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Born Wicked

by

Born Wicked takes the reader into 1890s New England, but it is not the New England of our past, instead it is a vastly different world, a world run by the Brotherhood—an oppressive, religious group that lords over everyone and everything. After taking control of New England from the witches, the Brotherhood has forbidden any one to use magic and everyone is required to attend religious services twice a week. They believe women have a “higher purpose,” that is to bear children and be a comfort to their husbands, obedient to the Brotherhood, pure of heart, meek of spirit and chaste of virtue. Women are forbidden to run businesses or study at university. The only choices given to women are to marry or to join the Sisterhood, the powerless female arm of the Brotherhood. The Cahill sisters must navigate their way through this oppressive lifestyle, motherless and constantly in fear of being discovered. Because the Cahill sisters are witches and discovery would mean the end of everything they know and love. I enjoyed Born Wicked. Spotswood has managed to write an original and engaging story in a genre full of copycats and lackluster storylines. She created memorable characters and a fascinating world. She gives us just enough back story to move things forward, but leaves us wanting more. I am extremely curious to learn more about the Brotherhood, how they came to power and why. I also want to know the history of the witches and what caused them to lose power. I am hoping many of these questions will be answered in later books. Cate, Tess and Maura, the three Cahill sisters, are very well-written, dynamic characters. There were many characters in this book who took me by surprise, not fitting the mold I expected them to fit. After reading the book jacket, I expected Finn Belastra, the “completely unsuitable” and “forbidden romance” to be one of those bad boy, brooding young adult characters, but he wasn’t. And I loved him for it. Spotswood throws quite a few curveballs into this story, which is why I found it original and engaging. Things are never quite what you expect. Thank you for that, Ms. Spotswood, thank you.I recommend picking up Born Wicked, especially if you are looking for something new and different. I really enjoyed it and I will be passing it on to my daughters, I think they will like it. I can’t wait for the second book!
Halflings

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After being inexplicably targeted by an evil intent on harming her at any cost, seventeen-year-old Nikki finds herself under the watchful guardianship of three mysterious young men who call themselves Halflings. Sworn to defend her, misfits Mace, Raven, and Vine battle to keep Nikki safe while hiding their deepest secret-and the wings that come with it.A growing attraction between Nikki and two of her protectors presents a whole other danger. While she risks a broken heart, Mace and Raven could lose everything, including their souls. As the mysteries behind the boys' powers, as well as her role in a scientist's dark plan, unfold, Nikki is faced with choices that will affect the future of an entire race of heavenly beings, as well as the precarious equilibrium of the earthly world (summary courtesy publisher via NetGalley).This book left me scratching my head, for a variety of reasons. Not one single question put forth in this book was answered at the end. Usually when a book gives you some type of mystery or question to be explored and answered, even if sequels are planned, the author will give you some answers. I knew about as much when I finished the book as I did when I started it. Too many things were left unexplored and unanswered. Another thing I had a difficult time with was the occasional slip from third person to first person. The first couple of times it happened, I assumed it was because I was reading an ARC and it was simply a mistake. But it kept happening. I finally realized about half way through the book that those occasional slips were actually the characters thinking to themselves. To me, it just looked like an editing mistake. Quotations marks or a simple “she thought” would have fixed that problem. Sometimes, the story line was a bit difficult to follow because time didn’t flow consistently throughout the story. It would jump forward and back in time, leaving me stumped as to what exactly was happening. A lot of this could have been solved with editing. I also found it difficult to connect with any of the characters. The boys and their personalities were built solely on their looks. Every time any of them appeared in the story, the reader heard about “muscles under shirts, muscles flexing, and muscles rippling” or their hair and how it flowed around them. The one character I felt had the most potential to be interesting was never given any other characterization other than a description of what his long, blond hair was doing while he fought, or walked, or ran. Oh, and he liked candy. After about ten chapters, I was beyond tired of hearing the boys being described. I know what they look like, move on! The main character Nikki, was really hard to figure out. Sometimes she seemed confident and put-together, other times she seemed wishy-washy. Other times, she came across as a petulant brat. Burch seemed to put action before characterization, which was disappointing. A little bit of character-building could have gone a long way toward making this a better book. Unfortunately, I had a bigger issue with this book than some unanswered questions, editing issues and lack of character development. Let’s just say that I have read this book before. Only that time, its title was Twilight. Maybe this book should have been called Twilight 2.0—The Angel Version. I thought maybe I was just imagining things, but then I decided to jot down the similarities I found between the two. It was definitely not my imagination. Similarities to Twilight (*may contain spoilers*):•Paranormal boy(s)•Girl that needs protecting•Boy breaks the rules to see the girl.•They are “inexplicably drawn to each other.”•The boys are gorgeous, often referred to as “Greek Gods.”•The boys move with unnatural speed,•One of the boys can “pick up a thought or two.”•Almost a direct quote from Twilight (and one of the most famous): “…there was a tiny part and she wasn’t sure how powerful that part was…”•The boys can drive really fast because their reflexes are better than a humans.•The girl feels “a gaping, empty hole” in her chest after a break-up, clutches her chest to keep the pain in.•The boys have fantastic hearing, can hear things others can’t.•The boys move faster than the eye can see, they even say “You can’t outrun us.”•One of the boys struggles to achieve goodness despite what he is.•Girl loves both boys.Do you see what I mean? I’m sure it’s flattering to Stephenie Meyer that so many authors copy her, but we as readers want to see something new. Halflings is definitely not that something new. I tried to enjoy Halflings, I really did. I tried to ignore the fact that it was really just a blatant rip-off of one of my favorite books. Unfortunately, I couldn’t overlook it. Writing a book that follows a formula (Paranormal Hot Guy + Girl Who Needs Protection = Bestseller) is not entertaining or original. As readers, we’ve been there and done that. We want originality, not a re-worked version of a previous bestseller. Sadly, Burch doesn’t give us that originality. I wish she had.
Waking Hours

