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Today in Jen's Library

I listen to audiobooks while I flip houses. I also read real books which I buy incessantly.

Currently reading

Monsters (The Ashes Trilogy, #3)
Ilsa J. Bick
Time Between Us
Tamara Ireland Stone
The Message: The New Testament, Mass Market Edition
A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd, Jason Isaacs Wow. Just, wow. Review to come later - I have to recover from this amazing book.
Snowscape (Chaos Walking, #3.5) - Patrick Ness Patrick Ness is a genius. The end.
Under the Light - Laura Whitcomb Laura Whitcomb has become one of my favourite authors in a very short time. It's not the way she writes, but the combination of what she writes and the way she does it that make her books so wonderful.

This book is a companion to [b:A Certain Slant of Light|289601|A Certain Slant of Light (Light, #1)|Laura Whitcomb|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348331893s/289601.jpg|2596896] in that it tells Jenny's story. Some of it is Jenny's memories when Helen was in her body, and some of it is after Jenny returned. It is a wonderful (I keep being at a loss for another word) combination of the two lives, characters, memories, and experiences. They intertwine in a way that is almost magical.

Amid all the spiritual fantasy - is there another way to put it? - there is stark realism. Jenny's relationship with her parents, Billy's troubled past. And the best part is their journey of discovery of who they are and how they know each other.

I absolutely loved this book. I wish Laura Whitcomb would write more. She doesn't just tell a great story. She tells a unique one.
Unbreak Me - Lexi Ryan This book makes me wonder just what has happened to the New Adult genre.

While I love a good romance, I think a good one should be left at that - a romance. This particular book tries to incorporate statutory rape, unwanted pregnancy, illegal assault resulting in possible jail time and definite probation, adultery, cheating on partners (who are not married), alcoholism/addiction and the creation of a social pariah into just one story. That is a whole lot of dysfunction going on. Good grief. Talk about overkill!

And let's not forget the swoon-worthy guy who has a couple of tattoos, is a rock star, rich, has a criminal record and an unwanted/neglected/horrendous relationship that threatens his new love. What about this guy is new?

Put this together with the gorgeous girl who of course is flawed (see above) and of course, he falls for her, she gets over herself, and they live happily ever after. As she "lets out the breath she didn't know she'd been holding." Is that phrase required of authors now? Is that why it's in literally every single book I read these days?

Please. Let's just call it what it is, shall we? This is literary porn wearing a thin shell of psychological damage. Seriously? It's like throwing all that stuff in there is supposed to make it something we can rationalize as acceptable, when it is just porn, plain and simple. At least we should be calling it what it is and not letting it masquerade as something it clearly is not.

It was decidedly not for me. I have enough of an imagination (and a life, thank you) that I don't need explicit sex scenes described for me. Believe me when I say that nothing - nothing at all - is left to the imagination here. I'm not sure why the NA authors have decided to go there, but I'm not seeing any kind of difference between this and your basic bodice ripper. I wish I could read a book that was a good romantic story written by a man from a man's perspective. At least then I would know what to expect, and I could at least be surprised if it had some depth amid all the sex.

I'm not sure why this book is so highly rated. It isn't even well done, and the author would do better to lend her talents to something more deserving of them. Tackling even one of those issues with some semblance of respect to the characters would have been a much better use of her writing ability.

The Fetch - Laura Whitcomb This is a wonderful, wonderful story. It is a touch of sweetness.

Calder is a Fetch, which is an escort that comes to a person at the time of their death. The Fetch waits while the soul decides to stay or go, and doesn't influence the soul's decision. If the soul chooses to go, the Fetch takes them through a door. This door leads to some destinations along the way to the soul's final place. There is the crossing of a river on a boat steered by The Captain. The Fetch then goes back and another door opens, and the whole thing begins all over again.

The rest of the story plays out against the backdrop of the world in 1918, starting with the Russian Revolution and the death of the Romanov family.

These characters are just amazing. Calder, especially, who is the Fetch that is naive and yet discerning, sinful but with good intentions, humble and repentant. He is fiercely protective and unafraid in situations where a person would be afraid. He is unsure but fear never stops him. I think what I loved the most about him is that he was unbound by the body and the human world. He seemed to maintain his identity amid the journey.

Ana is a wonderful character, protective of her brother without being overbearing or a nag. She inherently sees the value beyond the flesh. And we see her go from a frightened girl to a woman who is not only wise, but who can see a person without the "clothing" of their flesh.

