My books

Keeping track of everything I've read!
Something like Normal - Trish Doller Yes. That's really all I can say. Just, yes. This book was everything I was hoping it would be and more. I can't even remember the last time I had such high hopes for a book and it didn't let me down. Something Like Normal is probably the best contemporary novel I've read in quite a long time.

Travis, a member of the United States Marine Corps, comes home from a deployment in Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder after the death of his best friend. He quickly realizes that everything has changed. He doesn't want to be around his group of friends from high-school, the girlfriend that he left behind has dumped him for his younger brother, and his parents don't have the marriage they had before he left. Most importantly, he's grown up, and can't wait to get back to the Marine life he has.

While at a bar one night, he bumps into Harper, a girl he spread rumors about in middle-school. From that point on, his life changes even more, as he slowly falls in love with her.

I don't even know how to begin a review like this. So rarely has a book had this sort of effect on me. My husband was watching one of the Resident Evil movies, and normally, my response would be "yay, zombies!" when he asked me to watch it, but I just shook my head and kept reading. I started and finished in less time than it took him to get to the end of the movie. When I had finally flipped the last page, he turned to me and said "are you really crying???" I was, so hard.

The characters in this book were exactly what every contemporary character should be. They had strengths and weaknesses, could be serious and humourous, and were just all-around realistic. Despite the fact that Travis was the main character in the book, he was probably one of the biggest jerks with the way he treated his brother. I was so happy that he made mistakes, and the whole novel didn't consist of him being the perfect person.

The supporting characters were well-fleshed out as well. Moss and Kevlar were two of the best backround characters I've read about since...I couldn't even tell you when. Even Paige, with her amazingly unlikeable personality, was believable.

And then, of course, Charlie. As someone who's lost a best friend (though, admittedly, not in the same fashion as Travis did), Trish Doller NAILED the emotions. The letter that Travis wrote on the last few pages is where I completely lost it and started bawling. I could practically feel the heartbreak Travis was going through.

I feel like if I continue this review, it will turn into a whole separate novel, so I'm going to end this here, although there are so many more aspects I can rave for hours about.

More reviews can be found on my blog, Booktacular
Torn - Stephanie Guerra Torn was hard for me to read and review. I think I had such high hopes for this, and it didn't live up to them. Don't get me wrong, I really liked certain parts of this, but after I finished, I wanted more from Stella, more from Ruby, and ultimately, more from the book overall.

Stella Chavez is the girl in school who floats around, from group to group. She's not, to use her words, "top-tier popular," like the cheerleaders, but she's well-liked. Until Ruby Caroline moved to town and chooses Stella randomly to befriend. Ruby is the girl in school who stays on the outside, the one that everyone is fascinated by but afraid to actually talk to her. Although they make an unlikely pair, they become best friends. Torn is the story of their friendship, and how far a best friend has to go in order to protect their other half.

Let me just state that I have a best friend very similar to Ruby, so I totally understand Stella's point-of-view throughout. She wants to help Ruby, but doesn't want to interfere, and she needs to decide where to draw the line between watching her friend being lied to and minding her own business. It's a hard place to be in, and I think Stephanie Guerra really hit the nail on the head with the thought process and emotions from being in that situation.

I think the premise behind Torn was fantastic. I had actually seen this on Goodreads a couple months ago (I think, maybe less) and wanted desperately to read it. It has the makings of a great book dealing with a lot of really important issues in our society right now - drugs and drinking, abusive relationships, bullying, the list goes on and on. And for the most part, Stephanie Guerra really did well with showcasing all of those issues, but not letting them go overboard.

Unfortunately, the ending of the story felt a little too quick for me, and that's what makes me so iffy about Torn. It just felt like the last 10 or so pages were rushed just to reach a conclusion. I would have much rather seen the story unfold at it's own pace, even if it made the book a little longer.

More reviews can be found on my blog, Booktacular
Looking for Alaska - John Green I have seen so many people rave about this book, and I was on a dystopian-kick, so I was never even interested. I finally broke through that and made myself buy a copy on a trip to Barnes and Noble.

I fell in love with this book from the beginning. Miles was a great male (!) character. Right now, with the YA market mostly dominated by female characters stuck in love triangles, Miles was a refreshing, much-needed break. He's a kid I would have loved to be friends with. I especially liked his obsession with "last words".

One of my favorite parts of Looking For Alaska was the "after" section, where Alaska's friends are all trying to figure out what happened. My heart ached for them. Losing someone, especially a best friend, is never easy. Losing someone and not knowing why is even harder. John Green did an amazing job with going into detail about the ride of emotions that the people left behind can feel.

