Sunday, May 30, 2010

Review: The Reckoning

Book cover
Title: The Reckoning (Darkest Powers #3)
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Paranormal
Pub Date: April 2010, HarperCollins Publishers
Hardcover, 391 pages
Book source: Purchased from


My name is Chloe Saunders. I'm fifteen, and I would love to be normal.

But normal is one thing I'm not.

For one thing, I'm having these feelings for a certain antisocial werewolf and his sweet-tempered brother—who just happens to be a sorcerer—but, between you and me, I'm leaning toward the werewolf.

Not normal.

My friends and I are also on the run from an evil corporation that wants to get rid of us—permanently.
Definitely not normal.

And finally, I'm a genetically altered necro-mancer who can raise the dead, rotting corpses and all, without even trying.

As far away from normal as it gets.

My Thoughts

I finished this book up a couple of nights ago and my first thought was about the mixed feelings I had towards this third installment of the Darkest Powers series. On the one hand, I am curious to find out where the story is going. (And yes, I said, "going". More on that later...) On the other hand, the first, oh probably, two thirds of the book seemed to focus primarily on Chloe and what boy she was going to pick, Simon or Derek. I had already realized from the second book that she had some serious leanings towards Derek so I really wish she could have figured it out a little faster. That way, there could have been greater focus on the meat of the story: what the Edison Group has done, genetically modifying supernatural children and their powers. Instead it felt like the entire point was the budding romance between Chloe and Derek. Hence, the mixed feelings. I do enjoy a bit of romance, but when there are other serious issues that need some attention it is frustrating to wait so long to read about their progress and/or resolution.

Unfortunately because the plot of the book was not advanced as much as I would have expected, I did not feel this book lived up to its predecessor, The Awakening, which I really thought might be taking the series to a new level. Events certainly got moving in the last third of the book, but everything was crammed in to so few pages that everything just felt rushed in order to finish this book. Don't get me wrong--the last several chapters were certainly page-turners and I still want to know what is going to happen, but I sincerely hope the pacing and focus on developing the major plot-line is addressed in the next book. One thing I have enjoyed is relatively good character development with each book, and Armstrong certainly doesn't disappoint with The Reckoning.

For anyone expecting this book to completely wrap up the story and answer all of your questions, don't get your hopes up too high. Everything I have seen refers to the Darkest Powers as being a trilogy, but I don't see how there would not be another book to continue the story, with all the loose ends I see dangling out there. If there isn't another book, I must say The Reckoning provides a very unsatisfying conclusion to the trilogy. And if there is indeed a fourth book coming out, I have every intention of continuing the series to see what happens to Chloe and her friends.

My Rating: 3 stars

Other reviews of The Reckoning:

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Review: Spirit Bound

Book cover
Title: Spirit Bound
Author: Richelle Mead
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal Fiction, Vampires
Pub Date: May 2010, Razor Bill (Penguin Group)
Hardcover, 489 pages
Book Source: Purchased from


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. 

But Rose can't forget what she learned on her journey--whispers of a magic too impossible and terrifying to comprehend. A magic inextricably tied to Lissa that could hold the answer to all of Rose's prayers, but not without devastating consequences. Now Rose will have to decide what--and who--matters most to her. And in the end, is true love really worth the price?

My Thoughts

Well after what I found to be a somewhat disappointing book with Blood Promise, Richelle Mead has come through again with Spirit Bound. The story was less predictable this time around and, in fact, had some unexpected twists and turns. While perhaps not the best of the five books in this series so far, it was very close to recapturing the "on-the-edge-of-your-seat" quality that the first three in the series had for me.

