Monday, January 31, 2011

Potter-Thon Wrap Up

January draws to a close here in Australia, and as such, so too does Pure Imagination's January 2011 Potter-Thon.

I had hoped to re-read the entire series, but unfortunately did not make my goal. However, I did re-read the first three (reviews here) and am actually reading the fourth, Goblet of Fire, as I write this. In fact, I plan to keep going until I have re-read the whole series, and will continue to post my thoughts here as I do. I'm even thinking a weekend long movie marathon of the first six movies! We'll see about that though...

I've really enjoyed taking part in this challenge - these books are absolutely my favourite series! Many thanks to Lori at Pure Imagination for hosting! I hope everyone has enjoyed re-reading along with us, or reading them for the very first time!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Review: Chicks with Sticks (It's a Purl Thing) by Elizabeth Lenhard

Everything in Scottie's life is changing. Her former best friend, trust-fund princess Amanda, is just that - her former best friend - and her mum has become an It girl in Chicago's art world. Meanwhile, Scottie just wants to blend in.

Then she discovers knitting, and it's as if she's been thrown a cashmerino lifeline. Soon Scottie and Amanda - along with new friends Bella and Tay - find themselves hanging at their local yarn store, a magical place called KnitWit, bound together by a yen for yarn and a hunger for friendship. Their stitches and their relationships become so intertwined that it's hard to remember which came first: the girls or the purls.

I remember reading a recommendation for Chick with Sticks ages ago, so when I saw it at my local library I figured I'd give it a go.

Scottie feels out of place, amongst her friends and her family. When her favourite Aunt - the one person she felt she could be herself with - dies in an accident, Scottie feels completely lost. But when she discovers knitting, Scottie finds a peace she desperately craves - along with old and new friendships. Scottie, Amanda, Tay and Bella are four very different girls from different walks of life, who each have a problem they've felt they have to deal with alone. But after connecting at KnitWit over their newly discovered love of knitting, they feel better about overcoming them.

Told entirely from the point of view of Scottie, the narrative flows nicely and quickly. While the novel does touch on some serious issues, such as learning disabilities and grief, Lenhard doesn't delve too deeply into the problems the girls face but instead focuses on their friendship and the ways in which it grows and changes as each deal with their respective issues. As such, the narrative does remain mostly a light-hearted chick lit read, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. By the books end each girl has found closure, and readers can feel the same.

I think Lenhard nailed writing Scottie as a typical teenage girl, caught between wanting things to stay the same, and wanting them to change. I was eager for her to grow and learn to accept herself - make the statement her Aunt knew she could. Sometimes she frustrated me some in her inability to do so, but constantly I was reminded of how hard it is to truly know who you are as a teenager - and to put it out there - in terms of your friends, family, and the world as a whole. Scottie is a relatable character, and I couldn't help but smile by the end!

Throughout the entirety of the book, knitting is a constant. I wondered if it would detract from my enjoyment of the books, as I know nothing about knitting, but instead it created a craving to try and learn myself! In fact, I plan to ask my Nan as soon as she's home from her holiday! The book even provides a couple of patterns I'm eager to have a go at - if I prove to have the knack for it, of course! I'll let you know!

Overall, Chicks with Sticks (It's a Purl Thing) is a light and easy read to wile away a lazy afternoon...but be warned - you may wish you could knit while you read!!

Rating:

Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer

Meet Bloody Jack Faber; scourge of the High Seas and Pirate Murderer!

Desperate to escape a life of poverty in London, twelve-year-old Jacky Faber joins HMS Dolphin as a ship's boy. Looking forward to daring adventures and great riches, Jacky soon discovers that surviving life at sea requires more than quick feet and hard work. Being shot at from all directions and taking on brutal pirates demands courage and a lot of luck. But Jacky loves it.

There is just one problem - Jacky is a girl. And she will have to use all of her cunning if she is to keep the crew from discovering her secret. A secret that is becoming increasingly difficult to hide...

I knew going in that this was unlike anything I've ever read before - and I was definitely right. Bloody Jack is unique, in its story, its narration, and its characters.

Told from the point of view of Mary Faber, a young girl who loses her family to pestilence and has to live on the streets of London before becoming a ship's boy known as Jacky, Bloody Jack had me from page one. I'm interested to learn just how much research Meyer put into this book (and the series as a whole). The insights into such a life on a ship like the HMS Dolphin is fantastic and full of depth. Her writing style is impressive too. I'm a little in awe of how the whole narrative kept to the language, spelling and tone of both Jacky and the time period. It resonates throughout the whole book, and is great because it's Jacky through and through, and readers never forget it.

