SUMMER READING 2016: 5 Guest Reviews from Tweens & Teens

Summer Reading is on! We’re having a great summer at BCPL with events ranging from fitness activities to a lab with the Kentucky Science Center to awesome magic shows. But the heart of Summer Reading will always be books and reading.

And we’re so excited with the response we are receiving from the participants in our 2016 Reading Challenges. Here are just a few of the book reviews we’ve received so far; more will be posted here over the month to come. Thanks to all of our guest reviewers for sharing!

How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found by Sara Nickerson
Reviewer: Tyler W., Age 10
Tyler’s Rating: 3/5 Stars
Genre: Graphic Novel/Mystery
Audience: Tween/Teen

Tyler’s Summary & Review:  A boy and his mom move into a mansion only to find out weird things keep happening. It’s ok. Kind of a long book.

Quarterback Sneak by Jake Maddox
Reviewer: Tyler W., Age 10
Tyler’s Rating: 5/5 Stars
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Sports Fiction
Audience: Middle Grade/Tween

Tyler’s Summary & Review:  A quarterbacks suddenly starts acting very strange, which puts the team in major jeopardy.I enjoyed this book, I can relate to one of the characters because he wants to help his team. I also have a passion for football.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Reviewer: Katelynn W., Age 11
Katelynn’s Rating: 5/5 Stars
Genre: Realistic Fiction/School Story
Audience: Middle Grade/Tween

Katelynn’s Summary & Review:  A boy has a facial disease and has a hard time “fitting in” at school and out of school. I am here to tell you that I really think you should read this book. First, the book makes me feel like I’m in the story experiencing what is going on. Next, the book has really good detail to make me imagine everything that is going on. Last, the book has a really good story behind that and it has a good plot. That is why you should read the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Enjoy!?

EXTRA: Tracy’s Thoughts: I couldn’t agree more with Katelynn’s rating and review! I loved this book back when I read it, hence its inclusion on our Best of 2012 book list for middle grade and tween readers and my whining over its exclusion from the 2013 Youth Media Awards. Here’s my brief overview from one of our Book Picks lists:

Ten-year-old Auggie was born with extreme facial abnormalities. When he was younger, he used to wear a space helmet all the time just to hide from the stares. Now Auggie—homeschooled all his life—is ready to come out of hiding and is set to begin fifth grade at a private Manhattan middle school. Heartbreaking, funny, and simply wonderful in every way, Wonder is a must-read for book lovers of all ages. Ages 8 and up

Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans by Gary Northfield
Reviewer: Katelynn W., Age 11
Katelynn’s Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Genre: Animal Fantasy
Audience: Middle Grade

Katelynn’s Summary & Review: A zebra and other animals get captured and have to train to be gladiators. Once they train, they have to fight to earn their freedom.

I think you should read the book Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans by Gary Northfield. First, this book has some great facts about the Romans and other things. Next, the book has really great humor. Last, the book has a lot of feeling in it. That is why I think you should read the book Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans by Gary Northfield.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Reviewer: Kaylee F., Age 12
Kaylee’s Rating: 5/5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Audience: Teen/Young Adult

Kaylee’s Summary & Review: The storyline is about a girl named Bella Swan and when she moves in with her dad at the town of Forks. I thought this book was a great start to an amazing series.The story itself was great because it explained how Bella felt at all times in amazing words and vocabulary. I loved the characters a lot because they all were a big part of an amazing story. I loved the setting because when the author wrote to explain the setting she made it feel like I was actually looking at it myself. I just enjoyed this book so much I couldn’t even put it down. You should really read this book and fall in love with it just as I did.

EXTRA: Tracy’s Thoughts: As Kaylee says, this book is compulsively readable. I couldn’t put it down and read the entire book (about 500 pages) in a single night. I have a few issues with the book (Edward’s stalker tendencies, for one), but nothing that prevented me from staying up till about 6:00 in the morning until I finished!

Are you interested in submitting a guest review? Use the submission form on our website to share your thoughts (positive, negative, or in between) about your latest read. And remember: eligible BCPL patrons earn an entry in our Summer Reading Grand Prize Drawing for each review they submit!

2-for-1 REVIEW: The Coincidence of Callie & Kayden and The Redemption of Callie & Kayden by Jessica Sorensen

So, lately I’ve been on a New Adult reading kick. A patron request for college-age romances prompted me to create a new board on our Pinterest site all about New Adult fiction (and a handful of memoirs), and then I decided to see what all the fuss was about for myself. I had already read Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Disaster and Walking Disaster and Tammara Webber’s Easy, all key titles in the newly popular category and all books that I enjoyed. But there were lots of other notable New Adult authors that I hadn’t read, and I felt it would be a good idea to expand my knowledge a bit. Hence the recent reading spree. Jessica Sorensen’s Coincidence series is just one of my new finds, but be assured I have more to share about New Adult fiction in another upcoming post.

Tracy’s Rating: 3/5 Stars
New Adult/Realistic Fiction/Contemporary Romance
New Adults (older YAs/twentysomethings)
Series: Coincidence #1

First Lines: “Life is full of luck, like getting dealt a good hand or simply being in the right place at the right time. Some people get luck handed to them, a second chance, a save. It can happen heroically, or by a simple coincidence, but there are those who don’t get luck on a shiny platter, who end up at the wrong place at the wrong time, who don’t get saved.”

Tracy’s Rating: 3/5 Stars
New Adult/Realistic Fiction/Contemporary Romance
New Adults (older YAs/twentysomethings)
Series: Coincidence #1

First Lines: “I want to breathe.”

Tracy’s Thoughts:
First off, these books are in desperate need of the services of a good copyeditor. Initially, I thought the punctuation errors and unfortunate uses of “one’s” in place of what should be a simple plural construction “ones” would drive me to tear my hair out. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg, as the saying goes. But despite the flaws, Jessica Sorensen’s saga of Callie and Kayden is compulsively readable.

Callie is a loner with a dark secret and a fear of being touched by others. When she was younger, she suddenly chopped off all her hair and started wearing baggy clothes. At least her family found the transformation sudden and inexplicable, and now, years later, they continue to be puzzled by her “difficult” behavior and social isolation. To outsiders, Kayden is the all-American boy, a football jock with decent grades, a tendency to party, and a hot cheerleader girlfriend. But, like Callie, he has secrets.

