Jessica's books

The One and Only Ivan
Pollyanna
Revolutionary War on Wednesday
Leprechaun in Late Winter
Ella Enchanted
The Courage of Sarah Noble
Plain Murder
Gone-Away Lake
Circling the Sun
Maggie and Max
The Haunting of Sunshine Girl
The Night Sister
Tuck Everlasting
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Bedknob and Broomstick
Mister Monday
Alice Through the Looking Glass
The Birchbark House
The Hobbit
The Witch's Daughter


Jessica's favorite books »

Friday, September 30, 2011

Book Review: Sweetly by Jackson Pearce

Sweetly (Fairytale Retellings, #2)

Synopsis (from Goodreads):  SWEETLY is a modernization of Hansel and Gretel and a companion book to SISTERS RED.

Twelve years ago, Gretchen, her twin sister, and her brother went looking for a witch in the forest. They found something. Maybe it was a witch, maybe a monster, they aren’t sure—they were running too fast to tell. Either way, Gretchen’s twin sister was never seen again.

Years later, after being thrown out of their house, Gretchen and Ansel find themselves in Live Oak, South Carolina, a place on the verge of becoming a ghost town. They move in with Sophia Kelly, a young and beautiful chocolatier owner who opens not only her home, but her heart to Gretchen and Ansel.

Yet the witch isn’t gone—it’s here, lurking in the forests of Live Oak, preying on Live Oak girls every year after Sophia Kelly’s infamous chocolate festival. But Gretchen is determined to stop running from witches in the forest, and start fighting back. Alongside Samuel Reynolds, a boy as quick with a gun as he is a sarcastic remark, Gretchen digs deeper into the mystery of not only what the witch is, but how it chooses its victims. Yet the further she investigates, the more she finds herself wondering who the real monster is, and if love can be as deadly as it is beautiful.

My Thoughts:  More fairytale retellings, more fenris!  I loved it!  Pearce had me captivated from the Prologue (deliciously spooky!) and I didn't put the book down until the end!

Ansel, Gretchen and Abigail  go into the woods to find the witch they have heard about growing up.  Unfortunately, they find the "witch" and Abigail disappears.  Now, twelve years later, Ansel and Gretchen are heading to South Carolina to escape their past (well, and the fact that they were kicked out of their home by their stepmother).  Of course, their car breaks down in a small town and they end up in a cottage in the woods.  Hmmm....

However, the small town of Live Oak has had girls disappearing very much like Gretchen's sister disappeared.  Gretchen decides to investigate while Ansel works for Sophia (the town's candy shop owner) and of course, maybe starts to fall in love with her (yeah, you'll have to read it to find out what goes on there).

I loved that I never knew what Sophia was about.  She kept me guessing the entire time!  I also loved Gretchen and her rainbow colored hair!  I enjoyed watching her grow into a strong young woman.  All the characters were well developed though and I honestly enjoyed them all, Gretchen, Sophia, Samuel, Ansel...yeah, they rocked!

I think I liked this book more that Sisters Red!  Maybe because I've always liked the Hansel and Gretel story more than Little Red Riding Hood but I think it was just more fast-paced and I connected more with these characters than with those of Sisters Red.  Both stories are great but this one takes the cake!

*I received this book for review from Around the World ARC Tours*

Book Review: Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

Forever (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #3)

Synopsis (from Goodreads): 

The thrilling conclusion to #1 bestselling Shiver trilogy from Maggie Stievater
In Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. In Linger, they fought to be together. Now, in Forever, the stakes are even higher than before. Wolves are being hunted. Lives are being threatened. And love is harder and harder to hold on to as death comes closing in.
 
My Thoughts:
 
I enjoyed this book for a few reasons.  One, it got me through a hard time.  My grandfather is 91 and is dying.  So, we were back and forth to the hospital and in the process of moving him and my Grandmother to assisted living.  It was a very hard and stressful week and I loved being able to escape into the world of Sam and Grace, Isabel and Cole.  Unfortunately, like all good things, it came to an end way to soon for me!
 
This book picks up where Linger ends (of course).  Grace has changed into a wolf while Sam is finally human.  Cole is living in Beck's house with Sam while they look for Grace (along with Isabel) before there is a mass slaughter of the wolves in Mercy Falls.  I loved the alternate POVs (Grace, Sam, Cole and Isabel).  I think this made the book more interesting for me. 
 