What a character Jacky is. Tough and smart, posing as a boy but still fully aware of who - and what - she is (as proven through giggle-worthy moments of dealing with first love and that unfortunate monthly female problem!!) Even in the scariest of moments she's quick to act, and it is this ability to do so that garners her reputation. Her adventures are many, and I must admit to being surprised by the nature of some of them - certainly, Bloody Jack is more serious than I initially expected, touching on such shocking themes as autopsy and medical experiments, and pedophilia. This is by no means a flaw - Meyer handles them well, with all the seriousness necessary. After all, they are a fact of the world. I felt terrified for Jacky many times and was always surprised by her cunning and ability to deal with anything that came at her - while still proving she is but a child doing the best she can in her situation. Besides these, there were also many humorous moments, which I'm glad for - I'm always a fan of being able to laugh at the lighter side of a book!

As the book is narrated wholly by Jacky it is unsurprising that there isn't a lot of deeper insight into other characters, though I can't help but be a little disappointed. I do hope that in future books secondary characters such as Jaimy, Liam and the other ship boys are developed a bit more and better. Overall however, Bloody Jack is a great read, at times both chilling and uplifting. I look forward to reading the rest of the series!

Rating:

Challenge: Bookworming in the 21st Century's 2011 Bloody Jack Challenge.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter is lucky to reach the age of thirteen, since he has already survived the murderous attacks of the feared Dark Lord on more than one occasion. But his hopes for a quiet term concentrating on Quidditch are dashed when a maniacal mass-murderer escapes from Azkaban, pursued by the soul-sucking Dementors who guard the prison.

It's assumed that Hogwarts is the safest place for Harry to be. But is it a coincidence that he can feel eyes watching him in the dark, and should he be taking Professor Trelawney's ghoulish predictions seriously?

The third book in the series, Prisoner of Azkaban has always been one of my favourite Harry Potter books. For me, the adventure really begins here. It is darker than the previous two and reveals truths that shape the rest of the series.

Harry begins his third year as a Hogwarts student by running away from the horrid Dursleys and finding out that Sirius Black, the escaped Azkaban prisoner, wants to kill him on behalf of Voldemort. When images of a huge black dog begin to haunt Harry, Professor Trelawney's prediction of his death don't seem too far fetched!

What I love most about this book is again the history Rowling reveals bit by bit - the truth of James and Lily's murders; James's friendship with Lupin, Black, and Pettigrew; one of the reasons behind Snape's all-consuming hatred and bitterness. These are backstories that shape not only the narrative and future books, but the characters that readers have come to know. For me, these revelations make Rowling's story and characters three dimensional. She has created an entire world where past actions significantly impact the present, and she brings it all together one piece at a time. Is it any wonder I'm on the edge of my seat reading these books, unable to put them down?

PoA is a well rounded book. Yes, it has darker elements, but there's still light in that darkness, which shines through in the many humorous - and simply human - moments. Harry, Ron and Hermione's friendship is pushed to breaking, which I enjoy reading because friends do fight - especially friends with such distinctly individual personalities and goals. Indeed, Hermione stands out throughout this book, sticking up for what she believes is right and even toeing the line when it comes to rules!

Overall, Prisoner of Azkaban paves the way for the rest of the series. Harry's journey has only just begun, and it's great to see him grow as he learns truths he has been denied while growing up.

I have a couple of favourite scenes, one funny, and another heartwarming. I think the first is pretty self-explanatory!

'"Have you ever seen anything quite as pathetic?" said Malfoy. "And he's supposed to be our teacher!"
Harry and Ron both made furious moves towards Malfoy, but Hermione got there first - SMACK!
She had slapped Malfoy around the face with all the strength she could muster. Malfoy staggered. Harry, Ron, Crabbe and Goyle stood flabbergasted as Hermione raised her hand again."

The last, I don't want to give away too much of. In fact, it's so little it won't make much sense at all. If you've read the book, you'll understand. But if you haven't, I'm not spoiling anything, and you'll get it when you read it. It makes me happy and sad all at once, these days.

'Some sort of explosion took place in the pit of Harry's stomach.'

I feel much the same way during that whole scene.

