Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Review of Capital Girls by Ella Monroe

 Capital Girls by Ella Monroe

Capital Girls wasn't what I expected. Although, to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure what I expected it to be, exactly, but it read like an episode of a highly politically slanted Gossip Girl - or probably, more like several episodes. While GC was not one of my favorite TV shows, for this book, that's not a bad comparison. It worked really well actually and Capital Girls turned out to be an interesting, fast paced story and a quick and easy read.

It starts out with our main character, Jackie, visiting the grave of one of her recently deceased best friends, Taylor. She is confessing to Taylor a secret she can't share with her other friends, because she's falling for a really hot guy she shouldn't fall for and Taylor always knew exactly what to do in every situation the girls had ever found themselves in.

Jackie is an almost eighteen year old girl who is dating the Presidents son, Andrew. She is frustrated with their very non-sexual relationship and she makes a few really poor choices that lead to HUGE consequences. And when you're in a relationship with the Presidents son, you live your life in the fishbowl for the public eye to scrutinize, and any small or big indiscretion gets plastered across every tabloid nationwide.

Laurie Beth is trying to find her own path in life. She dreams of singing and dancing on the stage and plans to apply to Julliard even though it will go against everything her mother wants her to do. She has her own secrets to keep - mainly to do with the fact she's in love with someone she can't have.

Lettie is the quiet Latino girl who plans to change the world. She is a Paraguayan immigrant to the US. She is here with her family on a embassy scholarship so she works hard in a less than desirable position for the money she and her family need to survive. There is an interesting side-storyline going on with her and the real life immigration issues she is focused on fighting for and her plight for her home country. But a blossoming secret connection with an old friend may change her priorities and make her dreams that much hard to achieve.

Whitney is the California transplant and newest to the group. She is the daughter of a tabloid reporter who happens to be one of the most well-known, cut-throat  people behind the biggest celebrity scoops in California. Whitney hates everything about Washington D.C. and the only thing she wants is a ticket back to her life in California. Sadly, Whitney's only way to get home is to make her mother happy. So she is forced into the role of Mole and goes uncover to get the scandalous secrets and juiciest capital gossip about her newest a-lister friends.

And finally, back to Taylor. Taylor was the beautiful, vivacious and adventurous blond bombshell all the girls in the capital city envied and wanted to be. She was the one who took the biggest risks, always made the best times and the most memorable, she partied hard and lived harder. Living every moment of her life to the fullest.
She was also the glue that essentially held together the four girls - the 'Capital Girls' as they called themselves - who had been best friends since childhood. And they were inseparable ... until the accident.

The horrible car accident that took Taylor's life changed the lives of everyone around her.
Her tragic death sent shockwaves of grief throughout her elite circle of friends and her family. (Throughout the book are flashbacks of Taylor from the different characters' memories and points of view, which gave a great sense of Taylor as a realized character in the book even though she had died before the first word on the first page)
Everyone in the story grieves differently for their friend/sister/daughter ... all the characters are struggling to move forward in their lives. However, those holding secrets are having a harder time moving forward than others.

There are quite a few plots and story lines here, but for me, it was the mystery as well as the scandal of all these huge secrets that propelled me through this story. Wanting to know how it all was going to turn out, who was going to end up doing what and/or with whom and wanting to see if my guesses were going to be right, or if there were going to be major curveballs thrown in a the last minute.

Even though a few of those big, awful secrets are revealed before the last page, and there are several giant secrets alluded to throughout the story, so believe me, it's worth getting to the end for!. Being the first in a trilogy, Capital Girls also ends on a cliff hanger that leaves us dangling with even bigger questions about even bigger secrets.

Luckily, I have book two in the Capital Girls trilogy on the shelf ready to read. yay me! It's called Secrets and Lies, and from that title, I can only guess what's in store for these likeable and loatheable characters. I'm definitely looking forward to finding out. because I'm nosy like that.

Overall, I really liked and enjoyed the story.
I would recommend Capital Girls to anyone who loves Gossip Girl and Sex in the City type entertainment. I would probably say appropriateness level would be ages mature teen/17+ due to the fairly adult themes - underage drinking, smoking weed and talk about sex (or doing it) - not to mention the lying, cheating and political backstabbing and blackmail that goes on behind the closed doors on Capital Hill.
Of course, if you're old enough for either of those racy-ish TV shows then this book will be a breezy fun walk in the park.

