May 30, 2013

Speed Date: The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider (or The Book Formerly Known as Severed Heads and Broken Hearts)

The Plot: Ezra Faulkner was the boy who had it all: the hot girlfriend, the sweet ride and he was at the very top of the high school food chain... until the end of Junior year when he caught his girlfriend cheating and got into a car crash, which ended his budding tennis career.

A summer later, Ezra is starting senior year with a limp and no idea where he's supposed to belong. He's angry: at life, at the SUV that blew through the stop sign and shattered his knee, at Charlotte for cheating, at his friends for never visiting him in the hospital. He wants things to go back to what they were but is intensely aware that they can't.

Enter Cassidy Thorpe. She's a prep school transplant and the new girl in town. She's not quite like any of the girls Ezra has ever been around: she's smart and not afraid of showing it, she is quirky and original and always seems to have a plan for an adventure. At first they don't get along all that well but when they do, Cassidy also becomes a link to Ezra's former best friend Toby Ellicott, whom she knows from Debate tournaments.

Toby and Ezra were best friends up until they were 12, when Toby's tragedy struck him and their friendship was lost in the war zone of middle school. Now, Toby is kind of cool among the geeky/nerdy set of the school and, against the odds, willing to embrace Ezra into his group of friends.

As Ezra loses himself into new friendships, new interests and Cassidy Thorpe, he starts to find himself, even if he does stumble quite a bit. 

First Date: Oh Ezra, I don't usually like boy-narrators but I'll make an exception for you, since I like your voice. And I like Toby!!! I mean, he's not on a lot yet but I like him already. Cassidy seems rude though, and a bit snotty in the Manic Pixie Dream Girl -way that MPDGs have. 

Second Date: Cassidy is a definite MPDG, and the variety I like the least. BUT! I like the rest of the characters a lot, like Phoebe and Toby and the others. And Cooper! I love Cooper, total team Cooper!  Ezra, you are a compelling narrator, but even Toby can see the sucker punch that's coming your way. 

Third Date: Well... I'm a little conflicted. I like the ending in theory but I'm not sure I LOVE the execution. Like, I like the spirt and where the story ended, but the writing felt a little forced right at the end. But maybe I was just... yeah, I had a very emotional reaction to something that happened before the end so yeah, might be clouding my impression of the third date. 

Relationship Status: Going Steady with Ezra
I really liked The Beginning of Everything (or The Book Formerly known as Severed Heads and Broken Hearts) (and I hope I'm not a total jerk for reviewing a book that comes out in August 27th).

Ezra was a great narrator and I quite liked him, I loved the debate crowd and how they embraced their nerdiness like it was a given without making a bug fuss about it, they were what they were and that was that. Plus, they were cleaver and smart without being annoying (except fo Cassidy, but Cassidy annoyed me the whole way so I'm not counting her), and they sounded like teenagers at the same time.

Cassidy was my one big hang up with this book because I found her kind of annoying most of the time. She's one of those MPDGs that try too hard and are kind of needy at the same time, though they keep pushing you away. I was okay with the way her story interwove with Ezra's, and the big reveal was kinda obvious by that point, but still, that wasn't the problem, I just didn't like her very much, though I can totally see why a guy like Ezra would fall for her.

All in all, I loved reading The Beginning of Everything.. It starts a little slow but once it hits its stride is hard to put down. I liked Ezra's dry wit and I actually liked the beginning a lot, where he talks about the tragedies that mark our lives and how we all have one. 
starstarstarstarPersonal Favorite

What's a Book Speed Date, you ask? It's a quickie review--about 150 words or so--of any genre book (variety is the spice of life, after all).

If you want to join in or just read other speed date reviews, check out The Book Swarm

May 27, 2013

Anime Addiction: Nodame Cantabile

Sinichi Chiaki is an arrogant music student majoring in Piano, he's really good and looks down on his fellow classmates for the most part, choosing to stay aloof and apart from them... until his piano teacher pairs him up with Megumi Noda, known simply as Nodame, to play a duet. 

