Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Tale of Lunarmorte series

While looking at my friends' updates on goodreads, I noticed that one of them had recently read a bunch of books by an author named Samantha Young. I'd never heard of her before, but after looking at the books' descriptions & then seeing how inexpensive they were on the Kindle, I decided to give them a try. Plus the fact that they were YA paranormal fiction just added to my curiosity. If you didn't know yet, I'm a huge sucker for these types of books. I blame it on my Twilight obsession from a few years ago. From there, it just bloomed & grew (that doesn't sound nearly as good as "bloom & grow" (quick, name that song!) in fact, it just sounds awkward . . . oh well, I'm sticking with it).

Well, once I got started on this series, I was hooked, & it took a lot of will power to put them down. They were fun & fast-paced, & after finishing, I didn't even want to start reading a new book b/c I was stuck on my high from these. Are they really that good? Maybe, maybe not. They needed a serious editor b/c the errors were everywhere! But being completely sucked into the story, I quickly got used to ignoring them. I loved the strong female characters, & the author's format in telling the story was so well done. It made me think of watching a TV show, namely Alias, where you'd see the character in a certain situation, but then it would suddenly take you back to . . . for example . . . earlier that day to let you know why such & such person is acting or thinking a certain way. By the time the series was over, I had laughed out loud, cried, wanted to b-slap some of the characters . . . . Perhaps it's because I read them so close together that I was so caught up in the story & felt so many emotions while reading. Whatever the reason, I really loved these books & would recommend them to anyone who loves a fun, creative, paranormal YA series.

(Warning, they are for older YA. The recommended age is 16+, but I might make it 18+.)

           
click on book covers to go to goodreads descriptions

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Review - Angelfire, by Courntey Allison Moulton

Released: Feb 2011
Publisher:  HarperCollins / Katherine Tegen Books
Audience: YA
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal
Source: NetGalley
Purchase

Summary from Goodreads:

This debut, the first novel in a trilogy, is achingly romantic, terrifying, and filled with blistering action.

When seventeen-year-old Ellie starts seeing reapers - monstrous creatures who devour humans and send their souls to Hell - she finds herself on the front lines of a supernatural war between archangels and the Fallen and faced with the possible destruction of her soul.

A mysterious boy named Will reveals she is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior, the only one capable of wielding swords of angelfire to fight the reapers, and he is an immortal sworn to protect her in battle. Now that Ellie's powers have been awakened, a powerful reaper called Bastian has come forward to challenge her. He has employed a fierce assassin to eliminate her - an assassin who has already killed her once.

While balancing her dwindling social life and reaper-hunting duties, she and Will discover Bastian is searching for a dormant creature believed to be a true soul reaper. Bastian plans to use this weapon to ignite the End of Days and to destroy Ellie's soul, ending her rebirth cycle forever. Now, she must face an army of Bastian's most frightening reapers, prevent the soul reaper from consuming her soul, and uncover the secrets of her past lives - including truths that may be too frightening to remember.

Review:

Is this seriously a debut novel?! I had to go back & check just to make sure. I am just amazed at how much I loved it, & I mean really, really loved it! There have been so many novels out this year that have received a ton of hype, & I've felt let-down by pretty much all of them.  Sure, they were good, but not as great as so many led me to believe. THIS book, on the other hand, was fantastic (I haven't seen as much hype over it, so maybe that's part of it? But I doubt it.). It was clean, interesting, fast-paced, the characters were fun to be around, & I couldn't read it quick enough.
Moulton wrote a very polished story. The history of the reapers, angels, & war in Heaven was well thought out & explained, and I really liked the fact that she revealed bits & pieces of information throughout the book, so that the reader continued to learn (or remember) the mysteries of this other world alongside the main character, Ellie. I also loved the flashbacks that Ellie kept having from her previous lives. It was fun to see her at different times & places in history & get a better idea of what her purpose was & the cost she paid time & again to achieve that purpose.
Moulton also did a nice job with the characters in this book. Each character was distinct & realistic, & I found I quite liked most of them (other than the ones that you're not supposed to care for). My favorite characters, as they should be, were Ellie & Will. While Ellie seemed weak much of the time, the author let you know why. It was acceptable. She redeemed herself many times though with incredible bouts of power & bravery (in the present & with her flashbacks). And what do I even say about Will? I have a major literary crush on him? He's frustrating, yet perfect? Scratch the crush part, I'm in love with him?! He was just so likeable!

