Forget You

Forget You
Jennifer Echols
MTVBooks, 2010

This is the second Jennifer Echols novel I've read, and I can definitely say I'm a fan. Just like she did with Love Story, Echols created characters who are real, who breathe - and curse - just like the students I encounter every day. She takes these characters and throws them into the middle of a story that's believable - in Forget You, it's a handful of dysfunctional families and the escape/coping that high schoolers turn to. I stayed up way too late reading this one, but that's okay!

Zoey excels at keeping it all together, at maintaining the appearance of perfection. Until the day she comes home to find her mother half-dead, her father exploding in the ER waiting room, and one very rash decision at a beach party. All that week, Zoey struggles to maintain the facade, but after a wreck on the way home from the post-football game beach party, she remembers nothing. Not the wreck, not the events leading up to it. She remembers nothing except her stand-off with Doug at the game. Doug - with his mysterious past and sarcasm, not to mention those beautiful sea-colored eyes. And Doug knows something about the wreck that broke his leg and stole Zoey's memory, but he's not telling.

This is a quick novel, it doesn't cover a long expanse of time. But it's intense. Zoey and Doug, have some heavy issues they're dealing with individually and together. At first, I really wanted to grab Zoey by the shoulders, shake her 'til her teeth rattled, and then curl up with some chocolate and tissues for a "big sister heart-to-heart" - her decisions and reactions made my heart ache a little, because I know so many of them really are happening. But she works through it, and she works through the junk, and she's surrounded by unexpected supporters - like Doug, who genuinely wants her to be "okay." I loved the characters in this, I feel like they're what made the story. And there was just enough tension, enough mystery, to keep me guessing. I had no clue where Echols was leading me, but I loved the journey. And the ending? Oh yeah. It's great.

Book provided by author for review.


The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio Races
Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic, 2011

Oh. My. Word. I'm not even sure how to start...I tried explaining this to a friend, as I was reading, and couldn't find the words then. I'm hoping I can do better now. I'd seen blog chatter about this one, but didn't think anything of it. The title didn't call to me, and for whatever reason, it never 'clicked' that there was a girl on a horse on the cover. Then I actually saw a blog feature talking about the relationship between Puck Connolly and Sean Kendrick, and it registered that not only would this be a good story, but it had mythic horse creatures. Thankfully my library was able to provide a copy, and I began reading. And what an adventure...

Thisby is a tiny little island in the middle of somewhere. (My brain pictured it near Australia). Thisby is special, because every fall, water horses come out of the sea and men risk life and limb (literally) to capture the killer horses, control them, and race them on November 1st. The winner receives glory, honor, and a cash prize. For Sean Kendrick, winning this year means more. If Sean wins, he can buy Cor, his massive red stallion, from Ben Malvern for keeps. And he could easily win his fifth straight Scorpio Race, but something's making him rethink things. That something is Puck Connolly, and her (normal) mare Dove. Puck is racing for her home, a desperate attempt to keep her brothers with her and be able to pay off the mortgage Ben Malvern holds on their house. (Notice a common theme here? Malvern's an interesting character). Puck and Sean find themselves drawn to each other with much the same magnetic pull of the water horses.

The story, told in alternating viewpoints by Sean and Puck, is engrossing. It's foreign, but so familiar. I loved watching Puck 'grow up' during the month or so the novel covers, and Sean didn't grow up so much as discover himself. Their individual journeys make their shared moments that much richer, meaningful. I absolutely loved this, and wish there were more. But at the same time, it all ended just right, which is the best thing possible in a book.

Book provided by my local library.


The Merchant's Daughter

The Merchant's Daughter
Melanie Dickerson
Zondervan, 2011

I loved Melanie Dickerson's first fairy tale retelling, The Healer's Apprentice, so when I found out the second would be a 'Beauty & the Beast' retelling? Oh yeah, jumped all over that. As she did with Healer's Apprentice, Dickerson took the familiar story and shifted it, changing it subtly to make a rich, new story that kept me reading hungrily.

Annabel's father was a wealthy merchant, who lost everything - including his life. His family, unused to working, simply didn't, even though there was no way to pay the "nonworking fee" to the often-absent Lord. When new Lord Ranulf decides to move to the village to make his home there, Annabel's family faces either a hefty fine or three-years of indentured labor by one member of the family. Seeing a chance to help her family, while also escaping the very unwelcome advances of Bailiff Tom, Annabel goes to the Manor House and offers herself and her services. And so begins the heart of the story.