Nodame is on the year bellow him, and she's sloppy and plays mostly in Cantabile style - by ear rather than reading the music - she's the total oposite of Chiaki, but makes lovely music. After that first time playing together, Nodame and Chiaki realize that they live in the same building and from them on there is no tearing Nodame apart from him. 

Chiaki finds himself reluctantly looking after Nodame and getting pulled into her crazy schemes, and slowly opening up to his classmates and sharing his talents, and his secret dream of becoming a conductor someday - even if he is kind of stuck in Japan because he can't get on planes or boats due to really bad accidents he was in as a child. 

Nodame becomes his biggest cheerleader and they slowly form a relationship. Meanwhile, Nodame is finding her drive to play piano, rather than just having fun with it. 

Nodame Cantabile spans over three seasons (1 of 26 episodes and 2 of 13), telling the daily lives of Chiaki and Nodame as they find their way around their music and to each other. They are a lot of fun together: Nodame is all crazy and impulsive and Chiaki is very rigid and dependable. At first, they clash a lot (Though this bothers Chiaki a lot more than Nodame) but as the time passes they become each other's rock. 

Nodame is Chiaki's biggest fan and wants to see him do well. Chiaki wants Nodame to live up to her potential because he wants to be able to listen to her forever. And it's good too see them grow. Chiaki slowly starts to find compassion to go along with this talent and drive, and Nodame finds her drive to compete rather than just mess about with the piano because is fun. 

Both of them have their moments of incredible density where they can't see what's right in front of them, but they work it out eventually.

Also, the series covers about four years of their lives, both in Tokio and in Paris (which was pretty nifty) and they just let the music play for these long stretches of time and it's lovely.

May 24, 2013

Work is Kicking my Butt

That's pretty much me!
Though the thing in my mouth might be a pizza slice...

Anyway, I went back to work last week - I teach but in a system where you cram a semester worth of stuff into four months. It's not fun - and it has been soooooooooo hard. LOL

I got new classes to teach, two of which I hadn't taught before, and then we have to make this overhaul of tests at the beginning of each term and... well, I've been operating on about two hours of sleep for the last week (I wrote 13 different tests for 3 different subjects this term and the hamster that lives inside of my head powering things is currently on strike)

And if I read the world Biodiversity again, I might scream... but I digress.

All of this is to say that I haven't died (yet) and I shall be back to blogging soon. I just need to read something first... I was reading The Beginning of Everything but I might have to start again since I can't remember where I left of.

Hope I can review something this weekend, in between class planning.

May 18, 2013

Book Review: Meant To Be by Terri Osburn

At First Sight: Beth Chandler has made it her life's work to please other people: she became a lawyer to please her grandparents, lives in Richmond because it was close to them, agreed to marry to her boyfriend Lucas - even though he's a workaholic - to make him happy... and she found herself alone in the ferry, going to visit his family because he was called back to the office and sent her along. 

At the ferry going to Anchor Island, and in the throws of a panic attack, for she does not like the water at all, she meets a dog named Dozer and, more importantly, the dog's sexy owner Joe. He talks her down, and stays with her during the crossing and they even flirt a little. All perfectly harmless, until Joe reveals his last name is Dempsey, same as Beth's fiancĂ© Lucas; and she realizes they are brothers. 

Upon officially meeting Lucas'-Fiancee-Elizabeth, Joe is none too pleased to discover she's the same Beth he had been flirting with earlier. Joe might not see eye to eye with Lucas in a lot of things, but he loves his brother and would never flirt with his brother's girl. Yet, the damage is already done, the attraction is there and there is no denying it.

And when Lucas has to return to Richmond and leaves Beth alone in the island for two weeks, things get very complicated. Beth knows she shouldn't feel the way she does with Joe, but in Anchor island she feels at home, and she feels like her self for the first time ever. Joe doesn't ever want to hurt his brother, but Beth seems to fit his life, love his island and drive him crazy more than any other woman he has ever met.

Second Glance: Meant to Be turned out to be a delightiful surprise for me, and look that I was a little iffy about it because from the get go it's pretty obvious that the romantic pairing is Beth and Joe, not "Elizabeth" and Lucas; yet they remain engaged or pretty much the duration of the story. 

