Feb 28, 2014

Review: Viola Doyle or an Unconventional Gift by Amy Lynn Spitzley

Riding her bicycle at a speed no proper young woman would attempt, letting her hair fly free, conversing with statues of long-dead heroines—these are all par for the course for Viola Doyle, much to her mother's chagrin.

Keeping her newfound magical pin safe from those who would use it to unsavory ends and dealing with a handsome young historian takes quite a bit more effort.

And then, of course, there is the dragon...

To save herself and those she loves, it is up to Viola to become her own heroine, or suffer a terrible fate...

Thank you to Curiosity Quills for providing me a copy to review in my honest opinion. 

Viola Doyle or an Unconventional Gift was an easy, cute read. This is a book I would have loved as a young teenager, what with rebellious girls, magical objects, dragons, and a geeky love interest.

Viola, the main character, is strong and stubborn in her beliefs (as any young lady should be) and refuses to conform to the stuffy behaviors that society demands of her. I really liked Viola, and I think she sets a good example for young readers.

The romantic interest in this book is sweet and innocent even if it is predictable. What I liked about it was that Viola, while her feelings for Mikhail grow stronger every time she sees him, won't compromise who she is or what she believes to be right for this new love.

I say the romance was predictable, but the truth is, a lot about this book was predictable. I knew who the villain was the moment he was introduced, who the love interest would be, and ultimately how things would play out. I don't mind predictability, but I would say that this aspect of the novel is what reminds me of something I would have read when I was a preteen. 

Probably the only bit that bothered me about this book was the way the climax played out. It happened very quickly and felt rushed. Not only that, but I had a hard time believing all that craziness would play out so smoothly. This is the only part of the novel where I had a problem with the predictability. 

The writing style flows and makes reading effortless. The characters are likable and well-developed. The story itself is interesting and brings you to the point that you want to dive a little deeper into the history behind the mythology. 

This is a really cute novel with a lot of history, adventure, and mystery. I can't describe it as mind-blowing or the like, but it is a nice, easy, fun read. 

3/5 Stars


Feb 22, 2014

My Baby's Library

Now that I'm a mom, I'm constantly worried about how what I'm doing now will affect my little one in the future. His development, motor skills, communication skills, and likes and dislikes. 

Every evening, I make it a point to read to Sully. Sometimes one story, but if he's really focused, I'll read as many as three. He's only three months old, but he loves it! He looks at the pictures and responds to my voice, and sometimes he feels the need to "tell" me his own story. It's really one of the only times of the day in which he'll sit still (unless he's sleeping, of course).

I'm pretty excited that he loves it, because I want to raise a reader. I want him to learn to use his imagination and discover new worlds and enjoy getting lost in a good book as much as I do. 

I'm adding to his library a little at a time, and here's a list of wonderful children's books that I remember as a kid, and hope to add soon!

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Harry Potter (The entire series - he's a little young yet, but he'll get there!) by J.K. Rowling

The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Paul Galdone

The Mitten by Jan Brett

Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne

What children's books do you remember growing up?


Feb 17, 2014

Musing Monday

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…

• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

My Musing:

Right now I'm reading The Hangman's Daughter. It's going rather slowly. First, I was in a car accident and was the only one in the vehicle to achieve a concussion (go me!), so I haven't been able to read much :( (or post anything, as you can tell). And second, the book is... well, it's a little dry. 

I enjoy the historical and completely human aspect of this book - how people would go into hysteria over things that they couldn't explain or solve. Science and forensics weren't exactly top of their game back then, so people had to find a way to channel their fear. "Let's just blame the easiest target, call her witch, burn her, and be done with it! Case closed!"

It seems pretty ridiculous to us today, but in a time when science was basically considered blasphemous to most, witchcraft and associations with the devil were more logical.

So while it's interesting to see things from a totally different perspective and a different time, what bothers me about this book is the lack of emotion. It's completely dry. Children are dying or in danger; a seemingly innocent women is being called to the stake; a hangman deals with the baggage that comes with torturing and taking lives. This is all pretty heavy stuff, but while I understand that, I can't feel any of it. The author doesn't portray these emotions in a way that touches the reader. It's explained and described, but I don't feel the passion, pain, or fear behind the words. 

I'm having a hard time getting into this book. The concept and the story itself is awesome - but without feeling what the characters are feeling, I can compare this experience to reading a history textbook so far. You can gather the information, but you can't relate to how people felt at the time. 

What are your literary musings today?



Feb 8, 2014

Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves - hosted by Tynga's Reviews - allows  us to share the books that we've added to our shelves (physical or virtual) the past week.

Here's my haul:

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch

What's weighing down your shelves this week?