Another thing I appreciated about this book was that it was nicely wrapped up, but still left things open for a sequel. It didn't have a horrible cliff hanger like so many writers seem to rely on in order to get you to read their next book. This book was great without the cliff hanger, & I most definitely have the next book on my read-it-as-soon-as-I-possibly-can list. I'm really excited for Courtney Allison Moulton & the incredible start to her career.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a good, action-packed, paranormal love story.
5/5
"That’s the point of believing in something. There’s so much doubt and tribulation during your journey that you’ve got to hang on to something, or else you’ll fall."  ~ Courtney Allison Moulton, Angelfire

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Breaking Dawn Movie Trailer

I put off reading the Twilight series for quite a while b/c I just couldn't stand all the hype around it. Once I finally gave it a shot, I was hooked - obsessively hooked. (I'm guessing part of this was because I'd been trying to read Les Miserables for 8 months without opening any other books, & I had finally had enough. Twilight offered a huge relief from the verbose French classic.)

While the excitement surrounding Twilight has ebbed over the last couple years (even moreso in the last year), I was still so happy when I saw the newest trailer for the Breaking Dawn movie. I'm still not convinced this book needed to be made into two separate movies, but after watching this trailer, I'm getting anxious for the next installment of the series to come out.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mini Reviews


1. Daughter of the Forest - Juliet Marillier (4*): It's been a while since I've read an epic fantasy (not sure if this is considered epic or not?), & I really enjoyed it! I love fairy tale retellings & quite liked this one. The bonds between brothers & sister were well developed & strong, & the love story was very sweet. I did, however, think this book was on the wordy side. The same story could have been told in fewer words &, in my opinion, been more effective. I found myself wanting the story to get on with it. At the same time, I couldn't begin to focus on any other books I was reading b/c this one was so difficult to put down. I will most likely continue this series, although I'll need to take a break from it for a bit.

2. The White Queen - Philippa Gregory (2.75*):  It took me a long time to get into this book. I just didn't feel much of a connection with the main character (I actually thought she was pretty unlikeable). I've read & liked plenty of Philippa Gregory's books, but this one wasn't my favorite.

3. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (4*): What a bizarre family! I put this book off for such a long time b/c I tend to avoid non-fiction or depressing sounding books. So I was amazed at how much a liked it. The stories of Jeannette Walls' childhood are outrageous - I'm surprised that she survived it & with such a positive attitude & sense of humor. There were laugh-out-loud moments throughout the book, as well as many times I just wanted to cry for the way the children in Walls' family were brought up. I really enjoyed this book & am glad I finally got around to reading it.

Book Review - The Lying Game, by Sara Shepard

Released: Dec 2010
Publisher:  HarperTeen
Audience: YA
Genre: Mystery
Source: NetGalley
Summary from Goodreads:

I had a life anyone would kill for.
 
Then someone did.
 
The worst part of being dead is that there’s nothing left to live for. No more kisses. No more secrets. No more gossip. It’s enough to kill a girl all over again. But I’m about to get something no one else does—an encore performance, thanks to Emma, the long-lost twin sister I never even got to meet.
 
Now Emma’s desperate to know what happened to me. And the only way to figure it out is to be me—to slip into my old life and piece it all together. But can she laugh at inside jokes with my best friends? Convince my boyfriend she’s the girl he fell in love with? Pretend to be a happy, carefree daughter when she hugs my parents good night? And can she keep up the charade, even after she realizes my murderer is watching her every move?
 
From Sara Shepard, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Pretty Little Liars books, comes a riveting new series about secrets, lies, and killer consequences.
 
Let the lying game begin.

Review:

Talk about twisted & creepy! This book pulled me in from the start. I never read mystery or suspense novels because I scare easily, so I was surprised with how much I liked this one. Yes, the premise of a long-lost twin coming into town & so easily convincing everyone that she's her twin sister is far-fetched. From their personalities alone, they sound like such opposites that this doesn't even being to seem plausible. However, the author engaged me so well with the story that I was willing, for the most part, to ignore the impossibility of the situation.

Shepard did a wonderful job putting the reader inside Emma's head & making it feel like you were experiencing all the anxiety, hope, & fear along with her. I sat up late many nights needing to know what happened next (possibly to calm my own anxiety & come to a good stopping point where I could fall asleep without needing to keep the lights on). This book kept me turning the pages. My heart literally raced with the suspense - I just couldn't conceive of how twisted & horrible this "game" was that the girls were playing. I thought I had things figured out one moment & then was completely surprised at the new possibile answers to the mystery.

