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Review : Glimmer

Glimmer by JPhoebe Kitanidis
Pages : 352
Genre : YA, Paranormal
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about :

A girl and a boy wake up together in bed. Both are confused and lost; neither of them know who they are, where they are or why they are there. They remember how to talk, walk and use objects, but they have lost any memory that could give them information about their personal life.

After some suspicion on both parts, they decide to work together to solve the mystery that is their lives. Soon they discover that Summer Falls is no usual town, and that their memory loss might be only one of many mysteries…

My Thoughts :

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I cracked open Glimmer; fantasy, paranormal, science-fiction, aliens? Or what? I was kind of in a “meh, whatever” mood and Glimmer looked intriguing enough to pull me out of that bored state of mind. I am happy to report that it did, and with great success!

From the start, the story is intriguing. We do not know the main characters’ names (we learn later that they are Elyse and Marshall), and both are terrified and suspicious of each other. I often complain about dual narratives, but in this case, I felt it worked well enough : it gives us a better insight into each of their story than a third person narration would have. You can see how they react to each other, and though their voices are similar, their personalities are different enough.

Elyse and Marshall quickly bond over their peculiar situation (maybe a tad too quicly?) and as a team, they start to investigate. And then things become even more interesting : not only the two of them have lost any memory related to their identities, but the town where they find themselves is weird. Elyse sees some people where Marshall sees no one – until these people connect to Marshall and blue sparks fly. Summer Falls’ residents are also all a bit too cheery and distracted – so much so that, despite their condition, Elyse and Marshall almost feel like they are the only normal people left.

The beauty of Glimmer is that it mixes a little of everything; paranormal, magic, the town’s strange history, heatnaps, creepy characters, and a mystery that keeps you reading past your bed time. Elyse and Marshall’s quest for truth gets even more interesting when they have to face who they were before losing their memories, their qualities and, most importantly, their faults. And while they both have a complicate family situation, I have to say that Elyse’s broke my heart a little.

In the end, I really enjoyed Glimmer. Though I found the ending a little too rushed and filled with too much information, it had a strong conclusion that answered all important questions. I am also thrilled that Glimmer is a stand alone novel! I read enough series as it is. But I do hope I get to read more stories coming from Kitanidis’ fabulous imagination.

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Review : The Summer of Skinny Dipping

The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells
Pages : 295
Genre : YA, Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating : 

What it’s about :

Mia couldn’t be more excited to be spending her summer in the Hamptons with her family; she loves the beach and the sea, and she has always been close to her cousin Corinne. She envisions a summer of fun, secrets and laughs… until she gets there and realize her cousin has changed since the last time she saw her. Stuck with Corinne, her sister and her friend, whose snobby attitude makes her more self-conscious than ever, Mia tries to accept that her summer won’t be as she had hoped.

Then she meets Simon, their summer neighbor. Though she’s at first unsure of him, their walks under the moon allow her to trust him, and their friendship quickly turns into something more…

My Thoughts :

It’s been said by many readers that The Summer of Skinny Dipping is no fluffy read. I can now confirm this; despite its summery cover and premise, this book isn’t one I would qualify as a fun beach read – nor is it really a romance, despite “falling in love” being a very important part of it. It will definitely bring summer to you; I could feel the sand and smell the sea through the pages and it did make me wish I was there. However, there is a lot more depth to Mia’s coming-of-age story, and while the book can easily be read in a day, it’s definitely not one to get you up when you feel down.

As the main character, Mia was an interesting one and one that I could relate to – not as I am in the present, but as I was when I was her age. My first thought was that she was naive, but I really prefer the word innocent to describe her. She is at that point in her life where her perception of the world is facing reality, and the last threads of her innocence are slowly broken. Through the events of that summer, she learns that things are not always as they seem, and that the people she envy might not be as perfect as they look.

Though her outlook on life still has this innocence, Mia is also an over-thinker. She questions everything and imagines the different outcomes, and that’s why I can’t consider her naive. She definitely perceives that something is going on with her family, but she never knows what until she is told. When you read a novel that is narrated by the main character, you are asked to believe their version of the story; in this case, it was interesting when Mia realized that she didn’t know her family that well, because the stories she had fabricated about them – and narrated repetitively as truths – do not match the reality.

The narration felt very intimate and quiet, giving the book a very slow pace. Until the end, the story had very few surprising turns. Mia’s romance with Simon develops at a nice pace (no insta-love!) and I could appreciate that they were friends first. I was surprised by how well Simon’s character was described from Mia’s point of view. I felt the author had a very clear view of him and allowed him to be an individual, rather than just a pretext for romance.