With this book and the two preceding it, I was under the initial impression that each was going to be the last in the series. Don't ask me where I got that idea, I suppose it was just an assumption. In fact, it wasn't until the major plot twist towards the end of the book that I realized Mead was not through with these books, yet. I was by no means sold on all aspects of the story--the Strigoi cure seemed like something Mead had to come up with to placate readers after Dmitri went the way of the undead at the end of the third book. Not only that, but the change in his relationship with Rose after Lissa saved him seemed a bit overdone and somehow not entirely believable to me. Rose still does not fail to entertain in this novel, and we see just how far she is willing to overstep bounds many times over. I also really enjoy her relationship with Adrian in Spirit Bound, and while I have been a huge fan of Dmitri, I have to admit I am kind of pulling for Adrian to win Rose's heart.

If you have enjoyed this series, and even if the last book turned you off like it did me, I definitely recommend moving forward with this book. Spirit Bound will keep you anxiously turning pages, dying to know what is going to happen next. And now I just have to wait until December for the sixth book in the series, Last Sacrifice. (Dare I think it, will that be the last book?) :-)

My Rating: 4 stars

Other reviews of Spirit Bound:

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Review: Garden Spells

Book cover
Title: Garden Spells
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Genre: Fiction
Pub Date: September 2007, Bantam Dell
Paperback, 290 pages
Book Source: Purchased from BJ's Wholesale


The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation, famous for its feisty apple tree that bears prophetic fruit, and its edible flowers, imbued with special powers. Generations of Waverleys tended this garden. Their history was in the soil. But so were their futures.

A successful caterer, Claire Waverley prepares dishes made with her mystical plants - from the nasturtiums that aid in keeping secrets and the pansies that make children thoughtful, to the snapdragons intended to discourage the attentions of her amorous neighbor. Meanwhile, her elderly cousin, Evanelle, is known for distributing unexpected gifts whose uses become uncannily clear. They are the last of the Waverleys - except for Claire’s rebellious sister, Sydney, who fled Bascom the moment she could, abandoning Claire, as their own mother had years before.

When Sydney suddenly returns home with a young daughter of her own, Claire’s quiet life is turned upside down - along with the protective boundary she has so carefully constructed around her heart. Together again in the house they grew up in, Sydney takes stock of all she left behind, as Claire struggles to heal the wounds of the past. And soon the sisters realize they must deal with their common legacy - if they are ever to feel at home in Bascom - or with each other.

My Thoughts

I will be the first to admit that I picked up this book solely based on the cover, but after reading the synopsis (above) I couldn't resist picking it up. Now, several months later I finally had a chance to read this book and really enjoyed it!

Enchanting is possibly the best word to describe this story. The "magical" garden--particularly the apple tree--at the Waverly home serves as a common thread throughout the entire story. Each of the main characters is vividly drawn and well-developed--you can't help but get caught up in their world. Claire is such an enigma at first, but by the end of the story we understand why she is the way she is. Her sister, Sydney, comes to find out that the choices she made and the way she has lived her life were based on assumptions about their mother that proved to be wrong. Evanelle is a hoot, with her burning needs to give people various items, which they never know why they need, but inevitably they find out one way or another. Even the two men that come into Claire and Sydney's lives are enjoyable to read about.

The romance that finds its way (unwanted, initially) to Claire is probably my favorite part of this book. It was just so satisfying to see unfold, not to mention the way it changed Claire. While Sydney's past caused her to doubt men (with respect to herself, not others, like Claire), she (re)discovers someone who might just be what she has always been looking for when she returns home. The writing wraps this book up in one pretty little package, though I would also caution that there are sexual references that might offend some. Normally I can live without that, myself, but in this case it did not serve as a major distraction and I am looking forward to reading other books by Sarah Addison Allen!

My Rating: 4 stars

Other reviews of Garden Spells:

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Review: Someone Like You

Book cover
Title: Someone Like You
Author: Sarah Dessen
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction
Pub Date: May 1998, Speak
Paperback, 281 pages
Book Source: Purchased online from Books-a-Million


"Life is an ugly, awful place not to have a best friend."

