Bookclub #3: The Night of the Solstice by LJ Smith

Like many of you, I’m an admitted LJ Smith fan. My formative years were spent reading ragged and dog-eared copies of the books, The Secret Circle, Vampire Diaries, and The Forbidden Game. I always assumed I was from some long lost branch of some long lost witch family straight out of the Night World. BTW I’m not.

Well, recently it was discovered that I never read LJ Smith’s first two books, Night of the Solstice and Sword of Valor. The ever quick witted Rebecca from Crunchings and Munchings review blog was fast to tweet, “@iloveyafiction never read them either! I’m totes thinking 1 of these for book club. You in?” Yes, friends, I am so in.

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Guest Blogger Richelle reviews: Captivated by Deb Apodaca

Captivated, by Deb Apodaca

Publisher: Eminent Books 2011

Format: Kindle Edition

So, after I wrote my last review, my husband read it and said I wimped out when it came to scoring it honestly. I disagree (and of course I’m right as always), but I decided that I would really be tough on the next book I reviewed. When I started reading Captivated, it became obvious that I picked the right time to start being more critical. Sorry Ms. Apodaca, but it’s about to get ugly.

Plot: When best friends Mindy and Dean were thirteen, they found Dean’s parents murdered in their home. That night, Dean changed forever. Four years later, they are starting their senior year in high school. Dean still isolates himself from everyone, including Mindy. But, when a mysterious new student, Shane, starts attending their school, everything changes.

From the moment they meet, Shane takes an intense interest in Mindy and at the same time, Dean seems to be watching Mindy’s every move. Mindy’s friend, Markus, witnesses Dean doing something terrible and decides to investigate further. What Markus finds out is too scary to share with anyone.

Review: The first mistake I made with this book is that I judged it by its cover (I think there’s a saying about something like that). I’m addicted to teenage supernatural love stories, so I assumed (I think there’s a saying about that too…) that I would like this book. So, so, so, seriously wrong. I was never captivated by the story, until I was about 85% into it, and then I would say it was barely interesting.

Let me start with the fact that it was so incredibly predictable! Here are some examples, without giving too much away in case someone really wants to read this book, in spite of this review. First, just look at the cover, which is totally neat, but I’m pretty sure everyone can guess what might happen to Mindy. Next, the way they explain Shane’s looks; he was the palest person Mindy had ever seen, he had long silver hair, and his “rows” of teeth were bright white (how many rows of teeth did he have?!). Hmmm, what could he be?! It’s so obvious.

There were so many parts of the story that did not make sense. At the beginning, it’s explained that Dean and Mindy were hanging out close to his house when his parents were killed. Then, towards the end of the story, Dean is reflecting back on the day his parents were killed, and this time they were eating tacos at home and he went to the back yard to get more lemons for his mom. Huh?! I’m confused… (and do people need lemons for tacos?).

The worst part was the incorrect use of words. “One small deer wondered off closer to us, not caring that we were sitting there.” Again, huh? Did they wander closer to you? Or maybe they are really intelligent deer and they were wondering why you were there? And again, “Some strands wondered on her sun kissed face.”. I’m still confused. Bad editing or bad writing? Either way, bad book.

Based on the following criteria:

How much did

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I like the heroine: 2. Mindy/ Lina/ Red, whatever the hell her name is, was just annoying. She says she never lies to her best friends or her mom, but that’s pretty much all she does throughout the entire book. She basically drools at the sight of any boy, and I understand she’s a teenage girl with hormones, but geez! Get a grip chick! But what’s awesome about her is that she has super long red hair and she can decide whether or not to be compelled by Shane. You’re confused now right? Now you know how I felt. The. Whole. Time. I. Was. Reading. This!

How much did I like the love interest: 3. Well, there were kind of three. 1) Ayden was the boy that Mindy was kind of dating. His character wasn’t very developed, except just before and after he tried to rape her (which didn’t really seem like a big deal to Mindy, she was more excited to find out who saved her by talking to Ayden to see if he remembered seeing her hero’s face. Dumb). 2) Dean was mysterious, sounds very hot, and protects Mindy. He’s always staring at Mindy, and when he finally does talk to her, he’s even flirtatious. Then, after dating for maybe 3 love-filled days, he ends it with no explanation (seriously, I still don’t understand why). 3) Shane is a… Oops! Sorry I don’t want to ruin it. His purpose in the story is pointless until the end, then it’s still weird.

How believable is the plot: 5. Well, since we all know supernatural creatures are real, it’s totally believable. There is one neat idea concerning what Dean really is, but, once again, the story falls short and is (say it with me) confusing! There was a lot of lost potential with the storyline.

