BOOK REVIEW (92): Cassie and the Woolf (Twice Told Tales #2)

BOOK REVIEW:
Cassie and the Woolf
I found this series by accident.
I was looking around in the MG/juvenile section in my local library and I found this title by author Olivia Snowe and illustrator Michelle Lamoreaux. I’m happy for the accident, even if the read wasn’t so great.

I’ll explain: like most writers/readers, I love reading fairy tales, comparing and debating the themes and subject matter in fairy tales and folklore, so I was perfectly at home with this re-telling of “Little Red Riding Hood” in Snowe + Lamoreaux’s Cassie and the Woolf.


So in this version we have 13-y/o Cassie Cloak — *ahem* real original name, lol and instead of a “red riding hood” she’s got her nifty “red raincoat” — and she’s all grown up now to go fetch her grandmother’s daily meal and deliver it to her without the company of her mom. On this trip she’s caught up in a storm and she’s cornered by Caleb Woolf, the antagonist and Cassie’s school peer — although Caleb’s two grades older.


Caleb follows her to Granny’s and the rest is history, of course, or according to Perrault the corruptness of stupid mothers and older females and naive little girls who let “big bad” men into their homes and lives…and between their legs?


DISCLAIMER: Cassie and the Woolf is PG, if you don’t count the psychological eff-ery at the end of the book. Which brings me to the problem with this re-telling: how Cassie (or LRH) was portrayed and her character arc. There should have been some kind of warning that this read like a dark MG (think along the lines of Gaiman’s Coraline). There was even a hint of magic that wasn’t handled very well, because it felt more like a deus ex machina then a natural growth out of the conflict and plot.


Little Cassie was kinda…witchy. I mean, the ending was SO messed up. Like beyond levels of messed up. I really thought I was being Punk’d until I saw it was, indeed, THE END.



It was just weird. I won’t spoil it, so go pick it up, but I warn you be prepared to make that ^^^ face above.

One pro (worth this review’s 2 stars) was that the story stayed as true to Grimm version (and Perrault as well) as an MG read could without crossing parental boundaries and pissing people off. 
Basically the message remains the same, don’t invite trouble and stay vigilant as naivety is NOT cute all the time and can lead to real problems (plus the modern caveat of settling scores).

My verdict:

✮✮

(2 stars)

BOOK REVIEW (91): Athena the Brain (Goddess Girls #1)

BOOK REVIEW:
Athena the Brain
I’ve been meaning to read this series for awhile, but I only got around to it a couple weeks ago. I love mythology (Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Native American, etc.) and I was excited about the MG feel.

I was right to be excited — Goddess Girls #1, Athena the Brain, was so cute and genius. I really admired the touches of Greek myth in the stories. So let me start with a background…

The Goddess Girls series is set at Mount Olympus Academy (MOA), a school for godgirls and godboys and other mythological creatures: each of the stories in the series features the problems of one of the girls. Athena is the brainiac goddess, the newest addition to the Academy and she’s making friends and trying to not disappoint her father, the King of Gods, Zeus.

This review is short because I liked the book. The author(s) used really inventive techniques, and I think it would be a great way to introduce young girls (and boys, not discriminating) to Greek myth. For instance, there was a competition for the best invention by a God (judged by the Greeks/humans) open to all the students attending MOA.

I also liked how some of the Greek myth traits/characteristics were entwined with the plot and conflict in interesting ways (e.g. with Medusa).

The only down side of this first story was the chronology — the age difference between the characters. I know that sounds weird since the Greek gods were immortal or ageless, but Hermes was described as being a young boy and the trio of brothers, Hades, Poseidon and Zeus were old men, and so on.

But suddenly Poseidon is a “godboy” in this and all the godgirls and other mythological girls are drooling all over him. (Check out the cover and look to Athena’s right and compare tween Poseidon from Goddess Girls to old man Poseidon who fathered many children.)

The end was a bit abrupt as well. It tied everything together, but the big “conflict” sorta fizzled out a bit…you have to go read the book though.

And so on that note if I interested you at all, pick up this first book and see if this series is for you. No harm, no foul. Bonus points for being a quick read.

As for me, I’m on the hunt for Book 2 already.

My verdict:

✮✮✮✮.5

(4.5 stars)

BOOK REVIEW (90): Lindsay’s Surprise Crush

BOOK REVIEW:
Lindsay’s Surprise Crush
Another Crush title!
I can’t get enough of this series… I’ve got a crush on Crush, teehee.

