Thursday, February 28, 2013

February RAK Wrap-Up

Book Soulmates For those of you who don't know RAK is a monthly event hosted by Book Soulmates where bloggers can send books, handmade gifts and other bookish things to each other.  It's tons of fun so you should definitely sign up!

This month was pretty great!  I was able to send my copy of Seraphina to Beth over at  Living a Goddess Life.  It's been needing a new home for awhile and I'm glad it finally has one.  I also received a new header for the blog which was made by Mandi over at Dream's Books Discussion.  I haven't been able to put it up yet, but I can't wait.  It's awesome, thanks so much Mandi!

I hope you all had a wonderful February full of bookish goodness as well.  Let me know by linking me to your RAK wrap ups down below and get ready for March everyone!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Review: Also Known As by Robin Benway

Also Known AsAuthor: Robin Benway
Genre:  Contemporary, Action
Pages: 320
Published: February 26th, 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Source:  I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

"Being a 16-year-old safecracker and active-duty daughter of international spies has its moments, good and bad. Pros: Seeing the world one crime-solving adventure at a time. Having parents with super cool jobs. Cons: Never staying in one place long enough to have friends or a boyfriend. But for Maggie Silver, the biggest perk of all has been avoiding high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations.
Then Maggie and her parents are sent to New York for her first solo assignment, and all of that changes. She'll need to attend a private school, avoid the temptation to hack the school's security system, and befriend one aggravatingly cute Jesse Oliver to gain the essential information she needs to crack the case . . . all while trying not to blow her cover."~Goodreads

High school is hard enough all on its own without having a full time job.  Especially if that job happens to be international super spy. I had huge expectations for this book since I'd heard nothing but good things going in.  I'm a big fan of spy movies, particularly spy movies of the "look they could be anyone" variety.  I was not disappointed. With an adorable and quirky cast of characters, an action-packed plot and plenty of suspense Also Known As completely lives up to the hype.  


  • The characters, specifically, all of them:  that's right, every last one.  Each one played their part perfectly.  But lets have some highlights shall we?  First of all, Maggie.  She was so like-able and spunky.  She was 100% committed to her job and family while still acting like a teenager, and a particularly sassy one at that.  She's also amazing at her job.  This is my no means a "Mary-Sue" character.  She's good at what she does and knows it.  That confidence is priceless.  Then we have her new BFF Roux, a neglected Upper East Side teen with some serious flaws and some serious snark.  I just adored Roux.  There is such vulnerability under her sandpaper exterior that you just have to love her.  To round out our main characters there's Jesse Oliver.  A bad boy so terrible at being a delinquent that he can't even steal a book without getting caught.  He's also got some serious "mommy issues" that just make you want to give him a hug.  Mix in some super cool parents and a fabulously well-dressed mentor and the outcome is perfection.
  • The Plot:  I'm always a little worried going into these types of books that they will be too convoluted and complicated for my taste.  Luckily the story was so much fun and the plot zipped along so quickly that if I didn't understand anything, I didn't notice and apparently it didn't hurt the plot.  It had just the right mix of depth and fun to really get me excited.
  • The writing style:  I always love a book where I can picture everything that's going on as if it were happening in front of me.  Benway's writing style is so natural that it was easy to get into the story and the characters were made incredibly real.  Again, this moved everything along and pulled me deeper into the story.  On top of that there's a ton of humor in this story and it's done in a way that's not cliche or cheesy which is always nice.


  • Some of the decisions Maggie made were questionable:  I'm a realist, even when it comes to unreal situations.  So when Maggie would do or say something dangerous, I found myself thinking:  "Would a spy at her level actually make that mistake?".  There were just some things that she did that would, I would imagine, be considered such rookie mistakes.  An example is talking about how she's a spy...on the public...loudly.  Seriously, isn't that like in the day one training video?
  • More Edge:  I would have liked to see a little more edge from certain characters.  Particularly Roux.  She had the potential to be a much bigger dramatic device than she was and it would have been cool to see more of her edge.
Luckily the negatives didn't really impact the story too much so I was still able to really get into it.  I absolutely loved this book and would recommend it if you're looking for some fun, light-hearted action with lots of humor.

