Picture drawn by Maggie Stiefvater, 2009. Header made by S.F. Robertson, 2010.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday- Editor turned Author Edition

I usually don't do themed editions of Waiting on Wednesday but in the past week, I came across two upcoming books being written by two editors I know.

Summary: Skye never questioned the story of her life. Her Aunt Jo adopted her after the death of her parents when she was just a child, and together they flip through memories the way some people flip through photo albums.

She never questioned if the stories were true.

Until the night of her 17th birthday, when the arrival of two strangers intrudes on her cozy life. Polar opposites, like fire and ice, Asher is dark and wild, while Devin is fair, cold, and aloof. Skye has no idea what they want—only that their presence coincides with the beginning of some shockingly strange events. Events that Skye, if she dares to think it, might be responsible for causing.

High up in the mountains of Boulder, Colorado, Skye finds herself caught in the middle of an ancient battle, one that began untold millennia ago. Torn between unpredictable Asher, whom she loves, and the infuriating Devin, who she can’t stay away from, her fate is murky as a starless night. And as the secrets of her true identity are revealed, Skye realizes that her destiny may reside in the Heavens—or somewhere darker.

(this is the only photo I could find from a review and I'm not even sure this is the right cover...)
Summary: She knows only Sam, a mysterious teenage boy. He is her sole companion; her whole life. She was born, already a teenager, lying outside a burning building in soot-stained clothes, remembering nothing, not even her name. He showed her the necklace she had on, the one that named her: Abby. Sam brought her to live in his cave-palace, where he gives her everything she needs. He loves her. He protects her from the world outside, from everyone who wants to hurt them, like the denizens of Circle Nine, Dante’s deepest circle of hell.

But even in a charmed, brand-new life like Abby’s, change will come. Sam falls ill. A new girl comes to stay, and Abby begins to question Sam’s devotion. With doubt comes emotional turmoil, changes in perception, and glimpses of her past identity. In this courageous psychological thriller, Abby tells the story of living her new life and discovering her old one, while grappling with an ever-changing reality.

Don't both of them sound AWESOME?! I'm really excited and proud to see these two editors get their YA debuts published since I've chatted with each a bit. Jocelyn and I have only chatted a tiny bit when I got to meet her at BEA through Michele Jaffe (Jocelyn was her editor for Rosebush), and then we've emailed once or twice. She told me about her book through email after BEA and it just sounded so good. Now, at this BEA, I'll be getting a signed copy of that book (yes, she's doing a signing!) and I can't wait to read it.

Anne and I go a bit further back to my first blogoversary (June 2008) and she sent me a TON of Penguin titles to read, review, and giveaway. She was so sweet and very helpful to me. Then around a year later (May 2009), she asked me to take a look at a book she was editing that was coming out early the following year (Feb 2010). ARCs hadn't even been printed yet so she sent me a PDF of the book. That book was The Naughty List by Suzanne Young, which started my friendship with Suzanne since I immediately emailed her after finishing the book and gushing about it to her. I think Anne left Penguin kinda shortly after if I recall correctly and we lost touch. I had no idea she was even writing a book, let alone got it published! It's now on my list of books to get at BEA (hmmm I wonder if she's doing a signing too, hehe!).

A Beautiful Dark will be released from HarperTeen on Sept. 27, and Circle Nine will be released from Candlewick on Sept. 13!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Meandering Monday (14)- Books Teen Boys Should Read Part 2

First off, I have two things to talk about. One is this link about GLBTQ literature which I absolutely love- please go and read it at some point if you can.

The other is that I went to a book signing this past weekend in DC! I have no pictures because I forgot my camera but that's fine since this recap will be short. My mom and I went to see Sarah Vowell talk about her latest book, Unfamiliar Fishes, which is about the annexation of Hawaii (or, as Sarah likes to say, "It's about Hawaii!" because that conjures more positive images, lol). I've loved Sarah's other books and was really excited to hear her speak. The event was at Politics and Prose and we got there a half hour before the event started and it was already packed. There was probably over a hundred people crammed in there, so we had to stand the whole time (which sucked). Sarah read from the book and did a QnA with the audience, which was very funny. I think it was being recorded so if it ever pops up online, I'll link to it. I got in the long line to get my book signed and, being a mute freak, said nothing when I got up there but luckily, she writes quick so there wasn't much time anyway. Plus, there were a bajillion people behind me. But I had a fun time and it was great to hear her speak.

Alrighty, on to Part 2 of this series, and this post will probably be shorter since I was really busy this past week so not much was thought about. As for recommendations, you all came out and provided some excellent ones, some of which I've read and berated myself for forgetting and some that I hadn't read or even heard of. Here's the list:

Cindy Pon recommended- The Demon's Lexicon series by Sarah Rees Brennan, Flash Burnout by L. K. Madigan, Hold me Closer, Necromancer by Lish Mcbride (double rec since I mentioned it!), Black Hole Sun by David Mcinnis Gill, Break by Hannah Moskowitz, The Demon King and The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima, The Devil's Kiss and Dark Goddess by Sarwat Chadda, Paper Towns by John Green, The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner, Candor by Pam Bachorz, Unwind by Neal Shusterman, The Knife of Never Letting go by Patrick Ness

Braiden recommended the Gone series by Michael Grant and I hope he doesn't mind me linking to the video he did about lots of other wonderful books for boys (if you do, I'll take it down, lol)! Check out the info to see other videos that discuss the issue. Also, side note, I quite enjoy his accent.

Lauren M recommended Compulsion by Heidi Ayarbe, which will be out in May, I think. I really want to read this book!

Ashley recommended Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson, Cynthia Voigt's Tillerman Saga (particularly A Solitary Blue, The Runner and Sons From Afar), House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer, Markus Zusak books, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman (almost included WSW last week cuz of male MC, but ended up not since it wasn't out yet), The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta, Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (AMAZING), and Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (how could I have forgotten about this book?!).

Amy recommended Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, and any of Rick Riordan's books.

Alison recommended Swim the Fly, and Beat the Band by Don Calame.

See, TONS of books out there.

Just to finish up, I wanted to bring up a point that I thought was interesting when I was putting together my recommendations last week. If you noticed, I mentioned several times that a romance was presented in this book or that book. I thought that was odd because for some reason, it's just been ingrained in me that boys don't like romance so I'm like trying to warn them- OMGZ KISSING AND ROMANTIC FEELINGS IN THIS BOOK!! ENTER WITH CAUTION!!