*ahem* Back to the review. Book #3 in this series by Angela Darling stars heroine Lindsay and her best friend, Nick. Lindsay is just starting 7th grade, and she’s looking forward to junior high — as most of us were I’m sure (i mean lockers!?! Whaaaat.) She’s also stoked to see Nick after not spending a rare summer attached at the hip. Now if only she could stop looking at that really hot guy in her homeroo– oh wait! That’s Nick.



Since she hasn’t changed at all over the summer, you know not counting being free of braces, Lindsay hardly expects for Nick to have grown several inches and filled out with muscle. And instead of feeling like she’s catching up with an old friend, she’s suddenly way too focused on her new crush.


I definitely have a soft spot for the friends-to-lovers trope. And I felt so bad for Lindsay. This was (is?) my favourite book: the only one to really keep me on the edge of my seat until everything tied up together in the last page.


Every time Lindsay and Nick were on the page, *swoon*… Give me a second.

Also, since we’re dealing with school, there was plenty cliched conflicts, archetypes?, but a lot of tropes were turned over on their head: the nerdy band kid, the popular sporty girl, the misunderstanding with the bff, etc.

I only wish there was a part two of Lindsay and Nick, who I will now dub Team Nicsay: yes, yes they do deserve a couple name.


Now what are you waiting for? Go pick up Lindsay’s Surprise Crush and be prepared to do a lot of this



My verdict:

✮✮✮✮✮

(5 stars)

BOOK REVIEW (89): The Agony of Alice (Alice #1)

BOOK REVIEW:
The Agony of Alice
I think I already mentioned this in a previous review, but my reading has been leaning toward MG and it will remain like that for the rest of the year. I neglect this age group because I tend towards adult romances (i.e. Harlequin), so once I picked up one, I’m finding it hard to get out of this mindset.

Ahh, youth! Do you remember being eleven-twelve and getting into a fight with your friend, or being reprimanded by your teacher, or having your crush smile at you…okay, most of these still get my heart racing in some fashion, but at 11-12 it feels like the whole world is hinged on whether your friend accepts your apology, your teacher will tattle on you during parent-teacher conference night (or whatever they call it where you are), and deciphering your crush’s cryptic smile — was s/he smiling because s/he likes you, OR were they trying to not laugh at the piece of lunch rimming your gums?


Being a adolescence is SO complicated guys!




 

So in this first story of the Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Book 1, The Agony of Alice, introduces readers to 6th grader Alice McKinley. She’s just moved to Silver Springs with her dad and 19-year-old brother, Lester, and she’s ready to make sense of the last year of her elementary years.

Now you’re probably read the first 60ish pages of this story and want to toss the book. I cringed A LOT. I mean A LOT. Alice’s little antics touched home, even though I wasn’t nearly as rude as she is at the beginning. I did stupid things as a kid, but I prided myself on being semi-decent.

Get through those pages and you’re gold — I mean you’ll start to see why I LOVE this book and will totally read it to my future children. The Agony of Alice, at its heart, tells the coming-of-age story of a young girl and sees her through one, teeny stage of her life but in a potent way that resonates with older readers as well.

I didn’t need to be 11-12 again to understand it bites when a person you idolize doesn’t care for you the way you do. Or finding out someone likes you and not being prepared for it, or even doing something embarrassing and making a colossal deal of it…when everyone else has already forgotten your blunder.


I wasn’t bothered by the language either. I really thought that it might affect the way the story was told — The Agony of Alice was published in 1985 — but I could still enjoy the book even if a few things were clearly dated…


If I interested you at all, pick up the first in the Alice series (I do believe the books have been re-vamped by publisher Simon & Schuster)…


So yeah, another reason to pick this series up!

My rating:

✮✮✮✮✮

(5 stars)

BOOK REVIEW (88): Maddie’s Camp Crush (Crush #2)

BOOK REVIEW:
Maddie’s Camp Crush
Another great addition to the Crush series by Angela Darling, Book TWO Maddie’s Camp Crush is . By which I mean if I had to choose to spend time with Lauren from Book One and Maddie in this second installment then I’d pick…MADDIE.

Wanna know why?


Well first off Maddie isn’t annoying like Lauren was — she also doesn’t scheme like Lauren did. Maddie likes Gabriel, the love interest in this story, and she feels that insecurity that comes along with liking a hot guy and knowing other girls have a crush on him and COULD steal him away… (like he was yours in the first place, ladies).


