Review: The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

The Dark Divine by Bree Despain
Bree Despain's website here.

Publisher: EgmontUSA (December 22, 2009)
Hardcover: 372 pages
Summary: from {goodreads}
Grace Divine, daughter of the local pastor, always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared--the night she found her brother Jude collapsed on the porch, covered in his own blood--but she has no idea what a truly monstrous secret that night held.
The memories her family has tried to bury resurface when Daniel returns, three years later, and enrolls in Grace and Jude's high school. Despite promising Jude she'll stay away, Grace cannot deny her attraction to Daniel's shocking artistic abilities, his way of getting her to look at the world from new angles, and the strange, hungry glint in his eyes.
The closer Grace gets to Daniel, the more she jeopardizes her life, as her actions stir resentment in Jude and drive him to embrace the ancient evil Daniel unleashed that horrific night. Grace must discover the truth behind the boy's dark secret...and the cure that can save the ones she loves. But she may have to lay down the ultimate sacrifice to do it--her soul.


My Thoughts: (I don't know where to start with this one. I think I’m having a review block, gah.)

The Dark Divine is exactly what it says it is: dark and divine. It had all the aspects that mark a captivating paranormal read: the bad boy, the dark secret, the biting action. Just when I thought I had something figured out – guess again. I literally could not put this book down and almost fell asleep with it in my hands.

Everyone thinks Grace Divine has it all: the hot brother, the perfect family, the image of purity. But no one knows what happened three years ago, when her brother’s best friend and her first crush disappeared – not even Grace. So it comes as a surprise when one day Daniel appears again, looking dangerous, different, and hungry. As Grace tries to assimilate Daniel back into the family and is met by a harsh reaction from Jude, her brother, she finds that they’ve been keeping some secrets of their own, ones that Grace needs to uncover and soon, before more innocent people are killed.

Grace has always lived under the expectations of her mother that she behave well, dress well, and set an example as the pastor’s daughter. So who can blame her when she sees Daniel offering mystery and intrigue and grasps the chance? I could definitely relate to Grace, and I’m sure that many other teenage girls can too. It’s that traditional dynamic of resenting parental control and disobeying – just because it’s different, exciting, and, most importantly, because you can. And the fact that a hot, occasionally half-naked guy is chasing after you probably makes your decisions that much easier. But it’s hard to shake off the weight of promises and upbringing all at once, and Grace constantly struggles between making what she deems the right, dutiful choice and the lure of temptation. Again, that only makes her more relatable because she’s not just some 2-D, once-sided character, but another girl that’s just struggling to get through life.

Grace is also stubborn, controlled, and commanding. She’s not afraid to sacrifice for others, and she does what she needs to, regardless of danger. Definitely a refreshing change from heroines who are either: 1) wait for their love to kiss them and make everything better and 2) too selfish to consider others. The ony possible complaint I have about her is that she says Daniel the one who's hot and cold, but I could probably make the same argument for Grace. Possibly my favorite thing about Grace is that she goes through a reasonable phase when she finds out what Daniel is (no spoilers, but it is a paranormal read). No major OMG freak-out, and Grace skips the denial to the scared, which is 100% reasonable. Did you hear that, Luce?! (For those of you who’ve read Fallen, which I’ll post my review of soon.)

An issue I was wondering about before reading was the numerous references to Christianity and the concept of grace versus damnation. Am I religious? No. Did that make the book any less awesome? No. I’m atheist, and I’m fairly certain that I have only graced the door of a church twice in my life. Despite that, I loved Bree Despain’s seamless blending of redemption into the story, and, actually, that’s what made The Dark Divine stand out from many other paranormal YA books released/being released at this time.

But The Dark Divine does share one very, very important feature: the bad boy. Can I please melt now at Daniel’s feet? He puts up a hard front, but I quickly fell in love with him. It was obvious that he deeply cared for Grace, and he might not be that prince in shining armor, but he was definitely the bad boy you know isn’t good for you but fall in love with anyways. Daniel’s always there to catch Grace when she falls – literally - and he’s constantly putting her and others before himself. And did I mention he’s scorching hot? On the other hand, there's Jude who's the exact opposite of Daniel. Angelic front, but there's that slowly growing dark flame within him. I wish I could have seen more of Jude, and I ended up not having a real standout opinion of him, just that he was okay.

Both of those boys are delicious and all, but what really got me was the ending – the classic wow, packed action ending. It was totally unexpected, though, looking back at what were seemingly unimportant events at the time, the ending made perfect sense. The twists and conflicts were shooting out so fast that I’d barely wrapped my head around one concept when another one would pop out. How many times I have to reread usually reflects how confusing the action was, and I admit I had to reread a small section just to make sure I got it right, but that was it. So while the action was definitely intense, it was still easy to follow and didn’t throw some obscure, mentioned-once character out there. The ending was wrapped up nicely though it left some gaping questions that I want answered NOW that will most likely be answered in the sequel. However, for those of you that have already read the book, I’m still not sure I like how Grace ended up in the end. Hm.

Romance: An emotional roller coaster. Hot but sweet. Daniel was extremely caring towards Grace, and there were definitely ups and downs in their relationship. All's well that ends well.
Cover: 5.0 - Can I say I love, love, love this cover?! The colors are even more vibrant and gorgeous in person.
Writing: 4.0 
Characters: 4.5
Plot: 5.0

Bottom Line: The Dark Divine was a gripping, dark debut by Bree Despain, and I would definitely recommend it to all fans of the paranormal. The plot was intricate, the romance was complicated, the characters were unique, and the action was intense. Bree Despain is definitely a great addition to the world of YA authors, and there is no doubt in my mind that I will be picking up the sequel to The Dark Divine!

2010 100+ Reading Challenge

Challenge Number 2 3 (opps)! I'm going to limit myself this year since it'll be my first time doing challenges, and I want to see how well I can handle them. Anyways, this one is hosted over at J. Kaye's Book Blog, and I picked it because it'll challenge me to read more in general and will work well in conjunction to the 2010 Debut Author Challenge. I read a lot of books that I don't review, so this will definitely help me keep track! Actually, I'm not going to count the ones I don't review just to make it easier.

