Fantasy · fiction · romance · science fiction · young adult

Elixir by Hilary Duff


Author: Hilary Duff

Pages [hardcover]: 327

Memorable Quote: “In dreams, and in love, there are no impossibilities.”

Favorite Characters: Rayna & Sage


Clea Raymond lives an extraordinary life. The daughter of renowned surgeon and a prominent Washington DC figure, she has been in the spotlight her entire life. Followed by the paparazzi, she resents the attention that is lavished on her for her looks alone because she has so much more to offer.

Clea Raymond has a unique gift. A proficient photographer, in all her pictures, there is little something extra, and it’s not just a result of her talented eye. There is always an extra photo that she didn’t take. And, as she discovered at a young age, those photos always lead to a place where some tragedy is about to occur that Clea can prevent.

Two years ago, her father disappeared while on a humanitarian mission and is presumed dead, but that doesn’t stop Clea and her mother from continuing to do good throughout the world. On one such trip to Columbia, she meets Race, the guide for the trip. She feels a connection to him but cannot explain why. Was it something in their past or possibly in their past lives? Whatever has brought them together is threatning to tear them apart forever. As the mystery of her father’s disappearance unravels, Clea discover that she has powers that are bigger than anything she could have anticipated.


I’ve been a fan of Hilary Duff’s since her Lizzie MCGuire days, so when I first heard the summary of this book I knew I definitely had to pick it up. I loved it! I ended up reading it in only two days!

The characters were fun and unique. I loved the odd twists that came along. Though the whole “mysterious-hot-guy-with-a-troubled-past” thing is being overdone, Sage was surprisingly refreshing and I found that I liked him a lot.

I love how the setting was constantly moving in the novel, from the beaches of South America to a ten-story mall in Tokyo. The fantastic backgrounds for the plot and dialouge enhanced how foreign and unexpected this entire adventure was.

I didn’t realize there were going to be more books until the very end of this. There are a lot of questions left unanswered, which I’m both happy and frustrated with! I definitely want to read more, so I’m ecstatic that there will be a sequel, but who knows how long I’ll have to wait!

Elixir by Hilary Duff was a fun paranormal romance that will keep you reading late into the night. I give it 5/5 stars and highly recommend it!

fiction · romance · young adult

Ex-Mas by Kate Brian


Author: Kate Brian

Pages [paperback]: 288

Available Now

Favorite Character: Beau


Two Exes. One holiday adventure.

Merry Ex-Mas?

Seventeen-year-old Lila Beckwith’s parents just left for vacation, and Lila’s all set to throw the holiday party of the season. But when her Christmas-obsessed little brother, Cooper, discovers that global warming is melting the North Pole, he and his best friend, Tyler, take off on a runaway mission to save Santa.

Lila has to get Cooper safely home before her parents get back on Christmas Eve. But the only person who can help her is Tyler’s older brother, Beau — a.k.a. Lila’s musician, anti-everything ex-boyfriend.

It’ll take more than a Christmas miracle for Lila and Beau to overcome their differences and find their fugitive brothers. But could a journey destined for disaster help these polar opposites fall in love…all over again?


I wanted to like this book, but if the main character is annoying, usually I find the entire book annoying. Lila has changed her entire persona in order to fit in with the popular crowd. That meant abandoning her long time friend and, for a short time, boyfriend, Beau, and creating a new image for herself.

I don’t like fake people. At all. So reading a book about a fake person was hard. Not only that, but the plot was incredibly predictable. There were a few cute moments, but there were also parts that just didn’t make any sense to me.

The story was a quick read. I picked it up for a bit of holiday cheer, and I suppose it was okay enough. The characters were flat and I never really connected to them. Lila was shallow and horrible to her brother [not that most sisters are nice, but telling your little brother Santa was in danger of loosing his home? Horrible.] and I found that I didn’t care whether she found her brother before her parents got back.

