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Title: The Other Side of Dawn
Author: John Marsden
Genre: Dystopian, YA
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 333
Date read: December, 2011

Informed by Colonel Finley that the military is making a move that could be compared to the D-day attack of WWII, the outback teen guerillas know that the end of the bewildering war that changed their lives is drawing near. Armed with plastic explosives and grenades, courtesy of the New Zealand Army, they have been instructed to "spread chaos and confusion behind their (enemy) lines in every way, shape and form." For Ellie and company, this means targeting a hostile refueling station and train tracks. Of course, nothing is ever easy. There are still the feral kids to worry about and the dismal discovery that soldiers have infiltrated Hell, their only secured hiding place in the bush.

No joke, I literally sobbed my way through much of the second half of this book - much to my husbands bemusement and concern. For a minute there I was very worried that the series would end up with an open ending after all, but in the end John Marsden tied everything together very nicely.

Somehow the resolution of the war did offend my sense of justice though. I know it's probably a very realistic resolution though, so even if I don't like it much, I can understand why John Marsden didn't tie everything up in a neat little bow in the end.

I'm glad I've finally read this series. I've heard so much about it for ages, and it deserves its hype. Now all that's left is to figure out whether I should continue with the Ellie Chronicles next ;) Recommendations, anybody?
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Title: The Night is for Hunting
Author: John Marsden
Genre: Dystopian, YA
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 256
Date read: December, 2011

Amidst a brutal war with no end in sight, Ellie and her four remaining friends discover that their hidden refuge becomes a crowded place when they decide to care for an uncooperative crew of orphans. Things only get worse when Ellie and Homer learn that mysterious visitors have discovered their sanctuary. Has the enemy found them out?

Five ordinary teens brave the worst in this electrifying continuation of their battle to stay safe and sane in a war zone that was once their home.

Still an amazing series, but this foreshadowing is getting a bit old. When every second chapter stars with "We should have known...", "If only I had..." or something similar, you know that the author needs to learn a new writing technique.

But despite this, I'm still happily devouring the books. I liked the addition of the ferals in this one, even if Gavin did annoy me something terrible. He's deaf! That makes him a liability - not a help! He can't hear if there are soldiers about or if he's making too much noise!

I was also glad to see they finally got some more help from New Zealand!
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Title: Burning for Revenge
Author: John Marsden
Genre: Dystopian, YA
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 272
Date read: December, 2011

The journey to Stratton isn't an easy trip, especially when the enemy's headquarters lie somewhere along the way. And that's exactly where Ellie and her friends unwittingly find themselves. With only five of them against hundreds of armed soldiers, escape seems like a suicide mission. But Stratton is where Ellie's grandmother lives, so the journey must be made -- even though the odds aren't good.

I loved that the kids finally got revenge! Not at all in the way I had expected, but I was very gratified that something finally went their way. I can't even begin to imagine what they must be going through and was very glad that they finally experienced something they could be pleased about.

I couldn't believe Lee's betrayal though. That infuriated me!
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Title: Darkness, Be My Friend
Author: John Marsden
Genre: Dystopian, YA
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 272
Date read: December, 2011

Ellie and her friends had been rescued. Airlifted out of their own country to the safe haven of New Zealand, they'd arrived burnt and injured and shocked, with broken bones, and scars inside and out. They did not want to go back. But five months later the war is not over, the nightmares continue, and there are two compelling reasons for them to return: a planned sabotage of the air base in Wirrawee and, most important, the families they left behind.

John Marsden doesn't pull any punches! But I like his way of doing it - it's necessary to make the series seem realistic, yet he doesn't throw them all at once, so the reader gets time to breathe between each new tragedy.

I didn't like this book quite as much as the previous three, as it seemed like everything that could go wrong did go wrong and it got to be a bit much at one point, but it's still a fascinating read and I can't wait to see what happens next!
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Title: The Third Day, The Frost
Author: John Marsden
Genre: Dystopian, YA
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 278
Date read: December, 2011

The anything-to-survive existence of Ellie and her friends has sharpened their senses and emboldened their plans. They aren't merely on the defensive anymore; they're also striking back. Their strategy? Attack the enemy not just on land, but also on water. If they have any hope of sabotaging the formidable container ship at Cobbler's Bay, then stealth is a must, but so, too, is one very big explosion.

And if they fail, they may face a whole new kind of terror - imprisonment.

