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

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie

Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie
"Ever since his brother, T.J., was killed in Iraq, Matt feels like he’s been sleepwalking through life — failing classes, getting into fights, and avoiding his dad’s lectures about following in his brother’s footsteps. T.J.’s gone, but Matt can’t shake the feeling that if only he could get his hands on his brother’s stuff from Iraq, he’d be able to make sense of his death. But as Matt searches for answers about T.J.’s death, he faces a shocking revelation about T.J.’s life that suggests he may not have known T.J. as well as he thought. What he learns challenges him to stand up to his father, honor his brother’s memory, and take charge of his own life."- summary from Amazon

This was such a compelling debut. I came across this book while browsing around Candlewick's booth at BEA and it sounded so intriguing. I thought I would have a copy mailed to me after talking to the publicist there and giving my business card, but none arrived; luckily, there's Netgalley. I was so intrigued about the secret, which I won't mention here but that I did find in the Library of Congress subject matter inside the galley, that I knew I wanted to read this book. I'm so glad I was able to read an e-galley.

Matt is a fantastic main character, and Kokie writes him very well; first off, he sounds like a real teen boy, which is a huge feat to accomplish, and secondly, there's his inner turmoil and adjusting to the revelations he finds out about. The grief is very real and huge, but the reader can see that he wants to be able to move on, especially through his interactions with his friend Shauna who he has feelings for.

I enjoyed reading about Matt's journey, and seeing his growth throughout the book. It's such an emotional arc, and Kokie really delivers on it. This is a book that will stay with you and is a wonderful debut. I cannot wait to see what Kokie writes next.

FTC: Received e-galley from Netgalley. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Book Signing- Jodi Meadows, Ellen Oh and Victoria Schwab

So I braved the snow storm and drove up to Charlottesville for a book signing. I got there right on time. I had to wander around the whole store though before I found where the signing was taking place. Usually there's a signing area, but this time, because of the storm, the authors just got a table right near the customer service area. No reading, no QnA, just a signing. But we had a good time anyway.

I sneakily (as I tend to do, being as shy as I am) made my way to the table and Ellen Oh spotted me and IMMEDIATELY got up to give me a big hug for reviewing her debut so positively. It was an awesome hug (and was followed up at least twice more during the course of the night) and it's always great to be received so well by an author. I listened in on a conversation Ellen and a blogger's mom were having about K-dramas and K-pop. Then I got my books signed by Victoria and Ellen; I already have all my Jodi books signed (I see her too often and yet not enough).

After that, I chatted with Anne Marie Pace (Vampirina Ballerina, which was optioned recently to be a TV series!) and a librarian who had a cute husband who got so excited about the books. I want a boyfriend like that. It was a lot of fun.
Then the signing kinda ended, but we all hung around the table and just chatted. Ellen talked about law and getting into writing. Victoria ranted about cake pops and tea (no joke- it was probably about 20 minutes long; she is not joking); we also both hate water. Jodi showed off her yarn accomplishments. I also got some fun swag, including a tiny figurine that Ellen made to promote her book- it's so cool.

I had a wonderful time and I'm so glad I made it up to the event. It was great seeing Jodi and Victoria again, and meeting Ellen for the first (and hopefully not last) time.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Archived by Victoria Schwab

The Archived by Victoria Schwab
"Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive. Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was: a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now that her little brother is gone too, Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall."- summary from Amazon

OK, so I reviewed Schwab's debut when it came out and I felt just okay about it. It wasn't amazing, it wasn't bad, it was just in the middle. I had no real feelings about it either way. I heard about The Archived shortly after and thought it sounded really interesting, and I'm willing to give authors another shot. I gotta say, I'm SO glad I did.

The Archived is simply amazing. I could not put this book down and Schwab did a fantastic job creating the world of the Archived with the Narrows, Histories, Keepers, etc. I never found myself confused about who was who and what was what; the world is clearly defined.

Mackenzie is a wonderful main character and so realistically written. I liked how she grew over the course of the novel, opening up more to herself, other people, and her family. I loved her interactions with Wesley- he's such a deeply layered character and they were both very funny together too.