When Callie accidentally witnesses Kayden at his lowest and steps out of her self-imposed isolation to save him, Kayden realizes there is more to the high-school “freak” than he imagined. And Callie sees that Kayden apparently has his own demons, though at that point she has only the barest hint of the full truth. In the moment that Callie saves Kayden and in those that follow immediately after, they forge a a strange connection, though neither chooses to pursue it. But when they meet again on their new college campus, Kayden is determined to discover more about the girl who saved him and—perhaps—changed him forever. For her part, Callie remains skittish, although a recent friendship has given her the courage to take chances (for Callie, even small things like wearing the color red and growing out her hair are a hurdle) that would have seemed impossible before.

There is little mystery for the reader about Callie’s and Kayden’s secrets, but it was fascinating to see how these two damaged characters were able to build the trust necessary to confide in one another. That isn’t to say that everything is neatly wrapped up and tied with a pretty bow. Love doesn’t suddenly make all of Callie and Kayden’s problems go away; it simply makes them more confident and thus more able to cope with their respective troubles. But even then, there are setbacks. In fact, the cliffhanger ending of the first book may mangle the expectations of more than one happily-ever-after romantic.

This is an angsty, emotional read that may veer too close to melodrama for some readers, but for those who like love stories with LOTS of baggage (even Callie and Kayden’s friends have some serious baggage of their own, though it remains in the background through both of these novels), this series may be perfect. That is, if the reader can overlook the comma splices, typos, and grammatical errors on every other page or so. I’m a bit of a grammar stickler, but the emotional intensity and occasionally striking imagery went a long way toward calming my irritation. For example, something about the description of one character’s fight-bruised face as a “lumpy blueberry” struck me as absolutely perfect.

So if you are a fan of college-age stories like A Beautiful Disaster and don’t mind iffy proofreading and heavy doses of angst, then I suggest you give Callie and Kayden’s story a try. A third book focusing on the duo, The Resolution of Callie & Kayden, is expected to be released on September 30th.

FLASH REVIEWS: Recent Audio Reads in Historical Fiction

I’m back with more quick reviews of my recent audio reads! I just finished two Bloody Jack Adventures  plus a couple of adult historicals. So here goes…

The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O’Melveny
Rating: 2/5 Stars
Audience: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery

When the powers that be try to keep her from practicing her craft as a physician, Renaissance woman Gabriella Mondini decides now is the time to go searching for her long-lost father. What follows is a journey across Europe and beyond that calls to mind the Canterbury Tales. Through her entries in her diary and additions made in an anthology of diseases begun by her father (also a physician), readers are privy to Gabriella’s adventures and obsessions. A woman physician in sixteenth-century Venice, Gabriella
Mondini had the potential to become a fascinating character. The plot in and of itself is certainly intriguing, but the pacing is uneven and the supernatural elements are clumsily integrated and all too predictable. O’Melveney is a poet, and the prose is lyrical and striking at times; however, it also frequently veers into pretension and excessive description. Probably the only reason I finished this audiobook is Katherine Kellgren, whose magnificent voice performance kept me engaged.

Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert  Goolrick
Rating: 2.5/5 Stars
Audience: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Psychological Suspense/Southern Gothic

When Charlie Beale arrived in the small Southern town of Brownsburg with a suitcase full of money, it was the summer of 1948. Decades later, a man who knew Charlie and was witness to Charlie’s torrid, fateful affair with the young bride of the town’s wealthiest man recounts the story. I was downright mesmerized by Goolrick’s A Reliable Wife, but Heading Out to Wonderful lacked the tension and immediacy I expected in his follow-up novel. The setting and storyline had the haunting, nostalgic quality of a folk ballad, but the finale seemed forced and arbitrary. Also, I was troubled by the occasional awkwardness of the narrative voice and some unacknowledged loose ends. For example, it is never explained (MILD SPOILER AHEAD…HIGHLIGHT TO READ) how Charlie came by that suitcase of money. Although this was the most interesting part of the story to me, I would have understood if that particular plot point remained a mystery. But the fact that none of the book’s characters seem to wonder or question it makes no sense. Still, even with all that being said, I think Heading Out to Wonderful would make a fantastic book club read. The recurring themes of lost innocence, sin and forgiveness, identities abandoned and recreated, and memory itself leave much to discuss.

Mississippi Jack by L.A. Meyer
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Audience: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Adventure/Humor
Series: Bloody Jack Adventures #5

I am still a little furious at Jamie. But at the same time, I also like him a bit better now. In the past, Jamie has been almost too perfect for the wonderfully flawed adventuress that is Jacky Faber. Now, I see him as a more developed, if flawed character and I like him better for it. In this latest adventure, Jacky and Jamie are once again separated as Jacky makes her way down the Mississippi in a rollicking adventure reminiscent of the best tall tales. Legendary boatman Mike Fink even plays a significant role in the story. New love interests also emerge—most notably the irascibly charming Sir Richard Allen—to throw a wrench in Jacky and Jamie’s relationship. Not to mention the intervention of the British Navy and Intelligence Agency, marauding Indians, and a homicidal Mike Fink. Also, did I already mention that I love Katherine Kellgren? Because I do. Her fabulous performances make the Bloody jack series a joy to listen to, bringing Jacky and the gang to vivid life.

Mt Bonny Light Horseman by L.A. Meyer
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Audience: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Adventure/Humor/War Story
Series: Bloody Jack Adventures #6

This time around, Jacky is tasked by British Intelligence to act as a spy against the French. Those who love the battle scenes of earlier Bloody Jack novels won’t be disappointed. And Jacky being Jacky, there are also new flirtations for the more romantically minded (though the new love interest fails to live up to the standard set by Jamie’s previous rivals for Jacky’s affections, IMHO).

REVIEW: Overseas by Beatriz Williams

Rating: 3/5 Stars
Genre: Love Story/Fantasy/Time-Travel
Audience: Adult

Summary: In modern day Manhattan, newbie Wall Street analyst Kate Wilson is mystified and intrigued when billionaire Julian Laurence begins pursuing her after little more than a passing glance. But their love story is not an easy one: Julian’s pursuit blows hot and cold despite their irresistible attraction, and he also seems to be keeping secrets. Interspersed with this tale are scenes from World War I–era France, to which modern-day Kate has somehow traveled on a mission to find Captain Julian Laurence Ashford and protect her lover from the future.

