Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 In Review: Books Read, Favorites and Challenges

Saturday, December 31, 2011 with
I started 2011 with a goal of reading 50 (full-length) books but when Goodreads informed me that I am 7 books ahead in early fall of my goal I knew I can read more so I increased my goal to 85. I did complete my goal and I'm pretty darn proud of myself. This is the first time I've read this many books in a year.

Here are ALL the books Michelle read in 2011:
1. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
2. Good Girls by Laura Ruby
3. Choker by Elizabeth Woods
4. Heart With Joy by Steve Cushman
5. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
6. Deadly Heat by Cynthia Eden
7. Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
8. The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
9. Jenna & Jonah's Fauxmance by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin
10. All That's True by Jackie Lee Miles
11. Mad Love by Suzanne Selfors
12. How to Flirt With a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper
13. A Lot Like Love by Julie James (Favorite Contemporary Romance Read)
14. The Liberation of Alice Love by Abby McDonald
15. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
16. Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
17. Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt
18. Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins
19. The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta
20. The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni
21. Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler
22. Where She Went by Gayle Forman (Favorite YA Series)
23. The Night Season by Chelsea Cain
24. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
25. Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh (Favorite Series Romance)
26. The Time-Traveling Fashionista by Bianca Turetsky
27. The Guardian by Margaret Mallory
28. Huntress by Malinda Lo
29. OyMG by Amy Fellner Dominy
30. Exposure by Therese Fowler
31. Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs
32. Divergent by Veronica Roth
33. Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah Maclean
34. Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
35. The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
36. As You Wish by Gabi Stevens
37. Beg for Mercy by Jami Alden
38. Angel's Blood by Nalini Singh
39. Fairy Bad Day by Amanda Ashby
40. A Lady's Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran
41. Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey
42. Sometimes It Happens by Lauren Barnholdt
43. The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade
44. Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
45. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
46. How to Seduce a Scoundrel by Vicky Dreiling
47. The Many Sins of Lord Cameron by Jennifer Ashley (Favorite Historical Romance)
48. The Fire Lord's Lover by Kathryne Kennedy
49. Love Story by Jennifer Echols
50. Archangel's Kiss by Nalini Singh (Favorite Paranormal Romance)
51. She's So Dead To Us by Kieran Scott
52. Tout Sweet by Karen Wheeler
53. Confessions of an Improper Bride by Jennifer Haymore
54. Passions of a Wicked Earl by Lorraine Heath
55. The Lady of the Storm by Kathryne Kennedy
56. More Than Words Vol. 7 by Carly Phillips, Donna Hill and Jill Shalvis
57. Between by Jessica Warman
58. Frost by Marianna Baer
59. Snapped by Laura Griffin (Favorite Romantic Suspense)
60. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake (Favorite YA 2011 Debut: Paranormal)
61. Archangel's Consort by Nalini Singh
62. Tempted by Elisabeth Naughton
63. Archangel's Blade by Nalini Singh
64. After Obsession by Carrie Jones and Steven E. Wedel
65. Merciless by Diana Palmer
66. Animal Attraction by Jill Shalvis
67. Reasons to be Happy by Katrina Kittle
68. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
69. Shut Out by Kody Keplinger
70. Lord and Lady Spy by Shana Galen
71. The Next Always by Nora Roberts
72. Dark Eden by Patrick Carman
73. The Christmas Wedding by James Patterson
74. If I Tell by Janet Gurtler
75. Head Over Heels by Jill Shalvis
76. A Lady Awakened by Cecilia Grant
77. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
78. Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally
79. Drink Slay Love by Sarah Beth Durst
80. Twisted by Laura Griffin
81. Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas
82. Trial by Desire by Courtney Milan
83. The Liar Society by Lisa & Laura Roecker
84. Legend by Marie Lu (Favorite YA 2011 Debut: Dystopian)
85. The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty (Favorite YA Contemporary)

debutauthorchallenge2011Leslie and I also signed up for the 2011 Debut Author Challenge and our goal was to read 12 books each for this challenge and... we both completed this challenge and then some. Leslie and I both read 14 books each.

