Thursday, July 14, 2011

Haunting Violet

Author: Alyxandra Harvey
Pages: 344,
Published: June 2011, Walker Books for Young Readers
Genre: Paranormal/Historical fiction/Mystery
Cover Score: A
Overall Grade:

As the daughter of a scam-artist "medium", Violet Willoughby naturally doesn't believe in ghosts. But when she is forced to accompany her mother to the wealthy Lord Jasper's country estate to conduct seances, she is forced to reconsider her views on the spiritualist world. There, Violet encounters a frightening vision she can't ignore: the ghost of a young girl, seeking justice from beyond. Thrust into the center of an unsolved murder admidst the highest echelon of Victorian society, Violet must discover the mystery behind this girl's violent death before her twin sister suffers the same fate. The only person Violet can trust with her secret is her mother's assistant Colin...but will she be able to accept her new talent and prevent another murder without risking her own chances for a future with the one she truly loves?

My thoughts: I had a tough time getting into the first few chapters of Haunting Violet, but once I had reached the tenth page or so, this haunting, beautifully written, fast-paced, and easy to understand romance/Victorian mystery/paranormal delight flew by.
I fell in love with Ms. Harvey's Drake Chronicles, so I was thrilled when I heard that she was writing a new book that went in a different direction. All in all, I was pleased with Haunting Violet--equal parts high-class Victorian-era glamour, swoon-worthy romance, and murder mystery, one thing made itself very clear throughout the novel: Ms. Harvey did her research! Each detail that made the book so lifelike and clear was perfectly on-key with the time period: the clothes, the mannerisms, the dialogue, the descriptions of the country manor and gardens.
Although the plot was pretty much that of your average paranormal novel, these details and the Victorian English setting took the book to another level. The plot moved quickly and fluidly, and I loved the realistic relationship between Colin and Violet (you could just feel the social tension), the mystery and glamour of the seances, the strained relationship between Violet and her fraudulent mother, and the chilling murder that Violet had to solve before time ran out.
Interesting, unique, and beautifully, realistically written, Haunting Violet will please both avid paranormal readers and fans of historical fiction.

Must-Read! Check it Out! Don't Bother

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Monthly Mailbox: June

June was a pretty quiet month for actual blogging (ahem, school finals and vacation/blogging hiatus). However, my mailbox was full when I got home from a trip to Spain!

Just for fun:
  • The Lovely Shoes by Susan Shreve
  • Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt (And Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell) by Crickett Rumley
  • The Magnolia League by Katie Crouch
  • Haunting Violet (for a Bloomsbury book tour) by Alyxandra Harvey (thank you to Kate Lied)
  • To Catch a Prince by Gillian McKnight
  • Sirenz by Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman
When I came home from Spain, I found this box of books waiting for me from Random House!:

  • Sons of Liberty: Death and Taxes by Alexander & Joseph Lagos
  • Amen, L.A. by Cherie Bennett & Jeff Gottesfeld
  • Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore
  • Starstruck by Cyn Balog
  • The Other Countess by Eve Edwards
  • The Summer I Learned to Fly by Dana Reinhardt
  • Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris
  • Wildcat Fireflies by Amber Kizer
  • Sass & Serendipity by Jennifer Ziegler
These are going to be so much fun to read, I've got a lot of reviewing ahead of me! :)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Save the Date

Author: Tamara Summers
Pages: 314
Published: HarperTeen, 2008
Genre: Romance/Comedy
Cover Score: D
Overall Grade: A

17 year old Jakarta (aka Jack) is sick of being a bridesmaid. With two out of five older sisters already married, she's had her fair share of Bridezilla catfights, lacy gowns, pre-nuptial stress, flowery wedding showers, and drama. Not to mention her "wedding curse"--every time she brings a boyfriend to a wedding, it ends the relationship and disaster ensues. However, two of her older sisters are planning summer weddings, which means that Jack is back to making place settings and sampling cake flavors. However, the drama of the weddings might be bearable, what with the company of the wedding planner's attractive son, Leo...Will he be able to break her curse?