I give this 2/5 stars. I wouldn’t pick it up again.

fiction · young adult

Lucy Unstrung by Carole Lazar

Lucy Unstrung

Author: Carole Lazar

Pages [paperback]: 235

Available now!

Where I got it: Won in a contest on

Opening Lines: When my mom finally walks in the door at nine-fifteen, she acts like nothing’s wrong at all. “Where have you been?” I ask. “Dad and I have been worried sick. And now Grandma’s upset too.”

Favorite Characters: Lucy & Ray


Teens who get pregnant and raise their babies are often in the news. But what about those children who are growing up with parents scarcely half a generation older than themselves?

In this wise and funny first novel by Carole Lazar, Lucy is a sensible, perhaps even rigid, thirteen year old who is convinced that Grandma, God, and the Catholic Church are on her side. She tries hard to make her twenty-eight-year-old mother see the error of her ways. It’s not that her mother is wild – in their household even a fancy coffee causes a scene – but she has had to put off her own teenage years and she’s chaffing at the restraints on her life. Lucy is faced with the loss of her family, her home, her school, and even her best friend. As she struggles to preserve what she can from her past life, she finds that while Grandma, God, and her church are still there for her, there are problems she has to solve for herself.


 This book was slow at the beginning, but after the first thirty pages or so, I really started to like Lucy, and wanted to know what was going to happen to her. It’s true-most stories are about the teens who get pregnant, not about what happens to their babies. This story definitely didn’t take the turn that I thought it would, but I still enjoyed it.

The characters in the book were well-defined enough, yet sometimes left a little to be desired. They did things that didn’t fit in with how they were first made out to be, personalities didn’t stay consistent. It was a little annoying, but only a minor concern.

The ending was a bit messy and didn’t wrap anything up. I don’t think there are any books following this one and most of the questions that came to mind during the story were left unanswered. I’ve enjoyed open-ended endings before, so it wasn’t that aspect that turned me off. It seemed abrupt and unnatural. A few pages more might have made it better.

Lucy Unstrung is narrated by a funny, opinionated teenage girl. I would have liked it more if the ending was a little different. I give it 2.5/5 stars.

fiction · history

By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan


By Fire, By Water

Author: Mitchell James Kaplan

Pages [paperback]: 277

Available now!


Luis de Santángel, chancellor to the court and longtime friend of the lusty King Ferdinand, has had enough of the Spanish Inquisition. As the power of Inquisitor General Tomás de Torquemada grows, so does the brutality of the Spanish church and the suspicion and paranoia it inspires. When a dear friend’s demise brings the violence close to home, Santángel is enraged and takes retribution into his own hands. But he is from a family of conversos, and his Jewish heritage makes him an easy target. As Santángel witnesses the horrific persecution of his loved ones, he begins slowly to reconnect with the Jewish faith his family left behind. Feeding his curiosity about his past is his growing love for Judith Migdal, a clever and beautiful Jewish woman navigating the mounting tensions in Granada. While he struggles to decide what his reputation is worth and what he can sacrifice, one man offers him a chance he thought he’d lost…the chance to hope for a better world. Christopher Columbus has plans to discover a route to paradise, and only Luis de Santángel can help him.
Within the dramatic story lies a subtle, insightful examination of the crisis of faith at the heart of the Spanish Inquisition. Irresolvable conflict rages within the conversos in By Fire, By Water, torn between the religion they left behind and the conversion meant to ensure their safety. In this story of love, God, faith, and torture, fifteenth-century Spain comes to dazzling, engrossing life.


I received this book from the author for review, with no idea of what to expect. I ended up loving this book! By Fire, By Water, Mitchell James Kaplan’s debut novel, had me interested from the start. It started right in with the suspense, and steadily kept my attention to the end. The characters’ struggles were vividly depicted and realistic.

It’s taken for granted that historical fiction takes facts and twists them to fit in with the plot line and drum up a little drama. I love how at the end of the book everything that was changed/unchanged is explained. The main body of the narrative was accurate, yet I like to see what has been speculated about and can’t be known for certain if it is true or not.