Michelle's Debut Challenge Books:
1. Choker by Elizabeth Woods
2. The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
3. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
4. The Time-Traveling Fashionista by Bianca Turetsky
5. OyMG by Amy Fellner Dominy
6. Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs
7. Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
8. Divergent by Veronica Roth
9. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
10. Frost by Marianna Baer
11. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake (Michelle's Favorite 2011 YA Debut: Paranormal)
12. Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally
13. The Liar Society by Lisa & Laura Roecker
14. Legend by Marie Lu (Michelle's Favorite 2011 YA Debut: Dystopian)
**Because I can't pick just one.

Leslie's Debut Challenge Books:
1. The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher
2. Falling Under by Gwen Hayes
3. Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell
4. Entwined by Heather Dixon (Leslie's Favorite 2011 YA Debut)
5. Flawless by Lara Chapman
6. Wither by Lauren DeStefano
7. Popular by Alissa Grosso
8. Forgotten by Cat Patrick
9. Girl Wonder by Alexa Martin
10. Wildefire by Karsten Knight
11. The Near Witch by Victorial Schwab
12. A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan
13. Damage by Anya Parrish
14. Bunheads by Sophie Flack

We read a lot of good books in 2011 but some books stood out to us more than others. The books we highlighted, we all highly recommend--if you didn't get a chance to read them in 2011, you should all check them out in 2012.

Happy New Year everyone! Wishing you all a wonderful, prosperous 2012 with filled with great reads!! :D

Friday, December 30, 2011

book cover Paperback: 387 pages
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: September 13, 2011
ISBN: 9780385534635

Source of my copy: publisher
Series: none
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

Michelle's Review:
There was so much buzz about this book and rave reviews and people saying it was the best book they're read ever that I just had to read if for myself.

But while I thought it was a really good read and there were some parts that were absolutely magical and captivating and amazing, I just didn't find the whole book magical and captivating and amazing. There were some parts that just dragged due to an overabundance of details like the dinner party scenes and I found myself drifting off and getting bored. I also didn't like how the dates jumped around. The story spanned years and it would go back and forth by months or years or days and it got really confusing. Every time I had to figure out the timeline, it took me out the story. After a while I just pretty much ignored the dates but I do like to keep a clear timeline of a story in my head when I read.

I did enjoy the "duel" with the circus being the battle ground for magicians Celia and Marco. I really liked both of their characters. In the first half of the book, we watch them grow up and develop their magic. The relationship between Celia and Marco was beautiful and I loved that the magic they did and what they created in the circus was like their writing love letters to each other. The magic aspect of the novel was beautifully done. I also enjoyed the other secondary characters and how their story all intertwined and were all connected of the circus.

The story comes to the reader in pieces through different characters and point of views and you sort of have to puzzle through it. At times it is whimsical, other times it takes a dark turn but it's not until you reach the end that you get the full story and it could be slow going. The Night Circus is the sort of book you'll have to read twice to truly get all the nuances and subtleties of the story. Ms. Morgenstern's prose was beautiful and imaginative and the images she invoked really brings the circus to life. While I had some issues with it and I wasn't as wowed as other readers I still very much enjoyed The Night Circus. It was an impressive debut and I am very eager to see what Ms. Morgenstern will write next.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Book We Covet: Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock

Wednesday, December 28, 2011 with
Why we covet this book: We love a good dark mystery first and foremost and we're curious about Ms. Peacock's take on the whole werewolf virus thing. Also, it's being markets as an "urban fantasy" YA and we haven't really read a lot of YAs like that.

book coverHemlock by Kathleen Peacock
(released May 8, 2012)
Mackenzie and Amy were best friends. Until Amy was brutally murdered.

Since then, Mac’s life has been turned upside down. She is being haunted by Amy in her dreams, and an extremist group called the Trackers has come to Mac’s hometown of Hemlock to hunt down Amy’s killer: A white werewolf.