Probably the most chilling book of the series so far. I literally had tears come to my eyes when the kids got in contact with New Zealand. And then the end... but I won't spoil it for the rest of you.

I wasn't quite as satisfied with the closing of the Major Harvey incident as I had hoped to be, but then I always prefer bad guys to recognize the error of their ways... yeah, I'm ridiculously naive that way.

Glad Kevin's back. I hope we'll hear more about Corrie soon too.
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Title: The Dead of Night
Author: John Marsden
Genre: Dystopian
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 272
Date read: December, 2011

A few months after the first fighter jets landed in their own backyard, Ellie and her five terrified but defiant friends struggle to survive amid a baffling conflict. Their families are unreachable; the mountains are now their home. When two of them fall behind enemy lines, Ellie knows what must happen next: a rescue mission. Homer, the strongest and most unpredictable among them, is the one to take charge. While others have their doubts about his abilities, Homer has no choice but to prove them wrong - or risk losing everything to the enemy.

This series suffers one weakness similar to that of the "Gone" series by Michael Grant - since I know this book isn't the last in the series, I also know that there will be no real resolution to the war.

But at least I know that going into the novel, so it doesn't bother me as much as it would have otherwise. And I'm still fascinated by the picture John Marsden paints.

I was annoyed with Ellie for giving in to Lee. It could have been handled so much better, because as it was it seemed like she only agreed because he kept pressuring her.

Haley's army infuriated me, and I'm almost glad we haven't heard the last from him, as I'd love to see some kind of retribution.

I thought the end was glossed over too quickly, but can sort of see the reason for this, since the books are supposed to be Ellie's account of the happenings and therefore only focuses on what she can bear to focus on.
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Title: Shantaram
Author: Gregory David Roberts
Genre: Cultural
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 944
Date read: December, 2011

Lin, an escaped convict with a false passport flees maximum security prison in Australia for the teeming streets of a city where he can disappear.

Accompanied by his guide and faithful friend, Prabaker, the two enter Bombay's hidden society of beggars and gangsters, prostitutes and holy men, soldiers and actors, and Indians and exiles from other countries, who seek in this remarkable place what they cannot find elsewhere.

Wow... took me almost two months to read this book! It wasn't a bad or boring book, but it just wasn't a page-turner either, and for a book of 900+ pages, that's really to its own detriment.

I can't really figure out whether it's a novel or a memoir. From what I've been able to gather through online articles, it seems to be a fictionalized memoir... or a novel based on the author's own experiences. At least, all the larger details of Lin's life were things that happened to the author as well.

It was really, really interesting. I know next to nothing about India of the 1980s and was fascinated (and occasionally horrified) by the descriptions given. But holy foreshadowing, Batman! It's a literary technique that has always bothered me, and even more so when as in this book it occurs in almost every chapter.

I'm glad to have read it, and ended up loving some of the characters like Prabaker and (strangely enough) Karla, but I really, really doubt it's a book I'm ever going to read again.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Tomorrow, When the War Began
Author: John Marsden
Genre: Dystopian
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 285
Date read: December 2011, December 2016

When Ellie and her friends go camping, they have no idea they're leaving their old lives behind forever. Despite a less-than-tragic food shortage and a secret crush or two, everything goes as planned. But a week later, they return home to find their houses empty and their pets starving. Something has gone wrong--horribly wrong. Before long, they realize the country has been invaded, and the entire town has been captured--including their families and all their friends. Ellie and the other survivors face an impossible decision: They can flee for the mountains or surrender. Or they can fight.

I'd actually seen this in the library 10'ish years ago and thought it sounded interesting, but decided against taking it out when I saw that it was part of a series since I didn't know if the books could stand alone or if the series had been finished. However, a friend recommended it to me back in 2005, so I thought I would give it a shot. I liked it well enough, but wasn't blown away by it, so I never picked up the sequels.

Recently another friend started talking about it again. She'd seen the movie and raved about both it and the books, so I figured it was time to give it a second chance. I don't know what changed, but this time I loved it, and will definitely be continuing with the rest of the series.

I think one difference may have been that I read it in Danish last time and English this time. Even the best translator cannot capture the Australian slang in Danish. I felt much more connected to the story and am eager to see what happens next.

