the next book. Also, the pace was a bit off for me, I felt the first book was more, sort of dynamic somehow, but it wasn't a big issue.

Bottom Line: Queen of the Dead was a really fun read. I love these characters, they make me laugh and I can't wait for book three.

Favorite Quote: Add to all of that, the person that I spent the most time with now was a beautiful girl who happened to be a spirit but who was still living (in he own way) and very touchable? Yeah. For some reason that meant only one thing to my mom -- the possibility of me having weird, undead, inter-dimensional SEX. 
I wish.

June 21, 2011

Book Review: Ocean Pearl by J. C. Burke

Ocean Pearl
At First Sight: It has been 5 months since surfing camp and Micki, Ace, Georgie and Kia are ready to become the Starfish Sisters once more, before Micki, Kia and Georgie leave for camp again, without Ace who didn't qualify for the try outs for the Junior Female Team. 

But that's easier said than done, as each of the girls struggle with their own problems. Kia is learning to deal with her self destructive tendencies; Micki is conflicted about leaving her drug addict dad by himself and moving in with Kia and her family; Ace is so stressed and depressed that her hair is falling out and she's freaking about losing her sponsorship; and Georgie is tired of keeping secrets. 

Then, Ace does something that puts the sisterhood in jeopardy, and things start to spiral out of control. And it only gets worse when Ace is called up to camp again, and the four friends are stuck together in the same cabin.

Second Glance: Ocean Pearl is the sequel to Starfish Sisters and in many ways I really liked getting the chance to hang out with these girls again, but I can't say I loved them so much this time around. 

Micki and her insecurities and her struggle to rise above bitterness; and Kia and her struggle with self harm, her fight to keep level headed and get herself to the next minute - I loved both of them. I got to see different aspects of them in this book and I loved them all the more for what I learned about them.

Ace and Georgie were a bit of the problem this time around. Ace is so wrapped up in her image and her hair and, as Micki would say "if your biggest problem is your hair then you got it good". But she's so self absorbed and immature, which is weird because she is the oldest; and she willfully disregards other people's boundaries and problems. Georgie, well, I liked her at the beginning and in general I don't have anything against her, but she did break one of the cardinal rules of girlhood, and as a girl that's not something I can easily overlook.

Which brings us to Jules, Ace's boyfriend. I also can't make up my mind about him. I'm not sure if he's a player or a good guy who didn't handle things right. Much as Ace was a douche, and much as I saw Jules point, I'm still a bit iffy about what happens and how he handles things with Ace and Georgie.

Though, in the end, the girls pull it together, I wanted to smack them in the head more than once. 

Bottom Line: Ocean Pearl wasn't my favorite, and in some ways I wish J.C. Burke would have stopped at Starfish Sisters; but there is another part of me that it's glad to be with these girls again. And I do appreciate the fact that this book shows how saying you're friends is easy, but that being friends is not.

Still recommend this book a lot, but Starfish Sisters is first in my heart.

June 20, 2011

Book Review: Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn

Just Like Heaven
US Cover
At First Sight: Lady Honoria Smythe-Smith is just a little bit desperate to be married. Her once happy house has been rather quiet since her older brother Daniel had to flee the country after a duel gone badly; and she's just about done with the silence.

So, she sets out to get married this season, which brings her to Cambridge, which makes her stumble into her brother's best friend Marcus Holroyd, Earl of Chatteris.

Before Daniel left, Marcus used to be a fixture of the Smythe-Smith family, they are the only family he has ever known. In Daniel's absence, Marcus took upon himself to look after Honoria - partially because he promised Daniel he would- and he has done a good job of it, even though they haven't really talked in the last three years.

But now they are together again, and finally aware that they know each other best than anyone, that they might be each other's rocks and that maybe it's time to do something about it.

Heaven UK
UK cover
Second Glance: Just Like Heaven is the kick off the the Smythe-Smith quartet, featuring the infamously bad musicians of the Smythe-Smith family -their annual musicale is a running joke through most of the Bridgerton books and other works of Julia Quinn - and I'm happy to say that I truly liked it. I hadn't liked one of JQ's books so well in quite a while.