But why? Women don't get into relationships with themselves (well, not ALL women, lol). Men are usually part of the equation if the woman is straight (well, and the man too because yeah...). So why is it such a problem for a boy to read a book with a romance in it? Boys get those same feelings too; that's how love and relationships work. Both people have romantic feelings for each other and want to kiss (and eventually do more, which YA novels also address). Boys aren't these unfeeling pod robots that don't need love. Boys need to read books with romance in them because then you can use the same tricks on real life girls and also understand them better. Or even if those don't happen, don't you want to read a romance and be like "I want that for myself someday."? That's what I did and still do when I read books. It doesn't matter if they're a straight romance or a gay one- love is love either way (though reading gay romances does give me more hope). Plus, it helped for a girl MC to be in first person because I could usually just place myself in the story easily and fall in love with the boy.

What do you all think about boys and their aversion to romance in books? I know some people commented last week and mentioned having teen boys and trying to find books for them, so please chime in with your thoughts. I am really curious.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Cat Friday (9)

Cat Friday is a somewhat-weekly meme that's similar to Presenting Lenore's Cat Tuesday, in which I show off pictures of my cats. You've seen them in videos wandering by but now you can see them more clearly.

Another kitten pile(ish)! It's all five kittens- Pearl (top left), Meeko (top right), Farley (middle), Khali (bottom right), and Chance (bottom left) having a nice nap together. I loved it when they did that because it was just so cute seeing all the brothers and sisters together.

I usually don't see all four of ours (Chance is with my roomie's friend) doing that anymore; usually it's maybe two of them together at a time but mostly they stay separate, except for the occasional moment when they're together. When they're together, sometimes they lick each other, which is just about the cutest thing.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Taking a Break

Yes, you all read that right. I've decided to take a mini-ish break from blogging. It's mini because it's only a week and a half, and ish because I'll still be doing some posts.

I guess really what I'm doing is taking a break from reviewing. I'm backlogged and just not on top of things right now because it's been a hectic last few days. I simply can't keep going at the pace I'm going right now. I was supposed to have a review up of The Trust right now but I'm only 80 pages into it (and it's 356 pages). This break will help me catch up on everything and be able to stay ahead of my reviews by a week or so, if not a bit more.

So you'll all still get Cat Friday tomorrow and next week, my continuing series on books for boys on Monday, and a Waiting on Wednesday. I'll be officially back on April 4 when I do Fresh New Voice of YA, which will feature Through Her Eyes by Jennifer Archer and The Lipstick Laws by Amy Holder. So Fragment Friday for that month will be on April 8.

Please stick around and comment on these upcoming every-other-day posts. I love getting comments; they fill my heart with joy. :) Also, thanks for all the birthday wishes yesterday- I had a great day- and be sure to enter my Birthday Contest to win advance copies of Where She Went by Gayle Forman and Abandon by Meg Cabot!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Birthday Contest + Ask Book Chic (21)

Today's my birthday (25, yo!) and it's also Ask Book Chic time, but I'm running out of questions again, so I figured I'd hold a birthday contest! Find out how to enter and what you can win at the end of the entry!

Karen asks "OK, my questions are: Why do you start blogging? Do you ever feel as if it is more a job then enjoyment? and what other hobbies do you have besides for reading?"

I started blogging for the simple reason that I really enjoyed interviewing authors. My first interview was with Lauren Barnholdt and it was a lot of fun. Of course, there's also my insane love of books, lol.

I do feel like it is a job but one I, for the most part, enjoy. There's times where it can be overwhelming but that's usually for one of two reasons- 1) real life gets in the way (that's why this is going up around noon today rather than midnight) or 2) I push myself to do too much too quickly (also is happening this week. I may take a tiny break). But most of the time, it's a really enjoyable experience and I'm really glad I had the idea to start a blog back in June 2007.

I'm a boring person so I don't really have any other hobbies. I do occasionally write and I am working on a novel, but it's slow-going. I need to get my butt in the chair and type. But aside from that, I've got nothing. Sad, isn't it?

Anne asks "My question is: What is the first book you remember reading that you loved? And what book got you into reading?"

I had something like this a long time ago and it took me forever to find out what the answer was because I only vaguely remembered it. I'm too lazy to look it up now, but it was a picture book series about a boy and his horse and they went on adventures. They were pretty old books too, if I recall. As for what got me into reading, it was Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries series. Those books showed me the wondrous world of YA and I've been grateful ever since!

MannaB asks "Do you consider blogging a job, even just a part time one?

Do you have any pets?

How supportive are your friends and family with your blogging?"

I talked a bit about this above, but I'll expand a bit since it's a slightly different take on it. I do consider blogging a job, and I feel like others should too, if they want their blogs to be really good. It's something you need to spend time on- the posts, the layouts, the features you have, etc. That doesn't mean you can't have fun with it while you're doing those things, but if you're serious about blogging, it does become a bit like a job.

I have 6 cats who readers see regularly in my feature Cat Friday and in most of my vlogs. There's a mom, a dad, and 4 babies. There's a 5th baby but he is with a friend of my roommate. We also have a gerbil, who's adorable.

Everyone is REALLY supportive. My dad can be a bit too supportive, in that he talks about my blog to a wide variety of people, usually while I'm around so I can feel the full embarrassment. But yeah, everyone thinks it's pretty cool.

Alrighty, so contest time! One winner will be receiving my extra ARCs of Where She Went by Gayle Forman and Abandon by Meg Cabot, two of April's most-wanted releases! To enter, you have to leave a question for me in the comments and it can be about absolutely anything- my life, my blog, my writing, advice, whatever. These questions will be used for future Ask Book Chics, so keep an eye out if you leave a question! This contest will end Wednesday, March 30 at 9pm EST and the winner will be notified by email shortly after. If your email address is not readily accessible (like on your blog site or profile page), please leave it in the comments so I can contact you if you win. This contest is for North American residents only.

If you want to just leave a happy birthday comment, feel free to do so. Your comment won't be counted into the contest unless you leave a question too.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
"Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously-and at great risk-documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, and it is only their incredible strength, love and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?"- summary from Amazon

In the summary, the journey is described as harrowing and it's not lying. This book will make you think, will make you read about things so horrible you can't believe people actually suffered like this. But ultimately, it will make you proud to know the truth of what happened and you can alert others to this book and its powerful story and message. I don't know Sepetys but I'm extremely proud of her for writing a book like this about a story that really needed to be told and I'm glad it's being published so everyone can read and be educated.

The book is hard to read, yet I had problems putting it down. Each time I would sit down to read, I'd always be surprised to see how far I'd gotten once I stopped. Sepetys' prose is just so compelling and flows really well. Lina's voice is also really good and I felt her frustrations, her helplessness, her joy whenever something good happened, her hunger, her hope, etc.