But it’s a “relatable” feeling for the most part. I mean I imagine a lot of 12-year-olds think like this somewhat. Heck I know some adults who do some stupid, crazy things in the name of love (or even lust).


What I really liked though was how Maddie came in on her own, and how Gabriel was just one part of her revelation over summer. Ever since she lost her father, Maddie’s been struggling to find a new normal in her new (sadly enforced) family dynamic. One there’s the whole guilt of leaving her mom alone during the 6 weeks at camp (she’s an only child!) and two, she’s hoping her camp besties don’t single her out the way her regular school friends and community has been doing: she just wants to be treated normally — not like the sad-poor-girl-whose-lost-her-father-and-should-therefore-be-treated-with-an-extra-gentle-touch.


The whole point of the series, though what I’d call an MG (female-geared) contemporary romance, is more about character growth and moralization. Especially as it’s written from Maddie’s POV. Like if there would be a moral/theme for Crush Book Two I’d call it as “accept that change will happen, and not all types of changes are in our control, but learning to recognize happiness/joy in the moments of unwelcome change will keep us afloat”…or something equally wise (and probably better written than what I wrote).


Better yet here’s a quote from the book:

“The world will change and go by plenty fast outside of camp, but inside all I want you to do this summer is have fun and enjoy it.” – Maddie’s Dad

AND that’s all well and good, but you want to know all about Gabriel, don’t you?

Oddly I read Heather Davis’ Never Cry Werewolf (which stared a British love interest in a summer camp setting) and now there’s Gabriel (Maddie’s British crush) and it’s set in a camp!

Do I have my own theme going on here…?

Anyways, Gabriel was a cutie! Very “crush”-worthy, *nods enthusiastically*. For one he wasn’t stuck up. And two, the poor guy was lonely as well. Like Maddie’s he, too, is going through a big change — not parent-dying grief-induced type of change, but parents-divorcing, moving-continents type change, and Maddie becomes sort of his pillar of support/confidante and vice versa.

Like I said, all very adorable.

ALSO as a bonus, Maddie’s friends are super hilarious. Emily was my fave! Keep an eye out for her (not that she’s hard to miss)!

If I intrigued you at all, grab a copy of Angela Darling’s Crush Book 2! And the great thing is you don’t have to read the books in order — so if you wanna read Maddie’s story then you can skip Lauren’s in Book 1. (Though I loved both stories!)


My verdict:

✮✮✮✮✮

(5 stars)

BOOK REVIEW (87): Never Cry Werewolf (Never Cry Werewolf #1)

BOOK REVIEW:
Never Cry Werewolf
Totally planned to have this book review posted for Halloween…or even All Souls’ Day, but life sorta caught up to me (that and EXTREME laziness).

So this was my Halloween YA read (last year it was Ghost House!) and my, what a read. I’m not a fear junkie and I love nothing more than combining my romance with just a bit of tension (of either paranormal or contemporary variety) . I wouldn’t call this horror, because it isn’t, but it definitely had the potential with a couple scary, in-the-woods-at-night moments.


What is Heather Davis’ debut Never Cry Werewolf about?

It stars *ahem*troubled*cough* teen Shelby (whose last name has escaped me) and her journey to summer (rich) brat camp in the woods of Oregon (again, I don’t remember the exact location). And she’s all geared up for a crappy summer until she meets her camp crush, hero Austin Bridges III (<– I will never try of writing/saying his name xD). But she can’t have a crush, since the whole reason she’s spending here summer vacay with rich brats are because she was caught in trouble with one too many boys/boyfriends.

And Austin is a whole lot of trouble from the get-go…but now he’s confiding his dark, super weird secret with her? She’s sure there’s no way he’s telling the truth about his family being a bunch of genetic werewolves.


Now let’s sidetrack a bit…


Have any of you seen Nina Dobrev in action pre-TVD?



Have you heard of the 2008 direct-to-TV supernatural horror movie, Never Cry Werewolf?

Well although I liked the plot of Heather Davis’ Never Cry Werewolf so much better, I thought that the title was almost irrelevant… I mean the title doesn’t refer to Shelby. She’s definitely not a blabber-mouth — actually she’s quite loyal, and I loved that about her, even if she wasn’t always swept up by the hotness of Austin Bridges III.


Nina Dobrev’s character in Never Cry Werewolf actually fits the whole “boy-who-cried-wolf” theme/moral.


BTW the movie and book are DO NOT REMOTELY have the same plot!
I just wanted to compare the titles because I have to admit it’s what hooked me to pick up both.