We never think war could ever come to our country, and discovering it so suddenly, like the kids here did, must have been a terrible shock. I can't even imagine.
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Title: Soul of the Fire
Author: Terry Goodkind
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
# pages: Audiobook ~24hrs

Richard Rahl has traveled far from his days as a simple forest guide. Emperor of D'Hara, war wizard, the Seeker of Truth - none of these roles mean as much to him as his newest. For Richard Rahl is now husband to Kahlan Amnell.

But their wedding is the key that unlocks a faraway spell, and now a deadly power pours forth across the world.

Separated from the Sword of Truth, stripped of their magic, Richard and Kahlan must journey across the Midlands to confront a secret from their past, and a trap that could tear them apart. For there's no place so dangerous as a world without magic.

I still enjoy this series, but boy there was a lot of sermonizing and politics in this installment! I'm sorry, I don't care to read about politics - not even fictional politics.

Apart from that, I did enjoy the book though. I'm glad that Richard and Kahlan actually got to spend most of this one together for once! I did miss Zedd though, and hope we get to hear more about him, Ann, Verna and Nathan in the next book. Oh, and whatever happened to Addie? Anybody remember?
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Title: The Librarian (Book One: Little Boy Lost)
Author: Eric Hobbs
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 200
Date read: December, 2011

Wesley Bates thinks his life pretty much sucks. He's landed at the bottom of his school's popularity ladder, and bully Randy Stanford seems to be waiting around every corner.

The troubled teen thinks he's found a way to escape his real-world problems when he stumbles upon strange doorways in Astoria's local library that seem to lead into the extraordinary worlds from all his favorite books. Oz, Neverland, Wonderland -- they're all a reality with Wesley's new discovery. Wesley teams with best friend Taylor Williams to embark on a great adventure, both ready to leave the drama of middle school behind.

But the two kids quickly find themselves embroiled in a centuries-old battle for the library and the magic hiding within. Now, fighting alongside the eccentric old man who's vowed to protect the building's power, the pair must help ward off an attack by a shadowy group with a strange tie to Wesley's nemesis, forcing Wesley to face the fears he's been dodging... and one of the most terrifying bullies of all time!

I'm hard pressed to say exactly what I think of this book. The plot was spot-on and right up my aisle. I loved the idea of being able to visit different books, and even - ala "The Eyre Affair" - influence the plot enough to change endings.

I wasn't too impressed by the writing though. It seemed unfinished somehow. Had this been a draft, I would have said it had great potential, but I think the editors did Eric Hobbs a disservice by not getting him to polish it off properly.

So 4 stars for the plot, and -1 for the writing. I'm intrigued enough to want to read the next book in the series though.
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Title: The Christmas Dog
Author: Melody Carlson
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 176
Date read: December, 2011

Betty Kowalski isn't looking forward to the holidays. She just can't seem to find Christmas in her heart. There's church, of course. But who can she bake for these days? And who would care whether or not she pulled out the Christmas decorations? Her new neighbor just adds to the problem. He's doing home improvements that don't appear to be improving much of anything. These days when Betty looks out the window, she sees a beat-up truck, a pile of junk, lots of blue tarps, and--horror of horrors--an old pink toilet. But when a mangy dog appears at her doorstep, the stage is set for Betty to learn a very important lesson about what Christmas is all about.

On the saccharine side, but I guess that's pretty par for the course for Christmas books. I liked it well enough, even if I did occasionally want to shake Betty for her bad decisions and interesting assumptions.

A quick read, but more of a feel-good story than an actual Christmas story.
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Title: Ronja Røverdatter (Ronja Robber's Daughter)
Author: Astrid Lindgren
Genre: Childrens
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 226
Date read: December, 2011

On the night Ronja was born, a thunderstorm raged over the mountain, but in Mattis' castle and among his band of robbers there was only joy - for Mattis now had a spirited little black-haired daughter. Soon Ronja learns to dance and yell with the robbers, but it is alone in the forest that she feels truly at home. Then one day Ronja meets Birk, the son of Mattis' arch-enemy. Soon after Ronja and Birk become friends the worst quarrel ever between the rival bands erupts, and Ronia and Birk are right in the middle.

I grew up with Astrid Lindgren's books, and "Ronja" is still one of my favourites. Ronja's fearlessness in exploring the forest, and her growing friendship with Birk never fail to charm me. This read-through was no exception, and went to prove that "Ronja" passes the test of time better than most.
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Title: Wither
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Genre: Dystopian
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 256
Date read: December, 2011

Obviously, something went terribly wrong. Genetic mutations have festered, reducing human longevity to twenty-five, even less for most women. To prevent extinction, young girls are kidnapped, mated in polygamous marriages with men eager to procreate. Sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery, a recent victim of this breeding farm mentality, has vowed to break loose from its fetters; but finding allies and a safe way out is a challenge she can only hope she will survive.