Head over here to sign-up, and here's some info:

1. The goal is to read 100 or more books. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.
2. Audio, Re-reads, eBooks, YA, Manga, Graphic Novels, Library books, Novellas, Young Reader, Nonfiction – as long as the book has an ISBN or equivalent or can be purchased as such, the book counts.
3. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.
4. Crossovers from other reading challenges count.
5. Challenge begins January 1st thru December, 2010. Books started before the 1st do not count.

This is going to be where I list the books I read, and if you ever want to hear my thoughts on one I didn't review, feel free to email me! :)

1. Bad Blood by Mari Mancusi
2. Fallen by Lauren Kate
3. Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
4. Explorer X-Alpha by LM Preston
5. Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
6. Captivate (Need #2) by Carrie Jones
7. The Mark by Jen Nadol
8. Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu

Changes Make My Blog Go Round - Opinions? :)

Edit-- Credit!! Forgot all about those crediting issues (like the airhead I am)! I tried to think of new and original aspects, but please tell me if you've seen these around and I'll be sure to give credit where it's due. And, likewise, I spent a lot of time thinking about these new changes, so I'd appreciate credit too. ALL MINE. *mwahahaha* ;)


So I've ended all my surveying and just want to say thank you again to everyone who filled it out! I had 54 responses, and they definitely got me thinking about what I could do to make my blog better - which turns out to be a lot. But I guess that's what they mean by there's always room for improvement.

Anyways, here's what's up with my blog in 2010! And, PLEASE, I would love any opinions or suggestions. It took my uncreative brain forever to even think of anything, so please tell me if something should be trashed or if you *gasp* like it? Here's the list:

1. Upcoming Releases - A little over half said that they'd love to see a list, so I'm making one. It's already up there in the navigation links, though I'm still filling it out. Looking sort of bare, but it'll be warm and cozy soon.

2. The Weekly Debate - Mondays only. I did the post "Visible Email Addresses - Do or Don't?" and was surprised to get a lot of responses! I have fun posting questions and reading your answers and some of you commented that a question encourages you to comments, so I've decided to do a question every Monday. It can range from blogging tips to the fact that Miley Cyrus is starring in Wings (ew?). I know I'm lacking in the "cool updates" section, so I'll try to occasional put up some recent news here for debating.

 3. The View on Thursday - Thursdays only. I'm still not exactly sure what I want to do here. I was thinking along the lines of either: 1) books being released the week after my post or 2) spotlighting covers of upcoming releases that come out whenever. Opinions?

4. Limiting Reviews and Increasing Interviews - Ahh, school, how you torture me. Alas, my schoolwork and college planning is starting to suffer because of blogging, so I'm having to restrict myself in 2010. I'll still be putting a lot of effort and time into blogging, it just means I'm going to limit myself to 2 reviews per week. On the other hand, I'm going to try increasing my author interviews to 1 interview per week; many people wanted to see more interviews, and I love doing them!! So it's a win-win situation.

Unfortunately, limiting might also mean less commenting. But that's why I'm introducing...

5. The Saturday Network - Or as I like to call it, Shameless Self-promoting Saturday! :D

What I'm going to try to do is a sort of comment-on-the-blog-above-yours, if that makes sense. I'll just put a post up with some instructions and perhaps some random ramblings, then you comment below with a link to your blog. The person who comments below you - let's call her Jane - then has to comment on your blog. Then John comes along, comments, and has to go comment on Jane's blog. And then Joe comes rambling along and you get the flow... You can comment around for as many times as you want, as long as you comment on the blog of the person above you. I'll also include a Mr. Linky for contests.

I don't know if this has been tried before (please tell me if it has) or if it'll work out, but I'm up for trying it. If that did not make any sense, since I know I tend to talk in circles, I'd be more than happy to explain it to you! If it sounds like a bad idea, please trash it before I embarrass myself.

I think that's it. So what do you think? Would you be interested in participating in any of these? :)

Survey: Reminder and Thank You! :)

Just got back home from vacation, so I'm just going to do a quick post. Here's just a reminder that if you haven't filled out the survey yet, I would love it if you would! I'll be taking it down and announcing a couple changes with my blog tomorrow. And a big thank you to everyone who already filled the survey out. You guys are a huge help! (The link to the survey is above, and it's another 3 entries for my 200 followers contest.)

Hope everyone's still feeling festive for the new year! :)

Review: Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols

Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols

Publisher: MTV (March 17, 2009)
Paperback: 245 pages
Summary: from {goodreads}
All Meg has ever wanted is to get away. Away from high school. Away from her backwater town. Away from her parents who seem determined to keep her imprisoned in their dead-end lives. But one crazy evening involving a dare and forbidden railroad tracks, she goes way too far... and almost doesn't make it back.
John made a choice to stay. To enforce the rules. To serve and protect. He has nothing but contempt for what he sees as childish rebellion, and he wants to teach Meg a lesson she won't soon forget. But Meg pushes him to the limit by questioning everything he learned at the police academy. And when he pushes back, demanding to know why she won't be tied down, they will drive each other to the edge - and over...


My Thoughts: Meg thought she was living the life - on edge, always ready for partying and danger. Invincible. But one night, she gets stoned and trespasses on railroad tracks, only to be caught by policeman Officer After. Instead of sending her to juvy, Officer After decides to dish out punishment his way - one week of Meg riding with him on his nighttime patrol. But what originally started out as punishment quickly turns into something personal...

Going Too Far was an extremely enjoyable read that always popped out a weird twist everytime I least expected it. I went in looking for some solid characters, but I managed to relate and sympathize with Meg much more than I thought I would. Yes, she has blue hair, blue eyes, and a radar for trouble, but she's also insecure, smart, and trying to deal with her problems. Meg has a great, dry humor, and I loved seeing how she developed after meeting Officer After. The development was so thorough and the action so packed that I still can't believe the whole book occured within two weeks! Meg's not perfect though, and she has some interesting habits that I thought were a bit weird at first, but Jennifer Echols explained those actions in the middle with something that made me go "woahhh." Definitely did not see it coming, but it was still crazy awesome and made sense. And that actually applies to a lot of the plot twists in this book - a little strange and a perfect fit - or just the book in general.