How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 1. The writing style was boring, almost like she was trying too hard to make the reader interested in the story. From the beginning, the story was told in Mindy’s voice, then in chapter 26, three chapters from the end, it switches to Dean’s voice. How random. But, the huge problem here was the editing, or should I say lack thereof. Aside from what I mentioned before, the author uses the word eased instead of teased, (am I being too picky now? Nah). On another occasion, the author writes, “On contact with the ground, he did what looked like a roll a professional would do…. He looked like an old man tripping and struggling to get up”. Ok, hmmm, did it look professional or like an old man? I think I understand what she’s trying to say here, but it’s really confusing.

How much did I want to keep reading: 1. I really didn’t want to, but I’ve always had this problem that no matter how horrible a book or movie is, I have to finish it! It must be so I can complain to everyone I know about how awful it was, since I know they all want my opinion (Obvi!).

Final Score: 2/10. Throughout this book it was apparent that the author was more concerned with setting up the story for a sequel than telling it in a complete and satisfying way. There were truly some interesting ideas throughout. Unfortunately, none of them ever lived up to their potential. The end of the story was the icing on the proverbial (bad) cake and summed up only one thing succinctly… How bad this book really was.


It’s Judith! I just have to point out that something about the Captivated cover seems very, very familiar here: a half-faced wide-eyed goth girl with far too much make up. Hhmm, now this reminds me of something…what could it be? What on earth could it be?! Oh that’s right!

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It’s time for the Monday Roundup and yes, smarty pants, I know it’s Tuesday

Happy Faux Monday, everybody! I know, I know. It’s actually Tuesday and I really should have done the roundup yesterday but I have a big secret for you: I miss Ellen. I mean, I really, really miss her. When she’s not around, I have no will power and will spend all evening eating bonbons and reading Pure by Jennifer L Armentrout instead of actually being productive and updating the blog (golden bodied Seth calls to my baser instincts and for that there’s no excuse except for the fact that I’m female.) When Ellen’s around, I will churn out 2+ reviews a week which is rather ambitious for a working gal such as myself but let’s face it, right now we’re lucky if I can get anything written. I’ve got the Ellen withdrawal and I’m not ashamed to admit it!

This week was fabulous though! There’s so much going on: contests, reviews, cover reveals, guest bloggers…it’s got it all.

Now what I’m most excited about is this: a FREAKING BIG CONTEST WITH AWESOME SWAG! We’re giving away a Kindle Fire (yes, you read that right) to one lucky aspiring writer who tells us all about his/her dream wedding in 1000 words are less.  Get cracking, all you authors out there!

One of my most favorite YA authors, Tammara Webber, revealed her latest book premise and cover on our site. Easy will be a standalone novel following Jacqueline to college as she is forced to decide between her high school boyfriend, crazy stalker, college tutor, and sexy classmate Lucas.   Swoon! Plus look at this hot cover. Yum, I like me a good wrist:


Secret Vampire by LJ Smith: Terminally ill Poppy is given the surprise of her life when best friend, James, reveals he’s actually a vampire and changes her into one too in order to save her life.  10/10 READ THIS NOW.

Almost by Anne Eliot: Jess is still living with the repercussions of an attempted rape 3 years ago and in order to placate her parents she hires Gray to play her boyfriend to get her overprotective parents off her back. 9/10

Guest Blogger:

Meet Richelle, everybody! Doesn’t she seem so fun and down to earth? Look at those glasses! I’m a big fan. Approved, Richelle! Approved.

And last but not least, my Reading List:

1.  Running Wide Open by Lisa Nowak: I’m really loving this one! It’s so refreshing to have a male protagonist and no lovey dovey crap. I’m almost done with this and think the review should be up soon.

2.  A Strange Fire by LH Cosway: This is one of the books that an author approached me about reviewing. I love being thought of as some serious reviewer so I must admit that I gave an adament, “yes!” when asked to read it.  I might not have checked out the blurb about it yet but am really digging that cover. It reminds me a lot of John Green’s Looking for Alaska cover but hopefully there will be a lot less tears.

3. The Lure of Shapinsay by Krista Holle: Hello naked cover! I love covers with half-naked men on them, granted this “man” appears a little more pubescent than man. Frankly I prefer a beefcake but beggars can’t be choosers, here. Irish myth and a lot of skin? Sign me up! Not the biggest fan of prose written in accent though…we’ll see how it goes.