Feb 6, 2014

Review: Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs

Grace just moved to San Francisco and is excited to start over at a new school. The change is full of fresh possibilities, but it’s also a tiny bit scary. It gets scarier when a minotaur walks in the door. And even more shocking when a girl who looks just like her shows up to fight the monster.

Gretchen is tired of monsters pulling her out into the wee hours, especially on a school night, but what can she do? Sending the minotaur back to his bleak home is just another notch on her combat belt. She never expected to run into this girl who could be her double, though.

Greer has her life pretty well put together, thank you very much. But that all tilts sideways when two girls who look eerily like her appear on her doorstep and claim they're triplets, supernatural descendants of some hideous creature from Greek myth, destined to spend their lives hunting monsters.

These three teenage descendants of Medusa, the once-beautiful gorgon maligned by myth, must reunite and embrace their fates in this unique paranormal world where monsters lurk in plain sight.

The cover. The synopsis. The raving reviews. All three came together and made Sweet Venom a book I had to read... and after reading...

I'm sorry, I just don't understand all the hype surrounding this book. I could barely get myself to finish it. A little after the halfway mark, I found myself skimming rather than immersing myself in the story. Not a good sign. But rather than go on an angry rant, let me bullet point it for you.

  • The writing felt stilted. What should have been witty came across as weird, and what should have been serious or potentially romantic came across as cheesy. Everything about it felt forced.

  • I get talking to yourself, but the consistency with which these characters speak, out loud, to themselves makes me wonder if there isn't something seriously wrong with them.

  • The so-called romance was... anything but. The whole insta-love/insta-crush thing is in overkill mode. A few things bugged me, but nothing as much as the fact that Grace was willing to lie about herself in order to win the affections of Milo. That, and the guys acted completely unlike any guy in the history of men. Who immediately holds their friend's little sister's hand? What guy keeps going after a girl who has made it absolutely clear that she's not interested?

        Not any guy I've ever heard of. Just another aspect of this book that felt forced.

  • I love Greek mythology, but no one in their right mind believes it truly exists. So when Grace walks up to Greer (a sister she has never met) and tells her, straight up, that she's a descendent of Medusa, what do you think the response is going to be? That's right. A door slammed in the face. And Grace has the nerve to act surprised. Common sense is seriously lacking.

  • I couldn't stand Grace's character. It's one thing to have insecurities, but she takes it to a whole new level. The word "freak" got pretty redundant, and the fact that she constantly used it to describe herself (or how she thought others might describe her) was beyond annoying. 

I can appreciate how the author was trying to take a well-known Greek myth and make it her own. The concept was interesting, I just can't get on board with the way it was executed.

I saw a lot of great reviews for this book, but, for me, it left a lot to be desired.

1.5/5 Stars.


Feb 5, 2014

Excerpt: Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott

A modern day thrill ride, where a teen girl and her animal companion must participate in a breathtaking race to save her brother's life—and her own.

Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can't determine what's wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She's lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she's helpless to change anything.

Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It's an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother's illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there's no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.

The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can't trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?

In 2013, The Collector was one of my most anticipated reads. Dante Walker rocked my world, and I absolutely adore Victoria Scott for creating him. This year, she's releasing Fire & Flood, and it sounds nothing like Dante's series. It sounds a lot like The Hunger Games meets The Amazing Race. *Intrigued.* I love it when authors surprise us with something completely different than what we know them for. 

Fire & Flood releases on February 25th, a mere three weeks from now and I, for one, am counting down the days. As a little treat, I received this little nugget to share - an excerpt from Victoria Scott's newest release. Enjoy!!

