July 29, 2013

Monday's Reading Recap

I had wanted to make August Game of Thrones month here at The Book Barn because my goal was to finish all of the books in the A Song of Ice and Fire series in time to post 5 consecutive reviews. However, my schedule has not been as cooperative as I had hoped and I am just now starting Book 4. If you know anything about George R. R. Martin you know that he is a master storyteller with immeasurable talent; but you might also agree that his books are intense and very dense, not to mention an average of 1000 pages each. While the content of the books isn't difficult per se, it's not a series I can read for 6 straight hours, like I can with chick lit.

Have you read George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series? Were you able to read it quickly or did you have to pace yourself like me? I can't tell you how much I love this series, but it makes me work and I feel like I need to clear my life's schedule in order to finish one of the books! :)

Last Week I Finished Reading: A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin (FINALLY!)

This Week I'm Reading: A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin and Entwined With You by Sylvia Day (to break up the insane amount of George R. R. Martin as of late., I needed a tiny break).

This Week I'm Sharing a Review For:  A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

What are you reading this week? 

July 26, 2013

Yours, Unexpectedly by Susan Fox

{Buy here}
Yours, Unexpectedly {Book 4} - The last installment of the Wild Ride to Love  series, Merilee Fallon, the youngest of the four sisters, calls off her  wedding to Matt, her boyfriend since age 7. Confused but optimistic  about finding their independence, Merilee and Matt decide to  platonically go on their honeymoon, a week long Mexican cruise. During  that week they not only learn how to live as individuals, but also learn  how to inject some spice into the old and familiar.

Maybe  by the third book I'm just sick of the Fallon sisters or maybe  Merilee is just too boring in comparison to her three older sisters, but  this book fell short for me. The predictability of the other two books  was tolerable, but this book was monotonous and didn't even have a  strong female character I could identify with. If I have to hear one  more time that Merilee & Matt (or "M&M") are "soul  mates", which to this author translates to "are too good to adopt", I am  going to scream! If I hear Merilee whine about how she's so left out of  the "Three Pack" any more, I am going to burst. While some may sympathize with  Merilee's lack of attention, I was sick of her before she even set foot  onto the cruise ship. 

I mentioned that the other books in the series are predictable, but somehow they were still endearing. In Yours, Unexpectedly, the predictability is almost insulting. I kept thinking, "Does the author really think I'm that stupid?  Or is this supposed to be blatantly obvious...?" Regardless, I was  annoyed come the climax of the book. In reflection, I think the previous  books in the series had intelligent, vibrant female leads who were  smarter than Merilee and more entertaining to read about making the  predictability more forgivable. 

I  finished the novel so it wasn't a complete flop, entertaining enough  for me not to give up. The story was cute and Merilee and Matt's road to  independence was somewhat endearing. If I liked Merilee more I think I  would have appreciated their story better. It's unfortunate that a  series with so much time invested and other interesting characters would  end on such a flat note. 

Bottom Line: Only read this if you've read the other books in the series and you're OCD like me and must finish the set. ★★/5

Next Week's Review: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

July 19, 2013

His, Unexpectedly by Susan Fox

{Buy here}
His, Unexpectedly {Book 3} - Jenna Fallon,  the third of the sisters, is the wild child of the bunch and doesn't  believe in monogamy. When her car breaks down en route to her baby  sister's wedding, she puts her trust in "the universe" as usual and the  universe delivers Dr. Mark Chambers, a marine biologist who has no idea  how attractive he is. Mark is also heading to Vancouver, BC for a  symposium and Jenna convinces him to give her a ride. On the 72 hour  drive, Jenna teaches Mark about having fun and being spontaneous while  Mark teaches Jenna the value planning and appreciating who she is. Of  course, they both teach each other about love, but you knew that, right? 

Similar to the novel before it in the series, a lot  of Jenna and Mark's story is repetitive once it gets going.  The premise is also kind of unbelievable: that two people so different  could fall so madly in love over the course of a few days, especially  because the main connection Jenna and Mark share is their passionate  physical connection. I found myself rolling my eyes at their physical  interpretation of "love" more than once, but I suppose that's to be  expected in a romance novel.

On the more positive  side, I really liked both Jenna and Mark as characters. Jenna challenges  the readers not to judge her the way her family does. Mark is so  genuine but in need of fun that it's impossible not to appreciate  Jenna's influence on him. While the storyline in this book and the  others in the series are somewhat superficial, Fox continues to do a  great job of explicating the emotions of her protagonist and helps them  trace the roots of their issues to their upbringing in a way that  promotes understanding over resentment.