I had already been warned that it was more of a character driven than a plot driven book, and I'm glad I knew this going in because it sort of got me in the mood of the book. 

Both Honoria and Marcus were lovely characters. Honoria was fun and loving, even though she always felt just a little left out of her family because she was the youngest she compensated by building bonds with her cousins. Marcus is sort of an understated hero, he's smart and nice and loves sweets but he's also very reserved and shy, which other people mistake for arrogance and aloofness, but Honoria never does.

The other girls in the quartet, well, I had my ups and downs with them. I liked Daisy, the youngest even though she was the type to say things without thinking them through (but she's 15, so it doesn't bother me much), Iris was a bit tiresome sometimes because she's actually a good musician and feels ashamed to have to play. Sarah was okay. 

Oh, another thing I liked about the book was when I realized that the ending took place around the start of Colin and Penelope's story Romancing Mr. Bridgerton. I just loved seeing it from a different angle.

Bottom Line: Just Like Heaven is a story about two people finally realizing just how much they mean to each other. It's sweet and funny and just a lovely relaxing read. And I definitely want to read the next ones in the series.

Favorite Scene: “Treacle tart is not an appropriate food for the sickbed.”

“I don’t see why not,” he replied. With utmost honesty.

“Because you’re supposed to have broth. And calf’s-​foot jelly. And cod liver oil. Everyone knows that.”

He forced his stomach not to turn at the mention. “Have any of those delicacies ever made you feel better?”

“No, but I don’t think that’s the point.”

“How is it possibly not the point?”

 Her lips parted for a quick reply, but then she went quite comically still. Her eyes tipped up and looked off to the left, almost as if she were searching her mind for a suitable retort. Finally, she said, with deliberate slowness, “I don’t know.”

"Then you’ll steal me a piece?” He gave her his best smile. His best I-​almost-​died-​so-​how-​can-​you-​deny-​me smile. Or at least that’s how he hoped it appeared. The truth was, he wasn’t a very accomplished flirt, and it might very well have come across as an I-​am-​mildly-​deranged-​so-​it’s-​in-​all-​of-​our-​best-​interests-​if-​you-​pretend-​to-​agree-​with-​me smile.

There was really no way to know.

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June 19, 2011

At the Movies: X-Men: First Class


X-Men: First Class was on my Most Awaited Movies of 2011 list, and I was so happy when I got to see it so quickly after it opened here. 

First Class is a bit of a prequel to the X-Men 1, 2, 3 and Wolverine, but it's also very much it's own movie and I think it can be seen on it's own since it's the very beginning of the story.

As it opens, we meet Erik and Charles, two boys with very different backgrounds but with very unusual gifts: they are mutants. While Erik is trapped in the hell of World War II and in the clutches of a mad scientist; Charles lives a comfortable if a bit isolated life in the US, but even the isolation lessens when he finds another young mutant in his kitchen, Raven, and he takes her in as if she were his sister. 

Years later, Charles is man-about-town finishing his doctorate thesis in Oxford; while Erik is hunting down Sebastian Shaw, the man who killed his mother and then used him as a lab rat for years.  Their paths converge when Charles -and Raven - are recruited by the government to stop Shaw, who is currently plotting a massive nuclear war. 

That is just the very beginning of this movie and let me tell you that I loved it, it so remind me of why I loved the X-men growing up and I loved seeing the start of it all. James McAvoy was a great Charles Xavier - a bit arrogant, a bit full of himself, with big plans, but with his heart in the right place - and Michael Fassbender was one hell of a HOT Erik (I want me some of that!) and, well, seeing the genesis of his persona as Magneto was amazing, he's always straddling the line between good and bad, in fact, I will say he's a bad guy doing a good thing for most of the movie, and that was incredibly sexy, plus it was awesome to see. 

Also, you get to see the beginning of many iconic characters like Beast and Mystique. 

Awesome movie, I completely loved it. I'll give it an A - yeah, I loved it that much!

June 16, 2011

Story of My Life #6 - On Long winded Sob Stories.