As for Officer After, he was totally dreamy, hot, and protective. As Meg would say, he proves that "chivalry isn't dead." It was sweet how much they changed because of each other, and each for the better. I was rooting for After and Meg the whole time, through all their non-commitment issues and fears, and I cheered (internally) whenever they made some progress. Maybe an unconventional couple, but they are perfect for each other. Tne ending made me so happy, which goes to show how much I loved After and Meg. They're both extremely unique and different, but believable and relatable at the same time.

The only complaint I have is that rarely something would happen so fast or so suddenly that I'd be left in the dust wondering what exactly just happened. It didn't happen often, but I still had to go back and reread a couple times just to make sure I heard someone right and didn't skip a paragraph or something. And, believe me, I did not want to skip even one paragraph. The writing was definitely concise and teen-dated, and I loved the banter between all of the characters. It made me feel like I was arguing with one of my good friends. :)

Romance: Sweet and tentative. Meg starts off thinking she'll be alone forever and views sex as merely a physical thing, but she begins to see what love is after she meets Officer After. I already talked about their relationship earlier, so I'm going to leave it at that: sweet and tentative.
Cover: 3.5 - Looks pretty cool, but why the stubble? Bye-bye boyish innocence.
Writing: 4.0
Characters: 4.5
Plot: 4.0

Bottom Line: Going Too Far was a fairly quick but riveting read about self-discovery and branching out to others. The plot and writing were both good, but what really made this book stand out to be were the relatable and unique characters. There was just enough depth to make this more than simply a fast read, though not enough to make Going Too Far a tear-jerker. But then again, that's not what I was looking for, so this book was perfect. It still dealt with complex feelings and issues, and I hope that Jennifer Echols decides to write more deep books in the future because I'll definitely be there reading them!

The Holidays: My Xtreme Activities

I just realized there are tons of In My Mailbox posts... What? It's the weekend already?! Lol, I'm so out of it because of the holiday season. Anyways, I'm going to put off my IMM until next weekend, when I'm back home and have more to share, so in the meantime I'll just be posting some of my day-to-day holiday doings and occasional reviews. That being said, on to what I did yesterday (I would have posted it yesterday, but it was too late)...

I mentioned this in my last post, but I had to go watch Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel with my little sister and cousin. And my only thought is: awwww! Seriously, you need to watch that part where the Chipmunks and the Chippets (the girl chipmunks to the right) meet and fall in love. Their eyes are HUGE. Can you spell adorable? Because I'm pretty sure it's C-H-I-P-M-U-N-K. I'm putting the trailer at the bottom for those of you that haven't seen it yet but want to. Not only is the movie cute and hilarious - what else do you expect from the Chipmunks? - it also teaches some good lessons about family and accepting who you are, so I definitely recommend taking the kid(s) out to see it!

The theater was in the mall, and, yes, there was a Borders too!! We spent a few hours there - basically me looking for books to buy and the little monsters reading books. Plus, my little two-year-old cousin made me chase her in circles around the picture book section while I worried about her ripping an unsuspecting panda out of a book. Intense. Then, in the afternoon, after watching the movie, I managed to spill a mound of the leftover popcorn while waiting in the checkout line. Ahh, I'm such a klutz! My little sister and cousin were somehow delusioned into thinking they could finish a large AND a medium-sized popcorn - think a big bucket and a huge bag - in addition to a large Coke. Did that happen? Not exactly; all that happened was that we were all nausous from eating too much buttery popcorn but were too cheap to throw the popcorn away. Since, after all, we did shell out $15 on popcorn alone... So I'm left to hold the popcorn while trying to balance the books I bought on our morning trip to Borders, my wallet, the Borders rewards and gift card, and the new book I want to buy. And, woosh, the popcorn bucket slips out, and the popcorn spills all over the floor. I'm left to scoop down and pick it up, all while blushing furiously, while the two little monsters laugh and move up in line. I think the Borders employee was sort of laughing at me too. Not nearly my most embarassing experience ever, but still. The only thing that saved my day was that I bought some books, yay!

As for today, my once-removed cousin is arriving, and I think we're all just pigging out again and stuffing our faces with food. Another person here = another person to play Monopoly, lol. But enough about my boring life, did you get any awesome books or do anything fun? Please feel free to leave a link to your IMM post, and I'll make sure to check it out! :)

Merry Christmas!!

Well, since I'm here, I'm all for wishing everyone (who celebrates it) a merry christmas! Hope it's filled with joy and many, many presents. :)

About me, yesterday my cousin, little sister, and I decorated cookies and we opened presents this morning. I'm super psyched because I got $25 to spend at Borders and $200 to spend anywhere else - though we all know that "anywhere else" is going to be a book store!! Do I hear some 2010 YA novels calling my name? I'll probably post some pics later (I think my aunt took some because we were too busy having fun), though that might be a few days. I also got some other cute stuff - a friendship bracelet, christmas earrings, etc. - that are definitely making me feel all festive right now. We spent all morning playing our new Monopoly Here and Now: The World Edition, which is totally addicting, and I think I'm taking the two kids to watch Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakel or Princess and the Frog tomorrow. Having an excuse to spend some family time is awesome.

Anyways, again, merry christmas, and I look forward to wishing everyone happy new year very, very soon!

Review: After by Amy Efaw

After by Amy Efaw
Amy Efaw's website here.