What I most  enjoyed about this book is the continued developing relationship of the  Fallon sisters and, in this book, their mother. There is a scene where  the sisters help advise Jenna on her relationship with Mark and it  actually made me cry {something I didn't expect to do while reading  these books!}. Beneath the sexy love stories, Fox has developed a deeper  story of love: the love between sisters. Maybe it's because I can  personally relate to the tumultuous relationships between the Fallon  sisters, but I really enjoyed reading about how their relationships have  become stronger through the youngest sister's wedding.

Bottom Line: If you liked Love, Unexpectedly  you will also like this one, maybe even a little more. Predictable but  sweet, with just enough depth to pull at your heart strings. ★★★/5

Next Week's Review: Yours, Unexpectedly by Susan Fox

July 12, 2013

Love, Unexpectedly by Susan Fox

In Susan Fox's Wild Ride to Love Series each book is about one of the four Fallon sisters adventures in love as they make their way to the youngest sister's wedding. I did not read the first book in the series, Sex Drive (the author published this book under the name Susan Lyons),  and it didn't seem to affect the storyline or experience for me. I  found this series online through my library and had no idea that it was  erotically comparable to 50 Shades of Grey {Perhaps if I had  known the title of the first book when I started reading! You can  imagine my surprise when I figured it out!}. Since each book can stand on its own, I reviewed them separately:

{Buy here}
Love, Unexpectedly {Book 2} -  Kat Fallon is a boutique hotel event  planner and easily seduced by flashy men with interesting careers and  superficial looks. Her boy-next-door neighbor, Nav, is head over heels  in love with her but can't seem to get out of the best friends  territory, nor does this photographer have the swagger Kat ordinarily  falls for. When Kat asks Nav to be her date to her sister's wedding, Nav  gains the courage to break out of the friend zone by surprising Kat on  her 4 day train ride home, posing as strangers. While Nav forces Kat to  see him in a different light, the anonymity of train travel helps both  of them open up and learn things about each other and themselves that  they hadn't previously considered.

Although  the premise of the story is a little cheesy, Fox does a good job of  making Kat and Nav's role playing on the train believable without  seeming too ridiculous. Nav's physical transformation parallels the  internal transformation of Kat as she learns how superficial and self  absorbed she can be with people {men as well as her sisters}. While it  would be easy to think of Kat as a shallow protagonist, somehow Fox  conveys her as naive and more self-absorbed than selfish. Once Kat  realizes how narrow-minded she has been, she tries to change her thought  processes and reacts more considerately. This allows the reader to see  her in a much more admirable light.

While  I can say a lot of nice things about this novel, it wasn't necessarily  life changing. A lot of it was long and drawn out where it could have  been much more concise. There are some great messages about being open  minded and avoiding superficiality, but not enough depth to make the  book a favorite. I was most disappointed with the end and how quickly  loose ends were tied up. There could have been more time spent on the  conclusion and less time spent on the chase.

Bottom Line: This is a cute love story that you might enjoy if  the premise sounds interesting to you. The characters aren't as  glamorous as those in 50 Shades of Grey, but the story is more realistic. ★★★/5

Next week's review: His, Unexpectedly by Susan Fox

July 11, 2013

Read-A-Thon Closing Remarks

I'm late, I know. Always late, worth the wait, and blah blah blah. Haha! I wanted to let you know how I did during the Summer Lovin' Read-A-Thon and I want to know how you did as well!

It was both a blessing and a curse that I'm currently in the middle of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series (aka A Game of Thrones) because I did not read 20830 books last week like most of you did. I didn't even finish ONE. That's because A Storm of Swords is 1177 pages long (which means those percentages don't move on my Kindle!). I did make a huge dent in this book, mostly floating on a raft in my mom's pool sipping sparkling water in the southern California sun. So instead of boasting that I finished a book, I'm going to say this read-a-thon helped me get my first serious tan in over a decade. I'd say that counts for something, right?

Did you participate in the Summer Lovin' Read-A-Thon? If so, what did you read and/or accomplish? Even if you didn't formally participate, what have you been reading this month? I'd love to know!