Overall, I can't say enough good things about this book. It is a fantastic, educational, and thought-provoking read. This book actually came randomly in the mail to me, and I'm so glad it did. Please go out, buy this book, and read it, then tell others about it.

Oh and be warned- you will cry. I didn't because it's hard to get me to cry, but I know quite a few people who did, so be prepared.

FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Meandering Monday (13)- Books Teen Boys Should Read

OK, so there's this whole hubbub going on about boys not reading and how it's because women are dominating YA (and blogging) and not making (or recommending) any books for boys or something like that.

Essentially, a lot of BS.

Yes, I'll grant you that boys do seem to read less, but it's not because of women writing stories for teen girls to read, or female bloggers supposedly not showing any attention to male POV books. It's because for some reason, reading is deemed as a girly attribute and expanding your mind and imagination is somehow uncool. It's society's fault rather than the publisher's or author's.

Honestly, I just want to shake all the teen boys who think reading is uncool and tell them to get over themselves. Reading doesn't make you girly, it makes you interesting. Reading doesn't turn you gay, it makes you smarter. Reading doesn't make you inferior in some way, it makes you SO MUCH better and superior to those that pick on readers.

Now that we've got that shocker of a message out of the way, I've compiled a small list of books I think teen boys should read. It's hardly comprehensive as I'm doing this sort of spur-of-the-moment, so there may be tons of books that I would recommend but can't think of right now. Feel free to throw in suggestions in the comments. Maybe I'll do a second list next week if I think of a bunch; I've already thought about doing a more extensive GLBT list (though not extensive as I haven't read everything) if people want one.

OK, so for those looking for some sports-related books, check out Joshua Cohen's Leverage, which is extremely intense and a superb book about just how far some people go to win. Some action-y books include Subject Seven by James A. Moore and Spray by Harry Edge, though both do have female narrators interspersed throughout the books. For a creepy urban fantasy, take a look at The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff, a book I really enjoyed and Mackie's (the MC) characterization was just so pitch-perfect.

Freefall by Mindi Scott (yes, a female author writing male- WHOA!) and Adios, Nirvana by Conrad Wesselhoeft deal with the loss of a loved one close to the narrator and how they deal with it afterward. They're wonderful, more serious books if you're looking for that. It's the same sort of thing with Ellen Hopkins' books- some of them contain male narrators and I think boys will appreciate her raw, realistic, pull-no-punches story-telling. I'd recommend her books Impulse and Tricks. Be aware that they are books told in verse, so while they may look huge, the inside pages are probably less intimadating because there's usually lots of white space.

If you're a GLBT teen, look to the big three- Geography Club by Brent Hartinger, Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, and Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez. Both Brent's and Alex's books have two sequels. Like I said earlier, if my readers want more GLBT titles, let me know and I'll put together a post that's more extensive.

Humor is a big draw, at least for me, and these books have plenty of them. Red Moon Rising by Peter Moore is about a vampire boy who may end up being more than he seems. Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride is about a necromancer and it is a laugh-out-loud read. I think there's also a sequel being written, which is awesome.

If you're into music, Struts and Frets by Jon Skovron (and Freefall, for that matter) is a fantastic read. It's one of my favorite books.

Finally, for those a bit more adventurous and don't mind reading some books from a female perspective, I present the following books and series-

Forest trilogy by Carrie Ryan
Silver Phoenix and Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon
Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Tiffany Aching quartet by Terry Pratchett

Carrie's trilogy is set in a future where zombies have sprung up but there are still some small communities with barriers that keep them out. Each book is from a female perspective but aside from some small romances, you'd barely be able to tell. These books have some awesome action and thrilling moments throughout, all with zombies.

Cindy's two-book set is high fantasy set in Asia a long time ago and it's full of magic, monsters, and some great action scenes. The second book also has the plus of a male narrator for half of it (the origins of a character seen in Silver Phoenix). There is romance involved but I think the action and suspense will captivate male readers, though honestly, what's so bad about romance and love? It happens to boys too; they aren't immune to it.

Across the Universe has the awesome extra of having a dual cover with the spaceship design on the inside of the book jacket. Half of the book is told from a male perspective and there is a romance too, but the mysteries, intrigue, explosions, and people dying far outweigh that.

Terry Pratchett is one of my favorite authors ever and he has a YA series featuring a female protagonist. These are smart and funny adventure books with some magic thrown in and they're just really good reads. There's four books- The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith, and I Shall Wear Midnight. I'd also recommend his adult books too.

Phew... this is much longer than I thought and I've barely scratched the surface. I may do a series of these and try to do more research during the week in anticipation of these posts. Hope you all enjoyed!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

In My Mailbox- Weeks of March 6 and 13 + Retrospective

Here's my vlog for these past two weeks!

Books Shown:

Withering Tights by Louise Rennison (from Kristi)
The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson (from Kristi)
Various swag from the wonderful and awesome Kristi
Abandon by Meg Cabot
Tomorrow Girls by Eva Gray
Gemini Bites by Patrick Ryan
Things We Didn't Say by Kristina Riggle
Lost Voices by Sarah Porter
Stay by Deb Caletti
Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
Exposed by Kimberly Marcus
Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales by Tamora Pierce
Hello Gorgeous Book 1: Blowout by Taylor Morris
BFF Breakup by Taylor Morris
Hourglass by Myra McEntire
Family by Micol Ostow
Trial by Fire by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Ask Elizabeth by Elizabeth Berkley
A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young
Illusions by Aprilynne Pike

and here's my retrospective for the week-

Monday- I posted a recap of my time at the Breathless Reads tour stop in Raleigh, NC.

Tuesday- I was part of a blog tour featuring Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt where I reviewed the book and interviewed the author.

Wednesday- I posted some mini-reviews of Shimmer by Alyson Noel and Fourth Grade Fairy by Eileen Cook.

Thursday- I reviewed Wither by Lauren DeStefano, which will be out in stores March 22.

Friday- I posted a cute picture of some of our cats as kittens for Cat Friday.

Saturday- I reviewed Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon, which will be out in stores March 29.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon

Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon
"Her mysterious power haunts her day and night, and she leaves home—with just the moon as her guide—overwhelmed by her memories and visions and an unbearable sense of dread. For Ai Ling knows that Chen Yong is vulnerable to corrupt enchantments from the under-world. How can she do nothing when she has the skill and power to fight at his side? A dream has told her where he is, the name of the ship he is traveling on, his destination. So she steals off and stows away on board.

