Friday, October 24, 2014

Review | Ain't She Sweet by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Title: Ain't She Sweet?
Author: Susan Elizabeth Phillips {website}
Publication Date: February 2004
Publisher: Piatkus Books
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Ain't She Sweet?
Not exactly . . .The girl everybody loves to hate has returned to the town she'd sworn to leave behind forever. As the rich, spoiled princess of Parrish, Mississippi, Sugar Beth Carey had broken hearts, ruined friendships, and destroyed reputations. But fifteen years have passed, and life has taught Sugar Beth its toughest lessons. Now she's come home -- broke, desperate, and too proud to show it.

The people of Parrish don't believe in forgive and forget. When the Seawillows, Sugar Beth's former girlfriends, get the chance to turn the tables on her, they don't hesitate. And Winnie Davis, Sugar Beth's most bitter enemy, intends to humiliate her in the worst possible way.

Then there's Colin Byrne. . . . Fifteen years earlier, Sugar Beth had tried to ruin his career. Now he's rich, powerful, and the owner of her old home. Even worse, this modern-day dark prince is planning exactly the sort of revenge best designed to bring a beautiful princess to her knees.

But none of them have reckoned on the unexpected strength of a woman who's learned survival the hard way.

While Sugar Beth's battered heart struggles to overcome old mistakes, Colin must choose between payback and love. Does the baddest girl in town deserve a second chance, or are some things beyond forgiving?

Ain't She Sweet? is a story of courage and redemption. . . of friendship and laughter. . . of love and the possibility of happily-ever-after.

I won't lie to you: there were points where this book was downright painful to read. Sugar Beth Carey was the girl in high school that the boys wanted to date and the girls wanted to be. Unfortunately, more often than not, teenage Sugar Beth used her power for evil instead of good...a decision that comes back to haunt her. 

Sugar Beth herself is a fascinating character. I didn't want to like her, but it was dang near impossible not to fall in love with the fiery, spirited, and secretly soft woman that made up the legend of Sugar Beth Carey in the small town of Parrish. Even before I knew her motives before returning home, I felt for the woman who had to face the mess the girl had created. Her defensive posture of sarcasm and flirtation made me laugh even when I cringed, but as the story grew, so did her character. 

It isn't often that the male romantic hero has the same kind of character transformation as his counterpart, but Colin Bryne was equally fascinating. True, he didn't have the same drama and pride that Sugar Beth carried with her, but he had a full history, a past that forced his character to evolve from Sugar Beth's memories to the man she warred with over the driveway. I enjoyed his depth, his emotions, and most of all, his struggles against the hurt Sugar Beth caused his twenty-two year old self and the gallant man who dreamed of rescuing her. 

Phillips' writing catches me every time: it's impossible to not sink into her stories, to feel the emotions of every character, even the minor ones. The minor characters themselves felt fully fleshed out; I felt I knew Jewel, the Seawillows, and the men who howled in the night under Sugar Beth's window. Each was personal, memorable, which is quite a feat considering what else was going on in the story at the time.

Most of all, Ain't She Sweet made me feel. It was a roller coaster ride, one I didn't want to put down (even while I cooked dinner). Sugar Beth's story grabbed me by the heart and I couldn't help but go along for the ride. 


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review | Pivot Point by Kasie West

Title: Pivot Point
Author: Kasie West {website
Publication Date: February 2013
Publisher: Harper Teen
Series: Pivot Point {Book 1}
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Knowing the outcome doesn’t always make a choice easier . . .

Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.

In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through . . . and who she can’t live without.

When West's Pivot Point was published, I heard the masses scream out with joy, and I'll admit, I was apprehensive. I get a little nervous when a book gets so popular, but I wanted to read Pivot Point. I finally picked it up at the library last week.

Addie is a good heroine. Her own insecurities among the world of the Paranormal let me identify with her quickly, and my heart went out to her as soon as she learns about her parents' divorce. I loved how the story focused on her as a person instead of identifying her looks; West let her heroine be described naturally in the flow of the story, which I loved. There was a simple kind of magic in Addie's character - the good girl that everyone wanted to cheer for.

It's in the plot of the story where West's skill really came to light. I loved the twists and turns of  the dual narration, the side-by-side plot events - each shown in a different light - and the two romances. Addie's ability to see which path to choose is one I envy, but after living in her shoes for a while, I understand her frustration. The ability to see what might happen is enough to drive me insane, even in a book, but in a good way. In the middle of Addie's story, I couldn't get enough. 

However, it took me quite a bit to figure out what was going on the with dual narratives in the story. Initially, I thought my bookmark had fallen out and I had missed a huge chunk of the story. Once I picked up on West's little hints about the chapter, I could follow along, but it took me a while.

Overall, it took me a while to become invested in Addie's story. I liked her enough, but there wasn't that magical pull until later in the story, once all the plot events began to come to a climax. 


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Canon's Favorite Villains

I'll admit it: I love the characters we're supposed to hate. Without them, how does the underdog achieve, the princess win her crown, and the battle begin? Let's face it: villains make the story! With Halloween right around the corner, I couldn't wait any longer to talk to you about my favorite evil literary characters. 

Dracula from Bram Stoker's Dracula
Before I read Stoker's Dracula, I kind of blew it off. It can't be that was written in the 1800s, for heaven's sake. 

Then I took Supernatural Lit. 

Stoker's villain is a mixture of bloodthirsty, seductive, and terrifying, wrapped up in a romantically gothic castle in the hills of Transylvania. There's something off about Count Dracula from the first moment, but it's nearly impossible to put your finger on what...then the story explodes. 