My one complaint is that this book ended with such a cliffhanger. I still don't know what's going on! I'll definitely read the sequel. While cliffhangers often frustrate me, I'm fine with the need to read the next book in the series to see how things play out. Sara Shepard engaged me enough with her characters & story that I'm anxious to get to the next one.
4/5
"At least she had a clear picture of what the Lying Game was now: Girl Scouts for psychopaths." 
 ~ Sara Shepard, The Lying Game

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Review - Sarah's Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay

Released: June 2007
Publisher:  St. Martin's Griffin
Audience: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction, WWII
Source: Owned
Summary from Goodreads:

Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.
Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France's past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl's ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d'Hiv', to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah's past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.

Tatiana de Rosnay offers us a brilliantly subtle, compelling portrait of France under occupation and reveals the taboos and silence that surround this painful episode.

Review:

I avoided this book for a long time - a combination of all the hype around it & the disturbing subject matter. After looking at it on my shelf for a while, I decided I just needed to start. I had very low expectations, mostly due to the fact that so many hyped books I've read lately have fallen short. So I was surprised to find that I really loved this book! (It is my favorite read of the year so far.)

Tatiana de Rosnay wove a beautiful story of past & present, the story of a young girl's experience with the Jewish roundup in Paris, 1942, & the story of a woman journalist researching that horrific part of French history in the present.

Rosnay alternated back & forth between the two narratives for the first half of the book, allowing us to learn bits & pieces of these two lives & the mystery around Sarah, the little Jewish girl. She then focused on Julia for the second part of the book (something I had to get used to since I really loved the little girl's narrative & missed it once it was gone). While I wasn't crazy about Julia's character at first, she grew on me. She started out reserved & weak & then grew into such a strong, take-charge woman. The story of Sarah was a horribly sad one, & I found myself crying often throughout this book. Hearing about the Holocaust & from the perspective of a young French girl was different than anything I'd ever come across before, & it was heartbreaking. While reading this story & visualizing all the Jewish children with the stars sewn onto their clothes, I kept thinking about Dr. Seuss' The Sneetches. I read this book often as a child & still think about it years later. It made me think how ridiculous it was to label someone with a star to prove that they were beneath you, or, in The Sneetches, that those wearing the stars were better than the rest. I kept thinking, "We're all part of the human race. How could anyone be so prejudiced & full of hate for another person?" It is something I just can't comprehend.

This book was very touching to me, & while I won't jump to read another book by this author in the near future (again, the difficult subject matter), I do plan to read more of her work when I can.

5/5
""How was it possible that entire lives could change, could be destroyed, and that streets and buildings remained the same, she wondered." ~ Tatiana de Rosnay, Sarah's Key

Monday, April 18, 2011

What I've Been Reading

I'm happy to say that I'm back, although I won't be posting as much as I was when I started this blog back in December.  After the complete reading disruption & the new chaos (in a good way) in my life, I've decided that I need to cut back on my reading challenges. So I still plan to read 36 BIO (books I own) by the end of the year, but I'm not sticking to a list anymore. I'm just happy to be reading again & want to bask in the freedom of it instead of being tied down to specific books or goals.

So for now, here's a list of books I've read since the end of March:


1. The Dark Divine - Bree Despain (4*): I thought this was such a fun book! Sure, it reminded me a lot of Twilight with the "running through the woods" scene & the "I'm a monster & not good enough to be with you" attitude, but I was completely entertained & didn't care all that much that this story had been told in one way or another many times before. I can see why those who are not religious might find this book grating (even those who are religious might find it that way), but I personally found it refreshing. This was a clean, but slightly edgy book, & I'm anxious to read the next one in the series.

2. Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins (3.5*): This book has gotten a whole lot of hype, so I had high expectations (even though I tried not to). Although this was a fun, light read, it was nothing absolutely mind-blowing. I felt like I'd been transported back to high school while reading this story, & for that I loved it. I could relate to so much that the characters were going through. I also loved seeing the streets of Paris through the eyes of the narrator, & many times while reading kept thinking that I needed to read The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Notre Dame played a decent enough size role in the story). I really liked the love story, & if this were made into a movie, it's probably one I'd watch over & over (like I already do with French Kiss, The Holiday, & The Family Stone). I will definitely read more books by this author.