There’s only ONE character who might fit the bill in the Davis’ Never Cry Werewolf, and that’s closest character to an antagonist (and this antagonist is more of a nuisance, or an annoying threat — no real threat is presented). Which is probably the only reason I docked off a half-star rating: there’s really no threat…I mean there is, but it’s more of a time constraint threat. Okay, I lied, I also found some of the interactions a bit childish and contrived.

However it was balanced by Shelby’s well-plotted GMC. My heart ached for the poor girl, which was weird because from the beginning I anticipated she’d be annoying as hell for the next 200+ pages. It goes much deeper than the superficial boy-crazy teen image, but you’ll have to go read the book to understand what I mean.

Other than that I got what I wanted from Shelby x Austin’s story, and I’m looking forward to picking up the follow-up two novellas! If you’re interested in a tame YA pnr, then I suggest you pick up Never Cry Werewolf.


My verdict:


✮✮✮✮.5

(4.5 stars)

BOOK REVIEW (86): Santa’s Playbook (Jersey Boys #3)

BOOK REVIEW:
Santa’s Playbook


 
A little early for a Christmas-y themed title, but then this wouldn’t be the first Christmas book I read this year. Ahem.

What can I say? I love the spirit of the holiday — or most holidays because the gathering of family, friends and community. There’s just a sense of magic in festivities… -sigh- Anyways, as I’m sure you can tell, I loved Santa’s Playbook by Karen Templeton. The third in the Jersey Boys series, Santa’s Playbook features yet another member of the Noble family. Each book follows one of the family members to a HEA.

This book gives us HS football coach Ethan Noble’s tale. His is a sad story: he lost his wife and became a young father of four, and for the past sixteen years he’s made no attempt to re-connect with the female species. That is until heroine Claire Jacobs blows into his life like a nor’easter. The spunky, drama-English teacher is his work colleague, so it’s not like he can just ignore her either. Especially when his oldest daughter, Juliette, takes an interest in match-making the reluctant father and her young teacher, Claire.

So there IS a third POV in this romance, and it would be the perspective of  Juliette — be-fitting name for a teen who has a knack for the stage. Although she doesn’t get as much say as Claire and her father, Ethan, Juliette adds an objective plane to the story. It’s different, but in a great way! ^^

It offers a break from Claire and Ethan, both pretty introspective people and particularly when it comes to their romance. I mean, Claire doubts herself a lot. She’s already been married once and that ended because she was aloof to her ex-husband. But I liked that Claire was a spit-fire who was comfortable with the way she looked and what she liked to do, even if it didn’t always give others a great first impression; she could be also adorably awkward.

Ethan sounded…um, hot. I think it was also because he was playing super-Dad. That’s it.

Overload on hot dads (and cute kids) yet?
 
But honestly Ethan sounded like he needed a happily ever after, and STAT. The poor guy would be lost once all his kids flew the coop… Now if only he could get over the decade-and-half of defense walls he built up.
 
One thing, the “language” was a bit jarring. Sometimes it felt weird when Claire would best into ‘Jersey’ speak…if you know what I mean.
 
But after a few pages I got used to it. It came with the characters, and I sorta knew what I was signing up for (the story is set in a fictional NJ town and the series is called Jersey Boys).
 
If you want to know how Ethan and Claire’s story ends, you have to pick up Santa’s Playbook. I promise it’s one Thanksgiving/Christmas story you won’t want to wait for until the holidays.
 
My verdict:
 
 
(5 stars)

BOOK REVIEW (85): Lauren’s Beach Crush (Crush #1)

BOOK REVIEW:
Lauren’s Beach Crush
 
 
Beach season is out here in the Northern hemisphere, but like most readers my imagination is big enough to compensate for the chilly temperature. Ultimately I picked up this book because I wanted to read a MG romance. I’ve been sorely ignoring this genre and age group, just because my TBR pile is never-ending. Also because I love young love. ❤

This title, Lauren’s Beach Crush is the first book in the Crush series by author (and editor, pretty cool) Angela Darling. And the title makes it pretty straight forward: the story follows the 12-y/o protagonist Lauren who is off to the beach during her summer vacay, and she’s got plans to change her ‘beach crush’ to ‘boyfriend’.


Lauren is a planner — huge, huge planner and I found it adorable when her perfectly-laid plans would blow up in her face. But she could be a bit too much: thankfully we have her friend, Chrissy, balancing her neurotic, over-planner self out. Laid back Chrissy offered those nuggets of wisdom that flew over Lauren’s head, particularly where Charlie, her crush, was concerned.