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Historic East Salem may not be the sleepy little town it seems. Things are a bit off, especially when it comes to the supernatural. Forensic psychiatrist Dani Harris and former football star Tommy Gunderson form an uneasy alliance in order to solve the tragic murder of a local teenage girl. All of the evidence points to a group of teenagers, a group that doesn’t remember a thing about the night of the girl’s murder. Dani and Tommy begin to realize that there may be more to the murder than they realize and that perhaps, the evil involved may be more than human.Waking Hours is part mystery and part thriller with a dash of supernatural thrown in. This book successfully pulls the elements of a murder mystery and a supernatural thriller together and weaves a story so compelling and entertaining that I could not put it down. The plot moves at a quick pace, weaving mystery after mystery. It never gives too much away, only hinting at what is to come. The characters are smart and engaging, you really care what happens to them. Perhaps the best part of the characters in Waking Hours is how real they seem. They make mistakes, they doubt themselves, they suffer and they love. The hint of supernatural in the story was perfect, not overwhelming or silly. It was so believable that, at times, I found myself looking around to see if I was alone. There is nothing better than a story that seems so real you think you see shadows around every corner. And Waking Hours is that story. I highly recommend Waking Hours to everyone. It was a perfect read—perfectly scary, perfectly paced and perfectly entertaining. I was excited to discover that this is just the first of a trilogy. I anxiously await the next book!
NOT AVAILABLE
Every Other Day