3. Redeeming Love - Francine Rivers (3.5*): I had high hopes for this book. Wouldn't you with a 4.45* rating on goodreads? While the story was very entertaining at times, I felt it dragged in many places as well. It could have been shorter, in my opinion, & still had the same impact. I really liked the characters (minus a few villainous ones) & cared about what happened to them. The book was on the cheesy side, which made it harder for me to take seriously (one reason why I tend to side-step Christian lit). I will try reading another Francine Rivers book, but feel more prepared about what to expect with the next one, & my hopes won't be quite as high.


4. The House at Riverton - Kate Morton (3*): While I loved Morton's The Forgotten Garden, this one was a little slow for me. I wasn't crazy about the narrator as a younger girl (I thought she was kind of flat), but I really liked her as an older woman (which made me wonder how reliable her narrative/memory would truly be by the end of the book). There were just so many things in this book that bothered me that could have been avoided if people would just communicate & stop being so prideful & secretive! I know that's part of the point, but I found it frustrating many times throughout the book.

5. City of Fallen Angels - Cassandra Clare (3.75*): I really loved books #2 & 3 in this series & was so excited about the fourth one! But I just don't know how I feel about it! So much more of it was focused on Simon's character, & I never really liked him all that much to begin with. And Jace, my absolute favorite played more the part of a whiny martyr instead of his usual snarky self. I could be convinced to give this book more stars b/c I love the series so much, but was left feeling a little let down. Plus there's a HUGE cliff hanger - not so fun!

6. The Scarlet Pimpernel - Baroness Emmuska Orczy (4*): I really liked this book! It took me a while to get used to the language/style of it, but once I did, I fell into the story. It was such a quick read, & I loved seeing the characters who I loved from the movie come to life in the book (I know, it should probably be the other way around, right? :). I guess b/c I've seen the movie so many times, I kept waiting for Percy Blackney to say "Sink me!" even just once-lol, but he never did :( Oh well! My only gripe with this book was that the author was very redundant, like she had to keep reminding the reader that Marguerite was such a beauty, or that the "web" or "net" was being tightened more & more around that wily Pimpernel . . . If I hadn't grown tired of these remarks, it would have been a definite 5 star for me!

Friday, February 4, 2011

"Time Out" from Reading (4) - Unearthly

"Time Out" from Reading
(click on the link for an explanation of this feature & to join in)

Seriously, I can't belive how sick I've been!!! I had a horrible cold, then something else came along, then I got the stomach flu! I'm doing the best I can!

A couple weeks ago, I went to Muir Woods National Park with my mother, grandmother, & little boy. I've been wanting to go here for a while, & after reading Unearthly, by Cynthia Hand last month, I was even more determined to go. The book is set in Wyoming & mentions the outdoors & forests so much that I thought visiting a place like this would be a perfect activity for this feature!


There's also t-shirt Friday mentioned in Unearthly, the designated day of the week where the high school students wear a casual t-shirt to school. I purposely wore my Clint Eastwood shirt to incorporate the book into my day just a little bit more.
my grandmother & me (& Clint Eastwood)



spotted a ladybug



I caved to my little boy's crying & let him drag his blanket around through the mud - nothing a washing machine can't fix easily enough!

Friday, January 28, 2011

"Time Out" from Reading (3) - The Pillars of the Earth & The Luxe

"Time Out" from Reading
(click on the link for an explanation of this feature & to join in)

Well, I'm still sick. It's been a couple weeks now, & it seems to be just one thing after another keeping me down. I took a break from reading, but am finally starting to get back into it. While taking the said break, I decided to indulge in some movies (what better time than when I'm sick?).

After reading The Pillars of the Earth last year, I came across the miniseries on Amazon. Because it didn't have a rating, I decided to rent it from Netflix instead of purchasing it. I loved the book, so was anxious to see how the movie was. I really liked it. Sure, they changed some things, especially towards the end, but overall, I felt like the movie did a pretty good job capturing the feel & general story of the book. I had to close my eyes a lot because I really hate watching violence. There was also more nudity than I care to see. For these reasons, I won't buy it, but I'm still glad that I saw it (even if I had to look away at times).