Halley and Scarlett have been best friends ever since they met. Halley has always been the quiet one; Scarlett braver and more outgoing. Halley has always turned to Scarlett when things get rough, and Scarlett has always known just what to do. It's the perfect setup. But everything changes at the beginning of their junior year. Scarlett's boyfriend is killed in a motorcycle accident; then she finds out that she is carrying his baby. For the first time ever, Scarlett really needs Halley. Now Halley has to learn how to be strong for Scarlett. It won't be easy, but Halley knows that she can't let Scarlett down. Because a true friend is a promise you keep forever.

My Thoughts

I enjoy that Sarah Dessen's books are always an easy read, and provide a nice break from the books I generally read. I believe this is about the 6th of Dessen's books that I have read, and I have to admit they do all start to sound the same after awhile. Girl has a best friend, one of the two of them finds a boyfriend and has a new facet to their life... Girl meets boy, boy ends up not being the right kind of guy for her (not always the case, but often)... Girl's relationship with boy causes her to do things she normally wouldn't and she grows apart from her mother/family...

Don't get me wrong, it's a formula that almost always has me reading her books in one sitting, but after awhile I do feel like I'm reading similar stories over and over. Dessen's writing and depiction of the events in Someone Like You don't fail to please, and it is another great potentially relate-able piece of fiction for teenage girls. I have to admit that I generally can't relate to most of Dessen's stories, but I still find them interesting, perhaps because they are so different from the life I experienced growing up.

If you like Dessen's other books, I would think you would enjoy Someone Like You, as well. It's a quick read and perfect for a lazy Summer day or night.

My Rating: 3 stars

Other reviews of Someone Like You:

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Review: Incarceron

Book cover
Title: Incarceron
Author: Catherine Fisher
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Fantasty, Dystopian
Pub Date: January 2010, Dial Books
Hardcover, 442 pages
Book Source: Borrowed from my aunt, who wanted to know what I thought of it.


Incarceron is a prison unlike any other: Its inmates live not only in cells, but also in metal forests, dilapidated cities, and unbounded wilderness. The prison has been sealed for centuries, and only one man, legend says, has ever escaped.

Finn, a seventeen-year-old prisoner, can't remember his childhood and believes he came from Outside Incarceron. He's going to escape, even though most inmates don't believe that Outside even exists. And then Finn finds a crystal key and through it, a girl named Claudia. 

Claudia claims to live Outside--her father is the Warden of Incarceron and she's doomed to an arranged marriage. If she helps Finn escape, she will need his help in return.

But they don't realize that there is more to Incarceron than meets the eye. Escape will take their greatest courage and cost far more than they know.


My Thoughts

Clearly I have fallen so far from regular book-blogging, because I had never even heard of this book until my aunt handed it to me and wanted me to read it and let her know what I thought. I searched for reviews and saw so many out there I realized I must be missing a pretty big read. Of course, I was immediately intrigued by the cover and the synopsis inside the front cover, so I put my other books aside and decided to give this one a whirl while on vacation.

I am definitely glad that I did so! A mix of fantasy, sci-fi, and dystopian fiction, Incarceron is an incredible story that is told from several angles. You have Claudia's story and point of view, along with those of Finn, but you also have the general history of the world itself, which is also unique and fascinating. While clearly a world in the future, those in charge decided that they wanted to take life back to what they considered simpler times: the 17th century. Everything about everyone's lives must conform to this Protocal--dress, everyday practices, entertainment, food, you name it... It ultimately makes for an interesting mix of sci-fi and high fantasy, while providing a study on the idea and need for conformity, as well.

While I admit it took me a few chapters for the book to grab me, once it did I didn't want it to let go. the only reason I can't bring myself to give it a full five star rating is because the first third of the book is a bit slower and perhaps a bit more difficult to follow what exactly is going on. I was still intrigued by the premise, however, and the rest of the book certainly does not disappoint. While readers of fantasy and sci-fi will probably be the most likely to enjoy Incarceron, I think it could appeal to a broader audience. If you haven't given this book a try, I highly recommend it--I can't wait for the U.S. release of the sequel, Sapphique, in December!

