Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith Review

First of all, did anyone else watch Project Runway? Did you pick a favorite designer to root for? I pick Bert.  And before you go accusing me of being a fair-weather fan, I picked him before he won the first challenge. It looks like this season is going to be full of drama and crying and Tim promises a season of “firsts.” I am intrigued. Now, moving on to books. This next book, The Marbury Lens, had been on my TBR list forever. It even made it home with me a few times, only to go back to the library unread. I am not sure where the resistance came from. After all, it received great reviews and awards. It is an ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults 2011 book and it won the Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book of the Year for Fiction 2010. I am embarrassed to say that I had to make myself read this one. I am so glad I did because this is one wild, riveting read.

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith 2010

Sixteen-year-old Jack finds himself in the wrong place, at the wrong time after having too much to drink at a party. He is kidnapped, drugged, and nearly assaulted before he escapes. The only person he tells is his best friend, Connor. Jack just wants to forget the whole thing and he hopes their trip to London will help. Unfortunately a new nightmare begins when a stranger gives Jack an unusual pair of glasses. Through these lenses Jack can see Marbury, a war-torn, desolate land filled with murderous creatures. In Marbury Jack is responsible for the survival of two younger boys. In London Jack is falling in love and Connor is reassuring him that he is not losing his mind. In Marbury he is being hunted. The desire to see things through to the end in Marbury threatens his relationships and his sanity, but the pull is like an addiction. Can Jack free himself from The Marbury Lens before it is too late?

I could not put this book down. Just as Jack was desperate for more of the Marbury story, I too needed to what happened next. The story is so compelling that I found myself willing to believe that Marbury is real and that the events could truly be happening. I wonder if I should have been questioning my own sanity? Underneath the horror is a powerful story of friendship, addiction and trauma and the lengths the mind will go to in order to protect itself.

I loved the relationship between Jack and Connor. I can’t think of any other book that I have read that portrays such a deep and loving friendship between teenaged boys. Sure, they joke around with each other and give each other a hard time, but they trust, understand, and help each other always. It was the one positive thing a dark, brutal world. I also really enjoyed Seth’s story. Saying anymore about him would spoil the story, but I will say his story was interesting and the role he played in Jack’s life was fascinating.

This book is certainly not for everyone. It has both realistic and imaginary horrors, violence, gore, drinking, and a ton of swearing. However, the writing is amazing and the story is unique and thought-provoking. I loved it and find myself still thinking about it, wondering…

The unique blend of realistic fiction and science fiction make it hard to come up with readalikes. Here is what I have decided-horror like Stephen King, gritty reality like Ellen Hopkins or Elizabeth Scott’s Living Dead Girl, and disturbing dystopian society like Suzanne Collin’s Panem.

Happy Reading!


In Which I Try to Write Reviews Instead of Wasting Time Thinking About Project Runway

Seriously. It’s a problem. Another problem that I have right now is a giant list of books that I have read, but have not reviewed. Not a word about them. So, time to stop being lazy and do some writing! 

The Sorcerer of the North, Ranger’s Apprentice #5 by John Flanagan 

Will is now a full-fledged Ranger assigned to the sleepy fief of Sea Cliff. He is not there long before an old friend arrives with a new assignment. There is trouble up North. Lord Syron of Macindaw Castle has fallen ill and people are blaming an evil sorcerer. Will must shed his Ranger cloak and go undercover to discover the source of the trouble.

As I have mentioned before, I love Halt, so I was sad to see that he played only a minor role in this book. It makes sense though, since Will is finally on his own.  The story does not disappoint; it is full of danger, action, and adventure. Once again Flanagan manages to write a morality tale without preaching. This book addresses issues of popularity, appearances, and the dangers of judging others based on appearances. The cliffhanger ending will have readers racing out for the next installment, The Siege of Macindaw. 5 stars!

Desires of the Dead (The Body Finder #2) by Kimberly Derting

Violet can sense the echoes of those who have been murdered. She tries to keep this ability a secret, but when the FBI starts snooping her entire way of life is threatened. Normally she would turn to her best friend Jay, but since they started dating she has found it difficult to confide in him. While her ability is no secret from Jay, the FBI and a stalker are. Keeping secrets can be a dangerous business for Violet.