The ocean voyage brings with it brutal danger, haunting revelations, and new friendships, but also the premonition of a very real and terrifying threat. Zhong Ye—the powerful sorcerer whom Ai Ling believed she had vanquished in the Palace of Fragrant Dreams—is trapped in Hell, neither alive nor dead. Can he reach from beyond the grave to reunite with Silver Phoenix and destroy Chen Yong? And destroy whatever chance Ai Ling has at happiness, at love?"- summary from Amazon

OK, so be aware that there are two storylines here- Ai Ling's journey with Chen Yong and Zhong Ye's origin before he started taking souls as well as his romance with Silver Phoenix. It takes place 300 years before Ai Ling's storyline. I missed that clue so for a hundred pages I was completely confused because I thought both storylines were happening at the same time. I also couldn't remember who Zhong Ye was so Cindy helped me out and caught me up to speed because I read Silver Phoenix two years ago. So my word of advice is to refresh yourself a bit before going into Fury of the Phoenix if it's been a while, though Pon does a fairly good job of catching the reader up.

Anyway, moving on, I really enjoyed Fury of the Phoenix and missed Pon's poetic prose and I hope she comes out with something else soon. I liked seeing the two storylines back and forth (once I figured out what was going on) and it was nice to see Zhong Ye before he became a monster and like a real person. I enjoyed his courtship of Silver Phoenix and seeing their relationship bloom.

Of course, that was nothing compared to Ai Ling and Chen Yong's sexual tension and seeing their relationship grow over the course of the novel. There are of course stumbles and obstacles to go through, but I loved their scenes together. Their journey across the sea too was really interesting to read and I liked the little adventures that happened along the way. Pon's really good at the action scenes too, making them edge-of-your-seat thrilling. The ending also is so sweet.

Overall, I loved this book to bits and I really want to recommend it to everyone. It's amazing, addicting, and just all-around awesome.

FTC: Borrowed ARC from my awesome friend Meaghan. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Cat Friday (8)

Cat Friday is a somewhat-weekly meme that's similar to Presenting Lenore's Cat Tuesday, in which I show off pictures of my cats. You've seen them in videos wandering by but now you can see them more clearly.

Here's another early kitten photo. On the blanket, we have Khali cuddling with her mommy, Maya. Right next to the blanket is Farley and above her is Meeko. They're all so adorable!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
"By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.

When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape--before her time runs out?"- summary from Amazon

DeStefano's debut is a certified page-turner with a detailed dystopic world-building, poetic prose, and realistic, flawed characters. I absolutely loved it and it was really hard to put down. Throughout most of the book, I was on the edge of my seat in suspense, wondering what would happen next.

Even though this is a dystopian and not exactly fun and games, I still really liked the characters. Each one had their own voice, motives, perspective and were just really well-written. I loved seeing Rhine and Gabriel together and their scenes together were really sweet.

Overall, this is a book that really lives up to its beautiful cover. It's a fantastic start to a dystopian trilogy and I'm excited to see where the story goes next.

(I apologize for the very short, vague-ish review. I read this several months ago, really did love and enjoy it- I read like 100 pages in one sitting- but only just now got around to writing the review.)

FTC: Received ARC via Around the World Tours. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Shimmer by Alyson Noel + Fourth Grade Fairy by Eileen Cook

Shimmer by Alyson Noel
"Having solved the matter of the Radiant Boy, Riley, Buttercup, and Bodhi are enjoying a well-deserved vacation. When Riley comes across a vicious black dog, against Bodhi’s advice, she decides to cross him over. While following the dog, she runs into a young ghost named Rebecca. Despite Rebecca’s sweet appearance, Riley soon learns she’s not at all what she seems. As the daughter of a former plantation owner, she is furious about being murdered during a slave revolt in 1733. Mired in her own anger, Rebecca is lashing out by keeping the ghosts who died along with her trapped in their worst memories. Can Riley help Rebecca forgive and forget without losing herself to her own nightmarish memories?"- summary from Amazon

While I have yet to start the Immortals series featuring Riley's sister Ever, I am loving this middle-grade series that features Riley's adventures in the afterlife. Radiance was a great start, and Shimmer continues the awesomeness. I absolutely love Riley as a character- she's fun but flawed and Noel captures her tween voice so well.

On this mission, we get a bit of a history lesson (there's an author's note at the back that explains Noel's inspiration) which was very cool. I really enjoyed reading about Riley and Bodhi's missions, though this one was unplanned and so they face consequences from the Council, which Noel leaves as a cliffhanger. Curse you, Noel!! *shakes fist in California's general direction*

Overall, these are just some wonderful books and, cliffhanger aside, I'm really excited for the third book in the series, Dreamscape, out this fall! Also, there's a little interview with Noel at the back of this book.

Fourth Grade Fairy by Eileen Cook
"When fairy-godmother-in-training Willow's wish to attend a human school comes true, she finds getting along with humans to be harder than she expected, but her newly-acquired magical talent makes it easy to collaborate with animals."- summary from Target

Yes, I had to go to Target's website to get this summary. It took me like 20 minutes to actually find a summary. There's one for Books 2 and 3 but none for Book 1. Crazyness.

Anyway, I've still only read Cook's YA debut even though she now has an adult book and two more YAs out (one of which I have), but when I saw a new book from her on GalleyGrab, I jumped at the chance to download it. It looked like a cute middle-grade story and it was. I love the idea of a fairy school and really liked Willow's foray into the Humdrum (Human) world as it was littered with humorous bits.

Willow is such a great, well-rounded character and I think a lot of young girls will relate to her and her struggles (well, some of them; the ability to talk to animals generally doesn't happen to tweens. Or, um, anybody.) while navigating elementary school and our world. Cook also does a great job with Willow's family dynamics too- there's some great emotional development between everyone by the end of the book.

Overall, a wonderful middle-grade debut and I can't wait to read more of this series (2nd book in June, 3rd in August) and Cook's other books. This will be released April 19 as a paperback.

FTC: Received ARC and eARC, respectively, from publishers. Links above are Amazon Associate links; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Blog Tour- Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt + Interview

Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt
"According to her guidance counselor, fifteen-year-old Payton Gritas needs a focus object-an item to concentrate her emotions on. It's supposed to be something inanimate, but Payton decides to use the thing she stares at during class: Sean Griswold's head. They've been linked since third grade (Griswold-Gritas-it's an alphabetical order thing), but she's never really known him.

The focus object is intended to help Payton deal with her father's newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis. And it's working. With the help of her boy-crazy best friend Jac, Payton starts stalking-er, focusing on-Sean Griswold . . . all of him! He's cute, he shares her Seinfeld obsession (nobody else gets it!) and he may have a secret or two of his own."- summary from Amazon

I seriously don't even want to write a review of this book and instead just tell you all to go buy it now because it's such a cute, funny, and yet really serious book. But I need to write something, so here we go.