I really enjoyed the first half and was really annoyed by the second half. Wither had such potential, but instead of making the most of that potential, Lauren DeStefano ended up with a book with bland characters and no plot to speak of. It's the first book in a series in the worst sense of the word, in that everything that happened led up to the last few pages, and nothing was resolved but instead left for the next book to pick up on.

DeStefano's writing appealed to me, so I enjoyed the book while I was reading it (until I got far enough into it that I could see the writing on the wall that nothing would be resolved anyway), but looking back at it, there are a lot of plotholes and stereotypes.
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Title: A Light in the Window
Author: Jan Karon
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 413
Date read: December, 2011

Father Tim, a lifelong bachelor, finds his heart distracted by his free-spirited neighbor Cynthia, but his stomach and the rectory cash box are distracted by Edith, a wealthy widow who is wooing the rector with love potion casseroles. At every turn, including when a brooding Irish cousin decides to move in, Father Tim must decide whether he will practice what he preaches.

This series is balm to my soul :-) I don't like this one quite as much as the first book, mostly because cousin Meg and Edith Mallory both BUG me. I know they're supposed to, but seriously! Father Tim needs a spine transplant, because that wet noodle isn't doing him any good.

But aside from that, it's a delightful read. It had me smiling and even laughing out loud on several occasions, and I closed the book with a happy sigh.
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Title: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Author: Mark Haddon
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 240
Date read: December, 2011

Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, Christopher is autistic. Everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning for him. Routine, order and predictability shelter him from the messy, wider world. Then, at fifteen, Christopher's carefully constructed world falls apart when he finds his neighbor's dog, Wellington, impaled on a garden fork, and he is initially blamed for the killing.

Christopher decides that he will track down the real killer and turns to his favorite fictional character, the impeccably logical Sherlock Holmes, for inspiration. But the investigation leads him down some unexpected paths and ultimately brings him face to face with the dissolution of his parents' marriage. As he tries to deal with the crisis within his own family, we are drawn into the workings of Christopher's mind.

Thing That Amused Me #1: Christopher explains the Monty Hall Paradox which I had just seen Mythbusters investigate. Funny timing, and my gut instinct is still wrong.

Thing That Amused Me #2: When Christopher arrives to London he looks at a map over the Bakerloo line. Only the illustration Mark Haddon used in the book clearly shows that Christopher would have been at Edgware Road which is absolutely impossible, considering that he arrived with British Rail. He would have had to be at Paddington Street Station instead. And no, it doesn't take a train geek to spot this - it is very clear from the illustration if you have even the faintest idea of what a tube map looks like.

Thing That Amused Me #3: The chapters were numbered using prime numbers :D

Fascinating book about a boy with autism. I loved seeing the workings of his mind, and how his reasonings were always 100% logical and therefore often wrong as human beings aren't ever 100% logical (rarely, anyway). In many ways it reminded me of "Marcelo in the Real World" by Francisco X. Stork, only Marcelo was a lot higher functioning than Christopher.
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Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 384
Date read: December, 2011

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway - a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love - a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Honestly, I'm not entirely sure what I thought of this book. I found the way the book was structured really catching, and loved all the descriptions of the circus, and especially the atmosphere as a whole; but the characters were all very two dimensional, and as for the plot itself, it seemed basically... well, if not non-existing, then a reason for the atmospheric descriptions rather than the other way around.

But despite that, it really was a magical book, and I don't blame the reveres for following "The Night Circus" around - I would want to do the same thing myself.
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Title: Book Lust
Author: Nancy Pearl
Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 256
Date read: December, 2011

What to read next is every book lover's greatest dilemma. Nancy Pearl comes to the rescue with this wide-ranging and fun guide to the best reading new and old. Pearl, who inspired legions of litterateurs with "What If All (name the city) Read the Same Book," has devised 170 thematic reading lists that cater to every mood, occasion, and personality. These annotated lists cover such topics as mother-daughter relationships, science for nonscientists, mysteries of all stripes, African-American fiction from a female point of view, must-reads for kids, books on bicycling, "chick-lit," and many more.

