Added This Week and Two(!) Reviews

Tuesday, May 3, 2011
I lost self control once again. I read the 13 Little Blue Envelopes I had received for free and utterly, utterly loved it. I was so totally charmed, I went and bought the second, The Last Little Blue Envelope, that day on my precious Nook. I feel totally Gollum-like after that sentence. Anyway. My more in depth thoughts about these two books:

Title: 13 Little Blue Envelopes
Author: Maureen Johnson
Genre: Contemporary, young-adult
Series: Little Blue Envelope #1
Published: Octobr 2006
Pages: 336
Rating: 4/5

This novel was both very charming and very refreshing; it's a delight to read. It's not a great work of literature, but it excels at what it is: escapism. Pure fantasy, or perhaps pure day dreams come true; after all, who hasn't wished to backpack across Europe with no ties and be responsible for nothing? If you can suspend your disbelief at a seventeen year old girl wandering Europe unsupervised, it's a whole lot of fun to read. Ginny takes off, all alone on a whirlwind tour of her favorite aunt's favorite places on the Continent, using Aunt Peg's money and connections to do so.
Yet Ginny's circumstances aren't perfect and may be a tiny bit unbelievable but her story is so damn fun to read, and the reader's and Ginny's desire to read the next envelope, to see what is driving this whole crazy escapade, is really what moves the story along. More than the love interest in London, more than the crazy tattoo artist in Edinburgh, or the perfect-English-speaking Dutchman (though these characters, and more are rich and diverse), it is the why of the thirteen envelopes that catches hold of your imagination and won't let go. Ginny is not obviously deficient in any way, like intentionally and goofily clumsy or shy to the point of extreme introversion. She's just a quiet girl who is restricted from most contact until her tour is over. She's smart, she has friends, and is not too morbidly obsessed with her favorite Aunt's departure. So the reader has to winder why Peg thought this solo adventure in Europe was necessary and what the lesson is for Ginny in the end. What's the lesson in all this for Virginia?
All in all, this was a witty and engaging novel made of pure escapism and humor.

Title: The Last Little Blue Envelope
Author: Maureen Johnson
Genre: contemporary, young-adult
Series: Little Blue Envelope #2
Published: April 2011
Pages: 304
Rating: 4.5/5

Lovely. Simply lovely. Just as charming as the first in the duology, The Last Little Blue Envelope is 200+ pages of humor, unrequited love, European landmarks, beloved familiar characters, intriguing new characters with awesome snappy coattails, and is a fulfilling and imaginative ending to a well-written and thoroughly engaging series. I loved this book. It's as simple as that. It was highly highly enjoyable and easy to read. This seems to be the rare sequel that does not disappoint fans of the original. All our old favorites from the first are here: Gin appears (obviously and the nickname I vastly prefer over Ginny), Richard, Keith and even David are once again treated to the random appearance of 'the mad one' on their side of the Atlantic.
I actually enjoyed the 'new' group dynamic with the additions of Ellis and Oliver. And I usually hate the arrival of the Dreaded YA Love Triangle, which clearly Ellis was here to satisfy the book's quota of angst. To Johnson''s credit, the girls don't spend the whole novel backstabbing and bitching at one another, and Ellis turns out to be one of the cooler characters from both both books. Happily, in no way does this competition for a boy's attention either change Gin's goals for the trip or does she allow it to prejudice her against another girl.
Not only was a completely unexpected side of Keith shown but the interactions between all of them were amusing, awkward and sometimes infuriating. Ellis in particular was very amusing. Ginny evolves a lot of the course of the novel; not having a set of instructions from her aunt, she must make decisions on her own, figure out a puzzle without half the pieces and do so with three other people depending on her. She's more mature and very real; Ginny reminds me of a lot of girls that I know and it's nice to read a protagonist so grounded and familiar. Or one so well-written you feel an actual attachment for her and her uncle, the awesome Richard.
I've added the Scarlett series by this author because I loved this series so much. I can only hope Gin gets another book later on. This was pretty recently published, April of 2011, so I haven't really heard from anyone else how they felt, but I hope I do soon.

And onward! Added this week against my better judgment and to the detriment of my bank account:

Wolfsangel by M.D. Lachlan - The first in a planned trilogy, I heard of this at Palace of Distractions review of it. My interest was imediately piqued. I, too, am not one for werewolves in general. Vampires, sure I can take a couple books a year on them. But werewolves? I can't say I've honestly ever read a series or book where it revolved around a single werewolf (exception: Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series sometimes has novels from a female werewolf's POV that are enjoyable supernatural fluff) because nothing caught my eye. Ewa's review definitely caught my attention though, and into the pile it goes. 

Suite Scarlett and Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson. I'm completely basing these two new additions on the strength of my love for the two books I couldn't get enough of or put down this weekend.  Maureen Johnson writes with genuine warmth and humor and, so far, it is always a joy to read her books. I kind of totally love her. She's also hilarious on Twitter. Back on topic: Obviously, most male readers might not identify with this at all, it seems to be a series definitely geared towards a female audience.

Beauty and Other Dangerous Things by Jennifer Hudock. Jennifer wrote another lovely, enthralling book I read earlier this year and devoured (The Goblin Market, with sequels coming and added to my tbr pile), so I was going through her list of work and this caught my eye. Her work is very affordable, (Goblin Market was $.99 and Beauty and Other Dangerous Things $1.49 on my Nook) and well-written. This is a collection of four short stories, each with a set theme, either Beauty, Hate, The Clockwork Heart or Skin. It's a retelling of old stories in new ways and Jennifer writes fantasy and horror so I expect to be creeped out a little. In a good way. I've almost finished my review of the first book I read by her. Sure to be up here in a few days or so.

I have been totally distracted from A Song of Ice and Fire after the first. I will finish my reread before July. But I've read a delightful almost Victorian-esque ghost story by Jennifer Crusie. I was also sucked into starting The Crown Conspiracy by Thomas J. Sullivan, the first in a series of six called The Riyria Revelations, with five already published. So far? It's an engrossing, character-driven fantasy with a gang of likable rogues. And only $4.95 on my Nook for the first one. What's not to love here?

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