Voldemort from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter
He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named epitomized fear in my childhood. The wizard who couldn't die and haunted Harry constantly created a new class of villain in my mind and remains near the top of characters that terrify me. As the series progressed and went deeper into his childhood and background, the events that defined Tom Riddle as Voldemort only intensify his villainy. 

Brutus from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

"Et tu, Brutus?"

Enough said. 

Sauron from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings

A creature that wants to rule everything and will stop at nothing until he does epitomizes an element of fear in itself. The ruthlessness, the lack of compassion that Sauron and his followers exhibit throughout Tolkien's fantasy series still gives me the shivers.

Iago from Shakespeare's Othello

Sorry, I had to add Iago. I can't believe I almost forgot him! Iago's cruelty is all through trickery and misrule - instead of getting his hands dirty himself, he convinces others to do it, then covers his tracks. Iago reminds me of Sauron in many ways: the same lack of compassion and selfishness. 

Professor Moriarty in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock's peer in every way but one: Sherlock, while a bit neurotic and has traits similar to those of a psychopath, is not malicious. Professor Moriarty, however, is.

That ends it! The Canon's favorite villains are the ones I love to return to every time the Halloween decorations go up. Who are your favorites? 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Eight New Series I Want to Read

There is really nothing I love better than a good series (see my obsessions with J.D. Robb, Lauren Willig, and Janet Evanovich), so I can't wait for these new installments and series to come out! 

1. Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
2. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
3. Reawakened by Colleen Houck
4. Miss Mayhem by Rachel Hawkins
5. The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton
6. The Murder Complex by Lindsey Cummings
7. Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
8. The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Have you read any of these series? Which one should I put at the top of my list? 

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Canon's Fall Favorites | 2014

It's finally starting to feel like fall in Northern California. The days are shorter, the mornings are cooler, and the leaves are all colors. It's my favorite season and the perfect time to curl up and read! 

Favorite drink for reading | Starbucks Salted Caramel Mocha and Yogi Kombucha Green Tea

Favorite Snack | Homemade chocolate chip cookies and carrots and hummus (for when I'm feeling healthy)

New TV Show I Can't Wait to See | Gotham

Favorite Website for a Laugh | Literary Starbucks

Series I Can't Wait to Read | The Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig (in progress)

Favorite New Writing Prompts | The SITS Girls

Books on my Fall TBR
Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
Winterspell by Clair Legrand
Festive in Death by J.D. Robb
The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

What are you loving this fall? Let me know and happy autumn! 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Canon Talks | I Want Your Book Recommendations!

I made a trip to the library yesterday morning. My library bag was overflowing with books to return, and the overdue fees were starting to get a little terrifying, so off we went. 

I don't know about you, but I have a routine when I go to the library. I start with the new books, then the Lucky Day shelf (the most requested/popular books) and then I wander the fiction. It was one of those unsuccessful library trips - I didn't find any hidden gems in the shelves or authors that I love. Which brings me to this post...

What are you loving right now? What books are on your radar, that you can't wait to read, or just finished? Do you have this same problem at the library? What do you do when you need some new ideas (I love to ask you!)?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fall Reading Challenge | The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig

Title: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
Author: Lauren Willig
Publication Date: December 2006
Publisher: New American Library
Series: The Pink Carnation {Book 1}
Source & Format: Owned; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Deciding that true romantic heroes are a thing of the past, Eloise Kelly, an intelligent American who always manages to wear her Jimmy Choo suede boots on the day it rains, leaves Harvard's Widener Library bound for England to finish her dissertation on the dashing pair of spies the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian. What she discovers is something the finest historians have missed: a secret history that begins with a letter dated 1803. Eloise has found the secret history of the Pink Carnation the most elusive spy of all time, the spy who single-handedly saved England from Napoleon's invasion.
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, a wildly imaginative and highly adventurous debut, opens with the story of a modern-day heroine but soon becomes a book within a book. Eloise Kelly settles in to read the secret history hoping to unmask the Pink Carnation's identity, but before she can make this discovery, she uncovers a passionate romance within the pages of the secret history that almost threw off the course of world events. How did the Pink Carnation save England? What became of the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian? And will Eloise Kelly find a hero of her own?
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation has been one of my favorite books since high school, but I haven't made the time to reread it in a long time. In the years since I opened Willig's debut novel, I had forgotten the little nuances, magic, and reference that made me fall in love with the story of a modern-day history grad student obsessed with spies and her 19th century counterpart. 
The two heroines of this story really make The Pink Carnation stand above other historical romances. Eloise, the determined, yet slightly clumsy grad student, is hunting down the Pink Carnation, the spy of her dreams. I immediately clicked with Eloise in the first scene as she tumbles into some guy's lap in the Tube. Her romantic nature made her easy to cheer for, and her determination to find the truth about the Pink Carnation gave us all something to search for. 
Her counterpart, Amy, has the same personality, but a different standpoint. Losing her father to the French Revolution gave her a mission - to join the league of the Scarlet Pimpernel - and from childhood, she taught herself disguises, tricks of the trade (so she thought), and dreamed of the day when she could return to France. Amy's naivete and determination mix to create a bright, energetic character who can't wait to live out her childhood dreams.
The romance between Amy and Richard, the Purple Gentian, is adorable, heart-stopping, and simply wonderful. The tensions between the two of them as they dance around each other in Bonaparte's court brought the story to life - I couldn't turn the pages fast enough.
The mystery of who is behind the Pink Carnation I'll leave to you - I don't want to spoil the mystery.