Leavitt's only has one book out at the moment but this second book shows to me what an amazing writer she already is. This is her first standalone and YA debut (Princess for Hire is an MG) and it's hard to imagine that that's true. She does a wonderful job weaving both the funny and the very serious nature of having a parent diagnosed with MS. It never feels awkward or anything; the book just flows naturally.

Payton in particular is a wonderful narrator. I love her focus exercises and she's pretty darn funny, but she does have quite a few flaws and her emotions feel very real. I really felt for her struggle and it really helped keep the pages turning. I also loved a lot of the secondary characters and it was just a good world to spend some time in.

Of course, I can't talk about this book and not mention the romance. It's such an interesting way to have the two of them meet and interact- Sean's head being her Focus Object and her wanting to do more research which means having to talk with him. I loved the scenes with the two of them together because it was realistic and just fun. Sean is a certified hottie, both inside and out, and I dare you not to fall in love with him.

Overall, a fantastic second book and it really makes me eager to read more from Leavitt. Good thing the next Princess for Hire book, The Royal Treatment, is in my TBR and will be in stores this May!

And now, an interview with Lindsey Leavitt!

1) How did you get the idea for Sean Griswold's Head (which sounds like you just made a head in a lab somewhere and named it Sean Griswold, but readers, that's the title)?

K, I wish I had a cooler answer, but... I had a dream. And in it, I was in English class and super stressed about something in my home life, and the only thing that would make me feel better was writing about this boy in my class. And that boy's name was Sean Griswold. I woke up and started asking all the questions--Why was I upset, who was that boy, ect. And I pulled out a notebook and started this book.

2) You've got the second Princess for Hire book, The Royal Treatment, coming out in May. Can you tell us about that, as well as what you're working on now?

Absolutely! The Royal Treatment continues Desi's story, and follows her adventures as she progresses to the next level of the Facade agency. Here's the blurb, because I suck at writing these myself.

Desi Bascomb's job as a princess substitute has gotten a whole lot more glamorous now that she's advanced to Level 2 within the Facade Agency. Magical make-up, roller-skating celebrities, and the chance to see Prince Karl again are just some of the major perks. Not to mention, she's landed the role of Fairy Queen in her school's production of Midsummer's Night Dream (opposite her best friend's crush. Which is a little weird, but at least he wears a donkey head during their kissing scene). Life should be perfect, but Desi can't seem to shake the feeling that there is more going on with the agency's magic than she's told. Like why is this mind-bending power exclusive to royals? Is it possible that there could be a bigger way to make an impact in both parts of her life?

I'm finishing up the third book in the series (out 2012), and then I'll work on a YA book I just sold that I'm really excited about, AUTHENTICALLY VINTAGE, which should be out in early 2013.

3) What is your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor (or flavors, if you're so inclined)?

Orange Juice, AW root beer, mmmm, and lemon drop.

4) You wrote a post a little while ago talking about your love for book bloggers as well as some experiences with some of them, both good and bad (but mostly good). Hands down, what was your favorite experience ever with a book blogger?

Just one? James, you're killing me. How about I do a RECENT experience. The very first book blogger I met (online) was Jessica at www.chicklitteens.com Her blog introduced me to wonderful world of articulate and thoughtful book bloggers, and I've checked in on her blog throughout the years. So I was beyond excited when she showed up at a NYMBC signing I did at Books Inc in San Francisco--she was the first one there and seeing her took away any nerves I had about the event (because, hello, BOOKS INC is BOMB!) I love connecting with online friends, because there instantly is so many things to discuss, and it means so much to me when readers make a special effort to come to one of my events.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Meandering Monday (12)- Breathless Reads recap

Before I start on my Breathless Reads recap, I have a couple links to show off. Jennifer Archer has a wonderful contest going on where you pre-order her YA debut Through Her Eyes, email the confirmation to Jennifer, and she'll enter you into the contest. Prizes include a Kindle, iPod shuffle, and signed copy of Through Her Eyes!

Also, Steph Su posted an interview with me last Friday! Go check it out and comment! It makes me happy.

Alrighty, on to the recap! I showed up a few minutes late so I didn't miss too much. I got a spot behind a bookcase fairly close to the action. When I got there, they had started the QnA. There's a link at the end of this to a recap that talks about some of their answers. I remember none of them, except that Beth Revis and I are similar in our writing styles. We start at the beginning, go sentence by sentence, and have no idea where we're going most of the time. I knew I liked her for a reason, lol. Though I think Beth doesn't like writing kissing scenes whereas I (and Andrea Cremer) do so we differ there (unless of course she does, in which case, we are still similar). All five authors were very funny and insightful. It was a wonderful QnA session.

After the QnA, which was about 45 minutes long, they started the signing. As I tried to find the friend I'd come with, I was bombarded by Hellos from like 5 people, lol. I cannot remember who all was there because it's all a blur to me now. But it was fun seeing them! I found my friend and got into line and waited. About 10 minutes into waiting, Michelle came up to me and introduced herself. She had gotten her stuff signed and needed to go so she wanted to make our book switch happen. I had brought The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong for her to borrow and she gave me The Dark and Hollow Places ARC for me to keep! How sweet is that? We chatted for a few minutes and then she headed off.

A few minutes after, I started chatting with the girls in line behind me, one of whom runs a Hunger Games fansite (she was very shocked and appalled as many bloggers are that I had yet to read the trilogy). We talked Hunger Games and other fun bookish things. It was a pleasant way to pass the time waiting in the long line.

Eventually, I made it up front. I wanted to say hi to Ally Condie because I'd met her at BEA and ALA last year, but she was busy with other people. I didn't want to wait and keep the line from moving when I didn't have a book for her to sign (my ARC was signed at BEA). So I moved on to Andrea and Kirsten, gave them my ARCs to sign, and proceeded to not say anything. I hadn't really talked to either one much- I tweeted Andrea when I reviewed Nightshade but that's it, and Kirsten had talked online a bit and I even interviewed her but that was in the first few months of my blog. I didn't think either one would recognize my blog name, so didn't mention it; also, I am just shy.

After that, I moved on to Beth and Brenna. This went a bit better since I'd featured Beth in January as a Fresh New Voice of YA so it was more fresh in her mind. She slightly recognized me before I introduced myself so that was nice, lol. I even got a picture with them! My friend Liz was kind enough to take one for me.