Publisher: Viking Juvenile; 1 edition (August 11, 2009)
Hardcover: 350 pages
Buy: {amazon}, {b&n}, {book despository}
Summary: from {goodreads}
An infant left in the trash to die. A teenage mother who never knew she was pregnant . . .
Before That Morning, these were the words most often used to describe straight-A student and star soccer player Devon Davenport: responsible, hardworking, mature. But all that changes when the police find Devon home sick from school as they investigate the case of an abandoned baby. Soon the connection is made—Devon has just given birth; the baby in the trash is hers. After That Morning, there’s only one way to define Devon: attempted murderer.
And yet gifted author Amy Efaw does the impossible— she turns Devon into an empathetic character, a girl who was in such deep denial that she refused to believe she was pregnant. Through airtight writing and fast-paced, gripping storytelling, Ms. Efaw takes the reader on Devon’s unforgettable journey toward clarity, acceptance, and redemption.


My Thoughts: After is a heart-wrenching tale about fifteen year-old Devon, straight-A student and headed straight for court. Why? For throwing "IT," her baby, into the trash can. She claims that she never knew, not once during her pregnancy, that she was pregnant. Whether her story is true is up for you to decide...

I had a extremely hard time rating After. It was so different and the idea so unique that it made it hard for me to see past those aspects and look at the characters. On one hand, I couldn't put this book down. On the other hand, I still don't really know what to make of the book. In the end, I give .5 creativity points and 2-stars for: 1) premise, 2) character, 3) the ending.

Premise: I definitely give props to Amy Efaw for attempting to tackle such a controversial and deep issue - the relationship between a mother and her baby. While it was an interesting and original idea, I really had trouble believing that Devon wouldn't notice her baby for 8 months. Amy Efaw did a solid job explaining why the denial was possible, but I still read the entire book feeling skeptical and questioning Devon's character, wondering what kind of girl she really was to miss the evidence of her developing baby. Though Devon's story was pretty plausible in the beginning, it was difficult for me to continue to believe her in the last couple months. You can avoid as many mirrors as you want, wear baggy clothes 24/7, give yourself excuses upon excuses, but when you're lying in bed and roll over... "What's that? A watermelon snuck into my bed?"

Character: Another problem was that I felt like a spectator instead of being actually involved in the story. I liked hearing Devon's story, but I couldn't bring myself to actually care what she would ultimately be accused of. Even at the end, I still didn't fully comprehend Devon's reasons for hiding her baby, and though I could see where her defiance and independence originated from, I got annoyed at her constant denial and refusals for help. However, I liked how she learned and devloped as the story progressed.

The Ending: I can't ruin anything, but I really wish I could at times like these. Technically, the ending was pretty good; it had closure and Devon had an important epiphany. Emotionally, I'm undecided on whether I liked the ending or not. I felt that I didn't really have the time to absorb all the intense action that happened in the last 100 pages, when the hearing took place. While the first 250 pages were a bit redundant, the last 100 pages flew. And those 100 pages were probably what redeemed this book for me.

Romance: Only reflections on Devon's past. Devon only occasionally and briefly remembers the baby's father.
Cover: 3.5 - Simple and clean. I didn't notice it at first, but I like how the reflection of Devon is pregnant while the real girl is not.
Writing: 3.5
Characters: 2.5
Plot: 3.0 

Bottom Line: After was a riveting read. I have to admit that I was dissatisfied with some aspects, but I still could not put it down until I knew what would happen to Devon, which definitely speaks for After's unique premise. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reads concerning psychology and serious, realistic issues. Though After wasn't one of my top reads, I'll definitely keep an eye out for Amy Efaw in the future to see if she pulls out any other interesting plot lines.

**Side-note: DEFINITELY PG-13. Do not go giving this book to your 8-year old anytime soon.

Happy holidays!!

I'm currently in New York visiting my uncle and aunt, so I just wanted to make sure I wished everyone a very happy holiday season, even if it's sort of early. You might see random reviews popping up throughout the holidays, but I'm probably not going to do some serious reading until I get back on the 30th. I think I'll have my hands full handling skiing and trying to handle a 2-year-minus-3-days-old cousin. This right here is just me typing on my laptop using the snail-speed internet connection over here. Arrgh, slow internet connection makes me want to smack some things (not books, of course).

Anyways, I know I've only been blogging since the end of August, but it's totally addicting to be able to share my thoughts with everyone and know that people actually care about and read them. That feeling of yes, I actually mean something, which never fails to pick me up after a hard day. So thank you guys for all your support throughout the year, and hope your holidays are filled with joy, food, family, and awesome presents!

Share the love!! :)

And if you're wondering, my family's road trip to New York consisted of my sister and me sitting in the back seats singing along to all the Backstreet Boy songs, which we know by heart, and playing Pokemon, both activities that we save almost solely for road trips. Can you say "dorks awesome?!"

Review: A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper

A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper
Michelle Cooper's website here.

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (October 13, 2009)
Hardcover: 304 pages
Summary: from {goodreads}
‘I need to write down what has just happened. I need to set down the truth. If I write lies or if I write nothing at all, this journal is worthless. I must do this, in case anything happens. All right. This is what happened tonight, every single terrible thing that I can remember . . .’
Sophie FitzOsborne lives in a crumbling castle in the tiny island kingdom of Montmaray, along with her tomboy younger sister Henry, her beautiful, intellectual cousin Veronica, and Veronica's father, the completely mad King John.
When Sophie receives a leather-bound journal for her sixteenth birthday, she decides to write about her day-to-day life on the island. But it is 1936 and the world is in turmoil. Does the arrival of two strangers threaten everything Sophie holds dear?
From Sophie's charming and lively observations to a nailbiting, unputdownable ending, this is a book to be treasured.


My Thoughts: A Brief History of Montmaray is penned by recently turned 16-year old Sophie Osborne, a princess of the isolated island of Montmaray. Population? 8. Year? 1936. Sophie lives on the island with her little sister Henrietta and her older cousin, Vicotoria, and dreams of moving to England, where she believes holds all the sparkly gowns and twinkling tiaras. But Sophie's about to get her wish a lot sooner than she hoped for. Hitler has his sights set on Montmaray, and he's not going to stop until it's either his or completely destroyed.