That can be quite tricky to pull off but Meant to Be manages pretty well. I think that one of the author's smart moves is that you never actually see Beth and Lucas together doing couple-y things, Lucas is off being a workaholic most of the time, and Beth is pretty aware that's not going to change anytime soon, she's just not ready to admit to herself that they aren't going to work out in the long run. 

So, as you see Joe and Beth hang out and Beth making herself at home in Anchor, you start buying it pretty early on. Plus, Joe and Beth have good chemistry together, they argue and the flirt and they care about each other. Joe is kind of surly, but Beth doesn't take it personal. 

There are a few subplots of this story that also keep things interesting: mostly, Joe's ex Cassandra is trying to buy the Island and make it into a luxury resort, so everyone is banding together to keep that from happening. 

Bottom Line: I really had a great time reading Meant to Be, I liked the characters, even workaholic Lucas (props to the author for not making him an asshole just to make it okay for Beth and Joe to be together) and I loved the setting of Anchor Island, it sounded like an adorable place. The only bad point in all of this is that the second book of the series (featuring Lucas) won't drop for another year.

Meant to Be comes out May 21st.
Love, Alex
Ps. Review copy provided by the Publisher via Net Galley in exchange of an honest review

May 16, 2013

Book Review: Take a Vow by Elizabeth Eulberg

At First Sight: New York City High School of Creative and Performing Arts (CPA for short) is a hot bed of really talented kids and everyone has a reason why they want to get in, and a dream they want to achieve. For Sophie, it's all about being a star, for Ethan is about quieting the voices in his head by doing the one thing that works for him: writing music. Carter thinks that going to a normal high school will be a good change of pace from a life spent in the spotlight as a child actor. And Emme, well, she wants to write songs too... but she's also kind of following Sophie's lead, since they are best friends.

Almost four years later, they are all seniors getting ready for their last year of school. Sophie isn't quite the star she would like to be (something that terrifies her) but she is dating Carter who is still pretty famous and a soap opera star. Carter is sick of acting though, and he would really like to tell his mom that he's done.

Emme and Ethan are part of a seriously awesome band along with their friends Jack and Ben, and the lot of them keep trying to encourage Emme to finally take center stage rather than staying on Sophie's shadow (where Sophie would like her to stay). Oh, and Ethan is trying to figure out how to say what he wants to say without going crazy, and if the band will stand it.

Second Glance: Take a Vow was awesome.

I had heard about it when the book first came out last year but I kind of just kept putting it off (I loved Elizabeth Eulberg The Lonely Heart's Club, but was less than impressed with her following offer Prom and Prejudice, so I wasn't off to the rases to get Take A Vow). 

I was a fool.

There were so many things I loved about Take a Vow: how it could have gone down the Love Triangle (or square) route with Carter, Emme and Ethan, but it didn't. I love seeing a guy and a girl being really good friends without them being attracted to each other, like Carter and Emme get to be. I loved that, and I don't think we see enough of it in fiction.

Ethan and Emme did this frustrating dance around each other all through the book but it made total sense for who they were: they were both a bit on the shy side, and knew each other so well, and were dead afraid of losing the awesome thing they already had.

The other band members were awesome, they were hilarious and supportive and understanding.

Also loved Carter's personal arc, trying to cope with the fact he doesn't love acting and hasn't for a while, and that maybe he's more responsible for it than he's willing to admit.

Sophie was, well weird, she's a bitchy selfish girl, but she serves as a good contrast to the other characters, and there is enough there to see how she could charm Emme and Carter into staying around for so long. And her jealousy was very human.

Bottom Line: I loved reading Take a Vow, it was just the kind of relaxing but exciting read that I needed. I liked the characters and the setting and how Miss Eulberg handled the relationships without making her characters whinny. A really fun read all around. 
starstarstarstar1/2Personal Favorite

May 11, 2013

Cover Love: Cassandra the Lucky

Oh, yeah, as soon as I saw this cover I knew I had to share it!! 

Cassandra the Lucky comes out on December 3rd, 2013

Meet Cassandra, the newest student at Mount Olympus Academy! She has an amazing talent—but will her new friends believe her?

