Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Overprotected by Jennifer Laurens

Title: Overprotected
Author: Jennifer Laurens

Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 465 KB
Print Length: 254 pages
Publisher: Grove Creek Publishing (February 9, 2011)
ASIN: B004N637DO
Ashlyn: A lonely society princess living in New York City.

Daddy hired you to be my bodyguard.

Colin: Childhood enemy, now her protector.

Daddy thought I’d be safe. He thought I’d never fall in love. He thought he could keep me forever.

Charles: obsessed with keeping her safe, keeping her his, he hires the one person he knows she could never fall in love with: Colin.

Daddy was wrong.

The reasoning behind Ashlyn's father's--Charles--overprotective nature is what built up the tension for the Adair family from the start. It is only when an "old family friend"--as Ashlyn's mother, Fiona puts it--takes authority of being Ashlyn's bodyguard that things start to go haywire in the family's townhouse on Fifth Avenue.

When Ashlyn Adair started to feel uncomfortable with her bodyguard Stuart, she knew it was time to convince Daddy to let her have her freedom once and for all. But, as per usual, Charles ignores his little girl's wishes--and by this time she's almost eighteen--and decides to hire another bodyguard that'll annoy Ashlyn just as much, Colin Brennen. The strange feeling that Ashlyn gets around Colin hasn't ceased to grow inside her since the last time they saw each other but the bullying that Colin administered when they were younger is particularly unforgettable. This by no means stops Ashlyn from acting out her longing wish of freedom.

Since I've read four other books by Jennifer Laurens and one under her pseudonym J.M. Warwick, and since I loved ALL of them, my expectations were very high. But honestly I was just glad to be able to read another book by her again. When I first read the synopsis for Overprotected, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it and when I finally did, it took no longer than two days to breeze through it.

While the romance that slowly kindled between Ashlyn and Colin was passionate and tasteful, I think the core of the plot centered on Ash's familial issues. And there were plenty to be dealt with. All the imperfections that surrounded her didn't deter her determination to fulfill her one wish of freedom. Her love of music and playing the piano with an excellent skill provided the "innocent" quality that others see in her and a humbleness since she doesn't realize her own innocence. For some reason, going into this book, I expected Ashlyn to be more outspoken and rebellious; and while she does rebel against her father when she can find the courage, her subdued demeanor radiates a sense of inborn class. I admired Ashlyn for her individualistic character while in a household that feels more like a cage than a home. Colin wasn't as mischievous as I thought either, but whenever he flashed those intense blue eyes and crooked smile, I could admit to myself that his protective FBI persona was hot.

The writing was not any less addicting than in Ms. Laurens' previous novels, but every once in a while I'd catch myself in the middle of one family argument and had to stop and take note of the impressive manipulative skill that was demonstrated in the conflicting personages of each individual. Charles' irrationality when it came to his daughter's freedom and expression made me reflect on how parents' final decisions can ultimately affect the child--or children--and have their own repercussions.

I would recommend Overprotected for the sole reason that it is by Jennifer Laurens, but for those in need of more persuasion, I'd say to pick up the book because you won't want to miss how one girl separate from the outside world becomes the missing girl everyone in New York is buzzing about.

Grade: B

Source: Amazon Purchase


Monday, January 30, 2012

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Title: Scarlet
Author: A.C. Gaughen

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Walker Childrens (February 14, 2012)
ISBN-10: 0802723462
ISBN-13: 978-0802723468
Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance.

Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past.

Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in. It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.

Even if you don't know anything about the Robin Hood legend, Scarlet will introduce you to a point in history where a revered King--King Richard I--wasn't always in his homeland and his jealous brother Prince John essentially ruled and taxed the lands. It's the taxing that sets off a specific detail in the "Robin Hood" lore that remains constant in all variations of the story. He takes from the wealthy and gives to the poor. This interpretation of Robin Hood was so well though-out and had such heart-wrenching characters that it was difficult to hold myself back from learning everything I possibly could about Robin Hood and his men--in this case specifically, his "boys." This creative portrayal of his story was told through the eyes of "mysterious and moody" Will Scarlet, Robin's closest friend. Scarlet particularly focused on the teenage years of Hood's life and incorporated original back stories for some of the legendary "boys" known to be in Hood's circle.

As the protagonist for this book, Scarlet was truly an interesting and decidedly stubborn character to read about. Right off the bat I could understand what Scarlet was going through at different intervals of the book and I liked that her background remained a mystery until she was prepared to reveal herself to her band mates. Her difficulty to hide who she was from most of the people she helped was a constant I enjoyed reading about. It made more of empathetic character to think that she did all these things, gave all this hope to an overly-taxed town and still remained but a visually fleeting glimpse in the people's memory. The only problem I had with Scarlet was that I wished she'd defend who she was and how she felt more clearly to her "brothers" because I would have liked to have seen their reciprocating reactions. Also her diction was something I had to get used but had trouble looking over because for every incorrect use of "were" instead of "was", I always had to backtrack and waste time trying to understand clearly what the heck she meant.