Rating:

Challenge: Pure Imagination's Potter-Thon

Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Harry can't wait for his holidays with the dire Dursleys to end. But a small, self-punishing house-elf warns Harry of mortal danger awaiting him at Hogwarts School. Returning to the castle nevertheless, Harry hears a rumour about a chamber of secrets, holding unknown horrors for wizards of Muggle parentage. Now someone is casting spells that paralyse people, making them seem dead, and a terrible warning is found painted on the wall. The chief suspect - and always in the wrong place - is Harry. But something much darker has yet to be unleashed.

After the introduction of Philosopher's Stone, Chamber of Secrets delves a little deeper into the world of Harry Potter. Readers meet again favourite - and some not so favourite - characters, and are introduced to new characters integral to this book and the series as a whole.

Harry is beginning his second year at Hogwarts, yet a mysterious house-elf, Dobby, tries to prevent Harry from returning to school - and later, from remaining. He warns Harry of a devious plot being put into action that will put him in harm's way. So begins a year of stressful and somewhat terrifying events that Harry finds himself in the middle of - despite his best efforts to remain out of trouble.

I love Rowling's magical world, and CoS offers more of an insight into it, with a bit of history of the school and it's founders; Riddle; and the Ministry. It parallels our world so well, and it's easy to imagine it could be true. (How much do I wish?!) From here on out it all starts to come together a bit more, I feel. The threat of the Dark Side becomes just that little more real with the introduction of Lucius Malfoy, and the lengths he is willing to go to 'purify' both the school and the wizarding world. Plus, Harry's struggle with who he is - and what makes him so - intensifies. I've always felt for Harry, caught in the middle of so much. He's a true hero. Though I will admit, sometimes he gets away with a lot, and he does have a nose for trouble! While I'll never agree with quite the dislike Snape has, sometimes the Potions Master has a point!

My love for the Weasley family developed thanks to this book, and it has never waned. They are such a loving family, each with such brilliantly portrayed personalities. Dysfunctional to a T, and perfect for Harry. Her characters are a merit to Rowling and her writing - they are what make the books for me. The Weasley's, in all their good heartedness; Hermione, in all her know-it-all best; Snape, in all his bitterness; Neville, in all his well meaning blundering; Dumbledore, in all is dottering manipulation (I mean it in a good way!); Draco, in all his bullying-too-big-for-his-own-boots! I love even the most hated, because they move the story. They are what grab me and hold on until long after the end. Here, their stories are just beginning.

Chamber of Secrets is a great lead into a world that is to get much darker. I can never put these books down once I start, desperate as I am to find out what happens - even now when I know. I can still be so thoroughly caught up in the action, I could be reading it for the first time!

To conclude, my favourite scene. I do love the fist fight between Lucius Malfoy and Arthur Weasley at the beginning, and it fits with my favourite from Philosopher's Stone (like fathers, like sons, yeah?), but I've decided to go with a brilliant little Snape bit - again, it makes me laugh. This is during the Duelling Club scene, where Lockhart and Snape are about to demonstrate duelling, and Lockhart, in all his misguided glory, assures the students he will not harm their Potions Master.

'Snape's upper lip was curling. Harry wondered why Lockhart was still smiling; if Snape had been looking at him like that he'd have been running as fast as he could in the opposite direction.'

Too true, Harry, too true, as Lockhart does indeed learn! Ah, Severus!

Rating:

Challenge: Pure Imagination's Potter-Thon

Friday, January 21, 2011

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna was looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming something more. So she's less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Etienne has it all...including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long awaited French kiss?

I'm trying to think what else I can say about this novel other than LOVE IT, READ IT, NOW! I am a squeeing fangirl for this book and as I sit here typing I can feel myself getting all giddy and sigh-y all over again!

I've been thinking lately that some of the contemporary YA romances I read sort of fall flat - they neither feel real or deep. I've grown up reading a lot of historical romance, and lately, more paranormal romance. But I've found myself craving a contemporary romance I could really feel...and with Anna and the French Kiss, I have!

Anna is a great character, one I think readers can readily relate to. She's scared to be in Paris alone and craving to be back home where everything is familiar - especially the language! Her first days are awkward and I found myself nervous on her behalf, but still willing her to get out and try! Perkins has created scenes that could easily have happened to me, or you, and I loved it. Her writing is smart and sassy, and really flows. The entirety of the novel felt like a build up to that one inevitable moment and I found myself wanting to burst, as I waited for it to happen! Yet there were still moments that allowed the intensity to deflate, which I liked even more because it gave the narrative and its romance a much more realistic feel - life and love is a bumpy road, after all, with many wrong turns.

