Wine to Water: How One Man Saved Himself While Trying to Save the World - Doc Hendley I'm rating this a 3.5 out of 5 stars because though I had issues with the dialogue and the explanation of the processes that Doc Hendley went through in order to establish Wine to Water as aid organization, it was a very moving and inspirational tale, and definitely the best memoir I've read so far. And considering I avoid memoirs and haven't read many at all, that's saying something.
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac - Gabrielle Zevin Before you read my review you should be forewarned that it is based off an Advanced Reader's Copy and some things may have changed and/or been fixed.

This book definitely had its moments of brilliance. One of the things I enjoyed the most was that it was realistic in the relationships and development of the characters. They were all flawed in their own ways and sometimes they try to make excuses for themselves but not one of them sees giving up on others as the ultimate solution to their problems. What I mean is, that they don't give up on trying to improve the relationship they have with the people in their lives. It's also not one those you-know-everything-will-turn-out-alright type of books. It's unputdownable in the sense that you don't know what's going to happen but you want to know till the point where you could easily finish the novel in one sitting.

The writing was one of the issues I couldn't get past while reading the book because in the beginning it was really bland which sort of correlated with the main character's predicament and main theme of the book but it didn't excuse its distant tone. Also there were hints that the main character, Naomi, was talking to the read in the "I was" portion of the novel as if telling her story about the on-set of her amnesia. However, there was no real mention of it later on in the latter two portions of the book. And in the general middle portion of the book, there was a point where I seriously considered just skimming the rest of the book because the plot was boring me and I wasn't fully immersed in the romantic relationship Naomi and James shared.

Overall, I'd say this was a just a tad bit more than a decent read and ultimately give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Picture the Dead - Adele Griffin, Lisa Brown Starting this book I was leaning towards giving it a 3.5 stars but towards the middle, there was a plot twist that was too sudden between to characters that was probably very predictable to those that have read this book but it was too big of a change that my interest in the rest of the book dwindled. Although I did end up skimming through the latter half of the book, and it was more of an excitement, there was just too much lacking from the first half for me to credit the characters and the book overall with 3 stars. I think it was the main character herself that made me reduce Picture the Dead to two stars, because the whole book seemed a bit self-centered to me. Even though her love for her brother and fiancé were evident and a solid fixture in the book, it was more like the book focused too much on Jennie, her pickpocketing, and her scrapbook. And while that may have been the point I just didn't like that main focal point and ended up giving it 2 stars.
A Clash of Kings  - George R.R. Martin Gah! So long! Only complaints were Theon's character in general were so not a good plot twist. Other than that I'm glad all the Starks are still alive in this book and are relatively safe for the moment. Favorite character in this book was definitely Tyrion because of his conniving and cunning ways. Also got to like Sansa a little better than before but still think she's an idiot. Arya is freaking awesome and is still kicking ass but I hope she finds and reunites with Nymeria soon. Really liked this installment, it was very engrossing like the first and forces to see all the characters stories till the end.
American Gods - Neil Gaiman Just absolutely amazing, a masterpiece of epic proportions. Definitely have to re-read it in the future because there's so much to learn and understand. New gods, old gods, but gods all the same. And then there's Shadow. Yes, I'm in love with Shadow and I hated Laura. Glad she's dead. She didn't realize his full potential and neither did I till I got to know him better. But he's just so...polite and charming and he makes me want to introduce him to more naughty bits. Can't help it.

But seriously, this book just blew my mind. And I loved guessing some of the plot twists, they themselves were uninhibited and imaginative.

Just...absolutely amazing.
Affliction - Laurell K. Hamilton First zombie apocalypse, not a bad plot or bad character development, but I kind of wanted more. And not a bad addition to the collection of U.S. Marshal ass-kicking books. Too much info dump though and a lot of loose ends.
A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin Finally done, and oh boy what an ending...

Oh man, this took forever and a day but it was worth it. I am going to continue with the series, however, I'm taking a break from it before I start A Clash of Kings.

Quick pro and con: Loved the camaraderie in the different groups of men, from Lord Eddard's men to Khal Drogo's to Jon's. Hated the cruelties of war in the Seven Kingdoms and of the khalasars, and obviously the way the women were treated. Though there's no love lost for me towards Lady Catelyn and Cersei; despised for different reasons but despised all the same.

