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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: Historical
Length: Full (448 pgs)
Rating: Best Book
Review by Rose

Pretty girls in pretty dresses, partying until dawn. Irresistible boys with mischievous smiles and dangerous intentions. White lies, dark secrets, and scandalous hookups. This is Manhattan, 1899.

Beautiful sisters Elizabeth and Diana Holland rule Manhattan's social scene. Or so it appears. When the girls discover their status among New York City's elite is far from secure, suddenly everyone—from the backstabbing socialite Penelope Hayes, to the debonair bachelor Henry Schoonmaker, to the spiteful maid Lina Broud—threatens
Elizabeth's and Diana's golden future.

With the fate of the Hollands resting on her shoulders, Elizabeth must choose between family duty and true love. But when her carriage overturns near the East River, the girl whose glittering life lit up the city's gossip pages is swallowed by the rough current. As all of New York grieves, some begin to wonder whether life at the top proved too much for this ethereal beauty, or if, perhaps, someone wanted to see Manhattan's most celebrated daughter disappear...

In a world of luxury and deception, where appearance matters above everything and breaking the social code means running the risk of being ostracized forever, five teenagers lead dangerously scandalous lives. This thrilling trip to the age of innocence is anything but innocent.

Anna Godbersen's debut novel, The Luxe is issued as a YA novel. It's been years since I could be considered a young adult and I have to admit I found this glimpse into the turn of the 19th century teens fascinating. Think Gossip Girl meets the Gilded Age.

The Luxe is excellent. The characters are well-drawn and the problems facing them compelling and believable. The differences between the sisters lead to a climactic moment that, in retrospect, seem inevitable given their natures and outlook on life.

The peripheral characters as well add an element of richness to the story. The reader will want to slap the obligatory b****y friend and cheer for the lover from "the wrong side of the tracks."

I'm looking forward to next spring when the sequel comes out, simply because I was left with a feeling of "what will happen to ____" at the end of this book. I was sorry to reach the end and put it down.

I highly recommend this not only for young adults, but for those of us who are... ahem... young at heart.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Love Thy Sister, Guard Thy Man by Kimberlee R. Mendoza

Love Thy Sister, Guard Thy Man by Kimberlee R. Mendoza
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full (204 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 Suns
Review by Tulip

While camping in the Cuyamaca Mountains above San Diego, shy Melena Harrison meets surfer Dylan Hart and is floored that an attractive man would actually fall for her. Especially since she hasn’t had a date since, well, birth.

They share a romantic late night hike, trips to the beach and chemistry that can’t be bottled—everything is going great. That is until Cassi, Melena’s spoiled sister, falls for Dylan, too. And what Cassi wants, she usually gets. Manipulation, sordid tricks and revealing clothing—Cassi will do whatever it takes to get her man. Even if Melena is left heart broken.

Can Dylan and Melena’s budding relationship survive Cassi’s vindictive meddling?

I’m full of praise for Love Thy Sister, Guard Thy Man. I blame Ms. Mendoza for causing my lack of sleep because I just had to know what would happen next. Every page screamed “read me!” and it took incredible effort to stop pushing myself. I finally relented and went to bed so that I would be able to wake up the next morning to go to work. I wish I could quit my day job and read engaging books like Love Your Sister all day, every day.

Melena Russell spends a week of summer vacation at a youth camp with her best friend, April. She is beautiful with an athletic frame, but utterly shy and blushes easily. And, get this – she has never dated. She meets Dylan Hart at camp and develops a deep crush on him. The mere thought of him makes her cheeks go crimson. It turns out that Dylan likes her, too. Soon, they begin seeing each other. Then, Melena’s bratty younger sister, Cassi, comes into the picture. She is determined to snatch him from right under Melena's nose.

The whole novel is fun, and there are lots of laugh-out-loud moments. It's interesting to see how Cassi is so determined to cause misery to her older sister, plotting and scheming. A huge misunderstanding ensues and Cassi hangs around Dylan every chance she gets.

There are huge lessons to draw from the story: friendship, family, love, forgiveness, reconciliation, and relationship with God. Another clear lesson is to not jump to conclusions. It causes unnecessary heartache for Melena and Dylan. Melena, when faced with difficult situations, turns to God and asks for His guidance. The thing is, she is also human and at one point, got into a fight with Cassi and causes a scene at – of all places – a party organized by their pastor.