Alexis is just what I expected him to be without being predictable. That was refreshing.

These are not typical characters and this is not a typical story. It is a breath of fresh air amid all the other fiction out there. The ending is left open to interpretation, and yet it didn't feel unfinished.

This is one of those books that stays with you, and the longer you think about it the more you like it. It carries you along and leaves you with a sweetness. Laura Whitcomb has a way with a story, and I find myself wanting to read everything she's written. It will be time well spent if her other books are anything like this one and A Certain Slant of Light.
Immortal City - Scott Speer What a fun read. Honestly, it was like watching a movie.

And it would make a very good movie. I would go see it in theaters. The plot is simple and rather than being sappy or cliche, it's instead very neat and uncomplicated. The extraneous characters, while incidental in some cases, are not stock people there simply for effect. The protagonists are likable and just a shade off the thing you'd expect.

Yep. It's the supernatural equivalent of a Sarah Dessen novel.

All that said, it really is an innovative take on the whole angel genre. In this story, the angels are huge celebrities who attend red carpet events, sell everything from milk to Gucci and are adored the way we adore movie and television celebrities. E! is A!. CNN is ANN. It's a very clever adaptation and thoroughly entertaining (pun intended).

Jackson Godspeed (ok, the name is cheesy) is the young, hot, pretty Angel boy who is detached and conflicted. He has the privileged family but feels like there is something wrong with his life. Poor him with all his riches and adoring fans. . . at least, that's what Maddy Montgomery thinks, and rightly so. It's not that the guy is hard to like, it's just that he's not really sympathetic. We do not love you simply because you're hot, Jacks. She, on the other hand, is the goal-oriented waitress who is focused on college and getting out of her present circumstances. She has no illusions about her life, but she is not simply one of those "my life is crap and I'm powering through it" sorts of girls. She just knows what her life is and accepts it. She has the maturity to know that college will make a huge difference in the future.

The story includes a murder mystery with a Columbo-type character. I find that funny, because the generation who would be interested in this book probably has no idea who Columbo is -- and so it totally works. I wish we had gotten more of his backstory, but this is the first book of the series. It's likely we'll get more of him in the next couple of books.

The whole plot could have been more clever, more convoluted, more genius. But like I said, this is the angel equivalent of a Sarah Dessen novel. I didn't expect some epic adventure. This is the author's debut novel, and he's a Hollywood director. He knows the business and he knows a great story, and he's written one. And I have to say, the bad guy was not the one I expected, so it was nice to not see that coming. In fact, that element alone is probably the reason I gave this 4.75 stars.

The best part of this would be for him to direct the film made from it. Like I said, I'd go see it. It's a great read.
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight - Jennifer E. Smith,  Casey Holloway This book gave me mixed feelings. I think some of that is based on the narrator, who was passable at best. The book was good enough for me to put up with her and keep going - but I still had some problems with it.

First off, I did love the story. It was sweet and romantic. Hadley and Oliver had wonderful chemistry. And I did appreciate that Oliver was as British both in custom and a general approach to life as Hadley was American. That contrast was refreshing and funny.

The story was well-paced. But for some reason, the plot device of flashing back in order to give a backstory just didn't work for me. It was done in a stream of thought way, and it was distracting.

I did not like the narrative mode at all. It was done in the present tense and third person, and yet we only got Hadley's point of view. It seemed to be unable to decide just who was narrating.

Despite my problems with the mechanics of the story, it made me cry, and I don't cry. Ever. The way it highlighted the deep pain experienced by children of divorce was tragic. Hadley's heartbreak over her Dad's betrayal was very real and moving. And the conversation they had about it was sad and full of emotion. It was honest and real. And I needed tissues.

But then Hadley seemed to recover and move forward in a way that seemed rushed and entirely unrealistic for a 17-year old. That would have been fine if the situation had been less tragic and the conversation between she and her dad less heart-wrenching. I could see her slowly accepting things as time passed after having had the conversation. But to immediately do so - and especially at his wedding - seemed like much too quick a solution to the conflict. I say this even though it was clear that Hadley and her mother had several months to move on. I wonder if your typical teenager would be so quick to forgive when finally given the chance for some sort of resolution. Depends on the person, but deciding to put away the bitter anger and then embracing the new situation seem like they should have taken a lot longer.