The Spanish Inquisition was a horrible time to live through. No one knew who would accuse whom, who would be arrested and never seen again. The brutality and confusion of this time is particularly emphasized, and I like how the different experiences of just a few characters give a glimpse into what the common people possibly experienced.

By Fire, By Water is great for any historical fiction fan or those that, like me, are new to the genre. I immensely liked this novel and give it 5/5 stars!

fiction · young adult

Deadline by Chris Crutcher


Author: Chris Crutcher

Pages [hardcover]: 32o

Memorable Quote: “Beware the short terminal guy with nothing to lose.”

Favorite Characters: Ben & Coach


In this often heartbreaking but highly empowering tale, an 18-year-old boy learns he has one year to live and decides to keep his illness a secret from his friends and family in order to live a so-called normal life. The hero is a well-developed character who shows both sensitivity and humor in dealing with his impending death, as well as a variety of other serious issues teens can relate to: romance, racism, mental illness, and more. Through an engaging first-person narrative filled with gut-wrenching honesty, Chris Crutcher delivers a thought-provoking tale that offers a great exercise in living each day as though it might be your last.


 This book had me rolling on the floor laughing one second and crying the next. A well written novel, Deadline deals with an issue not many of us consider: What if you were going to die in a year, and knew it? What would you do? I’m not even sure what I would do. It seems like there’s never enough time in the world as is.

Ben Wolf, called ‘little big wolf’ because of his short stature, especially in comparison to his younger brother, Cody, finds out he is terminally ill a few weeks before the start of his senior year. And he’s determined to live normally as long as he can-I mean, who wouldn’t do that?

But he also decides not to tell anyone-at all-about his impending death.

Practically the entire novel, I was internally screaming at Ben, telling him to tell SOMEONE. Sure, it definitely made the book more interesting, but it drove me crazy, in a good way, if that’s possible.

Ben chooses to terrorize his teachers with facts, which I love. He starts reading Lies My Teacher Told Me, a nonfiction history book that details the biggest blunders in textbooks today. He uses the book to debate with his teacher on current issues and Ben calls him on on several things that have been skipped over in class. He actually influenced me enough to check the book out from my library; I’ve started reading it, and it’s very good. Perhaps I’ll use it the same way he does. 😉

Ben is a funny character, and he sounds like he’d be a great guy. He takes the whole “you’re going to die” thing quite well, and it doesn’t seem to really affect him negatively. He just starts to do things he never would have the courage to do if he didn’t know about the illness.

Deadline is a sad, funny, sweet, heartfelt novel that will keep laughter in your lungs and tears in your eyes. I give it 5/5 stars and highly recommend it. I’m definitely going to have to check out more of Chris Crutcher’s work.


2011 Reading Challenges!

original image courtesy of Jeff Babbitt
Yes, another challenge. Hosted by iubookgirl, the Edgar Awards Reading Challenge features any book that has been awarded with the Edgar Award. I’m going for the Sergeant level, which is 4-6 books. Here are my [possible] five:

1. Buried by Robin Merrow MacCready
2. Rat Life by Tedd Arnold
3. Acceleration by Graham McNamee
4. Reality Check by Peter Abrahams
5. Paper Towns by John Green

The 2011 book blogger recommendation challenge is hosted by Jennifer from Reading with Tequila!

The Rules:

  • Challenge will run January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011. Participants can join anytime throughout the challenge.
  • Create an intro post, linking back to this post.
  • Sign up with the MckLinky below. Please link to your challenge intro post, not your blog home page.
  • Chose your own books from the list. You can decide to read books only on the Top 25 list or from the entire recommendation list. You do not have to make a list of books before the challenge begins.
  • All forms of books acceptable (audiobooks, eBooks, etc.)
  • Rereads do not count towards the completion of the challenge. The challenge is about discovering books that are new to you.
  • You don’t need a blog to participate.
  • Reviews, while always appreciated, are not mandatory.