Speaking of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire - if you're a fan of the books and want to participate in a discussion about them with me and a friend, let me know! We hope to cook up something fun for August when my goal is to review every single book in the series, but I need your help! :) 

July 5, 2013

Reached by Ally Condie

If you let hope inside, it takes you over. It feeds on your insides and uses your bones to climb and grow. Eventually it becomes the thing that is your bones, that holds you together. Holds you up until you don't know how to live without it anymore. To pull it out of you would kill you entirely. 
-from Reached by Ally Condie

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Please be advised that this review will contain spoilers for Matched and Crossed, the first two books in this series by Ally Condie.

The final book in the Matched Trilogy by Ally Condie, Reached begins with Cassia, Ky and Xander all separated again, but all three working for The Rising, the rebel cause focused on taking down The Society. Cassia is sorting in Central, Ky is a pilot for The Rising and Xander is working undercover as an Official and physic for The Society; Xander is secretly replacing The Society's immunizations with those developed by The Rising with immunity to their red pills that make citizens forget things. When a mysterious plague breaks out among The Society, The Rising comes to power with the cure. But when The Plague mutates and nobody has a cure for its mutation, society begins to fall apart as a whole. Together Cassia, Ky and Xander must work together to find a cure to save all the ones they love and rebuild a society that benefits everyone. 

Let me warn you: I was painfully disappointed by this book, especially being that it's the final book in this series. For one, you know how Crossed left a huge cliffhanger in that Cassia doesn't know Xander is part of The Rising? Well, let me save you the disappointment by telling you that you get virtually no fulfillment of this cliffhanger other than Cassia acknowledging, "Oh, yeah, so Xander is part of The Rising and I figured as much..." [paraphrased]. I wanted to throw my book, err Kindle, when I read this. I was waiting ever so patiently with my breath held to see what this bomb of information would lead to. Nothing. Usually I try not to put any spoilers in my reviews, so I apologize if you are offended by this information, but I was offended by the nonchalance in which it was handled! [insert sad face] Maybe it's because I'm totally Team Xander, but I could not believe how that interaction was grazed over. 

And it's not the only part where I felt completely robbed of emotional connectedness to the story and the characters. This whole book felt like a forced read because it was lacking the emotion of the first two books. I practically hated Cassia and Ky by the end of this book and how their convenient love story is just flaunted to Xander throughout. Cassia and Ky became too over-dramatic for my taste (and I'm pretty dramatic, guys). I don't know what I would expect them to do, I don't know how I would write the story, but this book felt forced, overcomplicated and disjointed. This book is told in alternating perspectives of Cassia, Ky and now Xander which initially I thought was wonderful. But it gets so frustrating when Condie switched characters and never gives resolution to what the previous person was talking about.  It's so disjointed! Maybe it would have been better split into two books so that Condie wouldn't feel so bad about adding more mushiness between all the sterility. Yeah, I said it, I want more mushiness.

I realized upon finishing this book that one thing that makes a good series is sticking with what you started. I feel like Matched begins as a young adult, even teen, dystopian story about young love and trying to understand the world, but it ends as a full blown science fiction with more medical information than I cared to read. I felt kind of slighted as a reader, I didn't sign up for book 3. 

So all of this said, I must also include that Condie continues to write beautifully. Her word choice, the way she foils her characters in ways you wouldn't have imagined, unexpected realizations- these all make for ultimately a well-thought out story. I only wish she would have stayed more true to the first two books when she put it all together.

Bottom Line: I love you, Ally Condie, but I warn readers that even if you loved Matched and Crossed, prepare for a slow read! #TeamXander 3/5 stars.

Did you read the entire Crossed series? How did you feel about the ending and the third book overall? 

Next week's book is Love, Unexpectedly by Susan Fox

July 1, 2013

Summer Lovin' Read-A-Thon

I can't believe it's already July and time for the Summer Lovin' Read-a-thon! A bunch of great blogs are sponsoring this read-a-thon to encourage summer reading and there will be lots of giveaways and fun, especially with a 24 hour reading marathon from Saturday, July 6 through Sunday, July 8!

If you've stumbled upon my blog because of the read-a-thon, welcome! My name is Danielle and I live in southern California. I read whatever I feel like and don't necessarily stick to any one particular genre, but I especially love contemporary novels and smart chick lit. I post one book review a week and let you know what I'm reviewing the week before so you can read along and discuss if you'd like. I hope you like my reviews and will join me by following on BlogLovin! I welcome any reading suggestions and love making new friends who love to read, too!

I'm definitely going to take advantage of this read-a-thon and keep plugging along through the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin! What are you reading this week? Will you be participating?