I also recently finished The Luxe, & was constantly reminded of Gossip Girl while reading it. I decided to rent the first season since we don't have TV at home, & I'd only ever seen a couple episodes. While the story (both in The Luxe & Gossip Girl) makes me wonder what ever happened to moral behavior, I have to admit, I enjoyed both the book & the show it reminded me of. While watching Gossip Girl, my favorite thing had to be the fashion, especially Blair Waldorf's. Her clothes were awesome! If I weren't such a jeans & t-shirt type of girl, I would love to dress like her!






Now here's hoping I feel well enough to start reading & blogging regularly again!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Review - Clockwork Angel, by Cassandra Clare

Author: Cassandra Clare
Released: Aug 2010
Publisher:  Margaret K. McElderry
Pages: 479
Rating: 5/5
Source: Owned
Purchase: Amazon

Summary from Goodreads
Magic is dangerous--but love is more dangerous still.

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by--and torn between--two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length...everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world...and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

Review:
I loved this book!!! I flew through it & was so sad when it was over. I mean come on! I have to wait how much longer for the next one to come out?! I was ready to start reading right away!

I read Clare's The Mortal Instruments series last year & really liked them, a lot! But I admit, it took me a little while to get into them (at least the first one). I didn't really see what all the hype was about until I got to Book #2: City of Ashes, & then I was pulled in. THIS book, however, pulled me in pretty dang quick! I loved the characters & the storyline. Sure the language was a bit awkward to read at times, but once I looked past that, I became enveloped in the world of the shadowhunters & downworlders once again!

Tessa's character was great! She started out kind of young, helpless, & naive, but soon changed into a much stronger character. I loved her references to books throughout the story: A Tale of Two Cities, Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre. She was a reader, & I could relate to that ;). I also loved that she was a fighter & stood up for what she believed in. She didn't shrink back in the presence of men, but voiced her opinions & stood her ground when it probably wasn't very normal to do so in Victorian England. But even with her strong convictions, she wasn't preachy, arrogant, or superior. She was just good.

I'm also curious to see what happens with Will & Jem - the two guys who are perhaps part of a love triangle with Tessa? . . . still not too sure what's going on here, but I'm excited to see where the story goes with this. I don't think I can pick a "team" yet. I thought I had it all figured out, but was left wondering who would really be best for her in the end. Plus I'm just excited to learn more about their back stories - I bet they're pretty interesting!

I am so excited for the next book in this series to come out!!! I feel like Clare's writing just continues to improve with each book she writes, and I'm so glad that this one wasn't nearly as predictable as The Mortal Instruments series. I thought I had something figured out, & then was shocked with how things worked out instead. This book had me flipping pages so fast!

So now I don't know what to read next because this left me on a shadowhunter high, & I don't know how long it's going to take for that to burn down enough for me to move on to something else! Help! I think I'm addicted to a new series!

5/5
"You know," Gabriel said, "there was a time I thought we could be friends, Will."

"There was a time I thought I was a ferret," Will said, "but that turned out to be the opium haze. Did you know it had that effect? Because I didn't." 
~ Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel

"Waiting On" Wednesday (5) - The Peach Keeper, by Sarah Addison Allen

Jill at Breaking the Spine hosts the weekly meme,
"Waiting On" Wednesday
It offers the opportunity to share soon-to-be-released books that we are excited to read.

I'm really excited to read The Peach Keeper, by Sarah Addison Allen. I discovered her last year & enjoyed all of her books so much. She has such a fun writing style, & I love the bits of magic she throws into her stories. I can't wait for her newest book to come out!


It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home—has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots.

But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood—of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes. But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it.

For the bones—those of charismatic traveling salesman Tucker Devlin, who worked his dark charms on Walls of Water seventy-five years ago—are not all that lay hidden out of sight and mind. Long-kept secrets surrounding the troubling remains have also come to light, seemingly heralded by a spate of sudden strange occurrences throughout the town.

Now, thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the dangerous passions and tragic betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover truths of the long-dead that have transcended time and defied the grave to touch the hearts and souls of the living.

Release Date: 3.22.11

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review - Unearthly, by Cynthia Hand

Title: Unearthly
Author: Cynthia Hand
Released: Jan 2011
Publisher:  Little, Brown and Company
Pages: 341
Rating: 4/5
Source: NetGalley
Purchase: Amazon

Summary from Goodreads
In the beginning, there's a boy standing in the trees . . . .

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn't easy.
Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side.
As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?
Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart.