My Rating: 5 stars

Other reviews of Incarceron:

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

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Review: Perchance to Dream (ARC)

Book cover
Title: Perchance to Dream
Author: Lisa Mantchev
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Fantasy
Pub Date: May 2010 (not released at the time of this review), Fiewel & Friends
ARC, 333 pages
Book Source: Received an advanced reader's copy courtesy of Lisa Mantchev & her publicist.


Growing up in the enchanted Theatre Illuminata, Beatrice Shakespeare Smith learned all about every play ever written, but she didn't know that she, too, had magic. Now, she is the Mistress of Revels, the Teller of Tales, and is determined to follow her stars. Bertie can make things happen by writing them, but outside the walls of the Theatre, they don't go as planned. And her magic cannot help her make a decision between Nate, her suave pirate, and Ariel, a seductive air spirit.

When Nate is taken prisoner by the Sea Goddess, only Bertie can free him, and she and her fairy sidekicks embark on a journey, using Bertie's word magic to guide them. Bertie's dreams are haunted by Nate, whose love for Bertie is keeping him alive, but in the daytime, it's Ariel who is tantalizingly close, and the one she is falling for. Who does Bertie love the most? And will her magic be powerful enough to save her once she enters the Sea Goddess's lair?

My Thoughts

Firstly, many thanks to Lisa Mantchev and her publicist for sending me an ARC of this book. How I managed to put off reading Perchance to Dream for so long is beyond me! But I knew I would want to review it right away after reading it, so I made myself wait closer to the release date, which is next Tuesday, May 25th. Preorder your copies now, if you haven't already!

The verdict? I loved it! And I loved it every bit as much as I loved Eyes Like Stars, which is not always the case for me and sequels. We do read a darker tale in this book, but there are still plenty of crazy antics from my favorite fairies out of Midsummer Night's Dream to add levity and visions of sweets and treats galore! Seriously, if you don't want to eat a cupcake or pie after reading this book, I would be shocked. I adored the premise of the story--that what Bertie wrote about came to life, and usually in the most unexpected ways--it really made for an enjoyable read. You never know what will happen next! The plot doesn't really take a darker turn until a good way into the book, but it is not so dark that you become bogged down--we simply see another facet of Mantchev's ability to weave an incredible story.

Much of the story from Eyes Like Stars is resolved in this book, though there is certainly an opening for more many possibilities in the future. However, I did like the fact that I'm not totally hanging off the cliff after reading Perchance to Dream. :-) Mantchev's writing is just as enjoyable to read in this book--the words dance off the pages and paint a vivid picture right before your eyes. The dialogues are fantastic--particularly when they are devoted to the fairies and their quirky notions. Hands down, Peaseblossom, Moth, Cobweb and Mustardseed are some of the best sidekicks, EVER! Remember the name Henry... One of my favorite humorous asides in this book involves Henry. There is nothing like a book that makes me laugh out loud and re-read funny passages. And yet, as I already mentioned, this book isn't all fun and games--you really do go through a variety of emotions.

I firmly believe if you enjoyed Eyes Like Stars you will enjoy Perchance to Dream just as much. There's no "sophomore slump" with this book.

My Rating: 5 stars

Other reviews of Perchance to Dream:

Write for a Reader ~ Readin' and Dreamin' ~ In BetweeN the Pages

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

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Review: The Darkly Luminous Fight For Persephone Parker

Book cover
Title: The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker
Author: Leanna Renee Heiber
Genre: Fiction, Paranormal, Historical Fantasy
Pub Date: May 2010, Love Spell
Paperback, 321 pages
Book Source: Received my copy for review from the author. Many thanks!!!


With radiant, snow-white skin and hair, Percy Parker was a beacon for Fate. True love had found her, in the tempestuous form of Professor Alexi Rychman. But her mythic destiny was not complete. Accompanying the ghosts with which she alone could converse, new and terrifying omens loomed. A ware was coming, a desperate loy of a spectral host. Victorian London would be overrun.