I will say though that I figured out who did it way before it was revealed, so that was a bit anti-climactic, but it was still a very interesting, compelling mystery. It helped me fly through the pages.

Overall, a sophomore effort that, for me at least, was better than the author's debut. It's so worth a look, so definitely check it out.

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

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Blog Tour- Prodigy by Marie Lu

Prodigy by Marie Lu
"June and Day arrive in Vegas just as the unthinkable happens: the Elector Primo dies, and his son Anden takes his place. With the Republic edging closer to chaos, the two join a group of Patriot rebels eager to help Day rescue his brother and offer passage to the Colonies. They have only one request—June and Day must assassinate the new Elector.

It’s their chance to change the nation, to give voice to a people silenced for too long.

But as June realizes this Elector is nothing like his father, she’s haunted by the choice ahead. What if Anden is a new beginning? What if revolution must be more than loss and vengeance, anger and blood—what if the Patriots are wrong?"- summary from publisher

Oh my goodness, I cannot tell you how much I loved this book (and by the way, this seems to be Gushing Review Week because on Friday, I'll be gushing about The Archived too). I really enjoyed Legend and was looking forward to Prodigy for SO LONG. I did get a signed copy at BEA, but wanted to wait until the release date to read because a) it's better to review closer to release date and b) I had tons of other stuff to read in the meantime.

But anyway, I FLEW through this book. Like, seriously, I read the last 200 pages in one sitting. Lu writes such a compelling story and I love reading from both Day and June's perspectives. It really helps me understand them more, and Lu does a great job making the voices distinct.

Action scenes are done so well and the book is full of them. There's a bunch of crazy reveals, and it's just amazing. I can't even put into words what made this book so wonderful. I'm just having so much trouble. It's so good. There is a bit of a sad ending that I hope will be reversed in the final book.

Overall, if you haven't started this series, go get it now! It's absolutely fantastic.

PRODIGY Excerpt: Unlike Los Angeles, Vegas runs the national pledge five times a day – all the JumboTrons will pause in whatever ads or news they’re showing, replace them with enormous images of Elector Primo, and then play the following on the city’s speaker systems: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the great Republic of America, to our Elector Primo, to our glorious states, to unity against the Colonies, to our impending victory!

Not long ago, I used to recite that pledge every morning and afternoon with the same enthusiasm as anyone else, determined to keep the east coast Colonies from taking control of our precious west coast land. – June, page 11

Marie’s thoughts: For June to betray her Republic, the country she was raised to stay loyal to at all costs, was to throw away everything she ever knew. This was a huge mental step for her in Legend, and the consequence is that in Prodigy, she must deal with lingering feelings of doubt and self-loathing. On the one hand, she’s been brainwashed for years to love the Republic; on the other, she knows they are responsible for her family’s deaths. Even logic has a hard time shaking off such deeply rooted subliminal messages.

Download the FREE Marie Lu digital sampler to your e-reader and start reading Legend and Prodigy right now! Here are the links to the Kindle, Nook, and iBookstore!

Read Marie’s e-special, LIFE BEFORE LEGEND: STORIES OF THE CRIMINAL AND THE PRODIGY for only $2.99 on Kindle or the Nook!

Watch the Prodigy book trailer! Read more from PRODIGY and Marie Lu on these blogs!

Mon, 1/21: The Story Siren
Tues, 1/22: Forever Young Adult
Wed, 1/23: Book Chic
Thurs, 1/24: Books with Bite
Fri, 1/25: Alice Marvels

Mon, 1/28: Presenting Lenore
Tues, 1/29: Mundie Moms
Wed, 1/30: GreenBeanTeenQueen
Thurs, 1/31: Pure Imagination
Fri, 2/1: Bookalicious

Mon, 2/4: The Compulsive Reader
Tues, 2/5: The Book Cellar
Wed, 2/6: Cuddlebuggery
Thurs, 2/7: Anna Reads
Fri, 2/8: Tales of the Ravenous Reader

FTC: Received ARC (signed!) at BEA. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Prophecy by Ellen Oh

Prophecy by Ellen Oh
"The greatest warrior in all of the Seven Kingdoms . . . is a girl with yellow eyes.

