Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Waiting On" Wednesday: Spirit Bound

Book cover
Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy #5) by Richelle Mead. Release Date: May 18, 2010.


Dimitri gave Rose the ultimate choice. But she chose wrong...

After a long and heartbreaking journey to Dimitri's birthplace in Siberia, Rose Hathaway has finally returned to St. Vladimir's-and to her best friend, Lissa. It is nearly graduation, and the girls can't wait for their real lives beyond the Academy's iron gates to begin. But Rose's heart still aches for Dimitri, and she knows he's out there, somewhere.

She failed to kill him when she had the chance. And now her worst fears are about to come true. Dimitri has tasted her blood, and now he is hunting her. And this time he won't rest until Rose joins him... forever.

While I found the fourth book in this series a bit lacking--perhaps three should have been the stopping point--I am holding out hope for Spirit Bound. It's hard to believe I still have to wait nearly 3 months to finish this series, but I am looking forward to it!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Review: Specials

Book cover
Title: Specials
Author: Scott Westerfield
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Sci-Fi
Pub Date: September 2007, Simon Pulse
Paperback, 372 pages
Book Source: Purchased from Yawn's Books, our local independent bookstore


Tally thought they were a rumor, but now she's one of them. A Special. A superamped fighting machine, engineered to keep the uglies down and the pretties stupid.

But maybe being perfectly programmed with strength and focus isn't better than anything she's ever known. Tally still has memories of something else.

But it's easy for her to tune that out--until she's offered a chance to stamp out the rebels of the New Smoke permanently. It all comes down to one last choice: listen to that tiny, faint heartbeat, or carry out the mission she's programmed to complete. Either way, Tally's world will never be the same.

My Thoughts

It's been awhile since I read the first two books in Westerfield's Uglies series but I finally got around to reading #3, Specials. This book has some of the same annoyances that I found in Pretties, but I tried to overlook them this time around. One observation I would like to make: this series is better read closer together, rather than spacing the books out over a long period of time. For some reason, the events of the first books didn't really stick with me the way some stories do, so I found myself struggling to remember what had led to some of the events in Specials.

As I was reading I initially found myself losing interest in the story--it went back to really needing a refresher of the first two books. As the book picked up pace, however, I found my interest piqued and I was able to get pulled into the story. Once again, Tally has to think her way out of the person she has been turned into, as one of the Specials. For the record, the operations this future civilization uses on some of its people are absolutely crazy--it makes you hope that things like that never become reality. But back to the story--Tally's hope is to find Zane and help him become a Special like her, instead of the somewhat broken Pretty he had become.

This time we see more of this future world that Westerfield has created, visiting a new city, Diego. We also learn that Maddy has perfected her pills to cure "Prettiness" and that they have been mass-produced and sent out to cities all over. There is a lot going on in this story, but ultimately it all comes back to Tally and her struggles. I could have done with some further character development but at least the storyline was gripping. By the end of it I was convinced that I need to finish the series (although Uglies is easily still my favorite of the books so far), and so I picked up a copy of Extras today. Technically the Uglies trilogy is its own and Extras is set a few years beyond, but I am curious enough that I would like to know where the story goes, even if the focus is on a new set of characters.

My rating: 4 stars

Other reviews of Specials:

If you have reviewed this book and would like to see a link to your review listed above, please leave a comment with the link to your review!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Author Guest Post: Pam Jenoff on Covers and Titles

Earlier this week you might have seen my review of Almost Home, Pam Jenoff's romantic suspense that was released in paperback on the 16th. Ms. Jenoff graciously offered to share a guest post with all of you, as well, and I am excited to bring that to you today! Have you ever wondered how much say the authors have when developing titles and covers for their books? Well, you are about to get a peek into the answer to that question, from Ms. Jenoff's perspective on...

Covers and Titles

One of the questions I get asked most frequently by readers is “How much say do you have in the covers and titles of your books?” My quick answer is “very little” but that really doesn’t do it justice, so I think some explanation is required.

Each of my books has a working title when I am writing it. Then at some point, usually after I’ve sent it to my editor, I get a call or e-mail asking about possible alternative titles. Let me use my first novel as an example. When I was writing, I called it THE KOMMANDANT’S GIRL. After it was accepted for publication, the publisher decided that the title was too historical and asked me to come up with a list of alternatives. I came up with about forty titles and the publisher took half of one of my suggestions and called the book A FINE CRACK OF LIGHT -- leading my family and friends to call it “The Crack Book” and teaching me never to put a title on a list unless I loved it. Then one of the major bookstore chains said they liked the book but not the title. So the title reverted to THE KOMMANDANT’S GIRL and the cover was redone to meet the bookstore chain’s preference as well (a very interesting lesson in market power.)