I expected a light read, and was pleasantly surprised when the story tackled such painful issues. Even though I thought said issues were handled less than expertly, I loved the romance. It was just right, ended wonderfully, and made me smile while reaching for more tissues.
Faking It  - Cora Carmack, Emma Galvin & Dan Bittner I loved this book. I love Cora Carmack and the way she writes. Add to that the narration by Emma Galvin and Dan Bittner and you have an Oscar-worthy combination.

(what is the literary equivalent of an Oscar, anyway?)

Max and Cade were delightful. The chemistry and "steam" were just right, and I say this because so many authors do it badly. When you frame those scenes against a well-defined backdrop of clearly drawn characters, it is appropriate and just wonderful. I especially loved the scene outside the club.

This book made me laugh out loud so many times - and even at that, it addressed some serious issues of acceptance and loss. The whole thing flowed well and was entirely believable. I know there's a "formula" for these sorts of books; boy meets girl, opposites attract, they get together, some emotional flaw draws them apart, they realise they feel something approaching love, great ending. But who cares when it's so entertaining?

I didn't like the ending so much in this case. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad at all and wrapped things up nicely. I just would have preferred another sort of scene. As it was, it was fine and actually probably the best for the people that the characters were.

I got through the audio book in a day, about 8 hours of narration. I just couldn't put it down. I can't wait to get more of Carmack's writing, because I love the way she picks up the next book with a secondary character. It was wonderful.
Let the Sky Fall - Shannon Messenger I had high expectations of this book going in. The cover alone is so attractive that if the book had been less than stellar, it would have been a huge letdown.

It was not a letdown by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it was an entirely new take on an entirely new mythological creature. I loved it. I loved, loved, loved this book. Loved it.

The characters: Vane is adorable. He is real, flawed, both afraid and incredibly brave. I think what I liked the best about him was that he never stopped being a real boy/man while being entirely outdone by a girl. He still managed to protect her and hold his own in their relationship. And he was very funny.

Audra is wonderfully believable as a driven, guilt-ridden heroine. Her dedication to her purpose while falling in love with the target was so well done. When she finally lets Vane into her heart, the results are gratifying.

It was well-paced with just the right amount of tension. I found myself saying "oh for crying out loud, just kiss her already!" The buildup was great and the payoff even better. And while I yelled "I knew it!" near the end, I have to say that the story was anything but predictable. The plot twists were fabulous. The action was so good because I'd never heard of it before. The battles were done with the manipulation of air, and I just haven't read or heard of that being done. It was innovative and new.

The only reason I gave this book 4.5 stars rather than give was simply this: too many cliches. Some of the dialogue was just too overdone. And I swear if I have to read "I let out the breath I'd been holding" one more time, I'm going to throw my iPod across the room. Is this a requirement for authors now, that they have to have that particular phrase in their story?

The narration on audio was so good. I cannot say enough about Nick Podehl. Kristen Leigh was also good, but Nick Podehl is one of my favourite male voice actors. I wish more books offered a male narrator giving the male protagonist's voice. It just made the book even better.

I can't wait for the sequel. This book definitely lived up to the hype, and how refreshing is that?
Auracle - Gina Rosati Review to come --
My Life Next Door - Huntley Fitzpatrick, Amy Rubinate I expected a light-hearted romance with this story. But what I got was more weighty and a bit more complicated. It's always nice when that happens, and what is otherwise a fluff book takes on a deeper identity. I'd compare this to The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. Debut author, great story, certainly more than meets the eye.

The characters were believable. The romance is sweet, and more so because it is more realistic. I loved it when Samantha is describing an awkward situation, and she says that in books and movies things are so perfect - but real life is quite different. The nice thing is that while that particular situation could be embarrassing for both characters, they instead move through it and take it one step at a time.

The pacing seemed to stall a bit towards the end. The ending, while not really leaving any loose ends, was pretty ambiguous. I'm not sure it needed to be more than what it was, though. The fact that it wasn't a neat black-and-white predictable ending didn't bother me, because it felt more like real life. Things were resolved.

There were several scenes that were just out-and-out comical. I found myself laughing out loud. And while it never made me cry, there was enough tension for me to want the characters to take action.

The audio of this is done by Amy Rubinate, who also did The Selection and The Elite by Keira Cass. I didn't like her narration of this story; I think it could have been done better by another narrator. I didn't care at all for the voice she gave Clay. Rubinate just has a specific style that is like an acquired taste, and it didn't fit this story.