Tracy’s Thoughts: As regular Books News & Reviews readers
may have already guessed, I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump of
late. I’ve been enjoying audiobooks on my commute to and from work, but it’s been difficult to find the time and focus for any pleasure reading beyond that. I’ve started several (print) books over the last few months, but sticking
with them has been a different story. And yet I finished Overseas in two days, staying up till 2 a.m. on a work night in order to finish. Overseas isn’t great literature or even particularly original, but it held my attention and made me care about the characters. I simply enjoyed it.

At times, it reminded me of Fifty Shades of Grey with less angst and a time travel twist. Overseas
doesn’t feature erotic sex scenes—love scenes are more in the
fade-to-black tradition, though Kate and Julian’s relationship is certainly
passionate. Julian isn’t nearly as tortured as Christian Grey, but he
does have secrets. Also, the writing is better (thankfully, none of the
characters have bickering conversations with their “subconscious”). So as much as I hate the habit of comparing recent reads to the latest big-hit book phenomena, the push-pull dynamic between the characters and the development of their relationship did call to mind James’s trilogy.

The two entwined settings of Overseas make for a suspenseful, perfectly-paced story that answers one question only to raise another. The reader is able to piece just enough together to feel informed and invested, and yet all the the whys and wherefores remain a mystery until the perfect moment. Overseas is a charming and imminently readable love story that will likely appeal to fans of The Time Traveler’s Wife, Outlander, and perhaps even Fifty Shades of Grey fans who are interested in the powerful man/ordinary girl relationship dynamics but who are not necessarily looking for BDSM or erotic fiction.

REVIEW: How to Be a Cat by Nikki McClure

Rating: 3/5 Stars
Genre: Picture Book
Audience: Toddler-Preschool

Summary: Using single-word text on each page, Nikki McClure gives the reader a glimpse into what a cat’s day might look like.

Lucinda’s Views: With its simple text and black, white and blue pictures, this eye-catching picture book is good for younger preschoolers and toddlers, especially if there is a cat in the house. The illustrations are basic, but manage to convey a great deal of action with just the simple, bold line drawings. The actions of the cat could be easily mimicked by young children, which makes this a fun read aloud that would be ideal for active kiddos. A fun read!

A Note from Tracy:
I am sorry to report that this post will be our final review from Lucinda at Book News & Reviews as she has decided to resign from her position here at BCPL. (Unless we can convince her to send us the occasional guest review? :))

Thank you, Lucinda, for all of your contributions here at Book News & Reviews and to BCPL. There would be no Book News & Reviews without your efforts and enthusiasm to get us started. (Check out the new statement in the footer!) I wish you the best of luck in whatever the future brings.

FLASH REVIEWS: YALSA’s 2013 Hub Reading Challenge, Check-In #1

I keep getting distracted by other books (and work, and school, and life in general), but I have managed to make a little headway into those 25 books I pledged to read for the Hub Reading Challenge. So far, I’ve discovered some great YA books—and I finally got around to reading Code Name Verity, one of last year’s most buzzed about books.

So anyway, here’s a quick look at my progress so far:

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Greg’s strategy for surviving high school is to stay under the radar. He doesn’t want true friends but maintains a superficial sort-of-friendship with every group in the school, from the jocks to the Goth kids. Of course, none of the other groups is meant to know that he is “friends” with the others. In a school full of cliques, Greg is Switzerland. But when his mom pushes him to befriend (or refriend) a classmate recently diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia, his plan goes to hell. Suddenly, Greg is facing uncomfortable, emotionally charged situations and he has no idea how to react. Even worse, people find out about his secret filmmaking hobby. This book is far from the sad, angsty teen “cancer book” you probably expect from the description. Biting, frequently crude humor and a strong narrative voice make Jesse Andrews’s debut novel a truly compelling read. Greg’s lack of self-awareness and total cluelessness about the male/female dynamic reminded me of Brent Crawford’s Carter Finally Gets It. While the characters of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl aren’t exactly endearing, they are nuanced, believable, and incredibly well-grounded in the novel’s Pittsburgh setting.

Boy21 by Matthew Quick
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Finley is used to being an outsider. He’s the only white guy on his high school basketball team and he doesn’t have much to say, even to his longtime girlfriend. But in a town ruled by gangs and the Irish mob, that may not be such a bad thing. Then his basketball coach encourages him to befriend a new student. Russell is really a basketball phenom from an elite private school in California, but he claims to be an alien called Boy21. This is a unique story, subtly told. The writing is clear and simple, perfect for reluctant readers, and the characters and relationships are well-drawn and compelling.

Cool fact: Quick is also the author of the adult novel The Silver Linings Playbook, the film adaptation of which is nominated for several Academy Awards this year (including Best Picture and a Best Actress nom for Jennifer Lawrence, otherwise known as Katniss Everdeen). The Awards will air this coming Sunday.

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis
Genre: Fantasy/Fairy Tale
Rating: 3/5 Stars
When Sunday Woodcutter befriends an enchanted frog, she has no idea that her new friend is really Prince Rumbold of Arilland, the man her family blames for the death of her brother Jack. This reinvention of the “Frog Prince” fairy tale is full of twists and frequently intertwines with other fairy tales, yet it is a wholly original story that stands on its own. Personally, I felt that Sunday and Rumbold’s relationship need more development. Also, although some of the fairy tale tie-ins were amazingly clever, sometimes the multitude of fairy-tale references became overkill, stealing focus from the main story. Still, I am eager to learn more about some of Sunday and Rumbold’s relatives in the next installment of the Woodcutter saga.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Genre: Historical Fiction/Suspense
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Probably the least said about this book plot wise, the better. Suffice it to say, it is about friendship, espionage, and courage. When a teenaged spy is captured by the Nazis, she agrees to confess everything. It is then up to the reader to read between the lines of that confession and discover the truth of who “Verity” really is. Incredibly compelling and carefully plotted, with convincing historical detail, this is a multi-layered tale well worth reading.

Next up: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, which my blogging partner Lucinda has already read any enjoyed. (So you know a Dual Review will be coming soon!)

For those of you participating, how many titles have you checked off your list so far? Which is your favorite book so far?

FLASH REVIEW: New Halloween Books

Just in time for Halloween we have received some new, very readable Halloween books that kids of all ages can enjoy.

The Monster who Lost his Mean by Tiffany Strelitz Haber
Rating: 3/5 stars
Genre: Picture Book 
When Monster looses his custom made “M” he becomes Onster, a monster without his mean.  As such he is ridiculed by the other monsters and this distresses him greatly until he realizes being a “M”onster who is mean is not as enjoyable as it used to be.  Instead he finds joy with some new human friends to whom he is Onster, the nice monster down the street who can be a helpful friend. I really enjoyed this lighthearted look at being a monster.  With its bright, colorful illustrations this book is engaging and will bring out the “Onster” in your little reader!