Just a couple small things that bothered me. And really, it's probably *only* me, so...
There was a whole lot of name brand and designer name dropping, as well as the names of all the trendiest places in the Capital city.
Name dropping is okay when it's lightly sprinkled in to add flecks of realism to the story and the name of a famous location certainly assists in the world building ... but when overdone it's something that just annoys me.
There were times I would say to myself "okay, this paragraph was brought to you by that so-and-so top designer, or major product, or trendy restaurant or shop etc"
Having said that, while it was sometimes too much for me, it still worked for this particular story - in a "I'm so posh and rich" Sex in the City product placement sort of way.
Also, there are a LOT of characters to keep up with in this book. I only mentioned the main characters in my review, but there are more than a dozen people to keep track of here. The kids don't always have the same last name as their parents and I stayed about half confused trying to remember which character was the sibling to whom and/or which parent the kid belonged to and then you have to throw in how that other person is connected to the poliitcal foodchain, etc. Also, Jackie kept calling one of the women 'Aunt' and I still don't think any of the kids in the story were actual cousins ... so yeah, O_o ...
There were several times I wished for an appendix or a family tree sort of thing in the back of the book that explained all the different relations.

If this book sounds even slightly interesting to you then read it if you get the chance. For the folks who read one book right after another, this is a great filler book for in between those meatier books that take a long of brain power to read. :)

rated: 4

**I won this book in a GoodReads first-read giveaway. Thank you Goodreads and Sarah at http://us.macmillan.com/capitalgirls/EllaMonroe for the opportunity to read Capital Girls. They also very kindly sent along an ARC of the second book in the series, Secret and Lies, which I plan on reading soon - if not next.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (3)

**Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga of Tynga's Reviews that spotlights the books we receive each week**

We went over to Trading Books again this week to try and find a copy of The Hobbit (no luck) and I think it was the first time EVER that we spent less than $10 in there! LOL, we came out with 3 books for about $8.

  • Thirteen R3asons Why a novel  by Jay Asher 
  • Changeling by Delia Sherman 
  • Dark Apprentice - Star Wars Volume 2 of the Jedi Academy Trilogy by Kevin J. Anderson (of which Richi already had books #1 and #3 on the shelf and he NEEDED this one to complete the trilogy, Yay!
** ^the two books of mine^ are considered part of my Christmas 2012
Richi won a book from Goodreads First Reads and it was wrapped up so sweetly by the author. Richi's birthday is on the 13th, so he considered this one as a 'sorta first gift' for his birthday. :D

The Gilded Mirror - Corfe Castle by Jocelyn Murray - Richi's Review

I received two books in the mail - wins from the Spooktacular Blog Hop at Halloween.

  • Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake (won from Mary at Readers' District) I've heard so many reviews of this book/series, looking forward to seeing what all the hoopla is about. 
  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (won from Heather at The Flyleaf Review) (I am SO SO SOOOO EXCITED about TGoFaT!!! I've wanted this book for EVER and now I just need to get through my obligated reads to be able to dive into this one) Thanks again Heather!

I also won a giveaway for a pretty Christmas Tree ornament.

It was from Fantasy Steampunk through Melissa Turner Lee who wrote The Earth Painter and The Man Painter and came with a handful of lovely postcards from Charleston, North Carolina which is where the story of the Painter series takes place.

Great week for us!

Happy Reading y'all :)
~ Lynne

Rock of Ivanore by Laurisa White Reyes

The Rock of Ivanore

Synopsis (from book): The annual Great Quest is about to be announced in Quendel, a task that will determine the future of Marcus and the other boys from the village who are coming of age. The wizard Zyll commands them to find the Rock of Ivanore, but he doesn’t tell them what the Rock is exactly or where it can be found. Marcus must reach deep within himself to develop new powers of magic and find the strength to survive the wild lands and fierce enemies he encounters as he searches for the illusive Rock. If he succeeds, he will live a life of honor; if he fails, he will live a life of menial labor in shame. With more twists and turns than a labyrinth, and a story in which nothing is at it seems, this tale of deception and discovery keeps readers in suspense until the end.

Richis Review: This was an excellent and quick book. The story itself wasn’t very original; a fairly typical coming of age fantasy novel, but it really didn’t matter because it was so enjoyable. There is plenty of action and adventure to keep things moving along and to keep it exciting, but there is also a balance of slower more thoughtful moments. There were a lot of similarities between this book and other fantasy series such as Lord of the Rings and Shannara, but it was presented in a different enough way to make it enjoyable, without feeling like it was a copy.

The story is nice and teaches good morals lessons through the actions of the good characters, such as friendship, caring for others even people you don’t know, forgiveness, mercy and accepting of those who are different from you. There were some twist and turns in the story, adult readers that are familiar with fantasy will more than likely guess what those are, but those who are less familiar probably won’t.