The book has great pacing. It builds up this momentum, and even though I could see some plot points clearly, some made me doubt what the ending would be and that kept me turning the pages of this ~170-page first installment.


Lauren’s character is flawed, and it’s beautiful. There were some exaggerated moments, but she’s 12 — I was 12 and I thought the universe was hinged on current fashion, school crushes and all that stuff that doesn’t mean anything to me now.



Pfft. Kids.
And because I don’t have anything else to say, other than GO PICK UP THIS BOOK, I’m going to sign off with this review.

My verdict:




(5 stars)

BOOK REVIEW (84): Sweet Gone South (Love Gone South #1)

BOOK REVIEW:
Sweet Gone South


After reading some sexier titles, I decided to move back to some sweeter reads this month. The first novella in this 5-book novella features the intrepid chocolatier Lanie Heaven and smooth-talking, sometimes over-demanded circuit Judge Luke Avery.

Written by two authors under the pen name, Alicia Hunter Pace, the series is set in a small, fictive town, Merritt, AL where the lives of the heroes/heroines of each story intertwine through friendships and kinships.


In this first title, hero Luke finds himself under heroine Lanie’s magical spell the way his three-year-old daughter, Emma, is around the older, motherly woman. He doesn’t know how Lanie — a complete stranger at the start of the book — manages his daughter when it’s so difficult handling the fussy toddler on his lonesome.


Any book involving a single mother or father wrenches my heart; I love to see how the other half of the couple interact with their love interest’s child/children. Also it acts as great external and internal conflict!


But Luke comes with his own problem package: for one he’s a widow with a chip on his shoulder. He can’t imagine dating, let alone re-marrying. His wife’s memory hangs over his romantic judgments and that’s a big no-no for Lanie.


The way Lanie sees it is that she deals with enough already. She has a lot of self-esteem problems, some justified, some not so. There’s a lot of walls Luke has to knock down before finding the real Lanie.


I can’t say much more!


Other than I loved Lanie and Luke’s story. Although I would say it leans more towards sweet romance, the sexual tension is hot, hot! And there is a sex scene! It’s pretty romantic for you luva-luvas out there. 😉 Oh, and make sure you got your chocolate fix handy! Lots of good treats mentioned in this book… -drool-


BTW, props to the author(s) for the beginning of this book. A terrifically hilarious opening! Just one more reason to pick up Sweet Gone South. Make sure to pick up the box set of all 5 novellas — much cheaper than getting those books separately.


My verdict:




(5 stars)

BOOK REVIEW (83): Lovesick Japan

BOOK REVIEW:
Lovesick Japan
 
 
When I picked up this book I was frightened by what lie between the fun book covering.
I liked the idea of exploring actual court cases in Japan with the theme of love and marital discord, but would the details of the cases be too graphic?


Luckily my fear was unfounded.

Mark D. West’s Lovesick in Japan doesn’t focus on disgusting details. I mean, some of the cases are mentally and emotionally disturbing, but no mention of sacred male parts being cut off and fed to the dogs. And definitely no pictures from the crime scenes.

This nonfiction title focusing on the cultural distinctions of the theme of love, sex and marriage in Japan, as opposed to the author’s native U.S. soil. And particularly how these subjects colour the judgments of Japanese judges.


There are a chock-load of cases divided into the three broad subjects, but a lot of it also is intertwined. For instance, sex can be part of love/extramarital affairs but marriages and divorce cases as well.


It wasn’t a terrible read. A little dry sometimes with law jargon, but the author offers a lot of breaks with plenty case material and that kept me awake. Considering I had very little expectations going in, other then I expected to learn more about the Japanese law system and philosophies about concupiscence, marriage and divorce, as well as child-rearing and family structures.


I got a sense of that. Maybe not an entire picture, but enough of a taste to want to further develop this with complementary texts on similar subjects.


One thing I would have liked is an updated version of this title, even though it was published recently enough in 2011. The problem was Mark West stretched to find cases. He used a lot of older cases; sometimes 20-30 years ago, sometimes even longer (the oldest being sometime during WWII after West and East clashed in a big way).


If you’re a neophyte on the topic of Japanese courts and the theme of a “Japanese-styled love, sex, and marriage”, then pick up Lovesick Japan.


My verdict:


✮.5

(4.5 stars)