Lord Ranulf is a man of mystery with a dark past and quick-fire temper - though also a surprising tendency towards heroism. Annabel is a girl whose dearest wish is to escape to a convent and become a nun - where she can read the Word of God for herself. The villagers are (in general) skeptical, judgmental and superstitious, their priest's weekly sermons filled with condemnation and warnings against the evil seductions of women. Bailiff Tom is a skeeze holding a deep grudge against Annabel for refusing to marry him, and Annabel's brothers are equally as detestable. It's an interesting, colorful cast of characters and by trick of the narration we get to see both Lord Ranulf and Annabel's thoughts - thus watching as they both struggle to understand the other, and what is going on around them.

I really, really, really enjoyed The Merchant's Daughter. I felt the historical context to be very fitting, and Annabel's struggles to understand herself and her interactions with the community - especially Lord Ranulf - make a lot of sense when viewed within that context. Every week she is told by the church that she, as a woman, is evil and a stumbling block to man. Women are disdained (although their labor is certainly very welcome!), yet once Annabel does gain access to the Scriptures, and reads them for herself - she discovers there's more to life. And more to God. Her journey is one of both spiritual and emotional development, and when her moment comes at last, I cheered for her. Lord Ranulf has a compelling story of his own, and watching them grow together? Yup, everything this Beauty and the Beast-loving girl could ask for.

eBook provided by my personal library.


Blog Tour: Top 12 List with Elizabeth Marx

Welcome to today's special post in the All's Fair in Vanities War blog tour, hosted by the wonderful Missy of Missy's Reads & Reviews! If you haven't seen all the other stops, click the banner above to visit "home base" and see what all is available. Also, did you catch my review of All's Fair last Wednesday?

Okay, introductory business aside, let's get to the fun stuff! I asked Elizabeth to do a "Top 10 List" for today's post, and she actually did a Top 12! And it's super cool too, but I'll let her explain it in her own words. Keep writing after the list, because there's information about two giveaways you may be interested in. If, you know, you like to win things.

Elizabeth: You know they say a picture is worth a thousand words, here’s how I imagined the characters in All’s Fair in Vanities War. How do they compare to your imaginings?
1. The Seer
2. Keleigh
3. Locke
4. Madi
5. Wiz
6. Lynx
7. Ciara
8. Liashee
9. Banshee
10. Tristan
11. Boudicca
12. Cernunnos

Giveaway #1:
Elizabeth has graciously offered to give away 2 ebooks of All's Fair in Vanities War at each blog tour stop. She also sent me some snazzy bookmarks to give away. To make things super easy, and so I have a way to contact you, fill out the Rafflecopter form below.


Blog Tour: All's Fair in Vanities War

All's Fair in Vanities War
Elizabeth Marx

When Missy put out a request for blog tour hosts, this one sounded interesting to me, so I 'applied' for a spot. I knew it'd be a little different of a read than normal for me, but I wasn't entirely sure what I'd find. What I discovered, upon reading, was a story that was, indeed, unlike anything I've read before - and also very intense. This is certainly an emotionally-driven story.

We see most of the action through the eyes of The Seer - a normal, human girl who was killed on Halloween night and 'reborn' as a Seer. Her new job is to watch and protect, but she's not sure who. Thinking it's her still-living boyfriend, Locke, the Seer is drawn to his family, where she watches from the safety of invisibility. Soon though, things start going awry - the people she thought she knew, even those opinions formed in her Seer-hood, are not quite as they seem. The dark secrets of Salem are being revealed, and in the process all hell is breaking loose for our 'human' characters - particularly Locke and his cousin (and love interest?) Keleigh, as well as their friends Wiz and Madi (who also happens to be the only person who can see and hear the Seer).

In case you haven't figured it out yet, Locke and Keleigh are not your average American teenagers. They are part of an ancient Order - for generations, their people have had powers and the ability to contact things and beings that live only in myth. Even trying to ignore and deny this 'inheritance' is impossible, as Keleigh discovers through a series of painful lessons. And so, in order to keep themselves safe - as well as help maintain a sense of balance and order - the young people join unlikely forces and begin researching legends and chasing down clues. The result? Well, it's impressive. It's otherworldly. But it's not over yet. While All's Fair in Vanities War isn't a huge cliff-hanger, you can definitely tell there's more to the story and this is just the beginning of a much broader story.

As I said, this was totally different from what I normally read. It's a lot darker, for one, which was a little weird for me. The characters are compelling though, and the tension and chemistry between Locke and Keleigh was my favorite part. (Although the Seer's sometimes snarky commentary was pretty good too! Oh, and Wiz! I loved Wiz!) Most of the story is told from the Seer's point of view, but sometimes the narration seemed to jump in focus, which was a little confusing. By 'reading through it,' I quickly figured out what was going on/who was speaking, but the initial shifts were a little "huh?". I think this is one of those stories that people will either love or hate, depending on what they're used to.