However, in spite of this, I appreciated the easy-flowing plot and wide cast of characters, not only the boys but the people of Nottingham and the surrounding towns at the time. The villains in this re-telling had a front-stage presence in the book because they were never too far from anyone's mind and consistently inspired fear. As characters, the Sheriff of Nottingham and the thief-taker he hires, Guy of Gisbourne, were both well depicted and gruesomely terrifying. The love triangle between Robin, John and Scarlet starts somewhat instantaneously and I could see from the start that it was a bit of a domino-effect; one loved the other who loved the other. The internal conflicts were more interesting as tension was built, decisions were made, and uncertainties arose.  The climax and brilliant ending will serve their purpose to incite pathos in the reader and establish a credible ground for any of Gaughen future works.

Grade: B+

e-galley Source: Netgalley


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (11)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I'm waiting on...

Title: Endure
Author: Carrie Jones
Series: Need, #4

Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (May 8, 2012)
ISBN-10: 159990554X
ISBN-13: 978-1599905549
It's all-out war (and no-holds-barred romance) in the climactic conclusion to Carrie Jones's bestselling series.

Zara is at the center of an impending apocalypse. True, she’s successfully rescued Nick from Valhalla, but it simply isn’t enough. Evil pixies are ravaging Bedford, and they need much more than one great warrior; they need an army. Zara isn’t sure what her role is anymore. She’s not just fighting for her friends; she’s also a pixie queen. And to align her team of pixies with the humans she loves will be one of her greatest battles yet.

Especially since she can’t even reconcile her growing feelings for her pixie king...

Unexpected turns, surprising revelations, and one utterly satisfying romantic finale make Endure a thrilling end to this series of bestsellers.
I love the Need series! Really want to see Zara dump Nick...


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Teen Book Scene: Untraceable Cover Post

Introducing author of Untraceable, S.R. Johannes...

Shelli Johannes-Wells started out writing for her local school paper, winning a state Nutrition essay contest for “Be a Smart Cookie”, and singing in a local Jazz band. Somewhere along the way, she earned an MBA in Marketing and embarked on an 18-year marketing career in Corporate America working as a marketing and communications consultant.

In 2000, Shelli traded in her expensive suits, way-too high heels, and corporate lingo for a family, flip-flops, and her love of writing. She started her own marketing & communications business, www.bilaninc.com, and continues creating materials for a variety of large profit and nonprofit clients, including Spanx, Goody Hair Products, Chick Filet, Delta, CARE, and the Boys & Girls Club of America.

Shelli’s dream is to publish children’s books and magically imprint the imaginations of kids. In addition to juggling nap schedules while attending client meetings, Shelli focuses on her writing. She is a frequent marketing speaker at SCBWI conferences across the U.S and runs a popular marketing blog, Market My Words (www.faeriality.blogspot.com) where she provides marketing advice for authors in the hopes of helping them better market their words.

In her spare time (yeah right!) and if the kids allow (yeah right!), Shelli obsesses over movies, reads children’s books (over and over), wishes she could squeeze in Bikram Yoga sessions, and dreams of sleeping in on the weekends.

She currently lives in Atlanta with her dog, British-accented husband, and the huge imaginations of their little prince and princess that someday will change the world.
Onto the Cover Post...

Ever since I started writing Untraceable, I had a very specific concept in mind. A girl hiding in the woods. It was important to me to use a real life model. I wanted the reader to feel like they were in the woods with Grace. I wanted it to contrast the dark books out there with bright greenery yet still needed a feeling of suspense to come across.

I hired Vania at VLCphoto.net to shoot the cover because I love her trailers and her photography.

I wanted an original concept to grab people. Stock photo just would not do it for me and I knew Vania would breathe life into my book.

The minute I saw the model’s photo in the casting call, I knew she was the one. She is Grace in a nutshell. She exactly like I pictured Grace.

For hours we tromped around in the woods. Jae was willing to do anything and we got some great shots. She was a trooper.

The cover ended up amazing. I love the cover! It is everything I wanted it to be. Grace is a nature girl and the book is a thriller. I think this cover captures that. Perfectly.

16 year old Grace has lived in the Smokies all her life, patrolling with her forest ranger father who taught her about wildlife, tracking, and wilderness survival.

When her dad goes missing on a routine patrol, Grace refuses to believe he’s dead and fights the town authorities, tribal officials, and nature to find him.

One day, while out tracking clues, Grace is rescued from danger by Mo, a hot guy with an intoxicating accent and a secret. As her feelings between him and her ex-boyfriend get muddled, Grace travels deep into the wilderness to escape and find her father.

Along the way, Grace learns terrible secrets that sever relationships and lives. Soon she’s enmeshed in a web of conspiracy, deception, and murder. And it’s going to take a lot more than a compass and a motorcycle (named Lucifer) for this kick-butting heroine to save everything she loves.
Thanks to Shelli and Teen Book Scene!


Monday, January 9, 2012

Teen Book Scene: Unraveling Isobel This or That List

Introducing author of Unraveling Isobel, Eileen Cook...