Overall, a great book that I thoroughly enjoyed. I'll be on the lookout for more from this author.
Black City - Elizabeth  Richards Interesting, but certainly not amazing. I hesitate sometimes to give a so-so review to a book, considering all the work that the author has put into it. But on this count, I have to say Black City was just ok. This book had so much going on that it became a kind of collage of ideas, rather than one central idea that was followed through.

The cover is gorgeous. I usually listen to audio books, but found this in print and picked it up.

The initial premise is good. Darklings are basically vampires. But the story is set up so that there is racial prejudice happening between two races, the Darklings and the humans. Then we have Romeo and Juliet, a romance between a regular girl and a half-Darkling boy - and the half-Darkling boy's feelings about being bi-racial. Then comes the added element of an opiate drug made from the Darkling venom, some of which is tainted and killing people. Add to that evil scientists who torture the Darklings, a plague that turns the Darklings into monsters, and then a whole political revolution pitting an evil dictator against some heads of state. There are executions, terrorist attacks, a drug culture, labs with human experiments.

Good grief. In order for this to have been done well, the book would have had to be the size of the national budget. If there are more books to the series, then I hope they don't try and deal with as many issues as this one did.

The characters didn't seem to learn and grow, they just responded to events. And the romance was very immature. There were just so many huge things happening that the character's feelings about them were never really fully explored.

Overall, I found myself saying "what is THAT doing in here?" and "what does that have to do with the story?" way too often. The focus was just too broad for me to care about any one character or event.

On the up side, I did love the whole idea of the hearts beating. I also found the idea that the vampire venom being an opiate drug very clever. I wish the romance had been more believable. By the end of the book, things just seemed to get a little ridiculous. Great idea - fair to bad execution of the story.

Black City is moderately entertaining but not overly engaging. If you're looking for a good vampire story, you should probably pass on this one. This book simply bit off more than it could chew.

I've Got Your Number - Sophie Kinsella, Jayne Entwistle What a wonderful literary chocolate hot fudge brownie. I couldn't put this down; it was just wonderful.

I loved Poppy. She was conflicted and impulsive. She was optimistic to a fault and definitely a people-pleaser. And top all that with British and you have a character that I wouldn't mind having for a friend. (Of course, I would have knocked some sense into her).

Magnus was someone for whom I felt sorry. So many troubles, that guy. He was just stumbling through what he thought would make everyone happy. He was like Poppy in that way.

And of course Sam - the confident, sometimes cold, always pragmatic guy who's rich and good looking and basically runs a corporation. What's not to love?

Things really did move along, although there were lulls. But that was ok. It was always apparent that things would change quickly. And the suspense was there right up to the end. There wasn't much physical romance in the book, and that was fine because it was so British. Very reserved and contained. Just right for a young adult audience.

I would have given this a solid five stars, but I just felt that it was so much like Bridget Jones that I couldn't quite bring myself to do it. That said, this was just a terrific read, quick and entertaining, and completely engaging. It was just what I needed. xoxoxox
Pure - Julianna Baggott This is a DNF for me. It was just too gruesome. As fabulous as the world building is, I just couldn't take those mental images.

Rebel Heart

Rebel Heart (Audio) - Moira Young Wow. I didn't expect that.

Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits, #1)

Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits, #1) - Katie McGarry,  MacLeod Andrews,  Tara Sands Wow, talk about a surprise. I was expecting a lighthearted high school romance. Instead, this book is a study in teenagers dealing with real life.

The synopsis gives you a brief overview of Echo and Noah's situations. But while typically in this sort of novel it only serves as a backdrop, here it is the crux of the story. There is the romance, sure. But deeper than that are two kids trying to see their way through high school, friends, their ideal views of the way the world is in fairytales, and then confronting the reality of life with courage.

I liked both characters. Neither one was cliche, although I have to say that some of the (romantic) dialogue was. They were honest, confused, self-absorbed and starry-eyed. They were real teenagers. This was refreshing.

The ending provided closure on every front. So many times the situations are left open - and one situation was left open that should have been. It was appropriate for a young adult book.

The narration on this audiobook was great. Tara Sands is stellar as always, and MacLeod Andrews was even better. That soft voice he gave Noah was heart-tingling.

This book brought tears to my eyes, something I never expected at all. It's deeper and richer than your normal fluff romance. How refreshing.