Tag Archives: 2011-read

Abandon by Meg Cabot

I mentioned Meg Cabot’s latest release Abandon in my “Most Anticipated Books of 2011″ post. In that post I discussed how I felt a bit apprehensive about this release. Here are my thoughts on the story.

From Goodreads.com

Book cover of Abandon by Meg CabotNew from #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot, a dark, fantastical story about this world . . . and the underworld.

Though she tries returning to the life she knew before the accident, Pierce can’t help but feel at once a part of this world, and apart from it. Yet she’s never alone . . . because someone is always watching her. Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back.

But now she’s moved to a new town. Maybe at her new school, she can start fresh. Maybe she can stop feeling so afraid.

Only she can’t. Because even here, he finds her. That’s how desperately he wants her back. She knows he’s no guardian angel, and his dark world isn’t exactly heaven, yet she can’t stay away . . . especially since he always appears when she least expects it, but exactly when she needs him most.

But if she lets herself fall any further, she may just find herself back in the one place she most fears: the Underworld.

This book confused the crap out of me. The way in which Cabot wrote this book had me often wondering what was going on. I had to read it twice in order to follow the plot–this has never happened before! There were two reasons for this befuddlement: 1) There have been three times in Pierce’s life when this “mysterious figure” has made an appearance. The author doesn’t explain all three of them until the second half of the book. 2) The encounters are only vaguely referenced before they are detailed. This made me confused about which encounter Pierce was talking about at times.

The perplexed feeling was made worse by the author’s mixing of flashbacks into the story. The fact she frequently went from present to past with little warning left me lost. I often found myself several paragraphs into a memory before realizing I had gone into the past. I would then have to reread the last page or so to catch back up.

I did feel that the plot was a bit “Twilight-esque”. [Spoiler Alert] The novel centers around a dead young man in love with a young woman who can not get keep out of trouble. [/Spoiler Alert] I could not help notice the similarities between the main characters of this book and of Stephanie Meyer’s novels. That being said, Cabot tells a story around these characters that is entertaining, and I found her use of the underworld to be original. In the end found myself enjoying the story–once I understood it–despite being reminded of Meyer’s characters.

Review: After finishing my first read of this novel, I felt disoriented, thus making me feel disappointed with the book. It’s unfortunate as there was much to like about this story. After my second reread I found the plot was quite entertaining. Cabot created great suspense leaving me wondering what will happen in the next book in the series Underworld. I wished that I could have enjoyed these things the first time.

Rapid Reviews

I thought that the birth of my daughter would mean a decrease in time available for reading. The opposite has proven to be true. My evenings–which used to be full of me running around the house getting things done–are now filled with me sitting on the couch holding my sleeping daughter. I have found this is the perfect opportunity to clear my shelves of some books that have been sitting in my “to-read” pile for ages.

Unfortunately I have found little time to write reviews for these books. My free time usually comes with a baby on my lap, leaving no free space for a laptop. The result is a lack of book posts up on my blog. I have decided to rectify this by doing a sort of “rapid review” post discussing some of my recent reads.

Book cover of Thin, Rich, Pretty by Beth Harbison The first book I want to review is Thin, Rich, Pretty by Beth Harbison. The story is told from three alternating points of view that rotate between the present and past as the story unfolds. By using this technique each narrator only divulges small pieces of the story. The reader is able to use all of these tidbits to create the full plot. This approach helped the tale develop slowly until everything was revealed at the end and left room for interesting twists and turns. The resulting story was quite enjoyable.

The book cover for "Fly Away Home" by Jennifer WeinerJennifer Weiner uses also uses flashbacks and multiple narrators in Fly Away Home. I found this to be much less successful. The author’s use of flashbacks was less structured and sometimes left me feeling confused. I often wondered if I was in the past or present. Another disappointment was the fact that I found one of the women narrators to be boring. Her story lacked anything that would make it interesting to me. My final issue with the story was that the conclusion of the book left me with no resolution. I had high hopes for this book when I purchased it, but was left feeling disappointed.

Book cover for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium #1) by Stieg LarssonThere was no disappointment when I finished The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. I found all three of Larsson’s novels–Hornet’s Nest plus The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo–to be interesting and entertaining. All three novels in the trilogy started slowly, but soon were impossible to put down. This was a series that had sat on my shelf for several months. I ended up blowing through all the books in a week in a half. The characters were complex; the story was original. I’m glad I finally read this series.

