The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier

Coming-of-age can happen at any age. Joy Harkness had built a university career and a safe life in New York, protected and insulated from the intrusions and involvements of other people. When offered a position at Amherst College, she impulsively leaves the city, and along with generations of material belongings, she packs her equally heavy emotional baggage. A tumbledown Victorian house proves an unlikely choice for a woman whose family heirlooms have been boxed away for years. Nevertheless, this white elephant becomes the home that changes Joy forever. As the restoration begins to take shape, so does her outlook on life, and the choices she makes over paint chips, wallpaper samples, and floorboards are reflected in her connection to the co-workers who become friends and friendships that deepen. A brilliant, quirky, town fixture of a handyman guides the renovation of the house and sparks Joy’s interest to encourage his personal and professional growth. Amid the half-wanted attention of the campus’s single, middle-aged men, known as “the Coyotes,”and the legitimate dramas of her close-knit community, Joy learns that the key to the affection of family and friends is being worthy of it, and most important, that second chances are waiting to be discovered within us all. [via GoodReads]

This was such a nice, feel-good book. Ms. Meier penned some very interesting characters that I found to be very honest, realistic, relateable and likeable.

When Joy is given the choice of landing her dream job, leaving NYC and her average life behind, she grabs that bull by the horns and runs with it. This is her chance to start anew (a second chance at life) - she buys herself a fixer-upper and settles in to small-town life. She wasn't expecting all the new experiences she would have. While living in New York she was somewhat of a recluse. She was dedicated to her job but had little time for friends or socializing. Here at Amherst, her coworkers/colleagues basically force her to make friends. And then there's Teddy, the contractor who helps make her dilapidated house into a home.

I loved reading the descriptions of Amherst, MA., and all the details on the home repairs, interior design, etc. My only complaint would be that I found that Joy behaved like a woman older than someone in her 40's. She could easily pass for a woman ten years older if you judged her on the way she acted.

All in all, this was a sweet little story. It is not a must-read, but it is definitely an enjoyable read nonetheless. Recommended to those looking for a light, summer read that will leave you feeling satisfied and hopeful.


Gone by Lisa McMann

Janie thought she knew what her future held. And she thought she’d made her peace with it. But she can’t handle dragging Cabel down with her.

She knows he will stay with her, despite what she sees in his dreams. He’s amazing. And she’s a train wreck. Janie sees only one way to give him the life he deserves: She has to disappear. And it’s going to kill them both.

Then a stranger enters her life — and everything unravels. The future Janie once faced now has an ominous twist, and her choices are more dire than she’d ever thought possible. She alone must decide between the lesser of two evils. And time is running out.... [via GoodReads]

Gone is the highly anticipated, final installment in the Dream Catcher Trilogy. This is the story of Janie, the girl who catches dreams and, Cabel, the boy who loves her.

I've really enjoyed this series. I found it original and the characters very endearing. What I truly liked about Gone is that you really get more character definition, it was more of a character driven novel. There isn't so much of a mystery in this one but rather its about the characters coming to terms with themselves... learning more about each other and accepting that. Janie has learned to deal with her "gift" and has found a greater purpose for it. But she now knows that this gift comes at a very high price. A price that not only will affect her immensely but will also affect Cabel. Janie has some tough decisions to make.

There's not much more I can say without giving too much away. I did feel that this book was different from the prior two in the series, but not in a bad way. The writing was the same - with it's short chapters and even shorter sentences. Janie was whiney and not so much the tough girl I've come to love... but all is forgiven - the girl is definitely leading a rough life. For those of you who haven't read the first two books in the series and are considering reading Gone - I would not recommend you do that. Although Gone can almost be seen as a companion book since it is THAT different from the other two, you don't really get much background information as to know what happened previously so after a couple of pages you will be lost. Start at the beginning and I guarantee you will be swept away in Janie's journey. All in all, this worked for me. I enjoyed this trilogy immensely and I can definitely recommend it to not just teens but to adults alike.


Ahoy There Mateys!