Zombie in Love by Kelly Dipucchio
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Genre: Picture Book
Poor Mortimer, a zombie is looking for love in all the wrong places until he finally meets Mildred at Cupid’s Ball.  Then it is “love at first bite”.  This charming little picture book struck me as a clever read-aloud for our Trick or Treat storytime.  Following the trend for Zombie/post-apocalyptic settings in new books, this storybook follows the trend with humor, and a sweet tale of zombie love.  The illustrations are sure to make older preschoolers/kindergartners laugh and the tale is endearing without being sappy.  On the whole a fun read for all!

Hubble Bubble Granny Trouble by Tracey Corderoy
Rating: 4/5 starts
Genre: Picture Book
In the ultimate of Granny Makeovers, a little girl takes her “different” witch granny and makes her into a “normalish” granny.  However, with this change, all involved discover that they don’t like this new granny and with a flick of her wand, Granny becomes her usual, quirky self.  This books message of loving family members for themselves is delivered in a fun manner, with rhyming text and fun colorful illustrations.  Granny herself is a hoot and the book wraps up with a fun beach vacation accompanied by all the cats, bats, and frogs is just funny.  Kiddos will enjoy the concoction of the gloopy soup which includes such ingredient as slime and “froggy poop”.  Of the three books that I have reviewed here, I think that this one is my favorite as it is fun, has a good message, and well, just reminds me of spending time with my Granny when I was a little girl.

REVIEW: Sex on the Moon by Ben Mezrich

Rating: 3/5 Stars
Genre: Adult Nonfiction, True Crime, Popular Science
Audience: Older Teen/Adult
Format: Audiobook

Summary: Banished by his family at the age of nineteen, Thad Roberts was headed for a dead-end life when he suddenly grasped onto the unlikley dream of becoming an astronaut. By that time he was well into his twenties, but with the combination of hard work, natural intelligence, and a hefty dose of charm he eventually made his way into an elite NASA co-op program. But Thad’s need for constant challenge, paired with a desire to impress his new girlfriend, led him to risk everything by orchestrating the theft of priceless lunar sample, aka moon rocks.

First Line: “It had to be the strangest getaway in history.”

Tracy’s Thoughts:
Despite a few quibbles, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the audiobook of this “amazing story behind the most audacious heist in history,” read by Casey Affleck. The story of Thad Robert’s background and his improbable rise to such a coveted position is fascinating. I also enjoyed the “space geek” aspect of the book; I loved the descriptions of the Johnson Space Center, its work culture, and its accomplishments. In fact, the lead up to the robbery itself was so compelling that the actual theft and its aftermath were a bit of a letdown. The first half of this book is definitely the highlight, though caper fans may still find something to enjoy in the heist itself. Personally, I felt crucial details were glossed over and Thad’s motives were somewhat underdeveloped. (Although, in Mezrich’s defense this is based on a true story, and sometimes criminals’ motives aren’t exactly rational.) It is interesting to note that this book is written by the author of The Accidental Billionaires, and the team at Sony behind its film adaptation (The Social Network) have optioned the film rights to Sex on the Moon as well.

REVIEW: Becoming Sister Wives by Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn Brown

Rating: 3/5 stars
Genre: Nonfiction
Audience: Adult

Summary: Ever wonder what it would be like to be part of a polygamist family? How would it feel to share your husband with three other women?  This book can perhaps provide some insight into these questions.  Becoming Sister Wives tells the story of the polygamist Brown family and how they came to be the family that can be seen on TLC’s reality show Sister Wives.  Cody, the husband, is married to not only Meri, but also Janelle, Christine, and Robyn and they have some 17 children among them.  This story tells of their tribulations, not only as they struggle to become a unified family unit, but also the struggles that they face/are facing as polygamists in prevalently monogamist America.  You will learn how each couple came to be married and how each wife has come to grips with “sharing” her husband with four other women.

Lucinda’s Views: I picked up this book because I was curious as to what the Brown family would say concerning their unconventional lifestyle.  I found it to be an easy, quick read that in some ways touched my heart.  The views expressed by all of the Brown in this book is that this lifestyle is a sincere calling from God, not a salacious attempt by Cody to have as many women in his life as possible using the excuse of religion.  Each voice in the book was expressed in a sincere, clear manner that left no doubt about who was speaking and that each voice was sincerely expressing their beliefs as they see them.  I found this book to be an interesting, even informative read.  Even if you do not agree with the Browns’ choice of livestyle, this book is worth giving a read.


So I recently realized that over the past year I’ve read several YA books that I never got around to reviewing. Now, many of these books have sequels out or soon to be released. Here’s a quick look at some of the books I overlooked:

All These Things I’ve Done (Birthright #1) by Gabrielle Zevin
Genre: Dystopia/Crime Fiction/Romance
Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

 In a near future where chocolate and
caffeine are contraband, water and
paper are carefully rationed, and curfews are strictly enforced, sixteen-year-old Anya Balanchine finds
herself coping with an ailing grandmother and mothering her orphaned siblings.Oh, and she also gets herself tangled up in the illegal family business while falling for the son of New York’s new District Attorney. Anya is a strong and fascinating character and this book provides a slightly different slant in dystopian literature, but I felt that some of the details strained credibility. For me the book fell a bit flat, especially the romantic relationship. But there’s still hope for this wonderful premise and characters: Book 2, Because It’s in My Blood, is due out September 18, 2012.

Ashes (Ashes Trilogy #1) by Ilsa J. Bick
Genre: Apocalyptic Fiction/Horror
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

On the run from an incurable brain tumor, 17-year-old Alex is camping alone in the mountains when catastrophe strikes. The sudden explosion of an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) instantly kills most of the adults and turns many of the younger humans into crazed, flesh-eating monsters. Tough and resourceful, Alex teams up with a contrary eight-year-old and a young soldier named Tom. The first half of this novel is a high-energy gorefest that kept me enthralled, but events take a sudden turn midway though. The creepy factor ratchets up in a totally new way, but the sudden veer had me baffled for a bit. However, the cliffhanger ending takes a turn back in the right direction. There are tons of questions left in the air, and I can’t wait for the sequel, Shadows, due out September 25, 2012! For its foray into societal issues and mores as well as the vivid action sequences, Walking Dead fans will definitely want to check this one out.