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It seems just about everyone loves to read stories about the mythological world. But what if the things we consider the preternatural—beyond what is normal or natural—was actually a possibility, a normal way of life? Things like zombies, dragons and hellhounds roam the streets, are studied in school and live in zoos. Some of these creatures are even considered endangered and it’s illegal to kill or hunt them. This is the world Kali D’Angelo lives in, a world where Darwin found more than he ever imagined possible while sailing on the HMS Beagle. But Kali isn’t your everyday normal girl either. Every other day, she is more than human, with an overwhelming instinct to hunt and destroy the preternatural creatures every one else regards as a normal part of life. Kali has no idea why it happens or even what she really is; she just knows what she must do. Then one day, a day when she is just human, Kali sees a mark on a cheerleader, a mark that means she will be dead within hours, thanks to one of those protected preternatural creatures. Kali is not sure she can help, not when she’s normal, but she’ll risk it all to try.At the risk of sounding clichéd, this book grabbed me on page one and took me on a ride I never would have expected. It is an exceedingly well-written, thrill-a-minute novel, full of unexpected surprises, great characters and a fantastically original story. I totally fell for this book and the people in it—Kali, Skylar and her brothers, and even the ice queen, Bethany. And who would have thought I could fall for Zev, even though all I heard was his voice for most of the book? This book gives a twist to all those old stories of kelpies, hellhounds and zombies; it pulls them into the real world and forces us to look at them anew. I for one will never look at zombies quite the same again. I absolutely loved this book and I highly recommend it to everyone. I will be picking up a copy for my girls once it is released. I will also be checking out some of Jennifer Lynn Barnes other novels, because if this one was this awesome, I expect the others must be pretty good, too. And Ms. Barnes, if you happen to read this, could you tell me if there will be a sequel? I would love to read some more about Zev!
Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters

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Kelsey Finkelstein is fourteen and FRUSTRATED. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled – by her impossible parents, her annoying little sister, and life in general. But with her first day of high school coming up, Kelsey is positive that things are going to change. Enlisting the help of her three best friends — sweet and quiet Em, theatrical Cass, and wild JoJo — Kelsey gets ready to rebrand herself and make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny. Things start out great—her arch-nemesis has moved across the country, giving Kelsey the perfect opportunity to stand out on the soccer team and finally catch the eye of her long-time crush. But soon enough, an evil junior’s thirst for revenge, a mysterious photographer, and a series of other catastrophes make it clear that just because Kelsey has a plan for greatness… it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is in on it (summary courtesy of Goodreads).Kelsey just really wants her first year of high school to be the year; the year she shines on the soccer team, the year her crush finally realizes she’s alive and the year that everything will change for the better. She is determined to make her dreams come true. But first she has to contend with her mom—well-meaning but clueless and constantly embarrassing, a junior who seems to have put Kelsey at the top of her “people I love to hate” list, a newspaper photographer with a knack for taking the wrong picture and the changing dynamics of her long-time group of friends. Maneuvering her way through the first year of high school may be more difficult than Kelsey ever imagined. Once in a while, a book comes along that makes you smile and leaves you with a good feeling deep in your soul. Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters is that book. I fell in love with this book almost immediately. Kelsey Finkelstein is the perfect teenager; she is bitingly sarcastic, funny and absolutely convinced that everything is about her. Zeitlin is able to completely grasp the concept of an awkward teenager making her way in the world and she accurately portrays exactly what a fourteen-year-old high school student is thinking and feeling. Because of Zeitlin’s outstanding writing, the reader can practically hear what Kelsey’s mom refers to as “Typical Adolescent Behavior” coming through the pages. It’s been awhile since a book actually made me laugh out loud, but Freshman Year did just that. I am pretty sure the lady in the car next to me who saw me laughing hysterically while I waited for my son to get out of school thought I had recently escaped the insane asylum. No, that was just me enjoying the heck out of this book! Kelsey Finkelstein just might be my new hero. She spouts some of the best one-liners I’ve ever read. Two of my favorites: “Well, isn’t that the cherry on my sundae” and “Goody gumdrops. Pardon my elbows as I shove to the front of the line for that choice opportunity.” Kelsey is perhaps one of the most dynamic characters I’ve read in a long time in a young adult novel. She actually learns from her mistakes and obviously grows as a person throughout the course of the novel. She’s not stagnant and unchanging; she makes mistakes, figures out what she did wrong and tries to make it better. The dynamic of Kelsey’s group of friends, Em, Cass and JoJo, is also played out very well. Zeitlin manages to show the reader what a real group of girls in high school is like as friends. They argue, they disagree and they sometimes do stupid things to each other, but in the end, the real friendships shine through.Perhaps my favorite thing about this book is that Zeitlin doesn’t pull any punches or try to sugar-coat the high school experience. Guess what? Sometimes crappy things happen to good people who have the best intentions. Sometimes things work out for the best and sometimes they don’t. Life isn’t an episode of iCarly or Victorious, it’s not always fixed in half an hour. Zeitlin gives the reader a chance to see what life is like for a real girl who is dealing with real problems, and she does it in such a way that we as readers actually forget we are reading the story of a fictional character. Kelsey Finkelstein connects with the reader on a personal level, especially with the teenage girl who doesn’t think anything ever goes right in her life. Reading this book will not only make that teenage girl laugh, but it will give her someone she can relate to as well. I found Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters to be a fun, quirky and entertaining read. It was extremely funny, yet poignantly realistic. There is some mild language, teen drinking (which, coincidentally never ends well) and minor sexual content (kissing mostly). I recommend this book for ages 14 and up. I do have one question, though. Where has Meredith Zeitlin been hiding and when can we expect more from her?
Variant