Book cover of Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen I have no idea how Water for Elephants ended up on my bookshelf. It has probably been there for two years waiting for me to read it. It finally got picked up this weekend as a result of being the only book left unread on my shelf. I had very few expectations when I started reading this book. I ended up discovering a book that I would pick up again for a re-read. Recently I have found myself reading mostly YA stores and tales of women in their early 30’s. This story, told by a male narrator alternating between life in his 90’s and early 20’s, was a refreshing change. I loved how the plot focused on the life of a member of the traveling circus. I had never before wondered about such a life, but now feel inspired to know more. I don’t know how this book ended up in my life, but am glad it did!

Book cover of Hook Line and Sink Him by Jackie Pilossoph Like Water for Elephants, Hook Line and Sink Him has a male narrator. In Water for Elephants the author captures a man speech and thought in a way that I felt was realistic. The author of Hook Line and Sink Him creates a man who comes off as a stereotype. I hope that the men around me think of things other than constantly bedding women and the local sports teams. My inability to believe in the main character meant that I could never really get into the storyline. It was entertaining but not enthralling. The result was a book that I will probably forget about in a month or so.

Book cover of Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch Girls in Trucks is a book I can’t wait to forget. I picked it up at Target after reading the book’s description. I found the book to be disappointing. Starting with a seventh-grade girl named Sarah, the novel jumps unpredictably through her life. These jumps were not executed well, often leaving me feeling jarred. Characters came and went with no rhyme or reason, making me feel as if I had missed something. There was no resolution to one story before being thrown into the next. The only constant was the main character’s habit of smoking pot, which just irritated me. Upon finishing this book I felt like I had wasted a lot of time. Very disappointing.

So now I find myself looking for book recommendations. I need suggestions! My shelves which were once full of “to read” piles are now in need of a refresh. I’ve given many book suggestions over the past year, and now am asking for you to return the favor. What books should I check out?

The Bake-off by Beth Kendrick

Thanks to the “First Reads” program on Goodreads.com I was given an Advanced Readers Copy of The Bake-off by Beth Kendrick. This book is the subject of my next review.

The Bake-off book coverSuburban soccer mom Amy has always wanted to stand out from the crowd. Former child prodigy Linnie just wants to fit in. The two sisters have been estranged for years, but thanks to a series of personal crises and their wily grandmother, they’ve teamed up to enter a national bake-off in the hopes of winning some serious cash. Armed with the top-secret recipe for Grammy’s apple pie, they should be unstoppable. Sure, neither one of them has ever baked anything more complicated than brownie mix, but it’s just pie-how hard could it be?

I previously won and reviewed Second Time Around by this author, a book I thoroughly enjoyed. When I saw that The Bake-off was being given away on Goodreads.com, I made sure to enter. I was thrilled to find out a won a free copy of the book to review. My previous experience with the author meant I started the book with high expectations.

My first reaction to the book was to the cover. I appreciated how the cover image is very different and original. In my opinion this helps it really stand out amongst other books. In a row of new releases, I would pick up this book for a second look–I loved that!

I enjoyed the relationships that the author depicted in Second Time Around. I found myself loving those in The Bake-off even more. Like Amy and Linnie, I have a sister who is close in age. This enables me to relate to the different feelings that exist between siblings. Kendrick captures these emotions on the page, creating a story that I found myself easily identifying with.

The story told in this novel supports the great characters. The main theme of the plot–sisters competing in a bake-off–is as original as the cover. The situations they encounter made me want to continue reading. I couldn’t wait to see how the sisters worked their way out of some of the trouble they ended up in. The creative story kept my interest throughout. I was almost sorry to get to the last page!

Review: Great book!!! I thoroughly enjoyed it. Kendrick’s great storytelling created a page-turner that I hated to put down. I found the characters interesting and real. The story was funny and entertaining. I can’t wait until this book is released so others can enjoy it!

Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard

Commercials for the tv show Pretty Little Liars on ABC Family recently caught my eye. They inspireded me to check out the book series on which the show was based. I read the first four books; Pretty Little Liars, Flawless, Perfect, Unbelievable.

Book cover of Pretty Little Liars by Sara ShepardThe basis of the book is that four girls–Emily, Aria, Hanna, and Spencer–lost contact with each other after their childhood friend disappeared. They start receiving messages from a mysterious “A” years later. These messages reveal secrets that only their missing friend–Alison–knew. “A” then starts sending texts and e-mails about the four girls’ current scandalous activities. The quartet must now discover what happened to their friend in order to stop their stalker.

Shepard left many hints that had me guessing A’s identity throughout, which made the four novels addicting.This was particularly surprising as I found every other aspect of the stories to be terrible. My need to find out A’s identity kept me reading. It was the reason I could not put the books down.