4. Fix by Leslie Margolis: Who can say no to teens and plastic surgery? This is fascinating stuff and I can’t wait to read this one.

Now I am off to drool more over Seth and hate on Aiden in Pure by Jennifer L Armentrout. Seriously, what’s Alex’s problem?! If Seth were sniffing around me and wanted someone to abuse him thoroughly, I would sooooo be on board with that. Just sayin’.

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Secret Vampire by LJ Smith: An Homage to My Lost Youth

Secret Vampire by LJ Smith

Publisher: Archway; First Thus edition (June 1, 1996)

Format: OMG it’s paper, people!

Show of hands for anyone out there who actually knew about LJ Smith before The Vampire Diaries and its particular brand of smutty, skinny girl TV melodrama brought her into mainstream culture. Anyone? If your hand is raised, send me an email because we gotta be friends, uh, like right now. And don’t worry: I do indeed love TVD tv show but for reasons wholly other than the fact that it is somewhat loosely based on the books. Anyway…not to toot my own uber-cool horn, but I have been obsessed with her since I was 13. That’s right: 13! I devoured her books one after the other and was devastated when each trilogy drew to a close. Enter Night World! Her 10 book series about a secret, magical underworld was beyond what I could handle. I mean for the angsty viola playing, hair dyed version of me who sported oversized Dr Martens and plaid hospital pants, it was just too cool.  And yes, I really was that ridiculous.

Plot: On the first day of summer vacation, Poppy Montgomery discovers  that she has a rare, terminal cancer and no hopes of beating it.  She along with her parents, twin brother, and best friend James, are devastated and each one deals with the crisis in his own way.  Poppy wishes that James, the boy she has been in love with for forever, would finally tell her that he reciprocates her feelings but when he does, he tacks on a little secret: he’s a lamia, or born vampire, who can choose when he stops aging and needs human blood to survive.  Vampires, along with all those other fantastical beings like witches, werewolves, and shape shifters, exist in a secret world called the Night World that humans do not know about. In fact there are only two laws in the Night Worlds: do not tell humans about the Night World and do not fall in love with a human.  James has ulterior motives for telling Poppy his secrets and he convinces her that the only way for her to survive is to allow him to turn her into a vampire too.  Once she’s turned, Poppy and James must brave the Night World Elders who claim that no made vampires be allowed to survive and in doing so, realize that their love is strong enough to survive anything.

Review: Somebody get me a fire extinguisher cause this book is HOT! And not in the sexy and slightly twisted way you’re thinking: oh no, it is so well written, evenly paced, and tight that I want to smother it in kisses and thank god it was written before LJ Smith’s extended writing hiatus because everything written since her comeback just isn’t the same.  Don’t get me wrong though, her main characters are  definitely smokin’ and that’s part of the charm of her work.  All the characters are lucky enough to have both superhuman abilities and extreme good looks. It’s just not fair.  But the thing is, LJ Smith writes such likeable characters that you just can’t seem to find it ridiculous that everyone is attractive and blessed with abilities humans can’t hold a candle to.  I mean, normally when I get my hands on a book like this, all the beautiful people just make me roll my eyes.  Chances are if they’re too beautiful to be real, then the book is going to take a nose dive pretty quickly. But Poppy and James are two gorgeous people who just work on the page.  For a vampire, James is not pretentious or all grabby-needy about the blood.  No, he seems like a pretty normal guy who happens to need blood on a daily basis.  It’s such a breath of fresh air to read a story like this where the main characters aren’t simultaneously repelled and drawn to one another by overly appealing blood and the bond they share seems real.  Their love story is full of subtlety and nuance.  Let’s face it, a lot of authors just aren’t able to convey this, usually beating dead horses over and over again in an effort to prove a point about how unusually beautiful, clever, witty, unique, or otherworldly a character is.  LJ Smith delicately rides the balance between camp and unique, giving readers a great love story that is neither heavy handed or banal.  And if I sound like some sort of love-sick LJ Smith fan girl…I don’t care! I totally am and I’m fine with it!

Based on the following criteria:

How much did I like the heroine: 9. Poppy is such a  spunky female lead.  She’s naturally gutted by the diagnosis of her cancer but never lets it dull her optimism.  Even when she’s desperately in need of James’ help, she never devolves into being needy. Too often lately we get books about girls who need saving and in doing so, become clingy, whiny, obnoxious, ungrateful, or mean spirited. Poppy does none of these things.  Instead she maintains her joyful demeanor and naivete. Plus she knew James had a deep, dark secret but never in a million years expected it to be the fact that he’s a vampire. Points to her for not immediately assuming the boy is super human!