It has been much the same with my other books. THE DIPLOMAT’S WIFE had a working title of HEART OF EUROPE. ALMOST HOME was once titled FOREVER ENGLAND (but in the UK will be called THE OFFICER’S LOVER.) The title that the publisher ultimately decides upon is almost always better than the original, no matter how much I loved it. So I’ve learned not to get very attached.

Book covers are different, though, because they don’t originate with me. I’m asked to give ideas of images and themes from the book that may help the artist. But I’m usually not looped in on the actual artwork until pretty late in the game, when various cover concepts have been vetted in house and there is one frontrunner that most people really like. Then I give input mostly on minor changes, like font or color, unless I feel really strongly about something bigger.

I’ve also been asked by readers if I mind my limited control over the title and over process. No, not at all. For one thing, the people who make these decisions are among the best in the business and I have great trust and confidence in their judgment and skills. I do my job (writing the best books I possibly can) and I let them do theirs. And I am always amazed by the ability of the artists and others at the publisher to get inside my head and find a cover and title that totally capture my vision of the book. These are some of the first indications with a new manuscript that people are “getting” what I am trying to say, and seeing our ideas come together is one of the most exciting parts of publication. So while I am not that involved in the process, I am almost always blown away by the results.


Many thanks again to Pam Jenoff for this guest post! An interesting look into the development of titles and covers, wouldn't you say?


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Happy Blogoversary... To Me! (+ a CONTEST)

Yes, can you believe it? Melissa's Bookshelf is 1 year old today!

When I started this book review blog, I don't really think I had any idea of what to expect. That I have over 400 followers in a year (despite the fact that my posting has been way down in recent months) is truly incredible! I can't thank all of you enough for your comments and support over the year. I love the book blogging community!!

This blog has really helped me get back into regular reading, in general, though lately it seems my time for that has diminished somewhat. I've been introduced to so many new, wonderful authors thanks to recommendations from others and perusing all the other amazing book blogs out there! And here are some other facts and figures from my first year in the Book Blogging world...

# of posts: 347 (including this one)
# of books reviewed: 116
# of 5 star reviews: 30
# Author interviews: 4
# of new friends made: Too many to count!

I am looking forward to my next year of book-blogging! I want to broaden the scope of the kinds of books I read a little more, though that may take some time since I have quite a stack of unread books to work through, too! I'd also like to get back into posting even more regularly--if not daily, every other day at the very least. I want to bring you more author interviews and guest posts, and I'm excited to be doing that tomorrow, wait and see! And naturally you can count on continued giveaways and other fun stuff here at Melissa's Bookshelf!

In fact, I'd love to have a little contest right here to celebrate my blog's b-day! You've got through the month of February to enter to win a $25 gift card to the BOOK retailer of your choice, whether it's Amazon, B&N, Borders, or anyone else who issues gift cards online. (That's the only requirement: I must be able to either send an e-gift card via email or order the gift card online and have it shipped to you.) 

Here's how to enter (as always, one post with all entries is preferred, but multiple posts for entries is accepted):

+1 entry: Comment on this post and tell me which book review I've written in the last year was your favorite (and why... if you want to)
+2 entries each: Become a follower of my blog on Google friend connect, Twitter (@Melsbookshelf), Networked Blogs on Facebook, Book Blips and let me know you have. If you're already a follower/friend on any of these, just let me know in the comment!
+3 entries each: Stumble, Digg, Bookmark this post on delicious and let me know you did in the comment!

Please be sure to leave an email address in any comments you leave with entries so that I can contact you if you are the winner!

The contest is open internationally as long as I can send an e-gift card to an international winner... Good luck to all of you, and remember this giveaway ends at midnight on February 28th (Eastern Time)! Afterwards, I will let choose the winner and I'll be in touch to get the winner their gift card!

Thanks for celebrating my blogoversary with me!!!


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Waiting On" Wednesday: Radiant Shadows

Book cover
Radiant Shadows (Wicked Lovely #4) by Melissa Marr. Release Date: April 20, 2010.

Synopsis (from

Hunger for nourishment.

Hunger for touch.

Hunger to belong.

Half-human and half-faery, Ani is driven by her hungers.
Those same appetites also attract powerful enemies and uncertain allies, including Devlin. He was created as an assassin and is brother to the faeries’ coolly logical High Queen and to her chaotic twin, the embodiment of War. Devlin wants to keep Ani safe from his sisters, knowing that if he fails, he will be the instrument of Ani’s death.