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Monday, February 25, 2013

Dust Off Those Classics: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

I Capture the CastleAuthor: Dodie Smith
Genre: classic, romance
Pages: 352
Published: 1948
Publisher: Wyatt Books
Rating: 3/5 Stars

"I Capture the Castle tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle. Here she strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries. Her journals candidly chronicle the great changes that take place within the castle's walls, and her own first descent into love. " ~Goodreads

With blurbs from authors like J.K. Rowling and a huge following I was so excited to read  I Capture The Castle.  It promised to be a romance from another time, filled with whimsy and spunk and all that other good stuff they had in the mid-thirties.  There was even an old-castle and a, possibly haunted, tower!  All of the ingredients seemed to be there.  Unfortunately I think I built my expectations up a bit more than I should have.  It wasn't that I hated this book, in fact there were things I really loved about it.  Let's start with those shall we?  First of all I loved the style it was written in.  The story is told through our main character, Cassandra's, journals.  Her genuine and lovable voice lends itself well to the story as she describes her life living in a crumbling old castle with her eccentric family.  Although she has seen years of poverty and neglect thanks to her writer father, she loves her family and enjoys life at the castle.  Cassandra starts out as such an up-beat character.  She sees the good in life and strives to see everyday as a new adventure.  Along with Cassandra, there is an entire cast of lovable, if flawed, characters.  There's her father, who hasn't written a word in 12 years but continues to lock himself away in his office each day, her stepmother (who insists her given name is Topaz and likes to dance naked in the rain), her older sister Rose, who  is the definition of a drama queen and the two new Americans who have moved into the mansion down the road bringing an air of mystery and suspense along with them.  The first half of the book was full of adventure and intrigue with these characters and I ate it up.  I was sure that I would love them forever and that this would be a favorite book.  Then things got messy.

Now, I'm not talking about conflict.  There's plenty of that from the beginning.  Mostly what I'm referring to are the love triangles (yes multiple).  I could have tolerated one, but everyone seemed to be in love with the wrong person and this was the main plot device for the majority of the book.  Not only was it confusing, it was frustrating as hell. Everyone was going around being as selfish and stupid as possible with no concern for anyone or anything else and I just sat there wanting to throw the book at my wall.  By the time I got to the ending I was so exhausted and upset that I didn't even really care what happened.  No, that's not true, I did still care, but then Dodie Smith had to go and make sure that no one  ended up where I wanted them too.  I realize that Ms. Smith didn't do this as a personal affront to me, but it sure felt that way.  I won't say that I hated this book, because I didn't.  I could have even loved it if it weren't for so much nonsense in the middle.  I could have dealt with the ending too, but I was so worn out that all I felt was frustration.  So I'm giving this one three stars because the setting, characters and the beginning were all great.  It just didn't quite live up to my expectations.

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Blog Tour: Me Him Them and It Review and Interview

Me, Him, Them, and ItAuthor: Caela Carter
Genre:  Contemporary
Pages: 320
Published: February 26th, 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury 
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Source:  I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
"ME is Evelyn Jones, 16, a valedictorian hopeful who's been playing bad girl to piss off THEM, her cold, distant parents. HIM is Todd, Evelyn's secret un-boyfriend, who she thought she was just using for sex - until she accidentally fell in love with him. But before Evelyn gets a chance to tell Todd how she feels, something much more important comes up. IT. IT is a fetus. Evelyn is pregnant - and when Todd turns his back on her, Evelyn has no idea who to turn to. Can a cheating father, a stiff, cold mother, a pissed-off BFF, and a (thankfully!) loving aunt with adopted girls of her own help Evelyn make the heart-wrenching decisions that follow?"~Goodreads

 I've got something really special for all of you today.  I'm so happy to be a part of the official blog tour for Caela Carter's new teen contemporary Me, Him, Them and It. This awesome debut deals with teen pregnancy in an honest, responsible and incredibly poignant way and I'm pleased to have an interview with Caela, herself, about her new book.

1. There is such a genuine voice to this book. It is very easy to believe that we are inside the head of a scared, lost teenage mother. What was your research and preparation like for this kind of story and this character in particular?