Lupine syndrome—also known as the werewolf virus—is on the rise across the country. Many of the infected try to hide their symptoms, but bloodlust is not easy to control.

Wanting desperately to put an end to her nightmares, Mac decides to investigate Amy’s murder herself. She discovers secrets lurking in the shadows of Hemlock, secrets about Amy’s boyfriend, Jason, her good pal Kyle, and especially her late best friend. Mac is thrown into a maelstrom of violence and betrayal that puts her life at risk.

Kathleen Peacock’s thrilling novel is the first in the Hemlock trilogy, a spellbinding urban fantasy series filled with provocative questions about prejudice, trust, lies, and love.

For more info about Kathleen and her book, visit her website. Click on the cover to go to the book's Goodreads page.

What book(s) do you "covet" this week?
Leave a comment with a link so we can check your WoW of the week too.

"Books I Covet" is a weekly or bi-weekly blog post series I am going to be doing here.
It will feature books I am very excited about reading and plan on buying/borrowing in the near future. It is similar to the "Waiting On" meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine. However, some of the books may already be published and others may still be in pre-order. I will include the books' blurb, cover art, and/or release date if they're available. Click on the WoW image on the left to join in!

Monday, December 26, 2011

book cover Hardcover: 294 pages
Publisher: Little Brown
Release Date: October 10, 2011
ISBN: 9780316126533

Source of my copy: publisher
Series: none
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
As a dancer with the ultra-prestigious Manhattan Ballet Company, nineteen-year-old Hannah Ward juggles intense rehearsals, dazzling performances and complicated backstage relationships. Up until now, Hannah has happily devoted her entire life to ballet. But when she meets a handsome musician named Jacob, Hannah's universe begins to change, and she must decide if she wants to compete against the other "bunheads" in the company for a star soloist spot or strike out on her own in the real world. Does she dare give up the gilded confines of the ballet for the freedoms of everyday life?

Leslie's Review:
When I first began to read Bunheads, I was struck by how intense the life of the performing arts is. Hannah's world was full of competition and a severe routine that it both amazed me and impressed me. In the short biography of the author on the jacket of the book, it said that Sophie Flack was also a ballet dancer so what Hannah went through she did and her experiences made Hannah's world all the more authentic. The story was fascinating and I was always eager to see what will happen next.

But while I liked the story and enjoyed the glimpse it afforded me of what life is like dancing in the ballet professionally, I couldn't quite connect with Hannah's character. I felt like I didn't really got to know her in the end and her character felt a little flat for me for that reason. I did appreciate that she's not perfect and had her faults too. As for the other characters, I could see them as real people in my life and I had no problem understanding their motives and morals.

Overall, Bunheads was a really great book that was an inside look into the fascinating world of the ballet. I like the easy, understandable prose (although some of the dance terms flew over my head) and the characters each had their own personality. This novel was Ms. Flack's debut and I think she can only get better and I am looking forward to more books by her in the future. If you're in the mood for a "dance" story that is more on the reflective side, you'll enjoy Bunheads.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Trylle Series Book Trailer

Friday, December 23, 2011 with
It's been a while since we saw a book trailer that really grabbed us but we finally found one. Check it:

We're familiar with the success of Amanda Hocking (who isn't?) and we've seen the Trylle series around the blogosphere but it didn't really catch our interest as something we want to read. But after this trailer, we might just pick it up.

And in case you haven't seen the beautiful covers of the trilogy, here they are:
book coverbook coverbook cover
(Click on the covers to read the synopsis for each book on Goodreads.)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

book cover ARC: 423 pages
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release Date: September 20, 2011
ISBN: 9780062026484

Source of my copy: publisher
Series: Fire & Thorns #1
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
Princess Elisa is a disappointment to her people. Although she bears the Godstone in her navel, a sign that she has been chosen for an act of heroism, they see her as lazy and useless and fat.
On her sixteenth birthday, she is bartered off in royal marriage and shipped away to a kingdom in turmoil, where her much-older and extremely beautiful husband refuses to acknowledge her as his wife. Devastated, Elisa decides to take charge of her fate and learn what it means to bear the Godstone. As an invading army threatens to destroy her new home, and everyone at court maneuvers to take advantage of the young princess, Elisa becomes convinced that, not only is her own life in danger, the whole world needs saving. But how can a young girl who has never ridden horseback, never played the game of politics, and never attained the love of a man save the world? Elisa can't be sure, but she must try to uncover the Godstone's secret history before the enemy steals the destiny nestled in her core.