Ms. Mendoza penned an edifying story with highly likeable characters. Natural dialogues, clever and witty conversations -- things just seem to flow effortlessly. All you need to do is just go with the flow. I felt connected with the characters as I devoured the novel. It is definitely an easy-to-read treat and I am already looking out for more of her novels. I highly recommend this!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

My Life With Apache by Linda L. Lattimer

My Life With Apache by Linda L. Lattimer
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full
Rating: 3 Suns
Review by Xeranthemum

He is Brave Coyote, but she knows him as Apache. On the way to pursue her father’s dreams of a new life, the wagon train she and her family are a part of is brutally attacked by Indians. The lone survivor, Elizabeth is surprised when other Indians arrive to offer assistance. With one bullet left in the gun, she recalls her father’s words to save it if necessary. Her father never wanted his daughters to suffer such a fate at anyone’s hands. Apache takes her to his home to be his wife but Elizabeth plans to flee. On the way to finding an escape Elizabeth learns much about the Indian people. And when she sees a side to her own people that wish to bring deliberate harm to the Indians, Elizabeth realizes the color of one’s skin makes no difference in a world seeking freedom. But is it too late for her and her Apache?

Have you ever wanted to read a story about surviving odds with nothing more than determination and guts with a little fate thrown in? Do you like reading about young people surpassing expectations? Do you appreciate reading about books that treat other cultures with respect, even the darker aspects? Are you a reader that needs an HEA that gives hope for the future of the hero and heroine beyond the immediate ending? Then this story is well worth considering.

My Life With Apache inspired me to write a review with recommendations that are different than most I write. As odd as it may sound, my advice for readers is: DO NOT READ THE INTRODUCTION UNTIL AFTER YOU’VE READ THE STORY. Why? Because it is full of spoilers! True, the author incorporates reasons which are sweet and noble for writing the story, but the spoilers will undermine the first and second chapters to the point you may find them unenjoyable. Also, I found some editing burps and odd bits in the beginning. The troubling part is this: most readers judge a book by those first two chapters and if their attention is not grabbed, which is possible here, they will be deprived of what turns out to be an engrossing and delightful read.

I don’t mind admitting that I was chatting online while starting to read this book. In the beginning, it was fairly easy to do. However, once I got into chapters three, four and five, I forgot I was chatting! I literally had to pull myself back to the present in order to respond to my online buddy. I gave up after awhile and just read. Fortunately, my IM buddy is very forgiving. *grin*

My Life With Apache is about Elizabeth and Apache a/k/a Brave Coyote. She’s fourteen and he’s twenty. Both, because of life circumstances, have been radically matured beyond what we’d expect from those same age groups today. I think Linda Lattimer researched her topics very well and I was shocked and intrigued to find out that some of the terminology used back then is in current fashion now. I wonder if other readers will catch them. Sure would be fun to dare you.

Elizabeth’s maturity grew before my eyes. In the beginning, her propensity to harp about going to Montana got irritating. But then I thought – hold on - she’s fourteen and was, up to that point, a teenager coddled and sheltered by her family. Her behavior fit and anyone can relate to it. As she observed and experienced life with the Apache people, the author brought me, along with Elizabeth, to the point of accepting that there are two sides to every story. Presenting the fact that newspapers and gossip mongers back then are the same as today; coloring people’s perception of reality - making worlds that are polar opposites even harder to reconcile. It definitely made Elizabeth’s view point and reactions believable and understandable. Older readers, as well as the target YA audience, will connect with her.

Apache/Brave Coyote is a young man of his culture. His strength and surety of what he wants and WHO he wants is never in question. His patience and the level of respect he gives Elizabeth endeared his character to me. I would be remiss if I did not mention a disciplinary action that may produce a wide-eyed moment for other readers, but I did not take offense, nor did it bump me from the story. Linda is writing about a different time and culture, and within that parameter, I accept Brave Coyote’s actions. He wouldn’t be the man whose people respected him if he was afraid to make difficult choices and carry them out.

I enjoyed watching the relationship and the love grow between Elizabeth and Brave Coyote. I was fascinated by some of the historical and cultural information that flowed seamlessly throughout the story. I was quite satisfied with the action scene that led up to the HEA; the loose ends and how certain issues were resolved. I absolutely adored the classic John Wayne style ending.

All in all, My Life With Apache is a wonderful story about a young woman in a difficult time in history, finding love in an equally unstable and dangerous world. Well worth reading, if you remember to save the introduction until after you’ve read the book.