I loved the relationship between Cole and Isabel.  It was so complicated and it wasn't an easy relationship which made it all the more interesting.  Plus, to be honest, Cole and Isabel have got to be my favorite characters!  That's not to say that I didn't fall in love with Sam and Grace as well.  I did!  But, there is something about Isabel and Cole that pulled at me. 
 
While the beginning was a little relaxed and slow (in a good way though...not a "I want to quit reading this book" way), the ending was fast paced and action packed!  The only thing I personally didn't like was the unanswered questions at the end.  I won't go into those too much so as not to reveal anything but that was my one disappointment.  Oh, and the other thing I don't like?  This is the end of the series!  I want more Cole and Isabel, Sam and Grace!  But, as I said above...all good things must come to an end and the end of the Mercy Falls wolves was a brilliant one.
 
*Received this book for review from I Read Banned Books ARC Tours*
 

Book Review: A Plague Year by Edward Bloor

A Plague Year

Synopsis (from Goodreads):  It's 2001 and zombies have taken over Tom's town. Meth zombies. The drug rips through Blackwater, PA, with a ferocity and a velocity that overwhelms everyone.

It starts small, with petty thefts of cleaning supplies and Sudafed from the supermarket where Tom works. But by year's end there will be ruined, hollow people on every street corner. Meth will unmake the lives of friends and teachers and parents. It will fill the prisons, and the morgues.

Tom's always been focused on getting out of his depressing coal mining town, on planning his escape to a college somewhere sunny and far away. But as bits of his childhood erode around him, he finds it's not so easy to let go. With the selfless heroism of the passengers on United Flight 93 that crashed nearby fresh in his mind and in his heart, Tom begins to see some reasons to stay, to see that even lost causes can be worth fighting for. 

Edward Bloor has created a searing portrait of a place and a family and a boy who survive a harrowing plague year, and become stronger than before.

My Thoughts:  Well, I thought I would be very interested in this book because of it's content.  The area that I live in is very small as well and is also dealing with a huge Meth crisis.  My husband is a deputy for the Sheriff's Dept. and sees it every day.  I've seen the pictures and have even known some current meth users and some recovering meth users.  However, I was not looking for a book that lectured you on the use of meth.  Unfortunately, this one did just that. 

Tom lives in a small town in PA.  His journal begins on Sept. 10, 2001.  Besides the earth-shattering event that happens the next day, Tom's town is dealing with another crisis.  Meth.  However, no one really notices or cares except for a drug counseling group.

Tom appears nearly perfect.  He studies, obeys his parents (for the most part).  His family feels safe or immune from drugs.  I did like how the author showed how easy it is to get addicted to drugs and lose control despite the fact that you are a "good" kid.  My husband says it takes using meth just one time and you're hooked and I think kids need to know how dangerous it is.  However, I think that the lecturing may turn a lot of kids off the book and that is unfortunate. 

All in all, not a horrible book but not the best.  I would have been fine not finishing it but didn't have to force myself to keep reading either.  Just one of those mid-line books. 

*I received this book for review from Around the World ARC Tours*

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Book Review: Fury by Elizabeth Miles

Fury (The Fury Trilogy #1)

Synopsis (from Goodreads):  Sometimes sorry isn't enough....
It’s winter break in Ascension, Maine. The snow is falling and everything looks pristine and peaceful. But not all is as it seems...
Between cozy traditions and parties with her friends, Emily loves the holidays. And this year’s even better--the guy she’s been into for months is finally noticing her. But Em knows if she starts things with him, there’s no turning back. Because his girlfriend is Em’s best friend.
On the other side of town, Chase is having problems of his own. The stress of his home life is starting to take its toll, and his social life is unraveling. But that’s nothing compared to what’s really haunting him. Chase has done something cruel...something the perfect guy he pretends to be would never do. And it’s only a matter of time before he’s exposed.
In Ascension, mistakes can be deadly. And three girls—three beautiful, mysterious girls—are here to choose who will pay.
Em and Chase have been chosen.

My Thoughts:  So, I'm not really sure what I thought of this one.  It was slow getting started and then was just not what I was expecting at all.  The cover was amazing but the story...yeah, not so much. 

Em is lusting after her best friend's boyfriend, Zach.  Gabby goes out of town and things happen between Em and Zach.  Emily swears that Zach will break up with Gabby but that Gabby will forgive her and they will still be BFFs.  Emily is very naive and I found that frustrating.