I loved everything about this book - the characters were believable, the teenage life was realistic, and the book as a whole was beautiful. This was the first John Green novel I'd ever read, and it's not going to be my last. I'm already reading Paper Towns right now, and I will continue to read everything he ever writes, because Looking For Alaska was the perfect YA book.

More reviews can be found on my blog, Booktacular
The Last Confession - Justin Stanisic This is one of the first indie books for review that I was sent that was a mystery, so when Justin Stanisic contacted me asking for a review, I jumped at the chance. I've been reading mysteries since I was about 12 years old, and, other than YA, it's my favorite genre. There's something about getting lost in a case and trying to solve it before the detectives/police do that just makes me keep coming back for more. I was so glad I got the opportunity to read this.

Mary Lowry is a woman who doesn't have an easy life. She has a 21 year old daughter who is away at college, and a jerk of a boyfriend who I spent the whole book hating. She works as a waitress, and I imagined the diner she works in as one of those tiny diners with the greasy food that I absolutely love. While she's at work one day, a man comes in, orders something to drink, and shows Mary an old picture of a woman he claims is his sister. He explains how he hasn't seen her in twenty-two years, and asks if she recognizes the girl in the photo. She doesn't but tells the man, Father Robert McCullen, that she'll ask around. While doing so, she finds out some disturbing facts about Father McCullen and the man he really is.

Surprisingly, my husband actually read this book before I did, and he enjoyed it. He's not really into mysteries, more sci-fi and fantasy, so I figured it must have been good for him to say that he liked it a lot. I grabbed it off my shelf, and within the first 10 pages, was immersed. Hubby went to bed, I stayed up reading. Chewie wanted my attention, I kept on reading. 1:30AM came, I was still reading. I finally finished it, kicked myself for staying up so late, and then sat there and said "wow."

There really wasn't much about The Last Confession that I didn't like. All the characters were fleshed out and very realistic. I loved that the author, who is a man, was able to write in the tone of a 40ish year old woman, and I actually read it as a woman. It wasn't like it was forced, it was believable. In most books I read where the author is one gender but the main character is another, I can distinguish between the two, but in The Last Confession, I forgot about Justin Stanisic writing it and read as Mary. Kudos to Stanisic for doing that, because it's so rare. Robert McCullen, with all his secrets, was creepy in ways I can't describe without giving away too many spoilers.

I think the only thing I would have liked to see more of in The Last Confession is more with Father McCullen's mother. I think having more background info on what happened would be really great.

All in all, The Last Confession was a fantastic read. If Stanisic writes anything else, I'll definitely be checking it out.

More reviews can be found on my blog, Booktacular
The Immortal Rules - Julie Kagawa
I was on the fence about reading this, to tell the truth. I am kind of "over" the whole vampire thing, because once Twilight came out, vampires were everywhere. There were tons of vampire books, TV shows, movies, etc. It just got to a point where whenever another vampire book came out, I'd automatically pass by it in a bookstore. But I kept seeing reviews from bloggers that were all saying how fantastic this was, so I decided to check it out. It did not disappoint.

Allison Sekemoto lives in a world very different from our own. Vampires do not hide from humans. On the contrary, they keep humans as "pets." Sort of like their own personal blood banks. Every human is required to register with the vampires, and they "donate" blood. For humans who choose to hide out and not register, life is hard. They have to search for food and go beyond the city to find it. This wouldn't be a problem normally, but all is not normal in Allison's world, and rabids prowl the land beyond the walls of the city.

A rabid is exactly what causes Allison to become one of the creatures she hates the most. When she and her friends are attacked, she is rescued by a vampire, Kanin. He gives her the choice - let him turn her into a vampire, or die as a result of the rabid attack. Allison realizes she would rather become a vampire than die, so Kanin turns her.

Kanin starts to train Allison to help her learn how to be a successful vampire. He teaches her how to fight, how to burrow into the ground to sleep, and most importantly, how to feed. He encourages her to leave her old life behind, forget her friends back home, but she can't do that. She decides to go back and see her friend, Stick, thinking that everything will be okay.

Stick is not the person Allison thinks he is, however, and he tells the vampires who run the city where Allison and Kanin are hiding out. This leads to the vampires coming to the old hospital where Allison and Kanin are staying, and causes Allison to go off on her own.