Each character felt believable, and I enjoyed getting to know them, especially Etienne - he truly is beautiful! In fact, I miss them already. Maybe not Amanda though...I'm vindictive enough to want one last scene from the book, that involves Amanda, Dave and Mike and a whole lot of laughing in their faces. I know you'll agree with me! Despite this though, Perkins ended her novel perfectly - I even went back right away to re-read those last 2 chapters. *sigh*

I must point out too that the setting of this novel is delish - everyone knows of Paris, of course. If you've never been, Perkins will be sure to entice you with her descriptions; if you have been, you'll feel like you're greeting an old friend, nodding along as Anna gets to know her new home. I have loved the idea of Paris since I was a child, and was lucky enough to visit in 2009 - reading this novel felt like I was almost there again!

A touching and dreamy read, fans of romance will need to read Anna and the French Kiss. I guarantee you'll leave it wishing your parents would have sent you to Paris for a year! I look forward to reading more from Stephanie Perkins.

Rating:

I like this cover, though I would have loved a head shot of Etienne! It fits the novel well, and the black scarf has me giggling like a love-struck little girl!

Challenges: 2011 Debut Author Challenge, and 2011 YA Contemporary Challenge.

Review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling

When a letter arrives for unhappy but ordinary Harry Potter, a decade-old secret is revealed to him. His parents were wizards, killed by a Dark Lord's curse when Harry was just a baby, and which he somehow survived. Escaping from his unbearable Muggle guardians to Hogwarts, Harry stumbles into a sinister adventure when he finds a three-headed dog guarding a room on the third floor. Then he hears of a missing stone with astonishing powers which could be valuable, dangerous, or both.

I don't know what number re-reading this would have been...maybe the 5th...or 6th? And that I still can't put it down once I start reading, even now, attests to why this is my favourite series of books! I love Harry Potter. I'm a big fan - have been since I first read this book almost 10 years ago, and always will be.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is a fun introduction to a series that gets much darker and more intense as it continues. We meet Harry, a 10 year old boy living in the cupboard under the stairs of his Aunt and Uncle's home. He is a lonely boy who has been led to believe that his parents were killed in a car accident. When mysterious letters begin to arrive - letters his Uncle refuses to let him have - Harry's life changes forever. He is a wizard, invited to learn magic at the Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and famous for his survival of Lord Voldemort's curse. So begins Harry first year at Hogwarts, where he learns not only magic, but about friendship, family and the true power of love.

Rowling weaves a story that ensnares you from the first page. Her world is imaginative and her characters endearing. Harry, Ron and Hermione's friendship is one of the best I've read - they make me giggle. Each character sticks with you, from start to end, no matter if you like them or not. I've always been a little in awe of how certain things come together from book to book. I haven't read the series since just before the release of the 7th book, so it's interesting to be re-reading them knowing the absolute conclusion to each character's story. It's also hard - I truly feel for these characters. They're old friends, and it's both great and heartbreaking to revisit them.

As I'm sure my reviews as I re-read the books will simply be gushing, I've decided for the Potter-Thon Challenge to add a little something else - a favourite scene I may or may not have forgotten about 7 books later!

For PS, I'm going with the Quidditch scene when Gryffindor versus Slytherin, and Snape is refereeing. Draco, Crabbe and Goyle are up to their usual taunting of Ron and Neville, who retaliate with fists while Hermione is oblivious, watching Harry's dive for the Snitch.

"Before Malfoy knew what was happening, Ron was on top of him, wrestling him to the ground. Neville hesitated, then clambered over the back of his seat to help...she didn't even notice Malfoy and Ron rolling around under her seat, or the scuffles and yelps coming from the whirl of fists that was Neville, Crabbe and Goyle...'Ron! Ron! Where are you?'"

Makes me laugh out loud!

Rating:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The 2011 Bloody Jack Challenge @ Bookworming in the 21st Century



Another challenge! Bookworming in the 21st Century is hosting the 2011 Bloody Jack Challenge! This one has perfect timing - I've just borrowed the first Bloody Jack book from the Library ready to read, and I certainly plan to read the rest of the series. So I figure, why not take on this challenge too?

My goal is to complete the Dead Men Tell No Lies level, which means I'll be reading the whole series. There's 8 books so far, with the 9th due out at the end of this year. This challenge runs until December 31st 2011, so plenty of time!

I'll be posting links to my reviews as I go, so check back here!