A Brief History of Montmaray was a vivid read full of ship-wrecking waves and beautifully descriptive historical references. I loved how the whole book was supposed to be Sophie's journal. It made Sophie easy to relate to, and it really gave me a sense for the struggling, young girl she was. I can't say that I liked Sophie 100% of the time and thought her a little spoiled at the beginning, but her insecurities were understandable and made me like her more after seeing her development through the story. Basically, Sophie's just that scared, innocent girl with dreams of a prince of a white horse. She reminded me of myself writing similar things, idea-wise, into my diary when I was younger.

Again, I loved all the historical references in this book. There was a boat-load of historical facts and incidents stuffed inside, but they were woven so seamlessly that they didn't detract from the story. My only problem with the historical side was that a good half of the book was used to describe the setting, which was amazing but not completely necessary for the rest of the story. I spent that portion aching to skim ahead and see when the "real" plot would begin, and I had to occasionally put the book down to prevent that. Overall, I can't say A Brief History of Montmaray was exactly my type of read because it was a sort of laid-back action; there would be rare bursts of exciting plot movement, then it settled back to a lulling description of emotions, fears, etc.

There were also a few areas that I wanted to know about, but only got a small glimpse that quickly ran away. I guess it's a good thing that I actually wanted to know more, but what would have been even better is if I actually got some more background information. Then again, I can't wait to get some information about what happens to Sophie after A Brief History of Montmaray, and it's ending was reasonably satisfying, though it wrapped a bit too quickly. I'll be looking forward to the sequel, The FitzOsbornes in Exile, which will be published in Australia in 2010.

Romance: Hints at romance... Sophie repeatedly talks of her feelings for a certain gentlemen, but it never really gets anywhere. I'm guessing that this will be resolved in the sequel, so I'm crossing my fingers!
Cover: 3.0 - Doesn't clue you in on much, but I like the faded feel it has. However, the AU version (on the right) tells you a little more about the book and features beautiful colors, so I'm undecided about which one I like better. 
Writing: 4.0
Characters: 4.0
Plot: 3.0

Bottom Line: A Brief History of Montmaray was one the most historically-packed but relatable reads I've read in a long time. I definitely applaud Michelle Cooper for all the research that went into this book (which you can check out on her website), and I'm absolutely horrible at history, so while this book was a work of fiction, I still managed to learn quite a lot from it. I'd recommend this book to, yes, you history nuts out there and ones who are just looking for a diary-formatted book about an isolated girl yearning to travel beyond her visible horizons. Though it started off slow, A Brief History of Montmaray was a solid read that sped up and left me wanting more.

Visible Email Addresses - Do or Don't?

**The main reason I'm posting this is as a heads up to if you've recently started a blog and haven't gotten any comments yet, you might want to check to make sure your comments section is working. ;)

I recently noticed that there are quite a few bloggers that don't post their email addresses. Of course, that's understandable, seeing how many spammers, stalkers, and creepy bloggers that blog about whether you should hand out your email address (or maybe there's only one: me) there are, but what about all the things emails are good for? I again noticed another blog today that didn't have the comment section working and, when I checked, no visible email address. So I can't comment to tell them their comments aren't working, and I can't email them either?! I sounds like such a busybody here, but I really just want to help and it makes me feel incredibly bad that I can't. It might be on purpose, but I hate to think that it's accidently happening and the blogger feels discouraged.

Now, I understand that there are quite a few security risks associated with giving out your email address. You could give it out and these "U WON THE LOTTERY!!" emails start popping up everyday. Horrifyingly stupid, I know. And then you have to press the "report spam" button, *gasp*! Okay, so there's a lot more to it than that, I'm just trying to be funny and failing. Spam and viruses can definitely be more dangerous than they appear, and that should always be kept in mind. The Internet is NOT all rainbows and butterflies, and you should never, ever freely post your address and other personal info - free social security number, anyone?

In the end, I say "yes" to visible email addresses because there are just times when you need to be contacted and there's either no other way or it's a lot more convenient. While I'm still sort of against giving out my personal email address, I would encourage making another, secondary email address that you can use for all your blogging purposes. That way, your personal info and sacred little teddy bear are safe while you're still able to have an email to give out.

So, what do you think about having a visible email address? A do or a don't?

Reader Survey! (+3 contest entries)

So, I have this little thing called a survey that I would love for you guys to fill out. I know that some of you would do it just because you're that sweet and awesome, but I know that I myself sometimes need a small incentive to push me along and that's where the +3 contest entries come in. (It's another 3 entries to my 200 Followers Contest on my left hand sidebar.) I've recently been stressing myself over what I can do to make my blog better and thought what's better than to have my readers tell me what they want to see, since they'll be the ones reading it? I'll add these up for you at the end, so you don't need to go back and re-submit the contest form. :)

Please fill out this form!
Thank you!!

Edit// Just wanted to say thank you for all the responses I've gotten so far! They're definitely honest, and I appreciate that.

In My Mailbox - 6

In My Mailbox was started by The Story Siren and inspired by Pop Culture Junkie.

For Review:

So excited since this is the first book I've requested and gotten!! Anyways, I already finished it, but I'm going to wait until closer to the release date to post the review. So look out for an interview with the awesome Mari Mancusi, contest, and review!

· Bad Blood by Mari Mancusi

Sunny McDonald is in the ultimate forbidden relationship. Her boyfriend Magnus is a vampire, and the leader of the Blood Coven. Their differences have never been an issue, until now…
When the Blood Coven decides that Magnus needs a mate to be his co-ruler, Sunny’s humanity puts her out of the running. The Coven’s chosen candidate is Jane Johnson, a magna cum laude graduate of Oxford University who just happens to look like a vampiric celebutante.
Sunny is suspicious of a Rhodes Scholar who can’t answer the most basic poly-sci questions, but Magnus brushes it off as petty jealousy. Still, when the Blood Coven goes to Las Vegas for a vampire convention—where Magnus and Jane’s bonding ceremony will be the main event—Sunny and her sister Rayne secretly tag along. And Sunny’s not going home before she learns the truth about Jane. Because not everything stays in Vegas—especially bad blood…


· The first two Mercy Thompson books by Patricia Briggs
· The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I also pre-ordered a few books and Perfect Chemistry is waiting for me to pick it up at Borders. What books did you get this week? :)

Review: Scones and Sensibility by Lindsay Eland

Scones and Sensibility by Lindsay Eland
Lindsay Eland's website here.