Glow (Sky Chasers #1) by Amy Kathleen Ryan
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 3/5 Stars

Decades ago, when it became clear Earth would not survive much longer, two pioneer spacecraft were launched to locate and colonize  a New Earth. Fifteen-year-old Waverly and her boyfriend Kieran were born aboard the Empyrean, a completely self-contained habitat. The Empyrean and its inhabitants are still at least 40 years away from reaching their goal when their sister ship, New Horizon, inexplicably attacks and kidnaps all of the girls. Suddenly, Kieran finds himself in a power struggle with Seth, who becomes both a romantic rival and a rival to Kieran’s role as future leader of the ship. Meanwhile, Waverly must figure out a way to thwart her captors. This is a fast-paced space epic with some fascinating twists. A less-than-subtle dig at the corruptible qualities of organized religion may alienate some readers.  The second installment of the series, Spark, was released July 17, 2012. 


Hourglass (Hourglass #1) by Myra McEntire
Genre: Science Fiction/Mystery/Paranormal Romance
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole sees ghosts. Or, at least she believes that’s what they are. Now that she is home—after being hospitalized for a nervous breakdown—her older brother and guardian has hired the Hourglass Institute to help Emerson deal with her “hallucinations.” But Micheal Weaver is not the therapist Emerson expects; instead he is a consultant for a secretive organization that works with gifted people of the X-men variety, helping them to develop and use their abilities for good. Emerson believes he’s nuts at first, but soon she’s thinking all sorts of things might be possible, including time travel. This book isn’t perfect, but Emerson is a likeable, slightly offbeat narrator, and the romantic triangle that develops with Michael and Kaleb is intriguing if a bit predictable. Hourglass is a clever combination of science fiction, superheroes, and paranormal romance that will appeal to a wide range of readers. The sequel, Timepiece, is now available.

Wither (Chemical Garden Trilogy #1) by Lauren DeStefano

Genre: Post-apocalyptic Fiction
Rating: 3/5 Stars
In a future world where genetic engineering has created a disease that kills women by the age of 20 and men by the age of 25, polygamy has become a way of life for the rich and a means of ensuring survival of the species. Rhine is sixteen when she is kidnapped from her Manhattan neighborhood and forced to become the bride of Linden Ashby, one of the most handsome and affluent young men in Florida. Even as Rhine struggles with her feelings about her new husband, she also develops a wary relationship with one of the household’s male servants. And yet she is determined not to allow her developing relationships to make her lose sight of her goal to escape and somehow reunite with her twin brother. This is a creepy, dangerous world filled with hidden agendas. The narrative tension is high and although I was often frustrated by Rhine’s inner conflicts, I fully plan to discover more of this disturbing world in Fever.

REVIEW: Bewitching by Alex Flinn

Rating: 3/5 Stars
Genre: Supernatural Fantasy/Romance/Historical
Audience: Young Adult

Summary:  In this spin-off of Beastly, Kendra the witch tells her own tales including how she discovered she was a witch in the plague year of 1666, survived the Titanic, and has helped poor souls across the centuries of her life.  The latest of her “poor” souls is Emma, a plain, but beautiful within stepsister who just need to “get out from under herself.” In addition, interwoven within the whole book are the tales of Cinderella, The little Mermaid, and The Princess and the Pea.

Lucinda’s Views:   This book was a quick, enjoyable, light summer read.  Kendra is a sympathetic character, who somehow even makes cursing someone seem like the “thing” to do.  One can understand her need to “help” these poor souls as she comes across them.  However, her “help” has mixed results, but somehow things always seem to be set right in the end.  If you enjoy fairy tales, supernatural tales or teen romance…this is the book for you.

REVIEW: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Rating: 3/5 stars
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Realistic Fiction
Audience: Teen/Young Adult

Summary: Nothing is going right for Hadley Sullivan. After a fight with her mom and a series of misadventures, she misses her flight to London—by four minutes! Even worse, her estranged father is about to marry “That British Woman” who is the reason for her parents’ break-up and his defection to another country. So there she is, stranded at the airport with her ill-fitting bridesmaid dress and hours before she can catch another flight, one that will land her in London mere hours before the ceremony. Then she meets Oliver, who is on his way home to England for a family event of his own, and the two share confidences on the long transatlantic flight. It seems ridiculous to feel such a strong connection with a stranger she’s known less than 24 hours, but in between meeting Oliver at the airport and coming to terms with her father’s remarriage, Hadley discovers that anything is possible.

Tracy’s Thoughts:
The Statistical Probability of Love is a sweet, easy-going read with a lot going for it. It features a classic romantic premise—boy meets girl, boy charms girl with his offbeat personality, boy and girl fall in love. There are hints of the easy conversations and magical rapport that I loved so much in Amy and Rogers’s Epic Detour. Over the course of the 10-hour flight from JFK to Heathrow, Hadley and Oliver trade amusing thoughts and comments, talk about their families and relationships, exchange secrets, and almost share their first kiss. And despite the short time span, the story unfolds effortlessly. In a way it reminded me of the movie Before Sunrise or David Levithan and Rachel Cohn’s Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Hadley and Oliver’s conversations are serious, silly, and surprisingly natural. The fact that their relationship develops in the quiet darkness of a cramped plane rather than an exploration of a city only adds to the intimacy and realism. After all, what else do they have to do but get to know each other? That is, until the plane lands and Hadley and Oliver are separated at Heathrow’s customs line. The events that separate them and eventually allow them to meet up again might irritate the more cynical, but it was easy for me to ignore the niggling “Yeah, rights” and simply enjoy the story.

While the adorable relationship between Hadley and Oliver provides the impetus to the story, it is the strained family relationships—particularly between Hadley and her father—that makes this book memorable. Hadley’s heartache and confusion following her parents’ divorce is poignant and almost tangible at times. She loves her father but hasn’t been able to come to grips with the choices he has made. No one is made out to be a villain or a victim. Instead, Smith’s novel is packed with empathetic characters who are flawed and relatable. Things are wrapped up a little too neatly and some events and characters strain credibility (such as Hadley’s soon-to-be stepmom), but this is a satisfying read that is sure to put a smile on the face of romantics everywhere.

The Statistical Probability of Love is one of the ARCs up for grabs in our Spring Giveaway Event

DUAL/GUEST REVIEW: Trapped by Michael Northrop

Allison’s Rating: 4/5 Stars
Tracy’s Rating: 3/5 Stars
Audience: Young Adult/Teen
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Suspense

Summary: Seven high school students are stranded at their New England high school during a week-long blizzard that shuts down the power and heat, freezes the pipes, and leaves them wondering if they will survive.