Okay, so a few weeks ago I was on the mood for a Tearjerker - sometimes it happens, I just feel like having a good cry about something not related to my real life. So a friend told me about Tapestry by Karen Ranney. Now, I've read the works of Ms Ranney before and I generally enjoy them - some of them I've even love. 

So I went forth, located a copy of Tapestry - since it's an older book a friend had it and loaned it to me - and went forth to read. 

It was a tearjerker, and it was for the most part okay, but it lost me because it was one of those epic sagas where the hero and heroine have to go through hell and back, then visit the moon, maybe mars and have an tea with the Yeti before they get to be happy. 

I loathe such books. It's not that I don't think tragic stories shouldn't be told or that I don't know that real life can be right down cruel. But when I'm looking at a story for comfort, I can't help thinking was ALL that really necessary? 

Let me tell you what happens in Tapestry in the barest of terms: Heroine loves hero from afar for years. Hero goes to war, gets blown up and loses - literally - half his face. Hero comes back and is - understandably, I think - a bad tempered bear. Heroine disguises herself as a maid, goes to the Hero's house and slowly but surely gets him to come out of his shell with the power of her love (So far so good and if it would have ended there I would have LOVED this book, but oh no!!).

Hero is thinking of sending Heroine away because she deserves better than him but the heroine disappears on him due to the fact that she has to get back to her rich heiress life. Hero eventually decides to marry for the sake of getting an heir, and marries the Heroine. Hero discovers Heroine is the maid he was in love with. Instead of being happy about this, Hero reverts back into Bear Temperament. Eventually, Hero forgives Heroine and they are happy.... for a while (Again, if this would have been the ending I would have been okay, but we are only midway through the book).

Heroine discovers she's preggo! YAY!! but then Hero is told BY HIS FORMER SUPERIOR IN THE ARMY WHO JUST QUIT THE JOB BUT WANTS THE HERO TO DO AS HE SAYS ANYWAY that he has to go back to war. Hero knows Heroine is pregnant, but goes anyway BECAUSE HE'S A DUMB ASS THAT PUTS DUTY TO HIS NO LONGER BOSS OVER HIS FAMILY. Heroine is sad, but hopes he'll come back for the birth of the baby. 

Hero gets blown up again, and thought dead. Heroine hears the news and losses the baby. Heroine becomes Pod-robot with no will to live. Years go by. Hero is still thought as dead. Heroine joins charity causes, fosters tons of children unconsciously trying to make up for the one she lost. Hero is not dead after all and comes back. Heroine doesn't want to see him. Hero pulls a BIG GESTURE TO MAKE UP FOR THE FACT THAT HE WAS GONE FOR YEARS and Heroine forgives him and they live happy with their adoptive children, only occasionally feeling sad about not having their own babies.

See it took me FOUR paragraphs to sum up what happens in this story. And I ask again, was all that really necessary? For me, whenever I read stuff like that, I feel like author didn't make any choices, she just wanted her characters to suffer, and suffer, and then suffer so much because that's supposed to be the makings of a Great Love Story?


I enjoy long, complex stories, I do. When it makes sense. Harry Potter I love. I live for Star Wars - and that's one heck of a long-winded, complex story, more so if you count the Expanded Universe. I loved the LotR movies. There is nothing I love more than a good trilogy or series. I like it. Do I need it crammed into a single book? Nope. Do I need my hero and heroine to have every single possibly bad thing happen to them to believe they love each other? No way!

So... yeah, that's why I stay away from books like this - I think it's also to blame fore my fear of super long books - I've never seen the appeal.

Now, I ask you? Do you like 'saga's? What's the kick? the payoff?

Let me know,


June 15, 2011

Stupid Fast Giveaway Winner

Stupid Fast

Thanks so much to everyone who entered the Stupid Fast Giveaway.

Random.org did the honors and the winner* is:

Congrats Diana@The Lovely Getaway, I will be emailing you shortly!


* As usual, Winner has 48 hrs to contact me back, or another winner will be selected.