This Goddess Girls story is based on the myth of Cassandra, who has the gift of seeing the future—except no one believes her. Can Apollo, the god of prophecy, help his new crush?

But, before that on August 6th, Penelope the Daring

May 9, 2013

Book Review: Pheme The Gossip by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams

At First Sight: As the Godess Girl of Gossip and Rumor, Pheme sees it as her duty and job description to get into everyone's business and report on it, often before she thinks of the consequences of her tales.

Currently, Pheme is trying to get into Principal Zeus' good graces so he'll write her a recommendation letter so she can apply to a job in Teen Scrollazine, the hottest magazine around.

All she needs is a really good piece of information to take to Zeus. Good for her that she's the girl's floor hall monitor and gets to snoop around quite a bit in that capacity, even if she shouldn't exactly. 

Second Glance: If Pheme the Gossip proves one thing is that it's very hard to like a gossip, and I'm sad to say I never got quite there with Pheme.

See, when Medusa and Pandora - two girls that the original 4 goddess girls didn't have the highest regard for at the beginning of their books - took center stage, it took me but a couple of chapters to feel these waves of empathy toward both girls, to care for them. Medusa has had it pretty rough and more than mean, she lacks social graces and acceptance; Pandora can't help to be curious, but she honestly doesn't mean any harm by it.

Pheme can't help to gossip because... well, she likes being the center of attention. That's pretty much it. We get hints of her past story but it's never explored enough as it to actually make a difference. And, in the end, I kind of felt like Pheme was being rewarded without quite learning her lesson.
Bottom Line: *sigh* I guess I'm not meant to be friends with Pheme. Was it bad? not really. Writing was as light and fluffy as ever, and kept a brisk pace. I'm still a huge an of the series, and I'm still REALLY looking forward to Persephone the Daring and Cassandra the Lucky, but to me Pheme was a bump in an otherwise smooth road. 

May 8, 2013

Book Review: Never Deny Your Heart by Maureen Driscoll

The Deal: Rosalind Carson has been in love with her best friend's brother Liam Kellington, Duke of Lynwood since she was about 12 and he was 18 and they met by chance. Years later, Rosalind struck a friendship with Liam's sister Lizzie and the two became inseparable, with the whole Kellington clan giving Rosalind the sense of family she never got from her own relatives. 

Not wanting to lose them all, Rosalind never did anything about her feelings for Liam, whom she's convinced will never love her. She was quite sure of this fact... up until the day of Lizzie's wedding, when Liam pulled her aside and the two of them shared some heated moments. 

Which would be all fine and dandy... if not for the fact that Rosalinds mother and brother had recently betrothed her to another man, and that Liam values his honor too much to take up with another man's fiancĂ©... or does he love Rosalind more?

And will Rosalind stay put just waiting for Liam to do something?

My Thoughts: Oh, Never Deny Your Heart was a bit of a hot mess but in a surprisingly entertaining way. I actually skipped the middle books of this series, I read and reviewed Never a Mistress No Longer A Maid - which was silly and fun - and during that book I picked up on the frisson between Rosalind and Liam so I wanted to read their story, so I skipped all the way there. 

It was pretty fun, though it had some obvious flaws. One, Liam's motivation, he would rather let Rosalind enter a loveless marriage than do something about it ... until he's convinced that his honor would be best served by him taking her away from the other man; to which I say: That's poppycock!!!

Two: This book is full of historical inaccuracies  to the point where they just jump at you a lot, there are things in this book that just wouldn't have happened, even with the most open minded lot of people you cold have found at this time period. 

And, three: the fake out love quadrangle. For a moment there it looks like there were going to be new love interests for both Liam and Rosalind, and they were actually nice if unrealistic, but nope, in the end it didn't go down that route and it was just a bit of a cope out. 

Yet, despite all of this or maybe because of it, the story was loads of fun to read. Again, it's a silly book but it was a silly sweet and fun piece of brain candy. 

May 6, 2013

Book Review: Never a Hero by Marie Sexton

At First Sight: Owen Meade is shy and lives the life of a recluse, working from home and avoiding interacting with others as much as he can. He's gay, stutters occasionally and has a congenitally amputated arm, and he has a mother who has always made him feel like all of these things are his fault and that he's actively ruining her life.