Chase is super popular yet he has his own secrets. He is poor and he lies about it to keep his popularity.  He is trying to hook up with every girl he can get.  He is just a serious jerk all the way around!  I despised his character throughout the whole story!

I don't understand why the Furies (Ty, Ali and Meg) go after Chase and Emily.  Yes, what they have done is not morally right but really?  This is what you are going after?  I am sure that there are many kids who have done more horrible things than Chase and Emily.  In fact, the Furies went after Em for cheating and yet Zach gets away with no punishment at all.  The Furies completely ignore him!  Um, isn't he just as guilty as Emily is?

So, all in all, I was pretty disappointed in this book.  The characters were not well developed, the whole story just lacked believability and it was slow reading.  Sadly, I wouldn't recommend this book to any of my friends.


Book Review: Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey

Witch Eyes

Synopsis (from Goodreads):  Braden was born with witch eyes: the ability to see the world as it truly is: a blinding explosion of memories, darkness, and magic. The power enables Braden to see through spells and lies, but at the cost of horrible pain.

After a terrifying vision reveals imminent danger for the uncle who raised and instructed him, Braden retreats to Belle Dam, an old city divided by two feuding witch dynasties. As rival family heads Catherine Lansing and Jason Thorpe desperately try to use Braden's powers to unlock Belle Dam's secrets, Braden vows never to become their sacrificial pawn. But everything changes when Braden learns that Jason is his father--and Trey, the enigmatic guy he's falling for, is Catherine's son.

To stop an insidious dark magic from consuming the town, Braden must master his gift—and risk losing the one he loves.

My Thoughts:  I loved reading this book because it was about witches and witches are one of my favorite subjects (yes, even over vampires!).  This book was easy to get caught-up in and was a fast and fun read.

I had no clue what was going on in Belle Dam.  Seriously, no clue!  I loved that it kept me on my toes and guessing.  I loved the whole feud that was very reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, with Braden's dad on one side and his friend (and love interest), Trey on the other.  I loved how Braden refused to take sides in the feud as well.

I liked the romance between Trey and Braden as well.  It was believable and I enjoyed how it built up and wasn't just fall madly in love at first sight!

I thought all the characters were well developed!  I loved Braden's character!  He was snarky and despite his "gift", he is just your everyday kind of guy.  He's a very powerful witch but is not arrogant or conceited and I liked that a lot!

I also liked Trey's younger sister, Jade.  She was strong and just told you how it was.  There was no sugar-coating anything or trying to put it nicely.  She just told it how it was.  I think I liked her character because she reminded me of myself in that aspect.

This book was one that would recommend to anyone who enjoys YA paranormal books.  It was entertaining and a fun and fast read.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Book Review: Where You Left Me by Jennifer Gardner Trulson

Where You Left Me

Synopsis (from Goodreads):  Lucky—that’s how Jennifer would describe herself. She had a successful law career, met the love of her life in Doug, married him, had an apartment in New York City, a house in the Hamptons, two beautiful children, and was still madly in love after nearly seven years of marriage. Jennifer was living the kind of idyllic life that clich├ęs are made of.

Until Doug was killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center, and she became a widow at age thirty-five—a “9/11 widow,” no less, a member of a select group bound by sorrow, of which she wanted no part. Though completely devastated, Jennifer still considered herself blessed. Doug had loved her enough to last her a lifetime, and after his sudden death, she was done with the idea of romantic love—fully resigned to being a widowed single mother . . . until a chance encounter with a gregarious stranger changed everything. Without a clue how to handle this unexpected turn of events, Jennifer faced the question asked by anyone who has ever lost a loved one: Is it really possible to feel joy again, let alone love?

With unvarnished emotion and clear-eyed sardonic humor, Jennifer tells an ordinary woman’s extraordinary tale of unimaginable loss, resilience, friendship, love, and healing—which is also New York City’s narrative in the wake of September 11. Where You Left Me is an unlikely love story, a quintessentially New York story—at once Jennifer’s tribute to the city that gave her everything and proof that second chances are possible.

My Thoughts:  This was an emotional book.  After all, it is about 9/11.  I am not sure I would say I enjoyed it but it was a very interesting read.

