Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

It's no secret among my friends that I am the big Travel Girl. I have been to several states and several countries and have no intention of stopping anytime soon. In fact, I even have a travel blog -- On Wanderlust. I have been really bad with updating it, but I bring it up for this reason. I have always loved the word wanderlust. I feel it describes me so well, and it has this dark, mysterious sound to it as it's coming off of your tongue: wanderlust.

So, along comes Kirsten Hubbard and IMPROVES upon one of my favorite words. Believe it or not, I did not even make the connection to wanderlust and Wanderlove when I first saw the book. I just wanted to read it because I read that Kirsten Hubbard is a young adult author and a travel writer. This basically makes her my hero.

Wanderlove is the story of Bria, a recent high school graduate who has just broken up with her longtime boyfriend Toby. She plans to take an overseas with her two girlfriends, but they tell her they don't think she's ready and back out. But Bria decides to go anyway. She heads to Central America with a travel group, but ends up abandoning them in favor of traveling with two backpackers, Starling and Rowan.

As any good travel writing piece, Wanderlove makes you want to drop your life and run off to Central America. Hubbard is so great with the details of the destinations. She does not just tell you about them -- all five senses are awakened as you see, smell, touch, taste and hear them. Bria (and Kirsten) are artists, so there are some great sketches throughout the book.

Rowan and Bria are both broken characters. They both start traveling to run away from the pain in their pasts and both discover that they learn about themselves through the people and experiences they meet along the way. At points this book felt like it was trying too hard to be deep and meaningful. The insights and life lessons were sometimes too much: too long-winded and too over-stated. But I did like seeing the changes that Bria and Rowan brought about in each other.

Finally, I have not forgotten Wanderlove! Here is how it's described, courtesy of Starling:
"Wanderlust is like itchy feet. It's when you can't settle down. But Wanderlove is much deeper than that. It's a compulsion. It's the difference between lust and love."
So, am I in wanderlust or Wanderlove?! Personally, I think I have been in both before and will be in both again. In the meantime, I hope there are books like Wanderlove to keep my spirit traveling between trips.


Wanderlove will be released March 13, 2012. Thank you to Netgalley for provided me with an Advanced Readers Copy.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Dig (Zoe and Zeus #1) by Audrey Hart

Audrey was nice enough to send the BookNerds an ARC of The Dig. I (Flo) jumped right on it, since you all KNOW I love books based on Greek mythology. (I even sponsored Greek Week here on a blog. It's that deep.) 

In The Dig, a girl named Zoe is at her aunt and uncle's archaeological dig site in Greece when she gets transported back in time to ancient Greece. Once she is there, she discovers that she has certain power over the earth. She gets mistaken for a god (rough, right?! Happens to me all the time!) and has to head up to Olympus for answers -- and hopefully, a way home.

Unfortunately, when Zoe gets to Olympus, she finds that all the gods are not open, inviting and friendly. In fact, they are rather like a high school clique -- with all the gossip and melodrama included. This is a strength and weakness of the book for me. Audrey does a great job of portraying the environment up on Olympus like it's a high school. Too good. I don't want to relive that aspect of high school. I don't want to be reminded of the trauma of not being cool enough, feeling different and every little thing taking on way more meaning than it should. I left all that messiness back in high school because it's not fun. There are other fun aspects of high school -- dances, sports, crushes -- this is the stuff that I enjoy experiencing again through my high school narrators in YA. 

Also, Zoe has a voice similar to Pierce in Meg Cabot's Abandon -- I felt Pierce was too stream of consciousness in that she kept hinting at some big event but never telling us about it straight up. I similarly felt Zoe went off on too many tangents as she was connecting things in her head.

The coolest thing about this book is ZEUS. Yes, the Zeus. Leader of the gods. Lightning. That guy. In this book he is portrayed as a YA hottie and I love that. What a great way to put ancient Greek mythology and the modern YA reader on the same level. It's no secret that I -- and all the BookNerds -- love to swoon over crush-worthy YA boys. Audrey's Zeus easily makes the list: he's cute, attentive, and willing to help Zoe no matter what. I love the relationship between the Zoe and Zeus -- if I can't have him, then I guess I'm happy to see him with Zoe!


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness. Elisa is the chosen one. But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will. Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess. And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake. Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young. Most of the chosen do. (from Goodreads)

I had heard a lot of hype about this book before it came out. I meant to read it then and never got around to it -- so I was sure to request it from the library as soon as it became available. Rae Carson did not let me down. This story was rich with detail and surprises.

Elisa was the shining jewel of this book for me. I loved her character. She was real, unapologetic, brave, questioning, and loyal. She was certainly not your typical princess -- both physically and in character -- and that really made her character strong.

Another great thing about this book was that it was realistic. Here I go with a Hunger Games comparison again, but I know that Mockingjay, the final book in that trilogy, sometimes gets some flack because major characters die. Mockingjay was my favorite book in the trilogy because it portrayed war so honestly, and I feel the exact same way about this book. This was also a story about a war, and like Katniss, Elisa was focused on the war and not on her potential suitors. In fact, this story was so realistic, that when some of the major characters died off, I kept waiting for the "Just kidding!" reveal. Like they weren't really dead. But you know what? They were. War is horrific like that. It takes people away and doesn't look back. You just have to keep moving foward, and Elisa did.