Allison’s Guest Review:
I really enjoyed this one. Narrated by the main character, a boy who sees himself as a normal teen, this book takes us into the mindset of teens lost in a crisis. At first, the reader feels like the characters don’t give the situation its due worry, but as the characters develop, the reader realizes that the nonchalant attitude displayed by many of the teens trapped in the school are simply avoiding admitting the danger they face, even to themselves. There are a few scenes which introduce some humor, and many details given to enthrall the reader and keep him/her moving along with the story. It was refreshing to read a book with no clearly defined hero/heroine; just a telling of the story with points of drama where they are needed.

Tracy’s Thoughts:
I was very impressed by Northrop’s debut novel, Gentlemen, and after reading the blurb and reviews for Trapped I had high hopes for his sophomore effort. As in his first book, Michael Northrop does an excellent job of building tension. Not only is there a growing awareness that this is indeed a life-threatening situation, there is also tension as the 7 teens—many of whom are mere acquaintances—must pull together. I liked that these are seven typical teens, although they do tend to represent the usual cliques (popular girls, jock, outcasts, the school bully). This lends the book a sort of  Breakfast Club-meets-Christopher-Pike vibe (I’m thinking Weekend). The characters often misread one another, allowing their own preconceptions to get in the way. For me, this was the real drama of the story.

However, the characters, particularly the narrator, just didn’t have the same zing that I expected after reading Gentlemen. What I enjoyed so much about Gentlemen was Tommy’s voice—sharp, biting, and darkly funny. Scotty, the narrator of Trapped, just didn’t have that something special that made me truly invested in the story’s outcome. I needed more character development. The ending, too, was a bit abrupt for my taste and doesn’t really do justice to the excellent premise. But despite my quibbles, Trapped is a quick, enjoyable read and a solid choice for a cold, snowy day’s read.

FLASH REVIEWS: A Parade of Picture Books…

I recently realized that we haven’t reviewed any picture books lately (as promised in our site description!), so here goes…

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
The bear’s hat is gone, and he wants it back. Patiently and politely, he seeks out his fellow forest creatures to inquire “Have you seen my hat?” It’s like a sly game of clue, with clever visual hints. It’s an adorable tale with an ever-so-slightly dark twist at the end. Ages 4 to 8.
Rating: 5/5 Stars

Stop Snoring, Bernard! by Zachariah OHora
Bernard loves living at the zoo, and he loves naptime. Unfortunately, the other otters are tired of his snoring. So begins Bernard’s quest to find a sleeping spot where he won’t bother anyone… This is a sweet, low key story with simple, almost vintage-style illustrations. Ages 3 to 7.
Rating: 3/5 Stars

Blackout by John Rocco
Told through a series of graphic novel–style panels, this is the story of an ordinary summer night in the city. A little girl is eager to play a game, but everyone in her household is too busy. Then there is a blackout; with the power suddenly out, no one is busy at all and the the neighborhood comes alive. The visual images are bold and striking, and small details add a lot to this story about family togetherness. The contrast between light and dark plays an important but subtle role. Ages 4 to 8.
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

The I’m Not Scared Book by Todd Parr
Extremely bright colors—a Parr trademark—will grab kids’ attention in this motivational book about common childhood phobias. Comical details add nuance. The text itself lacks subtlety, but will give comfort to anxious children and offers simplistic solutions to calm fears. Ages 3 to 6.
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Pirate Boy by Eve Bunting and Julie Fortenberry (illus.)
Danny has lots of what-if questions about pirates, and his mother is patient and inventive as she answers each one. This is a heartwarming tale of imagination and connection between mother an child. The artwork, especially the drawings of pirates, is bright and striking. Ages 4 to 8.
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

REVIEW: The Witches of East End by Melissa De La Cruz

Rating: 3/5
Audience: Older Young Adult/Adult
Genre: Paranomal Romance/Mystery/Fantasy

It’s the beginning of summer in North Hampton, and beautiful Freya Beauchamp is celebrating her engagement to wealthy Bran Gardiner, the heir to Fair Haven and Gardiners Island. But Freya is drawn to Bran’s gorgeous but unreliable brother Killian, and sparks fly when the two decide to play a dangerous game, following an ancient story of love, betrayal and tragedy that harks back to the days of Valhalla.

Witches of East End follows the Beauchamp family—the formidable matriarch Joanna and her daughters Freya and Ingrid. Freya, a sexy bartender, has a potion to cure every kind of heartache, while Ingrid, the local librarian, solves complicated domestic problems with her ability to tie magical knots. Joanna is the witch to see when modern medicine has no more answers; her powers can wake the dead. Everything seems to be going smoothly until a young girl, Molly Lancaster, goes missing after taking one of Freya’s irresistible cocktails. As more of the town’s residents begin disappearing, everyone seems to have the same suspects in mind: the Beauchamp women.
Lucinda’s Thoughts:
I really enjoyed this book. As a fan of mythology it was refreshing to see a tale with Norse, rather than Greek mythology at its core.  The character development was interesting and kept me reading.  I finished this book quickly.  The one drawback to this book is the “too” neat ending.  The book seemed to end very abruptly, with a very hurried resolution to problems that should have taken at least a couple more chapters to reach their denouement.  This book comes with a PG-13 rating due to  some steamy romantic scenes.  While they are steamy they are tastefully written.  The epilogue provided an unseen twist that I’m sure will lead to the next book in the series.  This author also writes the Bluebloods vampire series for young adults.

REVIEW: Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (Spoilers present)

Rating: 3/5 Stars
Audience: Older Middle/High School/Adult
Genre: Vampire Fiction/Romance

Summary: In Breaking Dawn, the fourth and final installment in the series, Bella’s story plays out in some unexpected ways. The ongoing conflicts that made this series so compelling–a human girl in love with a vampire, a werewolf in love with a human girl, the generations-long feud between werewolves and vampires–resolve pretty quickly, apparently so that Meyer could focus on Bella’s latest opportunity for self-sacrifice: giving her life for someone she loves even more than Edward.

Lucinda’s Views:  In the last installment in the Twilight Saga, Stephenie Meyer doesn’t fail to deliver.  I really enjoyed re-reading this book after seeing the movie on opening night.  (Side note:  The book and the movie follow closely and the film is well done.)  Having said that, Bella’s new adventures kept me interested as her evolving relationship with Edward takes on some unexpected turns.  The way that the story neatly wraps up the love triangle between Edward, Jacob and Bella is satisfying, and the ending to the book rings true. 