I’m so glad you enjoyed the voice! But I’m a bit worried I won’t be able to answer this question too well. I did a lot of research about pregnancy. With all of the blogs I was following and “what to expect” books I was ordering, I’m pretty sure my computer thought I was pregnant! But I’m not sure I actually researched the character of Evelyn. I’ve spent most of my adult life (and obviously my teenaged life) around teenagers and I find them endlessly fascinating and wonderful, even when they’re angry, sullen and lost, like my MC. And, in the past, when I was teaching and working with real-live teens, I’ve done a lot of reading and studying of developmental psychology to understand how they tick. I think all of that went into my creation of Evelyn, like, subconsciously. But, I honestly don’t remember where she came from. Once she was in my brain, she was just there. 

2. What made you choose to write about teen pregnancy?

Jeez, again, I just don’t know. I think one of the things that fascinates me most about teenagers is that they are so close to adulthood and so close to childhood they they are able to dance back and forth between the two worlds. The way I remember my own teenaged years, sometimes my maturity level felt like a choice and it was kind of incredible that I could choose to engage in the most intelligent conversations at the dinner table, or to silently excuse myself and read my Seventeen magazine. Other time, that fluctuating maturity level was so limiting and frustrating when my parents or my body or my friends were insisting that I act either older or younger than I was feeling at the moment. I have spent time with pregnant teenagers and with teenaged mothers and with women who were pregnant as teenagers, and I think it is this aspect that fascinated me. The pregnancy completely changes everything about the teen’s own fluctuating maturity. So, when I reflect back, I think maybe that’s why it came to me. But, and I hope this is something that your readers can understand, when Evelyn got pregnant, I didn’t actually think too much about it. It kind of just happened. At that point, I was drafting the novel in the tiny, claustrophobic Manhattan bedroom I had just moved into, and it was only me and Evelyn who were involved. I made choices for the book, like that the MC would be pregnant, without ever thinking anyone else would ever read about them and wonder. So, it does probably say something about my psyche or interests or something that what I ended up writing was about pregnancy. But I have no idea what it says because at the time, it didn’t really feel like a choice. It just kinda happened.  

3. Without going into any detail, I'll just say that the ending was not what I was expecting. Did you know from the beginning how the book would end, or did you have several options that you played with?

I did. The ending was about the only thing I knew (which is maybe not that surprising considering this is the only question I’ve answered without saying “I don’t know” A lot of the things Evelyn does and says and reacts to surprised me in the drafting, but I always knew the ending. What’s funny is that when my writerly friends first started reading my draft, I was worried the ending would be predictable! 

4. In a world of Sixteen and Pregnant how do you think the way teen mothers are looked at has changed over the last several years, or has it?

Hm. Sorry to say this again, but to be honest, I really don’t know. I do hear a lot that pregnancy is a “current issue” or something of that sort, and I don’t really think that’s true. It’s more of an eternal issue. For as long as there have been teenagers, there have been pregnant teenagers. And for as long as there have been pregnant teenagers, there have been confused, pregnant teenagers. I think Sixteen and Pregnant and other such docu-series have put a face on the issue and turned it from abstract to real for many people, and I think that’s a good thing. I appreciate that those girls are willing to put their real stories out into the world and I think that’s very brave. (I’m terrified at putting an entirely fictional story out there!) I give them a lot of credit. But I’m not sure that the show and the fact that the general population is now more aware of teen pregnancy actually changes the reality of it that has been around for generations. 

5. What do you think are the most important issues facing teens today?

Oy vey! I don’t know that either. I don’t know that there even is a universal answer to that. For the teens I worked with in Chicago, the biggest issue was probably gangs and street violence, but there are obviously many teens (like Evelyn) who never even have to think about those things. So, I’m not sure there is one all-encompassing answer to this question. But, I do think it’s kinda cool when we can stop to consider the question of issues that don’t directly effect us. So I like to think that we as a community are all responsible for the issues that effect others. So, in that case, every issue is a big one for teenagers and for people of all ages. I’m totally failing at the question. I probably should have just stopped at “I don’t know.” But, that’s what I think. 