I especially had major problem's with a certain main character's death because it was just stupidly executed but that's my biggest complaint towards the book and does not detract from its merits.
Death and the Girl Next Door (Darklight, #1) - Darynda Jones Characters:
Lorelei is a firecracker as her auburn hair stereotypically suggests. Though in the beginning there was a bogged down version of Lorelei's feistiness because of the anniversary of her parents' disappearance, there's still some of her witty, and sassy self to hook you into the narrative. She does have a tendency to rely on others more when she is in any way hurting or emotionally distraught, but as the story progressed I could see an independence and motivation to discover the secrets behind her abilities and an internal strength that grew in the face of conflict.

Casey and Brooklyn, a.k.a. Glitch and Brooke, are crazy supportive when it comes to their best friend Lorelei and are absolutely amazing BFFs. They go above and beyond to make sure Lorelei is protected as she breaks into new territory concerning her abilities and also help her discover new information about their crazy and unbelievable situation.

Jared is one of the first characters introduced in the book, as being a powerful being who can slay monsters in one of Lorelei's visions. He is portrayed as a "supernova" among other males, making his physical appearance out of this world in good looks. His tall, muscular presence attracts Lorelei magnetically and they seem to share a bond. While I wouldn't say the romance between them started instantaneously, there didn't seem to be much getting to know each other before they couldn't live without the other.

Cameron was initially one of those characters that got under my skin because he fell under one of my bookish pet peeves. He started stalking Lorelei for a reason unknown, then proceeded to pick fights with Jared--though Jared wasn't opposed--and then he would make comments about Lorelei's inability to understand the situation going on around her. The problem I had with Cameron dealt more with the latter. Sometimes, in YA books, there seems to be a character that serves no other purpose in the novel except to antagonize the main character with passive aggressive comments about how they couldn't possibly know what was happening around them, and instead of giving the protagonist a hint of what's going on, they instead think it is more productive to badger them with verbal insults and provocations. It makes my blood boil.

It wasn't until the halfway point of the book that we got to learn any real information concerning these two battling forces that seemed to be at each other's throat with just the drop of a hat. That was yet another question unanswered till further in: Why did Jared and Cameron hate each other so much?

The plot of Death and the Girl Next Door is the biggest issue I have with the book. In the first half there were too many instances where Lorelei was more of an observer than an actual participant in the ensuing chaos. Again, not until the halfway point, was there any real role for her to play besides the grieving orphaned daughter that's dealing with her parents' mysterious disappearance. To not go into too much detail, there were certain parts where Jared and Cameron were bickering and started revealing things about each other just to get the other fired up. These tidbits they were spewing was the only informative way to really get any straight answers about their purpose and underlying motives. Well, something is revealed about Jared and when his role is explained, it was too convenient of a description. It's hard to explain without spoilers but I'll say this much, if all it took was a prayer from a faithful person then I think his job would be way more complex then it is actually portrayed.There was also a lack of cohesion when it came to seamlessly tie in one event to another, it felt like watching choppy jump cuts in a video.

Because of all the explanation about Jared's character and Cameron's stupid brooding self, there's a lot to be desired when it comes to the main character. I would even go so far as to say that the romance is given a prominent role than Lorelei. I just wish there was more sustenance to her character and her desires than just wanting to kiss Jared. While the ending was more than informative and cathartic for Lorelei, it didn't fully let the new discoveries sink in before the book was finished.

The writing is one of the lighter and addictive aspects that kept me reading and engaged. I greatly enjoy the author's writing because the narrative as well as the dialogue have a fluidity that pushes you to read the next chapter when you had originally planned a break two chapters ago. The book's setting is Riley's Switch, New Mexico which feeds my weird craving of wanting to go to a desert or really boiling state as a vacation. I'm not sure if that's something I'll ever pursue but whenever I read books that take place in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, or Nevada, I relate to them more--since I live in Florida--than I would if I read a book with a more seasonal setting.

While the writing is not complex or particularly suspenseful, it does provide enough descriptive technique, active voice, and an overall thrill to attract readers into finishing the novel and wanting to know what's going to happen next.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter - Carson McCullers Finally done with The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and whoa, gotta think this one through a bit more. I love the whole "Have to face the new day" ending, and Biff's POV was the best to end with. But how did McCullers come up with this at 23? In the 1940s with Civil Rights barely beginning to boil? The spiels between Copeland and Jake Blount? Two characters that could not have been more different yet share the same ideology....I need to get my hands on more books like this, that make me contemplate human nature and its restrictions.