Author Interview here.
Publisher: EgmontUSA (December 22, 2009)
Hardcover: 320 pages
Summary: from {goodreads}
Polly Madassa is convinced she was born for a more romantic time. A time when Elizabeth Bennet and Anne of Green Gables walked along the moors and beaches of the beautiful land, a time where a distinguished gentleman called upon a lady of quality and true love was born in the locked eyes of two young lovers.
But alas, she was not.
This, however, does not stop our young heroine from finding romance wherever she can conjure it up. So while Polly is burdened with a summer job of delivering baked goods from her parents bakery (how quaint!) to the people in her small beach town, she finds a way to force…um…encourage romance to blossom. She is determined to bring lovers, young and old, together…whether they want to be or not


My Thoughts: Scones and Sensibility was a cute read, with 12-year old Polly Madassa stuck in the Jane Austen/Anne of Green Gables period of romance and biting wit. One summer, she gets assigned the job of delivering pastries and that opens up her eyes to the lack of romance in her community. Of course, she does the only thing any romantic would do - matchmaking. But when things don't go according to plan, what will Polly do? The results: raging havoc, split relationships, and a fun and interesting summer.

I'm going to switch it up a bit and start with my 11-year old sister's review of the book:

"I'm not that into Jane Austen books, so... I don't really like the language they spoke in back then. I wish that they would tell us a little more about Polly's sister, Clementine. I want to know a little bit more about Clementine and her boyfriend, Clint's, relationship. I would recommend this book to people who like more classical books because people who don't may think that the plot is a little too slow. I wish that the plot could have moved a little faster, myself. I don't think I would recommend the book to my friends since they don't really like the time period."

Rating: 3 stars

Ouch, harsh. I know it's pretty broad, but I think my sister brought up the basic points that I wanted to mention so I'll just elaborate on them. First and foremost, language. The whole book is from Polly's POV, and she not only talks circa Jane Austen, but she also perceives things that way as well. So if you're going to be annoyed constantly hearing "my bosom friend," I strongly recommend you do NOT read this book. Personally, even though I'm a huge fan of Jane Austen, I thought the language was bit over the top; a few, rare areas seemed cheesy and didn't help my connection (or lack of) to Polly. Just to get it out there, if I encountered a girl on the street who spoke like Polly, I'd think "weird" instead of romantic. My favorite moments were the lapses Polly made when she was extremely stressed, sad, or scared, when it felt like Polly was stripping away this image of being a 18th-19th century lady to a real, relatable, teenage girl.

Moving on to Polly. Before I say my opinion on her character, I want to point out that I probably have a biased view because we're so different. Where she's optimistic and idealistic, I'm pragmatic and introverted, and that might be part of the reason I found Polly immature for her age and a little annoying. I tend to keep to myself, but when Polly repeatedly gets called out and scolded for matchmaking, she says "okay, I'll stop," turns around, convinces herself that she's doing the right thing, and makes the same mistake again! What I really wanted to do was scream and be like "can't you see what you're doing?!" The plot is basically that cycle: Polly tries to do matchmaking, makes a mistake, feels bad, tries matchmaking again, rinse-and-repeat. It's part of the story, but I just wished Polly would actually listen for once rather than form others' opinions for them. And she has some shallow perceptions (her gentlemen qualifications) and this innocence that made me think she should be 8 rather than 12. Sorry Polly, but seriously.

Now that I'm done pointing out my major problems with Scones and Sensibility, I think I can move on to a more positive note. I thought Lindsay Eland's idea of having a girl who, yes, probably should have been born in the 18-19th century was cute and original. Original as in the concept of having Polly speak and act according to that time period, and it was interesting seeing how that kind of personality worked in today's world. I have to admit that I'm that kind of girl myself, who wishes she lived circa Jane Austen for my own Mr. Darcy, and though I'm not willing to take that desire and manifest it like Polly does, it was sweet to see her sort of act out a fantasy I used to have for myself. Scones and Sensibility teaches some good lessons about family and listening to others, and I was happy with the Polly's development from a naive young girl to one who can respect others and their views. In the end, all's well that end's well, and Scones and Sensibility left me with a smile on my face. :)

Romance: Other than matchmaking, rare. Of course, there's matchmaking, and then there's Polly own little romance. It doesn't get very far and you barely even get mention of the boy, but it's still there and it was cute to see how Polly's opinion of him changed over the course of the book. Not much here, but it was still sweet and added a bit to the story.
Cover: 4.0
Writing: 3.5
Characters: 3.0
Plot: 3.0

Bottom Line: Technically, Scones and Sensibility was adorable: the concepts, the ideas, the jokes. Even if I didn't like all the aspects of the book, I sill loved Lindsay Eland's direction with this book and will definitely be keeping my eyes out for her books in the future! I'd recommend Scones and Sensibility to fans of Jane Austen and Anne of Green Gables and some other fellow romantics out there, because it's fairly true to the time period - if it's in a good or bad way is up for you to decide. So while Scones and Sensibility might not have been that perfect pastry for me, it might be that one delicious, crispy pastry you've been dying to devour.

**Notes: The main reason I gave this book to my sister to try is because she falls in the intended age range. Think of it as an experiment to see how she would react to the language used. My conclusion from her response is that while Scones and Sensibility's characters and plot are suited to 9-12 year olds (age range on Amazon), I'm not sure girls that age will be extremely receptive to the constant use of Jane Austen-esque language. Perhaps more suited to the young at heart.

Writing Attempts - 4th Grade (w/ excerpt!)

Since right now it's all about the holidays and old memories, it made me think of my own writing experiences. This is going to be my elementary school version, and I might do another middle school post since I attempted (note the keyword here is "attempt") to write two stories during those periods.