Jennifer is indeed very lucky.  Yes, her first husband dies in 9/11 and that is heartbreaking in and of itself but she had tons of support.  She wasn't hurting financially, her parents moved in to help her out and she met and remarried another great guy.  She has a nanny, has a house in Hamptons and an Upper Westside apartment and yet with all this, I didn't feel like she appreciated all she had. 

I thought this book would be more about how she struggled to get by without her husband and the effects of 9/11 on the author but I really didn't feel that much of a struggle.  She was able to grieve without all the other burdens of how to pay the bills and get her kids to school.  She had people to do that for her. 

I did like how she figured out how to balance her love for her first husband with her love for her new husband.  Despite her wealth and support, losing your loved one in an event like 9/11 was horrible and no one should have to live through that.  I did cry at some parts in the book and I found other parts interesting and inspiring but on a whole it wasn't the best 9/11 memoir out there.


Book Review: The Adventures of Benjamin Skyhammer by Nicole Sheldrake

The Adventures of Benjamin Skyhammer

Synopsis (from Goodreads):  Benjamin Skyhammer has more than his fair share of problems. He's a magic-less outcast, he's hiding a terrible secret from his best friend and the valuable Relic he found has been stolen. Just when he thinks things couldn't get any worse, he discovers that the human species believes he's a sorcerer bent on destroying their magic powers and they want him dead. Now he must hunt down the real sorcerer and discover the truth behind the threats to humans and their magic powers.

My Thoughts:  Benjamin is a freak.  He lives in a world where everyone possesses magical powers.  Everyone but himself and one other person (who we never know).  So, he spends his time being a relic hunter.  He will do anything he can to get a good relic.  While searching for relics with his magical partner, Higgins, they find out that there is someone out there that is trying to get rid of magic and they must stop him!

Benjamin has a lot of secrets.  He is whiny and selfish and I couldn't really relate to him or sympathize with him.  There were times when I just really didn't like him at all. 

Higgins is always getting Benjamin out of trouble.  She was a fun character and an amazing magician.  I thought she stole the show.  By far, she was my favorite character in this story.

This story was full of twists and turns that left you always wondering what was going to happen next.  The descriptions were amazing and very vivid.  The characters were fun and for the most part well developed.

I wish that there would have been more about Benjamin's past.  There was a lot going on that wasn't explained in depth and left you wondering if you had missed something.  I wasn't crazy about the ending either but won't give that away.

I think if you like Fantasy you should give this book a try.  It was fun and action packed and a fairly quick read. 


Book Review: Bloodlines by Richelle Mead

Bloodlines (Bloodlines, #1)

Synopsis (from Goodreads):  When alchemist Sydney is ordered into hiding to protect the life of Moroi princess Jill Dragomir, the last place she expects to be sent is a human private school in Palm Springs, California. But at their new school, the drama is only just beginning.

Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, Bloodlines explores all the friendship, romance, battles and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive - this time in a part-vampire, part-human setting where the stakes are even higher and everyone's out for blood.

My Thought:  I LOVED this book!  I loved the Vampire Academy series and this one lived up to my expectations too!  A must read in my opinion!

Sydney takes a job hiding the Moroi princess Jill so her sister Zoe isn't made to live the life of an alchemist.  Well, and Sydney wants to gain the approval of both the Alchemists and her father after helping out Rose in the last Vampire Academy book.

Sydney, Jill, Eddie and Adrian are sent to Palm Springs, CA.  It is pretty much safe as the Strigoi hate the sunshine.  They enroll in a prestigious private school and try to lay low.  Except when you are a vampire, a guardian and an Alchemist, laying low isn't really easy.

Sydney uncovers a crazy scheme with tattoos and knows it's her chance to prove herself to her father again.  She is working on getting all the evidence she needs as well as trying to keep Jill safe.  She's also trying to find out who is killing young girls, human and Moroi alike.  She's a busy girl. 

There were some great twists in the story but I was able to figure out who was behind the tattoo scheme and eventually who was behind the murders of the girls.  It wasn't hard to predict so I was wishing there was a little more mystery there. 

I did love how there were still characters from Vampire Academy.  Rose made an appearance as did Dimitri.  I loved Adrian in Vampire Academy so was so happy to see him in this series. Jill is obviously a major character but Lissa was mentioned numerous times as well.  It made the ending of Vampire Academy a little easier to take! 