All that being said, this book did have lovely romantic elements. I really enjoyed Humberto. He knew his place -- but he also knew his heart. As for Alejandro...I'm on the fence about that guy. But I think that's testament to Rae's great character building. I don't think he is the kind of guy someone can fully love or fully hate.

The sequel, Crown of Embers, doesn't come out until next October! Hopefully, it will be on Netgalley again, so I don't have wait so long for it!


Friday, December 2, 2011

Split Second by David Baldacci

Jacque's Review:

Sean King was a secret service agent protecting a presidential candidate on the the campaign trail.  He had a lapse in concentration that resulted in the death of his protectee.  It is now eight years later and he has reestablished himself as an attorney in a small town in Virginia.  He is living a very quiet and comfortable life when he hears that another presidential candidate was kidnapped while under the watch of the secret service.  Michelle Maxwell was the lead agent assigned to the candidate, John Bruno, at the time of the kidnapping.

Shortly after the kidnapping, Sean discovers one of his employees murdered inside his law office.  The story makes the headline news and Michelle immediately recognizes Sean as the disgraced agent she learned about during her secret service training.  She feels a connection to him due to their similar circumstances and begins looking into the events surrounding the death of Clyde Ritter, the candidate Sean was protecting on that fateful day. 

She eventually contacts Sean and they begin investigating the events pertaining to his murdered employee, Clyde Ritter, and John Bruno.  The closer they get to uncovering the truth the worse the personal ramifications become.  Before long I was constantly worried that something terrible was going to happen to both Sean and Michelle.  The only thing that gave me any sense of reassurance is the fact that I know there are four other books in the series.  They must make it out of this alive if there are additional books, right?

The details of the mystery were constantly evolving and were very convoluted.  I felt that Baldacci did a remarkable job of weaving all of the clues together throughout the story, which kept me constantly wanting to see what would happen next.  The ending was like nothing I had ever read.  I will compare it to the grand finale of a fireworks show.  I don't want to give it away, so I will just leave it at that.

I really enjoyed the characters King and Maxwell.  They are both brilliant detectives and complemented each other perfectly.  I can't wait to see how things unfold in the rest of the series.  Hopefully they can keep themselves a little further from the action in the future.  I also hope their relationship evolves more throughout the series.  Baldacci planted the seed that they are attracted to each other, but the circumstances in this book did not leave any room for a personal relationship.  There is over a decade between their ages and they have very different personalities...King is a neat freak and Maxwell is a slob.  How will this play out as they work together in the future and perhaps on a more personal level?  I can't wait to find out.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hereafter: By Tara Hudson

Jacque's Review:

Hereafter is a story about an 18 year old girl named Amelia, who has been wondering the earth for an undetermined amount of time as an unclaimed spirit...ghost.  She doesn't remember anything about life prior to her death, but she has recurring nightmares about drowning and eventually wakes up each time in a graveyard.

All of this changes the night she meets Joshua.  Due to his family history and a life changing event he is able to see and interact with Amelia.  Together they are able to unravel the mystery behind the numerous events that have taken place on High Bridge over the years.  (This is the site of Amelia's nightmares).  He is also able to help her recall who she was in real life. 

The love story between Joshua and Amelia is very touching, but there always has to be some element of conflict to keep the pages turning.  That is where Eli comes in.  He is another ghost who attempts to convince Amelia to join him in the after world.  He was a very creepy character, but there were some sincere moments when he shared some of his history and helped Amelia discover her abilities as a ghost. 

I found this to be a very fast and enjoyable read.  I was so excited about the story that I convinced Teri to read it because I wanted someone to discuss it with.  I was baffled by the fact that she wasn't as enthralled with it as I was.  Perhaps I am just a sucker for a good love story.  If you are as well, you will not be disappointed.  I have read about numerous paranormal relationships, but I can't recall any of them involving an intangible being.  This added a unique element that I would have thought was insurmountable, but Tara makes the relationship very believable. 

This is the first book of a trilogy.  The second book, Arise, is scheduled to be released in July of 2012.  I am anxious to see how things will unfold for Amelia and Joshua now that they understand the past and can focus on living in the present.

Teri's Review:
I am kind of in the middle on this book. I didn't dislike it but I didn't love it either. So let me tell you my "bad "points first. Get them over with and move on to the good. I think I was expecting more of a mystery ( this coming from the one booknerd who doesn't read mysteries) I felt the book centered more on the love story between Amelia and Joshua, and maybe it was suppose to and I missed the point. I'm in the gray area there!. I did indeed find out the details surrounding Amelia's death, but it wasn't until late in the books and as I read I would forget I was suppose to be wanting to solve this mystery. There were also times as I read that I would totally forget that Amelia was a ghost and I felt I was just reading a regular love story between the two. OK with that being said lets move on to the good...... 