Cherry's Review:
This review has been long overdue but I can still recall scenes of the book with the same clarity as I did when I first read it. The ARC cover is truly misleading because here I thought we were going to have a beautiful heroine and a cool setting as the blue moon in the cover. What I found instead was an overweight, self-doubting girl in a hot desert destined for a greatness she could never have foreseen despite knowing that it was coming. It was a refreshing read and something I would never have chosen to read on my own. Even though Elisa was destined for greatness, it was not given to her on a silver platter. She prayed, endured, fought, and used her quick wit to overcome many obstacles that I never expected she could do. She was not the same girl that she was in the beginning of the book, and people should've trusted that she COULD and WOULD overcome these obstacles instead of protecting her the way they did. The author created a world that was familiar yet different. However, it wasn't a hard setting to imagine. The plot was the same as well. It was a story so different than what I've know. It was easy to follow but its ending was hard to predict because there were a lot of surprises in between. Its a different kind of heroine story that caught me by surprise as to how much I enjoyed it. I can't wait for the next book!

This review was written by my roommate Cherry. I was always complaining to telling her about school being the time suck that it was and I have this growing stack of review books I barely had time to read, let alone review and blah, blah, blah... and, well, she very nicely offered to read a few of my books and review them. Thanks Cherry! You're the best!! Check out her blog Hawaii on a Budget where she talks about eating good in Hawaii on a budget and shares recipes as well.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I am delighted to welcome the wonderful Cecilia Grant today--her debut release is A Lady Awakened. I recently read it and I loved it! Check out my review HERE. Read on for a chance to win a copy of this book (along with The Sinner by Margaret Mallory).

5 random facts about Cecilia Grant.
1. I went to high school with Sir Mix-a-lot. (You know, the “Baby Got Back” guy? He likes big butts and he cannot lie?)

2. I dream of one day being on Jeopardy!, and I once auditioned for the show. (I scored well on the knowledge test, but I’m not fast enough on the buzzer and I’m pretty sure I flunked the “tv-ready personality” requirement.)

3. My favorite poem is “Design,” by Robert Frost.

4. You know when you go to a baseball game, and as a batter comes to the plate the PA blasts some pop music like it’s his personal theme song? If I were a baseball player I’d want them to play the opening bars of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” for me. Yes, I’ve given this some thought. And no, I’m not athletic in the least.

5. I have two snack-food kryptonites (cannot stop eating them once I start), and oddly enough they’re both orange: Cheetos, and sweet-potato fries.

4 things that always make you laugh or bring a smile to your face when you're down.
1. The final few seconds of the “Hotel Inspectors” episode of Fawlty Towers. That smash-cut to credits, just as John Cleese grasps that the three men who’ve just seen him at his most unprofessional are the very inspectors he’s been stressing about all episode, is still one of the best-executed bits of comedy I’ve ever seen.

2. The arc of the Tom Wilkinson character in Shakespeare in Love. To see this Elizabethan mobster get progressively stagestruck (“...with Mr. Fennyman as the Apothecary”), and also sincerely moved by the magic of the theatre, makes me smile so hard it hurts.

3. The song “This was a Real Nice Clambake,” from the musical Carousel. “This was a real nice clambake/We’re mighty glad we came/The vittles we et were good, you bet/The company was the same.” A world where people can burst into song about something like that, can’t be all bad. (See also the title number from the Elvis movie Clambake.)

4. Mr. Bingley in Pride and Prejudice. Every party he goes to is the most fun he’s ever had. Every set of people he meets is the most agreeable he can imagine. I’d a hundred times rather hang with him than stick-in-the-mud Darcy.