Kira's the only female in the king's army, and she's also the prince's bodyguard. She's a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she's their only hope. . . .

Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King's prophecy, but the legendary lost ruby treasure just might be the true key to victory. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, an evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost and raise a prince into a king."- summary from Amazon

First off, before I start my review, let me say that those of you looking at this and thinking "Oh, ANOTHER start to a trilogy.", take that thought back. This book reads like a stand-alone with series potential. I seriously thought it was a stand-alone until I saw the Amazon description (I left out that part because it's a blurb rather than summary) just now while making this post. Also, it makes me happy that there will be two more books because I really enjoyed reading this one.

It's been a while since I've read a fantasy and god, I've missed them! I relished every page of this book. Oh does a really good job setting up this world and taking the reader through it all. There's lot of journeying going on, which should be boring but isn't. Oh breaks up the monotony with revealing secrets, action scenes, and playful banter. The last part is mainly due to Jaewon, a traveler the group picks up while on their journey. I LOVED Jaewon and his interactions with Kira, and I really want a Jaewon of my own. But there's a lot of wit and sarcasm in this book, which made it fun.

The action scenes are handled with a deft hand and I could really see it happening in my head. The climax in particular has a lot going on, and there's a lot of jumping around, but I was never confused and also on the edge of my seat. When there's anything really bad happening in a book, I get a bit irrationally angry. They're only fictional characters, but I get so riled up when evil gains an upper hand (and not just in sci-fi/fantasy, it happens in contemporary too). It's a bit unsettling, but good for the author because it means they've done their job and made their characters seem real. It means I've connected with them in some way and I want them to come out of it all triumphing over evil; I don't like seeing them being picked on.

I also liked that it took place in an Asian-inspired setting. It's great to see non-white characters for once. I also like stuff like anime and manga, so that made it even better. In fact, whenever they mentioned the Seven Kingdoms, I kept thinking she was referencing an anime of the same name, but it turns out the anime is Twelve Kingdoms, not Seven. I was close though!

Overall, get this book now! It's really good and just a fantastic debut. I can't wait to see what adventures Kira and everyone get up to in the next two books! Also, if you're in the VA area, Ellen Oh will be doing a signing this Friday along with Beth Revis, Jodi Meadows, and Victoria Schwab at the Barnes and Noble in Charlottesville. I'll be going and I hope that if you can go, I'll see you there!

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

Sunday, January 20, 2013

In My Mailbox- January edition + Retrospective

Hey all! I'm finally back with an In My Mailbox vlog after being away for so long. And of course, that means TONS of books to show you. I did my best to keep it short, but at 13 minutes, it's kinda long. I had a total of 32 books to show off. Anyway, here's the vlog. Hope you enjoy!

Books Shown:

Commercial Breaks #3: Dramatic Pause by P.G. Kain (paperback, Oct 2012)
Genie Wishes by Elisabeth Dahl (ARC, April 2013)
Awesome Blossom by Lauren Myracle (hardcover, Jan 2013)
Return to Me by Justina Chen (ARC, Jan 2013)
Of Triton by Anna Banks (ARC, May 2013)
If We Kiss by Rachel Vail (paperback from library)
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (hardcover from library)
Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo (ARC, June 2013)
The Death Cure by James Dashner (paperback, Dec 2012)
Nobody by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (ARC, Jan 2013)
The Kassa Gambit by M.C. Planck (hardcover, Jan 2013)
The Doctor's Wife by Elizabeth Brundage (paperback, gift from friend)
The Archived by Victoria Schwab (ARC, Jan 2013)
Shadowlands by Kate Brian (ARC, Jan 2013)
Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans (hardcover, Jan 2013)
Clash and Crash by Nicole Williams (paperbacks, Dec 2012)
Unbreakable by Elizabeth Norris (ARC, April 2013)
Life After Theft by Aprilynne Pike (ARC, April 2013)
How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True by Sarah Strohmeyer (ARC, April 2013)
The Silver Dream: An Interworld Novel by Neil Gaiman and other people (ARC, April 2013)
The Rising by Kelley Armstrong (ARC, April 2013)
Rise by Anna Carey (ARC, April 2013)
Arclight by Josin L. McQuein (ARC, April 2013)
The Shadow Girl by Jennifer Archer (ARC, April 2013)
The Boyfriend App by Katie Sise (ARC, April 2013)
The Ward by Jordana Frankel (ARC, April 2013)
Darius and Twig by Walter Dean Meyers (ARC, April 2013)
The Elite by Kiera Cass (ARC, April 2013)
Dead Silence by Kimberly Derting (ARC, April 2013)
Fragments by Dan Wells (ARC, April 2013)
Taken by Erin Bowman (ARC, April 2013)

and here's a retrospective:

Monday- I reviewed Just One Day by Gayle Forman, which is out in stores now!