Anyways, I'm including how much I managed to write of my story... all the way back in 4th grade. My attention span was so short back then that I only wrote a little more than 1 page. There went my dream of being an elementary school writer. It's pretty evident in the excerpt that my 4th and 5th grade years were my obsession times with the Redwall series by Brian Jaques. The fighting mice, kicking hares, and all-around valiant furry things? BRING IT ON. I recommend you try them at least once in you life. Redwall had the perfect combination of animals (can you imagine my email and username for neopets then was "animallover36912" or named after my many stuffed animals?) and fantasy. Seriously, I had a competition with this other guy in my class about who could read more in one day. Intense, I tell you.

Anyways, here's the excerpt. Unedited, untitled, and unbelievably cheesy. But I guess it was the best my underdeveloped brain could do, lol. Try not to laugh too hard!


Biiiiing! All the vermin in the Seawater camp heard the noise as a sword fell point first on a shield that was in front of a ferret named Weedskull and was still quivering. It was the most magnificent sword he and the camp had ever set eyes on! As the sun reflected off it, it shone like a star on a dark night. At the end of the golden handle there was a beautiful gem the color of dark red silk. He reached to pick it up, when an arrow came whizzing out of the bushes. It struck his footpaw and he jumped up startled. Then went into his tent and sat nursing his injured footpaw. Just then a weasel named Whishwat came out of his tent. He was tall and strong built weasel with cold blue eyes. He wore brass earrings and a fine blue velvet coat.

As the strongest of the camp and the leader strode in front of the his tribe and said fearlessly, “ I am the leader of the Seawater tribe. I am the most skilled with the blade than any one.”

A loud and clear voice of a female came out of the bushes, “ Tut tut, such vermin should not brag.”

Whishwat said, “ Says who? I can do what I want! And if you think it’s not true, then I challenge you to a one against one battle this afternoon at the same spot I stand right now. You can take as many weapons and any kind of weapon.” He paused to throw the sword in the bushes and went on, “ Say your answer now, bush coward!”

The voice answered him, “ That is fine with me. You were looking for a battle and you’ve got one!”

When the owner of the arrow was gone, the sword with him and out of hearing range, Whishwat exclaimed so loud that even the farthest away vermin could hear, “ This place is Springwater Forest to answer all your questions, also we are not lost. But know about that bush coward. Today that beast will take his last breath, for I am going to make him have long sleep this afternoon that will last forever.” A few evil sniggers greeted this idea. Then Whishwat continued, “ You are all allowed to witness the battle but can not fight unless I shout seawater. For I want him to see my power and then he will never come here again. Because he won’t be able to! He will remember the name Whishwat forever! ” At this, the camp began chanting, “ Whishwat the Horrible! Whishwat the Horrible! Whishwat the Horrible!” and didn’t stop until Whishwat silenced them all with his sword that was even longer than the one belonging to the beast in the bushes and with a wave of his sword sent them off scurrying to do the tasks he had ordered yesterday. Fixing ships, checking for leaks, the vermin did their tasks heartily while singing an old sailor song.

Oh, sail away me hearty,
To the open sea
Where everyone is free,
And no worries
Oh, that is the place to be
For vermin like me!
Oh, that is the place to be
For vermin like me!!!!

But no one noticed that a pair of dark brown eyes was watching them the whole time and the beast that was watching flew away before any one could find him.

Seven feet away from the good-humored vermin camp there was a big hollow pear tree. It was spring, and the flowers were in full bloom. The tree was a pretty sight and looked liked it was full of happiness on the outside. But inside, it was filled with all different creatures with their thinking caps tightly on about the situation that Waterlily; the otter in the bushes who had to face Whishwat in combat. There were otters, mice, hares, squirrels, moles, shrews, hedgehogs, and three badgers. There also were three rooms, one was a big room which they happened to be sitting at right now, with a fireplace, lots of comfortable chairs with cushions (three extra large ones for the badgers), a giant table, paintings hanging on the wall, a humongous rug, two doors (each one leading to another room), and a window that was in the shape of an oval, it was considered the most comfortable room of the three. Another room was a bedroom and a special place in the room was used to treat sicknesses and wounds. It had tons of beds, a circle window, and a small cabinet that stored the medicine and bandages. And the last room was the kitchen. In it there was a stove, a couple of cabinets to store the dishes and bowls, and a sink. No one ever discovered it because it was hidden so well in the deep thicket of the forest. This place was called Sky Fort, because all the birds seemed to know the hospitality there and always flew there for a rest. The slogan for the Sky Fort was value kindness and treat hate with spite. Then, a peck on the window interrupted everyone. All the babes (the really young ones) jumped out of their skins and everyone started to say, is that the vermin? Had someone evil found their hide out?

Bronze, a badger and the eldest shouted above all the chaos,“ That is probably only a bird pecking on the window!”

Immediately, every one stopped their talking and watched Bronze walk to the window and open it. The moment he did, an owl named Moonlight came hopping in. It was a snow white one and looked very important.

After it got it settled it announced to everyone, “I was spying on Whishwat and his ugly tribe. Whishwat has this sword longer than yours and when he was talking to that beast in the bushes and said that he was most skilled with the blade, I don’t think he was joking.” //end

Don't you love that brilliant song in the middle? ;)

Any embarassing writing attempts you want to share? Or any elementary school reading/writing experiences you find funny now?

Review: Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Hate List by Jennifer Brown
Jennifer Brown's website here

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (September 1, 2009)
Hardcover: 416 pages
Price: $11.55 from {amazon}
Summary: from {goodreads}
Five months ago, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.
Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.


My Thoughts: Jennifer Brown spins an intricate story of betrayal, loss, family, friendship and love in her debut novel, Hate List. An innocent list goes wrong when on a normal Friday morning, Valerie's (Val) boyfriend, Nick, opens fire at their high school. Then, after accidently shooting Val, Nick turns the gun on himself. Lonely and insecure, Val is left to come to terms with her feelings about Nick - the Nick she knew vs. the monster everyone believes him to be - deal with a rapidly deteriorating family, and live with the accusals from not only her fellow classmates but also from her own mother, father, and brother.