My thoughts: I took this book on vacation with me, and was expecting a light, breezy beach read. However, Save the Date blew past my expectations. Don't let the cheesy book cover fool you: Save the Date is a hilarious, honest, and quick summertime read that is not all whirlwind romance and fluff.
The best thing about this novel, to me, was Jack's narration. She was frank and funny, and completely unlike the stereotypical protagonist of a romance novel. She was sarcastic and often ridiculed her sister's following of cheesy traditions, much to their disapproval. I loved the relationship between the sisters: the drama with flower-child Victoria and crazy, artistic Paris planning their own, very different weddings added comic relief. I often found myself laughing out loud at their antics! I also liked the romance between Jack and Leo, as it didn't consume the whole storyline. The book was also about family and sisterhood, not just romance.
As well, the "wedding curse" was a unique addition to the storyline. It was interesting to see Jack trying to push aside her feelings for Leo in order to save her sister's weddings.
Overall, if you're looking for a funny, light, and well-written book that you'll get sucked in to, definitely check out Save the Date. Will the weddings be disastrous? Or is the Wedding Curse over?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What Would Audrey Do?

Title: What Would Audrey Do? Timeless Lessons for Living with Grace and Style
Pamela Keogh
Pages: 253
Published: Gotham Books, 2008
Genre: How-to/Etiquette/Biography
Cover Score: A
Overall Grade: B+

Audrey Hepburn was more than a movie star--she was mother, humanitarian, Holocaust survivor, and the epitome of class, grace, and style. Whether in fashion, relationships, her work on the screen, or UNICEF, there is no one more worthy of imitation. What Would Audrey Do? presents readers with the necessary tips and mannerisms needed to become a woman of grace and style, just like Audrey herself.

My thoughts:
What Would Audrey Do? is more than an etiquette book based off of the mannerisms of an iconic, timeless cinema star. It is chock-full of interesting facts about Audrey herself, a style guide, and a biographical account that explores the most private aspects of the star's life.
The book is carefully sectioned into chapters that dole out advice in a graceful, endearing manner that Audrey herself would be proud of: "Audrey as a Movie Star", "Romance Central", "Zen Audrey", "Home Studies", "On the Road", "'A Very Stylish Girl...'", "Heartbreak and Solace", "Modern Times", "St. Audrey", and "Legend".
What Would Audrey Do? is a book that you want to snuggle up with on a rainy day, a book that you want to drink tea and eat bonbons with while reading it in a rose garden. It reads quickly, and not like an etiquette book at all, which most often simply lay out rules in a commanding manner.
Ms. Keogh delicately displays the "dos and donts" of a lady in an old-fashioned and quirky manner, while supplementing her facts with tidbits and Audrey history, stories that are both amusing, hilarious, heartbreaking, and relatable. This guide to living life with grace and character is a delightful and charming presentation of Audrey's life, as well.
Ms. Keogh's admiring and spunky account of this iconic star's life verifies that Audrey goes beyond what we believe to be a "celebrity". A true role model, What Would Audrey Do? justifies how much of a role model Ms. Hepburn truly was--and still is.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Sartorialist

Author: Scott Schuman
Pages: 507
Published: Penguin, 2009
Genre: Nonfiction/Fashion photography
Overall Grade: A

Scott Schuman just wanted to take pictures of people on the street who looked great. His now renowned fashion blog, The Sartorialist, was an attempt to showcase the wonderful and varied style of real people--not only those of the fashion industry. This book is an anthology of Scott's favorite shots from around the world, including well-known fashion figures, as well as shots of anonymous passersby whose outfits are created with comendable imagination and taste. From the streets of Rio to Beijing, Stockholm to Milan, these are the people that have inspired Scott and in turn, inspired designers and people of all ages, wage and nationalities with an interest in fashion.