Clockwork Princess - Cassandra Clare I give this rating because the majority of the novel did lag a lot for me and I think chunks of the book--mainly the minute details of certain lakes, and forestry and overall description--could have been edited out. I did, however, absolutely adore the last third of the book, and the epilogue was fantastically executed. I just think it could have been more impressionable were it 100-150 pages shorter.
Persuasion - Amy Bloom, Audrey Bilger, Jane Austen Absolutely loved it! I challenge anyone to say any of Austen's novels surpass this one...seriously. Will totally take on any recommendation.
(B/c the only other book I've read by Austen is Pride & Prejudice)

Official Review:

Loved it more than Pride & Prejudice. (Granted, I will probably re-read it since I loved Persuasion so much but overall, I think this one, being her last published novel, was more refined in its writing.)

Anne Elliot is the middle child, sister of Elizabeth and Mary, daughter of Sir Walter Elliot. When Anne was nineteen years old, she was engaged to a sailor known as Frederick Wentworth, who, according to her family and dear friend Lady Russell, was not good enough for her--in wealth or status. Anne, being the timid flower she was at nineteen, was persuaded finally by Lady Russell not to go through with the marriage, utterly devastating Mr. Wentworth. Now, it's almost eight years later, and Anne's family is experiencing some financial trouble and have decided to let their house to an Admiral Croft and his wife, sister of a Captain Wentworth, while Anne and her family are supposed to move to Bath for the time being.

The plot begins from there and Anne is slightly derailed from going directly to Bath with her sister and Father by her younger, married and attention-seeking sister Mary Musgrove who has caught one of her frequent ill-spells. From Mary's husband's family, the Musgroves, Anne soon learns that the past eight years that have sort of wrecked her life physically and outwardly will come to a peak because Captain Wentworth has been expressly invited by the Musgroves to talk about their lost son who was one of the sailors on the Captain's ship years ago.

As Anne confronts the reality that is her successful and still unbelievably charming ex-fiancé, she questions the possibility that she could have been wrong in being persuaded not to marry him. It's with the help of the fantastic motley crew of characters that Austen constructed for this book that Anne can fully appreciate and thoroughly analyze her personal development theses past eight years. With the characters, I couldn't help comparing some to those in Pride & Prejudice, especially Mr. Elliot, heir to Sir Walter Elliot and Anne's cousin. I was constantly questioning whether he was going to be the Mr. Collins or Mr. Wickham of Persuasion. The Captain and Anne made for a very different pairing than Elizabeth and Darcy. Where Elizabeth is all pride and defiance, Anne is timid and docile. Where Darcy is stoic and rigid, Captain Wentworth is social and confident. I enjoyed the fact that Austen kind of revisited old territory where the antagonist in this book is concerned but I mostly could not get enough of the new diverse characters and their corresponding background stories.

As I said before, this time around Austen's writing was more refreshingly understandable and cohesive than when I first attempted one of her novels. I don't know if it was better editing or what but when I had to put the book down I couldn't wait to pick it back up and continue with the story. Mainly that and the characters was the allure for me.

I'd say the only negative about Persuasion was the lack of deserved reproval of Anne's mutable and impressionable decisions when she was nineteen. Although she sort of acknowledged Lady Russell's influence and accepted her warning as a way of protecting Anne from some MIGHT-BE-HORRIBLE future, I think she should have been more conscious of how her family and friend were dictating how she should live her life. It came off as uncaring and gave the message that even though a woman rejects a man, if she wants to be with him again, she can just blame it on the circumstances at the time and not her own decisions.

However, overall, I have to give this book a high rating because I loved everything else so much that I could look past that flaw. It really was an awesome build-up to the romance and I liked how the antagonist's arc was handled and how the truth about them was revealed as well. Majorly recommended to read if you haven't read anything by Austen yet.

An Inquiry Into Love and Death - Simone St. James This is one of those murder mysteries that keeps you guessing till the very end. I had my suspicions about everybody in Rothewell, much like the oh so fleetingly handsome Inspector Merriken, but I can't say I predicted any of the events that took place as the pieces of the puzzle were coming together.

In the early 1920s, outside London, in a small town known as Rothewell, a legendary ghost has haunted the people of the town for decades and has been known to cause quite the spook on travelers who decide to reside in Barrow House.