Hate List was a gripping emotional roller coaster ride. I literally couldn't put the book down because I was so absorbed in Val's internal conflict. I was happy when she was happy, sad when she was sad. I even cried a little with all the guilt her own parents forced her to take on. I can't say I've been in Val's situation before, but she was just so real and her emotions so tangible; I feel like she's sitting beside me right now, looking mournful but whispering words of hope in my ear.

Jennifer Brown tackles many views and values, ranging from friendship to family to love. Can we ever be truly rid of hate? Val says no, the world is driven by it. Is there a clean-cut definition for bad vs. good? Hm, Val's not sure. Hate List brings up the interesting concept that all people are just that, people, regardless of what horrid crimes they may commit. It's hard for me to think of a terrorist and remember that that person has a family, has feelings, has emotions. Those aspects might be twisted in some instances, but they're there though we often cloud our opinions with hatred or fear. So who is Nick really: that sweet boy that fooled around with Val when she was down or that murderer who took innocent lives and irreversibly changed others? Was he the victim or the prosecutor? Overall, very thought provoking.

Onto more technical aspects, the organization of the book was a little confusing at first, but I enjoyed it after I got into it. There are occasional snippets of news reports that I loved reading because they allowed glimpses of the victims' lives, and Val's memories of her and Nick were subtly melded into the story. I could really see the impact of the shooting on the school and the long steps to recovery on all sides. Minor complaint was that I felt Val's new "friends" were jerks 90% of the time and wish I could've seen more development on the school front, like her making a "real" friend. And a little bit towards the end, I felt like Val was taking 2 steps forward, 1 step back. In general though, I was satisfied with how Hate List ended (though fast in comparison with the rest of the book). It's realistic, but there's that promise of the happily-ever-after.

Romance: Mild. Conceptual. I was actually sort of surprised about how there's basically no physical romance. It's more about the concept of love (think Val's past with Nick) and no real start to a new romance. However, that didn't make the book any less good!
Cover: 3.5 - can you tell I'm a harsh grader? But I like how bold the lettering is and how the blue stands out from the black background.
Writing: 5.0
Characters: 5.0
Plot: 4.5

Bottom Line: Hate List was a gripping novel with relatable characters (even if you don't like them much), a moving plot, and so many conflicting emotions and concepts. I seriously couldn't put this book down. I would recommend this to anyone who loves seeing the cutting edge of the side of paradise and looking for something amazing.. there's my bias speaking. But, basically, Hate List was a long journey of recovery and rediscovery, and I would like to congratulate Jennifer Brown on an astounding debut!

Beautiful Creatures: CD Cover Entry

Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia are having an awesome contest over here where you can either design a CD cover or make a music video. They have some awesome swag that I really want to win, so check them out! Deadline is tomorrow, but you still have time. :)

Anyways, I finally got around to doing the CD cover today (lol, can you tell I'm a procrastinator) and here it is. I'm not sure if it's what they're looking for, but I tried my best. Unfortunately, my skills do not lie in the Photoshop area.

Edit// I made this mainly for the "moody" version of Sixteen Moons, because it seemed more haunting and mysterious. And it's now hosted on Photobucket (opps, forgot to do that!) over here.

The trees in the background are of my backyard, and I didn't take graphics from anywhere so this is 100% mine. *wishes I could steal some amazing graphic skills* Enjoy, and if you entered I would love to know!

200 Followers Contest Is Up!

The promised announcement that I've finished posting the 200 Followers Contest! I'm not providing a link because it's right underneath this one, so please go check it out. If you have suggestions for ways I can improve future contests or complaints about the current one, my email is always open.

Again, thank you to all your continous support! :)

200 Followers Contest!! -- CLOSED

This contest is officially CLOSED. Thank you to everyone who entered! :)

Wow, 200 followers! THANK YOU!! To show my love for you guys, I'm going to host my first contest with multiple winners. I read all of your suggestions from last week's post on whether you prefer multiple or single contests, and I've decided to do contests like this occasionally and a monthly small one. Though I'm definitely going to have trouble choosing only one book, lol.

Before I begin, you HAVE to be a follower to enter, sorry! For future contests, maybe not, but since this one is a follower contest, I'm making it mandatory.

Anyways, contest is split into two parts and the prizes are an accumalation of books that I've bought or won this year:

No PO boxes please!

First winner gets 3 books, one from each section
Second winner gets 2 books, two from different sections of his/her choice
Third winner will win 1 book from any section - only one that is NOT random; my top ten commentators by the end of the contest will be entered into a draw. Feel free to go back and comment on old posts. ;)

>> Section One:

Evermore (The Immortals #1) by Alyson Noel - PB
The Summoning (Darkest Powers #1) by Kelley Armstrong - HC
Dead Until Dark (Southern Vampire Mysteries #1) by Charlaine Harris - PB
Marked (House of Night #1) by P.C. and Kristen Cast - PB
The Faerie Path (The Faeire Path #1) by Frewin Jones - HC

>> Section Two:

The Sweet Life of Stella Madison by Lara M. Zeises - HC, signed
Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantansky - HC
My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent - PB
Love Is Hell Anthology - PB
Intertwined by Gena Showalter - ARC

>> Section Three:

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater - HC
Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater - PB
Stealing Death by Janet Lee Carey - ARC
Ex Games by Jennifer Echols - PB, signed to me
Betrayed (House of Night #2) by Kristen and P.C. Cast - PB
Bad Apple by Laura Ruby - HC, signed
Heroes At Risk by Moira J. Moore - PB
Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange- PB

PART TWO: outside of the above-mentioned areas ONLY

Any book ($15 or under) from the Book Despository
(Sorry my international lovelies, but I can't ship internationally right now.)

And that's it! Please remember that comments on this post do not count as entries.
I'll probably be announcing some surprise entries in the future, and if I reach 300 followers I might throw in some more books and/or another winner... ;)

Please fill out this form to enter!
Contest Ends: January 15, 2010 11:59 PST (time converter here)