3 random facts about Theo Mirkwood, the hero of A LADY AWAKENED.
1. His full name is Theophilus, and he’s never quite forgiven his father for that.

2. Like most romance heroes, he’s spectacularly well-endowed. Unlike most romance heroes, he goes out of his way to call his partner’s attention to the fact.

3. He’s fond of toast, and things that go on toast. Blackcurrant jam is his favorite, followed by honey.

2 random facts about Martha Russell, the heroine of A LADY AWAKENED.
1. She ought to have been the seventh of ten siblings, but because of miscarriages and infant mortality, she’s the youngest of five.

2. In her secret heart of hearts, she wishes her stern, dictatorial childhood governess would want to correspond with her.

1 favorite scene from A LADY AWAKENED.
I have a lot of favorites, but I think I’ll pick the very short one that opens Chapter 15. Things have finally gone according to plan in bed, all the right fireworks have gone off, and Theo and Martha have maybe a minute of small talk afterward, capped off by a lame little joke on his part. There’s a relaxed intimacy to that scene that just really pleases me.

(That’s my answer today. Ask me tomorrow and I’ll probably say the hand-job scene.)

A big thanks to Cecilia for stopping by our blog today and for the fun answers to our questions. To learn more about Cecilia's books, check out her website. A Lady Awakened will be released next week Tuesday, December 27th. Pick it up! I promise you won't regret it. Here's the blurb:

book cover
Newly widowed and desperate to protect her estate—and housemaids—from a predatory brother-in-law, Martha Russell conceives a daring plan. Or rather, a daring plan to conceive. After all, if she has an heir on the way, her future will be secured. Forsaking all she knows of propriety, Martha approaches her neighbor, a London exile with a wicked reputation, and offers a strictly business proposition: a month of illicit interludes... for a fee.

Theophilus Mirkwood ought to be insulted. Should be appalled. But how can he resist this siren in widow's weeds, whose offer is simply too outrageously tempting to decline? Determined she'll get her money's worth, Theo endeavors to awaken this shamefully neglected beauty to the pleasures of the flesh—only to find her dead set against taking any enjoyment in the scandalous bargain. Surely she can't resist him forever. But could a lady's sweet surrender open their hearts to the most unexpected arrival of all... love?

Doesn't that just sound fantastic?! (As someone having already read it, trust me when I say it is!) Click on the cover or HERE to read an excerpt.

I have two copies of A Lady Awakened to give away and that means TWO (2) winners! Please read the giveaway details and enter below.
Why I covet this book: Every once in a while I like to read a book that will pull at my emotions and make me reach for the Kleenex box. Bridge of Scarlet Leaves sound like that kind of book. This book (and Kristina's debut novel Letters From Home) have also been getting great reviews.

book coverBridge of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina McMorris
(released February 28, 2012)
A skilled violinist sacrifices her career aspirations and family's approval to secretly elope with her Japanese American boyfriend -- the night before Pearl Harbor is bombed. Torn between sides, she will make choices few people in history dared.

Los Angeles, 1941. Violinist Maddie Kern's life seemed destined to unfold with the predictable elegance of a Bach concerto. Then she fell in love with Lane Moritomo. Her brother's best friend, Lane is the handsome, ambitious son of Japanese immigrants. Maddie was prepared for disapproval from their families, but when Pearl Harbor is bombed the day after she and Lane elope, the full force of their decision becomes apparent. In the eyes of a fearful nation, Lane is no longer just an outsider, but an enemy.

When her husband is interned at a war relocation camp, Maddie follows, sacrificing her Juilliard ambitions. Behind barbed wire, tension simmers and the line between patriot and traitor blurs. As Maddie strives for the hard-won acceptance of her new family, Lane risks everything to prove his allegiance to America, at tremendous cost.

Skillfully capturing one of the most controversial episodes in recent American history, Kristina McMorris draws readers into a novel filled with triumphs and heartbreaking loss--an authentic, moving testament to love, forgiveness, and the enduring music of the human spirit.

