Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Review: Lies

Title: Lies
Author: Michael Grant
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Paranormal, Sci-Fi
Pub Date: June 2010, HarperTeen
Hardcover, 447 pages
Book Source: Purchased from B&N@GT


It's been seven months since all the adults disappeared. Gone. 
It happens in one night. A girl who died now walks among the living; Zil and the Human Crew set fire to Perdido Beach; and amid the flames and smoke, Sam sees the figure of the boy he fears the most: Drake. But Drake is dead. Sam and Caine defeated him along with the Darkness—or so they thought. 

As Perdido Beach burns, battles rage: Astrid against the Town Council; the Human Crew versus the mutants; and Sam against Drake, who is back from the dead and ready to finish where he and Sam left off. And all the while deadly rumors are raging like the fire itself, spread by the prophetess Orsay and her companion, Nerezza. They say that death is a way to escape the FAYZ. Conditions are worse than ever and kids are desperate to get out. But are they desperate enough to believe that death will set them free?

My Thoughts

With each book, Grant's story becomes more and more incredible. This series is definitely not for the faint of heart, as Grant does not mince words when describing the horrific events that are unfolding in the FAYZ. While I was frustrated by the seeming lack of progression in the second book, Hunger, I was morbidly captivated by the transpiring horrors and nonstop action in Lies.

What I like the most about this series is that I think the kids' actions, emotions, and reactions are absolutely believable given the completely unbelievable world they have found themselves in. I found myself able to understand everyone's point of view and was anxious to see how Grant would resolve some of the tumultuous turns that relationships took. Again, we were really only teased with the importance of Little Pete in this novel, but it was quite the teaser to say the least. Two new characters were added to the mix in Nerezza and Orsay, and their importance would have benefited from more development of their stories and characters, in my opinion.

Overall, I really do not have many complaints about this book, except that I was hoping that everything would be wrapped up and it is obvious that there must be another book coming down the road to answer more questions. All I can do is anxiously wait for more...

My Rating: 4 stars

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

Monday, August 30, 2010

Review: A Bride in the Bargain

Title: A Bride in the Bargain
Author: Deeanne Gist
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction
Pub Date: June 2009, Bethany House
Paperback, 362 pages
Book Source: Purchased from BJ's Wholesale


In 1860s Seattle, redwoods were plentiful but women scarce. Yet a man with a wife could secure 640 acres of timberland for free.

Joe Denton doesn't have a wife, though. His died before she could follow him to Seattle, and now the local judge is threatening to take away his claim. In desperation, he buys himself a Mercer bride--one of the eastern widows and orphans brought to the Territory by entrepreneur Asa Mercer.

Anna Ivey's journey west with Mercer is an escape from the aftermath of the Civil War. She signed on to become a cook--not a bride. When she's handed over to Denton, her stubborn refusal to wed jeopardizes his land. With only a few months before he loses all he holds dear, can he convince this provoking, but beguiling, easterner to become his lawfully wedded wife?

My Thoughts

While A Bride in the Bargain is published by a Christian publishing house, I think it is safe to say that this novel is perhaps more of a historical romance. There are some mild Christian references, but nothing that is overly preachy--meaning this is my kind of Christian fiction. No one was trying to convert anyone or force someone to church every Sunday.

I thought this story was a very enjoyable read, though at times Joe's and Anna's interactions were frustrating and perhaps not quite believable. Some of the blunders that both made along the way just didn't seem realistic, though I suppose that love (and desperate circumstances) can make you do and think crazy things. Why Joe chose to keep certain information and events from Anna just didn't seem to me to make a lot of sense, and I thought that Anna had a tendency to overreact, as well. In the end, though, everyone lives happily ever after, and isn't that really what is most important?

I think that my favorite part about the book was not actually in the story, but it was the author's note at the end, where I learned that this story is based on real historical events. The information Gist provided made the story that much more intriguing, in my opinion, and gave me a deeper appreciation for this book. Fans of both Christian fiction and historical fiction should give Gist's books a try--I don't think you would be disappointed!

My Rating:  4 stars

Other reviews of A Bride in the Bargain:

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Review: The Girl Who Chased The Moon

Title: The Girl Who Chased the Moon
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Genre: Fiction
Pub Date: March 2010, Random House
Hardcover, 265 pages
Book Source: Purchased from B&N@GT


Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother's life. Such as, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? And why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew--a reclusive, real-life gentle giant--she realizes that mysteries aren't solved in Mullaby, they're a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes.