Ani isn’t one to be guarded while others fight battles for her, though. She has the courage to protect herself and the ability to alter Devlin’s plans—and his life. The two are drawn together, each with reason to fear the other and to fear for one another. But as they grow closer, a larger threat imperils the whole of Faerie. Will saving the faery realm mean losing each other?

This series has been one of my favorites ever since picking up Wicked Lovely just last year and flying through Ink Exchange and Fragile Eternity. Going to Melissa Marr's book signing last summer really had me pumped for this book, so while I am only just now posting it as a W.O.W. book, I've been anxiously awaiting its release for quite some time now.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Review: Almost Home

Book cover
Title: Almost Home
Author: Pam Jenoff
Genre: Fiction, Suspense, Mystery
Pub Date: February 2009, Atria Books
Hardcover, 374 pages
Book Source: Received my copy from the publisher via Pam Jenoff, many thanks for sending this for review!


From bestselling author and Quill award nominee Pam Jenoff comes a rich, ambitious, and startling novel about a woman who must face a past she'd rater forget in order to uncover a dangerous legacy that threatens her future.

Ten years ago, American Jordan Weiss's idyllic experience as a graduate student and coxswain at Cambridge was shattered when her boyfriend and fellow crewmember, Jared Short, drowned in the River Cam the night before the biggest race of the year. Since that time, Jordan, a State Department intelligence officer, has traveled the world on dangerous assignments but has managed to avoid returning to face her painful memories in England. When her terminally ill friend Sarah asks her to come to London, though, Jordan finds herself requesting a transfer to the one place she swore she'd never go again.

In London, Jordan attempts to settle into her new life, pushing aside her haunting memories and taking on an urgent mission beside rakish agent Sebastian Hodges. Shortly after her arrival, just when she thinks there's hope for a fresh start in England, she is approached by a former college classmate who makes a startling assertion. He tells her that Jared's death was not an accident, but that he was murdered.

Jordan quickly learns that Jared's death was indeed not an accident, and that his research on World War II had uncovered a shameful secret. But powerful forces with everything to lose will stop at nothing to keep the past buried. Soon, Jordan finds herself in grave peril as she struggles to find the answers that lie treacherously close to home, the truth that threatens to change her life forever, and the love that makes in all worth fighting for.

My Thoughts

Before talking about the story itself, I would like to note that Almost Home was released today in paperback for the first time, so this review is in celebration of that event. Again, many thanks to Ms. Jenoff for contacting me regarding this book and for having one sent for review. Ms. Jenoff also graciously agreed to guest post here at Melissa's Bookshelf, and you will be able to read her post about Covers and Titles later this week on Friday!

But back to the story... Almost Home is a beautifully written, highly suspenseful piece of work. I will admit that when I started reading and discovered the story is told in the first person present tense, I cringed, because of how hit-or-miss that point of view can be for me. However, this book is so well-written and edited so well that I never thought about the point of view after that first page. Interestingly, while the entire book is paced pretty quickly and the story moves at a good clip, many of the twists and turns (and bombshells) occur in the last few chapters of the novel. {So you can imagine my chagrin and disappointment when I realized I'd left it at work yesterday with about a quarter of the book left to read.}

My only complaint about this novel is that Jordan Weiss did not seem very believable as a diplomat. Her tendency to run away from tough situations and inability to separate her personal life from work just did not seem to make her a realistic member of the State Department, in my opinion. She just didn't seem tough enough for the line of work she was supposedly in. While there could have been more character development in some cases, for the most part I thought that Jenoff painted them very descriptively and was able to build upon some of the key characters in the occasional flashback scenes in the story. Some other key characters, however, did not get to benefit from those opportunities and fell a little flat for me.

But I certainly cannot complain about the way the story unfolded--particularly towards the end. The connections that were made between storylines, while perhaps a little far-fetched, proved for a fascinating conclusion. My only wish now is that I knew what was going to happen beyond the end of the story. Overall it was a great, fast read that I think other suspense and mystery lovers would enjoy.

My rating: 4 stars

Other reviews of Almost Home:

If you have reviewed this book and would like to see a link to your site listed here, please leave a comment with the link to your review!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"Waiting on" Wednesday: The Reckoning.