Book cover of Flawless by Sara ShepardThe ridiculous plot points had me rolling my eyes as I read. The main story line involves A’s ability to follow the girls at all times, which isn’t realistic. I did exercise some “willing suspension of disbelief” to go along with the point. I did feel that since this one aspect was over the top the rest of the action should be a bit more believable. This was not the case. The pages were full of crazy scenarios: A seventh grade student kissed her 17-year-old sister’s boyfriend; a high school junior hooks up with her teacher; a mother sleeps with a cop in an attempt to get charges dropped against her daughter. Do these things happen in real life? Yes. Do these things–and more–usually happen to a small group of friends? I find that hard to believe. All of these situations create a framework for a story that was just to much for me to handle. It’s not good when the “mysterious stalker who knows all your missing friends secrets” is the most believable plot point in your book.

Book cover of Perfect by Sara ShepardThe crazy plot lines were not the only thing I disliked about the books. I was not a fan of the frequent depiction of underage drinking, often with little consequences. The reaction of the parents to various situations their daughters were in was also quite disturbing. These reactions were sometimes more irrational than the circumstances their daughters found themselves in. I must admit that it has been many years since I was a teenager. It is also true that my experience as a parent is limited to a newborn. These two facts lead to me having little knowledge in the areas of teenage behavior these days, and their parents reactions. It may be possible that the behavior depicted in this story is accurate. My experiences with the many other YA novels I have read leads me to believe this is not the case. These factors contributed to my lack of enjoyment of the series.

The Pretty Little Liars series is currently made up of three sets of four books. The last series is due to be published later this year. I will not be reading this series, or the second set of four books. The annoyance I felt with the plot points made me reluctant to start with the second set of stories. I felt satisfied enough with the answers I had in the fourth book to not continue.

Book cover of Unbelievable by Sara ShepardIt should not be a surprise that I do not recommend this series. The author is successful in creating suspense, a factor that could not save the rest of the story. It was only due to my determination to get my questions answered that I survived through the first four books. A look at the Wikipedia entries detailing the plot points of the next four novels convinced me this was the right move. Shepard was able to top herself with outrageous plot points in these next novels. I’m glad I didn’t waste my time on the stories.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

I started this year off by reading Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. This book was perfect for my first review of 2011.

From Goodreads.com

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie PerkinsAnna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets Étienne St. Claire: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he’s taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna—and readers—have long awaited?

I first heard of this book through a Goodreads.com giveaway. Neither the cover nor description grabbed my attention, so I didn’t enter the giveaway. A month or so ago I started noticing a lot of people mentioning the book; John Green even acknowledged it on his YouTube channel. Friends and other authors discussed it on Twitter, and they all had positive things to say. I got caught up in the word-of-mouth buzz and ended up giving the book a second look.

I have previously discussed I enjoyed the way Emilly Giffin conveys relationships in her stories. I found the same to be true with the author of this story. Perkins artfully depicts the intricate ups and downs of a growing teenage relationship throughout this book. She is able to build the friendship between Anna and Étienne naturally. The pacing is never rushed or fake. I felt myself getting more involved in the story as their feelings for each other grew. When they encountered the awkward stumbling blocks caused by their growing feelings for each other, I felt the tension that developed. The moments of joy and happiness they experience affected me as if they were my own.

The other relationships depicted in the story demonstrate the same depth. You understood Anna’s anger when she and a friend got in a fight. I felt the sadness she experienced when she missed her family back home. The many emotions were depicted so truthfully that it made the book feel like more than just a story. This realism made a tale that was impossible to put down.

Review: I am so glad that I was persuaded to give this story a second another look. Anna and the French Kiss turned out to be a fantastic book that I couldn’t wait to finish. I can not wait to read the companion novel–Lola and the Boy Next Door–in September.

2011 Books

My goal for 2011 was to read 100 books. These are the books I have read that helped me meet my goal.