For more info about Kristina and her book, visit her website. Click on the cover to go to the book's Goodreads page.

What book(s) do you "covet" this week?
Leave a comment with a link so we can check your WoW of the week too.

"Books I Covet" is a weekly or bi-weekly blog post series I am going to be doing here.
It will feature books I am very excited about reading and plan on buying/borrowing in the near future. It is similar to the "Waiting On" meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine. However, some of the books may already be published and others may still be in pre-order. I will include the books' blurb, cover art, and/or release date if they're available. Click on the WoW image on the left to join in!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

book cover ARC: 346 pages
Publisher: Bantam
Release Date: December 27, 2011
ISBN: 9780553593839

Source of my copy: publisher
Series: none
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
In Cecilia Grant’s emotionally rich and deeply passionate Regency romance debut, a deal with a rumored rogue turns a proper young woman into . . . A Lady Awakened.
Newly widowed and desperate to protect her estate and beloved servants from her malevolent brother-in-law, Martha Russell conceives a daring plan. Or rather, a daring plan to conceive. After all, if she has an heir on the way, her future will be secured. Forsaking all she knows of propriety, Martha approaches her neighbor, a London exile with a wicked reputation, and offers a strictly business proposition: a month of illicit interludes . . . for a fee.
Theophilus Mirkwood ought to be insulted. Should be appalled. But how can he resist this siren in widow’s weeds, whose offer is simply too outrageously tempting to decline? Determined she’ll get her money’s worth, Theo endeavors to awaken this shamefully neglected beauty to the pleasures of the flesh—only to find her dead set against taking any enjoyment in the scandalous bargain. Surely she can’t resist him forever. But could a lady’s sweet surrender open their hearts to the most unexpected arrival of all . . . love?

Michelle's Review:
I am not going to reiterate the plot of the story because the synopsis above does a good job of that but basically the story revolved around Martha and Theo's business proposition--and for most of the book it was strictly a business proposition. Martha was a no-nonsense woman, she was not given to emotions and was practical. Their agreement was that they'd meet everyday for a month and Theo would do his business. That was it. She really had no interest in sex other than it merely something that had to be done so she would conceive. She truly just wanted a "stud horse" so that she'll get pregnant and be able to pass the baby off as her late husband's to protect her estate and her people from her evil brother-in-law. Theo, being the charming London rake that he was tried to make it good for both parties but to no avail. It was actually a source of frustration and annoyance for him in the beginning when Martha would just lie there "like a corpse" while he did his thing.

What was different with A Lady Awakened was that it wasn't the sex that was the culminating thing in Martha and Theo's relationship, it wasn't the be all end all thing in their relationship. It was actually after the sex when they would talk or during their walks that they got to know each other, learned from each other, become true friends and, eventually, through each other, they were able to grow and find themselves. It was through their friendship that true love between them grew (and the sex did get better too for both as their friendship grew). You truly root Martha and Theo to get their happy ending and I found myself a little teary in the end. I do hope that we'll see Martha and Theo again as secondary characters in a future novel to get an update on them.

I liked Theo from the start. He was charming, easygoing and slightly arrogant. Martha was the opposite of Theo and she wasn't likable in the beginning because of her serious personality but I did eventually warm up her. It did have moments in the novel where I felt that it dragged a bit but for the most part I enjoyed the historical details about landowning in Regency England and the pacing was consistent. But my one minor issue was with the villain of the story. The brother-in-law was mentioned throughout as this really awful person and the reason why Martha tried so hard to keep him from inheriting but he was barely in the story. I felt that with all the build-up about him, he should have been a bigger, badder villain.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend Ms. Grant's debut novel, A Lady Awakened, to all historical romance fans. The plot was well-developed, the characters were well-drawn and the prose was wonderful and articulate (sort of like that of Meredith Duran). I am very much impressed by her debut and I look forward to Ms. Grant's future releases.