Yet, Percy kept faith. Within the mighty bastion of Athens Academy, alongside The Guard whose magic shielded mortals from the agents of the Underworld, she counted herself among friends. Wreathed in hallowed fire, they would stand together, no matter what dreams--or nightmares--might come.

My Thoughts

First, let me again thank Ms. Heiber for sending me a copy of her book to read and review--I truly appreciate it! I have to say that there is something deliciously satisfying about Leanna Renee Heiber's books. As with the first book in this series--The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, which I reviewed last September--the writing has a hauntingly musical quality to it. I find myself swept into Heiber's tale of Victorian London and completely lost in the story. The romance is every bit as satisfying now that Percy and Alexi are truly united and happily (for me) the more intimate details of their relationship are only insinuated, never blatantly forced into the story in what can often be too much detail.

This time around, I felt that the plot was much tighter, with little room for questioning how or why events unfolded. I did find myself wishing I had re-read the previous book, as is nearly always the case with me. Sadly, time does not permit me too many re-reads these days. I enjoyed discovering more about all of the members of The Guard this time, as well--a great deal is learned about all of them and their interpersonal relationships. Add to it all an exciting story full of ghosts and the Whisper World, and you have a book that can easily be devoured in a single sitting (time permitting, of course).

If you haven't read either of Heiber's Strangely Beautiful books, I highly recommend them to anyone who enjoys historical fiction/fantasy and the paranormal. She has really set these books apart from much of the paranormal fantasy that is out there, which I find to be refreshing and a huge point in Heiber's favor. Her writing is truly a delight to read and, in my opinion, has only gotten better with her second book. And while there is an opening left for more to come in a future work, there is a sense of closure, as well, and it is admittedly nice not to be left hanging for a change.

My Rating:
5 Stars

Other reviews of The Darkly Luminous Fight For Persephone Parker:

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Sunday Salon: To Blog, or Not to Blog

Sunday Salon Logo
Yes, that is the question. I have to be 100% honest and admit that I have been toying the idea with hanging up my hat at Melissa's Bookshelf. Not because I don't still love to read and share my thoughts, but because I don't feel that I have really been an active member of the book blogging community for quite some time. I am horrible about commenting on other blogs. Absolutely pathetic. My own blog has been sadly neglected of late. I just don't have the time for reading that I used to and my reviews are few and far between these days.

But then I look at my blog and I think of all the time and effort I have put into it, and I simply can't imagine letting it go. I may not be as great about keeping up with it as I used to be, but I do still like having it as my point of reference for all the books I've read and reviewed. So I think what I have come to realize is this: Book blogging has become something that I do more for myself and less to be part of the community. Does that sound as bad as I think it does? I certainly hope not, because it is not meant to be a knock on the amazing group of book bloggers out there and all the hard work they do. I love the world of book blogging. I just haven't been particularly active in it lately. My job may involve running a bookstore, but unfortunately that doesn't mean that my life revolves around books. Funny how that works, isn't it?

Yesterday I happened to visit Trish's Reading Nook only to discover that it was now the Non-Fiction Five Challenge and that she was no longer devoting a blog 100% to her reading. As sad as I was to discover that, I could completely sympathize with her on the decision she made and why. Reading her post about the transition really got me thinking even more about why I have my blog and what I should do with it. I'm glad I'll be able to "stay in touch" with Trish via her personal blog that will happen to have bookish posts every now and then. She's a great blogger with thoughtful and insightful posts, and one of the first I came across when I looked to carve out my own niche in the book blogging community.

Sometimes I wonder if it is some of the blogging controversies that have popped up from time to time that have kind of deterred me from blogging as much, but I really don't think so. I rarely voiced my opinions on any of the issues that arose because frankly, I didn't want to get involved with it. Take that how you will.