Wednesday- I reviewed and am hosting a giveaway for Nobody by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, which will be out in stores Jan 22! Contest ends this Wednesday!

Friday- I reviewed The Girl in the Wall by Daphne Benedis-Grab, which is out in stores now!

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Girl in the Wall by Daphne Benedis-Grab

The Girl in the Wall by Daphne Benedis-Grab
"Ariel's birthday weekend looks to be the event of the season, with a private concert by rock star Hudson Winters on the grounds of her family's east coast estate, and all of Ariel's elite prep school friends in attendance. The only person who's dreading the party is Sera, Ariel's former best friend, whose father is forcing her to go. Sera has been the school pariah since she betrayed Ariel, and she now avoids Ariel and their former friends. Thrown together, Ariel and Sera can agree on one thing: this could be one very long night.

They have no idea just how right they are.

Only moments after the concert begins and the lights go down, thugs open fire on parents and schoolmates alike, in a plot against Ariel's father that quickly spins out of control. As the entire party is taken hostage, the girls are forced apart. Ariel escapes into the hidden tunnels in the family mansion, where she and Sera played as children. Only Sera, who forges an unlikely alliance with Hudson Winters, knows where her friend could be. As the industrial terrorist plot unravels and the death toll climbs, Ariel and Sera must recall the sisterhood that once sustained them as they try to save themselves and each other on the longest night of their lives."- summary from Amazon

I absolutely adored Benedis-Grab's debut, Alive and Well in Prague, NY, and had been looking forward to another book from her for YEARS. I was so excited to hear about this new book, and even more so when she sent me an advance copy.

It did take me a bit of time to get into the book. It just didn't jump out at me, but since the book is so short (it takes place in one evening), it wasn't too long before the action started. Once that happened, I flew through it. The mystery was intriguing, and I really enjoyed seeing it unravel as I read the book. I also really liked the interaction between Sera and Hudson; it was just fun seeing those two together forging a friendship that evolved into a little bit more.

I also liked the dual narrative going on; it was interesting to go back and forth between these ex-friends and seeing what they're going through. The climax was handled really well and realistically, I think. When I got to that, I was flipping the pages so quickly just to get to the end.

Overall, a good book, but I will admit that it wasn't as good as her debut. But if you're looking for an action-packed, intense mystery, this is it. I do also suggest checking out her debut too, which is kind of the opposite of this book in terms of tone.

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

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Nobody by Jennifer Lynn Barnes + Contest!

Nobody by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
"There are people in this world who are Nobody. No one sees them. No one notices them. They live their lives under the radar, forgotten as soon as you turn away.

That's why they make the perfect assassins.

The Institute finds these people when they're young and takes them away for training. But an untrained Nobody is a threat to their organization. And threats must be eliminated.

Sixteen-year-old Claire has been invisible her whole life, missed by the Institute's monitoring. But now they've ID'ed her and send seventeen-year-old Nix to remove her. Yet the moment he lays eyes on her, he can't make the hit. It's as if Claire and Nix are the only people in the world for each other. And they are--because no one else can really see them."- summary from Amazon

I absolutely love Barnes' books, at least of the ones I've read, i.e. the Wolves trilogy and Every Other Day, so I was really excited to be given a chance to read her newest, Nobody. I gotta say that I was a teeny bit disappointed in this book. I did seriously consider putting it down after reading it for a bit. It just wasn't as compelling to me as Barnes' other books. Usually, they pull me in right away and I'm turning pages as quickly as possible. But I didn't get that feeling in the beginning.