Friday, December 16, 2011

book cover ARC: 422 pages
Publisher: Macmillan
Release Date: August 30, 2011
ISBN: 9780312656270

Source of my copy: publisher
Series: 2nd in Halo series
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
Heaven Help Her.
Bethany Church is an angel sent to Earth to keep dark forces at bay. Falling in love was never part of her mission, but the bond between Beth and her mortal boyfriend, Xavier Woods, is undeniably strong. But even Xavier’s love, and the care of her archangel siblings, Gabriel and Ivy, can’t keep Beth from being tricked into a motorcycle ride that ends up in Hell. There, the demon Jake Thorn bargains for Beth’s release back to Earth. But what he asks of her will destroy her, and quite possibly, her loved ones, as well. The story that Alexandra Adornetto built in her New York Times-bestselling debut, Halo, comes alive in action-packed and unexpected ways, as angels battle demons, and the power of love is put to the test.

Leslie's Review:
I would like to say right now that I actually enjoyed Hades more than I did Halo. This is mostly because the little things that bothered me in Halo were better executed in Hades, which made the book all the more enjoyable for me to read. Yet, there was something that bothered me in Hades that I had hoped would get better in Halo and that was Beth's naïveté.

When I read Halo, I got to know Beth as a character very well. I admired her curiosity, her loyalty to all her loved ones, how loving and caring she was, and how she had such a warm heart. But one thing I didn't quite like about her character was that she can be quite gullible. Still, I shrugged it off thinking it was only the first book of the series and that Beth was an angel sent on her first mission from Heaven to Earth so she was bound to act a bit carelessly and grow out of it. I hoped that in the next book she will change and will act more responsible. Although Beth did change, she was still her gullible self. This may be because she was in another new place, an unknown territory, but I couldn't help but think throughout the book that the mishaps she got herself into could have been avoided. Seeing Beth continuously get in trouble both worried me and frustrated me and I wished every time that Beth hadn't done whatever she did to get herself into them.

I mentioned in my review for Halo that I thought the plot was prolonged and stretched unnecessarily and that I wished there had been more excitement throughout the story. Hades was definitely more exciting. Despite the careless mishaps Beth would get into, those mishaps was one of the things that made the me like this book more because it made it more exciting and suspenseful because you always wonder if she'll get out of the bad situation she found herself in. I also loved different setting in Hades and I thought the author did well developing it. After I read that awesome cliffhanger ending, I just can't wait to read the next book of the series to see what will happen next.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Hades. Despite that fact that I was somewhat annoyed with Beth, it was a good book nonetheless. If you haven't yet checked out this series, please do, or if you read Halo and it didn't grab you, give Hades a chance. I think this series will satisfy fans of of the paranormal YA sub-genre, especially angel fans.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Apartment Bookshelf Tour

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 with
I made a bookshelf tour video yesterday. These are the books that I have accumulated in my semi-new apartment since I moved in August--somehow the ten or so books that I brought with me from home grew into a lot more books...

Check it out!

(If you cannot see the video above, watch it HERE.)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In Our Mailbox (50)

Sunday, December 11, 2011 with
It's been weeks since we did an "In Our Mailbox" post and school is to blame once again. These are some of the book we got in the last couple of months.

Books & Swag Leslie got back home
Sphinx's Queen by Esther Fresner (part of the Random Buzzers Ambuzzadors Program)
Ambuzzadors swag
Unforsaken by Sophie Littlefield ("bought" with Random Buzzers bucks)
A Winter Scandal by Candace Camp
(Thank you to Random Buzzers and Pocket Books!)

I've been meaning to make a YouTube book haul video for a long time and this week I finally did. Yay!!
Books & Swag Mentioned
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (currently reading)
Everneath by Brodi Ashton
Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally
Cinder by Marissa Meyer + Cinder mirror
Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe swag + arm warmers (!!)
The Revenge of Lord Eberlin by Julia London (unsolicited review book from Pocket)
Heir of Danger by Alix Rickloff (unsolicited review book from Pocket)
The Pleasure of Your Kiss by Teresa Medeiros (unsolicited review book from Pocket)
(Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire, MacMillan, Stasia and Pocket Books!)