Jillian Leigh thought taking care of her eccentric Uncle's things after his untimely death would be an undoubtedly quick process. When she learned it would be quite the opposite, her ghost-hunting uncle soon became the least of her worries, because the circumstances in which he died came into question as the Scotland Yard Inspector seems to believe it was something more than a simple fall.

Of all things, the plot and the writing were the elements that attracted me most and hooked me from the very beginning. The plot itself was so different from the genre of books I usually read that I was amazed how well it was thoroughly executed. The thrill and suspense was attacking from every page and I was intrigued and mesmerized while scared out of my socks. The legend of Walking John had a history so dynamically crafted, I sympathized with him when I read the circumstances of his death. It was brilliant. Rothewell was teeming with ghosts yet it was described as such a beautifully haunting town that I got chills while I would have liked to see the defiant waves of Blood Moon Bay. The thrill of learning just pieces of what really occurred while Jillian's uncle Toby visited Rothewell added to the overall mystery and drama of what was later to be revealed and discovered.

The writing blew my breath away with the amount of detail the author added about World War I and its affect on England and its Royal Navy soldiers that seemed to occupy every corner of Rothewell. It was due to this solid background that the author was able to seamlessly incorporate so many different portrayals of the war yet combine them all to convey the impact it had on the men of the time.

Jillian was my undoubtedly favorite character because of her, as Drew Merriken calls it, her "infernal intelligence." She makes brilliant leaps with all the information that she collects and its impossible to not to able to see why she decided to attend Oxford, rather than become a married homebody like Mrs. Kates. It's also her reactions that made me admire her. She was able to confront the most challenging and trying of situations and figure out with a rational head what to do next. The insatiable Inspector Andrew Merriken seemed to be one of those "situations" as most love interests tend to be in books these days. His blunt demeanor took some adjusting to but I could understand his reasoning for suspecting everyone of everything. One of my favorite quotes by him has to be when he's explaining to Jillian why he is how he is, as he simply says, "But that is why you are you and I am me." True, it's a bit condescending in a I'm-a-cop-and-you're-a-civilian way, but it just sums up his character in a nutshell.

While I do admit that An Inquiry Into Love and Death is more of an Adult novel with crossover YA appeal, it does not stop me from forcing it upon my high school friends and demanding that they read it and discuss it with me. I'm just that giving.

Grade: A
Legacy of the Clockwork Key - Kristin Bailey Legacy of the Clockwork Key is a fantastic introduction to a new magical and inventive series, but it is also a wondrous introduction to the genre of Steampunk for young adult readers.

Meg has just lost both her parents to a devastating fire that claimed their home and their fortune. She's left with nothing but is mysteriously taken in by a Lord Rathford who claims to have known her parents and is willing to give her a place to stay, but as a housemaid. Meg was not expecting the unusual and maddening condition the lord insists on keeping his house in, a moment frozen in time. All she has left to keep her sane is a pocket watch that was found in the remains of her family's ruin. Or what she believes to be a pocket watch.

Enter Will, the handsome Scottish tinker Lord Rathford keeps on hand. Meg soon finds that her momento is a master key that can unlock, not only many of her grandfather's inventive mechanisms, but also a secret society where men are judged solely on their vast creativity and ability to manipulate gears and cogs to make unbelievable creations.

It was the combination of plot, characters and writing that really captivated me and left me wanting every time I had to put the book down. The characters were so seamlessly introduced and so individually motivated, it made them so authentic and real; the protagonist especially. Margaret "Meg" Whitlock had her own flaws that were clearly evident and made all the more endearing because of her naive curiosity and fearless determination. She had her own arc of development in the book as did other main characters. Will is first seen just as the muscle as he's "dragged" along for the ride, but soon he's just as willing to protect Meg during the more dangerous parts of their adventure. He easily criticizes Meg for her selfishness but he also has some evident flaws as well. Flaws that he faces and helps him realize that his lack of title isn't as important as he believes it to be. Oliver and Lucinda were two of my favorite characters for their constant tension and shared history together.

The plot was unimaginably creative because in my wildest dreams I could not have come up with some of the fantastic and terrifying adventures Meg and her crew go through. The action as well as the lapses in between are the best parts in the book by far. It's impossible to predict the wild challenges that are set out for the cast of characters.

The writing is what makes the book stand out from others I've read that take place in late 18th century England. The descriptive setting as well as the appropriate English phrases placed in the servants' kitchen with Meg and Mrs. Pratt, as well as in the moors looking down at the remains of Heverdon castle.