How much did I like the love interest: 10. Ah, James. You sound so dreamy and well…helpful. Who doesn’t want a bf who is not only gorgeous but also willing to do what’s necessary to get the job done? You give up life as you know it in order to live on the run with the vampire girlfriend you made.  It’s so romantic and noble that if I were Poppy, I would definitely have given you more than that chaste kiss we see.  I’m just sayin’.

How believable is the plot: 9. I know, I know: how believable can it be, a secret underground world of paranormal beings intent on either dominating or co-existing peacefully with humans. You’d think if this world existed, at least some rumors of it would have made it over to the human side. Regardless, it’s well written and the mythology is believably sketched out for us.  Yes, the likelihood of its existence is called into question, but really, who cares?! It’s a fun read and you really feel a part of it by book’s end.

How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 10. LJ Smith is a phenomenal writer. I’ll reiterate this whenever her writing skills are called into question. Everything is subtle and not over done. The dialogue is not trite and it has an easy flow that a lot of YA dialogue lacks.  Her sentences aren’t complex but it’s their very terseness which makes for good reading.  Wasn’t it Hemingway who was constantly trying to pare away as much as he could from his writing in order to get to the very meat of his sentiment? Well, let’s just say that LJ Smith has got that down pat.

How much did I want to keep reading: 10! Luckily this a 10 book series or I would be furious…Ellen may love the standalones but I enjoy reading books about the same world with characters that drift in and out at random.  It’s fantastic and you feel like you’re rediscovering old friends and their whereabouts when you see the same characters crop up long after their stories have finished.

Final Score: 10/10. Great story telling, fun story, great love interest, spunky heroine. What’s not to love here?!

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Giddyup! It’s Monday Roundup!

It’s Monday and you know what that means! All of our reviews are condensed into one line blurbs and listed here in one convenient place.

I gotta be honest: it was a crazy week for old school reviews. Ellen and I plundered our bookshelves

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and brought you 3 reviews based off of books MADE OUT OF PAPER! Totally true and a little weird, if you ask me. I actually had trouble reading at night because if I laid on one side, I kept having to lift my head off the pillow to read the other page. It was so not cool.

Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik: Ellen didn’t get the P&P references until far too late in the game, but other readers might see them straight away in this story about Elise moving to Beverly Hills and trying to fit in with Derek, the son of Hollywood’s power couple. She gives it a 7.5/10 and wouldn’t stop texting me about it. High praise indeed.

Cinderella in Cleats by Carly Syms: Whitney moves to a new high school and tries out to be the football team’s starting quarterback. There’s some romance and team competition and some other stuff I just can’t bring myself to care about. Ellen gave it a 3/10 and that’s with bonus points. Read at your own peril.

The Midnight Club by Christopher Pike: In creepy Christopher Pike fashion we get a book about 5 friends, their final days on Earth, how they come to terms with the choices they have made in life and how they face death at such a young age. Ellen gives it a 9/10 and remembers it being less dark when she read it in high school.

The Hanged Man by Francesca Lia Block: Laurel has to deal with sexual abuse, her father’s death, a mother who’s slowly eaten away by grief and guilt, and a boyfriend who disappears and reappears at an astonishing rate. It reads like a poem and the imagery can kick you in the gut when you’re not looking. It gets a 9.2/10.

The Forbidden Game, Volume III: The Kill by LJ Smith: My sexy ice lord from norse myth is back and wearing his fringe vest and arm cuff! He uses all of his wiles to convince Jenny to leave her bf Tom once and for all and join him in the frozen waste he calls home. 1000000+/10. Get this stat!

Best part of this week is by far the news that Jennifer L Armentrout, amazing authoress of Obsidian and Half-Blood, will be signing books at Turn The Page bookstore in Boonsboro, MD on July 7th. Joining her will be none other than Ms. Nora Roberts! Both ladies will be in fine company.

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The Forbidden Game, Volume III: The Kill by LJ Smith

The Forbidden Game, Volume III: The Kill, by LJ Smith

Publisher: Pocket Books, 1994

Format: Paperback

Oh my god, girl! Watch out! Julian has got his fringe vest on and an upper arm cuff. He means business. And his business is all about getting you to finally tell him that you love his crankypants elemental ice lord ways and that you totally can’t wait to move into his new digs in the winter wonderland he lives in. So get ready to give it up! This baddie is on a mission. A mission to make you his. This book is called The Kill so I think you might not win this time…and let me tell you, if Julian were all up in my face with his white blond hair, piercing blue eyes, and tight black pants (and okay that vest too! I’m a sucker for it), I would not mind in the slightest if he won and I lost because his version of winning means that we’ll finally get something more than a chaste kiss or two and maybe we’ll even see him–gasp!–hold your hand! So get ready to make this reader happy because the tension is killing me!