I stumbled across this book in the gift shop at NYC public library, and it seemed like a must-have for a bookworm like myself. Unfortunately it ended up being a very disappointing read indeed. In part because Nancy Pearl and I obviously don't really share a taste in books at all, but mostly because she didn't manage to 'sell' the books she did recommend. I realize that it's not possible to make a lengthy explanation/summary about each book when you want to list as many as she did, but just a single line or two would be helpful.

It's definitely not a book to read through from A-Z, but people with less of a TBR-mountain than I have might find it handy for quick ideas.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: Dystopian
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 487
Date read: December 2011, July 2013

Beatrice "Tris" Prior has reached the fateful age of sixteen, the stage at which teenagers in Veronica Roth's dystopian Chicago must select which of five factions to join for life. Each faction represents a virtue: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. To the surprise of herself and her selfless Abnegation family, she chooses Dauntless, the path of courage. Her choice exposes her to the demanding, violent initiation rites of this group, but it also threatens to expose a personal secret that could place her in mortal danger.

"Divergent" is one of those books that suddenly popped up everywhere. I actually hadn't even considered reading it, until I read yesterday that it had been voted "Book of the Year" by Goodreads! Now I knew I had to see what the fuss was all about.

The book did NOT disappoint! I was hooked from the very first moment, and even the open ending didn't bother me too much... I must be getting to a point where I've started to expect them! I couldn't put the book down, and would have finished it much sooner if I didn't have that pesky work intervene ;)

The action is fast-paced and convincing - it takes a very talented writer to make me afraid of heights through her writing... and I don't even have vertigo! I was stunned when I discovered she's only 23 years old! If she continues in this vein, she has great things ahead of her.

It actually most of all reminded me of "Uglies" by Scott Westerfeld, which isn't a bad thing at all. Now I just hope that Veronica Roth can keep up the pace in the sequel.

Read it! :-D
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Title: Crossed
Author: Ally Condie
Genre: Dystopian
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 367
Date read: December, 2011

Rules are different outside the Society.

Chasing down an uncertain future, Cassia makes her way to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky-taken by the Society to his certain death-only to find that he has escaped into the majestic, but treacherous, canyons. On this wild frontier are glimmers of a different life and the enthralling promise of rebellion. But even as Cassia sacrifices everything to reunite with Ky, ingenious surprises from Xander may change the game once again.

While I gave the first book 5 stars, I was sad to say that this one rated only 3. It wasn't nearly as fascinating nor intricate as Matched, the plot wasn't as interesting and as is so often the case with a second book in a trilogy, it was very obviously a transitory novel. In fact, I guessed that it had to be a trilogy before reading it, simply because of the style of Crossed.

It managed to keep me well enough entertained, but I was in no way blown away by it. I wonder whether or not the last book in the trilogy will be able to live up to the first tone, or if it'll be like Matrix in book form.
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Title: Awake at Dawn
Author: C.C. Hunter
Genre: Paranormal
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 400 pages
Date read: December, 2011

Now that she's settled in at Shadow Falls Camp, Kylie Galen's determined to discover the extent of her supernatural abilities. But with a ghost insisting someone Kylie loves is about die, a rogue vampire on a murdering rampage, and her sixth sense telling her someone is watching her, Kylie's quest for answers is quickly put on hold.

To make matters worse, just when she's about to give her heart to Derek, a half-fairy, he starts pulling away. When Lucas, a werewolf with whom Kylie shares a secret past, returns, Kylie's feels more conflicted than ever. Her weekend with her mom should have been the just the break Kylie needs, but it turns out to be her breaking point. Someone from the dark side of the supernatural world has plans for Kylie--and it'll take all her resources to get back to Shadow Falls alive.

Please tell me if there's some rule that all paranormal series must include a love triangle? I know I keep complaining about this, but it keeps coming up again! And it's getting old :-/

That annoyance aside, I really liked this book. I loved the first book in the series, and fortunately the sequel lived up to my expectations. I had started to think Kylie was a terrible Mary Sue the way she suddenly got good at everything, but it turns out there may be a logical explanation, so I'm willing to withhold judgement for now.

I really liked the various relationships depicted in the book and Kylie's interactions with both her cabin mates, Holiday and her parents. Didn't care much for neither Lucas nor Derek at all though. She could do better than either!

Next book in the series is out in March/April 2012 - can't wait!

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