If you're interested in taking on the challenge - there are also 2 other levels, to either read just one book or to carry on the series if you've already started reading them - be sure to sign up here!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Review: Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead

Rose Hathaway knows it is forbidden to love another guardian. Her best friend, Lissa - the last Dragomir princess - must always come first. Unfortunately, when it comes to gorgeous Dimitri Belikov, some rules are meant to be broken...

But since making her first Strigoi kills, Rose hasn't been feeling right. Something dark has begun to grow in her mind, and ghostly shadows warn of a terrible evil drawing nearer to the Academy's iron gates. And now that Lissa and Rose's sworn enemy, Victor Dashkov, is on trial for his freedom, tensions in the Moroi world are higher than ever.

Lying to Lissa about Dimitri is one thing, but suddenly there's way more than friendship at stake. The immortal undead are on the prowl, and they want vengeance for the lives that Rose has stolen. In a heart-stopping battle to rival her worst nightmares, Rose will have to choose between life, love, and the two people who matter most...but will her choice mean that only one can survive?

I feel like I'm going through a bit of a vampire revival these days! Might have something to do with marathoning the True Blood television series...anyways...

I have some seriously mixed feelings about the Vampire Academy series. I read books 1 and 2 one after the other, but it has taken me months to get back to book 3. I started it ages ago, but have been unable to finish it until now. While I did enjoy it, I have since tried to read book 4...but have had to put it down too. I have a feeling it might be another while before I finish it as well.

One of the reasons I know I had a hard time getting into this book is that it's ending was spoiled for me - before I'd even read books 1 and 2 - by a couple of over-excited teenagers at the library where I worked. Now that I've actually finished it, this no longer effects the rest of the series. But another reason is the actual writing of the novel. I often feel like Mead is spoon feeding me the plot, and this has to do with the way practically every significant plot point of the previous books is reiterated, in detail, throughout the novel. To be honest, it frustrates me. As it is most prominent early in her novels (as I've also found in book 4), I find it very hard to want to continue reading.

Still, I was able to push my way though this (after a very long break from the series, as mentioned) and by the end of the narrative I found myself interested again in Rose's adventures. Thus, mixed feelings. Indeed, I do thoroughly enjoy the story - once I'm able to get into it. Shadow Kiss even had me on tenterhooks, wondering how everything was going to happen!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - I love Rose and Dimitri. They are scorching in their need for each other, and I will admit that their relationship breaks my heart. I'm not as torn between love and duty as Rose is though; or between Ditmitri and Lissa, in fact. I am all for love and Dimitri! Realistically, I'd be more torn if Lissa didn't irritate me. I feel she relies too much on Rose for someone who is meant to be smart and strong, and possibly the future Queen - and for someone actively wanting Moroi to take a stand and learn to take care of themselves. I'm glad to see her speak her mind to Tatiana, the current Queen, and hope it occurs more often! But what irritates me the most is how utterly oblivious she is to Rose's feelings - not only in terms of Dimitri, but the effects her magic has on Rose. Sure, Lissa doesn't have the advantage of a psychic link, but they are meant to be best friends, and have been for years and years...yet she seems to have absolutely no ability to read Rose. I really could have slapped her at the end...and without giving away too much, that's all I can say about that! I do hope Lissa grows more in the coming books.

By the end of Shadow Kiss, I honestly couldn't put it down. But it's very hard going to get to that need to read, and it effects the series as a whole. I want to know what happens to Rose, Dimitri and Lissa - yet trawling through the recounting of previous narrative can be tedious. By book 3 or 4 in a series, I'd expect that it can be assumed a reader has read the earlier books - and if not, that they'll have to go back and do so, or simply make do!!

Rating:

Review: Blood Feud by Alyxandra Harvey

It's been centuries since Isabeau St. Croix survived the French Revolution. Now she's made her way back to the living, and must face the ultimate test by confronting the evil British lord who turned her into a vampire and left her buried for two hundred years.

That's if she can control her affection for Logan Drake, a vampire whose bite is as sweet as the revenge she seeks.

So, I could hardly put down Hearts at Stake, the first book in the Drake Chronicles, and when I finished it I found myself picking up Blood Feud within minutes.

Blood Feud picks up the story within days of where it ended in Hearts at Stake. Major changes have occurred both in the royal court and the Drake family, all of which they are handling in true Drake fashion. I really like the Drakes, and it was great to see some more of their interactions - they are all strong and loyal, but each has a distinct personality. Harvey's cast of characters are certainly a drawing point for this series.