Book cover
The Reckoning (Darkest Powers #3) by Kelley Armstrong. Release Date: April 6, 2010.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Only two weeks ago, life was all too predictable. But that was before I saw my first ghost. Now, along with my supernatural friends Tori, Derek, and Simon, I’m on the run from the Edison Group, which genetically altered us as part of their sinister experiment.

We’re hiding in a safe house that might not be as safe as it seems. We’ll be gone soon anyway, back to rescue those we’d left behind and to take out the Edison Group . . . or so we hope.

This series started off a little slow for me, but improved with the second book. I am hopeful that the third book will do the trilogy justice--only another couple of months until I find out!


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Review: Demon's Bane

Book cover
Title: Demon's Bane
Author: David Douglas
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Pub Date: December 2009, One Five One Press
Paperback, 278 pages
Book source: Review copy received from the author--many thanks!


Senn Morel lives in fear of demons. But when they butcher his clan and possess his mother, he vows to use his newfound magic to take vengeance on these demon spirits that have invaded his world.

Lieh Morel is along for the ride, possessed by a bloodthirsty killer. As Lieh's captor demons chase her son across the continent of Kartus, using her magic to wreak havoc along the way, she hopes to avoid a violent confrontation that could kill them both.

The demon Xiuhcoatl is an experienced kidnapper, working for the lord of the demons-Senn's father. As he aids Lieh's possessors in tracking down Senn, he learns that not all demon spirits think the same way about their return to the physical world.
Demon's Bane follows the Morels on the high seas, across rolling plains, and through thick forests in a thrilling tale filled with romance and betrayal. But the real question is, who will take control of Kartus . . . and who will end up dead?

My Thoughts

This is a promising first book from David Douglas, who was kind enough to send me a copy of Demon's Bane for review. While I can't say that I loved this book, I did enjoy the fresh look at magic, demons, and spirits. Douglas's magic (in all of its forms) has a science to it, and the level of detail with which he has developed this system is impressive as you read this story. Demon's Bane is paced nicely--I never felt like the story was dragging, nor did it rush by, leaving me feeling lost the way some fantasy stories can if not carefully thought out. Douglas has clearly found a talent for storytelling.

In the end, there were a few things about Demon's Bane that didn't work for me, and ultimately caused me to feel more neutral about the book overall. The romance in the story felt like it was centered around sex and I just did not find myself wanting to read about that--it wasn't what I was looking for in this book. Honestly, I guess sex is just not something I ever look to read about in a fantasy novel. But I will say this: much is left to the imagination so it is not really as off-putting as it could be. I also found the writing to be inconsistent--more often than not it was very strong, but on occasion I found it weaker in spots and out of character with the rest of the story, if that makes sense. The cast of characters is good (a few, like Senn, shine), and with further development they could be great.

Demon's Bane is certainly a very worthy debut novel. I think fantasy-lovers will enjoy it; particularly Douglas's spin on magic and his work with demons and spirits. And I also know that many readers will probably not share some of my qualms about the novel and will enjoy it more than I did. I am grateful to Mr. Douglas for giving me the opportunity to read his first work, and look forward to more from him down the road!

My rating: 3 stars

Other reviews of Demon's Bane:

If you have reviewed this book and would like to see your site listed above, please leave a comment with the link to your review!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"Waiting On" Wednesday: Shadow Souls

Book cover
The Vampire Diaries: The Return: Shadow Souls by L. J. Smith. Release Date: March 16, 2010.


On the run . . . 

Elena Gilbert's love, the vampire Stefan Salvatore, has been captured and imprisoned by demonic spirits who are wreaking havoc in Fell's Church. While her friends Bonnie and Meredith explore the evil that has taken over their town, Elena goes in search of Stefan. 

In order to find him, she entrusts her life to Stefan's brother, Damon Salvatore, the handsome but deadly vampire who wants Elena, body and soul. Along with her childhood friend Matt, they set out for the slums of the Dark Dimension, where Stefan is being held captive. It is rumored to be a world where vampires and demons roam free, but humans must live enslaved to their supernatural masters. . . . 

Elena will stop at nothing to free Stefan. Yet with each passing day the tension between Elena and Damon grows, and she is faced with a terrible decision: Which brother does she really want? 

Back in Fell's Church, Bonnie and Meredith have made some dire discoveries. They hastily try to follow Elena and warn her—only to be caught up in Elena's most dangerous adventure yet. 

I may not have loved Smith's return to The Vampire Diaries with Nightfall, but that won't stop me from continuing this series. I was a faithful fan of L. J. Smith back when she first wrote all these books and I'm so thrilled that she is writing again. But even this is not my most anticipated of her books this year...