Plot: When The Chase ends, Julian has Jenny’s boyfriend Tom and her cousin Zach in his possession. Before heading back to the ice world he lives in, Julian leaves Jenny with an ultimatum–either come find them on a devious treasure hunt that he’s devised or lose them forever. Obviously Jenny can’t let Julian win so she decides to return to the point where she first saw Julian as a child, her grandfather’s house. Jenny, Audrey, Michael, and Dee travel to Pennsylvania in the hopes of finding a way into the ice world and finally make it, only once there, Julian is the one in control. He’s warped the surroundings to resemble Joyland Funpark, an amusement park near Jenny’s grandfather’s house, and of course, the four friends must play Julian’s game in order to win back Tom and Zach and eventually, their own freedom. They must search for gold coins hidden among the amusement park rides and to rightfully gain them, they must once again face their fears. As this game progresses, Jenny finds a core of strength within herself that she never had before. She realizes she is more in control of her situation than in the past two games and starts pushing Julian instead of fearing him. She learns about Julian’s existence, how lonely and cold it is to be a creature of myth and how much he truly cares for Jenny. In the end though, she also realizes how much she loves the light, being normal, and her bf, Tom. But there’s no denying the attraction she shares with Julian. Ultimately though she is saved from making the choice between the dark ice lord who would do anything to keep her and the normal boyfriend she’s known for practically her entire life. Julian proves his love for her by sacrificing himself when the other ice lords who live in his world decide they want a piece of Jenny. The end is bittersweet but fitting and proves that love and light triumph over the dark everytime.


Oh Jenny. Jenny, Jenny, Jenny. How could you pick that vapid, boring football player, Tom, when Julian was ready to offer you anything and everything your heart desires? How could you let him sacrifice himself for you? I really really wish it had been Tom but no. Julian had to save you from the other mythological creatures, had to give up his life for yours. Why! WHY??? This final installment of the Forbidden Game trilogy was by far my favorite due to its copious amounts of sexy time between Jenny and Julian and the growth that Jenny so obviously makes over the course of it all. The ending is fitting–it shows that Julian isn’t the amoral, unfeeling being that he thinks himself to be and his giving up his very self in order to save Jenny proves that he’s finally learned to really love someone. I understand that Tom or any of her friends was incapable of making this sacrifice because Jenny would let their actions haunt her for the rest of her life, but why did Julian have to die? Wahhhhh! It’s all so unfair. I rooted for Jenny and Julian the entire time. I was so sure that LJ Smith wouldn’t let Jenny become a stereotype by forcing her to stay with Tom but she does. The only good thing to come of it is the fact that Jenny learns to love Julian too and even though she couldn’t be with him because he was, you know, evil, she still recognizes that love and wears his promise ring to remind herself of it. This is such a well written, bittersweet love story that shows that true love does conquer all, even elemental ice lords intent on eating your very soul. It sounds trite, I know, and it is, but we see the characters grow and evolve throughout each book and by the end of the series, Jenny’s choice is actually that, a choice. It isn’t the easiest path but one she’s come to after some intense suffering and a great deal of thought. The game in this installment seems far less important than the first two and in the end, you always know that Jenny can’t stay with Julian. They’re just too different but you can’t stop wishing, praying, hoping against all reason that they can make it work. Sadly they can’t and in order to make it final, Julian has got to die. Fitting but sad.

Based on the following criteria:

How much did I like the heroine: 10. I’ve said it before: Jenny is trite but this girl grows and matures so much over the course of these books that you can’t help but love her. She’s always true to herself and her emotions to the point where she gives up Julian though we all know she wants to pin him to a fur rug and ravish his vest clad body.

How much did I like the love interest: 10. Julian rocks my world. He’s the quintessential bad boy! He’s rough and gruff with a heart of gold and he sacrifices himself to save Jenny from

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torture and death. What a fantastic guy! Plus he has the ability to give her anything and everything her heart desires. And he wants to do it! He wants her to be happy! Sigh.

How believable is the plot: 10. Okay, supernatural elements aside, this plot is fantastic. Girl meets bad guy, girl has to choose between her boring bf and bad guy, and in the end, the choice is made easy because the bad guy makes the ultimate sacrifice to keep the girl safe. You don’t even need paranormal stuff for this to be good!