Book Review: Secrets, Monsters and Magic Mirrors by Donald Lemke (editor)

Cover is from Rapunzel
The Deal: Okay, first let me explain how the book works: it's a graphic novel with re-tellings of five classic fairy tales in the form of a comic/graphic novel, each one has a different author in charge of the text and a different artist in charge of the artwork  - as a result, you get five very different styles.
The tales in question are Rapunzel, Thumbelina, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast and The Princess and The Pea. The tales are very different esthetically and narrative more close to the original 'uncut' versions than to Disney or more kid-friendly versions.

My Thoughts: As I said, Secrets, Monsters and Magic Mirrors is a compilation and it sort of gets into a lot of trouble because of it. The stylistically, each story is very different from the previous one. The artwork for Rapunzel is dark but kind of awesome, Thumbellina's is a bit on the childish side; Snow White is more of classic comic approach (I found this one the creepiest of them all); Beauty and The Beast was a bit cutesy but basic, and Princess and the Pea a bit more square, but also cute. 

(I hope I'm making sense with the descriptions)

Now, here is where the trouble starts, the styles are so different and it's kind of jarring to jump from one to the next, and I think the book has a bit of a personality crisis. Some of the drawings are so elemental and cute, like they are aimed for kids, but I wouldn't feel comfortable giving this book to a young child because it can get kind of dark. And at the same time I don't think it's sophisticated enough for an older crowd - the retellings are very short, and the characterization remains a little cartoonish. 

One thing I did like about it, was that, at the end of each story, there was a little background about the particularly story.

June 14, 2011

Book Review: The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade

Ghost and Goth
At First Sight: Queen Bee Alona Dare's life gets cut short when, a few weeks before graduation, she gets run over by a school bus but, for some reason, she didn't go to the great beyond right away, and instead keeps waking up in the middle of the street where she died.

In the days that follow her death, Alona gets to see how everyone is moving on without her, like she was never there, like she was never important. And that gets her plenty mad, too bad there is nothing she can do because no one can see or hear her. No one, that is, except for Will Killian.

Social reject Will Kill who was so far out of Alona's sphere that she barely noticed him in life, just knowing that he was the resident weirdo of their high school... and she might have just discovered why he's always acting so weird.

All his life, Will has been able to see the dead - just like his Dad did before him - and suffered for it. He has an over protective mother, a psychiatrist hell vent on sending him to a "facility" and he's on the high school principal's black list. Still, he figures that if he can stick it out until he's 18 he'll be able to get out of town and stay out of trouble.

Until he lets his guard slip and Alona realizes that he can see the dead, suddenly, ghosts are clamoring for his help and landing him in trouble left and right; and the only one willing to help him is Queen of Mean Alona.

Second Glance: I'm going to come clean and say that I sort of dismissed  The Ghost and the Goth when I first saw it last year. I was having a paranormal overload and I don't know, I just thought the cover was cute but not much else. However, then I read Small Review's thoughts on The Ghost and the Goth and then on Queen of the Dead, and it got me thinking that maybe I have been too quick to dismiss Alona and Will.

So I reconsidered.


There is a lot more to G&G than what meets the eye first. I loved Alona, she's definitely a bit of a mean girl, but she's fabulously mean and there is a lot more to her than just that. There are layers to her personality, and a real story behind the image she projected. Plus, she was really smart.

Will was a loner, sure, but with surprisingly few issues other than the "I See Dead People" thing and all it implied, I got the sense that he was a good friend and a good son, and I totally liked him for it.

The book has a dual narration and I liked getting into both their heads, each with a distinct voice but both equally fun. Plus the book was a great pace, that kept me going even though it was the middle of the night and I really should have been asleep.

Bottom Line: I loved Alona and Will, and The Ghost and the Goth is definitely one of my favorite reads of this year. I can't wait to read Queen of the Dead and see what's in store for this odd-but-very-functional couple.

Favorite Quote: There were so many, but I don't trust myself not to spoil much, so I'm picking one from the beginning.
“Trust me, I’d find someone else if I could. You’re just mad because I never talked to you when I was alive.”
“Yeah, the waves of regret are washing over me.”
-- Alona & Will
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