On a deeper level the story ponders some of the ethical questions that plague our society today….”Is terminating a pregnancy morally right?  Which person is more important the mother or the baby, especially when the mother’s life is in danger?” 

On another note, the appearance of the Volturi bring more vampires out of the woodwork, several of whom I would like to see further stories about.  Vampires such as Garrettt, and the reappearance of the Denali vampires for instance.  Another possible story that I would like to see is the relationship between Jacob and Renesmee.  Possible spin offs?  Who knows?  Only Stephenie Meyer.

Just a little trailer from the movie to whet your appetite 🙂

Found this interview with Stephenie done by Nancy Pearl…Interesting!

DUAL REVIEW: Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Mayberry

Tracy’s Rating: 3/5 Stars
Lucinda’s Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Audience: Young Adult/Teen
Genre: Post-apocalyptic Fiction/Horror

Summary: It’s been fourteen years since First Night, when the dead suddenly reanimated and ended civilization as we know it. Now, the living bunker down in isolated communities surrounded by the great “Rot and Ruin.” Benny Inmura, recently turned fifteen, must get a job or have his rations drastically cut. Unfortunately, the only option he can see is to join the family business with his hated older brother, venturing outside the the fences of Mountainside into the Rot and Ruin to act as a bounty hunter and zombie killer.

Tracy’s Thoughts:
I liked it, but I didn’t love it. Rot & Ruin has been one of the “it” books in the YA blogosphere since before its release in September 2010, so perhaps I was expecting too much (again). The concept reminded me quite a bit of The Forest of Hands and Teeth—an unexplained zombie apocalypse and isolated societies that separate themselves from the infected zombies with fences and guards. But Maberry has taken his story in a completely different direction than Carrie Ryan’s horror hit, and his premise is an intriguing one.

Although the message is a bit heavy-handed at times, the exploration of the idea that zombies were once people too and therefore deserve some respect is definitely a bit different. It helps that Maberry’s zombies aren’t horrific monsters stalking their prey, but actually shambling, rather pathetic creatures. Of course, they are still pretty threatening en masse. But the real villains of the novel are the lawless men who roam the Rot and Ruin, torturing the zombies and even humans for sport. Unfortunately, the main villain was a bit one-dimensional. Also, I hated that at one point late in the novel he gave a completely uncharacteristic monologue about his motives. That’s just lazy writing. As high school English teachers are fond of saying, “Show, don’t tell.”

I found the other characters appealing—especially Benny’s brother Tom and the mysterious “Lost Girl”—but not quite fully-fleshed. I could never really connect with any of them, as much as I wanted to. This is especially true of Benny, the primary character and narrator. His motivations were sometimes baffling, especially his hatred for his brother and only relative. I would have loved to learn more about Benny and Tom’s history and seen more of how they interacted before they became colleagues.

Like the characters, I found that the action lacked that special something that I was looking for. Even the surprises seemed a bit predictable. And some of the scenes that could have been cinematic nail-biters fell a bit flat. Still, though the prose lacked immediacy and elegance, it’s solid enough. I read the entire book—and it’s a thick one!—without ever losing interest. For all the niggling gripes I have about the book, I never once wanted to but the book aside and move on to something else. (I do that a lot.) I wavered between a 2.5- and 3-star rating for a while, but finally settled on 3 stars for the intriguing world and ingenuity of premise. All the pieces are there, just in need of a bit more polish and a dash of emotion. Also, you sort of have to read Rot & Ruin to fully appreciate book 2 in the series—Dust & Decay—which offers up everything that Rot & Ruin is missing (IMHO).

Lucinda’s Views:
I really enjoyed this book.  Benny’s evolution from a clueless fifteen-year old whose only exposure to the Rot and Ruin is through stories told at the local general store to a person who knows what exists in the great beyond is well developed and believable.  Benny’s journeys both physical and mental are peppered with ethical questions such as “Are the zombie’s truly the undead? Do they have feelings?  What constitutes torture, when something is dead, where to draw the line,  etc?” are all thought provoking.  Tom’s humane treatment of the dead is a stark contrast to the other bounty hunters’, especially Charlie Matthias’s, treatment of the undead.  This contrast serves to push the story along to its inevitable conclusion.   A conclusion that may be very surprising to all.      

REVIEW: Never Knowing by Chevy Stevens

Rating: 3/5 Stars
Audience: Adult
Genre: Psychological Thriller

Summary: Sara Gallagher has always felt that she didn’t fit in with her adoptive family.  She has questions about the parents who gave her up and wants to know more about her medical history for her daughter’s sake. Now that her daughter is six and she’s planning a wedding to a wonderful man, Sara decides it’s time to dig into the past. But when she finally discovers the identity of her birth mother, Sara makes a shocking discovery: Her mother was the only victim to survive a notorious serial killer. And everything she learns indicated that her father was The Campsite Killer. Sara’s mother wants nothing to do with her… but her father is a different story.

Tracy’s Thoughts:
I loved Chevy Stevens’s debut novel Still Missing, and her second novel has many similarities. The action takes place in short, fast-paced chapters, each of which represents a different session between Sara and her therapist. And it is a page-turner without a doubt; I read the entire book in one sitting. The premise is fascinating, and the story emotionally complex. Sara’s doubts about her own emotional reactions and coping mechanisms were realistic and intriguing. The characters and their difficult relationships were equally interesting.

However, for me, Never Knowing lacked the impact of Stevens’s award-winning debut. The last-minute plot twist was predictable and unbelievable, and I also had issues with the therapy session format. The plot device seemed a bit stale the second time around, plus the difference in timeline (most of this novel takes place in almost-real time, while most of the events in Still Missing occurred long before Annie’s therapy sessions) occasionally makes the break-up of sessions awkward and unrealistic. So, yes, I was disappointed in Stevens’s sophomore effort. Still, it was a compelling read and I definitely plan to pick up her next novel.

REVIEW: Falling for Hamlet by Michelle Ray

Rating: 3/5 Stars
Audience: Young Adult/Teen
Genres: Realistic Fiction (Sort of)

Summary: You know the story already. Or, at least you think you do. The King of Denmark has died, and now his widow is marrying the King’s smarmy brother Claudius. Hamlet, the Prince, is seeing ghosts and thinks that his father was murdered. He’s acting like he’s lost his mind—and maybe he has. Determined to get revenge against his father’s murderer, he hatches a number of plans but he’s but is paralyzed by his own inaction. Everybody dies. In this contemporary retelling, we see the story from the point of view of a teenage Ophelia. And this time she doesn’t die. In fact, the entire story is told in retrospect, including transcripts from the formal investigation and from a reality show interview.