How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 10000000. LJ Smith from the 90s is a writing goddess. I’m not so sure about her stuff lately, but the vintage stuff is amazing! It’s fast paced, fluid, the dialogue is quick and believable, and the editing is superb. You can’t beat this kind of writing.

How much did I want to keep reading: 10. Julian is dead. I get that, but god I wish he could be reincarnated as a hot high school boy who meets Jenny later on in the school year and who teaches her to embrace the darkness within. I think I’ve given this way too much thought.

Final Score: 1000000000 / 10. Awesome end to an awesome trilogy. Read them all. Right. This. Minute. Seriously stop what you’re doing and get these books. You will not regret it.


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Monday means…it’s time for the Weekly Roundup!

What’s the most judicious way I can describe this week’s reviews? Well,  the books were a little heavy on the boring and to Ellen, on the angels.  There was far too much angst and one cover that skeeved me out while also drawing me in (I am not a cougar, damnit!). But I did manage to get my weekly plug in for Julian, the oh-so-sexy fringe vest wearing elemental ice lord of Nordic myth, and we all swooned over self-proclaimed farm girl Jillian Dodd’s breakthrough novel, That Boy, as well. I guess it wasn’t as bad as I remember…

Shut Out by Kody Keplinger:  Jock boys and their girlfriends take part in a sexy battle of wills in a last ditch effort to end the football-soccer feud running rampant through their high school. Lissa ditches her football player bf, Randy (thank god! What a stupid name), for the silent yet sexy Cash.  We give it a: 8/10 Rawr, go get it, ladies!

That Boy by Jillian Dodd: corn fed Nebraska girl, JJ, must choose between her two childhood sweethearts in this sweet tale about growing up and finding Mr. Right. We’ll take her beefy studs from NE any night or day! We give it a: 1000000+/10 You will absolutely adore this book and if you don’t you have no heart and we feel really sorry for you and the lump of coal you have where it should be.

Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn’t Have) by Sarah Mlynowski:  April convinces her ‘rents to let her move in with her high school buddy, Vi, under the pretext that Vi’s mother will be watching over them.  She isn’t and hilarity ensues as two teenage girls try to remain afloat for the latter half of junior year. We give it a: 7.8/10 It’s almost an 8 but not quite. I secretly deducted points because the one boyfriend who screwed me over royally was named Hudson and that name just stopped being sexy to me from that point on.

Angel Burn by LA Weatherly: When energy sucking angels take over the world, the only ones who can stop them are the psychic Willow and her would be assassin, Alex. To do so, they go on a road trip! We give it a: 5.6/10 Ellen gives it a 0 and she didn’t even read it.  She can’t help herself when angels are involved.

His Kiss by Melanie Marks: In order to save her bf from a beat down, Ali decides to beg his would-be attacker to back off and surprisingly he agrees.  For a kiss.  Now Ali’s world is turned upside down as she struggles to resume the life she had before Griffin kissed her.  We give it:  5.4/10 mainly because there wasn’t much substance and I hated the stupid cover.

The Forbidden Game, Volume II: The Chase by LJ Smith: You take Jenny, her friends, her bf Tom, two phantoms intent on wreaking havoc, and one sexified Ice King and what do you get? One kick ass novel about racing the clock to save your friends before being sucked into the oh-so-evil-yet-dreamy world of Julian.  Sigh. We give it: 10/10 Julian can come be my hunky vest wearing bad boy any day.  Ellen thinks he sounds stupid but we all know she’s just jealous that he likes me best.

And there you have it!

Sarah Mlynowski has a blog showcasing her book, Ten Things, for only $.99!

If you haven’t already, check out Jillian Dodd’s personal blog for sneak peeks from her next book, That Wedding: Plus take a look at her ManDay posts. They’re hilarious!

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The Forbidden Game, Volume II: The Chase by LJ Smith

The Forbidden Game, Volume II: The Chase, by LJ Smith

Publisher: Pocket Books (1994)

Format: Paperback

I’m not gonna lie: it’s been a god-awful week for book reviews. In the hopes of preserving my fragile sanity and keeping me from thumping my head against this table yet again, I thought I’d throw one in there that was sure to earn at least a 9 on the highly scientific Judith-Ellen scale and had a swoon-worthy love interest as diabolical as he is sexy.  Plus look at that cover! That’s 90s cheese at its very best. Looking at that you can’t help but smile…and then drool over the elemental ice lord peering over the house at the back.