“If you are hearing this message, then you have successfully completed the Pandora Selection Process. It also means you are now at the official starting line.”Around me, Contenders whoop with excitement. Seriously? They’re about to plunge into a wild jungle, and that brings them happiness? Once again, I realize how out of my league I am. I don’t even have a change of clothes, for crying out loud.
“As you may have realized, you are on the outskirts of a rain forest. This will be the jungle part of the course. You will have two weeks to arrive at the jungle’s base camp. You will find this base camp by following the path of blue flags.”Contestants glance around, immediately looking for the first blue flag. As for me, I’m watching the taillights of the semi and having a massive coronary.
“If you are the first to encounter a blue flag, you may remove it, but you may not remove the stake it is attached to. Doing so will result in immediate disqualification.”I wonder why anyone would want to remove the flag to begin with. No one else seems concerned by this.
While the Cure will be awarded to a single winner at the end of the last ecosystem, we will bestow a smaller prize for each leg of the race. The prize for the jungle portion will be monetary.” The woman pauses dramatically. “I’d like to officially welcome you to the Brimstone Bleed. May the bravest Contender win.”
That’s it? That’s all she’s going to say? Because it seriously sounds like she’s wrapping up. So why aren’t I running after the trucks? Why am I not chasing after my only way out of this jungle like my life depends on it? I know the answer — though I wish I didn’t. Cody would do this for me. I am his only hope. I have to believe his cure exists. My only other option is to return home and watch my brother die. If I could even get back home.
I glance around frantically, looking for someone to tell me what to do. The Contenders have formed a long line, the kind you see at the start of a marathon. A few yards down from where I stand — I see him. My throat tightens when I realize his cold blue eyes are locked on me. It’s the guy from the Pandora Selection Process. The serial killer–looking dude who I thought was going to kidney punch me. He glares in my direction like he might take this opportunity to finish what he never started. I raise my hand in a small wave, hoping it says something like: See? Look how friendly I am!
He lifts his own enormous hand. For a moment, I brighten. I think maybe that — even though it looks like he hates every fiber of my being — he’s going to wave back. But he doesn’t. He holds up two fingers — his pointer and his middle — places them under his eyes, and then points in front of us.
Oh no, he didn’t. I think he basically just told me to pay attention. I’m still processing this when the woman’s voice rings in my ear.

Find Victoria Scott via

Pre-Order Fire & Flood


Feb 4, 2014

Review: Making Faces by Amy Harmon

Ambrose Young was beautiful. He was tall and muscular, with hair that touched his shoulders and eyes that burned right through you. The kind of beautiful that graced the covers of romance novels, and Fern Taylor would know. She'd been reading them since she was thirteen. But maybe because he was so beautiful he was never someone Fern thought she could have...until he wasn't beautiful anymore.

Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl's love for a broken boy, and a wounded warrior's love for an unremarkable girl. This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast, where we discover that there is a little beauty and a little beast in all of us.

Wow. Just. Wow. Two days later and I still am having issues finding anything else to say. You know that feeling... You're sad but at the same time you can't help but feel good about your heartbreak? That's Making Faces.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Weaknesses can be strengths and vice versa. Beauty is what you've come to know and not necessarily what's at eye level. 

True beauty, the kind that doesn't fade or wash off, takes time. It takes pressure. It takes incredible endurance. It is the slow drip that makes the stalactite, the shaking of the Earth that creates mountains, the constant pounding of the waves that breaks up the rocks and smooths the rough edges. And from the violence, the furor, the raging of the winds, the roaring of the waters, something better emerges, something that would otherwise never exist.

It's not only the lessons that makes this story, but the characters that are enveloped in those lessons. Bailey Sheen, for example (and my favorite). The kid was handed a shit hand in life, but he is probably the most inspirational character I've had the pleasure of meeting. He suffers from muscular dystrophy, so instead of legs, he has a sense of humor; instead of arms, he has snark; instead of that athletic skill he's always craved, he has brains and a big heart. I absolutely fell in love with Bailey - he saves so many, whether it be their lives or their drive and motivation. If anyone is a hero in this story, it's him. 

"I have no pride left, Ambrose!" Bailey said. "No pride. But it was my pride or my life. I had to choose. So do you. You can have your pride and sit here and make cupcakes and get old and fat and nobody will give a damn after a while. Or you can trade that pride in for a little humility and take your life back."

I could really keep gushing about the heroism that is Bailey Sheen, but I should also mention Ambrose and Fern. Ambrose is lost and is having trouble holding on to who he thought he was. He lost his friends, his good looks, and, truly, his respect for himself. Fern knows exactly who she is but has trouble believing it is at all beautiful and deserving. I wouldn't say she's insecure, just resigned, and it is this acceptance of who she is that makes her unique. 

The romance between these two takes its time, spreading itself out over the course of years, slowly building a history and a solidity that can't be broken. It's real and amazing, and although it may have seemed odd at one time for them to come together, two people could not be more perfect for each other. It is through each other that they find their way, each of them proving the other wrong.

This books takes tragedy and allows us to see the light that rises from the darkness. One of my favorite quotes sums it up nicely:

"Maybe everyone represents a piece of the puzzle. We all fit together to create this experience we call life. None of us can see the part we play or the way it all turns out. Maybe the miracles that we see are just the tip of the iceberg. And maybe we just don't recognize the blessings that come as a result of terrible things."

Everyone is connected in one way or another, and everything we do has an effect, whether we realize it or not. 

I really could go on and on and ramble until you have no idea what I'm talking about. Just read the book. Seriously. 

Amy Harmon is a beast when it comes to writing. The emotions I experienced while reading Making Faces is something I will remember for years to come, and I have no choice but to believe this will be one of my favorite books, not only of this year, but ever. 

Highly recommend!

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

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5/5 Stars