This blog is about my love of reading and sharing it with anyone who cares to read about it. The books I love, the books I hate (which are rare), and those that fall somewhere between. Sadly, I don't have the time to devote to all of your blogs like I used to, and believe me, no one hates that more than I do. But no more beating myself up about it. If I only have one book read and reviewed in a month (ahem, April 2010), so be it. I've even decided that I am not going to bother with reading challenges anymore, because in all honesty, there is too good a chance that I WON'T complete them, and why give myself something else to feel guilty about?

Yes, I will still participate in some of the weekly memes when the spirit moves me. Goodness knows I love Teaser Tuesdays, hosted by Miz B and Should Be Reading! "Waiting on" Wednesday, Friday Finds, and The Sunday Salon are also some favorites of mine. So no, I don't intend to fall of the face of the book-blogging planet. I'll even be on Twitter (@Melsbookshelf) every now and then there's Melissa's Bookshelf on Facebook, so you can find me there, too. Somehow my blog is still growing in readership despite my spotty posting of late and for that, I can't thank my readers enough. Your comments, link-sharing, and so much more mean the world to me and I am so glad that you have found your way to my little ol' blog. And thank you alike to authors and publishers who have been so generous in sharing review copies of their books and inviting me to participate in Book Tours. I never dreamed that my blog would become what it has, so thank you for helping me to make that possible!

With that, happy Sunday and happy reading!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Review: Beyond the Loop

Book cover
Title: Beyond the Loop
Author: Jason R. Thrift
Genre: Fiction, Sci-Fi
Pub Date: March 2010, Publish America
Trade paperback, 379 pages
Book source: Received a copy for review from the author, many thanks!!


At the end of The Civilization Loop, disaster was averted.  The great myths and legends of our time were now unlocked and the mystery of 2012 had finally been solved.  But in the wake of enlightenment, a new myth was born. 

Just who was the rogue time traveler Willis October, and did he ever truly exist in the first place?  

Now, you will witness the story of the man, that became myth and turned into a legend.  You will see how the nefarious Willis October began his quest to bring absolute chaos to all that is creation.  From the cold, hallowed halls of the Third Reich in Berlin, to the fiery death and destruction on September 11, 2001, October was there!  

He allowed reality to spiral out of control, until fate caught up with him and dealt him a lethal, final blow.  Willis October, the end was only the beginning for this man, as he takes us all on a journey...

...Beyond the Loop.

My Thoughts

Some of you might recall my review of Thrift's debut book, The Civilization Loop, which I read in September of last year. These self-published books deal not only with the often mind-blowing concept of time travel, but even manage to mix a bit of God in with the Sci-Fi, which can make for an interesting story. Thank you to Mr. Thrift for sending me the latest installment!

While I have to be honest and admit that Beyond the Loop did not quite captivate me the way Thrift's first book did, I still enjoyed the story. If I had it to do over again, I would probably re-read The Civilization Loop before tackling this book, simply to have the original story a little fresher in my mind. However, Thrift does do a good job of recalling the events of the first book without making it a blatant summary of the story--he works it into the current storyline. Willis October's adventure is certainly incredible and we see his account of several major events throughout history... Noah's Ark, Hitler's Third Reich, 9/11--you name it, and he was probably there in some way, shape or form. Sometimes his involvement is more hands-on than it is others, but it is always fascinating to see how Thrift works him into some of history's most amazing events. With respect to the religious aspect, in Beyond the Loop we read about the Second Coming of Jesus and how it relates to the story of the time team and Willis October.

By the end of this book, we realize that we only know a part of Thrift's story and that much more is yet to come in a third book. And yes, the events leading to all of this certainly can bend your mind in ways you never thought possible. I've said it before and I will say it again--stories that really do justice to time travel and its consequences can certainly make one think! The writing is improved over the first book, with awkward phrasing almost nonexistent, though admittedly typos still abound a bit more than I would like to see. I would most definitely recommend this book to those of you that have already read The Civilization Loop and are anxious for the continuing story of Willis October and the part that he played.

My rating: 4 stars

If you have read this book and would like me to link to your review, please leave a comment with the link to your review!

Visit the author's website here!