It seems like forever since the last time I've blogged. As most of you already know, my little clan and I took a Disney Cruise last week and had the awesomest time ever.

I, of course, have to share some of the pics with y'all. I took over 700 pictures so this is just a quick glimpse into our voyage. If you're interested and, are a Facebook friend, you can see a lot more of the pictures there.

On Thursday, 5/20, we came aboard the Disney Wonder. All I can say is imagine being in a floating Walt Disney World sans the rides, of course. I've never met a friendlier more kid-oriented crew/cruise. There were all sorts of fun things for the kiddies from storytime with your favorite prince, sleepovers with Goofy, puppet shows, camp, I mean there was even a lab to make flubber, kids karaoke, plus many, many more things to do. There were deck parties and there was even a night where pirates took over the ship. Not to mention every night there was a show to be seen - and let me tell you, these were Broadway style shows. There was never a dull moment with adult activities and teen activities - fun was definitely had by all.

On Friday, 5/21, we arrived at the Bahamas. We decided to head out to the infamous Atlantis. Can I just tell you how WOW this place was? It was really WOW! We paid to take a small tour of their aquariums... "The Dig" and with the wrist bands we had we were able to take a tour of their gardens, casino and shops as well. This place was just amazing. Every picture I took looked like a postcard. Too bad we weren't able to use their pool or their beach. We'll definitely do that next time we're there.

The last picture of the bunch there was the funniest thing. That ginormous fish kept following my son around. I think the fish had high hopes that the kid was bait and he wanted dibs. It was hilarious.

After Atlantis, we decided to take a little side tour over to Señor Frogs at the port. So I'll give you a quick recap of how that went. The boys bought us drinks (see below) we had a couple lot of those and then...

this happened!

And through it all the kids had a blast... plus they got these cool balloon hats. I promise they were in good hands though since the boys only wanted to get us girls drunk.

On Saturday, 5/22, we woke up docked at Disney's Castaway Cay... le sigh. I seriously want to live there. I don't care if it's in one of their massage huts, that will definitely work for me. The beach was amazing with this crystal blue water and fishies swimming through your feet. They had tons of stuff in the water to keep the kiddies entertained, including a water slide. There was snorkeling and bike trails, a family beach and adult hideaways, all sorts of characters and special appearances by Jack Sparrow not to mention the Flying Dutchman was anchored right offshore. Oh, and did I mention the food. All the food on the island was part of your cruise deal. Just awesome!

The following morning we were docked back at Port Canaveral... boo! We took a 4 day cruise because we were worried the kids might get seasick or might not like the whole cruise experience... boy, were we wrong. We'll just have to do it again soon! And there you have it a mini recap of our vacay. Now I just have to catch up on my reading. That be all! Arrrrr.


Waiting for You by Susane Colasanti

At the beginning of her sophomore year, Marisa is ready for a fresh start and, more importantly, a boyfriend. So when the handsome and popular Derek asks her out, Marisa thinks her long wait for happiness is over. But several bumps in the road—including her parents’ unexpected separation, a fight with her best friend, and a shocking disappointment in her relationship with Derek—test Marisa’s ability to maintain her new outlook. Only the anonymous DJ, whose underground podcasts have the school’s ear, seems to understand what Marisa is going through. But she has no idea who he is—or does she? [via GoodReads]

This was a sweet, coming-of-age story of a young girl who is at the point in her life where she is discovering who she is and where she is going. Marisa is a very relatable character - she's a sophomore in high school and is looking for Mr. Right. When she lands the perfect boyfriend (handsome, popular, etc.) she begins to realize that sometimes love doesn't have to be perfect and can be found when least expected.

Although the story does have a light feel to it, it does touch on some rather serious subjects, making it not just a fun book but also an emotional story. I do have to say that I was drawn more to the lighter/more romanticer (yes, I made that word up) moments in the story. I also enjoyed the whole anonymous DJ bit... although I did guess who it was from the start.