December
Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World by David Koenig Review
My Favorite Mistake by Beth Kendrick
Entwined by Heather Dixon
The Future of Us by Jay Asher, Carolyn Mackler
Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn’t Have) by Sarah Mlynowski
The Cubicle Next Door by Siri Mitchell
Clockwork Prince (The Infernal Devices #2) by Cassandra Clare Review
The Magic Touch by Dara England Review
Single in the City by Michele Gorman
What’s Your Number? by Karyn Bosnak

November
Ordinary World (Andi Cutrone #2) by Elisa Lorello Review
Faking It (Andi Cutrone #1) by Elisa Lorello
Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park Review
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern Review
Crossed (Matched #2) by Ally Condie Review
A Heart Most Worthy by Siri Mitchell Review
My Fair Godmother (My Fair Godmother #1) by Janette Rallison
Recalculating by Jennifer Weiner

October
Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist Review
Spying in High Heels (A High Heels Mystery #1) by Gemma Halliday Review
Campaign Promises by Laurel Osterkamp Review
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes #4) by Arthur Conan Doyle
Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver Review
Why I Love Singlehood by Elisa Lorello, Sarah Girrell
The Name of the Star (Shades of London #1) by Maureen Johnson (Goodreads Author) Review
Matched (Matched #1) by Ally Condie
Being Kendra by Kendra Wilkinson
Mousejunkies! by Bill Burke Review

September
Heat Rises (Nikki Heat #3) by Richard Castle
Goliath (Leviathan #3) by Scott Westerfeld Review
Families and Other Nonreturnable Gifts by Claire LaZebnik
Bossypants by Tina Fey
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes #3) by Arthur Conan Doyle
Behemoth (Leviathan #2) by Scott Westerfeld

August
Leviathan (Leviathan #1) by Scott Westerfeld
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Mousetrapped by Catherine Ryan Howard
London Is the Best City in America by Laura Dave
In Service to the Mouse: My Unexpected Journey to Becoming Disneyland’s First President by Jack Lindquist
The Baby Planner by Josie Brown
Babe in Boyland by Jody Gehrman
Bumped (Bumped #1) by Megan McCafferty
The First Husband by Laura Dave

July
The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan
Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott
Will Work for Prom Dress by Aimee Ferris
Knuckler: My Life with Baseball’s Most Confounding Pitch by Tim Wakefield, Tony Massarotti
Always Something There to Remind Me by Beth Harbison
Four Decades of Magic: Celebrating the First Forty Years of Disney World by Chad Emerson
Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner
Overbite (Insatiable #2) by Meg Cabot
Spent: Memoirs of a Shopping Addict by Avis Cardella
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
A Match Made on Madison by Dee Davis

June
City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments #4) by Cassandra Clare
Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1) by Cassandra Clare
City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments #3) by Cassandra Clare
City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments #2) by Cassandra Clare
Uncommon Criminals (Heist Society, #2) by Ally Carter
City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1) by Cassandra Clare
The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials #3) by Philip Pullman
The Royal Treatment (Princess for Hire #2) by Lindsey Leavitt
Spoiled by Heather Cocks, Jessica Morgan
The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials #2) by Philip Pullman

May
The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials #1) by Philip Pullman
Naked Heat (Nikki Heat #2) by Richard Castle
Heat Wave (Nikki Heat #1) by Richard Castle
The Epcot Explorer’s Encyclopedia: A guide to the flora, fauna, and fun of the world’s greatest theme park! by R.A. Pedersen
If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster
Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer
Princess for Hire (Princess for Hire #1) by Lindsey Leavitt
Working at the Ballpark: The Fascinating Lives of Baseball People–from Peanut Vendors and Broadcasters to Players and Managers by Tom Jones
Abandon (Abandon Trilogy #1) by Meg Cabot Review
The Last Little Blue Envelope (Little Blue Envelope #2) by Maureen Johnson

April
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Love on a Dime (Ladies of Summerhill #1) by Cara Lynn James
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
Hook Line and Sink Him by Jackie Pilossoph Review
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen Review
Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch Review
Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner Review
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Millennium #3) by Stieg Larsson
Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love by Matthew Logelin
The Girl Who Played with Fire (Millennium #2) by Stieg Larsson

March
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium #1) by Stieg Larsson
Thin, Rich, Pretty by Beth Harbison Review
The Bake-off by Beth Kendrick ARC Review
Loser/Queen by Jodi Lynn Anderson Review

February
Unbelievable (Pretty Little Liars #4) by Sara Shepard Review
Perfect (Pretty Little Liars #3) by Sara Shepard Review
Flawless (Pretty Little Liars #2) by Sara Shepard Review
Pretty Little Liars (Pretty Little Liars #1) by Sara Shepard Review
The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern
Delirium (Delirium #1) by Lauren Oliver

January
Liar by Justine Larbalestier
Going Bovine by Libba Bray
Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn, David Levithan
There’s Cake in My Future by Kim Gruenenfelder
The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios by Alex Wright
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins Review

* Please note that ARC stands for advance reading copy. For more information about what an ARC is or how to get your hands on one feel free to check out wikipedia.org