But then, Nick Reynolds moves to the apartment bellow him and decides he wants to be Owen's friend. Nick is confident and sexy, loves animals - he's a vet - and seems determined to draw Owen out of his shell.

Nick is also very reserved in some aspects, and much as he gives up a vibe of liking Owen and maybe wanting something more with him... he keeps backing away when things start to progress between them. 

Second Glance: Never a Hero is the fifth book in the Tucker Springs series and this was a nice enough read. Both Nick and Owen were kind of hard to like at times though. Owen is VERY shy and insecure and once you meet his mom it totally makes sense why he's like that, but before that it's like "Okay, man up a little here, come on!!!".

And Nick is always sending mixed signals. Once you get t know what happened to him and why he acts like he does, he also makes sense, but at the same time he's a bit of a martyr.

They do, however, seem to bring the best of each other, which was nice. And I actually liked the relationship between Nick and his sister (who has a similar condition to Owen but who doesn't let it stop her) and how he's not blind to how abrasive she can be.

There were some small cameos by other people of the Tucker Springs universe, which was nice too.

Bottom Line: Never a Hero was a good entry to the series, it was a pretty entertaining read and it only took me a couple of hours to read it. I respect the book and the subjects it took on, but I kind of wish everyone would stop turning conveniently gay (if you have read this series you'll probably understand me, if not sorry, I don't try to be confusing), and that we got a story that was not love at first sight because that's what all the stories up to now have basically been. 

Never a hero will be released May 13th, 2013. 
Ps - Review copy provided by the publisher via Net Galley. 

May 3, 2013

Speed Date: Girls Most Likely To by Kate Davies

The Plot: The Girls Most Likely To are connected stories that happen around a high school reunion. The first story, Most Likely to Succeed is about Kelsey Moore who was one voted the girl most likely to succeed but had to give up her scholarship to stay in town and help her mother run the family's flower shop.

And 10 years later she's still in town in the same dead-end job with the reunion looming ahead of her. Not to mention seeing her high school crush - and fellow nerd - Nathan Barrow, who went on to become all the things Kelsey did not.

The second story, Cutest Couple, is about one of Kelsey's best friends, Bree. She was voted cutest couple with her boyfriend Marc. But then they broke up around prom when Bree found out he had joined the army - something that hit Bree pretty bad as her dad was also a soldier who died overseas leaving her and her mother alone.

Ten years later they see each other again... and Marc finds out that all those years go, when he left, Bree was pregnant with their son Ben and due to some misplaced letter, he never found out about it. 

First Date: On Most Likely to Succeed - It's fun, I do wish Kelsey would get over herself already.
On Cutest Couple - Big misunderstanding plot, full steam ahead! 

Second Date: On MLtS - Mmm... yeah, are they ever going to do anything other than have sex?
On CC - Okay, that's the flimsiest excuse ever. Again, wish these people would get over themselves already!! Bree doesn't like the military, that's okay, still not a reason to keep her son from knowing her father. Marc is pissed off... because he joined the military without ever mentioning it to his girlfriend before and she got mad. These are supposed to be grown ups!!

Third Date: On MLts - So... that's the ending. Uh.
On CC - So... that's the end, again. Double Uh. 

Relationship Status: It's no me, it's you. We can still be friends, though.

Here is the thing, Both Cutest Couple and Most Likely to Succeed, the aren't bad stories, in fact they had potential to be really good stories and I liked that they basically take place over the same weekend, BUT they also read someone lifted every interaction of the main couple out of a larger novel and just strung said interactions together.

I hope I'm making sense here, basically, what I mean to say is that these two stories (along with what I guess will be the third one about Kelsey and Bree's remaining best friend Tess) would make a heck of a lot more sense if they were all together as a novel, with proper scenes to link them and move the story forward, rather than in the current format as independent novellas.

They are cute, but they do feel like a series of vignettes more than anything else.  

What's a Book Speed Date, you ask? It's a quickie review--about 150 words or so--of any genre book (variety is the spice of life, after all).

If you want to join in or just read other speed date reviews, check out The Book Swarm