I liked the characters in this book. Amelia was not whiny and that says a lot to me. She was determined not to be a bad ghost and fought hard for Joshua. Joshua was sweet and I felt his love for Amelia throughout the book ( tho I still have a problem with how easily the character accepted that she was a ghost.."Oh your a ghost? No biggie..) I even had a few laughs as I imagined how he must look to passerby's as he carried on with Amelia considering no one else could see her. BUT Tara Hudson did a good job of making him do actions to advert this, such as opening the car door for her and acting like he was digging for something in the floorboard as she slipped out. Eli...OK...I will admit it I liked Eli. Oh, not in the swoony like way of Joshua, but lets face it he added some creepiness to this book and I kinda felt sorry for him. I know his job was to bring souls over, but bless him I think he was truly lonely and wanted Amelia as company. OK yes..I did like the book more than I disliked it..I just wish all the action hadn't waited until the last 100 pages of the book!

Mary's Review

Ghosts, good vs evil, love…..does this not sound like the perfect  story.  I thought so too when I was reading the back of this jacket of the book.  And even though all those things are in the book……it does not set well with me.  Let me explain, I love ghost stories and a ghost love story is all the better BUT when I read this book (and I struggled to finish it) I mainly read……blah blah blah.  I know that this a bit harsh but I did not like this book at all.  Amelia is an 18 year old girl that is dead because of another ghost (bad guy) Eli.  Then Amelia saves another boy from drowning, Joshua.  Well, Joshua is a “Seer” so he is able to talk, see and fall in love with Amelia.  Josh helps Amelia remember a lot about her life and family and Eli shows her how she died (which he helped in that part) and wants her to be his partner to capture more souls.  Here is the ending….Good wins, evil is defeated (for the time being) and Joshua and Amelia go on.  As much as some of the other BookNerds liked this story I can say this BookNerd did not.  I would be interested to see what Tara Hudson writes next……..

December Read Alongs

Monthly Read: Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky

 Maddie lives in a world where everything is done on the computer. Whether it’s to go to school or on a date, people don’t venture out of their home. There’s really no need. For the most part, Maddie’s okay with the solitary, digital life—until she meets Justin. Justin likes being with people. He enjoys the physical closeness of face-to-face interactions. People aren’t meant to be alone, he tells her.
Suddenly, Maddie feels something awakening inside her—a feeling that maybe there is a different, better way to live. But with society and her parents telling her otherwise, Maddie is going to have to learn to stand up for herself if she wants to change the path her life is taking.
In this not-so-brave new world, two young people struggle to carve out their own space. (Barnes & Noble Overview)

Sunday Mystery Corner: The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen (Rizzoli and Isles Series #1)

In her most masterful novel of medical suspense, New York Times bestselling author Tess Gerritsen creates a villain of unforgettable evil--and the one woman who can catch him before he kills again.
He slips into their homes at night and walks silently into bedrooms where women lie sleeping, unaware of the horrors they soon will endure. The precision of the killer's methods suggests he is a deranged man of medicine, propelling the Boston newspapers and the frightened public to name him "The Surgeon."
The cops' only clue rests with another surgeon, the victim of a nearly identical crime. Two years ago, Dr. Catherine Cordell fought back and killed her attacker before he could complete his assault. Now she hides her fears of intimacy behind a cool and elegant exterior and a well-earned reputation as a top trauma surgeon.
Cordell's careful facade is about to crack as this new killer recreates, with chilling accuracy, the details of Cordell's own ordeal. With every new murder he seems to be taunting her, cutting ever closer, from her hospital to her home. Her only comfort comes from Thomas Moore, the detective assigned to the case. But even Moore cannot protect Cordell from a brilliant hunter who somehow understands--and savors--the secret fears of every woman he kills.
Filled with the authentic detail that is the trademark of this doctor turned author . . . and peopled with rich and complex characters--from the ER to the squad room to the city morgue--here is a thriller of unprecedented depth and suspense. Exposing the shocking link between those who kill and cure, punish and protect, The Surgeon is Tess Gerritsen's most exciting accomplishment yet. (Barnes & Noble Overview)

Book to Movie: The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

The classic ghost story by Susan Hill: a chilling tale about a menacing spectre haunting a small English town.

Arthur Kipps is an up-and-coming London solicitor who is sent to Crythin Gifford—a faraway town in the windswept salt marshes beyond Nine Lives Causeway—to attend the funeral and settle the affairs of a client, Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. Mrs. Drablow’s house stands at the end of the causeway, wreathed in fog and mystery, but Kipps is unaware of the tragic secrets that lie hidden behind its sheltered windows. The routine business trip he anticipated quickly takes a horrifying turn when he finds himself haunted by a series of mysterious sounds and images—a rocking chair in a deserted nursery, the eerie sound of a pony and trap, a child’s scream in the fog, and, most terrifying of all, a ghostly woman dressed all in black. Psychologically terrifying and deliciously eerie, The Woman in Black is a remarkable thriller of the first rate.  (Barnes & Noble Overview)