Jenny and her friends have made it back from Julian’s shadow world and managed to win his high-stakes game in order to regain their freedom.   Only problem is they had to leave behind one of them and no matter how hard they try to make it otherwise, Summer is not coming back.  Julian however has more plans to force Jenny to become his queen.  He has a new game for her and her friends to play; this one called Lambs and Monsters.  The Lambs are Jenny and her friends and the Monsters are the Lurker and the Creeper, two phantoms embodied as a wolf and snake.  Slowly they prey on the group and one by one Jenny’s friends disappear with nothing but a paper doll left in their place and a riddle telling who will be next.  Jenny races to save her friends all the while attempting to navigate an increasingly rocky relationship with her boyfriend, Tom, and being asked to the prom by a senior.  There’s also the added temptation of Julian who shows up in the most unusual of places (like the prom) and uses all of his masculine wiles to get her to kiss him and wear a promise ring he’s made for her.  In the end, Jenny manages to find and save her friends but in the ensuing battle to escape, Tom and her cousin, Zach, are trapped within Julian’s world. He makes it very clear that she must play one last game to save them.


Now what do we have here? It’s a book about a game that needs to be played in order to save Jenny and her friends from Julian, the sexy leather and fringe wearing elemental ice lord from Norse myth. I think I’ve heard this one before…now where was that, hmmm…oh yes, it’s almost the same plot as the first book in the Forbidden Game series (The Hunter) but somehow I just don’t care! That Julian, he’s so sexy and man, is he fickle! Either he loves Jenny or he hates her but he doesn’t realize that he can’t have both. Or can he? He’s an ice creature from way up North who by his very nature is temperamental and cold yet he sees Jenny and his heart melts. Literally. Usually I find this sort of cliche so trite that I chuck a book across the room or hit delete on the kindle but here, it really works. LJ Smith’s writing is tight: fast paced, believable, and full of the sort of nuanced detail that you don’t really see in teen fiction.  She creates a highly believable world and the fact that there are paranormal elements in it is pretty moot. Every word she writes feels crafted for a purpose.  The story is fantastic and even though the plot doesn’t really vary, Smith manages to make it feel new and unique.  Obviously, I’m a big fan of her work and this, the second in a series, does not disappoint.  Usually the middle book of a trilogy feels like filler or a place holder but not so with The Chase.  Unlike other novels of this sort, we see the characters evolve and mature.  Jenny is far more self-assured than she was in the first book and we get an added bonus of watching her use her new found assertiveness during some sexy time with Julian.  All in all, great book and bodes well for things to come!

Based on the following criteria:

How much did I like the heroine: 10. Oh Jenny. How can you withstand the sexiness that is Julian? How can you want to date a guy named Tom? I can’t believe you would forego the blond, blue eyed ice lord for a high school jock but props to you for knowing what you want and doing anything in your power to protect it.  Personally, the moment Julian kissed me I would have stayed to be his ice queen but you definitely are more mature than me.  Major points for not changing your beliefs based on the sexiness of your enemy.

How much did I like the love interest: 10. I swoon every time I think of Julian’s dreamy blue eyes, his white blond hair, his ability to give Jenny anything and everything her heart desires, and, oh you know, the fact that he goes against his very being by loving her. Swoon! Squee! He’s also just bad boy enough to make me love to hate him.

How believable is the plot: 10.  God how I wish Julian would jump out of my cupboard and challenge me to a game.  Even though it’s paranormal, this plot is entirely realistic.

How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 10.   LJ Smith is a writing goddess. Her dialogue is perfect in its simplicity and the story just flows. There’s no herky jerky stops and starts and the editing as always is flawless.  Plus she writes in the third person and that’s a breath of fresh air these days where everyone is writing in the first.

How much did I want to keep reading: 10. 10. 10. Thank god there’s a third one in this series otherwise I would be so disappointed not to hear any more about Julian.

Final Score: 10 / 10.  Read it! But be prepared to want to slap Jenny senseless when she somehow manages to withstand Julian and his advances.

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Time for the Weekly Roundup!

It’s Monday: Weekly Roundup time! All of this past week’s reviews summed up in one line for your buying convenience.

Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout: New in town, Katy, discovers that sexy aliens live right next door and she helps them learn about the greatness of humans while they save her from scary light sucking alien enemies all while maneuvering through the intricacies of high school. Rating: 10 aka buy this book stat!

Carrie Pilby by Caren Lissner: Girl genius Carrie Pilby lives a depressing existence in Manhattan with no friends and follows her therapist’s advice to find hobbies, friendship, and love. Rating: 3.8 aka well written but infuriating main character.