This novel focusses on Logan, and introduces Isabeau, a vampire of the Cwn Mamau tribe, also known as Hounds. Having mostly kept to themselves in their caves, raising and training fierce dogs, they are shunned by the more 'refined' vampire society. The narrative is split between Logan and Isabeau's points of views, and it was great to have the first-hand insight of a Drake brother, especially Logan. He is sauve and charming - and knows it - and is instantly drawn to Isabeau. He sees what the readers are privy to - that she is a warrior, but still also a vulnerable young lady. I really enjoyed the flashbacks to Isabeau's time as a human during the French Revolution. It gave the narrative an interesting and deeper twist, ensuring its uniqueness amongst the series - as well as the magic of the Hound's, which further distinguishes them from other vampires and builds upon Harvey's unique creation.

Harvey has also delved deeper into the vampire society she has created, with not only the introduction of the Hounds, but some backstory to Montmarte, the Host, and Hel-Blar, some of the different vampire 'tribes', as it were. The Hel-Blar, vicious, monstrous vampires, are especially chilling. As is Greyhaven, Isabeau's cruel maker, who's psychopathic nature resounds throughout the book, though his appearances are minor.

Harvey's world is varied, which only adds to the fast-paced nature of her books. I'm pleased that some of the plot elements (I don't want to give away any spoilers!) that began in the first book were ended here. The Drake family has many enemies, both human and vampire, so there's certainly plenty to keep the action flowing in further books. I've already ordered the third in the series, Out for Blood, and I am eagerly awaiting it's arrival!

Rating:

Friday, January 14, 2011

Review: Hearts at Stake by Alyxandra Harvey

Solange Drake always knew she was destined to become a vampire queen. And as the only female vampire ever born, not made, she is surrounded by danger on all sides - from vampire suitors who want to join with her lineage to bounty hunters who are set on destroying her and her family. When she is kidnapped, it's up to her older brother Nicholas and her human best friend, Lucy, to save her. But can Lucy save herself from Nicholas, who tempts her with his every look? And what will be Solange's own fate if she surrenders her to heart to the vampire hunter helping her survive the deadly intrigue at the royal court?

Let the Drake family be your guide into a secret vampire society full of epic battles, gothic seduction, undead drama, and wicked humor.

I've owned this book for a little while, but have recently been a bit off vampire narratives. But I finally had an urge to read it, and boy, am I glad I did! Once I started reading this book, I did not want to put it down - though unfortunately I did have to, so I'd get some sleep! Serves me right for starting a new book too late in the evening!

The different perspectives of Lucy and Solange made for a fun and interesting read. Lucy is human, and Solange a vampire. Each has their own adventure, and it was great to be able to experience all the action, as it were. Plus, it made for double the romance, and I can't help but like that! Though for me, Solange and Kieran's romance was lacking, just a little - only in the sense that I wanted more of it! I miss not having the same sort of steamy interludes that Lucy and Nicholas had. Of course, it's obvious theirs has been simmering a while, whereas Solange and Kieran are only just getting started.

Lucy has earned a place in my heart - she's wickedly funny and strong. I had many laugh out loud moments thanks to her, especially in her dealings with the Drake brothers. She may be human but that does not make her weak, and I love that she's willing to prove it, no matter the situation she's in. I do hope she appears in future books, though I'm sad to think they'll more than likely not be from her point of view again. Though I look forward to experiencing the story from the Drake brother's point of views - I'm a little disappointed that Nicholas didn't get a couple of chapters of his own. I would've enjoyed a deeper insight to him and his thoughts - especially in regards to Lucy! I could just imagine, and it makes me giggle even now!

Harvey has created an interesting vampire society that I look forward to learning more about. Heart's at Stake is only the first in what looks to be many books about the Drake family. I like that they don't appear to be huge and as such, not overly epic - the plot kept moving, there was never a moment that dragged for me. While yes, the book isn't completely unpredictable, it mostly made for a light read, which isn't common, especially in terms of some of the paranormal novels available recently - that I've got on my shelves, at least! Truthfully, Harvey's series reminds me of romance books I read as a teenager - where each book relates the story of another member of the family falling in love, but keeps the characters connected through their family going-ons. Her world of vampires (and vampire hunters) definitely makes for intriguing going-ons!

What can I say? I can't decide if I have a favourite Drake brother, and the prospect of a book for each of them is one I'm excited for! I wonder if I'll end up with a favourite?