I’m going for level III which is 15 books, but I have a list of 18 that I want to try for, so if I have extra time, I’ll squeeze in 2 more and make it to level IV. (: Here are the possible books:

1. The Stand – Stephen King
2. Paranormalcy – Kiersten White
3. DreamFever – Karen Marie Moning
4. Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
5. The Mists of Avalon – Marion Zimmer Bradley
6. Will Grayson, Will Grayson – John Green & David Levithan
7. A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini
8. Graceling – Kristin Cashore
9. The Princess Bride – William Goldman
10. Fallen – Lauren Kate
11. Hush, Hush – Becca Fitzpatrick
12. It – Stephen King
13. Sleepless – Terri Clark
14. The Notebook – Nicholas Sparks
15. Wicked – Gregory Maguire
16. Across the Universe – Beth Revis
17. Delirium – Lauren Oliver
18. Beautiful Darkness – Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl


Hosted at Among the Muses, I absolutely love this challenge! I adore fairy tale retellings and this will give me a good excuse to read more! 😀

Challenge Objective:
To read stories that have taken classic fairy tales that we all know and love, and have woven them into a new alternative tale that mirrors the original.

Challenge Guidelines:

  • Challenge runs from January 1, 2011 – December 31, 2011.
  • You can join along in the fun at anytime during the year.
  • Create a post with the graphic that links back to this post! Sign up using Mr. Linky.
  • You do not need to select your books ahead of time. Just make sure that you have a list of them at the end of the challenge.
  • You can review on your own blog, or have a little fun and compare and contrast the book you read with a classic fairy tale! 

          **However, Reviews are NOT necessary!!**

  • Cross-overs with other challenges are welcome.
  • Retold fairy tales can span across any genre and sub-genre — including YA (there’s some great ones out there!) — can be any length, and in any format.
  • The book MUST be fiction, and be a retold fairy tale.
  • You can change your challenge level at any time.

I’m going for the Magical level, 4-6 retold fairy tale reads. I’ll list them here once I choose them:



A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

A Clockwork Orange

Author: Anthony Burgess

Pages [paperback]: 192

Memorable Quote: “But where I itty now, O my brothers, is all on my oddy knocky, where you cannot go. Tomorrow is all like sweet flowers and the turning vonny earth and the stars and the old Luna up there. … And all that cal.”


A vicious fifteen-year-old “droog” is the central character of this 1963 classic, whose stark terror was captured in Stanley Kubrick’s magnificent film of the same title. In Anthony Burgess’s nightmare vision of the future, where criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends’ social pathology. A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. When the state undertakes to reform Alex—to “redeem” him—the novel asks, “At what cost?”


If you read the quote above, that’s just a taste of the ‘nadsat’ speech used frequently throughout the novel. The first few chapters can be extremely confusing, with practically every other word being a slang term used by the main character, Alex, and his friend-or droogs. After fumbling through the first part of the novel, I started to understand it a bit more, and knew what they were saying without looking it up. That’s when I began to like this writing style.

Alex and his droogs are teenage criminals who live for the night and want to cause nothing but trouble. For those readers who don’t wish to read about breaking and entering, stealing, murders, or rape, I suggest skipping this book, because there’s plenty of it. Even the police officers in the book are corrupt.

There wasn’t a single character I could actually ‘like’ in the novel, though the purpose is to have the reader sympathize with Alex, who’s telling the book and constantly refers to himself as “Your Humble Narrator”. I couldn’t really feel bad for him.

Some parts of the book were horribly funny. Some were just so odd it made me want to laugh, like when Alex referred to his hair as his ‘lucious glory’.

This odd, violent, crazy little book was actually quite interesting and made a great point; Is it better to choose not to be evil, or to force good upon someone? I give it 4/5 stars.