Tracy’s Thoughts:
This is a very clever retelling of Shakespeare’s famous play, from the P.O.V. of a character who was actually conspicuously absent through most of the original play. The plot line is pure drama—love, hate, betrayal, scandal, death, etc.—and compulsively readable. Even with all the drama, the volatile relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia is the heart of the novel. But I’d hesitate categorize the book as a romance despite the girly cover. The core relationship is borderline abusive even before all the craziness starts.

The pace is quick, and there are lots of cleverly worked-in allusions to Shakespeare’s greatest lines. (Although some, like the “To be or not to be” soliloquy are disappointingly awkward when modernized.) Many of the characters gain added depth as well. The updated version of Shakespeare’s Polonius, Ophelia’s proverb-spouting father and a court diplomat, was particularly well done. And I loved how Ophelia’s ringtone for him was “Papa Don’t Preach.”

All in all, I think Michelle Ray did an excellent job of modernizing the play. The intrusion of reality TV and the paparazzi added a very different—and modern—dimension to the story that made me think of the hubbub surrounding royal families today (Will & Kate, anybody?). Sometimes, though, I found the interruption of the various transcripts (mostly the reality show interview) distracting and pointless. I also wish Ophelia had had a bit more backbone. But, despite my quibbles, Falling for Hamlet was a quick, enjoyable read that I recommend to readers with a taste for scandal and drama.

REVIEWS: Bedwyn Family Series by Mary Balogh, Part I

I’ve been meaning to read this series for a while now, ever since I read (and enjoyed!) A Summer to Remember, the book that first introduced the Bedwyn family to romance readers. In that book, Freyja—the eldest Bedwyn sister—is a headstrong ex-flame who turns up to cause trouble for the hero and heroine. Several of her brothers, most notably the coldly powerful Wulfric Bedwyn, Duke of Bewcastle, also make appearances. In all, there are six Bedywn siblings. 

Book 1: Slightly Married
Rating: 2.5/5 Stars
Audience: Adult
Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Summary: Slightly Married is the story of Aiden—the second eldest sibling—and Eve Morris, a woman whose security is threatened by the untimely death of her brother in battle. Captain Lord Aiden Bedywn takes the tragic news to Eve personally, determined to uphold his promise to Eve’s dying brother to protect her “no matter what.” As it turns out, Eve’s inheritance is contingent on her marrying a gentleman within a year of her father’s death, a deadline that is fast approaching. Otherwise, her smarmy cousin will inherit the unentailed estate and fortune, then toss Eve and her many dependents out on their rumps. So of course Aiden decides the only honorable thing is to marry Eve, then leave to continue his military career and never see her again. Eve reluctantly agrees since she hasn’t heard from her secret fiancé in more than a year and she feels responsible for the well-being of her servants, her spinster aunt, and two young orphans. But when the Duke of Bewcastle discovers his brother’s secret marriage, he insists that Eve be trained as a lady and properly presented to society to avoid damaging the family’s reputation.

Tracy’s Thoughts:
First, I have to make a confession: Generally, I am not a fan of marriage of convenience plots. So that may have interfered in my enjoyment of the story. But the main problem, for me, was the relationship between Aiden and Eve. I like fireworks and lots of banter in my romance reads and I found Slightly Married… lacking. I never really felt that their relationship grew or developed, or if it did, most of it happened off-scene. Their main obstacle was guilt. By the time each realizes that they actually like being married, each worries about what the other would have to give up (Aiden his career or Eve her home and dependents) so that they can be together. And that gets very old very fast.

I was much more interested in Eve’s interactions with Aiden’s pretentious siblings, Wulfric and Freyja. They are both unbelievably arrogant but just the tiniest bit vulnerable… I want to read their stories. Aiden’s more lighthearted brother, Alleyne, was also intriguing. Aiden was a cipher through most of the book. Eve was slightly more interesting, but her habit of taking in the helpless hit me as a bit ridiculous, and a cliché to boot. Really? All of these troubled servants just happen to stumble upon Eve’s country home?

Still, the Bedwyn family dynamics merit further exploration, and Balogh’s writing is solid and her representation of the period is well done. I found the Bedywn family’s aristocratic snobbery to be much more grounded in reality than the easy-going liberalism of many fictional families in historical romance (e.g., Quinn’s Bridgertons). And yet, simply stated, Slightly Married just lacks that special spark to make it memorable.

Book 2: Slightly Wicked
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Audience: Adult
Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Summary: Next we meet Rannulf Bedwyn, who seems to be the rake of the family. He’s off to visit his dying grandmother, who has made him heir to her estate and wants him to marry her dear friend’s granddaughter. Meanwhile, Judith Law is en route to her aunt’s home, where she is to stay as a companion and resident poor relation. After Judith’s stagecoach overturns, Ralf and his trusty steed stumble across the waylaid passengers and he offers to give one of them—Judith—a ride to the nearest inn. Judith decides this is her last chance at adventure before a life of servitude and impetuously introduces herself as Claire Campbell, actress. Ralf also gives a false name, and the two indulge in a brief affair before Judith leaves him in the lurch so that she can face reality. But soon after she arrives at her destination, she discovers that her one-time lover is her cousin’s intended suitor, and Ralf discovers that the experienced actress he bedded was really a virgin. 

Tracy’s Thoughts:
I found this book much more engaging than Slightly Married. Despite the potential tawdriness of Ralf and Judith’s initial meeting, their encounter doesn’t come off as sleazy, and there is real conflict in this story. The main characters are nuanced and likeable, and the evolution of their relationship is believable. What’s more, I actually felt like they belonged together. A few of the secondary characters—notably Ralf and Judith’s grandmothers—are especially well done. Also, we see more a Freyja, who is the heroine of the next book in the series. I hated her (but was interested despite myself) in A Summer to Remember, merely disliked her in Slightly Married, and finally began to warm to her (a bit) in this book. I can’t wait to see how I feel about her in Slightly Scandalous.

Lucinda’s Thoughts:
Having read the whole series concerning the Bedwyn family, you are correct.  Wulfric and Frejya’s stories are the most enjoyable.  Also, Mary Balogh is one of the authors I go to when I need a light, entertaining read.