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Benson Fisher has nothing in his life—no family, no friends, no ties to anything. So when he receives a scholarship to Maxfield Academy, it seems too good to be true. And it is. Now he’s trapped in a school that there is no escape from. There are no adults, breaking rules could mean death and the students survive by aligning themselves with the most powerful group. When Benson discovers the real secret that the school is hiding, he has to decide if following the rules is going to keep him alive or if escaping is his only option. Variant is a fast-paced, roller coaster ride of a book. It literally grabs you from page one and never lets go. Wells knows how to pace a book perfectly, keeping the reader interested while still developing character and plot. The story is also original, which is always a nice change from the standard young adult fare. Variant will also appeal to both male and female readers, something that is often lacking in the young adult genre; rarely does one find a book that both will enjoy. Variant is that book. On a more personal note, HOLY CRAP was this a good book! It was entertaining, chilling and just flat out good. I love a book that keeps me guessing. Every time I thought I had it figured out, it took another twist I just wasn’t expecting. I enjoyed everything about this book: great characters, well-thought-out plot, fantastic writing. The only thing I disliked was the last sentence in the book—which upon further thought, I won’t give away. Read it for yourself, you’ll see.This was a great book, I will be recommending it to my girls and my librarian friends, and quite frankly, anyone else I can think of.
Dark Eden

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Will Besting suffers from phobia, a phobia so crippling that his parents and doctor feel they must send him away to be cured. So Will joins six other teenagers in the mysterious Fort Eden where they will all face their fears, led by the mysterious Rainsford. Facing their fears will embolden the teens in ways they never imagined, but what will it cost them?Patrick Carman deftly weaves an interesting tale, combining current social issues with a subject usually found in paranormal stories. There is no lack of intrigue in this story, it keeps you constantly guessing at the motivations of all the characters; you never know who can be trusted. Dark Eden also shows a side of phobias that is not always explored—the fact that those phobias can strike even the young. Carman keeps the reader guessing right up until the end, pushing the reader to solve the mystery themselves.While I found Dark Eden to be an interesting read, it was not an appealing story to me. I am sure this is in no way a reflection on Carman, but rather on my particular tastes. I also figured out a couple of things early on, leaving no mystery for me to solve. That kind of took the excitement out of the ending for me. While Dark Eden is a good book, it just wasn’t the book for me.
Eve