Sometimes It Happens by Lauren Barnholdt: Hannah falls in love with her best friend’s bf while the best friend is away at summer camp and Hannah is stuck back home working at a greasy diner and trying not to stalk her creep of an ex-boyfriend. Rating: 6.8 aka worth reading if only for Noah the sexy bf’s boyfriend though he is a dirty, dirty cheater.

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen: Macy learns how to grieve and live again after the death of her father through the help of a wacked out catering business and a hottie delinquent named Wes. Rating: 10 aka buy this book stat!

Ready Player One by

Ernest Cline: In the future, Wade battles the rest of the dystopian world in order to locate a dead man’s bagillion dollar fortune (and there’s a lot of 80s references to either annoy or make you nostalgic). Raing: 8 aka there’s not a lot of lovey dovey stuff but if you dig the 80s

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or dude books, you’ll like this.

The Forbidden Game, Volume I: The Hunter by LJ Smith: Jenny must duke it out with Julian, a sexy elemental ice lord from Norse myth, intent on making her his queen by forcing her to play a game for the lives of her best friends and boyfriend. Rating: 10 aka buy this book stat!

Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler: Former basketball star Chelsea leaves her annoying bf, Gabe, to spend the summer in Minnesota being trained by a hunky yet damaged wilderness trainer named Clint. Rating: 5 aka boring enough to be unmemorable but well written and vaguely interesting.

Shipwrecked Summer by Carly Syms: Hoping to find true love at her last summer before college, Lexie visits her grandma in Ship’s Wreck, NJ, and meets two potential guys, Anthony the cutie next door, and Jeff the most abrasively nasty lifeguard on the Jersey Shore. Rating: 2.4 aka stay far, far away unless you want to throw away your money.

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The LJ Smith Cover Battle Royale: Which is better for the Forbidden Game, 90s cover or 2000s cover?

In posting my latest review of the Forbidden Game, Volume I: the Hunter, I came across the cover used most recently when the book was republished. Frankly it scared me. The cover from the mid-90s was cheesy and cartoonish, but Julian was hot and it presented the right mix of quirky and eerie. Today’s cover just makes Jenny look like a cracked out tranny. Likewise, a lot of LJ Smith’s more recent covers just don’t do it for me. Maybe I’m too much a child of the 80s but quite frankly I hate them. They’re too modern or gothic or dark…I don’t know what it is exactly, I can’t quite pinpoint it, but they’re just awful. I’m going to present all her book covers for the Forbidden Game and you judge for yourselves.


The Forbidden Game, Volume I: The Hunter

90s cover:

2000s cover:

Winner: clearly, 90s cover! Why doesn’t Jenny look wholesome anymore? She has on far too much eye makeup, her mouth is open all vapid-like, and seriously, that’s not Jenny! Jenny’s hair really is blonde. This girl is just one hot Jenny mess.

The Forbidden Game, Volume II: The Chase

90s cover:

2000s cover:

Winner: still the 90s cover! I mean, is that even the same girl as the first 2000s cover? It looks like a different person altogether, one who is even more open-eyed, more make-up wearing, less blonde, and more tranny-like. Can’t they be consistent in this day and age? Come on, we have awesome computers but we can’t put the same face on the cover of book two?

Last Chance…

The Forbidden Game, Volume III: The Kill

90s cover:

2000s cover:

Winner: Okay this one is a close call. 90s version Jenny has her shirt tucked into her jeans! For shame! That’s one crazy fashion faux pas. I was going to mention Julian’s leather vest because it’s hard to pull off wearing one of those but if anyone can it’s him so no points deduction. At least in the 2000 cover the hot mess is no longer looking directly into the camera. Now this over the shoulder profile shot could almost be sexy…except Jenny isn’t sexy. She’s wholesome. So lose the makeup, do something about your fried blonde hair, and step aside, cover girl, because 90s cover is our winner!!!

Bonus Round!!

The trilogy was published as one novel in the 90s and 2000s and the covers didn’t get any better but let’s duke it out one last time.

The Forbidden Game Trilogy

90s cover:

2000s cover:

Winner: I thought it would be impossible to make Julian look bad, but 90s cover does it. He looks BAD and not in a good way that makes me think of sexy times. They really dropped the ball with the 90s cover. It looks like a poorly designed halloween cartoon and that

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mime/clown gives me the willies. Now in the 2000s cover, the chick is actually innocent looking and her hair looks much more natural than the hot mess in the first 3. She actually looks fresh faced and winsome. Oh no…I never thought I’d say this the trilogy cover category, 2000s cover is the clear winner!!!

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