6. What has the response been from young women who have gone through the struggle of teen motherhood?

I honestly only know of one person who was a teen mom and who has read the book, and I’m proud to say that she liked it! But I suppose I’ll have to wait for that general reaction. However, I’ll take the opportunity to send a little love out into the universe to all pregnant teens and all women who were pregnant teens, whether they enjoy the book or not. It was not an easy thing to write about, but I’m aware that it’s at least a million more times difficult to live and deal with and I think those who are facing the choices Evelyn did need as much love and support as we can give them. So: hugs! 

7. What do you most want readers to take away from Me, Him, Them and It?

Boy, Catie, you’re really putting me through the ringer! This is another tough one! Again, I guess I’d like to emphasize that I wrote it in the solitude of my own head and my own bedroom. When I was writing, it was utterly private. (Even though the actual content has nothing to do with my life, ha!). So I wasn’t actually writing it for anything. I’m thrilled beyond believe that it’s getting published, but I’m also very aware that whatever a reader gets from the book belongs entirely to the reader. 

8. What do you want to write about next?

Next! I’m working on another project for Bloomsbury that I’m really excited about. I don’t want to say too much, but it involves friendship and family and romance and it does NOT involve pregnancy :-) And more abstractly, I’m endlessly fascinated and charmed by the many, many ways to define family and the many, many ways our personal definition makes us who we are. I think that’s something I’ll always be exploring as I write.

This was so much fun! Thanks for having me, Catie! 

Thank you again for being with us today Caela and congratulations on your debut!  And, by the way, I think your answers were great!

And now onto the review portion of our program,  To put it in simple terms, I loved this book.  I'm always iffy about issues books because they can tend to be angsty and seem to either err on the side of irresponsibility or sound like they've been written by some know-it-all adult who doesn't really remember what it's like to be sixteen.  Me, Him, Them and It doesn't have any of these problems.  Evelyn's life isn't perfect to begin with.  Her parents' marriage is a a sham, the guy she's in love with doesn't want anyone to know about them and she's acting out to get attention.  We begin our story after she finds out she is pregnant and follow her throughout the pregnancy.  Evelyn is an enormously real character and the reader feels all of her ups and downs.  I found myself wanting her to be okay so badly that I had to remind myself she was fictional.  She is a lost little girl with a very grown up problem and very grown up decisions to make.  The story-telling was very realistic and the way that Evelyn reacted to each situation was entirely believable.  More than that, the story was not preachy or biased in any way.  This is not a political book, it is merely the story of a girl living with the consequences of some life-altering decisions.

The most amazing thing about this book for me was the emotion.  I didn't feel like it was sappy in the least, but I found myself sobbing on more than one occasion.  I knew going into it that this would probably be an emotional read but I was not prepared for how connected I felt to the characters and how much the story affected me.  By the middle of the book I was flying through the pages.  I needed to know how this all ended!  And that's the crazy part, the ending took me completely by surprise.  In fact, there were many parts of the story that came out of left field, in a good way.  I love a book that I am surprised by.  If you're looking for a quick read with lots of heart and amazing characters, you must pick this one up.  You won't be disappointed!

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

YA Paranormal Giveaway Hop!

I am a huge fan of paranormal everything - books, movies, T.V. - sign me up!  So I had to take part in this hop.  This one is hosted by Kathy at I Am A Reader Not A Writer and YA Between the Lines and features all things paranormal.  So what can you win?  A $15 paranormal book of your choice from The Book Depository.  That's right, this is an INTERNATIONAL giveaway!  I know my last few have been US only and I feel bad, so this one is for everyone (as long as TBD ships to you).  So sign up on the rafflecopter below and make sure you check out all of the other great blogs on this hop!