Digital copy provided by author for review.

Be sure to come by Tuesday, to see Elizabeth's Top 12 list featuring the characters. You will not want to miss this! Also, there'll be a giveaway...


First Date

First Date
Krista McGee
Thomas Nelson, 2012

This one looked too cute to pass up, and I was very happy to snag it from BookSneeze (you have no idea how hard it is to get fiction!). Once I had the book in-hand, I knew it was going to be a fun read. The premise: 100 high school girls, from across the nation, are brought to a Tennessee mansion to 'compete' for the honor of being the President's son's prom date. With the whole thing being taped for reality tv. See? Entirely too much fun! It gets better though, trust me.

Addy never wanted the spotlight. When her principal told her she'd be representing their small, Christian school on "The Book of Love" (the reality show's name), she developed an instant bad attitude. A 'tude that continued through her first weeks on the show - winning her surprising publicity and support, but also earning a few enemies. As the days and weeks pass, Addy continues to "win" - she stays on the show, despite all attempts to make her look foolish, bratty, unpolished, and just plain unworthy. Her attitude also begins to change, as God works on her heart and shows her that she is there for a reason. Beginning to relax and make a few friends, including one of the assistant producers-slash-undercover Secret Service Agents, Addy finds herself drawn more and more to Jonathon - the President's son, and object of all the girls' desire. But is it real, or just another trick of so-called reality tv?

First Date was a lot of fun to read. Addy is a character I could relate to easily, even with the 10ish year difference in our ages, and Jonathon was quite the charming hero-figure-slash-potential love interest. The 'supporting cast' is colorful and adds a lot of texture to the story. Another thing that I really enjoyed is the shadowing of Queen Esther's story - while it's not an exact retelling, elements of Addy's in First Date are strongly reminiscent of the Biblical queen. Esther is one of my favorites, so it was really neat to see the story in a modern light. In short, First Date was an excellent first book (of 2012) to read!

Book provided by publisher for review.


2011 Challenge Wrap-up

Okay, I thought I'd do one nice post to wrap up my 2011 challenges...And I'll 'fess up: I did not finish one of them. Eek!

The Sense & Sensibility Bicentennial Challenge
Goal: Read/watch 5-8 selections
Status: Complete!
Reviewed Selections:

Historical Fiction Challenge
Goal: Read 20 historical fiction works
Status: So very close, but not complete (16)
Reviewed Selections:

2011 YA Contemporary Challenge
Goal: 13 contemporary YA novels, published in 2011
Status: Complete!
Reviewed Selections:

This was my first time doing year-long reading challenges, and I thoroughly enjoyed the 'guides' for reading. Obviously, since I've signed up for 5 challenges for 2012. Care to join me? Click the 2012 Challenges tab above and check 'em out!

What challenges did you participate in during 2011? Did you complete them? If not, do you feel bad about it? (I don't, just curious).

Stay tuned...My "Best of 2011" post and some vague plans and goals for 2012 are coming soon!


Fairy Tale Challenge!

Okay, so I already did a challenge post for my 2012 challenges - but I just saw this one, and there's no way I can pass this up! So, without further ado, let me explain the 2012 Fairy Tale Challenge!

Hosted by Tif Talks Books, the 2012 Fairy Tale Challenge lets you pick between four different levels, and then it's pretty wide-open as to selection of fairy tales and/or forms (graphic novels and movies count!).

After perusing the four levels, I've decided I'm going to compete at Happily Ever After (Level 4). This means I will be reading/watching a combination of original/modern fairy tales and movies resulting in a total of 12 fairy tale selections.

I think this will be a lot of fun, and since I love to read (& watch!) fairy tales anyway, this will be a neat way to make sure I'm getting a "well-rounded" fairy tale experience this year.


2011: A Year's Reading

Here's the breakdown of books read by month, with links to their reviews. After the monthly list, there are a few categories that were not included in the book/page count (picture books, ebooks, etc.) And, in a happy coincidence, my completed books and posted reviews happen to both neatly match up: every book I read (except one) has had its review posted this year! No waiting for updated post listing!

I must say, I have impressed myself. Not only did I read an amazing amount, but I managed to review just about everything!

Come back in a few days for a post spotlighting my favorite reads of 2011, a more detailed reflection of the year's reading and events, and - of course - my thoughts and goals heading into 2012!