I did keep going though and did enjoy it more as the story got going, so I definitely think readers should keep going even if they think they want to put it down. There were plenty of twists and turns and mysteries to uncover. Barnes always does a wonderful job of setting up a world that's not always what it seems. This one's a doozy and has an action-packed climax.

I really enjoyed Claire and Nix's relationship- there's a lot of barriers to break down before they're able to communicate and fully trust each other. They make it through though, and it's very fun to read. There is a bit of insta-love happening but considering they're the first person to see each other completely and remember it, it didn't bother me as much.

Overall, I didn't like it as much as the other books I've read, but it was still pretty good and a really original concept. It's worth a look.

and I've got this wonderful contest going on thanks to Egmont and Media Masters Publicity!

One winner will receive a hardcover of Nobody as well as a paperback of Jen's previous stand-alone Every Other Day (which is really good!). Doesn't that sound great?

All you have to do is leave a comment on this post by Wednesday, Jan 23 at 9pm EST. This contest is just US/Canada only. If you want more info on Every Other Day, you can watch these two videos of Jen talking about it: Video 1 and Video 2. If you want to know more about Jennifer, here's her blog and twitter.

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

Monday, January 14, 2013

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Just One Day by Gayle Forman
"When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines."- summary from Amazon

Yes, I partook in the Just One Day Read-a-thon. I didn't exactly win it- I only just finished the book a couple hours ago, but I did make a pretty good dent in the book in that 24-hour period, reading a little over 200 pages. That also included a lot of sleeping, dinner at Olive Garden, and seeing Pitch Perfect. So I think I did pretty good.

Anyway, you want to know about the book itself. Well, it was pretty much fantastic. I wish I hadn't been doing so much this weekend so I didn't have to put it down so often! Forman really writes a compelling story and I loved seeing Allyson grow throughout the book. There's a real change in her from beginning to middle to end.

I also realized how Forman intends to write these companion novels. I was a bit confused just going by the titles, thinking this would be about one day and the other about one year, just from the different perspectives. But I see that the book is divided up into two parts- Just One Day and Just One Year. So in the first half, we witness the day Allyson/Lulu and Willem spend together and then go through the year afterward in the second half, where Allyson is at college and then starts to try and find Willem again.

I really enjoyed seeing Allyson and Willem's interactions. It never felt dull even though pretty much that whole first half (about 140 pages) is mainly just the two of them together with no other characters. I wanted their adventure to go on and on!

Like I said before, I loved Allyson's journey toward doing more and realizing her potential in the second part. I particularly liked her friendship with Dee, someone she meets in her Shakespeare class. He was such an interesting character and even though it probably won't happen, I'd love it if he popped up in Just One Year somehow.

Overall, another amazing book by Forman and it may have intimidated me as a writer a bit. She just writes so wonderfully and beautifully. Definitely pick this book up!

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

Friday, January 11, 2013

Blog Tour- The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart by Leanna Renee Hieber

The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart by Leanna Renee Hieber
"The whispers haunt her dreams and fill her waking hours with dread. Something odd is happening. Something...unnatural.

Possession of the living. Resurrection of the dead. And Natalie Stewart is caught right in the middle. Jonathon, the one person she thought she could trust, has become a double agent for the dark side. But he plays the part so well, Natalie has to wonder just how much he's really acting.

She can't even see what it is she's fighting. But the cost of losing her heart, her sanity...her soul."- summary from Amazon

I'm not a big fan of historical fiction, but every so often, I find one that grabs my attention. It might have to do with the fact that magic is involved; I think that makes it more fun for me in a way. Anyway, I loved the first book in this series and was so excited to read the second. I really feel like this book improved on the first, which is a feat considering how much I enjoyed the first book.

This story seemed to be scarier than the previous installment, really raising the stakes for these characters, particularly Natalie. She has to really stand up for herself and learn how to take care of things on her own. She does have help, of course, but it felt like the story still forced her to get brave and face her fears, making her a stronger character.

I loved the interactions between Jonathon and Natalie, especially when they weren't talking about demons or possession or something else bad. Seeing them flirt was so much fun and made me smile.