I have to confess that I did wish that it would have been more fast-paced... I felt as if something was waiting around the corner the whole time, but it just never came. All in all, this is a classic coming-of-age story about friendship and first love that is easily enjoyed.


The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz

After a run-in with a bat leaves Flory without her wings, she finds that her whole lifestyle is in for a change. For instance, she falls off the tree she has been living in and ends up in the giantess's yard. There she must learn how to survive - find a new home and without her wings, that means work. Angry at the bats, mad at the night, and annoyed with herself, Flory decides she won't be a night fairy anymore--she'll be a day fairy. With her trusty dagger and an always-hungry squirrel, she's off on an unforgettable adventure.

What a sweet little tale awaits you in the pages of The Night Fairy. This will definitely appeal to little girls... because really, what little girl doesn't dream of being a fairy?

Flory is one tough fairy... I mean tough as nails. She is not shy about threatening any foe with her dagger and, at times, due to her lack of being around other fairy's, her demeanor with her fellow garden dwellers can be rather rude, demanding and even stand-offish. But you can definitely see her growth throughout the story as she not only learns to survive in her new world but she also learns to be a friend.

The story comes in a slim volume with stunningly, enchanting artwork by Angela Barrett. The pages were sleek and shiny and you had some thick glittery pages at the end of the book... very nice all-around package that makes you want to display it on your bookshelf. This is a story that can be enjoyed by everyone (no matter the age) and believe me, those of you who do pick it up will cherish it.

Manic Monday Recaps (Week 5/17/10)

Sorry about the crummy lack of reviews last week. I was uber busy here at work trying to get everything done since I'm only working today and tomorrow because Thursday I'm off on my Disney Cruise adventure - woo woo!

Hopefully I'll have the time to schedule some reviews this week and even throw in a couple of giveaways just to give you guys something to look at while I'm gone. :)

Here's what I plan on reading this week:

Last week I read the following:
- The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
- Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder
- The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa
- Undead and Unwed by MaryJanice Davidson
- Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show by Frank Delaney

Still working on:
- The Mermaid's Mirror by L.K. Madigan (e-book)
- Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith (audiobook)
- Spells by Aprilynne Pike

I reviewed the following:
Nothing because I suck.. Boo!

And that's all folks! Have a lovely week.

Manic Monday Recaps (Week 5/10/10)

I hope all you lovely mommy's out there had a marvelous Mother's Day with plenty of hugs and kisses from your children. I sure did. Plus in lieu of my awesome motherness the hubs surprise this mom with a shnazzy shopping spree. Oh yes, momma's got a whole new wardrobe for her cruise... excited! I'm 10 days away from my cruise so life has been hectic in my household, which means I'm not getting a lot of reading done. Boo! Hopefully I'll accomplish more this week.

Here's what I plan on reading this week:

Last week I read the following:
- Wild Fire by Christine Feehan
- Ecstasy Unveiled by Larissa Ione
- The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz
- The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier

Still working on:
- The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
- The Mermaid's Mirror by L.K. Madigan (e-book)
- Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith (audiobook)

I reviewed the following:
- The Day I Shot Cupid by Jennifer Love Hewitt [review]
- Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl [review]
- Once Dead, Twice Shy by Kim Harrison [review]

On a side note, I had the opportunity of meeting Cassandra Clare and Holly Black. Whoot! These gals were amazing. They had a fabulous turnout with loads of people there who had a ton of questions for them - which, I might add, they answered graciously. Wow! I was seriously impressed these ladies not only took on a room full of mostly teenagers, but answered all sorts of questions from "where their inspirations came from" to "whether or not they liked Twilight". They both read a couple of minutes from their latest/soon to be published work (H. Black from White Cat and C. Clare from Clockwork Angel) and once all that was over, they signed the tons of books everyone took with them. I mean I had to take a tote bag in order to carry the five that I took alone.

All in all, my friends (a/k/a Book♥Soulmates) and I had a fab night - with books, amazing authors - who I now feel as if I need to buy everything they have ever written just because they were so nice and their camaraderie so genuine that they instantly upgraded to faves in my book - food and more books, of course.