- Love on a Dime: Cara Lynn James (310)
- Ever: Gail Carson Levine (244)
- The Queen's Daughter: Susan Coventry (373)
- Across the Universe: Beth Revis (398)
- Dash and Lily's Book of Dares: Rachel Cohn & David Levithan (260)

- The Book of Tomorrow: Cecelia Ahern (310)
- Anna and the French Kiss: Stephanie Perkins (372)
- The Last Polar Bears: Harry Horse (104)
- Rose Daughter: Robin McKinley (292)

- Beastly: Alex Flinn (304)
- Prisoners in the Palace: Michaela MacColl (362)
- Dreaming in English: Laura Fitzgerald (420)
- It Can't be Done, Nellie Bly!: Nancy Butcher (93)
- Hearts Aglow: Tracie Peterson (348)
- The Jane Austen Handbook: Margaret C Sullivan (224)
- The Grimm Legacy: Polly Shulman (325)
- Scribbling Women: Marthe Jocelyn (173 (+ notes, not counted in this total))

- The Bride's Farewell: Meg Rosoff (214)
- The Lonely Hearts Club: Elizabeth Eulberg (285)
- Goodnight, Tweetheart: Teresa Medeiros (222)
- The Healer's Apprentice: Melanie Dickerson (261)
- Princess of Glass: Jessica Day George (257)
- So Much Closer: Susanne Colasanti (241)
- Attachments: Rainbow Rowell (323)

- This Girl is Different: JJ Johnson (315)
- Mermaid: Carolyn Turgeon (240)
- Wings: Karl Friedrich (291)
- What Happened to Goodbye: Sarah Dessen (402)
- Moonglass: Jessi Kirby (232)

- A Jane Austen Education: William Deresiewicz (255)
- Galileo: Mitch Stokes (213)
- Spindle's End: Robin McKinley (422)
- Through My Eyes: Tim Tebow (260)

- The Luckless Prince: Rie Sheridan Rose (305)
- Entwined: Heather Dixon (472)
- The Little Women Letters: Gabrielle Donnelly (358)
- Folly Beach: Dorothea Benton Frank (354)
- The Seventh Blessing: Melissa Buell (271)

- Sense & Sensibility: Jane Austen (309)
- Under a Fairy Moon: TM Wallace (212)
- Freedom's Stand: JM Windle (428)
- Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: Ann Brashares (294)
- The Tree That Owns Itself: Loretta J Hammer & Gail L Karwoski (149)
- Second Summer of the Sisterhood: Ann Brashares (373)
- Girls in Pants: Ann Brashares (338)
- Forever in Blue: Ann Brashares (384)
- Sisterhood Everlasting: Ann Brashares (349)
- The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland: Catherynne M. Valente (247)
- we'll always have summer: Jenny Han (291)
- The Penderwicks at Point Mouette: Jeanne Birdsall (295)

- Waterfall: Lisa T Bergren (369)
- The Gutenberg Rubric: Nathan Everett (245)
- The Road to Pemberley: ed. Marsha Altman (485)
- Eleanor's Story: Eleanor Ramrath Garner (263)
- Love Story: Jennifer Echols (243)
- Reaching Riverdale: Geeta Schrayter (271)
- Cascade: Lisa T Bergren (399)
- Torrent: Lisa T Bergren (388)
- Single Girl's To-Do List: Lindsey Kelk (335)
- Reason & Romance: Debra White Smith (316)
- The Cheshire Cheese Cat: Carmen Agra Deedy (229)

- Wonderstruck: Brian Selznick (634)
- A Modern Day Persuasion: Kaitlin Saunders (251)
- Northanger Abbey: Jane Austen (236)
- Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Laurel Ann Nattress, ed (432)
- Prom & Prejudice: Elizabeth Eulberg (227)
- Six: Marc Rasmussen (140)

- Yankee Doodle Dixie: Lisa Patton (290)
- Race to Splendor: Ciji Ware (519)
- Tuesdays at the Castle: Jessica Day George (225)
- The A Circuit: Georgina Bloomberg (250)

- The Other Countess: Eve Edwards (335)
- The Day Before: Lisa Schroeder (307)
- J.R.R. Tolkien: Mark Horne (144)
- Love, Inc.: Yvonne Collins (409)
- Wander Dust: Michelle Warren (375)
- Bunheads: Sophie Flack (294)
- My Life Undecided: Jessica Brody (296)

Picture Books
- Polar Star
- About Habitats: Grasslands
- A Place for Fish
- Planting the Wild Garden
- The Gold Miner's Daughter
- East of the Sun, West of the Moon
- The Lion's Deceit
- The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians
- Railroad John and the Red Rock Run 

Poetry Collections/E-books/Misc.
- At the Sea Floor Cafe
- Why Jane Austen?
- Crafting with Cat Hair
- A Shore Too Far
- Caroline Bingley
- Double Clutch
- His Good Opinion 

- Love on Assignment
- Summer Rental
- Eliza's Daughter