I was so disappointed with this sequel that I probably will not read anymore in the series. In the first book Violet was such a strong, confident character and her relationship with Jay was sweet. She has a strong support network and she uses it. In this book she is a totally different person and I didn’t like her. She is whiny, insecure, and secretive. I also found myself hating Chelsea, Violet’s best friend. This girl is a bully and everyone is ok with that. Blah. Frustrating, disappointing read.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman, sequel to If I Stay *SPOILERS*

It’s been three years since the accident. Mia is a rising star at Julliard and Adam is an award-winning rock star. Chance brings the couple together again for the first time in years. As they explore New York City they reconnect, reopen old wounds, and come to understand each other better.

I LOVED this book! It is heartbreaking and hopeful, the perfect sequel to If I Stay. The writing is beautiful-raw, powerful, real. Emotions run high because Adam is so damaged, hurt, and desperate for answers. How does the one night for Mia and Adam turn out? I’ll never tell. Read it yourself.

Ok, that’s all I have in me for now. I promise to keep plugging away at these reviews.

Happy Reading!



Top Ten Tuesday-Books That Tackle Tough Issues


It’s Top Ten Tuesday, the day I get to indulge in fun list-making, thanks to the bloggers at The Broke and The Bookish. This week we lucky listmakers will share our favorite books that address tough issues. I apologize in advance for not expounding on my choices, but the bandages on my hand and thumb make typing annoying and frustrating. So, here’s my list:


Shine by Lauren Myracle is a powerful novel about hate crimes against homosexuals, drug addiction, poverty, and sexual assault





The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith is a haunting account of post-traumatic stress syndrome following a kidnapping and attempted rape.




Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers is all about the mean girls. This book is about cliques, bullying, sexual assault and revenge.



The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson is a heartfelt novel about loss and grief. This book goes well with Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler and If I Stay by Gayle Forman




Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu is about mental illness and it’s impact on a family. The illness? Hoarding. If you are interested/intrigued/terrified/horrified by all the hoarding reality-type shows on tv, you won’t want to miss this book.



Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin is a heartbreaking look at mental illness, neglect, and child abuse.




Beauty Queens by Libba Bray is the ultimate issues book, it’s chock full of them! And it’s hilarious.





Monster by Walter Dean Myers examines racism and youth violence.





Flash Burnout by K.L. Madigan looks at sex from a male point of view. Issues of friendship, loss and drug abuse are also addressed.





The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is another book that uses humor to discuss tough issues such as poverty, racism, and alcoholism.



And there you have it, some of my favorite issues books. I am kind of pleased with myself for using books other than Speak, Thirteen Reasons Why, and The Hate List, which are all very amazing issue books too! 

Happy Reading (or should I say, Go grab a tissue?)


Mondays with Megan- Wisdom’s Kiss Review

Hi Everyone and Happy Monday. I am still down a functioning thumb, but I am back at work. Now I have to get busy writing reviews for all the books I managed to read while recuperating. Let’s kick off what will hopefully be a week of reviews with Wisdom’s Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdoch. I received an advanced reader’s copy from

Wisdom’s Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock September 2011

Princess Wisdom, aka Dizzy, longs for adventure and excitement. Her future mother-in-law, the conniving Duchess Wilhelmina, longs to control Dizzy’s home kingdom. Unaware of the duchess’ schemes, a wedding is arranged between Dizzy and the Baron of Farina. Dizzy, accompanied by her grandmother, Ben sets off to join her future husband. Along the way they meet Trudy, a red-haired orphan with the unusual magical gift of sight. Trudy, or Lady Fortitude, reluctantly joins the party as a lady in waiting. It is Trudy’s hope to be reunited with her long-lost love, Tips. Of course, nothing goes according to plan when mistaken identities and treasonous plans are revealed. It quickly becomes obvious that the thing that can save the day is a touch of witchcraft.

This charming and humorous fairy tale-esque offering from the author of Dairy Queen and Princess Ben is full of magic, romance, betrayal, and treachery. There is also an extraordinary cat. While I appreciated all the wordplay, literary references, rich vocabulary, and beautiful fonts and page decorations, I found the eight points of view to be distracting and at times redundant and unnecessary. I enjoyed the happily ever after ending (it’s a fairy tale, happily ever after is expected, not a spoiler) and the glossary of unusual terms provided. Fans of The Princess Bride, fairy tales and  good old comedy of errors with appreciate this story. This is a clean read, suitable for younger readers, but clever and sophisticated enough to entertain older readers.