Have a great week my lovelies!


Bookcase of the Week [14]

Aren't these the coolest shelves you've ever seen? Although there's not a lot of space for books I would love these whether it be for a child's room or an Alice in Wonderland inspired nook. Too bad I can't find who makes them or where they come from in order to link back to creator (boo!) - but I'm in love.



Once Dead, Twice Shy by Kim Harrison

Madison's prom was killer—literally. For some reason she's been targeted by a dark reaper—yeah, that kind of reaper—intent on getting rid of her, body and soul. But before the reaper could finish the job, Madison was able to snag his strange, glowing amulet and get away.

Now she's stuck on Earth—dead but not gone. Somehow the amulet gives her the illusion of a body, allowing her to toe the line between life and death. She still doesn't know why the dark reaper is after her, but she's not about to just sit around and let fate take its course.

With a little ingenuity, some light-bending, and the help of a light reaper (one of the good guys! Maybe . . . ), her cute crush, and oh yeah, her guardian angel, Madison's ready to take control of her own destiny once and for all, before it takes control of her.

Well, if she believed in that stuff. [via GoodReads]

Once Dead, Twice Shy is a fast-paced novel that sadly I just did not enjoy. For one, the book starts and you feel like if you missed the first half of it. You just get thrown right smack into the story, or at least that's what I felt like. Now for me it was a little different because I read the short story in Prom Nights from Hell titled Madison Avery and the Dim Reaper which was were I was originally introduced to Madison and what intrigued me enough to make me want to see what happens next with her.

I really liked the premise of the story. I'm a sucker for good vs. bad (or, in this case, dark vs. light) stories and this really sounded promising. But in the end, I just didn't get a true feel for the characters and the story ended up being too predictable for my tastes.

I can definitely see it's appeal and why teens would want to read it (with all the hype for paranormal books nowadays), but it just didn't work for me.


Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps, and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything. [via GoodReads]

Beautiful Creatures was a very addictive read. I truly enjoyed reading through Ethan's point-of-view. I found it very refreshing considering that most YA is written through a females perspective.

I was taken in by the star-crossed lover-esque feel of the story... girl is a Caster - boy is just a mere human. What will they do? I enjoyed the Southern feel of the story - as you read it you can hear that southern drawl. The setting was well-defined and very fitting to the story. We also get a mini history lesson on the Civil War, which I found to be a plus. I think the authors did a phenomenal job in character development. There were plenty of characters and each one was defined and stood out creating their own set of feelings in you. Ethan and Lena were both likeable and relateable - sans the magic, of course. Their love story was sweet, realistic and definitely brings forth those feelings that we all felt at that age.

I have to say that my favorite characters were Uncle Mason and Amma. Uncle Mason because he reminded me of Rhett Butler in "Gone with the Wind" and Amma because she was fiery and had this attitude about her that brought a smile to my face. I also can't forget to mention librarian extraordinaire, Marian. Gosh, would I love her job!

There were a few things that I didn't like ... for starters this book is a tome. And, although I found the storyline intriguing and I was entertained throughout, I felt that there was a lot of jibberish scattered throughout that was unnecessary. I also felt that Ethan acted much older than his sixteen years and I found him overly emotional for a male (at times). There were some areas that dragged for me - maybe it was too detailed, I really can't explain it, but I would have preferred it to be a little shorter. Don't take me wrong, it all resolves nicely and everything comes into place, but it was still way too long for me.

In the end, the pro's definitely outweigh the con's so this is one that I believe did live up to the hype. Being the first in the series, I can't wait to see where Ms. Garcia and Ms. Stohl will take Ethan, Lena and us to next. Although geared towards the YA crowd, this one can be read and enjoyed by adults as well.

On a side note, I wanted to mention that I think it is very cool that two authors wrote this book. I don't know who wrote what or where one ends and the other begins, but Kudos for that. Also, for the phenomenal cover art - one of my faves.

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