All these components make up the incredible and original book of Legacy of the Clockwork Key. The ending was nicely wrapped up and left enough room for more mysteries to be solved and delved into in the sequel, which I will pick up as soon as it's released.

Grade: A
Frankenstein, Or, the Modern Prometheus: With Connections - Mary Shelley I liked my second reading of Frankenstein way more than my first, and I can make more connections with book and its characters than I ever could before. There are so many similarities between Victor and the monster, as well Robert and Victor, and Robert and the monster. I more aptly appreciated the allusions Shelley made and can agree with my Shakespeare-loving English teacher that Shelley had to have read Macbeth because the undertones of it are very significant. I hope that as I read more classics and possibly re-read Frankenstein in the future, that I may pick up on even more subtle hints that Shelley drops throughout the book about both Victor and the monster. I did mark the four stars out of five because, while I loved it, there were many things a bit off in the writing and pacing of the book. It was greatly evidenced that Shelley was a bit of an inexperienced author but she had damn good storytelling and imaginative powers.
Significance - Shelly Crane So I knew going into Significance that I was in for a cheesy ride. I feel like, along with Significance, there's a type of book on Amazon that is sold for a cheap price, has raving reviews, and tells the same story as so many other insta-love novels whose covers blatantly give away what you are getting yourself into. You can't expect anything of depth in these types of books, unless you consider saying 'I love you' a million times, or cliche insecurities, to be profound. I'd lowered my expectations for Significance, and I'm glad I did. Or else I'd be way more critical as to the cheesiness I mentioned before.

We start with a bit of a typical back story. Maggie Masters is graduating from high school a year early and she can't wait to get out of school and not have to deal with the people she used to hang out with only a year ago. After her mother left them, her father fell into the deepest bitter depression and lost the job he'd had for almost all his life. Rubbing salt in the wound, Maggie's mom made off with everything they had, including her college fund. Adding insult to injury, three days after she left, Maggie's boyfriend, Chad, broke up with her because he thought since he was going away to college in Florida, their last year together would best be spent as friends. As Maggie faces her father on graduation day, she can't take his negativity and decides to go for a walk, and whose life does she save from being run over by a car? Sweet Caleb, cousin to the very guy who has been begging for a date with her, and who she was going to see later that day. This is where I was a bit surprised when the book took a sort of fantasy-esque turn.

Imprinting. That's the main thing driving this story that's all consumed with Maggie and Caleb's relationship. I can't lie and say this is one of the best romantic books out there, but it will serve as a good distraction into an unrealistic, easy love story. I use the word 'easy' because, though the protagonist does face struggles and other tough obstacles, the actual relationship with Caleb was, in essence, effortless. Imprinting in this book means pretty much the same thing it did in Twilight. Another coincidence I didn't realize until I was telling a friend about this book, was that Caleb and Kyle's (his cousin) family name is the JACOBsons. I mean, really? That is way too big a coincidence not to be intentional. I felt like I had to at least give the book props for not being about werewolves and vampires. Instead, the Aces--that's what they are called--have abilities they gain after imprinting--essentially meeting their one true love, soul mate, etc.--and ascending--developing their abilities and fully become 'themselves'.

I suppose I stuck out till the end because, if nothing else, this book is consistent with this story line, though it is character-driven. Sure, you could throw some rival Aces in there and add a twist to say that there hasn't been an imprint for the last twenty years, but what the author focuses on is what's happening with the characters and how are they reacting to each other and this new situation they're in. And this is where the book turns a little too corny/sweet, because the author is into piling on all of the mushy-gushy, lovey-dovey, honeymoon-phase, of falling in love with someone by a single touch.

Even though I'd expected this going in, it was a little hard to rationalize away some of the conveniences the author added in order not to mess with the plot she had mapped out for the book. Thiings came too easy sometimes, and Maggie got over too quickly over certain things that she probably should have reflected over for at least a few days.

Significance was a light, uncomplicated read, and that's its charm and redeeming quality. You'd have to be willing not to look too deep into the reasoning behind some things, and be able to forget some questions you'll undoubtedly be left with, in order to just appreciate the book for what it is.

Immortal Beloved - Cate Tiernan A bit too detailed at times and a habitually slow pace with an even slower plot line but the story was decent and the characters relatable.

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