The story is so compelling and there are so many mysteries to be unraveled, and by the end of the book, the battle is won but the war is far from over. I'm excited to see where Hieber takes her characters next and I so want to see them have a happily-ever-after rather than a happily-for-now-til-a-demon-comes-again.

and here's an interview with Leanna:

1) How did you get the idea for the Magic Most Foul series?

I wanted to thread homage to famous 19th century literary paranormal classics into my series but do so in a way that featured and uplifted strong female heroines and mentor characters. Many women of the famous Victorian paranormal classics are victims in some way, I wanted to utilize women as heroes.

2) You wrote a few adult books before entering the YA field. Is there a difference in your writing process? What brought you to the YA world?

My voice always lent itself towards YA as I love the rite of passage and coming of age story.

3) What is your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor (or flavors, if you're so inclined)? Or if you don't like jelly beans, your favorite snack to have while writing or as a reward for writing?

Absinthe. Like a true Victorian romantic.

4) What book(s) are you currently reading, or are about to start?

Research books about espionage in NYC. And I'm aching to get into The Casual Vacancy

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Awesome Blossom by Lauren Myracle

Awesome Blossom by Lauren Myracle
"The Flower Power books follow the funny fifth-grade adventures of four girls with little in common but their flower names who, nevertheless, blossom into the greatest of friends.

Katie-Rose, Milla, Yasaman, and Violet have confronted their share of challenges in fifth grade: a dead hamster, turtle theft, trapeze lessons, and pesky boys, just to name a few. Nothing can stop these four fabulous friends. Well, nothing except for their archnemesis, the evil Modessa (a.k.a. “Medusa”). Somehow, Modessa has recruited one of the sweetest girls in the class to be her new sidekick. The flower friends are determined to save Elena, even if it means braving Modessa’s wrath. But it will also mean getting Katie-Rose to focus—she’s a bit too busy NOT flirting with cute-but-annoying Preston. And then there’s Yasaman’s little sister’s birthday “bubblegum” party, which the four friends promised to organize . . . if it’s possible to call anything involving 30 kindergartners organized. Luckily, Violet is back to herself and ready to lead the Flowers to their most glorious triumph."- summary from Abrams website

God, I love this series so much. Myracle's books are always a joy to read, but these are just so much fun. I'm a little bit sad that the series may be over; I tweeted Myracle to ask about it. But as long as she continues writing books, I'm happy.

Anyway, I love how Myracle brings up real issues that fifth graders have to deal with- the start of relationships (or as much of a relationship you can have at that time- mostly hand-holding), new friend jealousy, figuring out how to keep a big secret and if you should keep it, and so much more. It's interesting to be able to get into each of the four girls' minds and see different perspectives on the some of the same events.

Also, random side note- this book really made me want to have Olive Garden. So beware of that while you're reading.

Overall, this is a fitting end to the series if it is that. If you haven't read this series yet, do it now. It's fantastic. I said this in my review of the second book, it's almost like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but younger and without magical pants.

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

Monday, January 7, 2013

Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans

Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans
"Since her untimely death the day before her eighteenth birthday, Felicia Ward has been trapped in Level 2, a stark white afterlife located between our world and the next. Along with her fellow drones, Felicia passes the endless hours reliving memories of her time on Earth and mourning what she’s lost—family, friends, and Neil, the boy she loved.

Then a girl in a neighboring chamber is found dead, and nobody but Felicia recalls that she existed in the first place. When Julian—a dangerously charming guy Felicia knew in life—comes to offer Felicia a way out, Felicia learns the truth: If she joins the rebellion to overthrow the Morati, the angel guardians of Level 2, she can be with Neil again.

Suspended between Heaven and Earth, Felicia finds herself at the center of an age-old struggle between good and evil. As memories from her life come back to haunt her, and as the Morati hunt her down, Felicia will discover it’s not just her own redemption at stake… but the salvation of all mankind."- summary from Amazon

OK, just to get it out of the way, the author is a blogger friend of mine who I've hung out with on occasion. But I don't think I'm biased and will write a fair review.

Anyway, I did really enjoy this book and was so happy to get an early copy of it at BEA. I started it late one night while I was having a snack and had trouble putting it down, but I did because I needed to sleep. Appelhans did a wonderful job creating this afterlife world and everything it entails.