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The year is 2032 and it has been more than a decade since a deadly plague killed most of the Earth’s population. The world is no longer what it was; cities are deserted, significant landmarks no longer exist and the people are ruled by the King of New America. Eve spends her days at the School, awaiting her graduation, when she will move on to a new life. But Eve discovers life after graduation is not what she thinks it will be and she must flee before the horror becomes reality. Now she is alone and wandering, trying to find refuge where ever she can. She eventually meets Caleb, who seems willing to help her. But a lifetime of being taught to fear males is hard to overcome and trusting Caleb is even harder. As more and more of the world is revealed to Eve, she is forced to face the truth about the world she inhabits. Eve is a well-written thriller, pulling the reader into a world in turmoil, a world that is vastly different from the one we live in. Girls are taught that men are their natural enemy and they are not to be trusted. Food is scarce, wild dogs and packs of gangs roam the woods beyond the School. Life is dismal at best and the girls in Eve’s world only have the prospect of graduation and eventually a life in the City of Sand to look forward to. The fears and discomfort of the characters in Eve are portrayed very well; their angst and fear is evident in all they do. This is a testament to Carey’s writing. As Eve sat in fear, her heart pounding and her palms sweating, I too felt the fear and horror she was experiencing. Carey also gives the reader a fascinating look at a world turned upside down and unrecognizable. Yet with her vividly descriptive writing, she lets the reader see the modern world under the layers of dirt and grime that now cover the Earth. Eve is a great addition to the popular dystopian-future young adult novels currently being written. While it is not at the same level as Divergent by Veronica Roth or Matched by Ally Condie, it definitely holds it own in the genre. Eve is worth reading, especially if you are a fan of dystopian novels.
New Girl

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New Girl is a contemporary young-adult novel inspired by the classic 1938 romantic suspense bestseller, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.They call her “New Girl”… Ever since she arrived at the exclusive, prestigious Manderly Academy that is what she is called. The new girl, unknown, but not unnoticed, because of her, Becca Normandy. Her picture is everywhere. Her name is on everyone’s lips. “New Girl” doesn’t compare. And the only reason she is at Manderly is because Becca is missing and a spot opened up. Everyone treats her like it is her fault. Everyone that is except Max Holloway. But everyone thinks of him as Becca’s boyfriend, only she is gone and the new girl is there, replacing her. Except it isn’t that easy. Becca’s life must have been so much better, if you believe what everyone tells you. And maybe she is still out there, waiting to take it back (Summary adapted from the summary provided by Harlequin Teen via NetGalley).New Girl is narrated by a young lady, who has recently been given admission to a prestigious boarding school, Manderly, in New Hampshire. After she arrives, she discovers that the only reason she is there is because another student, Becca, has gone missing. Now she must fight against the assumption that she is trying to replace Becca, in every way imaginable. The reader does not find out the narrator’s name until the very end of the book, so don’t think you just missed it along the way (like I did at first--*grin*). New Girl is probably the least enjoyable novel I have read this year. Granted, it’s early in the year, but I have read approximately ten books and this is at the top of my “I didn’t like this” list. There were several times as I read that I literally felt my mouth hanging open because I couldn’t believe that this was happening in a novel intended for the young adult audience (which we all know includes teens). Because of the nature of my job and having teenagers myself, I do read novels with an eye toward the appropriateness for tweens and teens (after all, the blog is called Mom Reads My Books). This one should NOT be read by anyone under the age of 16 and then your teen better be relatively mature. I am a pretty easy-going mom, I don’t usually censor what my girls read, but I am very hesitant to let my girls read this book. Harbison glorified drinking, drugs and sex throughout the entire book. The most popular girl at school turned out to be the one who slept around the most and got everyone to start partying. If Harbison is going to continue to write for young adults, she needs to keep her audience in mind. Or start marketing her books to adults. While the premise of the story is great, the execution is poorly done. It is very unrealistic. No parent in their right mind would ship their straight-A, college-bound, well-behaved daughter off to boarding school during her senior year, especially based on the fact that she last expressed interest in attending it when she was in junior high. Teachers and parents are not as oblivious as New Girl makes them seem, or as infrequently seen as Harbison would have her readers believe. Harbison also expects the intelligent reader to believe that an entire school full of people will suddenly become hard-core partiers, despite the insinuation that most, if not all, of the students were pretty tame prior to Becca arriving at school. There was only a cursory mention of classes and school work. This was a boarding school that seemed to forget the “school” part. Really, it seemed as if the only thing any of the students at Manderly Academy did was party. And party some more. Basically, I found the entire premise of the story difficult to believe. There is not one character in this book that has any redeeming qualities. The majority of the girls in the book were vapid, horrid girls who lived to be snotty and rude. The worst character by far was the missing girl, Becca. She was mean, emotionally stunted and selfish. And those may have been her best qualities. The young men were no better; their main goal in life seemed to be to have sex. I didn’t have an ounce of sympathy for anyone in this book except for maybe the main character. Who wants to read a book in which you are unable to relate to any of the characters?Reading New Girl was like watching a really bad episode of Gossip Girl or something similar. Every clichéd bad thing teenagers have ever done—or may ever do—was in this book: sex, drugs, drinking, lying, swearing and general overall rule breaking. You name it; the teens in this book did it. I felt like I was driving past a horrific train wreck and I couldn’t look away. And just a minor point, but I really felt like the main character’s name reveal was very anti-climatic. After devoting so much time to reading this entire book that I really didn’t enjoy, I was hopeful that the main character’s name would be some eye-opening, light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel moment that would make the book worth reading. It wasn’t. I actually had to go back and re-read it to make sure I hadn’t missed something, because I really thought it would have some deeper meaning to tie in with the story. Ummm, yeah, so not the case; it’s just a common, everyday name. I will not be recommending New Girl to anyone. It is filled with gratuitous sex, extremely bad language, and even a rape. It disturbed me and I am a grown woman who has practically seen it all. I don’t feel that this book is appropriate for any one under the age of 17 or 18.
NOT AVAILABLE
Cross My Heart