I hung around for a few minutes looking for Shana Norris, author of Something to Blog About and Troy High, who I've chatted with quite a bit. It always seems that whatever NC author event there is, one of us isn't there. So it was nice that we both were going to be attending this one and we could finally meet. Since it was at the end of the signing and we both had long trips ahead of us, we only got to chat for a few minutes but we also got a picture for posterity. Hopefully next time, we can chat a bit longer!

Anyway, I had a great time at this event and was so happy this tour came nearby. If you want to see what the authors wrote in my ARCs, check out my IMM vlog from March 6. It's right at the beginning.

Here's the link to one recap that features some of the answers from the QnA. If you were also at the event, put your link to your recap in the comments if you did one, or if you didn't, put your blog link so I can check you out!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fresh New Voice of YA- I Am J by Cris Beam

I Am J by Cris Beam
""Hola, Jeni."

J spun. His stomach clenched hard, as though he'd been hit. It was just the neighbor lady, Mercedes. J couldn't muster a hello back, not now; he didn't care that she'd tell his mom he'd been rude. She should know better. Nobody calls me Jeni anymore.

J always felt different. He was certain that eventually everyone would understand who he really was: a boy mistakenly born as a girl. Yet as he grew up, his body began to betray him; eventually J stopped praying to wake up a "real boy" and started covering up his body, keeping himself invisible - from his family, from his friends...from the world. But after being deserted by the best friend he thought would always be by his side, J decides that he's done hiding - it's time to be who he really is. And this time he is determined not to give up, no matter the cost."- summary from Amazon

Within the first few pages of Beam's fictional debut, I was seriously hooked. There isn't a huge hook, like a mystery or some paranormal thing or space travel. What's there is an emotional connection to J which I immediately latched onto. I really felt for J's predicament and the life that was handed to him. It's hard to create a character that you really care about right from the start, but Beam did it. It's even harder to do it in third person because it can easily fall into emotional disconnect territory. As I was reading, I likened the successful third person usage to Willow by Julia Hoban (another fabulous book; it's about cutting, which this book features a bit of).

I really enjoyed reading J's journey on his road to becoming the man he knows he is on the inside even if the outward appearance suggests otherwise. His interactions with others really reveal his own confusion over what he is and how he can get there as well as the general public's ignorance about what it means to be trans. It's very realistic and Beam handles this issue with a wonderful delicacy.

J's story is educational without being overbearing about it. Once the book is finished, the reader will know much more about the life of a trans person, probably without realizing it.

Honestly, this is such a wonderful book and I'm proud to feature it on my blog and recommend it. Please check this book out!

PS I will say though that J sometimes looks like I and for a second, I'd read it as that and think it was a first-person account. This happened way too many times, lol.

FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Friday, March 11, 2011

FNV Excerpt Vlog + Fragment Friday- Clarity by Kim Harrington

Fragment Friday is a weekly meme hosted here on this blog where you read an excerpt from either your current read or one of your favorite books and post it on your blog to share with others! It's a fun way to learn about new books or to hear a sample from a book you're dying to read.

Here it is: Fragment Friday again! The Mr. Linky is below the video. Can't wait to see everyone's fragments! Today, I'm reading from Clarity by Kim Harrington, which is out in stores now.

Hope you all enjoyed my fragment!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Fresh New Voice of YA- Interview with Cris Beam

1) How did you get the idea for I Am J?

I had this character kicking around in my head for a few years before I ever got the chance to write him. I interviewed a lot of transboys for my first book, Transparent, and they ended up falling out of the manuscript, and I wanted to go back and write about them—I think several coalesced into this one character named J. I also have a transgender partner, so I’m often thinking about gender and the way adolescent experiences affect adult relationships…and I wanted to write my way through an imagined adolescent experience as a kind of love letter to my partner.

2) Tell us all about The Call/The Email for I Am J's publication! Where were you when you got it? Did you do anything to celebrate the sale?

I always celebrate every milestone in a book—the call, the first complete chapter, the copyedits. A book is such a long process, you have to celebrate to break it up, and usually I celebrate with food. So I don’t actually remember what I did when I got the email saying Little, Brown was interested (except to jump around the apartment with my dog) but I’m pretty sure I went out for a delicious feast with my partner.

3) Your previous book was a nonfiction work also featuring transgender teens. What brings you back to this issue? How did you make the leap from nonfiction to YA? Had you been a fan of YA before starting I Am J?

Like I said in my first answer, I had been wanting to write about boys since the completion of my first book, but also Transparent was also about kids and I wanted to write something for kids. The leap into fiction wasn’t such a big one; I think there are closet novelists inside a lot of nonfiction writers. At the bottom of it, we all just like a good story. And honestly, I hadn’t read a lot of young adult fiction before I set out to write this; I sort of skipped that step when I was a young adult. But I read a lot of it in preparation for I Am J, and was so impressed with the range and the quality of work being published right now. Pretty daunted, actually.

4) What is your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor (or flavors, if you're so inclined)?

Whoa, jelly bellies! Haven’t thought of those for a long time! Where can you even get them anymore? I remember they used to have these little “recipes” where you’d drop several beans into your mouth at once. My favorite, I think, was chocolate-banana-coconut. I think it was supposed to taste like German chocolate cake.

5) Your next book is another nonfiction work, due to be released in 2012. Tell us a little about that, and do you think you'll return to YA after this?

For the last five years I’ve been working on a book about foster care in New York City, and I’m really excited about that book. I’ve been following around several kids and families, tracking what happens to them and, through their stories, trying to figure out how and why the system got so broken. If I have a pattern going here, I may well return to YA—and write a YA book about foster kids. You don’t see many of those!

6) You teach Creative Writing at a few different places. Is teaching something you always wanted to go into? What do you enjoy the most about it?

I love teaching, and yeah, I did always want to teach. I love it because it keeps me fresh; my students are always asking me the “how” or “why” questions that I wouldn’t have to articulate if I were just sitting home alone all day facing the empty screen. And their enthusiasm for writing can be infectious whenever I’m in a slump, so that’s a bonus too.

7) What book(s) are you reading right now, or are about to start?

I just read David Grossman’s To the End of the Land which was fabulous in its mix of hope and devastation. I love writers who can work so deeply with contradictory emotions like that. And I’ve just been re-reading Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury, because I’m trying to figure out how to write a book where the main character is missing, where she’s a big hole in the middle of the story. But that’s another project.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fresh New Voice of YA- Clarity by Kim Harrington

Clarity by Kim Harrington
"When you can see things others can't, where do you look for the truth?

Clarity "Clare" Fern sees things. Things no one else can see. Things like stolen kisses and long-buried secrets. All she has to do is touch a certain object, and the visions come to her. It's a gift.

And a curse.