Sydney is a great character.  She is strong but has her flaws and insecurities.  She really wants to please her father but almost too much.  I felt like she should take some risks and tell him what he could do with himself.  I love her interactions with Adrian.  I am hoping that eventually there will be a romance there as they seem to be made for each other.

Jill was a little too quiet and timid for my liking.  I felt like she shouldn't care so much about being different and try to make friends.  Sometimes she had a little too much "pity party" going on but towards the end I could see her confidence blooming.

I really did enjoy this book!  Mead has a way of writing that makes you feel that you are right there with the characters.  They are all so vivid and real you feel like they are your friends.  I cannot wait to read more from her!

Book Review: After Obsession by Carrie Jones and Steve Wedel

Title: After Obession
Author: Carrie Jones and Steven Wedel
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: Sept 13th, 2011
Synopsis (from Goodreads): 
Aimee and Alan have secrets. Both teens have unusual pasts and abilities they prefer to keep hidden. But when they meet each other, in a cold Maine town, they can't stop their secrets from spilling out. Strange things have been happening lately, and they both feel that something-or someone- is haunting them. They're wrong. Despite their unusual history and powers, it's neither Aimee nor Alan who is truly haunted. It's Alan's cousin Courtney who, in a desperate plea to find her missing father, has invited a demon into her life-and into her body. Only together can Aimee and Alan exorcise the ghost. And they have to move quickly, before it devours not just Courtney but everything around her.
My Thoughts:  I really enjoyed Carrie Jones' Need series but wasn't quite as enthralled with this one. I really liked it still but not as much as her other series.  I loved the creepy factor though! 
Aimee can see things that happen in the future.  She can help heal people as well.  So yeah, she's pretty cool.  She is dating a great guy but feels like something may be missing.  Her best friend, Courtney is great too but Courtney is dealing with her father's death.  Aimee knows how she feels since Aimee's mom is also dead. Courtney starts to act strangely and then Alan, her cousin and his mom move in with them to help with the bills.  Together, Aimee and Alan try to figure out the mysteries in the small town that they live in. 
I loved how this story was told in alternate views (Jones has Aimee's POV and Wedel has Alan's POV).  I love how easily they intertwined each chapter.  You certainly could not tell that two different people wrote this!  I also liked the folklore in the story.  Alan is trying to get in touch with his Native American roots and this leads into the folklore.  The demonic possession aspect was also a nice change.  I think this is the first book I've read that has really been about demonic possession.  It was very refreshing!
I wasn't thrilled with the romance aspect.  Aimee was dating Blake and while I didn't care for Blake all that much and thought she should maybe break up with him it all seemed sort of rushed.  Then she was instantly in love with Alan but later wanted to "get to know him".  I was a little confused through the book as to what their relationship was. 
So, it was a creepy and refreshing book but I still liked Jones' Need series better.  I have no doubt that many will love this book though!  It's one that should be read at least once.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Book Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna Dressed in Blood, #1)

Synopsis (from Goodreads):  Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.
So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.
When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.
But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas's life.

My Thoughts:  I loved this one!  I am a huge fan of the T.V. show "Supernatural" and this book totally reminded me of the early shows.  Ghosts killing people, ghost hunter goes to kill ghost and yet finds some underlying issue. 

Cas is following in his father's footsteps.  He hunts ghosts that hurt other people and sends them "on".  Where he sends them he doesn't know but he knows it is for the best.  Until he meets Anna Dressed in Blood.  Anna died in 1958 but no one is exactly sure who killed her.  Anyone that enters Anna's house end up dead.  Until Cas shows up.  Cas is not only able to enter Anna's house but her can talk to her.  Along with some new found friends, they find out what really happened to Anna.  And they find out who killed Cas' father.  Now, can they stop it?

Cas was just cool.  He was a little standoffish but that is because he doesn't want to get close to anyone since he moves so much.  Plus, how do you really explain what you do?  He is smart and cares for others, especially his mom.  He was super funny and snarky too.  I really enjoyed him. 

Anna was described vividly!  There was no gently easing you into what she looked like or what she did.  Yet I found that I really liked her.  She was troubled but it was totally understandable.  Especially once you find out what really happened to her.  I like how she and Cas have a chemistry between them too.  It's not too romantic though so that is refreshing. 

This book was spooky, gruesome and funny!  It is a great book for the upcoming Fall season and best of all, Halloween!  Do yourself a favor and grab a copy!  You won't regret it.