Everyone in Mullaby adores Julia Winterson's cakes--which is a good thing, because Julia can't seem to stop baking them. She offers them to satisfy the town's sweet tooth but also in the hope of rekindling the love she fears might be lost forever. Flour, eggs, milk, and sugar... Baking is the only language the proud but vulnerable Julia has to communicate what is truly in her heart. But is it enough to call back to her those she's hurt in the past?

Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily's backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.

My Thoughts

Once again, Sarah Addison Allen has written a charming novel with just enough magic, mystery, and romance to make for the perfect escape. I have highly enjoyed each of her books, and while this one may not have been my favorite of the bunch, I still loved it!

My favorite part about Allen's books is that you could almost believe the stories are true--including the bits of magic. It is so easy to be completely swept into her stories, and this one is no exception. In The Girl Who Chased the Moon, we once again have the perfect mix of original and quirky characters, most of whom have more than a bit of mystery they are hiding. While the story is perhaps meant to focus more on Emily and her search for answers, I found myself much more interested Julia's story and what would become of her. My only wish is that this book could have gone on a little longer and deeper into the various storylines. On the one hand, I loved the way the story ended, on the other, I simply wanted to know more and what the scene to follow would be like!

If you are looking for a story to take you away (to a charming Southern town, no less), look no further than Allen's books. There is usually a bit of sexuality, but nothing that is over the top offensive. Now that I've had the opportunity to read each of her books, I can't wait for the next!

My Rating: 4 stars

Other reviews of The Girl Who Chased the Moon:

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

GIVEAWAY: The Life O'Reilly

Happy Saturday, everyone! Welcome to your chance to win a SIGNED copy of The Life O'Reilly by Brian Cohen! Mr. Cohen has been so generous as to sponsor this giveaway and I am excited to bring it to you! If you'd like a refresher on what this book is about along with my thoughts, please feel free to visit my review (which just so happens to be the post below this one)!

Here's how to enter (as always, my preference is for one comment with all your entries, but it's not required):

+1 entry ~ Comment on this post and tell me why you want to win this book. Please be sure to leave your email address so I can easily reach you if you're the lucky winner!

+2 entries each ~ Become a follower on Google Friend Connect, Twitter (@Melsbookshelf), and/or Facebook's Networked Blogs and tell me that you did in your comment, along with any links to that effect.

+3 entries each ~ Join the Melissa's Bookshelf Facebook Page, Stumble, Digg, or bookmark this post on del.i.cious, post about the giveaway on your blog (sidebar or a separate post is accepted), tweet about the giveaway (please include @Melsbookshelf in your tweet), comment on my original review. Be sure to let me know you've done these in your comment on this post and include any applicable links.

As always, there are a lot of ways you can enter and increase your chances of winning... This contest is open to residents in the U.S. You have until midnight EDT on Sunday, September 5th to enter and the winner will be announced Monday, September 6th! Good luck!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Review: The Life O'Reilly

Title: The Life O'Reilly
Author: Brian Cohen
Genre: Fiction
Pub Date: October 2009, iUniverse
Paperback, 266 pages
Book Source: Received a copy for review from the author, many thanks!


On the outside, Nick O'Reilly has it all: a high-flying legal career, as a partner of an elite Wall Street law firm, and financial security, with an apartment overlooking Central Park. Having grown up in a working-class family, as far back as Nick can remember this was his dream. But at the age of thirty-six, after several years of sacrificing his personal life for professional gain, Nick has started to ponder his future and consider the mark he wants to leave on society both professionally and personally--his legacy. 

After being chastised in the press for turning a cold shoulder to the community, the firm calls upon Nick to help rehabilitate its image by handling its first pro bono case. Nick is asked to represent Dawn Nelson, a domestic violence victim who is fighting for custody of her young son, Jordan. A far cry from Nick's specialty of defending the misdeeds of Corporate America, it is up to Nick to set Dawn and Jordan on a path to a better life. But Nick gets much more than he signed on for, as Dawn forces him to reassess his life choices and, ultimately, be true to himself. Only when Nick finally realizes what is truly important in life does he face his toughest--and possibly final--challenge: a battle for his own survival.

My Thoughts

I have to start this review by saying that this is probably the most difficult review I have had to write to date. I have actually been sitting on this book for several days now, pondering the words I am getting ready to write. That might sound like it doesn't bode well, but I am rating the book highly--though, if this makes ANY sense, not because it was a book I enjoyed by the time I put it down. Doesn't that sound horrible? I don't mean for it to, but I am trying to be 100% honest in expressing my thoughts about The Life O'Reilly.