I guessed the ending very early in the book, and I’m still not sure whether it’s a good thing or not. Predictability can be either, really; if we compare to movies, you can enjoy thrillers that are surprising and twisted, but prefer romantic comedies to end with the predictable happily ever after. In this case, I don’t know; I think the ending would have hit me more strongly if I hadn’t seen it coming, but knowing it created a tension that was almost unbearable.

The Summer of Skinny Dipping surprised me in a positive way. While I wish the pacing would have hold my attention a little better, its story is powerful and its narration is full of heart. I also think it offers interesting possibilities for discussions about self-worth, happiness and identity.

Review : Trial by Fire

Trial by Fire by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Pages : 357
Genre : YA, Urban Fantasy
Series : Raised by Wolves, Book 2
My Rating :

What it’s about :

Bryn is barely settling into her new role as pack alpha when an unexpected were visitor steps on her land, close to death. His arrival is a danger in itself : Bryn can’t claim someone else’s wolf, yet she feels the need to protect him. Before she can decide whether he should stay or go, Bryn has to discover the true meaning of his presence, and face some new characters with unexpected talents.

My Thoughts :

In my very humble opinion, Trial by Fire wasn’t as good as Raised by Wolves has been, but it was still a very solid second volume in the series. Unlike so many others, it didn’t feel like a filler between book one and book three, but offered instead an interesting progression in Bryn’s story.

Again, I did feel that the book had a slow start. I’m not sure how to explain it, but it feels as if the author had all the pieces for the first part of the puzzle, but wasn’t sure how to fit them together; so instead of taking the time to fit them properly, she took a stick of glue and just stuck them together. I hope this isn’t too harsh of a comparison, because the author did hook me from the start and I was immediately intrigued by the newcomer, Lucas. Still, some parts of the introduction flow nicely, but some parts are very choppy; it’s a fault I found in the first book that I noticed here again, although not as strongly. Once the story gets going though, the pace is smoother and much more enjoyable.

I like Bryn, I really do. As a new pack alpha, she had a lot of responsibilities and difficult decisions to take, a position I did not envy. But she was strong and knew when to ask for help – and how to do it when laws made it difficult for her to reach out. I have to say I was a lot more interested by this aspect of her life than in her romance with Chase. In some ways, Chase is so disconnected from the pack’s reality that I found it really hard to connect to him. Bryn feels like she knows him in a unique way, because they survived and fought the same things, but for me Chase is still a close book. I don’t get him, and I don’t see how I could.

I really appreciated that the author brought an unexpected cast of new characters to the story, that were not wolves. I won’t say much more about it, because I want to make this as spoiler free as possible, but it opened up a lot of possibilities for future story lines while explaining a lot more about Bryn’s adoptive mother.

Trial by Fire was an entertaining novel filled with action and twists. Barnes delivers not only unexpected visitors but also unexpected turns in a story that kept me guessing. I enjoy to have a paranormal YA series that is focused less on the romance, and I’m hoping Taken by Storm will be available soon!

Series Reading Order :

  1. Raised by Wolves
  2. Trial by Fire
  3. Taken by Storm (coming in 2012)

3 Reviews : Annie on my Mind, The Lonely Hearts Club and The Vinyl Princess

Sometimes I don’t feel like talking to a

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Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
Pages : 234
Genre : YA, Fiction, GLBT
Stand Alone
My Rating :

From Goodreads : First published in 1982, this is the story of two teenage girls whose friendship blossoms into love and who, despite pressures from family and school that threaten their relationship, promise to be true to each other and their feelings.

My Thoughts : Prior to reading it, I had often seen Annie on my Mind recommended as a must-read of young adult GLBT fiction. One of the first of its kind, this book has been featured not only on readers’ shelves but also recommended or banned by schools and various associations. I know I first saw it in high school, among other GLBT books, in the context of a school event promoting acceptance and tolerance.

So this book came with some sort of a “build up” for me. I wouldn’t say my expectations were high, but my curiosity for it definitely was. I also wondered : could this book still deliver a strong message even though its first publication occurred before I even stepped into this world?

The short answer ; yes. But, only to a certain extent. What struck me was how, if this story was written today, it would probably end up very differently for one reason : social media. Maybe the conclusion would be similar, but I believe the plot would certainly take different turns. It still was nicely written, with a good story, and I am sure many teen would recognize themselves in the characters, but it was an interesting point for me to think about.

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The Lonely Hearts Club 
by Elizabeth Eulberg
Pages : 323
Genre : YA, Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating :

From Goodreads : Penny is sick of boys and sick of dating. So she vows: no more. It’s a personal choice. . .and, of course, soon everyone wants to know about it. And a few other girls are inspired. A movement is born: The Lonely Hearts Club (named after the band from Sgt. Pepper). Penny is suddenly known for her nondating ways . . . which is too bad, because there’s this certain boy she can’t help but like. . . .