Rating:

Harry Potter Memories - Potter-Thon Challenge

I signed up to take part in Pure Imagination's Potter-Thon, and have been really looking forward to re-reading the series. I love the books, so I own the whole series...all of which are currently in a box in my old house in another state, waiting to be shipped here to my new home. I had thought my younger brother also owned the series, but I was wrong. So the week before last I visited my local library and placed each one on hold - I have book 2 and 7, but as I'm picky, I can't read them out of order! Book 1 is actually ready for pick up, but with the flood disaster that occurred here this week, I haven't been able to pick it up. The next couple of weeks are going to be full on Harry Potter days, I can tell! And I can't wait!

In the meantime, I thought I'd simply share some of my memories of Harry Potter.

I read The Philosopher's Stone for the first time in 2001, days after my 18th birthday. I'd heard about the series but hadn't been interested in reading it. So, in an effort to change my mind, one of my best friends bought me a copy as a present (to this day she loves that she 'converted' me!). I read it in one setting, and then went straight out to buy the next 3 books (Goblet of Fire had just recently been released), which I then proceeded to devour...to the detriment of my university studies. I handed an essay in late because of Harry Potter! I was hooked. I loved them, and still do to this day.

I remember keeping the above friend company during one of her lectures and reading GoF. I was nearing the end, and it turns out she wanted to see my reaction to a certain moment. See, I'd confessed to liking Cedric. You know which moment now, right? (I can't write it!) Well, she got her reaction. I believe I yelled "WHAT?! NO!" and then slammed the book closed in my embarrassment. Of course, I then had to attend my own lecture and wait to keep reading! Which is probably a good thing, seeing as I'm a crier. Ms. Rowling has been making me cry since!

I would count the days before the release of the new books. After uni I moved interstate, to a small town with no bookstore (or cinema), so I would save my money and take a holiday for the release of both the new books and the movies. My holiday would actually go on hold, in terms of the books, as I'd line up first thing at the bookstore, grab my copy, then lock myself away in my hotel room until I'd finished it. No phone, no TV, no internet - no spoilers! I even made the local news for the release of the 7th book, stating the same.

I dress up for the release of each movie as a Slytherin student (I have a crush on Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape). The same friend even bought me my very own authentic wand for another birthday, and I wield it with serious enjoyment. I really do love the movies, but I am disappointed by how much gets cut - certainly the books are much, much better.

When I visited London in 2009, one of the things I was determined to do was take a tour of the Harry Potter film locations. I spent a day with Black Taxi Tours driving around and outside London to see many Harry Potter sites. I saw Professor Slughorn's house and Lily and James's cottage; I stood under the tree where Mad Eye Moody turned Draco into a ferret; I touched the wall outside Professor Lockhart's office where Harry heard the basilisk; I peeked into Professor Quirrell's classroom; I visited the Infirmary, and King's Cross where I tried (unsuccessfully) to get onto Platform 9 and 3/4...plus heaps more! It was an awesome day - despite my driver threatening to leave me on the side of the road because I refused to take off my Slytherin scarf.

These are a few memories I have of Harry Potter. As I re-read the books, I'm sure I'll share many more!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Review: I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan

Seventeen-year-old Bronwen Oliver doesn't just want a family. She has one of those, and there's nothing terribly wrong with them apart from bickering grandparents, an image-obsessed mother and a brother she describes simply as Jesus. But there's no natural sense of connection between Bronwen and her family, leaving her with the belief -- and the hope -- that she was switched at birth, that she was never supposed to be Bronwen Oliver but someone else entirely.

When she begins dating college senior Jared Sondervan, she finds herself thoroughly embraced by the loving family she has always wanted and does not hesitate to say yes when Jared proposes on her 18th birthday. Plans for the Perfect Beach Wedding before her junior year of college become plans for the Perfect Beach Wedding before her freshman year of college. And a wedding so soon isn't exactly what Bronwen wants. But Jared is. And his family is. So why the sudden hesitation?

Before Bronwen can determine what she truly wants, she must first determine two things – who she truly is and who she truly wants to be. And the answers are not what she thought they’d be. (Summary from author's website)

I have been wanting to read this book for a while now, ever since I read some good reviews about it on various blogs. Sometimes I'm a little wary after reading such reviews, as I'm worried the book might not stand up to my expectations...but this one? Blew them away! I loved it!