I will say though, that while I did enjoy reading Felicia's memories and thought it was an interesting way to flesh out her character (as well as Neil and Julian's), it did slow the story down a bit for me. I was always looking ahead to see when it would end and I'd get back to the action of taking down Level 2. I'm just too impatient! There were some excellent twists and turns as well, and I really liked seeing all the characters interact. I especially liked seeing how Felicia and Julian's relationship changed throughout the book as she accessed more memories of them together.

The climax is astounding and touching, and I also love that the book did not end on a cliffhanger. I read in an interview that Appelhans really fought for the book to end that way and I'm so glad it got approved. I'm still excited for the next book, Level 3, but it's not a dire what-will-happen-next kind of ordeal.

Definitely check this book out. It's an interesting, original debut and start of a series (or, well, a duology- I think there's only going to be two books).

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

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Just One Day Read-a-Thon

So to celebrate the release of Just One Day by Gayle Forman, Penguin Teen is putting together this awesome interactive event on Twitter called the Just One Day Read-a-Thon. Basically, from 5pm EST Friday, January 11 to 5pm EST Saturday, January 12, a bunch of people (hopefully) will be reading their copy of Just One Day in just one day! Not only that, but by using the hashtag #justoneday, you can see what other readers think of the book and certain scenes as well as post your own thoughts.

Afterward, from 7-8pm EST on Saturday, Gayle Forman will be on Twitter answering questions (maybe even giving some hints as to what goes on in the followup, Just One Year, out later this year). So don't miss out on that!

Here's an awesome banner Penguin made for the event:

Doesn't this sound awesome?! Luckily, I have off from work those days (and no, I didn't request off; they must have somehow known I'd need to be off!) and will totally be participating. I hope you all will too. Leave a comment letting me know if you're going to take part so we can keep in touch during the 24 hours to chat about the book!

So be sure to get a copy of Just One Day when it releases on January 8 and try to hold off until the weekend to read the book.

I also joked with the publicist asking if they'd do a Just One Year Read-a-Thon when that book came out, hehe. They decided not to dignify that with an answer in the response back.

But anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing you all there!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini

Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini
"When Elliot finds herself dead for the third time, she knows she must have messed up, big-time. She doesn’t remember how she landed in the afterlife again, but she knows this is her last chance to get things right.

Elliot just wants to move on, but first she will be forced to face her past and delve into the painful memories she’d rather keep buried. Memories of people she’s hurt, people she’s betrayed…and people she’s killed.

As she pieces together the secrets and mistakes of her past, Elliot must find a way to earn the forgiveness of the person she’s hurt most, and reveal the truth about herself to the two boys she loves…even if it means losing them both forever."- summary from Amazon

I really enjoyed Sabatini's debut, though I will admit I was confused in the beginning about how everything worked. But it does all get explained in the end, so be patient with it.

The story is so compelling anyway that you may not even worry about not understanding what's going on. Elliot's journey through her afterlife and going through her memories is really interesting to read through; Sabatini paces the reveals well, and also gives the reader a variety of memories- painful, heart-wrenching, romantic, and the occasional mundane.

I also really liked seeing the relationships in the afterlife grow and unveil themselves throughout the book. There's a lot more going on in the afterlife than what Elliot (and the reader) thinks. I especially enjoyed seeing Elliot and Trevor figure things out together and in the process, growing to love each other. I also liked Elliot's relationship with her teacher Mel too- there was a really interesting dynamic there.

Overall, Sabatini wrote an incredible debut and I am so excited to read more from her in the future. Definitely check this book out!

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

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Blog Tour- Falling for You by Lisa Schroeder

Falling for You by Lisa Schroeder
"Rae’s always dreamed of dating a guy like Nathan. He’s nothing like her abusive stepfather—in other words, he’s sweet. But the closer they get, the more Nathan wants of her time, of her love, of her…and the less she wants to give.