Review:
I don't know why, but I'm having such a difficult time writing a review for this book! I mean, it was really good, but I just can't seem to put my thoughts into words without giving anything away.

The only books I've read that touch on the subject of angels are Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments series. Other than that, my experience with paranormal beings has been with vampires, wolves, shadowhunters, wizards & any other creature in the Harry Potter series. So, what were my thoughts on reading a book about a part-angel, part-teenage human girl? It was refreshing. This story was not dark like so many others in its genre. Sure there were dark moments, but overall, it had such a light, happy feel to it.

I loved the main character, Clara. While first getting to know her, I worried she was going to be another whiny, awkward, swooning girl. At times she showed hints of this (what teenage girl hasn't?), but as I got to know her, I realized that while not perfect, she was strong, independent, self-sufficient, competitive, & easy to relate to. She was awesome!

While this book can be categorized as paranormal fantasy, & the overall premise of the story had to do with Clara & her angel purpose on Earth, I was amazed by Hand's ability to make it so realistic. So much of the focus was on the characters & what it's like to be a teenager - trying to get a boy's attention, making friends, fitting in, & being teased by the Gilbert Blythe of Jackson Hole, WY (when said boy called her "Carrots," I'm pretty sure I started rooting for him right then & there!). At the same time, Hand threw in magical qualities: flying, visions, glowing, hair having an almost life-like mind of its own. This book felt more like magical realism than paranormal fantasy, & I loved that about it. It made it easier to escape in the story & feel as though it could really happen.

Another thing I appreciated about Hand's story was the fact that she didn't make the romance aspect of it ridiculous. It felt natural & was very well-developed. It wasn't about fantasy, obsession, love at first sight, & lust (well, maybe a little), but rather, they were equals & grew close through actually spending time together & getting to know each other. And while the swoon-worthy boys were comical at times in their stereotypes, I enjoyed them. Tucker especially made my list of literary crushes, while I imagine Christian isn't far behind!

I am so excited for the next book in this series to come out! Unearthly left us with some unanswered questions, & I can't wait to see where this story goes! I wish I could just relive the story all over again - if this were a movie, I would have pushed "replay" as soon as I finished watching it, just so I could experience it all over again.
4/5
"So often we only do what we think is expected of us, when we are capable of so much more." ~ Cynthia Hand, Unearthly

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Author Interview & Giveaway - Holly Weiss' Crestmont!

Author Holly Weiss was kind enough to do an interview for her debut novel Crestmont! She has also offered up a signed copy of her book for giveaway. She has also included a Crestmont bookmark (to enter, fill out form at bottom of post). I finished reading this book around the holidays & felt a great connection to the Crestmont Inn & the richness of its history & continuing traditions. It was a fun, sweet read.

Title: Crestmont
Author: Holly Weiss ~ website, twitter
Released: April 2010
Publisher:  Star Publish
Pages: 309
Purchase: Amazon


"A dream, after all, needn't be fueled by particulars, only by desire."

So notes main character, Gracie Antes, in CRESTMONT, a historical fiction gem set in the 1920s.

Determined to take control of her life, sheltered Gracie Antes leaves her unhappy home in 1925 to pursue her dream of a singing career. On her way to the big city, she accepts a job as a housemaid at the bustling Crestmont Inn. Once there, Gracie finds a life-changing encounter with opera singer Rosa Ponselle, family she never imagined could be hers, and a man with a mysterious past. Relive the 1920s with a colorful cast of characters. Discover with Gracie that sometimes we must trade loss for happiness.

Set in Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania, the story is interwoven with details about the town, the rich history of The Crestmont Inn, and the family who passed ownership from one generation to the next.

Many attempts have been made to explain how the mountaintop lake nestled in this tiny town came to be. Crestmont gives a new twist to an old Native American legend, setting the tone of grace around which the story is built.

Let the period of the Roaring Twenties spark your interest with its unique social mores, fashion, jazz, and yes, a little bootlegging thrown in for pizzazz.

First off, how did you learn about the small town of Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania?
I want to thank you for this opportunity to do an interview on Through the Pages. I think your blog is creative, well-researched and in-depth, and I’m honored to be here.

My husband and I were looking for a place to stay overnight to break up a long drive home from visiting my family. I found The Crestmont Inn on a lark on the internet. Once in the charming mountaintop town of Eagles Mere, I was hooked. By the way, the permanent residency there is only 127 people!