The Immortal Rules was the first book I've ever read of Julie Kagawa's. I've had the Iron Fey series on my to-read-list for what seems like forever, but for one reason or another, have never read them. I think it's because I normally don't read fairy/faery/faerie books. I'm a definite fan of her writing after reading this book. It took me a little while to get into the story, but once I did, I had to be dragged away from my Nook to do things like eat dinner, go to sleep, go to work. You know, the not-so-important stuff, when you're reading a novel like this.

Probably my favorite part of this book, as crazy as it sounds, was the parts with the rabids in it. I mean, come on! They were like...part zombie, part vampire monsters! I can't remember ever reading a book with anything like the rabids. Whenever they came near Allison, my heart was pounding and I was rooting for her and her traveling companions to escape. Especially towards the end, in the last 50 pages or so, I was biting my nails, sitting up in bed, keeping my fingers crossed for them to make it to Eden.

I also loved that The Immortal Rules had a dystopian feel to it as well. It's no secret that my favorite genre is dystopian, but to be completely honest, I have been getting kind of bored with all the dystopians coming out lately. The Immortal Rules put a completely new spin on it.

I especially enjoyed that the book was split into the four parts. It really helped with connecting to what Allison was feeling at each particular point in the story. I actually could feel that she was a monster during that part, and same with each of the other divisions. I'm hoping that Julie Kagawa will continue those splits into the rest of the series.

All in all, The Immortal Rules was a fantastic vampire story. Everything about it was just perfect. Perfect characters, perfect writing, perfect story. This will be a book that I need to buy an actual copy of, not just an e-book, to put up on my shelf of favorites with Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and the Gone series. Thank you, Julie Kagawa, for making me a fan of vampires again.
Talisman Of El - Alecia Stone Charlie Blake is a 14-year old orphan who, after four years of hoping for a family to take him in, goes to live with a man named Jacob. Jacob is nice, caring, and opens up his home to Charlie. Charlie goes to school, and while he is bullied, he befriends a girl named Alex, and his life starts to take a turn for the better. Charlie soon realizes, after being forced by Jacob to participate in a robbery, that his new life may not be as great as it seems. During this robbery, Charlie meets a homeless boy named Richmond, and becomes friends with him.

Charlie, Alex, and Richmond accidentally stumble across a man that Charlie has dreamed about, Derkein Odessa. But this Derkein is a little different - he's a 27 year old man trapped in the body of a 60 year old, and he keeps aging.

The foursome enter Arcadia, a world in the core of the earth, filled with angels, demons, gods, and magic, to try and stop Derkein's aging before he dies, and to find Derkein's father. While there, Charlie finds out that everything he has thought about himself and his deceased parents might not be the truth.

I loved this book. The world building of Arcadia was phenomenal. All the descriptions were so vivid, and I almost wanted to draw everything, because I felt like I was seeing it all play out right in front of me. The names were inventive (I might name my first child Derkein. If Mike will agree...) but at the same time not too unique where I stumbled over pronouncing them. The characters were all lovable and had me wishing I knew them all personally. If I had to choose a favorite, I don't think I could decide between Ash, Derkein, or Richmond. I loved that Alex wasn't a cookie cutter girl, like in so many fantasy novels. She wasn't a damsel in distress, wasn't too "princess-y", but wasn't tough to the point where she was a stone wall.

I also loved that the angels, demons, and gods weren't too biblical, and kept more along the lines of mythology. I've always loved reading about Greek and Roman mythology, so I was extremely happy to see it in the world of Arcadia.

My only complaint was the hierarchy of Arcadia had me a bit confused at times. I couldn't keep straight which level had which abilities. I had to write it down and refer back to it quite a bit. But that was so minor, it didn't detract from the plot itself.

Mike, my boyfriend, literally had to force me to put the book down at night because he wanted to sleep and I wanted to keep reading. As soon as I finished, I told him he had to read it, despite the fact that he doesn't read much. I can't wait until he does, so he can be a new fan of this trilogy like I am.

4/5 stars!
Heartsick (Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell) - Chelsea Cain I just....

I can't even...

Where to begin.

Ten days. Ten long, gruesome days. That's the amount of time detective Archie Sheridan was tortured at the hands of a sadistic, but beautiful, serial killer, Gretchen Lowell. Those horrible ten days ended when Gretchen inexplicably called 911, told the operator where she and Archie were, and turned herself in after an eleven year killing spree and over 200 victims.