What did you guys get in your mailbox?

"In My Mailbox" is a weekly event that gives book bloggers a chance share with each other what books got added to their to-be-read pile for the week. It was inspired by Alea of Pop Culture Junkie and hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Book We Covet: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

Wednesday, December 7, 2011 with
Why we covet this book: We love a good family drama and it doesn't hurt that there's a second-chance romance thrown in there too. The cover of this book is gorgeous as well. We love the light pink, orange and yellow colors they used. Lovely.

book coverSecond Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
(released May 8, 2012)
Taylor's family might not be the closest-knit – everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled – but for the most part, they get along fine. Then Taylor's dad gets devastating news that changes everything. Her parents decide that the family will spend the summer together at their old vacation home in the Pocono Mountains.

Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven’t actually gone anywhere. Her former summer best friend is still around, as is her first boyfriend. . . and he's much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve.

As the summer progresses, the Edwards become more of a family, and closer than they’ve ever been before. But all of them are very aware that they’re battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance – with family, with friends, and with love.

For more info about Morgan Matson and her books, visit her website. Click on the cover to go to the book's Goodreads page.

What book(s) do you "covet" this week?
Leave a comment with a link so we can check your WoW of the week too.

"Books I Covet" is a weekly or bi-weekly blog post series I am going to be doing here.
It will feature books I am very excited about reading and plan on buying/borrowing in the near future. It is similar to the "Waiting On" meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine. However, some of the books may already be published and others may still be in pre-order. I will include the books' blurb, cover art, and/or release date if they're available. Click on the WoW image on the left to join in!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Why We Broke Up Project

Tuesday, December 6, 2011 with
I heard of the novel Why We Broke Up many months ago and I got very excited after reading the synopsis because it sounds like my kind of contemporary YA read, in the same vein The Duff and Two-Way Street. Here's it is:

book cover
I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.

Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.

Why We Broke Up
is written by Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) and, admittedly, I wasn't a fan of the Unfortunate Events series or his writing style style, but I still want to read this book anyway because I really like the premise. It's one of those illustrated books as well (by Maira Kalman), which I really like.

Anyway, in honor of the upcoming release of this novel, LBYR has put together the Why We Broke Up Project in which they are inviting everyone to share their breakup story.

Click on the banner above (or HERE) to check out the tumblr site. There you can share your own breakup story in the hopes that "our collective heartbreak will reach critical mass, and never bother us again" as well as read other people's breakup stories.

Some of the stories are sad while others are reflective. Some are one one liners that say so much. You can also read the breakup stories of authors Neil Gaiman, David Levithan, Sara Shepard and others.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Blog Tour: Head Over Heels by Jill Shalvis GIVEAWAY

Thursday, December 1, 2011 with
Today is the start of the blog tour for Jill Shalvis's newest release Head Over Heels. If you read my review of the book on Tuesday, you know how much I really enjoyed it so I am very happy to be able to host this giveaway.

Before we get to the part where you can enter, here's the blurb:

book cover
Breaking rules and breaking hearts

Free-spirited Chloe lives life on the edge. Unlike her soon-to-be married sisters, she isn't ready to settle into a quiet life running their family's newly renovated inn. But soon her love of trouble--and trouble with love-draws the attention of the very stern, very sexy sheriff who'd like nothing better than to tame her wild ways.

Suddenly Chloe can't take a misstep without the sheriff hot on her heels. His rugged swagger and his enigmatic smile are enough to make a girl beg to be handcuffed. For the first time, instead of avoiding the law, Chloe dreams of surrender. Can this rebel find a way to keep the peace with the straitlaced sheriff? Or will Chloe's colorful past keep her from a love that lasts . . . and the safe haven she truly wants in a town called Lucky Harbor?
You can read an excerpt of the first chapter on Jill's website.

I have two copies of Head Over Heels and that means TWO (2) winners! Please read the giveaway details and just enter below. [This is my first time using Rafflecopter so I hope it works out.] A big thank you to Forever and Jillian for sponsoring this giveaway.