My Thoughts : I felt the idea was cute, and fun, and could be something original. I imagined that, instead of a straight-forward romance, it would start as a non-romance with a promise of something more. Mostly, this is exactly what I got, and unfortunately not much more.

It was a cute story, yes, and Eulberg’s writing makes it a quick and pleasant read. But the book lacked some punch, some obstacles for the characters to fight with, some unexpected turn for them to show off their true colors. I found that the whole thing was a bit plain, and I kept confusing the club’s members. Nice ending, though. So, while it wasn’t bad or very memorable, it still was a cute read I could recommend for when you need something light for your heart.


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The Vinyl Princess 
by Yvonne Prinz
Pages : 313
Genre : YA, Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating :

From Goodreads : While working full-time at Berkeley’s ultra-cool Bob and Bob Records, 16-year-old Allie develops her secret identity as The Vinyl Princess, author of both a brand-new zine and blog. From the safety of her favorite place on earth, Allie is poised to have it all: love, music and blogging.

My Thoughts : I think the best word to describe my feel of this novel would be : unexpected.

I thought it would be one of those traditional YA romance with a touch of music; instead, I found a YA novel that was much more complex than expected. Allie’s passion is music, and it lives through every page of the story. Even though I don’t share her passion, I found myself extremely curious about the bands and records she mentioned (though I don’t think she would approve of most of my musical selection!)

I loved that this book had a mix of everything : family, friendships, romance, a cat and a touch of mystery. Allie felt realistic to me because I got a glimpse of every aspect of her life. She wasn’t only focused on her hopes and dreams or her romance, and I always enjoy that. I know I’ll want to read more by Prinz!

2 Reviews : The Musician’s Daughter and Two Moon Princess

Two short reviews today, of two books I enjoyed 🙂

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Two Moon Princess by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban
Pages : 323
Genre : YA, Fantasy
My Rating :

What it’s about : 

As a princess, Andrea grew up in a castle with her sisters. Even though she has always dreamed of being a warrior, her family has more “ladylike” plans for her. When she steps through a portal and accidentally lands in modern California, her life is forever changed. Now torn between two worlds, she must face the consequences of her actions – and the war she may very well have started.

My Thoughts : 

Fantasy can be really good or really bad for me; books rarely fall in between and I tend to prefer those that aren’t too inspired by the medieval times. I also really enjoy books with characters randomly landing into a different world, whether it’s time-travel, parallel universe or some other magical mechanic. I was really curious to see where this novel would fall and I am glad to say I enjoyed it.

I have read more stories of characters from “our world” traveling to magical places than the opposite, so I found it interesting to have Andrea land here from a medieval-like world. Her observation of our world was one of my favorite parts, and I liked how the author depicted both places with their strengths and weaknesses; it gave weight to Andrea’s difficult decisions and to their impact.

I only wish I could have connected to Andrea more. I read how she felt, but I can’t say I “felt” it too. However, she was a strong young woman with a lot of determination, and I admired that. She also had a sense of humor, which is always good for someone in her situation (I would think it’s a good defense mechanism when landing into a weird place like ours)! She balanced other less likable characters, mostly people of her family, and it was enough for me to carry through the novel.

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The Musician’s Daughter by Susanne Dunlap
Pages : 323
Genre : YA, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about : 

In 18th century Vienna, Theresa is facing the most difficult time of her life; her father has been found dead on Christmas Eve, and all points out to the cause being murder. With her pregnant mom in shock and a younger brother to worry for, Theresa takes on the mission of finding the truth, and it all begins with a missing violin and a mysterious gold pendant…

My Thoughts :

I liked this one. I really wish there was more YA historical fiction (maybe when the trend of dystopia calms down?) and I am always on the lookout for more. This one combined many things I like; the historical part of course, but also the mystery. Romance can be good, but a great mystery will always have my preference.

I had two problems with The Musician’s Daughter that kept me from completely loving it; the predictability of the story, and the disconnect I had with Theresa. Through her tragedy and her adventure, I didn’t really get a sense of who she was. I wanted to know her and root for her, and I did to a certain extent, but not enough to deeply care for her.

It was still a good book I would not hesitate to recommend for readers wanting to read some historical fiction. The setting was great and I could feel the author had put time into her research, something I will always appreciate!