Have you always wanted to write a novel? What inspired you to write Crestmont?
I’ve always enjoyed writing, but was not serious about it until 2006. I sang professionally for thirty-five years. My main means of creative expression was through song. But five years ago, I contracted Post-Polio Syndrome, a late-life extension of the polio I had as a child. The increased weakness and fatigue put an end to my singing career. God led me in the direction of writing. One voice led to another, so to speak. Writing is now my means of creative expression, but music will always be an integral part of me.

Our one-night stay at the inn inspired me to write Crestmont. The restful atmosphere of the inn, the graciousness of the innkeepers and the beauty of the surrounding area captivated me. More importantly for the book, the rich history of the inn struck me. We stayed in The Evergreen Lodge, which was converted into its current form from staff quarters built in 1926. Small staff rooms that housed two or three waitresses in the 1920s through the 1970s were cut through to create the large and luxurious suite where we stayed. Original transoms over the doors and antiques from the inn’s early years perked my interest about how these staffers lived and worked.

William Warner's ideas for the future Crestmont, as you wrote them, sound ideal - the place for the perfect getaway. How did your stay there compare to his early vision?
the original Crestmont Inn
William Warner built the Crestmont Inn in 1899 to provide respite for people pummeled by the stress of everyday life. The current owners, the Mulford’s, have carried on that tradition. Foresight and attention to the needs of guests who walk through the Crestmont Inn’s doors are their hallmarks. Each time I visited to research and write mementos from the old inn, such as a brochure from 1904, postcards from the 1920s era, old stationery, had thoughtfully been placed in my guest room. The Mulford’s own stories about “difficult and unusual guests” found their way into the novel. The scene where Margaret Woods pulls the burning tablecloth out of the fireplace actually happened in 2003, not 1927. Anything I needed along the way, they gladly gave. They gave me the image of the porch filigree which I used on the cover of “Crestmont” was from their professional photo shoot. When I had a book signing in Eagles Mere in August, the Mulford’s hosted an open house for me and even arranged for a family who was staying at the inn to play Celtic music on the porch. Creative people who produce seemingly effortless special touches draw guests back time after time.


Which character do you most relate to? Was there a character that was difficult to write/create? Did you base any of the characters on people you know?
Yes, I did. I based both Margaret Woods and Gracie on aspects of myself in different phases of my life. Today I identify most with Margaret Woods. We are both type A’s, are overworked, and struggle to balance family and our professions. Margaret has difficulty letting go of her grief after her father’s death. It was no accident that many of those scenes were written the year after my mother passed away. Writing them was very therapeutic for my grief process.

Drawing a character from one’s own life carries with it the danger of assuming self- absorption when the writer is asked to articulate the character’s origin. Without becoming overly personal, I’ll simply say that Gracie begins the novel in a somewhat broken emotional place similar to where I found myself twenty years ago. Some reviewers have called her everything from “refreshingly na├»ve” to “weak and timid.” I stand by her characterization. What is important to me is not where a person starts but how she stretches herself. What happens to us doesn’t count, but rather what we make of it. Long before self-help books were on the shelf, Gracie struggled to find herself — and flourished. I’d rather you read her journey than to tell you mine.

Bessie was challenging, but enjoyable to write. She says and does everything your mother warns you not to. Nine-year-old Eleanor is the first in “Crestmont” to recognize that Bessie had hurtful things in her life and that her abrasive conduct is a defense mechanism. Inventing Bessie’s “lingo” was a blast. Whenever my husband would read a section where Bessie said, “Slammin’ Jack,” he’d ask me, bewildered, where that expression came from. I would just shake my head and say “Out of Bessie’s mouth!”

Rosa Ponselle
Singing plays a big part in this novel with Gracie's character & the appearance of historical opera singer Rosa Ponselle. What is your personal history with singing, & why was it important to include it in Crestmont?Singing has been a huge part of my life for over thirty-five years—as a soloist, on the opera stage and as a teacher of singing, so I think it was inevitable that much of that spilled over into Crestmont. Gracie meets a famous opera singer, Rosa Ponselle, who is doing a concert at the Crestmont. They become close and Ponselle gives Gracie a voice lesson. I wanted my voice students to enjoy that aspect of the novel.