When a teenage girl is found murdered, Clare's ex-boyfriend wants her to help solve the case--but Clare is still furious at the cheating jerk. Then Clare's brother--who has supernatural gifts of his own--becomes the prime suspect, and Clare can no longer look away. Teaming up with Gabriel, the smoldering son of the new detective, Clare must venture into the depths of fear, revenge, and lust in order to track the killer. But will her sight fail her just when she needs it most?"- summary from Amazon

OK, so I started this book on Saturday and finished it on Monday; I know that doesn't sound very quick but I read huge chunks of it in a sitting a day because it was hard to put down after a few pages. As soon as I started the book, I was really drawn in by Clare's sarcastic voice and Harrington's fast-paced prose.

There's some great humor in here alongside the paranormal and mystery aspects, which Harrington weaves together really well. The mystery was simply amazing; there was a huge twist ending which I hadn't seen coming but it did make sense. All throughout the book, I kept thinking it was this person or that person, trying to pick up on the clues going on but Harrington really threw a curveball. I loved it.

The love-hate romance between Clare and Gabriel was really fun to read and I loved seeing scenes with them together. Clare and Justin were cool too, and Harrington did a good job of working through that subplot realistically and emotionally.

Overall, a fantastic debut and I'm really excited to see where the story goes next. Definitely check this book out!

FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

FNV Excerpt Vlog- I Am J by Cris Beam

Here's me reading an excerpt from I Am J by Cris Beam, which is out in stores now!

ETA: Braiden informed me of this. I had no idea one of my cats was licking himself in the background! I would've refilmed it had I known. I really should take a look at these before I post them, lol.

Hope you all enjoyed the excerpt! Now go get the book!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Fresh New Voice of YA- Interview with Kim Harrington

1) How did you get the idea for Clarity?
It actually all came from one line (which is now the last line of chapter two). I heard it, said in a snarky sarcastic voice, and wondered why someone would say that. (I don’t usually hear voices. This was the only time, I swear.) From that grew my main character and her unusual family. And then I wondered what was the worst thing that could happen to them, and I did that.

2) Tell us all about The Call/The Email for publication! Where were you when you got it? Did you do anything to celebrate the sale?

I was at home. I knew it was going to an acquisitions meeting that morning. But I had also heard of many instances where books got that far and it still didn’t happen. So I tried not to get my hopes up. But then the phone rang and my agent shared the good news! I was ecstatic. I don’t remember what I did to celebrate. I probably just went to The Olive Garden (see question #4) with my husband and son. (I know how to party!)

3) What are you working on now? Can you tell us anything about it?

PERCEPTION, the sequel to CLARITY, is all done—yay!—and I love it—double yay! Up next after that is a standalone supernatural mystery about a teenage girl who discovers that the house her family just moved into is haunted, and she must solve the mystery of the ghost girl’s death.

4) In your bio, you state that you're the pickiest eater on the planet. What qualifies you to make that statement? Give examples. I ask only because I think I'm the pickiest eater on the planet (also, I noticed we share some other similarities).

I don’t like meat, but I can’t call myself a vegetarian because there is one thing I will eat…the Sierra Turkey sandwich from Panera. But that’s it. I also don’t like vegetables, except tomatoes but I still don’t know if they’re a veggie or fruit. I won’t eat any seafood. I don’t like fancy, exotic, or unusual food. I basically eat pasta (with plain marinara sauce, no chunky sauce), pizza (plain), bread (not wheat), and sugary breakfast cereals. Speaking of sugary, I’m even picky with desserts. I only like yellow cake with traditional frosting. No chocolate cake, no cheesecake, no whipped or buttercream frosting. No tiramisu or mousse or anything people would describe as “decadent.” I’d rather have a Snickers. Most people would call me a freak; my husband calls me a cheap date. (Editor's Note: Kim wins Pickiest Eater in the World. I am not that picky, lol!)

5) What is your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor (or flavors, if you're so inclined)?

This is going to shock you, but I’m not a big jelly bean person. Okay, after reading my previous answer, I guess that isn’t too shocking.

6) Your favorite TV show is Lost, however that's been off the air since last May. What current TV shows are you enjoying?

I love True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, Fringe, Friday Night Lights, Greek, Gossip Girl, Modern Family, and Tosh.0. And, because I’m a nerd and not afraid to admit it, I also enjoy Naked Science on NatGeo and The Universe on History.

7) What book(s) are you reading right now, or are about to start? Any ones you're looking forward to reading later in 2011?

Right now I’m reading THE REPLACEMENT by Brenna Yovanoff. There are so many books in 2011 I can’t wait to read! THE REVENANT by Sonia Gensler, WILDEFIRE by Karsten Knight, POSSESSION by Elana Johnson, THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER by Michelle Hodkin, and so many others. I could go on and on (and so will my bookstore receipts). Thankfully, my preference for cheap food leaves more money for books.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

In My Mailbox- Week of February 21 and 28 + Retrospective

I did another vlog because I had tons of wonderful, pretty books to show you guys! It is very long though, like 13 minutes long, lol. Hope you all enjoy!

Signed books from Breathless Reads tour:

The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller
Across the Universe by Beth Revis
The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

From publishers:

I Totally Meant to Do That by Jane Borden (Paperback; March 2011)
Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton (Hardcover; February 2011)
The Secret Journeys of Jack London: The Wild by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon (Hardcover; March 2011)
Fins are Forever by Tera Lynn Childs (ARC; June 2011)
Abandon by Meg Cabot (ARC; April 2011)
So Much Closer by Susane Colasanti (ARC; May 2011)
Dreamland Social Club by Tara Altebrando (ARC; May 2011)
Brother/Sister by Sean Olin (ARC; June 2011)
From Bad to Cursed by Katie Alender (ARC; June 2011)
The Royal Treatment by Lindsey Leavitt (ARC; May 2011)

From Netgalley or S&S Galley Grab:

Fourth Grade Fairy by Eileen Cook
Dark Parties by Sara Grant
Always a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough
Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly
Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott
Dead is Not an Option by Marlene Perez
Die for Me by Amy Plum
Lost Voices by Sarah Porter
Populazzi by Elise Allen
Possession by Elana Johnson
Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler
Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini
Stay by Deb Caletti
The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder
The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
The Lipstick Laws by Amy Holder

and now here's my retrospective:

Monday- I talked a bit about my weekend for Meandering Monday, mainly about my evening seeing Kathy Griffin live!

Tuesday- I reviewed Babe in Boyland by Jody Gehrman, which is out in stores now.

Wednesday- I did a Waiting on Wednesday featuring Taylor Morris' upcoming books and a trailer for Huntress by Malinda Lo.