I probably should have realized this book would not be one I would typically choose to read--in the end, I felt as if it were a Nicholas Sparks novel, but only for the emotionally charged aspects of the storyline. (And in all honesty, I have only read one book by Nicholas Sparks and that was enough for me!) I simply do not knowingly choose stories to read that tend to be sad or potentially emotionally draining. Those aren't my kind of books. But what I can say about this book is that it is very well written with brilliantly portrayed characters, and that is why--even though I didn't enjoy the overall direction the story ended up taking--I had to give it a higher rating. Cohen deserves recognition for being able to cause readers to feel strong emotions--even in earlier scenes at the law office, I was getting very irate with the way that Nick and other lawyers were treated. To me, if a story or its characters can cause such strong emotional reactions in the reader, then the writer has most likely done his or her job.

There were certainly highs and lows, and while the end does throw one for a bit of a loop, I was left with just one impression by the last page. And honestly, it was the perfect way to end that book. So for those of you who enjoy emotionally wrenching stories, this book is definitely for you. For anyone who might be offended by language and mild sexual content, be warned you'll find it. If my review has intrigued you enough, pick up a copy and give it a try! Thank you again to Brian Cohen for sending a copy to me!

My Rating: 4 stars

Other reviews of The Life O'Reilly:

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

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Review: Dragon Flight

Title: Dragon Flight
Author: Jessica Day George
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pub Date: April 2008, Bloomsbury
Hardcover, 255 pages
Book Source: Purchased from Amazon.com


In her last adventure, Creel talked her way out of a dragon's clutches. Then she talked her way into a job as a seamstress, caught the eye of a prince, foiled a diabolical princess's plans to take over the country, and, oh yes, was named Heroine of the Dragon Wars for her troubles.

Now, with the Dragon Wars over, Creel is back to work as a seamstress. Business is steady and life is good, but it's also a bit... dull. So when word comes that a bordering country has been training dragons for an imminent invasion, Creel throws herself into the line of duty again. After all, joining forces with the dragons, rekindling friendship with the prince who captured her heart, and maybe--just maybe--saving the day has got to be more fun than sewing dresses for some snooty duchess, right?

My Thoughts

Jessica Day George is quickly becoming one of my favorite YA fantasy authors. While I have to admit that I probably liked Dragon Slippers--her first effort--a bit better, Dragon Flight is still a very enjoyable read that is easy to get lost in.

What truly makes these books so enjoyable is the colorful cast of characters. I have found it so easy to become attached to Creel, Prince Luka, and others that help them along the way. And anyone who gets in their way is depicted so well in their opposition that you can't help but appreciate them for what they are in these stories. So while the plot might be a bit (just a bit) lighter in this book, the characters and their antics more than make up for that slight weakness. Marta comes into her own during the latest Dragon War after she and Creel get into a pretty impressive scrape when trying to help Prince Luka and the Faravelan soldiers in their effort to stop the invasion.

Again with this story, George's writing is easy to read and wonderfully vivid to the imagination, which I always think is important for YA fantasy novels. When I pick books like this up, I want to be swept away into the world I am reading about, and that is just what happens with George's books. I am looking forward to reading Dragon Spear and concluding this series, though no doubt I will be sad to leave Creel and her adventures behind. If you (or someone you know) is looking for an enjoyable YA fantasy read, I highly recommend these books!

My Rating: 4 stars

I'd love to link to other reviews of this book! If you have reviewed Dragon Flight and would like to see a link to your site listed here please leave a comment with the link to your review!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Mystery Mondays: Maid of Murder Blog Tour!

Welcome to the kickoff of Amanda Flower's blog tour for her mystery debut, Maid of Murder! I am excited to share with you my review of her cozy mystery and hope you'll give it a try, yourself! Let's start off with the basics, shall we?

Title: Maid of Murder
Author: Amanda Flower
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pub Date: June 2010, Cengage Gale
ARC, 280 pages
Book Source: Received my copy from Vera at Luxury Reading--many thanks for including me in this blog tour!


India Hays is a lot of things... starving artist who pays the rent as a college librarian, daughter of liberal activists, sister of an emotional mathematician, tenant of a landlady who has kissed the Blarney Stone one too many times, and a bridesmaid six times over. But she's about to step into the most challenging role of her life: amateur sleuth.

Childhood friend and now knockout beauty, Olivia Blocken is back in town to wed her bodybuilder fiance with India a reluctant attendant... not just because the bridesmaid's dress is a hideous mess, but because she's betraying her brother. Mark still carries a torch for the bride who once broke his heart and sent his life into a tailspin.

When Olivia turns up dead in the Martin College fountain and the evidence points to Mark, India must unmask the real culprit while juggling a furious and grieving Mother of the Bride, an annoyingly beautiful Maid of Honor, a set of hippie-generation parents, the police detective who once dated her sister and is showing a marked liking for her, and a provost itching to fire someone, anyone--maybe even a smart-mouthed librarian.