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Cross My Heart is set against the backdrop of beautiful Venice, Italy. But that beauty is not always what it seems. Mystery, intrigue and even murder abound in a city with more secrets than one can imagine. Those secrets are collected by the Segrata, a group of society women that may be more powerful than the men who run their city. Somehow, Laura della Scala has found herself entwined with these women and she is unsure if that is a good thing…or the worst mistake of her young life.I must admit, I am a sucker for historical fiction. The beauty and pageantry of the 1500s to the 1700s fascinates me. The fact that this book is set in 1585 was an immediate draw for me. Another draw: it is set in the one country in the world I am dying to visit—Italy. So, Cross My Heart had a lot of expectations to live up to right off the bat. Luckily, it did not disappoint. It gives the reader a strong plot and great characters. It has a good, strong plot—after spending six years in a convent, Laura is suddenly summoned home after the death of her sister. Sadly, the death of her sister is not the only difficulty Laura must overcome. Cross My Heart also has some wonderful characters, ones I came to really like and care about. Laura is a wonderful heroine, searching for who she really is and finding her way in a world that is completely foreign to her. Despite the time period the book is set in, Laura is a strong female character with a mind of her own. And my new book crush has to be Giacomo. Granted, I do tend to melt when it comes to those Italian boys (after all, I married one), but Giacomo stole my heart. He is so sweet and sensitive, I just adored him. Perhaps the best part of this story was the mystery of Beatrice’s death and the Segrata. I cannot really say too much about it as I could give away integral parts of the story, but suffice to say that this book will keep you guessing. I swear every time I thought I had it all figured out, I turned out to be completely wrong. And I mean completely wrong. That is part of what makes this book so good. I don’t want to read a book that I figure out early on, I want it to keep me guessing right up until the end. Cross My Heart did just that.Finally, I absolutely loved the fact that Cross My Heart is a stand-alone book. It is not “Book 1” or “Part 1.” I actually liked that, because I am getting a little weary reading books that leave me hanging. Being able to sit down and read a book from beginning to end and not have to wait another year for any kind of resolution was wonderful! That is not to say that I wouldn’t enjoy reading more from Ms. Gould or reading more about Laura della Scala or the Segrata, I just enjoyed reading a book that had an actual end.All in all, Cross My Heart is a great read. It is filled with mystery, intrigue and beauty. I really enjoyed it and I will be recommending to my librarian and teacher friends, as well as my daughters.
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