Thursday- I reviewed Leverage by Joshua Cohen, which is out in stores now.

Friday- I posted another picture of our cats when they were kittens for Cat Friday and it was adorable.

Saturday- I reviewed The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell, which will be out March 7.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell
"It's the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him. When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia's world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she's not the seer of dark portents, but the cause."- summary from Amazon

I loved Mitchell's debut Shadowed Summer and have been really excited to read more from her. This book is simply magical. I really enjoyed reading Amelia's story; Mitchell's prose is lyrical and just so time-specific, it just flows so well.

Normally, I'm not one for historical fiction but I seem to be really enjoying the books I've picked, though I think my criteria seems to include a splash of magic because that makes everything more fun. Amelia's powers were really cool to read about, even though they were a bit scary and turned out bad.

The romance also kept me turning the pages; Nathaniel and Amelia's scenes together were just so sensual. I loved seeing them together and the ending was just so sweet. I also really liked seeing the scenes between Amelia, Zora and their friends. It was fun to see them together and some good humor came through.

Overall, another wonderful, atmospheric book from Mitchell. I can't wait to read what's coming up next for her.

FTC: Received ARC from author. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Cat Friday (7)

Here's another adorable picture of the cats when they were kittens (Samson and Maya excluded since we didn't have them as babies).

From left to right: Farley, Chance (though not sure what actual order that is since they look pretty similar), Meeko, Pearl. All in a box!! That could probably only fit one of them now if we still had that box. I love it when they all cuddle; occasionally, they lick each other too which is just precious.

Also, Meeko (black one) has the cutest face, doesn't he?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Leverage by Joshua Cohen

Leverage by Joshua Cohen
"The football field is a battlefield

There's an extraordinary price for victory at Oregrove High. It is paid on-and off-the football field. And it claims its victims without mercy-including the most innocent bystanders.

When a violent, steroid-infused, ever-escalating prank war has devastating consequences, an unlikely friendship between a talented but emotionally damaged fullback and a promising gymnast might hold the key to a school's salvation.

Told in alternating voices and with unapologetic truth, Leverage illuminates the fierce loyalty, flawed justice, and hard-won optimism of two young athletes."- summary from Amazon

This is one REALLY intense book. Like, for reals intense. I had to actually put it down several times because I just needed a breather from it all. Cohen pulls no punches in this 400+ page novel. It's realistic, raw, heartbreaking as well as uplifting (well, in the end), and insanely intense.

If you know me at all, I am not a football fan. Yeah, I have teams I root for (Redskins and Steelers) but that's only based on familial loyalty (Mom is from Pittsburgh) or geographical proximity (I grew up outside DC). So I never really understand why people get so worked up over football- the people playing it, the coaches, the parents. It's just a GAME, not a life or death situation here. What Cohen shows here is a raw look into how far people will go to win and be "strong". Strong is in quotes because what I like about this book is that the football people only view strength in one way- being bulky and huge, winning all the time, being what they deem to be manly. But Cohen shows there is strength in so many other ways, like in different sports (Danny is a gymnast, a sport football looks down on) or even having the courage to speak up when something is seriously wrong.

In the summary, steroids are mentioned. In this story, it's one of those things where people have an idea that it's going on, but don't really care as long as it works and the team wins. Some of the football players take it, but not all. The three who do take it are COMPLETELY messed up in the head and almost become like animals at times. It was interesting for Cohen to really show that in the story and just how these characters were kinda shaped. It felt like they were always kind of like that and the steroids just brought it out more. What bothered me a lot was that the Coach was actually GIVING this stuff to his players. The Coach is a whole other story though- he runs his football team like it's a war zone (he actually calls them "soldiers" several times), and he makes fun of them a lot when they're maybe slacking a tiny bit (calling them ladies and that they need to be wearing dresses). This is where all the problems start- the Coach is making them think they own the school and are gods. The parents aren't much better; one scene later in the novel sticks out to me prominently. Calm the eff down and just have some fun. Football is not THAT important, nor should it be.

I really enjoyed the dual perspective of this novel- it was utilized in such a good way and just really worked for this story. Both characters were exciting and interesting to read, and the secondary characters are mostly fleshed out well. The story was really compelling, and the ending was simply a work of art. I literally didn't put the book down for the last 100 pages. It was amazing. I do wish there had been a bit more but I can live with how it ended.

Overall, a really amazing, realistic, intense debut novel and one I think everyone should read, even if you don't like football (this may actually give you more of a reason to hate football, lol). Although let me say that there is some graphic content in the book (and lots of swears) so keep that in mind when deciding to read this book or when giving it to someone else.

FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday- Taylor Morris books + Huntress by Malinda Lo

I've loved Taylor Morris' previous books Class Favorite and Total Knockout and have been looking forward to new books from her for a while. Total Knockout was released in Sept. 2008 and now here we are, two and a half years later, with new books coming out.

The wait was worth it with THREE books coming out in the span of a month! The first two books in her new Hello, Gorgeous series- Blowout and Foiled- are released on April 14. Then, on May 10, another new book BFF Breakout is released.

The third book in the Hello Gorgeous series, titled Tangled, will be out this November. To find out about all of Taylor's books, go to Taylor's website!

Also, take a look at this book trailer for Huntress by Malinda Lo, which will be released April 5!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Babe in Boyland by Jody Gehrman

Babe in Boyland by Jody Gehrman
"When high school junior Natalie-or Dr. Aphrodite, as she calls herself when writing the relationship column for her school paper-is accused of knowing nothing about guys and giving girls bad relationship advice, she decides to investigate what guys really think and want. But the guys in her class won't give her straight or serious answers. The only solution? Disguising herself as a guy and spending a week at Underwood Academy, the private all-boy boarding school in town. There she learns a lot about guys and girls in ways she never expected-especially when she falls for her dreamy roommate, Emilio. How can she show him she likes him without blowing her cover?"- summary from Amazon

Even though the concept is a bit unbelievable, that didn't really bother me that much. This is a really cute, funny book and I love this sort-of updated version of Twelfth Night. Plus, any inclusion of theatre gets me excited too. Gehrman is a wonderful writer and she does a great job writing friendships and relationships between the sexes. The dialogue is always realistic and with tons of humor thrown in.

This is a fast read too. I went through it in less than a day. Natalie's journey is just so compelling and fun that I didn't want to put the book down. The romance is also very juicy, fun, and realistic (well, as realistic as it can get with the MC dressed as a boy for the majority of the novel).

Overall, Gehrman has a great new YA book that is sure to please her old fans and gain her some new ones. Such a good read!

FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.