Pair with The Princess Bride by William Goldman, A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn, or Sorcery and Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede.

Happy Reading!


Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Should Be Required Reading

It’s time for a Top Ten Tuesday list! As always, thank you to the folks at The Broke and the Bookish for hosting. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books that should be required reading for teens. The biggest challenge I had with this list was deciding between classic and contemporary works. A required reading list is a tricky thing. On the one hand, I feel it’s important to read classics. One the other hand, some of them are just so darn boring! A list of classics only will turn a lot of teens off of reading. So, let’s mix it up!

  1. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. Not only is this book fast-paced and suspenseful, it is also packed with thought-provoking issues. Physical perfection comes at a price. In Uglies, people sacrifice their individuality and free-will for physical beauty. In return, the government provides a life of peace, stability, and equal access to resources. It’s a tempting offer, but some are not willing to accept this life.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The world still needs the powerful words of Atticus Finch.




3. Endgame by Nancy Garden. This is a disturbing look inside the mind of the victim of bullying. Gray feels trapped, ignored, and alienated by both his peers and the adults in his life. When he finally snaps and takes matters into his own hands the outcome is devastating.



4. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. This cautionary tale is not just about censorship, it is about what happens when people is society stop questioning and challenging authority. This classic continues to be relevant today.



5. Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John. This moving and entertaining story about a deaf girl managing a high school band is all about rising to a challenge, overcoming obstacles, and coming out the other side with a better understanding of yourself. It is an inspiring, feel-good story and it’s the perfect balance to a lot of the heavy material teens are required to read.


6. Mythology. The lives of the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses were full of violence, treachery, betrayal, sex, love, and debauchery. Talk about a good time! Of course these stories all come with a moral and valuable insight into human nature. Let’s not forget history and language skills that can be learned from myths. They entertain and educate, what’s not to love!

7. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. This book about World War II offers a unique narrator, Death, describing life for civilian Germans. It’s about small defiances having a huge impact and how the power of words can lead people to both good and evil.



8. Lord of the Flies by William Golding. This is a haunting cautionary tale about the corrupting nature of power and egotism.  It begs readers to wonder how they would act in an uncivilized environment.



9. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. This compelling story about sexual assault is sure to be a classic. It explores the trauma and isolation felt by survivors of rape.



10. Shakespeare. The original writer of teen angst! The works of Shakespeare are so ingrained in pop culture, you really need to know his stuff.




And there you have, another Top Ten List. Next week I will have a list of books that tackle tough issues.

Happy Reading!



Mondays with Megan-Post-Op Edition

Hi everyone! It’s Monday and I am reporting from home this week. I had to have hand surgery last week and I am still recuperating (mostly I am struggling to do things one-handed). Let me tell you, thumbs are amazing little appendages and I can’t wait for my left thumb to be functioning again. While I can’t drive or open a jar, I can still read (thank goodness!), so that’s the plan. Finally my book hoarding is going to come in handy; I have a towering stack just waiting to be tackled. I read Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting (disappointing) and The Sorcerer of the North by John Flanagan (awesome) this weekend and will have reviews ready soon. On deck I have:

Notes from the Blender by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin
Nose Down, Eyes Up by Merrill Markoe
The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith
Where She Went by Gayle Forman
Withering Tights by Louise Rennison
Wisdom’s Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (e-galley)
Torment by Kate Lauren
The Magnificent 12:The Call by Michael Grant
Get Well Soon by Julie Halpern
Pop by Gordon Korman
and Mad Love by Suzanne Selfors

That’s 11 books-should keep me busy!

Happy Reading!


Haven by Kristi Cook-Guest Review

 My intern Cassie was kind enough to leave me with a book review to use. How lucky for me, since I won’t be at work today or tomorrow. I haven’t read this myself yet, but here are Cassie’s thoughts about:

Haven by Kristi Cook:

Violet McKenna has never felt she fit in anywhere, and having the ability to see premonitions, especially foreseeing her father’s murder coming true, she wishes she was normal. But when she sees a brochure for Winterhaven Boarding School, she has an unexplainable attachment to it and tells her stepmother she wants to go. Violet soon realizes that Winterhaven is not a normal school, but a haven for kids who have special abilities just like her. When she meets the devastatingly handsome Aiden Gray, there is an electric and mesmerizing attraction to one another. But soon Violet foresees blood and death in Aiden’s future and learns that he is not what he seems. But with this new revelation, Violet learns of her true destiny.