Must be at least 18 (13 with a parent's permission)
TBD must ship to you
Winner will have 48 Hours to claim prize or another winner will be chosen

Monday, February 18, 2013

Review: Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey

Cold Kiss (Cold Kiss, #1)Author: Amy Garvey
Genre: Paranormal
Pages: 292
Published: September 20th, 2011
Publisher: Harper Teen
Rating: 2/5 Stars
"It was a beautiful, warm summer day, the day Danny died.
Suddenly Wren was alone and shattered. In a heartbroken fury, armed with dark incantations and a secret power, Wren decides that what she wants--what she "must" do--is to bring Danny back.
But the Danny who returns is just a shell of the boy Wren fell in love with. His touch is icy; his skin, smooth and stiff as marble; his chest, cruelly silent when Wren rests her head against it.
Wren must keep Danny a secret, hiding him away, visiting him at night, while her life slowly unravels around her. Then Gabriel DeMarnes transfers to her school, and Wren realizes that somehow, inexplicably, he can sense the powers that lie within her--and that he knows what she has done. And now Gabriel wants to help make things right.
But Wren alone has to undo what she has wrought--even if it means breaking her heart all over again.

I got Cold Kiss last year as an Amazon freebie.  I'd heard great things about it and the sequel was coming out so I thought I'd give it a shot.  The only thing I really knew about the plot at the time was that it involved a girl raising her boyfriend from the dead.  I expected it to be a fun, if sort of cheesy, read.  Unfortunately I found that instead of fun, it was kind of gross and more than a little disturbing.  That's all fine and good if that's what the author is going for, but I feel like this one just missed the mark.


  • Exploding squirrels, geriatric cats and other things that make me giggle:  There were some things in the story that gave it personality and humor.  Wren has magical powers that she doesn't know how to control and this can cause some major outbursts when she gets freaked out.  This includes the downfall of a particularly unlucky squirrel who happens to be in the line of fire.  This sort of dark humor mixed with real-life everyday problems like a pet cat who seems to suffer from feline dementia could have been used to really give the story some much-needed levity.  Unfortunately these were few and far between and it just wasn't enough to take my mind off of the ick-factor of the book.
  • There is some heart to the story:  even though this wasn't my favorite story, there were times where I was drawn into Wren and Danny's plight.  There were some scenes that were very emotional and really touched on grief, loss and sacrifice.  


  • Gross:  By this point in my reading life, I've read and loved plenty of love stories about the undead.  Of course usually they are vampires or at least they don't look like/smell like zombies.  This allows me to ignore the fact that our hero should be rotting away in a box somewhere.  Unfortunately there were too many scenes where Wren and Danny were kissing and Wren kept talking about how cold he was and how he smelled like dirt and dead leaves (or, you know, a graveyard).  In the meantime, Danny keeps wanting to go farther and farther and I couldn't help but be grossed out.
  • Gabriel or The Guy With The Worst Timing Ever:  seriously dude, this girl's dead boyfriend is living in the garage and you're going in for the kiss?  So, not the time.  I just do not understand why we needed an undead love triangle.  It didn't add much to the story and frankly I would be pissed if some guy kept hitting on me after he found out about my zombie slave boyfriend.  Timing is everything guys.
  • I just didn't care about the characters:  They all seemed pretty foolish to me.  Wren and Gabriel for the reasons mentioned above and Danny because, well, he's dead.  He only ever thinks about Wren and is either lost without her or physically attacking the guy who's trying to be her new boyfriend (which to be fair is pretty understandable).  
Overall, I just didn't care for this one.  It wasn't terrible, but it just wasn't for me.  The writing style is nice and the concept had some promise, but I don't think I'll be checking out the next one.

Let me know if you've read Cold Kiss and what you thought down below!

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Stacking The Shelves (15)

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by the amazing Tynga @Tynga's Reviews


Lost in a Good Book (Thursday Next, #2) The Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next #3) Something Rotten (Thursday Next, #4) 'Tis

The Thirteenth Tale Post-it Note Diaries: 20 Stories of Youthful Abandon, Embarrassing Mishaps, and Everyday Adventure Vampire Academy: The Graphic Novel (Vampire Academy: The Graphic Novel, #1) Who Could That Be At This Hour? (All The Wrong Questions, #1)
Wicked Lovely (Wicked Lovely, #1) Radiant Shadows (Wicked Lovely, #4) Darkest Mercy (Wicked Lovely, #5) The Ghosts of Kerfol
Mothership (Ever-Expanding Universe, #1) Article 5 (Article 5, #1) The Prince of Mist (Niebla, #1)