India's investigation leads her on a journey through childhood memories that she'd much rather have left in the schoolyard, but to avoid becoming the next victim, it is a path she must follow. 

My Thoughts

By now most of you who are familiar with what I review will know that I always enjoy picking up a mystery book! Whether it's a complex "whodunnit" that is sure to surprise or a cozy mystery with humor and other interesting tangential side plots, I can't help wanting to try to solve the crime before the culprit is revealed.

Amanda Flower's Maid of Murder certainly falls more into the cozy mystery category, with more than its share of quirky characters and amateur sleuthing by India Hayes. Sprinkled with humor and wit, this book tells the story of a tragic pre-wedding murder and shows you all sides of the crime and the people involved. A more varied group of suspects and supporting characters you'd be hard-pressed to find, from India's nosy Irish landlady, to the deceased bride's testosterone-filled fiance, to her liberal parents and their hunger for causes and demonstrations. And that's only the start!

The mystery itself isn't too complicated and naturally we are led to suspect several people before the murderer is revealed. The story is fast-paced, thanks to India's desire to pursue the investigating on her own--although her methods are at times more of a hindrance to her brother's case than a help. I really enjoyed reading this book--Flower's timely use of humor and dry with make for an entertaining read. My only disappointment was in how quickly the case wrapped up once we were hot on the trail of the murderer. I would have been happy with more fleshing out of that aspect of the storyline--and I have to admit I wouldn't have minded seeing more development of the budding relationship between India and Detective Mains. Oh, in case you are wondering, I did figure out who killed Olivia before it was revealed--it wasn't a huge surprise for more than one reason...

If you're looking for a quick read and a cozy mystery, you might like to pick up a copy of Maid of Murder and give it a try!

My rating: 4 stars

Other stops on the Maid of Murder Blog Tour:

Bookin' with Bingo - August 11th (interview)
The Lit Witch - August 12th
Just Short of Crazy - August 16th
Reading at the Beach - August 17th
Books and Needlepoint - August 18th
Books By Their Cover - August 19th
Luxury Reading - August 20th

For more information on Amanda Flower, please visit her website and look her up on Facebook! To purchase a copy of Maid of Murder, please visit Amazon.com!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Review: Linger

Title: Linger
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Fiction
Pub Date: July 2010, Scholastic Press
Hardcover, 360 pages
Book source: Purchased from Amazon.com


The Longing.

Once Grace and Sam have found each other, they know they must fight to stay together. For Sam, this means a reckoning with the werewolf past. For Grace, it means facing a future that is less and less certain.

The Loss.

Into their world comes a new wolf named Cole, whose past is full of hurt and danger. He is wrestling with his own demons, embracing the life of a wolf while denying the ties of being human.

The Linger.

For Grace, Sam, and Cole, life is a constant struggle between two forces--wolf and human--with love baring its two sides as well. It is harrowing and euphoric, freeing and entrapping, enticing and alarming. As their world falls apart, love is what lingers. But will it be enough?

My Thoughts

Linger is one of those books that, while I am not 100% sure exactly what I was expecting, was not at all what I expected. Oh, as with Shiver, it is still primarily the story of Grace and Sam, but it takes twists and turns before it finally ends up in a place I certainly saw coming--but it was the route that Stiefvater takes us that makes this book stand out.

As always, I am honest with my reviews, and I have to start by saying that it took me awhile to get into this story. I was sucked into Shiver from the start, but Linger took much longer to sink in and grab hold. Cole was a character that just didn't interest me initially. No, not until I realized that he was going to be pretty important to the story did I become intrigued by his problems and mysteries. In fact, I think Cole ends up being such an important piece of the puzzle that I wish Stiefvater had devoted more time to rounding out all facets of his development that culminate in what he really brings to the story towards the end of the book.

With these books, I always pull for the couples, but I have to admit I found myself liking Sam less and less as the story went on. He just seemed rather weak and disappointing until he finally snaps out of it a bit towards the end. But let me tell you, with the hand that Stiefvater has shown us, I am even more anxious to read the continuation of this series to see how the story unfolds. What else will Cole bring to the table? Just where does Isabel fit in, other than the fact that her brother died trying to cure himself of becoming a wolf? Will Sam and Grace finally make it--and what of her relationship with her parents? It's funny, but as I grow older I can see more and more the side of the parents in these conflicts--though in this case Grace does make a pretty strong case for herself, as well. There is nothing to do now but wait for more!

My Rating: 4 stars

Other reviews of Linger:

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