As a person who is a sucker for romance, vampire stories, and tales of lore, I did find this book entertaining. Right away I figured out the mystery that is the oh so charmingly Aiden and was immediately sucked into the story line (no pun intended). If you like to read stories that are filled with action (it is Buffy the Vampire Slayer-ish), mystery, romance, vampires, werewolves, psychic powers, and a strong group of friends, then this book is a tantalizingly and suspenseful good read.

Other read-a-likes you might like: Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, Fallen by Lauren Kate, and Clarity by Kim Harrington

Happy Reading!


Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I Would Love to Meet


As always, thanks to the awesome bloggers at The Broke and The Bookish for hosting Top Ten Tuesday. This week’s topic is authors I would love to meet. The list allows for author both living and dead, but I would like to be optimistic so my list includes only the living-I have a much better chance of actually meeting them! I have already been quite fortunate to meet many YA authors, including Michael Grant (Gone), Scott Westerfeld (Uglies), Carrie Ryan (Forest of Hands and Teeth), Alyson Noël (Immortals), Kami Garcia (Caster Chronicles), Margaret Stohls (Caster Chronicles), Margaret Peterson Haddix (Among the Hidden), Saundra Mitchell (The Vespertine), and Kristina McBride (The Tension of Opposites). Lucky me! Now if only I could meet:

1. Rick Riordan, author of  the beloved Percy Jackson series. Need I say more? It’s Rick Riordan!

2. L.A. Meyer, author of The Bloody Jack series. This man is a bit of a mystery. He seems to live a quite (and very cool) life. He’s an artist, a teacher, and Navy man. He owns an art gallery in Bar Harbor, Maine with his wife. Sounds beautiful and peaceful to me. I’ll bet he would be interesting to hang out with and I suspect he is quite funny!

3. Ally Carter, author of The Gallagher Girls and Heist Society series. This woman knows way to much about espionage and art theft. She must be some sort of evil genius and I would love to meet her. Again, I suspect she also has a wicked sense of humor.

4. Rachel Hawkins, author of Hex Hall and Demonglass. Dream line-up: Rachel Hawkins, Kiersten White, and Rosemary Clement-Moore all talking about writing paranormal romance in the post-Twilight era. These women, in my opinion, have nailed it! (Do you like how I snuck an extra author in there?)

5. Kiersten White, author of Paranormalcy and Supernaturally. I follow Kiersten’s blog and Facebook posts and she is hilarious. I want to be her friend, but I would settle for meeting her and getting an autograph.

6. Lisa Lutz, author of The Spellman’s series. While most of what I read is YA,  I have some favorite adult writers. Lisa Lutz is on the top of that list. Her books are witty, clever, and totally absurd. Love.

7. Alan Bradley, author of the Flavia de Luce series. I am enamored by these charming mysteries starring the precocious 11-year old sleuth, Flavia. I would love to meet her creator, a retired electrical engineer and Sherlock Holmes expert.

8. Sarah Addison Allen, author of Garden Spells, Sugar Queen, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, and The Peach Keeper. I love her books and admire the fact that she has shared a very private aspect of her life with her fans-her battle against breast cancer. I would love to meet this strong, talented woman.

9. Libba Bray, author of the Gemma Doyle series, Going Bovine, and Beauty Queens. Back to YA. Libba Bray kind of writes all over the place-Victorian fantasy, modern retellings of Don Quixote, and her highly satirical account of beauty queens trapped on an island. Where does she come up with this stuff? Inquiring minds want to know. And again, I bet she is hilarious.

10. The number ten spot goes to any number of authors that I would put in the ” It Goes Without Saying” category. You know, Cassandra Clare, J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins…Sure I’d like to meet them, but I feel like they are just too famous. Out of my league. Tee hee.

Well, that’s my list. Looking over it I notice two things. First, it’s mostly women and second, I imagine most of these people to be hilarious. What can I say? These women rock and I love a good laugh!

Happy Reading!


Mondays with Megan:Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore Review

Happy hot hot hot Monday! This is the perfect day to head out to your local library and cool off in the AC and load up on some awesome books. One that you won’t want to miss is Rosemary Clement-Moore’s newest book, Texas Gothic (you won’t find it today, it’s due out tomorrow). I was fortunate to get a sneak peak of this gem.

Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore, 2011

Amy (Amaryllis) Goodnight comes from an unusual family, known throughout Texas for their eccentric ways, uses of  potions, and even psychic abilities. The truth is the Goodnights are witches, a fact that Amy works hard to deny. When she is sent to goat-sit on her aunt’s ranch Amy finds that keeping the family secrets under wraps is hard enough without her science-loving sister Phin involving  them in a ghostbusting adventure. When  a century old skeleton is discovered on the neighboring ranch the Goodnight sisters are drawn into the mystery because of a local ghost story. Amy is drawn to the story of the Mad Monk. Despite her wish to be normal, she cannot deny that her curiosity has gotten the best of her. She also cannot deny that the  young cowboy on the neighboring ranch is incredibly hunky, even if he is a pain in the neck.

Rosemary Clement-Moore does it again! This book has it all: mystery, suspense, menacing ghosts, hunky cowboys, sassy heroines, humor, and troublesome goats. Amy is an awesome heroine-she is smart and responsible, stubborn and nosy. She is no damsel in distress, but much to her dismay, she finds herself needing rescued by the gruff but hunky Ben. Their love-hate relationship is full of sparks and laugh-out-loud bickering. It is certainly noy smooth sailing with these two strong-willed, could-be love birds! The ghosts are spooky without being terrifying, the mystery is intricate without being complex, and the romance is sweet without being sappy or sexy. This feel-good, hilarious, mystery is a must read! It’s smart chick-lit, which makes it a perfect summer read.

Be sure to check out Rosemary Clement-Moore’s Maggie Quinn: Girl vs. Evil series, and her stand alone ghost story, The Splendor Falls. Fans of Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins, and Supernaturally by Kiersten White will not want to miss this one.

Happy Reading!


Series vs Stand Alones

I love a good series. I love getting to know the characters, watching them grow (hopefully) and experience new situations. A favorite series is comforting, like spending time with an old friend. The down side? Waiting for the next installment! It’s only in a series that you find the cruel, cruel cliffhanger ending. Or even worse? Discovering the series doesn’t hold your interest as it progresses. Which is why I totally appreciate a solid standalone. These books are efficient and get the job done without dragging things out. There is something satisfying about closing the cover on an awesome standalone, knowing that the author has said everything that needs to be said. 

The reasoning I bring this up is because I realized recently that I have neglected a few series while at the same time starting some new ones. I can’t have this, especially since some of my neglected series are complete, ready to go, no waiting for the next installment. So, it is time to tie up some loose ends. Since July is the month that gets the final Harry Potter movie, I have decided that this is a good time to dive into the final installments that are on my TBR pile.

Here’s the plan:

 Everlasting by Alyson Noël, the 6th and final book in the Immortals series. After a lot of heartache and blundering, loyal readers will finally learn the fate of Ever’s and Damen’s relationship. I really enjoyed the beginning of the series, but struggled with the middle part. I am pleased that this final chapter is really good.

Deadly Little Games by Laurie Faria Stolarz is the third book in the Touch series. A fourth book, Deadly Little Voices, is due out Fall 2011. This series is full of suspense and mystery, with a touch of the supernatural. The main character Camelia has the power of psychometry, the ability to sense things through touch. I enjoy this unique ability and am looking forward to finding out more about Camelia and her love interest, Ben.

Lord Sunday, by Garth Nix is the 7th and final book in The Keys to the Kingdom series. I have enjoyed this series on audio and have come to love Arthur Penhaligon, the young hero. Full of danger and adventure, memorable characters and epic battles, this series is sure to be a hit with readers going through Harry Potter withdrawal. It’s time I learned Arthur’s fate. *sniff*

Desires of the Dead, by Kimberly Derting is the sequel to The Body Finder. A quick glance at the author’s website did not reveal information about further books in the series, so I will have to just wait and see. This series stars Violet, a teenaged girl who can sense the echoes of murder victims and then match those echoes with the murderer. Pretty terrifying and nifty gift, huh? I found the first book to be a page-turner and loved the sweet friendship/romance between Violet and best friend Jay. I am not sure why I didn’t snatch this right up when it arrived in February, but I am taking it home today.

I think this should keep me busy for the next few weeks. Before I go let me recommend some awesome standalones that I have recently enjoyed:

1. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
2. Forgotten by Cat Patrick
3. Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore (due out July 12, put yourself on hold now!)
4. Shine by Lauren Myracle
5. Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

Happy Reading!