As Rae’s affection for Nathan turns to fear, she leans on her friend Leo for support. With Leo, she feels lighter, happier. And possessive Nathan becomes jealous. He’s not about to let her go. And with danger following her every move, Rae must fight for the life and love she deserves if she’s going to survive."- summary from Amazon

I love Lisa Schroeder's books; they're filled with wonderful, lyrical verse. This book is different though, as it's told in prose with the occasional poem by the main character Rae breaking up the chapters. Schroeder does a great job with the prose and really makes the story compelling. I had such problems putting this book down. Luckily, there came a time where I was alone in my house for a couple hours, so I read about 200 pages to the end straight through.

What I really liked about this book though was that Rae wasn't always a victim when it came to Nathan. She stood up for herself when he got to be too much rather than make excuses for his abuse. It was nice to read a character like that. But she is realistic and does fall for it sometimes, but she realizes her error later. It can be hard to pull away from people with that kind of hold over you sometimes. It was great to see a strong character.

The climax was crazy and came out of nowhere. I was a bit surprised because I thought it would go one way and it went the other. Those last few pages had me tearing up, and I don't do that often (though I seem to be doing it more and more lately...), so that's a good sign. I was really invested in this story.

Schroeder's first foray into prose is a resounding success. There is some poetry included between chapters, which is nice to see. But seriously, check out this book and Lisa's other books too. She's such a wonderful writer. Ignore the cover if that's not your thing; the book is about so much more than the romance that happens.

Authors, if you're looking for a great blog tour site, go with Mod Podge Blog Tours, who put together this awesome blog tour as well as several others.

and here's an interview with Lisa:

1) How did you get the idea for Falling for You?

I wanted to try and do something challenging and a little bit different. I thought it would be interesting to meet a character on the first page where you know something has happened to her, but you don't know what. That's basically how it started.

As is usually the case when I start writing a book, I also had a couple of story elements I wanted to include in the book along with the main premise - a flower shop and some mysterious notes.

It is definitely a different kind of book for me, as it wasn't something that would work well in verse.

2) You've now written both middle-grade and young adult. Is there any difference in writing the two?

On the one hand, both kinds of novels require plotting, pacing, good characterization and all of the other things that go into writing a book. On the other hand, they are different in a lot of ways.

Of course the voice has to be realistic to the main character, and that means sounding like a 12-year-old compared to sounding like a 16-year-old, and they aren't the same!

When I'm writing MG, it's much more about kids making mistakes and learning from them, I think. Also, friendships are so important at that age. My best friend and I did everything together when I was 10, 11, 12, and we were so hungry for independence. We loved setting up lemonade stands and making money so we could go shopping, for example. I have really strong memories of those years, so when I'm writing MG, I tap into those memories.

Sometimes people ask me if I know what a book is going to be when I start writing - YA or MG - and I absolutely know from the get-go. My process for each book varies, so that part doesn't depend on whether it's YA or MG. Sometimes I plot a lot, sometimes I don't, it just depends on what I need to make my daily word count goal.

3) You've got a cat and a dog. Any funny anecdotes you can share about them?

Aw man, I have the best pets. They are cute and cuddly and they don't ruin the furniture or the carpet, which is a huge plus!

The cat spends most of her time on my oldest son's bed, unless it's sunny outside, in which case she uses the doggy door and makes herself at home on one of the patio chairs. But one funny thing is that almost every evening, I have cereal as a snack (in our house, no one eats cereal for breakfast) and when she hears that cereal box, she comes running. She sits near me, waiting until so she can have a couple of sips of milk out of the bowl when I'm finished. It's kind of amazing to me that she is all the way upstairs, in a room, but she hears that cereal, and there she is.

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

I've been so busy, I haven't read much lately, but on deck are DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor, LIVE THROUGH THIS by Mindi Scott and LOVELY, DARK, and DEEP by Amy McNamara. I did read TIME BETWEEN US by Tamara Ireland Stone a while back, and I really enjoyed it. I also loved National Book Award Finalist OUT OF REACH by Carrie Arcos.

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

I'm working on a new YA that is written from two POVS, one of which is told in verse and the other in prose. I don't like to say much when I'm drafting, because for me it's a fragile place and I have to be careful so nothing stops me from just finishing the first draft. But at its heart, it's about two teens who feel very different from everyone and desperately want to find a place in the world where they feel like they belong.

Thanks so much for hosting a spot on my tour, James!

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