Two years later, Archie is divorced, pops pills like they're candy, and refuses to contact his two children. He also has an unhealthy obsession with his former captor, Gretchen, and visits her every Sunday. He explains it away and says she's revealing one of her victims each week, but throughout the book his partner and ex-wife question if that's the only reason.

Archie is also asked to be the head of a new task force, his first since going on medical leave after Gretchen's torment. He agrees, and the hunt for The After School Strangler begins. This killer is one who is kidnapping young girls, raping them, dousing them in bleach, strangling them, and then leaving their body somewhere to be found.

Susan Ward is the other main character of this novel. She's a journalist that is shadowing Archie as he works his way through the case. She's a sarcastic, witty, intelligent woman, and my favorite character in this novel.

This is Chelsea Cain's debut, and right out of the gate, she is one of my new favorite authors. There isn't really a dull moment in this book, each page left me wanting more. Everything about this story worked for me.

Gretchen Lowell is, by far, one of the worst serial killers that I can recall, but there is something about her that made me want to skip ahead to the parts where she is mentioned. I was squirming when I read about the pain she inflicted on Archie (and not just because of my fear of needles) and when she described how she methodically tortured another of her victims.

I'm so glad I already have the next in this series, Sweetheart, because it won't be long before I need to devour more of Cain's writing.

This review can also be found on my blog,
Gone  - Michael  Grant I'm a HUGE fan of dystopia-type books. I'll read just about any of them. 1984? Amazing. The Giver? Also very good. And don't even get me started on The Hunger Games. Because of that, my review might be a little biased. As another warning, it's very hard to discuss this book without some major spoilers, so PLEASE BE PREPARED.

Gone is a fast-paced account of Sam Temple. Imagine, being 14, sitting in your class in school, and all of a sudden, your teacher disappears. As if that wasn't strange enough, one of your fellow students has also vanished into thin air. Well, that's exactly what happens to Sam. After investigating a bit, he finds out that it wasn't just his teacher and classmate, but every single person in the town of Perdido Beach over the age of 15 has suddenly disappeared.

The novel continues with the story of the kids of Perdido Beach. How they managed, how they policed themselves, etc. Pieces of it reminded me of William Golding's Lord of the Flies, but with superhero powers. Of course, it has the obligatory "bad guy," Caine, who just happens to be Sam's twin that was given up for adoption. That story-line frustrated me a bit because of the cliche. One good twin, one bad twin, fighting each other. But the book also has some surprising twists (Little Pete inadvertently being the cause of all the adults 'blinking out'? Did not see that coming AT ALL!), which was a nice change from the overused twin issue.

I'd also like to bring up Quinn, Sam's friend and surfing 'brah'. I would have LOVED to see more of his character, and not just in an "appearance" sort of way. I'm talking about what was going on inside his head. He seemed like one of the most conflicted people in the whole story. Sam is clearly his best friend, but he doesn't want to be punished by Caine and his gang of thugs for taking Sam's side. He's jealous of Sam because Sam has power and Quinn has none. That alone has to be hard, feeling second class to someone who is your best friend, not that Sam intended it that way. He switches sides so many times in this story it was unbelievable, but for some reason, I couldn't help but sympathize with him.

Gone, at 558 pages, is by no means a light read. It had me wondering how our society would function in this type of predicament. It is, however, one of my favorite books. 5 out of 5 stars!

P.S. Can I just say I imagined Quinn looking like Sam from Glee? And Drake like Drake Bell? Weird.
Dr. Franklin's Island (Readers Circle) - Ann Halam (Side note - My first official review on Goodreads!)

I picked this up at a used bookstore, not thinking it would be any good, but it was cheap and I needed something quick and easy to read.

Well, I was right on two out of three. It was definitely a quick read - if I had the time, I could have read the whole thing in one sitting. It was easy. It was also very good.

The book is told from the Semirah's point of view. She, as well as 49 others, win a contest to be part of the British Young Conservationists who are working in Ecuador. On the way there, their plane crashes, and Semirah, Miranda, and Arnie are the only three survivors on a deserted island. After some time though, they find out they're not as alone as they thought.

Dr. Franklin is a scientist involved in the works of transgenics. He's coming up with a way to create animals mixed with humans. Think about it - a human, who can change into a bird. He kidnaps Semi and Miranda and makes them his first human guinea pigs, turning Miranda into the previously mentioned bird, and Semi into a manta ray.

This book was surprisingly well-written and interesting. I honestly read until late at night, fell asleep reading it, and then continued it the next morning once I woke up. I'd highly recommend it.