‘Tis the Season to Review Books; 4 Reviews of Holidays-Related Books

I read a lot more holiday-related books last year than I did this year, but by the time I was ready to review them, it was January and it felt a little late to post these reviews. So, I’m doing this all at once, reviewing my sole Christmas read of 2011 (which was a disappointment) and last year’s reading (much better!) If you’re looking for a last minute holiday read, maybe these books will inspire you; if not, you can take a look to holidays-related posts for plenty more reviews and suggestions!

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The Christmas Wedding by James Patterson
Pages : 266
Genre : Fiction, Holiday
Stand Alone
My Rating : 

What it’s about : Gaby has a huge surprise for her kids : she is getting married on this Christmas, to one of the three men in her life – but they won’t know who until the big day! But for Gaby, this special day is also the occasion to celebrate with all of her family again, for the first time since her husband passed away five years ago.

My Thoughts : The Christmas Wedding was meant to be a cute story focused on family, and of course the mystery of Gaby’s wedding. And while I imagine it would make a good movie, the story felt a little rushed for me. There were many characters, each with their story lines, and in the end I felt like I never connected and only got a glimpse of their lives. I was also more interested by Gaby’s children than by the wedding mystery! It wasn’t bad, and for a holiday read, it was quick and had a little heart. So while I wouldn’t exactly recommend it as a must-read, I would say borrowing it is a safe bet if you’re not too sure about it either.

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The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore
Pages : 306
Genre : Fiction, Fantasy, Holiday, Zombies!
Stand Alone
My Rating :

From the book’s cover : ‘Twas the night (okay, more like the week) before Christmas, and all through the tiny community of Pine Cove, California, people are busy buying, wrapping, packing, and generally getting into the holiday spirit. But not everybody is feeling the joy. Little Joshua Barker is in desperate need of a holiday miracle. No, he’s not on his deathbed; no, his dog hasn’t run away from home. But Josh is sure that he saw Santa take a shovel to the head, and now the seven-year-old has only one prayer: Please, Santa, come back from the dead. But hold on! There’s an angel waiting in the wings. (Wings, get it?) It’s none other than the Archangel Raziel come to Earth seeking a small child with a wish that needs granting. Unfortunately, our angel’s not sporting the brightest halo in the bunch, and before you can say “Kris Kringle,” he’s botched his sacred mission and sent the residents of Pine Cove headlong into Christmas chaos, culminating in the most hilarious and horrifying holiday party the town has ever seen.

My Thoughts : There’s no way I could have summarized this book in my words in such a perfect way! Because the book’s summary not only tells you what this fantastic novel is about, it also gives you a great idea of Moore’s voice and humor. The author definitely has a special brand or writing and humor, and I can see now why his books are so popular. The Stupidest Angel is not a cute Christmas tale, nor is it all fluffy and sentimental. It takes the magic of Christmas and turns it on its head, replacing it with silliness and zombies. It’s different, and funny, and while not something everyone would enjoy, it is something that those looking for a different kind of holiday reading will appreciate. The tagline, A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror, really says it all!

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Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
Pages : 166
Genre : Non-Fiction, Short Stories
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about : A collection of short non-fiction stories, of the author’s personal experiences with the holidays.

My Thoughts : Without a doubt, the star of this too short book is the first essay, SantaLand Diaries, describing with great humor Sedaris’ life as an elf for Macy’s Santa. It was entertaining and memorable and sometimes heartbreaking – which I cannot say of the following stories, I have to sadly say. There are other interesting stories, but the first one is by far the best. Reading this book made me realize one thing though; I’m not sure I’m a Sedaris fan. I remember reading him a while ago and I thought I enjoyed it, but reading Holidays on Ice was a roller-coaster; I sometimes couldn’t let go of the book, and sometimes just couldn’t bother picking it up again. So overall, not great, but really not bad either; certainly worth a try!

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Home in Time for Christmas by Heather Graham
Pages : 285
Genre : Romance, Time-Travel, Historical Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating : 

What it’s about : Melody is driving home for Christmas when a man suddenly appears in front of her car, all dressed in what looks like a Revolutionary War-era costume. It’s too late to avoid him, and Melody hits him. When Jakes insists he’s from another time, Melody is sure she hit him a little too hard on the head. Feeling guilty, she brings him home to her parents as a friend, just in time for a very unique Christmas.

My Thoughts : At some point in my blogging life, I’ll have to actually come out of my denial and admit that I do, sometimes, enjoy the occasional romance. I certainly enjoyed this one!

It had the Christmas magic mixed in with the additional time-travel magic. Melody was actually likable and, for a book that was mostly light fun, I was surprised by the fact that she wasn’t too cardboard-like. I like the other characters, too, and the story would make an excellent Christmas movie! It’s sweet, but not excessively sweet, more on the side of romantic-comedy than comedy-comedy, which is probably why I liked it so. I also appreciated the historical aspect.