The characters are great, again nothing original but they had good personalities and there was good dynamics in the group. Xerxes (a talking walking stick) was hilarious and made a lot of great remarks. The characters also go through a lot of development through their quest, especially considering this is a fairly short book aimed and younger readers.

There were a couple of religious undertones, such as a character seeing what he thought was an angel, but there probably isn’t anything that would bother anyone no matter what their religious beliefs are.

This would be an excellent book for young readers who love fantasy, for anyone who is looking for a fun, quick fantasy book.

rated 4 **** 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Review of The Gilded Mirror: Corfe Castle

The Gilded Mirror: Corfe Castle by  Jocelyn Murray

Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Anna is exploring her grandmothers house that is full of antiques. She discovers an old mirror, when she wipes the surface she finds herself in Corfe Castle in the year 1643. She meets up with Elizabeth Bankes, daughter of the family that owns the castle, Elizabeth believes Anna is her cousin and gives Anna a tour of the castle and the estate. The two soon become friends.
The English Civil war comes to the castle as the Parliamentarian Roundheads surround the castle and lay it under siege. The girls help the family defend the castle, but even if Anna survives will she ever be able to get back to her own time?

The story is based on the real-life siege of Corfe Castle and the Bankes family that lived there.

Review: In full disclosure I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. The book came beautifully wrapped and made a wonderful early Christmas present, thank you  Jocelyn Murray for doing that.

The first eighty pages of this book felt like a guided tour of the castle, complete with re-enactment actors. It was nice to see the world brought to life by the various characters and to see medieval times being taught in an informal, easy to follow and fun way.

The language is semi-authentic with the use of words such as "Aye", "Tis" and "O", although it doesn't go to extremes and is easy to read and understand.

The book is probably targeted at girls aged between ten and sixteen, although people outside of the target group can enjoy it as well. The writing style is fairly simplistic, but it does make it a quick and easy read and it does teach the medieval world to its audience in an easy to understand way.

There was some mild violence and one use of "William the Bastard", also known as William the Conqueror, making it unsuitable for very young readers.

The characters were well written and the main ones undergo some development despite being a fairly short book. They really bring the medieval world to life and make it seem very interesting. Although they were fairly simplistic with the enemies being a one-dimensional, pantomime villains who enjoy doing evil things and are only capable of being bad, where as the good characters only want to do good things and feel bad when they are forced to kill while defending their home.

It is also one of those stories where the children take huge risks and do things that seem unlikely. For example at one point the girls sneak out of the castle and into the enemy camp, where they steal some supplies, they are not spotted my either side.

The book is nicely presented with some illustrations and photos of the castle. I liked the front cover that has a illustration of the castle being viewed through the Gilded Mirror.

Overall I would say this was a fun and quick read, targeted at teenage girls that are interested in history, but can be enjoyed by others as well.

***1/2 plus 1/2 for wrapping the book up so nicely :)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (2)

**Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga of Tynga's Reviews that spotlights the books we receive each week**

We did our 'Support Small Business' shopping yesterday (since I was too sick to do it over T-day weekend). So we visited our local Trading Book store, a local charity thrift store and the flea market as well. Richi and I both found a dozen or so great books each.  We also bought a bookshelf from the thrift store ... because seriously, who doesn't *always* need another bookshelf, right?

Here are my 'new' shelf goodies (by the way, these books are going to be considered as part of my Christmas 2012).

 The stack on the left are the ones from Trading Book store:

The stack on the left are from the flea market:

I also received a giveaway book through Goodreads First Reads program to read for review:
On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks by Simon Garfield.

it's very textbook-y ... but looks quite interesting :)

As usual, I also managed to find lots of lovelies to feed my Nook with:

The 19 Dragons by SM Reine
Dead(ish) by Naomi Kramer
A Circle of Iron by Greg Benage (Eldernost: Book One)
Shadow of the Sun by Laura Kreitzer
The Soulkeepers (book one) by G.P. Ching
Falling by Amber Jaeger (Hemlock Bay #1)
Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (Tales of Goldstone Wood #1) - this is supposed to be an amazing series!
Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz
Spooks and Magic by Jack Sorenson (Alana Weatherbee #2)
The Medium by C.J. Archer
Sorrows Child by Georgina Anne Taylor (The Taint #1)
His Robot Girlfriend by Wesley Allison
Graveminder by Melissa Marr
Waking Up Married by Mira Lyn Kelly
Stolen Promise by Lisa Marie Wilkinson

~So those are my newest shelf editions. :)
Have you heard about or read any of these? what did you think?

Happy Reading!