My thoughts: The Sartorialist is a book that I want to keep around--sitting on my
dresser as a source of inspiration when I'm getting dressed in the morning, resting on my coffee table when I want a dash of beauty in my day, in my hand as I commute home from school. A collection of beautiful, glossy, color shots, this book truly satisfies the fashion junkie within me.
One of the best things about this anthology is that it is light on words and heavy on images--showing, and not telling, about the extraordinary and unusual job of Mr. Schuman, and the people he meets and encounters on a daily basis, picking them out of a crowd.
I spent a whole afternoon combing through the book and taking notes on my favorite outfits. The book is small (ideal for travel!), but packed full of funny anecdotes, memorable faces, and unique looks that make me want to paw through my closet and put together my own polished outfits.
Mr. Schuman is beyond a "fashion photographer"--he is a portrait artist,
capturing the personality and inner essence of every person he photographs. The way he photographs clothes gives readers tiny glimpses into the private lives of his subjects--the holes in the shoes of the tiny woman on one of the glossy, minimalistic pages hints at a difficult life, but her brightly colored bag is a spark of hope.
Some of the outfits are good enough to be replicated, some are quirky and bizarre, and yet others are stunning takes on "fashion" that you want to hang on your walls.
I will definitely continue reading The Sartorialist blog daily, and this chunky book of style makes a great gift for a fashion or photography-crazy friend.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Monthly Mailbox: May

My take on the Story Siren's In My Mailbox!
Thank you to Random House Children's Books!

  • I So Don't Do Famous by Barrie Summy
  • Things I Know About Love by Kate le Vann
  • Passion by Lauren Kate
  • The Lucky Kind by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
  • Tighter by Adele Griffin
  • Kiss of Death by Lauren Henderson

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The A Circuit

Authors: Georgina Bloomberg & Catherine Hapka
Pages: 272
Published: Bloomsbury, 2011
Genre: Realistic fiction
Cover Score: B
Overall Grade: A-

On the A-circuit, talented teenage equestrians travel the country competing at top levels of horse showing, in the hopes of winning prestige and glory. At Pelham Lane Stables outside of New York City, the teen riders are some of the best competing on the circuit. Tommi, a billionaire heiress, and Kate, a working student are serious about their riding. So when party girl Zara Trask, daughter of a famous rock star, shows up at Pelham Lane in a wake of drama and attitude from LA, she is not welcome. Then there's Fitz, the barn's resident Casanova, who just wants Kate to give him a chance. But for these girls, who all want to prove themselves, the real challenge will be when the drama from the real world spills into the show ring!

My thoughts: As an equestrian who competes on the A-circuit herself, I was pleasantly surprised and satisfied by Ms. Bloomberg's debut in young adult fiction. The author's account of the elite level of horseback riding is accurate (although a bit more melodramatic), and she doesn't try to gloss over the less-glamorous aspects of the sport, giving the reader a good understanding of all of the work, sweat, and tears that are part of the horse world.
All three main characters were well-developed and had a good background story: party animal Zara is sick of living under her famous father's shadow, working-girl Kate is trying to make a name for herself despite her self-doubt, and Tommi wants to prove that she is more than her father's money. It was interesting to see how each girl struggled with her personal problems, attempting to solve them, as the plot progressed. The book itself was fast-paced, and I whipped through the chapters, eagerly seeing what was next.
For girls who love horses and enjoy books like Gossip Girl, The A-Circuit is perfect. While I was expecting a Clique-like novel filled chock-full with mean girls, catfights, and tension, I was pleasantly surprised by how I could relate to all 3 of the girls, and the bonds between them and their teammates, their horses. There was still a level of privilege and social drama, but it only made the plot more interesting and juicier
However, I was expecting more action from the novel, and was a bit disappointed by the abrupt ending (I felt that it needed more closure). Nevertheless, Ms. Bloomberg has the makings of a great series on her hands--she has set up conflicts and left me with questions that I am excited to see answered in future books. All in all, I can't wait for more fast-paced action, suspense, and romance.