Although I had to give up my own singing career, including details about a singer’s life in the character of Rosa Ponselle was fun. Ponselle’s conviction that you must sing what you feel will touch others comes from my own experience. Miss Ponselle and I have something in common also. She retired from the opera stage at a fairly young age as well.

What responsibility did you feel, if any, to the Crestmont Inn & its founders by writing a story that would bring this small mountain treasure & its history to life?
It was a daunting responsibility which I took very seriously! I travelled to Eagles Mere, PA, to the current day Crestmont Inn, several times during the writing of the novel to interview the current owners, former staff and townspeople. People who were on staff at the “old” Crestmont – the one I refer to as the “big house” in the book, gave me floor plans and photographs of the real owners and many of the inn itself. When people in Eagles Mere heard I was writing a book about the Crestmont, they perked up and said things like, “My aunt loved working there.” Or “Oh, that old Crestmont was quite a place.” I wanted to be true to their memories. During one of my Crestmont signings, an elderly lady brought me photos and mementoes from when she worked there as a teenager. She was thrilled to share them with someone else who cared about the old Crestmont. I was honored she chose me.

Gracie started out as a fairly self-isolated character. What was significant about the relationships she eventually made with those around her?Gracie had to learn that it was okay to be Gracie. She found little support from her own family, so forging new relationships helped her to figure out who she was. The fact that the Woods, Dorothy, Olivia and Isaiah genuinely liked and cared for her was a huge boost to her self-esteem. She felt safe enough with them to walk down a path of self-discovery.

What was the single most important thing you wanted to relate to readers when writing this book? Grace—favoring others with unmerited kindnesses—always triumphs. I purposefully named my main character Grace (later, Gracie) because I wanted that theme to pervade the novel. I introduced the concept when I gave a different twist to a Native American legend. Instead of flooding the lake out of anger, in Crestmont, the Great Spirit filled the lake with tears of forgiveness.


You wrote a strong theme of family into Crestmont. How important is family both to you and to the story?

I wanted family to be key in the concept of the book, but not in the traditional sense. My father always said, “If you don’t have family, you don’t have anything.” I agree with him completely, but one thing I wanted to show in Crestmont that family can also be found outside of one’s biological family. The novel is dedicated to my parents, who are both gone now. It would have made them happy to know that I decided to write my grandfather, Warren Sloan, into the novel. He invented the automatic pinsetter for bowling alleys (although he sold it shortly after) and gave me the perfect way to round out PT’s earlier life with Sloan as his mentor. Neither Gracie nor PT has family to speak of, but find it at the Crestmont.

I also decided to include my husband‘s poetry in the book. He is the “Paper bag Poet” whose poems prompt Gracie’s yearning for love. He actually wrote one of the poems to me while we were courting. How could I leave that out?

Do you plan to write anything in the future?
I am busy writing reviews of newly released books now. For my next novel, I want to explore the One Voice Led to Another concept. I may retell my “polio/professional singer becomes writer story”, or I may use some amazing life transition stories shared with me by friends.

If you could travel to any time & place in history, when & where would you go? Why?
I’d love to be in a room filled with all the books I’d like to read – and actually have the time to read them! In doing that, I could travel all over the globe and history. Having my hubby next to me while we sip cappuccino and read would be the ultimate delight!

Through the Pages (3) - Unearthly: angels & the YA trend

(Anyone is welcome to join me with their own current read's "Through the Pages" - just add your link to the comments section & link back to my blog to spread the word. Click on the link to find out more about this weekly meme.)

I am currently reading Unearthly, by Cynthia Hand, where the main character, Clara, is part-angel & has a purpose she has been assigned to fulfill.

Angles - messengers of God, ministers to mankind, teachers of doctrines of salvation, guardians, full of goodness & love.

 Angels are often depicted with wings & believed to be creations of God to fulfill his purposes. They have also been described as beings who once lived on the earth or who will live on the earth, who give messages to & lead humankind in righteousness. They have been described as floating above the ground, & having the appearance of extreme brightness & light. They have also been said to take human form with the purpose of helping & guiding others.

Angels are depicted in many religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam . . . where witnesses claim to have seen or felt angels, either as a messenger from God or as a protector. Many well-known angels - Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Moroni - are not only spoken of in scripture, but witnesses claim to have had personal experiences & interactions with them.



A Recent Trend ~ Angels in YA Fiction


What do you think of the angel trend? Do you like it? Is it a nice change from other paranormal beings? Do you have a favorite book featuring angels?