I think many of us can relate to the feeling that we don't necessarily fit in with our family. It is this idea that guides both the narrative and its main character, and it's done in a way that doesn't feel petty, but authentic, in all it's awkwardness and fun. Let's face it, Bronwen's family is certainly interesting and hilarious, truly dysfunctional...but maybe not quite one of a kind, which is a message I think McCahan relates in a fast-paced and heartwarming manner.

McCahan has created such a likeable character with Bronwen...she's smart, witty, and gave me quite a few giggles! But she's also vulnerable, and it doesn't take the reader long to realise that a lot of her humour covers significant pain. Bronwen is engaging throughout the narrative, to such an extent that I laughed when she laughed, cried when she cried, and even got angry when she did. Though I admit to wanting her to confront her parents a lot earlier than she actually did!!

I found Bronwen's romance with Jared endearing, and cheered for it from the start. As the little revelations of Bronwen's true feelings shone through, those which she too easily pushed away, my stomach literally tied itself in knots, worried as I was about what the outcome would be. I'm a romantic at heart, so I want the 'happily ever after', but I also have to believe in it - as did Bronwen. Her growth - and that of her relationships with her parents, brother and Jared - felt real and was great to experience.

What I truly enjoyed about I Now Pronounce You Someone Else is that it isn't a typical love story. It's first and foremost a story about being true to yourself - happy in who you are - before you can be happy in your relationships with others. It's both a story of love and acceptance, in its many forms, and I could not put it down.

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I also adore this cover, it's cute and pretty and fits the story perfectly.

2011 Young Adult Contemporary Challenge @ TUBL


The goal is to read a minimum of 13 young adult contemporary novels published in 2011.

I've been looking at my bookshelf, and I see a lot of paranormal, fantasy, or historical ya, which I do love. But lately I've had a bit of a craving for some contemporary, so this challenge is perfect!

I don't have a complete list yet of which titles I'll read, but I'll update here as I decide!

My reviews (updates as I read):

1. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

If you're interested in joining in the challenge, then head on over to The Undercover Book Lover and sign up!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Review: The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott

Everyone knows the unwritten rule: You don't like your best friend's boyfriend.

Sarah has had a crush on Ryan for years. He's easy to talk to, supersmart, and totally gets her. Lately it even seems like he's paying extra attention to her. Everything would be perfect except for two things: Ryan is Brianna's boyfriend, and Brianna is Sarah's best friend.

Sarah forces herself to avoid Ryan and tries to convince herself not to like him. She feels so guilty for wanting him, and the last thing she wants is to hurt her best friend. But when she's thrown together with Ryan one night, something happens. It's wonderful...and awful.

Sarah is torn apart by guilt, but what she feels is nothing short of addiction, and she can't stop herself from wanting more... (Summary from author's website)

I have mixed feelings about this book. While I enjoyed the romance aspect, and found the relationship and family dynamics of the story interesting, I feel like it didn't reach it's full potential...as if it wasn't exactly complete. I actually left it feeling frustrated.

To be honest, I was frustrated most with the pacing of this novel, and I think that's why it felt incomplete. Sarah is in love with her best friend's boyfriend, and she feels extremely guilty about that so a lot of the narrative is Sarah's 'will she, won't she'...she loves him and can't help herself; she refuses to betray Brianna - yet after three quarters of the novel it stopped feeling like the messed up indecision of a teenager caught in such a situation, but simply repetition. I spent the entire reading waiting for more...and yes, something finally happens, but for me there was no further development, it just ends. I feel like I'm still waiting for more.

Despite this, there are aspects of the narrative I truly enjoyed. Scott's writing still has a way of drawing you in and making you feel for the characters. Sarah is likeable, and her awkward situation really resonates. She truly grows by the book's end, and I'm glad for it. As readers, we can see what Sarah's Mum's sees - that her friendship with Brianna is toxic. Yet Scott's revealing of Brianna's home life also allows readers to sympathise for her...an aspect of the narrative I also felt to be left somewhat incomplete. I did appreciate how Scott leaves Brianna and Sarah's relationship, but I guess I also would've appreciated further insight into Brianna in the aftermath.

I enjoyed the romantic plotline of The Unwritten Rule. Ryan and Sarah felt real, and their scenes together made me sigh - despite my severe frustration at Ryan. I admit it, I have a little irritation at his accidently falling into a relationship with Brianna! He's a nice guy who didn't want anyone to be hurt, but jeez. Of course, had he pushed for Sarah right from the beginning I don't doubt it would've ended up much differently!!

Overall, this book is a light and quick read, but I still feel like there could have been more, or it could've been executed better.


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