Eileen Cook spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer.

You can read more about Eileen, her books, and the things that strike her as funny at www.eileencook.com. Eileen lives in Vancouver with her husband and two dogs and no longer wishes to be anyone or anywhere else.

Onto the author's This or That...

Rum and coke or Pina colada?

Rum and Coke. Pina Coladas smell like suntan lotion to me, and I try to avoid drinking that.

High Fantasy or Science Fiction?

Science Fiction, but it can depend on the book.

Heart-shaped candy or Gummy worms?

Heart shaped candy- anything cinnamon flavored is a favorite.

Literature or History?

Oooh this one is a tie. I love literature, but I’m a history junkie. I know all sorts of random odd history facts.

Print copies or E-books?

Print copies, but I adore my iPad reader, so e-books may win out in the end.

PC or Laptop?

Laptop. I have a love affair with my MacBook Air. It goes everywhere I go.

Electric or Journal day-planner?

Electronic. (see love affair with iPad and MacBook Air listed above)

Zoo or Amusement park?

Amusement Park. However, I’m not crazy about spinning around upside down. I love animals, but it makes me sad to see them in zoos.

Travel in luxury or Back-packing?

Travel in luxury! Bring on the spa, fancy hotel and good restaurants.

Walmart or Target?

Target hands down. The people watching in Walmart is sometimes more amusing.

Tic-tac-toe or Puzzle?

Can I choose board games? If not, I’m going with Tic-tac-toe.

Isobel’s life is falling apart. Her mom just married some guy she met on the internet only three months before, and is moving them to his sprawling, gothic mansion off the coast of nowhere. Goodbye, best friend. Goodbye, social life. Hello, icky new stepfather, crunchy granola town, and unbelievably good-looking, officially off-limits stepbrother.

But on her first night in her new home, Isobel starts to fear that it isn’t only her life that’s unraveling—her sanity might be giving way too. Because either Isobel is losing her mind, just like her artist father did before her, or she’s seeing ghosts.

Either way, Isobel’s fast on her way to being the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons.

Thanks to Eileen and Teen Book Scene!


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Teen Book Scene: Unraveling Isobel by Eileen Cook

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse (January 3, 2012)
ISBN-10: 1442413271
ISBN-13: 978-1442413276

Isobel’s life is falling apart. Her mom just married some guy she met on the internet only three months before, and is moving them to his sprawling, gothic mansion off the coast of nowhere. Goodbye, best friend. Goodbye, social life. Hello, icky new stepfather, crunchy granola town, and unbelievably good-looking, officially off-limits stepbrother.

But on her first night in her new home, Isobel starts to fear that it isn’t only her life that’s unraveling—her sanity might be giving way too. Because either Isobel is losing her mind, just like her artist father did before her, or she’s seeing ghosts. Either way, Isobel’s fast on her way to being the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons.

There's always been something about being "crazy" that scares me. I freely admit that but somehow the theme--or moral--I got from Unraveling Isobel is that I shouldn't ashamed of that fear. Isobel is not my favorite character mainly because during the first half of the book she was so contradictive, she made me dizzy. I did like the aura of creepiness all of the characters had, it was like they couldn't always explain their actions but that's also what built their self-image. Nicole, Nate, Isobel's mom, they all had an edge that if you crossed them, you better damn well be prepared to grovel to get on their good side. Even if that doesn't sound like a good quality characters should have, I honestly thought they made the plot all that more thrilling and enticing.

There were three main elements this book was working, all in their own rights. First was the creep factor. I did in no way expect the ultimate thriller murder-mystery this book turned out to be. The synopsis did not prepare me at all*. I would have liked the murder mystery element to have portrayed a bigger role in the first half of the book, but I did understand that Cook was setting up the creepiness and wanted to add that suspense element too.

Second was the humor. I didn't understand when none of the other characters--except maybe a ghost or two--really got Isobel's sense of humor. The girl was flippin' hilarious. They were few and far between but her one-liners' cracked me up.

Finally, the "romance". I don't know what's up with the brother and sister relationship in YA these days but, I couldn't deny that it wasn't necessarily illegal for Isobel and Nathaniel to be together. That was when I finally got a grip on how Unraveling Isobel was a unique case when it came to comparing it to other Paranormal YA novels. Not only was the construction of the plot more intense than in anything I've read before** but there were also some intense make-out sessions.

I also have to admit that it would have been so inexplicably easy to stop reading the book after the first half because from where I could determine the plot going on from there on in was absolutely unappealing. I really hated it for a moment but finally decided to keep going mostly because of the "scary" characters. Heck, the whole island where Isobel was stranded on, Nairne Island, was scary but it's the people that inhabit it that'll really do you in. Eileen Cook tells a mean ghost story.

*Not to mention the cover was pretty misleading. This book was too creepy to just have purple and black swirls on its cover.
**I don't think anything that I've read in the YA genre is freakier than The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, but I consider it more a Dark Contemporary than Paranormal.

Grade: C+

ARC Source: Teen Book Scene